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Aisha Fraser slaying: Ex-husband Lance Mason’s ‘2nd chance’ after brutal 2014 beating questioned

Ronald Williams is heartbroken.

Williams, of Atlanta, was planning to spend Thanksgiving with his girlfriend, Ohio elementary schoolteacher Aisha Fraser. Instead, he is coming to grips with the fact that Fraser, 44, is dead, allegedly stabbed to death Saturday by her ex-husband, disgraced former Cuyahoga County Judge Lance Mason. 

“She was a gift and, to me, she was just the love of my life,” Williams told WKYC in Cleveland in a telephone interview. “She was an extraordinary mother, daughter, friend, a light, energy, special spirit, strong, independent, super super smart.”

Related story: ‘There’s blood everywhere’: 911 call released in former judge’s alleged killing of ex-wife

Williams said he became worried Saturday morning when he could not reach Fraser via text. He called her mother. 

“I said, ‘Mama Fraser, is everything OK?’ and she said, ‘No it’s not, Ron, I’m sitting in front of a crime scene and I’ve been here for an hour and I don’t know what's going on,’” Williams told the news station. “I immediately started to freak out.”

Williams, who first met Fraser in college and began dating her in 2016 after she got divorced, told WKYC that he feared deep down that Mason, 51, would someday lash out violently at her. It had happened before. 

Mason was removed from the bench in 2014 after viciously beating Fraser so badly that she required reconstructive surgery to repair a broken eye socket. After serving nine months of a two-year prison sentence, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson hired Mason last year as the city’s minority business development director. 

The mayor announced Mason’s firing after Fraser’s slaying and the former judge’s arrest.

Jackson on Monday defended the hire and, according to WKYC, refused to apologize. 

“No, I am not apologizing to the family,” Jackson told the news station. “I will tell the family I am greatly sorry for their loss.”

Jackson has a “second chance” policy in which many former prisoners are hired to work at Cleveland City Hall. The policy, and his hiring of Mason, has come under intense criticism. 

Cleveland.com editorial cartoonist Jeff Darcy on Tuesday resurfaced a November 2017 cartoon decrying Jackson’s hiring of Mason, in which Mason’s picture is shown on a poster in the city human resources office. The poster proclaims him “Wife-Beating Employee of the Month,” and Harvey Weinstein and O.J. Simpson are seen applying for jobs.

In the updated version, the word “FIRED” is stamped across Mason’s face, and Simpson’s job application states it is for “Lance Mason’s old job.”

Darcy writes in the accompanying opinion piece that Jackson’s hiring of Mason, and his defense of the hiring, are “derelict” and “disgusting.”

“Mayor Frank Jackson has blood on his hands, and it's not from harvesting a Thanksgiving turkey,” Darcy writes. 

Related story: Ohio judge removed from bench for beating wife in 2014 accused of stabbing her to death

Darcy is not the only person outside of Fraser’s circle of loved ones who has spoken out. Jim Swift, deputy online editor of The Weekly Standard, wrote on Twitter that the suspects who mugged him in high school got more prison time than Mason did.

“Which. Is. Insane,” Swift wrote. “Mason should have been in prison for years, not months.”

Others on social media talked of organizing protests in Fraser’s name.

The mayor admitted to WKYC that some of the felons hired by the city have served time for homicides. He would not say how many, the news station said. 

Jackson also said that, while Mason was the most qualified candidate for the position out of a field of 16 candidates, nothing was done to determine if the former judge posed a potential threat to his co-workers. 

“We did nothing to see if he was rehabilitated,” Jackson said

Cleveland.com reported that at the time of the 2014 assault on Fraser, the then-estranged couple were returning from a family member’s funeral, their two young daughters in the back seat of the SUV. 

Mason, then a common pleas judge, punched Fraser about 20 times, slammed her head repeatedly into the vehicle’s dashboard, bit her and choked her before forcing her out of the SUV and driving away with the girls. In a frantic 911 call, a battered Fraser begged police to find her children. 

Mason was later arrested at his home, where investigators found smoke grenades, semi-automatic rifles, more than 2,500 rounds of ammunition, a bulletproof vest and a sword, according to Cleveland.com

>> Read more trending news

Mason was indicted on charges of kidnapping, domestic violence, felonious assault, attempted felonious assault and endangering the welfare of his children, Cuyahoga County court records show. He pleaded guilty to the domestic violence and attempted felonious assault charges, and the remainder of the charges were dropped. 

He was sentenced in September 2015 to two years in prison but served less than half. Besides the prison time and removal from the bench, he was also prohibited by the Ohio State Bar Association from practicing law again.

