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Detroit Police Officer Faces New Trial in Girl's 2010 Shooting Death

Wed, 09/17/2014 - 9:33am

iStock/Thinkstock(DETROIT) -- A Detroit police officer is preparing to stand trial for the second time in the shooting death of a 7-year-old girl, an incident videotaped by a reality TV crew.

Joseph Weekley is charged with involuntary manslaughter in the May 2010 shooting of Aiyana Stanley-Jones. The incident was videotaped for the A&E reality show The First 48, with Detroit police serving a warrant to a murder suspect.

The first trial last year ended in a hung jury. Weekley maintained it was all a tragic accident and he has pleaded not guilty, just as he did in his 2013 trial.

Aiyana was sleeping on the couch. Weekley has testified that the girl’s grandmother, Mertilla Jones, hit his submachine gun, coming down on it with her arm, causing him to accidentally fire.

Aiyana was shot in the head.

Weekley’s supervisor, Lt. Donald Johnson, told jurors in 2013 that Weekley was devastated following the shooting.

“He was just throwing up and crying and shaking, and just sporadic, 'Why did she hit my gun?'” Johnson said.

Jones insisted that she never went for Weekley’s gun.

“They messed up, and they know they done messed up,” she said.

Geoffrey Fieger, the family’s attorney, said police mishandled the situation and were performing for the TV cameras when Aiyana was killed.

“They knew they were being photographed for a TV show. So, they like to show all their cowboys-and-Indians, tough-guy military look,” Fieger said.

ABC News Chief Legal Affairs Anchor Dan Abrams said he was surprised that the jury in the first trial could not agree on a lesser misdemeanor charge against Weekley -- careless discharge of a firearm causing death.

“The fact that the jurors couldn’t compromise shows you how difficult a case this is,” Abrams said. “There must have been fierce divisions on that jury.”

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Manhunt for Accused Pennsylvania Cop Shooter Closes Schools

Wed, 09/17/2014 - 8:50am

PennDOT(CANADENSIS, Pa.) -- Schools in one northeastern Pennsylvania district are closed Wednesday morning as authorities search for a sharpshooting survivalist suspected in a deadly ambush against state police troopers.

Eric Matthew Frein, 31, is accused of firing at police during a shift change at the Blooming Grove barracks in Pike County Sept. 12.

Corporal Bryon Dickson, 38, died in the attack, while Trooper Alex Douglass, 31, is recovering following surgery.

Due to the manhunt, the Pocono Mountain School District -- which consists of 10 schools -- are closed Wednesday because of safety concerns for students and staff.

Authorities received a break in the case Monday, when a man walking his dog in a wooded area noticed a green Jeep partially submerged in a pond and alerted police. Police searched the vehicle and found two spent .308 cartridges, camouflage face paint, a black hooded sweatshirt, two empty rifle cases, and information concerning foreign embassies.

The vehicle was registered to E. Michael Frein, the suspect's father, who is a retired Army major. The father told police that he trained his son to shoot and added that his son "doesn't miss."

He also told police that he was missing two weapons, a .308 rifle with a scope and an AK-47.


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Vikings Place Peterson on Exempt List

Wed, 09/17/2014 - 1:43am

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Minnesota Vikings have announced that Adrian Peterson has been placed on the NFL’s Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission list and will not play this Sunday.

The decision comes after the team announced earlier this week that it was reinstating him while the legal process involving charges of child abuse against the running back proceeded.

The Vikings now say Peterson will not be allowed to participate in any team activities until his legal matters are behind him.

The Vikings issued the following statement:

“This has been an ongoing and deliberate process since last Friday’s news. In conversations with the NFL over the last two days, the Vikings advised the League of the team’s decision to revisit the situation regarding Adrian Peterson.  In response, the League informed the team of the option to place Adrian on the Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission list, which will require that Adrian remain away from all team activities while allowing him to take care of his personal situation until the legal proceedings are resolved. After giving the situation additional thought, we have decided this is the appropriate course of action for the organization and for Adrian.”

