katifcam/Thinkstock(BOULDER, Colo.) -- A Colorado man, despite acknowledging that he's lucky to be alive after being trapped in a submerged car, has filed an intent to sue his rescuers for half a million dollars.
Roy Ortiz filed his intent to sue the county of Boulder and his rescuers for a tentative $500,000 as a "preservative" measure, his attorney, Ed Ferszt, told ABC News.
Ferszt said the county should have closed the road during floods in September. He said the first responders were also included because they did not realize Ortiz was trapped in the car until they prepared to lift it out of the water.
"He was not seen or it was assumed no one could have survived it," Ferszt said. "No one discerned he was there."
The incident began Sept. 12 when Ortiz was driving to work. His vehicle hit part of a washed-out road and then plunged into a creek.
"He tried to feel even above his head and all he felt was water everywhere. It was not much of an air pocket," Ferszt said.
Ortiz was able to find a small air bubble in the back of his car where Ferszt said his client spent two hours waiting to be rescued.
Since the accident, Ortiz has racked up $40,000 in medical bills and still has shoulder issues and trouble sleeping, including a recurring dream of shivering to death, Ferszt said.
Whether a future lawsuit is filed will depend "on Roy's medical treatment and how that pans out," Ferszt said.
David Hughes, Boulder Deputy County attorney, told ABC News the county is following procedure with Ortiz's claim.
"When we receive a notice of claim, we follow the same process," he said. "Right now the claim is under investigation."
ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The nation's rate of uninsured adults has fallen from 17.1 percent during the last quarter of 2013 to 15.9 percent due to millions of Americans signing up for the Affordable Care Act.
If the sign-ups continue at the same pace, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index says the number of uninsured in the U.S. could drop under 15.4 percent, the level before President Obama took office.
The end of the open enrollment season is March 31. Those who fail to sign up for mandatory health insurance will be responsible for a "shared responsibility payment” when filing their tax returns in 2015. This penalty is about $95 per adult.
The Department of Health and Human Service reports progress in enrolling each major demographic group with the exception of Hispanics.
Ironically, this is the group that could stand to reap the most benefits from the ACA as many Hispanics don't work at jobs that offer medical insurance.
As with the healthcare.gov website, the Spanish-language enrollment website, CuidadodeSalud.gov, also got off to a rocky start due to technical and language problems.
FBI(AUSTIN, Texas) -- National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden said Monday that rather than helping combat terrorism, the U.S. government’s massive surveillance programs have led to “tremendous intelligence failures” and may have contributed to allowing the deadly Boston Marathon bombing to have taken place.
“We’re monitoring everybody’s communications, instead of suspects’ communications,” Snowden said during a live video conference at Austin’s popular South by Southwest festival. “That lack of focus has caused us to miss leads that we should’ve had. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the Boston bombers, the Russians had warned us about him....And if we hadn’t spent so much on mass surveillance, if we had followed the traditional models, we might’ve caught him.”
In 2011 Russian intelligence requested the FBI and CIA to separately help them investigate Tamerlan’s possible ties to Islamic extremism. Months later, the FBI closed their investigation after concluding that Tamerlan did not pose a threat.
In April 2013, authorities allege Tamerlan and his little brother Dzhokhar set off a pair of bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring more than 260 others. Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police days later, and Dzhokhar was arrested and has pleaded not guilty to terrorism-related charges. He could face the death penalty. The New York Times reported weeks after the bombing that the FBI concluded there was little the Bureau could have done to prevent the attacks.
Snowden also referred to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the young man who tried to blow up an airplane over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009 with explosives hidden in his underwear. Abdulmutallab’s father attempted to warn U.S. officials that he had concerns about his son prior to the attack, but despite his father’s worry, Abdulmutallab was not placed on a no-fly list. The other passengers of that plane Christmas Day were only saved when they noticed Abdulmutallab attempting to light his explosives and subdued him themselves.
A spokesperson for the CIA, the agency which was approached by Abdulmutallab’s father, called into question Snowden’s general theory, telling ABC News the agency doesn’t “put a lot of stock in Snowden’s tips for improving our intelligence capabilities.”
“The Agency is a versatile global organization that is more than capable of addressing a range of national security threats simultaneously and it does so every day,” the spokesperson said. “Anyone suggesting otherwise is seriously misinformed.”