Cleveland.com reported Tuesday that the license revocation wasn’t for a lack of trying to save his career. When Mason’s case went before the disciplinary board, a plethora of high-profile people -- including four sitting judges and U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge -- vouched for Mason’s character.

The news site obtained dozens of glowing letters of support written on his behalf in early 2017. 

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judges Hollie Gallagher and Brendan Sheehan wrote that, during their time working with Mason, he was “pleasant, fair and judicious,” Cleveland.com said. Judge John J. Russo, the pleas court’s administrative and presiding judge, wrote that only Fraser could forgive Mason for what he had done.

“What happened with Lance Mason was unfortunate and indefensible,” Russo wrote, according to Cleveland.com. “But I hope the Board of Professional Conduct considers the entirety of Lance Mason’s career and future potential in making their decision. He lost everything that day, but there is still time for the Lance Mason I once knew to put his skills to use in helping others.”

Fudge, who is vying to become Speaker of the House, wrote about the lawyer, prosecutor, state legislator and judge she had known for three decades prior to the attack on his wife. 

“Lance accepts full responsibility for his actions and has assured me that something like this will never happen again,” Fudge wrote in 2017. “Lance Mason is a good man who made a very bad mistake. I can only hope that you see in Lance what I and others see.”

Fudge on Monday night told the news site that she was heartbroken over Fraser’s slaying. She said the person who committed the crime is not the Mason she knew.

“It was a horrific crime,” Fudge said. “I and everyone who knew Aisha are mourning her loss.”

Another Mason supporter who walked back his support since the homicide is civil rights attorney Subodh Chandra, who in 2017 wrote that Mason’s “chance at recidivism (was) nil,” Cleveland.com reported. Chandra also quoted William Shakespeare: “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”

He wrote that Mason was too young to have all the good he’d done be forgotten.

Chandra said in a statement Monday that he wrote those words about a man he only thought he knew.

“When responding to the request of Judge Mason’s attorney, I talked about the distinguished public servant and well-respected judge I thought I knew -- believing that Aisha Fraser and their children deserved to have Mason support them financially,” Chandra said. “Now my heart is shattered for those children.”

The letters by Mason’s supporters, along with letters he wrote to his wife and daughters while in prison, failed to persuade the state bar of his remorse. Richard Dove, the director of the Board of Professional Conduct, wrote that Mason not only could not explain what made him attack Fraser that day, but that he could not assure board members it would not happen again. 

“How can I speculate or anyone speculate what they would do in a circumstance they never thought they would be in?” the records quote him as saying during his hearing. 

“It is important to note that (Mason’s) attack of his wife on August 2, 2014, was not a mere loss of temper resulting in a single strike or even two,” Dove wrote, according to Cleveland.com. “It was a crazed attack involving multiple strikes, multiple bites, and pursuit.

“When those who knew (Mason) would not have believed him capable of the acts he committed on August 2, 2014, and the evidence presented does not sufficiently explain the acts of that date, the reasonable conclusion is that, in the right circumstances, the events of that date could very well happen again.”

The board recommended that Mason be barred from practicing law for life.

That recommendation did not stop Jackson from hiring Mason last year. 

Williams told the news station Mason should have still been in prison after beating Fraser four years ago and that he should not have had access to his children. He also said he wants those who supported Mason and allowed him early release to be held accountable. 

“They are all collectively responsible for Aisha’s death and the kids witnessing for the second time what a brutal evil monster that other parent was,” Williams said

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Who was Juan Lopez, the suspected Chicago Mercy Hospital shooter?

A man shot and killed his former fiancee Monday afternoon outside Chicago’s Mercy Hospital & Medical Center before opening fire on people inside the hospital, killing a police officer and a first-year pharmacy resident, according to authorities.

>> Read more trending news

Police on Tuesday identified the gunman as Juan Lopez, 32. Officers said Lopez shot and killed Dr. Tamara O’Neal, an emergency room doctor, after an argument over the return of her engagement ring. The pair had been set to marry in late October, but O’Neal called off the wedding in September, WLS-TV reported.

>> Chicago Mercy Hospital shooting: What we know about the victims

Authorities said Lopez then shot and killed police Officer Samuel Jimenez, a married father of three who had been with the force for less than two years, and Dayna Less, a pharmacy resident who joined the hospital this year after graduating from Purdue University.

Here’s what we know about Lopez:

Lopez had been married and divorced once before

In 2014, his wife at the time filed for an order of protection against him after he started sleeping with a gun under his pillow, where it was accessible to their child, WLS-TV reported. She also accused Lopez of going after a neighbor with a gun and pulling a firearm on a realtor during an apartment appraisal, WBBM-TV reported.