The statement continues: "We are always focused on trying to make the right decision as an organization. We embrace our role - and the responsibilities that go with it – as a leader in the community, as a business partner and as an organization that can build bridges with our fans and positively impact this great region. We appreciate and value the input we have received from our fans, our partners and the community.
 
While we were trying to make a balanced decision yesterday, after further reflection we have concluded that this resolution is best for the Vikings and for Adrian. We want to be clear: we have a strong stance regarding the protection and welfare of children, and we want to be sure we get this right. At the same time we want to express our support for Adrian and acknowledge his seven-plus years of outstanding commitment to this organization and this community. Adrian emphasized his desire to avoid further distraction to his teammates and coaches while focusing on his current situation; this resolution accomplishes these objectives as well.
 
We will support Adrian during this legal and personal process, but we firmly believe and realize this is the right decision. We hope that all of our fans can respect the process that we have gone through to reach this final decision."

The statement is signed by team owners Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf.


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Former Suspect in Aspen Philanthropist’s Murder Denies Helping Husband Kill Her

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 11:51pm

Vladek/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ASPEN, Colo.) -- The wife of the man who murdered prominent Aspen, Colorado, resident Nancy Pfister says she is innocent and didn't help her husband kill Pfister, despite once being a suspect herself.

“I had absolutely nothing to do with this,” Nancy Styler, 62, told ABC News’ 20/20.

Styler's husband, Dr. William F. Styler III, known as Trey, is currently serving a 20-year prison sentence after pleading guilty on June 20 to second-degree murder for bludgeoning Pfister to death inside the Buttermilk Ski Area heiress’ home, which the couple was renting.

Pfister, 57, a philanthropist with a party girl reputation, was found dead inside a walk-in closet in her mountain chalet on Feb. 26 by her friend, Kathy Carpenter, who was also suspected in her murder. After Trey Styler's confession, the first-degree murder charges against Carpenter, 56, and Styler's wife were dropped.

Prosecutors have said that if new evidence comes to light they can re-file charges against Carpenter at any time. As part of a deal, Nancy Styler can never be charged for Pfister's murder.

After her husband confessed to killing Pfister, Styler said she was shocked that he could be capable of such a crime.

“The jail part was a day at the beach compared to learning that the person that you've been with for 32 years committed such an awful crime,” she said.

According to prosecutors, Trey Styler, 66, a former anesthesiologist from Denver, and his wife had intense disagreements with Pfister over whether he and his wife had been paying the $4,000 monthly rental fee on her Buttermilk home. Nancy Styler said the couple did not have a lease because Pfister “didn't want one.”

Pfister had been renting her home to the Stylers while on an extended trip in Australia, prosecutors said. At one point, Styler said Pfister told her if she helped her pack for a month-long trip to Australia, she wouldn't charge them rent. After she left, Styler said she and her husband moved in, but then they received word that Pfister was cutting her trip short and wanted them out immediately.

"It was like...'How are we going to do this in four days?'" recalled Nancy Styler.

She and her husband moved to a nearby motel in Basalt, Colorado, with a festering grudge against Pfister.

Four days after she returned home from Australia, on Feb. 26, Pfister’s body was discovered wrapped in white and black trash bags and the sheets from her bed.

The Stylers were arrested on March 3 and charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

Trey Styler admitted to hitting Pfister in the head with a hammer while she slept and hiding her body in a closet, prosecutors said.

“He said, ‘I looked at her peacefully while our life was being torn apart,’ and he said, ‘I lost it,’” Nancy Styler said.

Nancy Styler said her husband told her how he was able to kill Pfister, including how he wrapped a cord around her body to be able to drag her to the closet.

“And he had left the bag -- the murder weapon, the papers, her pearls, her pills -- he had left that all in a bag, and that the bag was in the trunk of my car. And I was driving around with the murder weapon for three days,” said Nancy Styler.

