July 14th, 2011
01:15 PM ET

Casey Anthony fights call for questioning in defamation suit

Orlando (CNN) - Casey Anthony will take invoke her Fifth Amendment rights if forced to sit for questioning in a defamation case two days after her upcoming release from jail, her attorneys said in a court motion Thursday.

Anthony, who was acquitted last week of killing her 2-year-old daughter Caylee, is being sued by a woman whose name she gave to police as her child's nanny. Lawyers for the woman, Zenaida Fernandez Gonzalez, have asked a judge to make Anthony sit for a deposition in that lawsuit on Tuesday.

But Anthony's lawyer in the civil case, Charles Greene, said his client can't be forced to sit for a deposition so soon after a "grueling" trial that left her "emotionally and mentally exhausted." In addition, he said the deposition is scheduled on a day that he will be in trial on another case, and that Anthony "would have no viable choice but to assert her Fifth Amendment rights" if the proceeding goes ahead.

"Given the inadequate time to prepare and discuss the issues, that would likely be the only advisable course of action," he wrote. "Consequently, the deposition would be nothing more than yet another media spectacle and frenzy."

Anthony was found not guilty of killing Caylee on July 5 but was convicted of four misdemeanor counts of lying to investigators probing the girl's disappearance. The verdict stunned observers of the highly publicized trial.

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Libyan rebels looted and beat civilians, rights group says
Libyan rebels taking position near the hill village of Kikla, during an offensive by forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi on July 13, 2011.
July 13th, 2011
07:45 PM ET

Libyan rebels looted and beat civilians, rights group says

Zintan, Libya (CNN) - Libyan rebels have looted and burned homes and abused civilians, a human rights group said Wednesday.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch said that, in "four towns captured by rebels in the Nafusa Mountains over the past month, rebel fighters and supporters have damaged property, burned some homes, looted from hospitals, homes, and shops, and beaten some individuals alleged to have supported government forces."

The accusations came as rebel forces inside Libya managed to retake a village from Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi 's forces, and rebel leaders were in Europe meeting with NATO officials and the European Commission.

Mahmoud Jibril, chairman of the executive board of the opposition Transitional National Council, said the complaints represent only a "few incidents" that "took place in the very early days of the revolution, and we've been investigating those cases. We are against any human rights violation whomever is the source of those violations." Those responsible are "going to be brought to justice," he vowed.

Jibril spoke at a news conference after meeting with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels, Belgium.

In the news release announcing the accusations, Human Rights Watch said its representatives had "witnessed some of these acts, interviewed witnesses to others, and spoke with a rebel commander about the abuses."

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July 12th, 2011
07:29 PM ET

Anthony cops defend case to reporters

Orlando (CNN) - The detectives who built the murder case against Casey Anthony said Tuesday they stand behind their evidence but urge the public to respect the jury's acquittal of her.

"In any case - especially a case with this many witnesses and this much evidence - you can always look back and improve on what you have done," Orange County Sheriff's Office Sgt. John Allen told reporters. "I don't know if anybody up here can think of anything we could have done differently that would change the outcome."

Anthony was found not guilty last week on felony charges, including capital murder, in the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee. She was convicted of four misdemeanor counts of lying to investigators. In a related issue, prosecutors announced Tuesday that Anthony's mother, Cindy Anthony, won't face perjury charges stemming from her testimony in the trial.

The verdict followed three years of intense publicity surrounding Caylee's death and provoked outrage among many who watched the case closely.

"I wish there was something I could say that would bring closure to everyone, but there isn't," another of the investigators, Cpl. Yuri Melich, said Tuesday. "I just know that, unfortunately, people are going to have to come to their own sense of closure within themselves and understand that as far as this case is concerned, as far as the judicial system is concerned, there's nothing else we can do."

Anthony, 25, was given the maximum sentence on each of the misdemeanor counts - a total of four years. But with credit for the time she has spent jailed since her 2008 arrest, she is slated to be released Sunday.

"I think all of us respect the jury system, and we respect the jury's verdict," Allen said. "I would hope that people who followed us, people in the community, would also respect the jury's verdict and our process.

"But for us, I certainly don't have any doubt after working on this," he said. "I felt our case was solid."

