Surveillance photo prompts forgetful California lottery winner

The belatedly crowned winner of a $23 million California lottery jackpot says she had stuffed the lucky ticket in her car and left it there forgotten for months, until a surveillance camera photo of the ticket’s purchase surfaced on the Internet.

Only when she recognized her daughter in the picture, which state lottery officials had publicly circulated in a desperate attempt to locate the missing winner, did Julie Cervera, 69, realize to her amazement that she was a multimillionaire.

For Cervera, a resident of the high-desert town of Victorville who has been on disability for 20 years and described herself as broke, the unexpected turn of fortune could not have come at a more opportune time.

“I have maybe a dollar in my pocket, they just shut off my cable, my electric bill is $600 and my (bank) account is also overdrawn,” Cervera told reporters on Friday, a day after coming forward to claim her prize.

The ticket, purchased May 30 for Cervera by her adult daughter in a liquor store in Palmdale, north of Los Angeles, was due to expire at the end of this month.

State lottery officials said Cervera’s jackpot marks only the second time they have been forced to release a store surveillance photo to track down a winner…

It was Cervera’s daughter, Charliena, who was captured in the photo making the purchase with a dollar bill that Cervera said she had scrounged from her purse. Afterward, Cervera said, she stashed the ticket into the console of her car and never bothered to check it against the winning numbers announced later.

On Thursday of this week, another daughter texted her mother the surveillance photo of Charliena.

“I put on my 99-cent glasses, I saw it, and I thought she (Charliena) robbed a bank,” Cervera said, explaining that she initially misunderstood the meaning and purpose of the photo. It took a few moments for it to dawn on her that she had won a $23 million lottery drawing.

Great to see one of these windfall events land in the lap of someone who really needs some money.

17 years in prison for kidnap and rape he didn’t commit – WTF?


George Rodriguez – and Annise Parker, apologizing for the wrong committed in the name of Houston

Houston — Tears flowed freely at City Hall on Friday as an innocent man who spent years behind bars for a crime he did not commit settled his grudge with the city.

“I just want to get on with my life, go on living, you know,” said George Rodriguez. “Try to do whatever I can for my family.”

There is no question George Rodriguez was wrongly put behind bars for a rape and kidnapping, now with 17 years of his life gone. On Friday he and the city came to an agreement on how to right a wrong that was made so long ago.

Surrounded by his family, Houston Mayor Annise Parker and other officials, Rodriguez tentatively stepped into the spotlight and spoke from his heart.

It’s kind of hard, really, you know, because I’ve been through a whole lot. Seventeen years,” he said…

Rodriguez spent 17 and a half years behind bars for a rape and kidnapping he didn’t commit. He was convicted in 1987, because of faulty evidence at HPD’s then troubled crime lab. On Friday Rodriguez reached a $3 million settlement with the city and received an apology…

The Rodriguez case was just one example of the many problems that plagued the crime lab for years. Changes in the past few years have greatly improved the lab and the city is developing an independent lab so what happened to Rodriguez won’t happen to others.

Rodriguez is also due some compensation from the state of Texas. His attorney says he plans to apply for that soon.

If Rick Perry. the compassionate conservative governor of Texas had half the conscience he says he has – he’d be sitting on George Rodriguez’ doorstep with a check in his hand.

Instead – like the beancounter lawyers in charge of sorting the case for the city of Houston – he’ll probably work hardest at negotiating the price of compensation down.

Poisonally, in addition to the cash penalty for wrongful imprisonment, I’d like to see the officials responsible for this injustice serve equivalent time in the same wonderful Texas prison system.

Thanks, Eric.

Why Rush Limbaugh won’t be moving to Canada when Obama wins

It’s a refrain heard every four years: “If [insert Republican name] is elected president, I’m moving to Canada.”

The pledge comes mostly from left-leaning Americans who view Canada, with its universal health care and cultural progressiveness, as a liberal refuge from Red State America. Celebrities, in particular, seem prone to such declarations…

In truth, many Canadians would welcome the influx of disenchanted Obama supporters. “In Canada we’re happy to provide a safe haven for next-door neighbors in the middle of a marital dispute,” said Douglas Coupland, the writer and artist. “And if anyone trips while crossing the border, we’re happy to set their broken bones for free.”

The sentiment is echoed in business circles.

“The more the better is my view,” added Robert Prichard, chairman of the Bank of Montreal. “That said, President Obama is going to win, and we won’t be getting a special dividend on Nov. 7…”

Few took Rush Limbaugh seriously when he and other conservatives borrowed a page from the liberal playbook and threatened to move if Obamacare passed in 2010.

While Mr. Limbaugh pledged to move to Costa Rica, he might consider Canada the next time Democrats pass a big piece of legislation. Rather than a leftist sanctuary, Canada has recently swung to the right, which may give liberals-in-exile pause.

“We’ve got a right-wing government up here too, eh,” said Matthieu Aikins, a Canadian journalist who lives in Kabul, Afghanistan. “And our prime minister’s policy on Israel and Palestine makes Romney look like Jimmy Carter…”

Of course, right-wing is a relative concept. “It’s Canadian conservatism,” said Margaret Wente, a widely read columnist for The Globe and Mail. That means few abortion restrictions, strong bank regulations and no capital punishment. “We also have gay marriage,” she said…

Personally, I hope the 2000 merger between the Progressive Conservatives and the right-wing Canadian Alliance falls apart sooner rather than later. I don’t keep in touch closely enough to know if the mythic average voter has gotten past the bad taste resulting from the corruption of the so-called Liberals. My kin up on PEI have been frustrated enough by that Progressive Conservative merger with the extreme Right that they’ve started voting NDP.

