Guilty! That’s the verdict for Mark Leonard. He was convicted Tuesday on all 53 charges against him for the 2012 Richmond Hill explosion on Indy’s south side, that killed two people and destroyed or damaged 80 homes. It took jurors just two-and-a-half hours to reach their verdict. Prosecutors have asked that Leonard be sentenced to life without parole. The sentencing phase begins today. Leonard’s defense team says they’re already planning an appeal.
As storm cleanup continues, Mayor Ballard is declaring an emergency here in Indy. Monday’s severe weather left behind fallen trees and downed limbs in and across streets, sidewalks and right-of-ways. The declaration gives city crews the power to close roads and the ability to go on private property to remove trees. Storm damage can be reported to the Mayor’s Action Center. More than seven-thousand people were still impacted on Indy’s west side and in Speedway early this morning. Duke Energy says it’s restoring the biggest outages first, which is in the Columbus area.
The city’s murder rate is down, but Public Safety Director Troy Riggs says more can still be done. So far this year, there’s been a 22-percent drop in criminal homicides compared to last year. Riggs says it’ll take the effort of the entire community to address the root causes of violence and keep the homicide tally moving in the right direction. Mental health problems, education gaps, unemployment and food insecurity are some of the root causes he identified.
The Iran nuclear deal is getting mixed reviews in the U.S. The agreement announced yesterday restricts Iran’s nuclear program while easing economic sanctions. Former CIA Director Michael Hayden warned that Iran’s misbehavior goes far beyond efforts to build a nuclear weapon. Iran is known as a leading state sponsor of terrorism. Former Ambassador Nicholas Burns offered cautious support, calling the nuclear deal a true compromise after give-and-take from both sides.
The nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization is calling on Mississippi to drop the Confederate battle flag symbol from its state flag. The NAACP drew on Civil War history to make its plea in a resolution passed at its annual convention Tuesday in Philadelphia. The organization noted that Mississippi followed South Carolina as the first two states to secede from the Union in 1861. The resolution urges Mississippi to now follow South Carolina, where the legislature voted last week to stop flying the Confederate flag on the state capitol grounds.
There are also growing calls for the Confederate flag to be removed from the uniforms and cars of state troopers in Alabama. The Huntsville chapter of the NAACP is leading that charge. NAACP member Reverend Robert Shanklin says he’s puzzled by the Confederate flag’s presence on the uniforms and finds it offensive. The flag is one of four emblems that make up the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency seal.
The Reverend Al Sharpton and the family of Eric Garner say the $5.9 million settlement deal reached with the city is not stopping them from their fight to seek justice for the Staten Island man. Sharpton says he is not getting a cut of the settlement. He says the anniversary of Garner’s death will be marked by several events, including a rally on Saturday outside of Brooklyn Federal Court to call for the federal prosecution of officer Daniel Pantaleo on civil rights charges. Garner died last year after he was accused of selling loose cigarettes, known as “loosies” and then grabbed in an illegal chokehold by Pantaleo.
In Missouri, a judge is throwing out part of the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of Michael Brown. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch says two of the counts against former Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson and former officer Darren Wilson were tossed because they were said to be redundant. Two other counts were dismissed because they related to state civil rights matters. Brown’s family is demanding $75,000 in compensation and an unspecified amount of punitive damages. Wilson shot and killed the unarmed teenager last August, sparking nationwide protests over police treatment of minorities.
Today is the first major deadline for presidential candidates to report how much campaign money they raised and spent from April through June. Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton has already announced raising $45 million. Clinton’s filing will reveal how much of that she has spent on her campaign.
Whatever Donald Trump is doing, it’s resonating with potential voters. A new Suffolk University/USA Today national poll shows Trump ahead of the rest of the Republican presidential field by a significant amount. The billionaire businessman gets 17 percent support, with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush trailing with 14 percent. Newly declared Koch Brothers-backed candidate Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin gets eight percent support in the new poll, while Texas Senator Ted Cruz is just behind at six percent. The largest percentage of potential voters polled said they are undecided about any of the current candidates.
Just to our south, at least two people are dead and six others missing as flash flooding impacts neighboring Kentucky. Governor Steve Beshear has issued a state of emergency and is working to determine what counties need assistance. Around 150 homes there, have been destroyed in Johnson County while other areas in Rowan County have also seen property damage.
Attention online shoppers. Walmart and Amazon are going head-to-head with big sales today. Walmart is launching its own online sale to counter Amazon Prime Day. That’s when Amazon offers deep discounts to its Prime customers. Amazon has touted its Prime Day as having more deals than Black Friday, but Walmart plans to rival that with more than 2,000 “rollbacks.”
Back here at home… Amazon will keep up that “Christmas in July” feeling with plans to bring more than 2,000 new full-time jobs to Indiana. For some, that may be the gift that keeps on giving. The company announced Tuesday the move is part of a hiring spree to staff warehouses across the country. They say the majority will be for centers in Indianapolis, Plainfield and Whitestown.
In Sports… Indy is a minor league baseball town. With that being said, the Triple-A All-Star Game takes place tonight in Omaha, Nebraska. Our own Indianapolis Indians will have representation on the field. Catcher Elias Diaz, pitcher Blake Wood and infielder Alen Hanson will rep the Indians. The players will return to the seasonal play diamond on Thursday in the first of four games in Toledo against the Mud Hens.
Yes the storm cleanup continues across Central Indiana today but under Sunshine-filled skies mainly, but with some cloudy intervals moving through. Today’s high: 81 degrees.
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