In testimony before lawmakers, the heads of American law enforcement and intelligence agencies have defended various NSA surveillance programs, and the head of the NSA, Gen. Keith Alexander, claimed the surveillance programs had played a role in the thwarting of more than 50 terrorist “terror-related activities” worldwide. In the case of Abdulmutallab, a Senate Intelligence Committee report in 2010 criticized the NSA for not doing enough – for not pursuing “potential collection opportunities that could have provided information” on the would-be terrorist.
However, last December an outside expert panel convened by the White House to review the surveillance programs found that the NSA’s most controversial collection program – so-called Section 215 for the relevant portion of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act – was “not essential to preventing attacks” and presented a “lurking danger of abuse.” The panel made 46 recommendations to how the government should change the way it watches the world, some of which the White House has said it will follow, while others remain under consideration.
Snowden said he was speaking at SXSW, in his first live video conference since fleeing to Moscow, because he wanted to talk directly to the tech developers that could make communications more secure through their programs, rather than waiting on a lumbering government to change policy. With enhanced and encrypted communication tools, Snowden said it would be too difficult for the NSA to sweep up information on everyone’s communications and therefore would be forced to put their resources into spying on people they believe actually pose a threat.
The 30-year-old also said that he doesn’t mind major telecom companies, rather than the NSA, temporarily holding information on customers’ communications information, as proposed by the White House panel, because it’s only the government that has authority over the rights of its citizens.
Snowden, a former contractor with Booz Allen who worked at a secure NSA facility in Hawaii, revealed himself as the source of the massive NSA leak last June while in hiding in Hong Kong. From there, he slipped to Moscow, where he was granted temporary asylum. A slew of media reports on the NSA’s foreign and domestic programs has followed, with no end in sight.
Snowden has been charged in the U.S. with espionage-related crimes and has said he believes he will not be afforded a fair trial should he return. And though privacy advocates call him a hero while critics deride him as a traitor, Snowden said he would do it all over again if he had to.
“When it comes to, would I do this again, the answer is ‘Absolutely, yes,’” Snowden said Monday. “Regardless of what is done to me....This is something we have the right to know.”
Representatives for the FBI did not immediately respond to request for comment for this report. The NSA declined to comment.
mark.adamsson/Facebook(WASHINGTON) -- A student from Georgetown University died while he was on spring break in the Dominican Republic, but the school and authorities have released little information about the death.
Mark Adamsson was a junior enrolled in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, according to a campus-wide statement issued by Todd Olson, vice president for student affairs for Georgetown University.
The statement said that Adamsson was in the Dominican Republic with fellow classmates.
The cause of death was not disclosed, and calls to the school and Dominican authorities were not returned.
“I am deeply saddened by this news and know that it is difficult for the many members of the Georgetown community who know Mark,” Olson said in the school’s statement.
Georgetown officials have been in touch with Adamsson’s family and will provide support and assistance to them, Olson said.
Travis P Ball/Getty Images for SXSW(AUSTIN, Texas) -- NSA leaker Edward Snowden spoke Monday to South by Southwest festival-goers and told the audience that government intrusion and spying might ultimately destroy the U.S. economy.
Appearing by a Skype video call, Snowden sat in front of an image of the U.S. constitution, which he claimed he defended with his leaks.
“We rely on the ability to trust our communications and without that we don't have anything, our economy cannot succeed,” Snowden said.
Snowden said he has no regrets about stealing top secret files and would absolutely do it again.
Snowden is wanted on felony charges in the United States.
ABC News(HUNTINGTON, N.Y.) -- Shooting victim and owner of Oheka Castle in Huntington, N.Y., Gary Melius released a video statement on Monday morning, his first statement since being shot by a mysterious gunman in February.
"I got a break. Whatever that means. I guess God looked out for me," Melius said in the video, according to WABC, ABC's New York affiliate.
The 69-year-old was shot in the head by a masked gunman while getting into his car in the castle parking lot.
Authorities have not determined who shot Melius. The castle owner is known to have a number of political and financial connections, though it is unclear whether those connections played a part in the attack.
"I want you to know I'm healing, getting better and just looking forward to starting all over again," said Melius.
ABC News(BOSTON) -- The Boston FBI said that there has been “no specific threat” made against this year’s Boston Marathon, but they’re taking few chances as public safety officials announced that there will be an extraordinary police presence along the 26.2-mile route.
“We are taking every precaution necessary if a threat should pop up,” Boston field office Assistant Special Agent in Charge Kiernan Ramsey said. But so far, the FBI has “no specific intelligence that there is a threat to the Boston Marathon.”