Although he confessed to being the sole killer, the now wheelchair-bound Trey Styler appeared to be physically incapable of killing Pfister and covering up the crime on his own. Nancy Styler said her husband was diagnosed with a progressive neurological disease in late 1999 that made it difficult for him to walk.

“We're thinking, you know, ‘How could he physically do that?’” Agent Lisa Miller told 20/20 of Trey Styler's confession. “We took a break, and I asked Mr. Styler if he wanted to stand up. And he informed me he couldn't stand up. He didn't have the strength to.”

Police wondered during their investigation if Carpenter or Styler had a role in helping him with the murder.

“If he had come to me and said, ‘I've just done something horrible,’ I would've called the police right away,” Nancy Styler said.

Nancy Styler said she still loves her husband, whom she visits behind bars, and that people are wrong for thinking she helped kill Pfister.

“Why can't people believe this? Why do they have to involve me in this?” Nancy Styler asked. “I say, 'Go back and look at things in your mind and think about how this could happen, and don’t judge people unless you know the story.'”

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Another Sponsor Critical of NFL, League Says It Is 'Taking Action'

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 9:18pm

David Lee/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Yet another sponsor of the National Football League spoke out on Tuesday about the league's fumbling of the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson situations that have stirred up controversy in recent weeks.

"We are disappointed and increasingly concerned by the recent incidents that have overshadowed this NFL season," said the statement from Anheuser-Busch, the league's official beer sponsor. "We are not yet satisfied with the league's handling of behaviors that so clearly go against our own company culture and moral code." The company also says that it shared those concerns with the league.

The NFL responded to Anheuser-Busch's statement, with spokesman Brian McCarthy saying that the NFL is, "taking action and there will be much more to come."

Cynthia Hogan, former Deputy Assistant to the President and Counsel to the Vice President of the United States, was named the NFL’s Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Government Affairs on Tuesday.

Ray Rice was initially suspended for two games following an incident in which he allegedly punched his fiancee in an elevator at an Atlantic City, N.J. casino. Only after video from inside the elevator was released by TMZ, did NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell extend the suspension and the Baltimore Ravens cut Rice.

On Tuesday, the NFL Players Association filed an appeal of the extended suspension on Rice's behalf, asking for a neutral arbitrator to make a ruling.

Peterson was inactive this past week after allegations of child abuse arose stemming from an incident involving one of his children. He has not been suspended by the league, but he was reactivated by the Minnesota Vikings on Monday.

Last week, PepsiCo and Campbell Soup Company both issued statements that were critical of the league's handling of the Ray Rice situation.

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New York Man Indicted, Accused of Attempting to Support ISIS

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 6:17pm

BrianAJackson/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ROCHESTER, N.Y.) -- A Rochester man was indicted on Tuesday on charges that he attempted to provide "material support" to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and tried to kill current and former members of the U.S. military, among other accusations.

The U.S. Department of Justice released a statement on Tuesday charging Mufid Elfgeeh, 30, with three counts of attempting to provide material support and resources to ISIS, one count of attempter murder, one count of possessing firearms equipped with silencers in furtherance of a crime of violence, and two counts of receipt and possession of unregistered firearm silencers. "We will remain aggressive in identifying and disrupting those who seek to provide support to [ISIS] and other terrorist groups that are bent on inflicting harm upon Americans," said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

Court records indicate that Elfgeeh is accused of attempting to assist three people in traveling to Syria with the intent to join and fight on behalf of ISIS. He also is accused of planning to shoot and kill military members who had returned from Iraq. As part of that plot, Elfgeeh allegedly purchased weapons from a confidential information.

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Suspect in Pennsylvania Cop Shooting Is a Survivalist

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 3:55pm

Photo Credit: PennDOT(CANADENSIS, Pa.) --  The suspect in the shooting of two Pennsylvania state troopers is a sharpshooting survivalist who specifically targeted cops and was out for mass murder, authorities said.

