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Owner of pet grooming shop charged after customer’s dog dies

The owner of a Cumming, Georgia, pet-grooming business allegedly kicked, dragged and choked a customer’s dog, which later died at an animal hospital, police said.

Forsyth Herald reported that an employee of  Paw’sh Paws, owned by Michelle Louise Root, 41, went to the Cumming Police Department and said she witnessed an incident Oct. 7 in which Root harmed Meko, a 3-year-old Portuguese water dog wheaten terrier mix, during a grooming session.

Root was charged with cruelty to animals after the incident Saturday, police said. 

>> Read more trending news

According to Cumming police incident reports, several employees, who did not want to be identified, said Root kicked the dog twice, knocking him into a door.

One employee said Meko was running to the back of the store with the grooming lead still around its neck, a police report said. According to the employee, Root  yelled at her as she tried to stop the dog from running around. After kicking the dog, Root “took the lead and choked Meko to the point of unconsciousness,” the report said.

“(The witness) said Root then dragged Meko to the front of the store, banging Meko against the washer and other objects before throwing Meko on the table and attempting to finish Meko’s grooming,” the police report said, according to Forsyth County News. “(The witness) said Meko was unresponsive at this point.”

The employee then expressed her concern to another employee, according to the report.

The incident report said Eric Francis, a friend of the dog’s owner who went to pick up Meko, said he was told Meko “must have had a seizure.” According to police, Francis was told he needed to get the dog to the emergency room.

Meko was taken to a local animal hospital and pronounced dead. Forsyth Herald reported that the dog’s owner took the dog for a pathology report and autopsy. The necropsy confirmed witnesses’ statements, the publication reported.

Root was charged with cruelty to animals after the incident Saturday, police said. She was released from the Forsyth County jail Wednesday on a $5,630 cash bond.

Sexual harassment in the workplace: What is it, how to report it and more you should know

A New York Times investigation last week revealed decades of sexual misconduct allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

» RELATED: Timeline of Weinstein allegations dating back decade

Since the report, more than 20 more women, including actresses Rose McGowan, Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, have been vocal about Weinstein’s inappropriate advances.

>> Read more trending news 

In a tweet directed at Amazon exec Jeff Bezos Thursday, McGowan wrote she repeatedly told his head of studios not to work with Weinstein. “HW raped me,” she wrote.

» RELATED: Many #WomenBoycottTwitter to support Rose McGowan, others criticize campaign for ‘silencing’ women

Weinstein was fired from The Weinstein Company on Sunday.

Sexual harassment is not uncommon in the workplace. In a 2015 survey of 2,235 full-time and part-time female employees, Cosmopolitan found 1 in 3 women experienced sexual harassment at work at some point in their lives.

Here’s what you should know about sexual harassment in the workplace, according to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Department of Labor:

What is sexual harassment?

Generally, sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination. It violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion.

Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees.

» RELATED: Harvey Weinstein’s wife Georgina Chapman leaving him amid sexual harassment allegations

According to the Department of Labor, there are two forms of sexual harassment:

  • Quid pro quo: Involves an employment decision based on submission to the sexual harassment, such as promotion, assignment or keeping your job
  • Hostile work environment: Sexual harassment makes workplace hostile, intimidating, abusive or offensive

Are there state laws with more protections against sexual harassment in addition to Title VII?

Some states have adopted stronger protections. Georgia is not one of them. 

Harassment can include, but is not limited to:

  • unwelcome sexual advances
  • requests for sexual favors
  • other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature
  • non-sexual but offensive remarks about a person’s sex

Harassment is illegal when:

  • conduct is unwelcome
  • conduct is “based on the victim’s protected status”
  • subjectively abusive to person affected
  • “severe and pervasive” enough to create a work environment that a “reasonable person” would find hostile

What factors are used to determine of harassment is “severe and pervasive” enough?

  • frequency of unwelcome conduct
  • severity of conduct
  • whether conduct was physically threatening/humiliating or “mere offensive utterance”
  • where conduct “unreasonably” interfered with work performance
  • effect on employee’s psychological well-being
  • whether harasser was a superior at the organization

From the Department of Labor:

Each factor is considered, but none are required or dispositive. Hostile work environment cases are often difficult to recognize, because the particular facts of each situation determine whether offensive conduct has crossed the line from “ordinary tribulations of the workplace, such as the sporadic use of abusive language . . . and occasional teasing,” to unlawful harassment.

However, the intent of the Department of Labor's Harassing Conduct Policy is to provide a process for addressing incidents of unwelcome conduct long before they become severe and pervasive enough to create a hostile work environment under the law.