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July 11th, 2011
07:15 PM ET

Obama rejects short-term debt deal, urges compromise

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama ruled out any possibility of signing a short-term extension of the federal debt ceiling Monday, insisting that the time has come to tackle the nation's most pressing fiscal problems in a comprehensive way requiring bipartisan compromise on both taxes and cuts to entitlement programs.

The president continued to push for the largest deal possible - an apparent rejection of a call by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to focus more narrowly on spending cuts agreed to in an earlier round of negotiations.

It's time to "pull off the Band-Aid" and "eat our peas," Obama told reporters of the need for both sides to make difficult choices to address the nation's mounting federal deficits and debt. "Let's step up. Let's do it."

Noting that Republicans have pushed for decisive action on debt reduction, Obama urged them to compromise from their blanket refusal to end Bush-era tax cuts for wealthy Americans. The president said he'd be willing to push Democrats to do something they don't like - reform Medicare and other entitlement programs that are the party's political legacy - in an effort to reach his goal of trimming the deficit by $4 trillion over the next 10-12 years.

"Now is the time to deal with these issues," Obama declared. "If not now, when?"

There was no breakthrough during a White House meeting between Obama and congressional leaders Monday afternoon, but top Democrats and Republicans agreed to meet again Tuesday, according to a congressional aide. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, called Monday's meeting "constructive."

While dismissing a possible short-term deal covering the rest of the year, the president insisted that an agreement to increase the current $14.3 trillion debt ceiling will be reached before August 2. Treasury officials have warned that a partial default could be triggered if lawmakers fail to act by that date.

Such a failure could lead to skyrocketing interest rates and a plummeting dollar, among other things.

Obama, who promised daily meetings until a deal is reached, reiterated his warning against either party taking a "maximalist position" in the ongoing negotiations. The president insisted he is willing to take "significant heat" from his own party on issues such as entitlement reform in order to get a deal done.

Republican leaders should as well, he said, referencing GOP opposition to any increase in tax rates.

For his part, Boehner said he still has a sharp disagreement with the White House over taxes and the "extent of the entitlement problem, and what is necessary to solve it."

"It takes two to tango, and they're not there yet," Boehner said in reference to the administration.

A Republican aide with knowledge of Monday's meeting said it included one exchange in which Boehner argued that his side also would find it difficult to vote to reform entitlements, which would likely include delaying or reducing some benefits in order to cut costs.

When Obama pointed out that the Republican-controlled U.S. House had already passed a proposal that would overhaul the government-run Medicare health insurance program for senior citizens, the GOP aide said, Boehner responded: "Excuse us for trying to lead."

Two Democratic officials with knowledge of Monday's talks confirmed the exchange but noted that it wasn't tense or any kind of showdown between Obama and Boehner.

July 11th, 2011
11:30 AM ET

Kidnap victim Jaycee Dugard talks about her 18 years of terror

(CNN) - U.S. kidnapping victim Jaycee Dugard, who gave birth to two children during her 18 years in captivity, said she did what she had to do to survive.

During a wide-ranging interview with ABC News' Diane Sawyer that aired Sunday night, Dugard opened up about her experiences at the hands of her captors, Nancy and Philip Garrido.

Dugard was just 11 years old when she was abducted in 1991 from the street in front of her South Lake Tahoe, California, home. The Garridos held her and her daughters in a hidden compound of sheds and tarpaulins until she was found in 2009.

Dugard is now 31 and working to build a new life, one in which she and her children are finally free.

"There's a switch that I had to shut off," she told Sawyer. "Just went someplace else."

"I can't imagine being beaten to death, you know? And you can't imagine being kidnapped and raped, you know? So, it's just, you just do what you have to do to survive."

Dugard recounted the first moment Phillip Garrido entered her life.

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July 11th, 2011
08:45 AM ET

Official: Casey Anthony rebuffs mom's attempt to visit her in jail

(CNN) - Three days after a jury cleared her on charges she murdered her young daughter, Casey Anthony on Friday rebuffed her mother's attempt to visit her in jail, a Florida correctional official said.

Cindy Anthony testified for both for the prosecution and the defense during her daughter's trial, with some tapes from her jail talks with Casey Anthony being entered in as evidence. George and Lee Anthony, Casey's father and brother, likewise took the stand during the more than six-week trial.

