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Ex-Blue Angels Commander Ousted Amid Lewd Conduct Allegations

By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times

SAN DIEGO—A former commanding officer of the famed Blue Angels aerial demonstration team was relieved of duty amid allegations of “lewd speech, inappropriate comments, and sexually explicit humor” and pornography, the Navy said Wednesday.

Last week the Navy announced that Capt. Gregory McWherter had been relieved of duty as executive officer of Naval Base Coronado because of initial findings of an investigation into misconduct during his tours as commander and flight leader of the Blue Angels.

In making that announcement, the Navy provided no explanation of the misconduct except that it made for an “inappropriate command climate” at the Blue Angels, which are based at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Fla.

On Wednesday, the Navy provided details following a story on The Washington Post’s web site.

McWherter allowed “and in some cases encouraged” the sexually inappropriate misconduct in the workplace, according to Wednesday’s statement.

The actions may have violated the Navy’s “sexual harassment, hazing and equal opportunity policies,” the Navy said.

“All Navy leaders, whether assigned to a highly visible unit like the ‘Blues,’ or to our installations, squadrons, ships and submarines, are held to the highest standards,” said Vice Adm. David Buss, commander of Naval Air Forces.

The decision to relieve McWherter was made by Vice Adm. William French, commander of Navy Installation Command. The investigation began with a complaint filed with the Navy Inspector General.

“We remain fully committed to accountability, transparency and protecting the integrity of ongoing investigations,” Buss said.

McWherter served as commanding officer of the Blue Angels from November 2008 to November 2010, and then from May 2011 to November 2012.

An F/A-18 Hornet pilot, McWherter has logged 5,500 flight hours and 950 aircraft carrier landings during training missions and deployments to the Mediterranean, the Persian Gulf and the western Pacific.

He was an instructor at the Fighter Weapons School, known as Top Gun. During his second tour with the Blue Angels, McWherter, a graduate of the Citadel, received an award for his “leadership and contributions” to the North American air show industry.

DVIDSHUB via Flickr.com

Report: FBI Is Investigating Murdoch

NEW YORK (AP) — The FBI has opened an investigation into allegations that media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. sought to hack into the phones of Sept. 11 victims, a law enforcement official said Thursday.

The official spoke Thursday to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

New York City-based News Corp. has been in crisis mode.

A rival newspaper reported last week that the company’s News of the World had hacked into the phone of U.K. teenage murder victim Milly Dowler in 2002 and may have impeded a police investigation into the 13-year-old’s disappearance.

More possible victims soon emerged: other child murder victims, 2005 London bombing victims, the families of dead soldiers and former Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

The FBI’s New York office didn’t immediately comment Thursday. There was no immediate response to messages left for News Corp. and the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan.

On Thursday, Murdoch caved in to pressure from Britain’s Parliament as he and his son James first refused, then agreed, to appear next week before lawmakers investigating phone hacking and bribery by employees of their newspaper empire.

Murdoch began his media career in Australia in 1952 after inheriting The News newspaper after the death of his father, and he has built News Corp. into one of the world’s biggest media groups. Assets include Fox News, the 20th Century Fox movie studio, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and three newspapers in Britain — down from four with the death of the News of the World.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

Clemens trial begins Wednesday with jury selection

WASHINGTON (AP) — Roger Clemens, one of the most imposing and accomplished pitchers in baseball history, is going on trial Wednesday to fight allegations that he used drugs to enhance his power on the mound.

Like other players who have been indicted in baseball’s steroids era, Clemens has not been charged with drug crimes but instead is accused of lying about drug use. Clemens told a House committee under oath in 2008 that he never used performance-enhancing drugs during a standout 23-season career in which he won a record seven Cy Young Awards as his league’s top pitcher.

The federal court trial of U.S. vs. William R. Clemens begins by narrowing a pool of 125 Washington residents to a panel of 12 jurors and four alternates. The first 50 prospective jurors are to appear Wednesday, and U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton hopes to have the panel selected by early next week. The trial is expected to last four to six weeks.

Walton plans to ask potential panelists to answer 67 questions about their background, opinions and knowledge of the case. Both sides sought a written questionnaire, but Walton said that’s not his practice because it “disadvantages less-educated people.” He said he would give attorneys wide latitude to ask follow-up questions.

The case will pit Clemens against his former trainer, Brian McNamee, who says he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone several times during the decade that he helped shape him into one of the most feared pitchers in the major leagues. Clemens’ attorneys say McNamee is a serial liar who made up the allegations against his star client to save himself from joblessness and prosecution on drug charges.

Clemens’ lawyers will try to discredit McNamee, a former New York City police officer, by pointing out a series of lies the trainer told in the past. They also want to introduce allegations that he drugged and raped an unconscious woman in a Florida hotel pool while traveling with the New York Yankees in 2001. The judge will have to decide whether to let that allegation in, considering that McNamee was never charged with a crime.

Prosecutors want to back up McNamee’s allegations against Clemens through testimony from his former Yankee teammates Andy Pettitte, Chuck Knoblauch and Mike Stanton. All three admit they got performance drugs from McNamee, but Walton says he probably won’t let them tell jurors about it because it could cause them to unfairly assume that Clemens must have as well.

Pettitte is the only person besides McNamee who says Clemens admitted taking performance-enhancing drugs. Pettitte has said Clemens told him privately in 1999 or 2000 that he took injections of human growth hormone, but Clemens says his old friend misheard him.

Clemens is charged with six felony counts, including perjury, false statements and obstruction of Congress, which carry a maximum sentence of up to 30 years in prison and a $1.5 million fine. But even if jurors convict him on all counts, it’s unlikely Clemens would serve nearly that long because he doesn’t have a criminal record.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

JP Morgan To Pay $153 Million For Screwing Investors

As goes Goldman, goes the nation:

JP Morgan Chase has agreed to pay $153 million to settle allegations that it misled investors when it created and marketed a risky mortgage investment shortly before the housing market collapsed. The Securities and Exchange Commission accused JP Morgan of securities fraud, saying the bank failed to tell investors that a hedge fund helped create the investment while betting that it would fail. Investors who lost more than $100 million on the deal included a religious non-profit group in Minneapolis, several Asian financial institutions and General Motors Asset Management, which manages the General Motors pension plans. The accusations closely mirror the S.E.C.’s 2010 case against Goldman Sachs, which was accused of selling a mortgage investment that was intended to collapse. In that case, Hedge fund giant John Paulson had helped create — and bet against — the Abacus mortgage investment sold by Goldman.

The SEC seems to be picking the low-hanging fruit, so to speak, going after instances during the lead-up to the financial crisis where big banks and financial institutions left clear traces of malice with respect to their investors. As is typical in these cases, the firm “neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing in the settlement.” [The New York Times]