Does the gender of the victim or harasser matter?

No. Both the victim and harasser can be either a woman or a man — or both can be the same sex.

» RELATED: Student says Georgia university did little to stop sexual harassment

Does the title of the harasser matter?

No. The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another department, a coworker, an employee of a separate employer, a client or a customer.

What about teasing?

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments or isolated incidents that are “not very serious.”

However, teasing becomes illegal when:

  • the behavior becomes frequent or severe
  • the behavior creates a hostile or offensive work environment
  • the behavior results in an adverse employment decision (victim is fired or demoted)

What if you weren’t directly harassed but you feel affected?

You do not have to be the victim of direct harassment to be affected by the offensive conduct. It is still considered sexual harassment, according to the EEOC.

What should you do if you experience sexual harassment?

Inform the harasser at once that the behavior is unwelcome, then directly use “any employer complaint mechanism or grievance system available.” 

This may include reaching out to your direct manager or employer or talking to your company’s human resources department. Check your employee handbook for more information.

If you really can’t find someone you trust, labor and law employment attorney Nannina Angioni suggests you contact the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

Experts also recommend filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Find directions on the EEOC’s website.

You may also want to continue keeping a record of the discriminatory activity and seek support from friends and family.

What if speaking out is too difficult?

“Some victims will never report abuse, and they have that right,” psychologist Nekeshia Hammond told NBC News. “It’s a case by case thing, and sometimes there’s a reason for staying silent — if you feel your safety is threatened, or if you’re literally on the verge of having an emotional breakdown and will be unable to function. But you need to reach out to someone.”

Hammond recommends calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673), which includes free services and confidential support.

Can staying silent work against me, legally?

According to the Department of Labor, “the department cannot correct harassing conduct if a supervisor, manager or other Department official does not become aware of it.”

In fact, when an employee “unreasonably fails to report harassing conduct,” the department can use this as a defense against a suit for harassment.

Additionally, if you file a complaint with the EEOC, it’s recommended you do so within 180 days of the discriminatory activity.

» RELATED: Woman says she lost work hours after reporting sexual harassment

How does the EEOC investigate allegations of sexual harassment?

The department looks at the circumstances of the misconduct, the nature of the sexual advances and the context in which the incidents allegedly occurred.

“A determination on the allegations is made from the facts on a case-by-case basis,” the EEOC website states.

How can companies stop sexual harassment from occurring?

According to the EEOC, prevention is the best tool. Employers should be vocal about the intolerance of sexual harassment and establish a complaint and grievance system.

Learn more about workplace sexual harassment at dol.gov and eeoc.gov.

New Orleans police officer known as ‘Milk Dud’ gunned down while on patrol

The New Orleans Police Department is mourning an officer who was shot and killed while on patrol early Friday in New Orleans East.

Officer Marcus McNeil, 29, was pronounced dead at University Medical Center shortly after the shooting, according to police officials. McNeil, a three-year veteran of the department, is survived by his wife and two children, ages 5 and 2.

“This hurts,” NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison said a few hours after the shooting. “I can’t begin to tell you how much this hurts.”

McNeil, known in the department as “Milk Dud,” was on routine patrol when he was shot, Harrison said. In a news conference outside the hospital, Harrison and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu updated the media on the shooting and the aftermath. 

“Our department is grieving, our city is grieving and this family is grieving," Harrison said. “We ask the city to pray for us and keep us in your thoughts and prayers.”

The suspect in the shooting, who police have not publicly identified, was injured when McNeil’s colleagues returned fire. The man was also taken to University Hospital, where he was arrested. His condition was not immediately available. 

NOLA.com reported that family members of the suspect identified him as Darren Bridges, 30, a convicted felon. 

Harrison said the shooting took place just after midnight when four officers, including McNeil, “saw something that aroused their suspicion.” At least one of the officers got out of their patrol cars and the alleged gunman opened fire.

McNeil was struck several times, collapsing onto the ground. Bridges was also struck several times after one or more of the officers returned fire. 

After being shot, the alleged gunman fled into a nearby apartment building. He remained holed up in an apartment until SWAT officers and negotiators talked him into surrendering peacefully. 

Landrieu said Friday was one of the “worst days” as mayor of the city. He said that he and Harrison had met with McNeil’s family and his fellow officers, consoling them on their loss. 

“The entire department, when this happens, is in trauma,” Landrieu said. “It strikes at the heart of the city.”

Chaplains and grief counselors have been made available to officers and other department members. 

In a July 2016 post on the NOPD website, McNeil, who was assigned to the city’s 7th District, addressed how he got the nickname “Milk Dud.”