Months later, she filed for divorce, according to WBBM-TV.

Lopez was kicked out of the Chicago Fire Department training

Lopez had been training in 2014 to become a firefighter, but he stopped showing up to training after he was told that he would be disciplined for allegedly making threats against a female cadet, fire department spokesman Larry Merritt told The Associated Press.

>> Chicago Mercy Hospital Shooting: 4 dead, including police officer, gunman

Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford told WLS-TV that Lopez was accused of “bullying” female cadets. He was fired after he went AWOL from training, the news station reported.

Lopez bought several guns in recent years

Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Lopez legally purchased four guns in the last five years. He had a permit to carry a concealed firearm, according to the AP.

Lopez worked for the Chicago Housing Authority

The Chicago Housing Authority hired Lopez in February to work as an associate program specialist, WLS-TV reported.

Officials told the news station that background checks are required before employment with the housing authority. The news station reported that Lopez was approved for hire after the background check and that the agency had no history of complaints about him during his employment.

>> Photos: Chicago Mercy Hospital shooting leaves 4 dead, including officer, gunman

“This was an unthinkable act of violence,” Chicago Housing Authority CEO Eugene Jones Jr. said in a statement. “We are filled with overwhelming sadness and our hearts go out to the families of those who died and to all affected by this horrific tragedy.”

Lopez died Monday during the shooting at Mercy Hospital, though authorities said it was not immediately clear whether he had been shot by officers or he had taken his own life.

Authorities continue to investigate.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

GoFundMe is refunding $400,000 from a fake campaign | Your Daily Pitch

GoFundMe is refunding $400,000 from a fake campaign | Your Daily Pitch

Romaine lettuce not safe to eat: CDC, FDA issue warnings ahead of Thanksgiving

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a food safety alert days before Thanksgiving as there has been a multistate outbreak of E. coli linked to romaine lettuce.

An investigation by the CDC, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and public health and regulatory officials in several states and Canada found that the infections may be linked to the lettuce.

>> Read more trending news 

“CDC is advising that U.S. consumers not eat any romaine lettuce, and retailers and restaurants not serve or sell any, until we learn more about the outbreak,” the group said in the Tuesday alert. “This investigation is ongoing and the advice will be updated as more information is available.”

According to the alert, 32 people in 11 states reported they “have been infected with the outbreak strain of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7.” The reports of onset illnesses range from Oct. 8 to Oct. 31. Thirteen people have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

The CDC advised that restaurants and retailers should not serve or sell any of the lettuce, even that included in mixed salad. Those with any kind of romaine lettuce in their home, opened or not, should throw it out. Areas of the fridge where the lettuce was stored should be sanitized and washed.

Symptoms of an E. coli infection include diarrhea that lasts more than three days, diarrhea with blood in the stool, a high fever or vomiting to the point that you can’t keep anything down and passing little urine. 

More information on the alert, including how to sanitize and clean your fridge and the latest outbreak information, is at CDC.gov.

Thanksgiving store hours: 70-plus stores will be closed on Thanksgiving Day 2018

More than 70 retailers have confirmed they will buck the recent trend of starting Black Friday shopping on Thanksgiving Thursday, according to a list compiled and  updated regularly by BestBlackFriday.com. 

In early October, 60 retailers confirmed they would close on Thanksgiving Day, but the list has since grown. 

“We have never had these many confirmations in early October, and we are expecting the list to grow to over 100 national and well-known regional stores by Thanksgiving Day,” said Phillip Dengler, head of editorial and content marketing for BestBlackFriday.com

According to a BestBlackFriday.com survey, only 24.67 percent of Americans actually favor stores opening on Thanksgiving Day. Forty-seven percent dislike Thanksgiving openings.  

Here is a list of retailers that have told BestBlackFriday.com they plan to stay closed Thanksgiving Day. (Click the links above to find the most updated list.)