Which is OK with me.

IRS not enforcing rules on churches and politics – no one noticed?

For the past three years, the Internal Revenue Service hasn’t been investigating complaints of partisan political activity by churches, leaving religious groups who make direct or thinly veiled endorsements of political candidates unchallenged.

The IRS monitors religious and other nonprofits on everything from salaries to spending, and that oversight continues. However, Russell Renwicks, a manager in the IRS Mid-Atlantic region, recently said the agency had suspended audits of churches suspected of breaching federal restrictions on political activity. A 2009 federal court ruling required the IRS to clarify which high-ranking official could authorize audits over the tax code’s political rules. The IRS has yet to do so.

Dean Patterson, an IRS spokesman in Washington, said Renwicks, who examines large tax-exempt groups, “misspoke.” Patterson would not provide any specifics beyond saying that “the IRS continues to run a balanced program that follows up on potential noncompliance…”

“The impression created is that no one is minding the store,” said Melissa Rogers, a legal scholar and director of the Center for Religion and Public Affairs at Wake Forest University Divinity School in North Carolina. “When there’s an impression the IRS is not enforcing the restriction – that seems to embolden some to cross the line.”

Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which seeks strict limits on religious involvement in politics, and the Alliance Defending Freedom, which considers the regulations unconstitutional government intrusion, scour the political landscape for any potential cases. While Americans United gathers evidence it hopes will prompt an IRS investigation, the Alliance Defending Freedom jumps in to provide a defense. Neither group knows of any IRS contact with houses of worship over political activity since the 2009 federal ruling…

The agency has to balance enforcement with churches’ First Amendment rights. Even when the federal agency finds an outright violation, the penalty for houses of worship is usually little more than a warning. The IRS has revoked nonprofit status in just a handful of these cases since the rules for religious groups were adopted in 1954.

Last month, more than 1,500 pastors, organized by the Alliance Defending Freedom, endorsed a candidate from the pulpit and then sent a record of their statement to the IRS, hoping their challenge would eventually end up in court. The Alliance has organized the event, called “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” since 2008. The IRS has never contacted a pastor involved in the protest.

Regardless of administration, it’s not so unusual to encounter a corner of our federal bureaucracy that exists as an entity unto itself. The more that agency is “guided” by lawyers, the worse it gets. The more it is “guided” by lobbyists, the more corrupt it gets.

The latter case was what Obama found in the oil lease department of the Department of Interior. Bureaucrats literally sleeping with the enemy. But, this entrenched do nothing-commitment from the IRS is becoming something just as criminal. Criminal in the sense of violating the premises of our Constitution since the first days of Justice Hugo Black. The real separation of church and state.

That turns on the almighty dollar more so than belief systems including an almighty god. Tax free status for churches is a crutch for fraud in the first place. To let the laws in place for over a half-century dangle as if some minor legal decision left administrators in a quandary – is a crock.

No one will pay any attention to the issue with the nation in the bowels of what passes for electoral politics; but, it’s worth bringing up after the election. In my case, in my state, where I am certain we’ll be returning two Democrats to the Senate – both with working class and progressive credibility – we can at least get another start on sorting this out.

Pastor kills fiancee’s daughter to indulge his necrophilia – WTF?

The pastor, ex-convict John D. White…confessed to killing Rebekah Gay to fulfill a fantasy of necrophilia, police said Friday. White drank four or five beers before going to the woman’s mobile home and repeatedly striking her head with a mallet and strangling her with a zip tie, according to court documents.

Police said White stripped her dead body but does not remember if he carried out his sexual fantasy. After dumping the body early Wednesday, he returned to Gay’s home and dressed her 3-year-old son in his Halloween costume, then later dropped him off with the boy’s father…

“He kept saying he’s a bad person, he’s a pastor, he felt bad for the people in his church. … I don’t recall him bring real remorseful at all with regard to the victim or anything else,” Isabella County Sheriff Leo Mioduszewski told The Associated Press.

“He just basically said he was attracted to her, thought she was a very cute girl. It’s a crazy, tragic situation,” the sheriff added…

White was engaged to Gay’s mother and regularly watched her young son while she worked, said Donna Houghton, a church elder who had a role in hiring White three years ago to be pastor at Christ Community Fellowship. Church members, she said, were “absolutely floored” by the allegations.

Houghton said the congregation was aware of White’s criminal past when he joined the church. He was released from prison in 2007, after serving nearly 12 years for manslaughter in the death of a 26-year-old woman in Kalamazoo County, according to the Michigan Corrections Department.

He had previously been sentenced to probation for choking and stabbing a 17-year-old Battle Creek girl in 1981.

Members of his congregation say that Satan got to him. Looks to me like he never truly overcame the particularly nasty impulses that put him in the slammer a couple times previously.

“The devil made me do it” has never been a satisfactory excuse in my life and times.