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Cable company ordered to pay $7 billion to family of woman murdered by repairman



A Texas jury has ordered Charter Communications to pay $7 billion in punitive damages to the family of an 83-year-old grandmother robbed and murdered by a cable repairman who arrived in the company’s van while off the clock.

Charter, which owns Spectrum, was also deemed responsible last month for $337.5 million in compensatory damages for the December 2019 murder of Betty Jo McClain Thomas.

Negligence cases like Thomas’ rarely go to trial, and usually settle out of court – and out of the public eye – without the company admitting to wrongdoing. That’s often been true even when consumers were assaulted, tortured, raped or murdered.

In a written statement this week from Charter spokesman Rich Ruggiero, the company said it would appeal the verdict: “The law in Texas and the facts presented at trial clearly show this crime was not foreseeable — and the plaintiffs’ claims of wrongdoing by Charter are categorically false.”

Roy James Holden pleaded guilty to Thomas’ murder and was sentenced to life in prison. Thomas’ attorneys said that Holden had lied about his past jobs and Charter hadn’t verified his employment. Had the company done so and discovered the lie, he would have been disqualified from being hired.

When house calls turn deadly: Are cable companies responsible for workers’ violent crimes?

At Charter, court records show Holden had racked up disciplinary actions and taken pictures of driver’s licenses and credit cards at the homes of two elderly female customers. He asked his operations manager for money and he requested mental health intervention through Charter’s employee assistance program.

Yet he continued to be sent on field calls. Holden was scheduled to work at Thomas’ house on Dec. 11, 2019, at 1 p.m, according to the incident report by the Irving Police Department. He returned the next day and murdered her.

For Thomas’ family, this case was not about the money, said Chris Hamilton, the family’s attorney, from Hamilton Wingo LLP. It was about putting the incident into the public record and making sure “it wasn’t a slap-on-the-wrist case where everything is swept under the rug.”

Charter sent an overdue bill to Betty Jo McClain Thomas' house after her death, which included a $58.94 charge for the work Roy James Holden Jr. did the day before he killed her.

During the trial, details emerged that shortly after Thomas’ murder, Charter sent an overdue bill that included a $58.94 charge for Holden’s work. That bill was sent on to a collection agency.

In March 2021, Charter tried to force the family into arbitration, by submitting documents to the court that showed Thomas had agreed to the company’s terms of service, which included an arbitration agreement, by checking a small box when she paid her bill online. The documents showed that she checked that box four times from August to November 2019. They also submitted a document that included Thomas’ signature on a work order for the Dec. 11 repair, which also included an arbitration agreement.

But that work order, which should have been signed after the job was completed, was signed at 12:59 p.m., just a minute before Holden was scheduled to start the job. When Thomas’ family members saw the signature, they knew it didn’t belong to her, Hamilton said. It was simply signed “Bety.”

A work completion order, carrying a signature Betty Jo McClain Thomas' family says was forged, was signed before the job was scheduled to start.

Thomas’ attorneys also contacted Thomas’ credit card company, and found another discrepancy: She paid her bill over the phone, not online.

“So, we knew they weren’t telling the truth about that,” Hamilton said of Charter. The online terms of service documents also were copyrighted in 2021, two years after Thomas’ death.

Damages in arbitration, Hamilton said, would have been equivalent to Thomas’ final bill, about $200.

In its statement, Charter did not directly address the forgery allegations or indicate whether there would be any policy changes related to background checks.

“We are committed to the safety of all our customers and took the necessary steps, including a thorough pre-employment criminal background check – which showed no arrests, convictions or other criminal behavior,” it said. “Nor did anything in Mr. Holden’s performance after he was hired suggest he was capable of the crime he committed, including more than 1,000 completed service calls with zero customer complaints about his behavior.”


Foreign News

Video: Plane Crashes, Explodes Into Flames After Hitting Lorry On Busy Motorway




A small plane crash landed on a California highway on Tuesday, August 9, hitting a truck full of people before bursting into flames.

The plane crashed into the eastbound lanes of the freeway of the 91 Freeway in Riverside County near Lincoln Avenue just after 12:30 p.m., the California Highway Patrol told KTLA.

Footage shows the plane drop out of the sky and touch down in the middle of traffic leaving behind a trail of burning jet fuel.

Video released by the Corona Fire Department shows the plane engulfed in flames and emitting massive plumes of smoke before a firefighter douses the aircraft with water.

Another photo from the department shows the charred remains of the plane on the highway.