  • A.C. Moore
  • Abt Electronics
  • Academy Sports + Outdoors
  • Acme Tools
  • Allen Edmonds
  • American Girl
  • At Home
  • AT&T (company-owned stores)
  • Big 5 Sporting Goods
  • BJ’s Wholesale Club
  • Blain’s Farm & Fleet
  • Bob's Discount Furniture
  • Burlington
  • Christopher & Banks
  • Cost Plus World Market
  • Costco
  • Craft Warehouse
  • Crate & Barrel
  • Dillard’s
  • Dressbarn (majority of stores)
  • Fleet Farm
  • Gardner-White Furniture
  • Guitar Center
  • H&M
  • Half Price Books
  • Harbor Freight Tools
  • Hobby Lobby
  • Home Depot
  • HomeGoods
  • Homesense
  • Ikea
  • Joann Stores
  • Lowe’s
  • Marshalls
  • Mattress Firm
  • Music & Arts
  • Nordstrom
  • Nordstrom Rack
  • P.C. Richard & Son
  • Patagonia
  • Pep Boys
  • Petco
  • PetSmart
  • Pier 1 Imports
  • Publix
  • Raymour & Flanigan Furniture | Mattresses
  • REI
  • Sam’s Club
  • Sierra Trading Post
  • Sportsman’s Warehouse
  • Sprint (some mall retail stores and kiosks may open on Thanksgiving)
  • Staples
  • Stein Mart
  • Sur La Table
  • The Container Store
  • TJ Maxx
  • Tractor Supply Co.
  • Trollbeads
  • Von Maur
  • West Marine

 

 

East Coast haze caused by California fires

Some of the skies above New York City, New Jersey and Philadelphia can be hazy, but that’s due to smog. Residents in those areas Monday saw a different kind of haze on a day that was sunny and mild -- the smoke blowing east from the deadly California wildfires, WNBC reported.

>> Read more trending news 

Gary Szatkowski, the former head of the National Weather Service’s Mount Holly, New Jersey, office, tweeted a map from NOAA showing the direction of the smoke as it advanced on the East Coast, NJ.com reported. The smoke could be seen from Philadelphia to the metropolitan New York City area, Szatkowski said.

The smoke is not expected to be a health hazard on the East Coast. Last week, meteorologist Tom Kines told the Rockland/Westchester Journal News, "The smoke is so high up in the atmosphere. It's kind of diluted anyway as it heads eastward."

People from different parts of the country have also been tweeting about the haze:

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: What time, what channel, who is performing?

Turkey Day is quickly approaching, and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a tradition for many families. 

>> Read more trending news 

Since 1924, thousands have flocked to the New York City streets to watch marching bands, floats and celebrities participate in the festivities, and this year will be no different. 

“This year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will redefine spectacle with a jaw-dropping mix of must-see entertainment for millions of spectators,” Susan Tercero, executive producer of the affair, said in a statement. “Featuring an amazing line-up of high flying balloons, dazzling animated floats, world-class marching bands and performance groups ... the Macy’s Parade will once again herald the arrival of the holiday season.” 

>> John Legend, Martina McBride, Ella Mai to perform in parade

Want to know how to prepare for 92nd annual event? Here’s everything you should know. 

When is it?

The parade will take place on Thanksgiving Day on Thursday, Nov. 24 in Manhattan. It begins at 9 a.m. EST on 77th Street and Central Park West and ends around noon near Herald Square. Take a look at the route map here

How can I watch?

If you’re not able to make it to Manhattan, there are plenty of ways to watch from the comfort of your home. The show will air live on NBC. You can also catch it on NBC’s website or Verizon's YouTube channel.

The “Today” show’s Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb and Al Roker will host the broadcast.

Who is performing?

Diana Ross, John Legend, Kane Brown, Martina McBride, Pentatonix, Leona Lewis, Ella Mai, Rita Ora, Sugarland and Anika Noni Rose are expected to perform.

How many floats will be in the parade?

This year, there will be 16 giant character balloons; 43 novelty balloons, heritage balloons, balloonicles, balloonheads and trycaloons; 26 floats; 1,200 cheerleaders and dancers; and more than 1,000 clowns. The lineup will also feature 12 marching bands.

What’s new this year?

Tom Turkey, the parade’s oldest float, will be debuting a new look.

“This year we’re updating him. We’re giving him more of a spotlight,” said Rick Pomer, vice president and creative director for Macy’s Entertainment. 

There will also be four new floats, including Elf Pets by The Elf on the Shelf and Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Nickelodeon.

 What else should I know?

Visit macys.com/parade for regular updates, including behind-the-scenes previews, interactive historical information and more. Also, follow #MacysParade to keep up with the conversation. 

Holiday shopping: Three big retailers announce gift card restrictions to prevent scams

If you're planning on purchasing gift cards this holiday season, then there are some important policy changes that you'll need to know about. 

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced nationwide gift card policy changes at a news conference Tuesday. 

Three major retailers Walmart, Target and Best Buy have all agreed to new restrictions. There will be reductions in gift card limits, as well as restrictions on using gift cards to buy other gift cards. There also will be more employee training for people who work in the stores to help recognize scams when they are happening.

>> Read more trending news 

Shapiro said gift card scams have quadrupled in recent years. 

Check back for more on this developing story, or click here.

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