The mother had hoped to visit her daughter in jail at 7 p.m. Friday, said Orange County Corrections Department spokesman Allen Moore. Casey Anthony heard about the request on Friday morning and declined it, he said.

Casey Anthony did get a visit Thursday night at the Orange County jail in Orlando from an unidentified member of her defense team, according to Moore.

This appeared to be the first such request by a relative to visit Casey Anthony since the end of her trial on Tuesday. Cindy Anthony was similarly rejected when she asked to see her daughter in the weeks before the trial began in May.

A 12-member jury acquitted Casey Anthony on charges of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and aggravated manslaughter of a child. She was found guilty on four counts related to misleading law enforcement officers, and an Orange County Corrections statement released late Thursday indicated she will be freed on July 17.

The Orlando woman had been accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, in 2008. Police didn't begin looking into the girl's disappearance until July 15, 2008 - about a month after the little girl was last seen - when Cindy Anthony called police after tracking her daughter down and demanding answers.

The mother testified about these events during the recent trial. She also claimed that she - and not Casey, as prosecutors had alleged - searched for terms like "chloroform" on the family's computer in the weeks before Caylee went missing. The state had argued that Casey Anthony used chloroform to render Caylee unconscious before putting duct tape over her nose and mouth to suffocate her.

The rules against "double-jeopardy" prevent Casey Anthony from being tried again related to her daughter's death. But that does not mean her legal woes are over.

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July 7th, 2011
06:30 PM ET

Casey Anthony to be released from jail next week

Orlando (CNN) - Casey Anthony only has to stay in jail six more days to fulfill the sentence a judge gave her Thursday on convictions for lying to authorities.

Judge Belvin Perry sentenced Anthony to four years in jail - one year for each of her four convictions of lying to police - but with credit for the approximately three years already served and good behavior, her release date was set for next Wednesday, July 13, a court spokeswoman said Thursday.

Denying a defense motion to reduce the four counts to a single conviction, Perry gave Anthony the maximum jail time he could by ruling that the four years be served consecutively.

He also fined her $1,000 for each count. Court papers show she is also ordered to pay court costs and fees totalling just over $600.

"I don't know how free she's going to be (but) she's going to be out a cage," defense attorney Cheney Mason told InSession soon after sentencing. "I doubt there's any place in this country that she could walk the streets freely."

Mason said that he fears for Anthony's safety, and that measures are being taken to protect her. She will undoubtedly get counseling going forward, he said, adding that offers to help have poured in from across the country.

"I think she wants to get away from all this and try to find some way to start a life," said Mason.

A jury acquitted Anthony Tuesday on the most serious charges against her, including murder, in the 2008 death of her 2-year-old daughter Caylee, but convicted her on the four misdemeanor counts of lying to police.

When Anthony arrived in the courtroom Thursday, she smiled often as she chatted with her attorneys.

CNN legal expert Jeffrey Toobin said Perry's decision came as a surprise. "Most people convicted of misdemeanors do not get prison time," he said.

The four lies at issue include Anthony lying about whether her daughter was missing; about 2-year-old Caylee being in the custody of a nanny; about having a job at Universal Studios and about having received a phone call from Caylee.

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Liberals warn Obama against cutting entitlement benefits
One progressive critic said any support for benefit cuts by Obama "will be a defining moment of presidential weakness."
July 7th, 2011
06:15 PM ET

Liberals warn Obama against cutting entitlement benefits

Washington (CNN) - Sensing a shift away from their priorities, progressive Democrats and advocacy groups warned Thursday they could turn on President Barack Obama if a deficit-reduction deal reduces benefits in entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

"Depending on what they decide to recommend, they may not have Democrats," said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, of whether his Democratic colleagues would support a compromise. "I think it is a risky thing for the White House to basically take the bet that we can be presented with something at the last minute and we will go for it."

Others were more blunt.

"If President Obama supports cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits, that will be a defining moment of presidential weakness - and put all Democrats facing re-election in 2012 at risk," said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a political advocacy group.

Such threatening language is common any time politicians discuss possible changes to the popular entitlement programs that comprise a big part of the Democratic political legacy.

For now, the warnings are considered more of an opening salvo for Democrats to protect their turf in what are expected to be a tough new round of bipartisan negotiations that began Thursday and will continue on Sunday involving Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and congressional leaders from both parties.