“I was in field training when I arrested a subject who was attempting to get a rise out of me by calling me ‘Milk Dud’ because of my shiny bald head, that he believed resembled the candy Milk Duds,” McNeil said. “Everyone in the district found it hilarious, saying it was true and then began calling me ‘Milk Dud.’ 

“I've since embraced the name, often referring to myself as ‘The Dud’ when bragging about a good arrest.”

>> Read more trending news

Bridges’ family expressed shock over the shooting.

“I just can’t believe it,” his grandmother, Alma Barnes, told NOLA.com. “I don’t know. I just put it in the Lord’s hands.”

The news site reported that Barnes’ criminal history includes convictions for battery, theft and marijuana possession. He was released on parole for good behavior in May 2015, after serving about half of a six and a half-year sentence for attempted possession of a firearm by a felon, court records showed. 

He was arrested again last March on a charge of domestic abuse battery involving strangulation, NOLA.com reported. The arrest put him back on supervised parole, which was slated to end next June.

Teen accused of sexually extorting classmates with their nude photos

A 16-year-old Washington State teenager is accused of sexually extorting his classmates and tricking them into sharing nude photos of themselves. 

>> Read more trending news

Authorities said the W. F. West High School student used numerous fake social media profiles to pose as a teen girl requesting images of male genitalia.

A year-long police and FBI investigation began when a Chehalis parent reported their child had been victimized online.

"He described himself as a predator. He said he knew what he was doing,” Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer said.

Other victims came forward; a dozen of whom may be classmates of the suspect.

"He would use those pictures to get more pictures. If the kids refused, he would share those pictures that were shared with him to others,” Meyer said.

The boy now faces three charges.

"We were notified that a student was arrested following an FBI investigation. And so that's when the shock actually hit. And we began to find out how large an issue this was,” Chehalis Schools superintendent Ed Rothlin said.

The FBI's report says the boy admitted to having hundreds of victims and more than 900 explicit images.

"These photos are out there. We don't know how far it's been spread, we don't know how many people have seen these images,” Meyer said.

The boy is being held in juvenile custody, but the prosecutor is asking for the case to be moved to adult court. 

That hearing is set for Oct. 24. 

 

Florida woman creates ‘no prostitution’ sign for neighborhood

A Florida woman, fed up with prostitution in her Florida neighborhood, has a message for people soliciting sex.

>> Read more trending news

Margaret Gregory created a sign that says “no prostitution in this neighborhood,” complete with an STD information pamphlet. As a taxpaying citizen in Jacksonville, she said she shouldn’t have to accept that kind of illegal behavior.

“We find condoms sometimes when we get up in the middle of the night or the morning,” she said. “My neighbor next door. She’s had people go up in her yard. They do their transactions there. Up and down here. They circle around this area doing U-turns. They circle back and forth. It’s hard for traffic to come by.”

Instead of watching from the sidelines, Gregory used a marker to create her sign. Neighbors are catching on to her message. 

“I just noticed it yesterday,” area resident Clarence Felder said. 

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has been busy catching offenders. A 28 year-old woman was arrested on Sept. 25, and a 38 year-old woman was caught Aug. 30 at a neighborhood motel. Several stings in September netted at least nine arrests. 

Gregory’s goal is that her small stand will make a big change. 

“Hopefully that will deter them from coming down here in this community,” Gregory said.

Gregory also started a petition to get more cameras installed around the neighborhood. She hopes to get 1,500 signatures so she can present it to city council members.

Man who murdered sister as teen wants record wiped clean

A Skagit County man who was convicted of murdering his 8-year-old sister in 2001 will go before a judge Thursday in hopes of wiping the conviction from his record. 

Steven Rickards filed a motion to seal records and vacate his conviction as a juvenile offender. 

>> Read more trending news

On Nov. 14, 2001, Rickards admitted to investigators with the Mount Vernon Police Department that he stabbed his sister, Samantha, nearly 20 times inside their Mount Vernon, Washington, home, according to an arrest report. Rickards told police he then placed his sister’s body inside a freezer. 

The teen explained to investigators that voices in his head told him to kill his sister. He was sentenced to seven years in prison and treated for mental health issues, according to court documents. 

Rickards, who is now 29, says he has been working hard to better himself after his release. Court documents say he’s working as a licensed electrician. He says he’s trying to pass a background check in order to become a licensed hearing instrument specialist. 

Skagit County prosecutor Richard Weyrich released a statement regarding Rickards’ request, saying his office is “sensitive to juveniles being able to rehabilitate themselves and have their records sealed but this is not one of those cases.”

Weyrich hopes to ask the Legislature in the upcoming session to correct what he considers a mistake in the wording of the current statute.