Suspect Eric Matthew Frein, 31, from Canadensis, Pennsylvania, practices survivalism -- the ability to survive without the help of government or society, and often storing food and guns, Pennsylvania police said Tuesday.

"He has made statements about wanting to kill law enforcement officers and also to commit mass acts of murder," State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan said at a news conference when he revealed Frein's name. "What his reasons are, we don't know. But he has very strong feelings about law enforcement and seems to be very angry with a lot of things that go on in our society."

A massive manhunt is on in the rural forest area of eastern Pennsylvania to find Frein, who was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder, homicide of a law enforcement officer and other offenses. Police describe him as approximately 165 pounds, about 6-feet-1, and with blue eyes.

Noonan said he is still armed and is "extremely dangerous."

"We don't know where he is," Noonan said.

Cpl. Bryon Dickson, 38, was killed and Trooper Alex Douglass, 31, was wounded when a gunman opened fire during a shift change before slipping away, police said.

Lt. Col. George Bivens addressed the shooter directly at a separate news conference on Monday.

"You're a coward," Bivens said. "You committed this spineless act and you did it from a place of hiding and then ran."

A resident who was walking his dog two miles from the barracks spotted a vehicle submerged in a pond and alerted authorities, who matched shell casings found in the car to ones also found at the shooting scene, Noonan said.

The vehicle is a Jeep registered to Frein's father but owned by his parents, they told police.

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Grand Jury to Decide on Tony Stewart Case

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 3:15pm

Geoff Burke/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- NASCAR star Tony Stewart may face criminal charges in a fatal accident that killed a Sprint car driver.

After a review of evidence, prosecutors in Ontario County, New York said it would be best for a grand jury to decide whether Stewart should be charged in last month's accident that killed Kevin Ward on a dirt track in Canandaigua. Ward had climbed out of his car and onto the track to confront Stewart.

Stewart said he respects the decision to send his case to a grand jury and, in a statement Tuesday, pledged his "full cooperation."

It's not immediately clear when the grand jury would convene or whether Stewart will testify.

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Tips on Missing University of Virginia Student May Shift Search Area

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 2:38pm

Charlottesville Police(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) -- Police looking for a University of Virginia student who vanished over the weekend may shift their area of search after receiving a surge of tips about her, police said Tuesday.

Hannah Elizabeth Graham, 18, a sophomore at the Charlottesville school, was last heard from after 1 a.m. Saturday when she texted friends saying she was on her way to a party, but she never showed up.

Charlottesville Police Lt. Ronnie Roberts told ABC News that they received 60 tips from the public Tuesday morning, hours after they released surveillance footage of Graham. Roberts said the new information "may shift the particular area we were searching yesterday to a different area."

Police had been combing a wooded area with the help of a bloodhound, Police Capt. Gary Pleasants said. Police declined to describe the new area under consideration.

Graham’s apartment is off campus and, according to police, she and other students were drinking heavily that night and were “fairly well intoxicated." Graham was seen at a pizza restaurant before she and a classmate headed to another party, authorities said. They left at 12:15 a.m., with Graham appearing to be walking home alone, according to police.

Police released surveillance images Monday showing Graham in her apartment hallway at about 9:30 p.m. Friday, hours before she disappeared.

Pleasants said authorities are using all available means to figure out what happened to Graham.

“We are checking her cellphone records, computer, bank accounts, everything we can possibly do,” he said.

University President Theresa A. Sullivan said that the campus community is "united in our deep concern" for the sophomore and is calling on the campus’ 21,000 students for help.

“We are hopeful someone will come forward soon with information,” she said in a statement.

Graham’s parents, who are British but live in northern Virginia, have gone to campus to help authorities in the search.

Katie Schrieber, a friend of Graham’s, said the teen was especially kind to strangers.

“Hannah was really good at making friends,” Schreiber said. “She’s always one of the first people to talk to you. And she’s so friendly, so outgoing.”

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Texas Police Officer Blocks Speeding Car with Kids Inside

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 2:26pm

iStock/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- A Texas police officer who drove his police cruiser directly into the path of a car speeding close to 100 mph the wrong way down a highway is being hailed as a hero for saving lives.