But both Ramsey and Massachusetts State Police Colonel Tim Alben acknowledged there hadn’t been a specific threat or intelligence that warned them of the tragedy of last year’s event, when three people were killed and more than 260 were injured in a dual bombing near the finish line.
“There was no chatter last year, and we are all very aware what happened then," Alben told ABC News.
The remarks came the same day as a press conference held inside the Massachusetts Emergency Management bunker to reiterate the new rules for the 118th annual race. Some 36,000 runners have qualified for the race, officials said.
Backpacks are prohibited through the eight cities and towns that participate in the marathon and police are urging spectators along the route to carry belongings in clear plastic bags. No one will be allowed to carry coolers or any containers of liquid more than one liter, said Kurt Schwartz, Massachusetts Undersecretary of Homeland Security. In last year’s bombing, two brothers allegedly used two pressure cookers to house their explosives, brought to the race in dark bags.
“No one is building walls between spectators and runners,” Schwartz said, calling the security “reasonable.”
That security will also include State Police helicopters overhead, bomb sniffing dogs, uniformed National Guard soldiers who are trained and certified as military police officers, and hundreds of uniformed police officers who will be alongside an untold number of plainclothes law enforcement officials, Schwartz said.
“We are all mindful of what happened a year ago," Schwartz said.
Scores of people are running in honor of the victims -- Martin Richard, 8, Boston University student Lingzi Lu, and restaurant manager Krystal Campbell -- who died at the scene and others who were maimed for life.
“We never forget the tragedy and suffering that occurred last year," Boston Athletic Association Director Thomas Grilk said.
Officials insist that the character of the 118-year event will be preserved if runners and Patriots Day revelers cooperate by not bringing bags and bottles to the event, helping authorities “strike the right balance,” for the race.
"It will be a fun, festive, family focused day," Schwartz insisted.
Connecticut State Police via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The father of Sandy Hook Elementary School gunman Adam Lanza says he carries guilt about his son’s violent rampage and wishes his son had never been born.
“You can’t get any more evil,” Peter Lanza told the New Yorker in an article in its March 17 issue. “How much do I beat up on myself about the fact that he’s my son? A lot.”
Peter Lanza hadn’t seen his son in the two years prior to the Dec. 14, 2012 shootings in Newtown, Conn., in which the 20-year-old killed his mother and murdered 26 others before taking his own life. Peter and Adam’s mother, Nancy Lanza, had divorced when Adam was in elementary school. Peter said he had tried to reconnect, but Adam continued to withdraw, ignoring his father’s requests.
In interviews with the New Yorker, Peter Lanza said he never goes an hour without thinking about the shooting. He wanted to speak out because, “I want people to be afraid of the fact that this could happen to them. It doesn’t have to be understood to be real."
Peter Lanza said he believes his son would have killed him if he had the chance.
Adam Lanza was cheerful but quiet during childhood, “just a normal little weird kid,” his father says. He even used his savings to buy Christmas toys for needy children. But as years passed, Adam Lanza became more troubled. He struggled in middle school after being diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a diagnosis Adam refused to accept.
Peter Lanza believes the diagnosis masked deeper, darker issues -- possibly schizophrenia.
Nancy Lanza’s actions didn’t reflect her son’s growing danger, he said.
“She never confided to her sister or best friend about being afraid of him,” Peter Lanza said. “She slept with her bedroom door unlocked, and she kept guns in the house, which she would not have done if she were frightened.”
Following the shooting, Peter Lanza received letters of support from across the country. Some of them were written by people whose relatives have carried out public shootings. Other letters included religious items and candy. He was wary of eating the candy, just in case it contained poison.
He also met with relatives of two Sandy Hook victims, an experience he called “gut-wrenching.”
“A victim’s family member told me that they forgave Adam after we spent three hours talking. I didn’t even know how to respond,” he said.
Peter Lanza declined to disclose any details on his son’s funeral. Adam took his own life after shooting up the school, gunning down 20 students aged 6 and 7.
“No one knows that,” he told The New Yorker. “And no one ever will.”
iStock/Thinkstock(GARLAND, Texas) -- A pair of Texas teenagers stunned police who stopped them as they ran out of a wooded area by telling the cops they were “burying a body,” police said.
Police went to the area in Garland, Texas, on a report of a suspicious car on Saturday. While there, they saw two teenagers running from the woods. The officers stopped the pair and asked what they were doing, police said.
“We are burying a body,” they replied, according to a statement by the Wylie Police Department.