The pilot and passenger onboard were both able to get themselves out of the plane safely CHP said.

The plane also crashed into a truck with three people inside, who were also fortunately unharmed.

CHP said that the pilot claimed to have made an emergency landing on the freeway after experiencing engine failure as it headed towards Corona Municipal Airport to land.

“(We’re) very fortunate today that the traffic was light, and the pilot appears to have made some good landing navigation that avoided what could have been a very bad tragedy,” CHP Capt Levi Miller told KTLA.

Watch the video below.


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Foreign News

Nigerian-Born Woman Shot Dead By 12-Year-Old Son In US




A 12-year-old boy confessed to accidentally shooting his mother, a 29-year-old registered nurse, Ayobiyi Abeni Cook.

The boy, who has not been identified, originally claimed she was killed by an intruder in the family’s Forestdale, Alabama home.

Ayobiyi Cook, who friends called ‘Yo-Yo’, was found dead in the suburban home on the 2400 block of Freemont Avenue after midnight on August 6.

The youth had reportedly lied to investigators with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office that an intruder had entered their house, shot his mother and then ran away.

“The child originally fabricated a story that detectives determined was not possible,” Deputy Chief David Agee said.

“After investigation, Sheriff’s Detectives were able to determine that the victim’s 12-year-old son unintentionally discharged a firearm striking his mother causing her death.”

“After more probing, the boy finally changed his story.

“The child eventually gave a true account of what happened,” Agree said. “Evidence on the scene supports that the shooting was unintentional and the offense will be addressed through the Family Court system. The family has been cooperative throughout the process and the child will remain with them.”

The boy’s father is an officer with the Birmingham Police Department and was working at the time of the shooting, according to Birmingham Real-Time News.

The boy told police that he had seen the man running away from the suburban home.

“This offence is a tragedy for the Cook family and the entire community,” Agee said.

The funeral for the slain mom will be held on August 12 at the Faith Memorial Chapel in Bessmer, Alabama.


Facebook post announcing her funeral.

Family friends have also taken to Facebook to pay tributes to her exemplary and selfless life.

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Foreign News

Father and son sentenced to life in prison for federal hate crimes in Ahmaud Arbery’s killing




Two of the three white men who chased and killed Ahmaud Arbery as he jogged through a Georgia neighborhood in early 2020 were sentenced to life in prison on Monday, August 8 for federal hate crimes.

During a state held trial in Gerogia, Travis McMichael, the young man responsible for fatally shooting Arbery, and his father, Greg McMichael, had already been sentenced to life in prison without parole for their roles in the killing.

Then Months after, the McMichaels and their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, each received life sentences for murder in state court.

But on Monday, all three men convicted in Arbery’s murder faced a second round of criminal penalties for federal hate crimes committed in the deadly pursuit of the 25-year-old Black Arbery.

U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood scheduled back-to-back hearings to individually sentence each of the defendants, starting with Travis McMichael, who fired a shotgun at Arbery after the street chase initiated by his father and joined by Bryan.

Arbery’s killing on Feb. 23, 2020, became was one of the initiators of racial injustice protests amid killings of unarmed Black people including George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky. Those two cases also resulted in the Justice Department bringing federal charges.

When the court hearings resume in Georgia on Monday, Bryan faces a possible life sentence as well, after a jury convicted him along with the McMichaels in February of federal hate crimes, concluding that they violated Arbery’s civil rights and targeted him because of his race. All three men were also found guilty of attempted kidnapping, and the McMichaels face additional penalties for using firearms to commit a violent crime.

All three defendants have remained jailed in coastal Glynn County, in the custody of U.S. marshals, while awaiting sentencing after their federal convictions in January.

Because they were first charged and convicted of murder in a state court, protocol would have them turned them over to the Georgia Department of Corrections to serve their life terms in a state prison.

The McMichaels armed themselves with guns and jumped in a truck to chase Arbery after spotting him running past their home outside the port city of Brunswick on Feb. 23, 2020. Bryan joined the pursuit in his own truck, helping cut off Arbery’s escape. He also recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery at close range as Arbery threw punches and grabbed at the shotgun.

The McMichaels told police they suspected Arbery had been stealing from a nearby house under construction. But authorities later concluded he was unarmed and had committed no crimes. Arbery’s family has long insisted he was merely out jogging.

Two months passed before any charges were filed in Arbery’s death.

The McMichaels family and Bryan were arrested only after the graphic video of the shooting leaked online and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case from local police.

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