Dash cam video shows the moment Shenandoah, Texas, Police Sgt. Gary Sharpen swerved his police cruiser directly into the path of the speeding vehicle Friday night.

The driver of the vehicle, who was allegedly intoxicated, slammed on his brakes just feet before Sharpen’s stopped car, the video showed.

“Knowing this guy was as reckless and as dangerous as he was, he needed to be stopped one way or another,” Sharpen told ABC News affiliate KTRK.

“If I'm put in that position again, I think I'll do the same,” he said.

The driver, later identified by police as Jose Luis Alejo-Zavalija, 25, continued on his high-speed chase with police after being stopped by Sharpen, officials said.

Alejo-Zavalija made a U-turn and drove through gas stations and parking lots until he finally stopped several minutes later, according to authorities.

When police arrested the suspect, they discovered he was driving with a 4-year-old and an 18-month-old child in the car, they said.

Authorities charged Alejo-Zavalija with a total of five felonies, including DUI, evading arrest and child endangerment.

He was being held on $125,000 bond, a Shenandoah Police Department spokesman told ABC News Tuesday.

Alejo-Zavalija has not yet retained an attorney, according to the Montgomery County District Clerk.

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Thousands Sign Online Petition to Stop 'Black Mass'

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 12:26pm

iStock/Thinkstock(OKLAHOMA CITY) -- Over 88,000 people have signed an online petition to stop a satanic black mass scheduled for later this week in Oklahoma City.

A petition started by the conservative activist website CitizenGo.org calls on the Oklahoma City Civic Center to cancel the Sunday event. The petition calls the event "offensive and blasphemous,” and "designed as a mockery of the Catholic Mass.”

"We'll continue over the next week," CitizenGo's U.S. campaigns director Gregory Mertz told ABC News.

Each signature automatically sends an e-mail to both the general manager of the Civic Center and the city's mayor, he said.

"Hopefully, they will do the right thing and cancel the black mass," he added.

Mertz says the website has protections in place to keep people from signing the petition, which launched Sept. 1, more than once.

Whatever the number of signatures, city officials have already gone on record defending the organization's right to hold the event. The Parks and Recreation Department, which rented the space to the group for $420, cited First Amendment protections in allowing the group to meet in a public facility.

Organizers of the black mass event say that as their detractors charge, they do intend to mock the rituals of the Catholic church in their services; it is these acts of mockery that make up their services and serve as an integral part of their religious practice.

Co-founder of Dakhma of Angra Mainyu Adam Daniels told ABC News that the religious and educational organization decided to hold the black mass in public but it will be a “tamer” version than some traditional satanic ceremonies by, for example, substituting vinegar for acts involving urine to comply with state health laws.

"One of the dictates of the church is not only to educate the members but to educate the public,” Daniels told ABC News earlier this month, “and to debunk the Hollywood-projected image of our beliefs.”

Daniels said on Tuesday that he’s also aware of several other petitions online to stop the black mass, and that he has signed them all out of spite. He said he believes, which city officials have confirmed, that there’s no stopping the event.

“I really don’t care if 80,000 people don’t like me,” he said. “It’s a free country and they cannot like it all they want.”

The Oklahoma City Archdiocese filed a lawsuit against Daniels' group after media reports that he was in possession of a consecrated host, a wafer that some Catholics believe is literally the body of Christ.

The petition argues that “while the Constitution protects freedom of expression, it does not protect stealing property from others and desecrating it.” The host in question has since been handed over to the archdiocese and the legal action has been stopped.

Daniels said all 88 tickets to the event at the city’s Civic Center have been sold.

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NASA to Announce Which Company Wins Space Taxi Contract

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 10:32am

NASA(HOUSTON) -- When the space shuttle Atlantis rolled to a stop on July 21, 2011, Commander Chris Ferguson noted the poignant end of the shuttle program: "Mission complete, Houston, after serving the world for over 30 years, the shuttle has earned its place in history, and it has come to a final stop."