In particular, liberal Democrats tied eliminating tax breaks for wealthy Americans to any possible entitlement reforms that would reduce benefits to senior citizens, the disabled or the indigent.

"At a time when each millionaire is getting (a) $138,700 tax break a year from the government, there is no reason our seniors and the neediest amongst us need to struggle to pay their hospital bills," said Rep. Judy Chu, D-California, who is vice chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. "The debt must be addressed, but it should be done in a way that is fair to all. We should not balance the back of this budget on our nation's seniors."

Caucus members told reporters they were willing to discuss entitlement reforms, such as raising the payroll tax cap, but would oppose a deficit if it restructures Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid through cuts to benefits.

Casey Anthony's attorney: Caylee got justice
Jose Baez, lead defense attorney for Casey Anthony, answers questions after the jury found his client not guilty.
July 6th, 2011
08:32 PM ET

Casey Anthony's attorney: Caylee got justice

(CNN) - Casey Anthony's lawyer said Wednesday that her acquittal signified justice for little Caylee Anthony, who prosecutors unsuccessfully argued died at the hands of her mother.

"Caylee would never have wanted her mother to suffer this way," defense attorney Jose Baez told Barbara Walters of ABC News. "Caylee certainly never wanted her mother to die."

Baez and prosecutor Jeff Ashton separately spoke publicly and with the media Wednesday about their reactions to the verdict.

Confident the state had presented everything it could to prove Casey Anthony killed her daughter, Ashton recalled his shock when Florida jurors decided otherwise.

"When I heard the 'not guilty' on the child abuse, I knew that was it," said the assistant state prosecutor. "I remember mouthing 'wow' four or five times to myself."

Ashton, speaking with InSession's Beth Karas, said he is convinced there was no evidence that Caylee, 2, died accidentally in 2008.

After less than 11 hours of deliberation, a jury Tuesday found Casey Anthony not guilty of first-degree murder and the other most serious charges. But the jury convicted her on four misdemeanor counts of providing false information to law enforcement officers. She will be sentenced Thursday.

Juror Jennifer Ford told ABC News that she and the other jurors cried and were "sick to our stomachs" after voting to acquit Anthony.

"I did not say she was innocent," said Ford, who had previously only been identified as juror number 3. "I just said there was not enough evidence. If you cannot prove what the crime was, you cannot determine what the punishment should be."

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July 6th, 2011
05:30 PM ET

Obama downplays possible constitutional move on debt ceiling

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama said Wednesday he wants a deal with Congress in the next two weeks to tackle mounting deficits and allow an increase in the federal debt ceiling, but he didn't rule out using a constitutional argument to increase how much money the government can borrow.

"I don't think we should even get to the constitutional issue," Obama said during a Twitter town hall at the White House in response to a tweeted question on whether he would rely on a clause in the Fourteenth Amendment to unilaterally raise the debt ceiling.

The debt ceiling should not be "used as a gun against the heads of the American people to extract tax breaks for corporate jet owners," Obama said, calling for "a balanced approach where everything's on the table."

With congressional leaders heading to the White House on Thursday to continue negotiations, Obama said that people need to "put their dogmas aside" and "their sacred cows aside."

However, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who will take part in Thursday's talks, objected to the president's characterization of his side's positions as absolutist or maximalist.

"We have a better term for it - common sense," McConnell, R-Kentucky, said of GOP oppositon to tax increases and more government spending in some areas.

The House returned to work Wednesday from its Fourth of July break, a day after the Senate cut short its recess come back to Washington, with the two parties at sharp odds over what sort of conditions should be attached to a hike in the current $14.3 trillion debt ceiling.

Republicans are refusing to go along with any debt ceiling increase unless it includes deep spending cuts and avoids any tax increases. Democrats are trying to minimize the impact of cuts to social services and are calling for the elimination to certain tax breaks and loopholes benefiting wealthier Americans.

Treasury Department officials and leading economists have warned of potentially catastrophic consequences if the ceiling is not raised by August 2, at which point the country could default on its debt obligations. Among other things, the country could face skyrocketing interest rates and a plummeting dollar.

Increasing the debt ceiling will allow the government to borrow more money in order to pay for spending already accrued.

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