The comment prompted police to search area and they discovered the body of Ivan Mejia, police said.
The suspects were detained and charged with first degree murder. Their identities have not been released because they are juveniles, but Wylie Police confirm that both suspects are male and juniors at Wylie East High School. Mejia, 17, was a senior at the same school.
Wylie police said an early investigation suggested the murder took place behind the high school, and the suspects took the body to the woods in Garland. Authorities said that they believe that the murder was premeditated, but Sgt. Donna Valdepena of the Wylie Police Department told ABC News that detectives have not yet established a motive.
The school district released a statement to say, “The entire Wylie ISD community is shocked and saddened by this senseless act…We are cooperating with the police as they investigate, and we hope they will be able to provide us with some understanding of how this tragedy unfolded. The incident was not connected to any school or district related-activity.”
Palatine Police Department(CHICAGO) -- The man convicted of perpetrating one of the most gruesome and notorious mass killings in Chicago-area history has been awarded nearly a half million dollars in a civil lawsuit against a prison guard accused of punching him in the face.
James Eric Degorski, 41, and accomplice Juan Luna were convicted of shooting and stabbing to death two restaurant owners and five employees during a botched robbery at a suburban Chicago diner in 1993. The seven victims’ bodies were discovered the next day in the restaurant's walk-in cooler and freezer.
The case went unsolved until 2002, when Degorski and Luna were arrested, tried and sentenced to life in prison. But shortly after arriving in Cook county prison in 2002, Degorski was allegedly beaten by prison guard Thomas Wilson in an unprovoked attack, Degorski’s attorney Jennifer Bonjean said.
Degorski suffered facial fractures and metal plates had to be surgically inserted into his face.
Degorski sued Wilson for excessive use of force in 2004, but the civil case was put on hold until his murder case was concluded in 2009. A federal jury Friday agreed with Degorski after a three-day trial that Wilson had used excessive force and was awarded punitive damages.
Wilson claimed that Degorski lunged at him and that he acted in self-defense. Wilson was acquitted by a Cook County circuit judge in 2003 of aggravated battery and official misconduct charges in connection to the alleged attack on Degorsk.
Wilson has not responded to ABC News’ request for comment.
Bonjean, Degorski’s lawyer, told ABC News, “I was very moved. It gave me a lot of hope that this jury had acted so consistently following the law and accepting the principal that regardless of your status in society, you are entitled to be free of unjustified violence at the hands of the government and people with power and the duty to protect you.”
The jury was told that Degorski was a convicted murderer, but not given specifics.
“They were not given details about the crime,” Bonjean said. “The law is very settled about that, it’s not relevant to any issue, the job of the jury is to listen to the facts.”
Family members of victims expressed outrage over the decision to local media.
“The first thought it, ‘it kind of feels like a slap in the face,” Dana Sampson, whose parents, Richard and Lynn Ehlenfeldt, owned the restaurant and were shot to death in the attack, told the Chicago Tribune.
Bonjean says she has sympathy for the families but says that the case is not about Degorski’s criminal responsibility for past actions, but about constitutional rights.
“I understand why [the victims’ families] are upset, but at the end of the day [Degorski] is being punished for the crime he was convicted of,” Bonjean said. “If we accept that there is a sliding scale on whose constitutional rights should be protected and whose should not, we are going down a scary path.”
It is unclear just how much of the nearly half-million dollars Degorski will wind up seeing. Half of the money will be paid by Cook county, and the other half by Thomas Wilson.
According to Bonjean, the Illinois department of corrections could seek to use part of the payout to house Degorski. Family members of the victims could also file suit to receive part of the money. Inmates are also typically barred from spending more than a few hundred dollars a month in state prisons.
“We have no idea what if anything he will see. There are going to be many challenges to the money, that was anticipated and [Degorski] knew this as well,” Bonjean said. “I don’t think it’s about the money for James Degorski.”
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Heroin addiction is a growing problem in the U.S., according to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
In a videotaped message released by the Justice Department on Monday, Holder says that "[b]etween 2006 and 2010, heroin overdose deaths increased by 45 percent."
The problem is something that every state in the nation is facing.
"Addiction to heroin and other opiates -- including certain prescription pain-killers -- is impacting the lives of Americans in every state, in every region, and from every background and walk of life," he says.
"It’s clear that opiate addiction is an urgent -- and growing -- public health crisis. And that’s why Justice Department officials, including the DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration], and other key federal, state, and local leaders, are fighting back aggressively," Holder adds.