Now, after an expensive and ferocious four-year competition, NASA will announce on Tuesday if Boeing, Space X or Sierra Nevada will be the one to build the spacecraft to replace the space shuttle.

The winning design will end U.S. dependence on the Russian Soyuz for transportation back and forth to the International Space Station.

At stake is an $800 million, short-term contract worth potentially $3.4 billion to launch U.S. astronauts into space by the end of 2017, the year NASA's current contract with Russia expires.

The Commercial Crew Program was designed by NASA to replace the retired space shuttle, which was the workhorse of the space program for over 30 years.

Boeing has invested in the CST 100 capsule which would launch on an Atlas V rocket -- almost a turnkey proposition for NASA when you consider the company’s history in aerospace.

Sierra Nevada isn't as well known, but it does have a good track record and its Dream Chaser space plane is eye catching. It would also launch on the Atlas V rocket and would be able to land on just about any commercial or military runway.

SpaceX has the advantage of already launching cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station and hopes to parlay that experience into a human version of its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft.

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Cellphone Records Could Hold Clues in UVA Student's Disappearance

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 7:34am

iStock/Thinkstock(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) -- Police in Charlottesville, Virginia, are pouring over cellphone records, trying to find a University of Virginia student who vanished during a night of partying with friends.

Hannah Elizabeth Graham, 18, was last heard from after 1 a.m. Saturday.

Graham’s apartment is off campus and, according to police, she and other students were drinking heavily that night; “fairly well intoxicated,” police said. Graham was seen at a pizza shop before she and a classmate headed to another party, which they left at 12:15 a.m., with Graham appearing to be walking home alone.

But Graham may have changed her mind, texting friends at another party that she was on her way, authorities said.

She never made it.

Police released surveillance images Monday showing Graham in her apartment hallway at about 9:30 p.m. Friday, hours before she went missing.

Charlottesville Police Capt. Gary Pleasants said authorities are using all available means to figure out what happened, including a bloodhound, which was used to search a heavily wooded area.

“We are checking her cellphone records, computer, bank accounts, everything we can possibly do,” he said.

University president Theresa A. Sullivan is calling on the campus’ 21,000 students for help. “We are hopeful someone will come forward soon with information,” she said.

Graham’s parents have arrived on campus from England to help authorities in the search.

Katie Schrieber, a friend of Graham’s, said the England native was especially kind to strangers.

“Hannah was really good at making friends,” Schreiber said. “She’s always one of the first people to talk to you. And she’s so friendly, so outgoing.”


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NFL Commissioner Enlists Four Women to Help League’s Domestic Violence Policy

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 5:52am

Allison Joyce/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- In the wake of the Ray Rice scandal, the NFL has decided it needs a woman’s perspective in shaping the league’s policies on domestic violence and sexual assault.

Commissioner Roger Goodell informed the league’s teams Monday that he has given NFL vice president of community affairs and philanthropy Anna Isaacson a new role as NFL vice president of social responsibility. Issacson will be responsible for developing education, training and support programs.

Goodell also announced the league was retaining the services of three women as senior advisors to help develop policies on domestic violence and sexual assault.

The three include Lisa Friel, the former head of the Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit in the New York County District Attorney's Office; Rita Smith, the former executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence; and Jane Randel, the co-founder of NO MORE, an organization that strives to raise the profile of and normalize the conversation about domestic violence and sexual assault.

Teresa C. Younger, the president and CEO of the Ms. Foundation for Women, an advocacy group for women’s rights, reacted to Goodell’s announcement by issuing a statement saying, "Hiring three women as senior advisors is a start -- but this should not be where it ends.”

Younger’s statement continues, “We hope the NFL will be inclusive of the voices called to the table to address systemic cultural issues that perpetuate violence against women. The NFL needs to support victims, expand education for football players and fans at all levels, and dismantle sexism within football.”

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