Among other things, the attorney general promises aggressive enforcement to combat the problem and wants first responders to carry naloxone, which can counter a heroin overdose.
ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The skydiver who collided with an airplane at a small Florida airfield and escaped with just minor injuries says he couldn’t believe what was going to happen to him just moments before the impact.
“It was just unimaginable that there was an aircraft about to hit me,” skydiver John Frost said in an interview with ABC's Good Morning America, speaking of the Saturday collision with a single-engine Cessna aircraft.
Frost, 49, of Gainesville, Fla., was coming in for a landing at South Lakeland Airport in Mulberry, located just East of Tampa, when he saw the small private plane heading straight for him.
The plane’s 87-year-old pilot, Shannon Trembley, a World War II veteran, was performing takeoff and landing maneuvers.
“All the sudden I looked over to my right and there was an aircraft coming at me, I realized I was going to have an impact. I scrunched up and tried to prepare myself,” Frost said.
“My first thought is that I don’t want to end up in the propeller,” he added.
The nose of the plane sliced the strings of the parachute, dragging Frost through the air and sending him crashing to the ground near the back of the plane.
Trembley lost control, crashing the plane into the ground at a 90-degree angle.
Frost was taken to the hospital, where he was treated and released. Trembley also survived, although he was still in the hospital on Sunday night.
“I’m very sore, some bruising, no broken bones, no internal injuries right now, but that’s still being determined,” Frost said.
An experienced jumper, Frost said he’s never before heard of a plane hitting a skydiver.
The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating.
Frost says the incident hasn’t put him off jumping. “(As) soon as I get a new rig or decide to rent one, hopefully heal up, soon as I feel safe to jump, I’ll get back up there,” he said. “It clears your mind. It gives you the exhilaration of a lifetime.”
Pia Farrenkopf high school photo(DETROIT) -- The discovery of a mummified body believed to be a suburban Detroit woman who had not been seen for six years has left neighbors and her family questioning what happened.
While the Oakland County, Mich., police have not officially identified the woman, ABC News affiliate WXYZ-TV in Detroit identified the home’s owner as Pia Farrenkopf. It is believed to be her body that was found in the home’s garage this week.
The woman’s body was found Wednesday by a contractor who was working on the property after it had been foreclosed on. The body was found in the backseat of a car in the garage and the car key was turned in the off position in the ignition.
On Thursday, the county medical examiner performed an autopsy but found no trauma.
Farrenkompf’s sister, Paula Logan, told WXYZ-TV that she doesn’t believe that her sister would have taken her own life.
“I think there was foul play. I think someone might have been in that garage,” Logan said.
While toxicology tests are pending, there is a chance that a cause of death might never be found for Farrenkompf.
According to WXYZ-TV, because the body had been mummified, evidence in the blood or tissue would likely be too damaged.
“If someone is poisoned, that would be in their blood and muscle,” Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said. “We don’t have blood or muscle.”
Farrenkompf’s bills were paid automatically out of her $54,000 savings. She was fired from her job at a financing firm for Chrysler in September 2008 and her co-workers are the last people to have seen her alive, according to police.
Her neighbors told WXYZ-TV they thought the homeowner often traveled for weeks to months at a time and they thought she had moved away years ago.
Credit: Tim Telford via ABC News(TAMPA, Fla.) -- A pilot and a skydiver are expected to survive after a midair collision on Saturday between the two sent his plane into a 90-degree nose dive, while the skydiver spun and slammed into the ground.
The 87-year-old pilot, Shannon Trembley, a World War II veteran, was running what are called touch-and-go drills, when the plane lands on the runway and immediately takes off again.
As both the plane and skydiver came in to land, it became clear a collision was imminent.
“As the shutter’s clicking away, I realize that I’m seeing something that is certainly spectacular,” skydiving photographer Tim Telford told Good Morning America.
The nose of the plane sliced the strings of the parachute, dragging the skydiver, John Frost, 49, through the air like a rag-doll before it hit the ground and lifted off again.
Meanwhile, Trembley lost control of the aircraft and the nose of the plane grinded to the ground at a 90-degree angle.
“Obviously, when you see an airplane crash to the ground your first thought is, ‘Oh my gosh, what happened?’” Telford said.
Tee Sifford, president of the local homeowner's association, said both men were lucky to escape with only minor injuries. Frost was released later Saturday from the hospital.
“This is absolutely incredible that we don’t have any fatalities here,” Sifford said.