It has been 16 years since the brutal crime occurred and the people who live in Mt. Vernon still want answers. 

Hollie Van Esch’s grandparents lived next door to the Rickards at the time of the murder. She told KIRO Samantha would often visit the house.

“She was just the sweetest girl,” Van Esch said. “She used to come over and help my grandma with meals for my grandpa.”

Van Esch said people still stop by the home and ask her about what happened.

“It’s heartbreaking to sit there and know, what happened in that house,” she said. “We just never understood. We wanted to know, why did he do it?”

Memories of Samantha, her childhood friend, still hit home.

“It’s still in the back of my mind all the time. To this day, it’s shocking that something like this could hold on so strong,” Van Esch said.

Rickards’ hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Thursday in Skagit County Superior Court in Mount Vernon, Washington.

Woman shot in Las Vegas massacre sues bump stock maker, hotel, festival organizer

A California college student filed suit Tuesday against the manufacturer of devices that enabled a gunman to rapidly rain bullets on a crowd gathered for a country music festival in Las Vegas earlier this month after she was seriously injured in the deadly attack.

>> Read more trending news

Also named in the suit were MGM Resorts International, Mandalay Corp., Live Nation Entertainment Inc. and the estate of Stephen Paddock, the man who turned a gun on himself after killing 58 people and injuring hundreds more in the Oct. 1 attack. 

Las Vegas police said Paddock, 64, opened fire on the Route 91 Harvest music festival from his hotel room on the 32nd floor of the nearby Mandalay Bay Hotel.

Investigators said they found 12 rifles in his room that were fitted with bump stocks, devices that allow semi-automatic weapons to fire at nearly the rate of automatic guns.

>> Read the latest on the Las Vegas shootings

Paige Gasper, 21, was wounded in Paddock’s attack. A bullet hit her in her right underarm and traveled through her chest, shattering her ribs and lacerating her liver, according to the suit filed Tuesday in Clark County District Court. Friends tried to help her, but were hampered by other fleeing concert-goers, who trampled Gasper in their haste. She was saved by a good Samaritan, who pulled her behind the cover of a dumpster, the suit said. Another stranger drove her to Spring Valley Hospital for treatment.

>> Related: Las Vegas shooting: Remembering the victims

On Tuesday, Gasper sued Slide Fire Solutions, the company that made the bump stocks used by Paddock, on accusations that the company was negligent and its products have design and manufacturing defects, Reuters reported.

Gasper accused MGM Resorts and Mandalay Corp., its subsidiary, of failing to quickly respond to the shooting of Mandalay Bay security officer Jesus Campos, who police said was shot while checking on Paddock six minutes before the 64-year-old commenced his attack. She also accused the companies of failing to monitor Paddock, who brought multiple weapons to the hotel and set up surveillance cameras outside his room.

>> Related: Casino mogul Steve Wynn says Las Vegas shooter would have triggered alarms at his hotels 

“How did the hotel not know about that? Why wasn’t that a red flag?” Michelle Tuegel, an attorney representing Gasper, asked the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “The company can talk about hearts and prayers, but this lawsuit is about action and answers. Paige wants answers.”

Gasper said in her lawsuit that Live Nation, the organizer of the Route 91 Harvest music festival, and MGM failed to provide visitors with adequate emergency exits, hampering efforts to escape the massacre.

In a statement released to the Review-Journal, MGM spokeswoman Debra DeShong called the Oct. 1 shooting a “meticulously planned, evil, senseless act.”

>>Related: Police: Stephen Paddock shot security guard before firing on Las Vegas concert

“As our company and city work through the healing process, our primary focus and concern is taking actions to support the victims and their families, our guests and employees and cooperating with law enforcement,” DeShong said. “Out of respect for the victims, we are not going to try this case in the public domain and we will give our response through the appropriate legal channels.”

Victor Schwartz, an attorney who specializes in injury cases, told Reuters that it won’t be easy to hold MGM liable for Paddocks’ attack.

“Victims would have to show the company could have foreseen the shooting and take steps to prevent it,” Reuters reported. “That would be difficult for such an extreme event.”

Harvey Weinstein investigations launched in New York, London

Officials on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean are investigating complaints against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein amid reports that he sexually harassed women for decades, according to multiple reports.

>> Read more trending news

Police in London told The Guardian on Thursday that a complaint was made against Weinstein on Wednesday and that officers were investigating the report.

The alleged assault took place in the London area in the 1980s, according to BBC News.

In a statement released to Variety magazine, New York police said that officers are working to learn of any additional complaints against Weinstein.

“No filed complaints have been identified as of this time,” police said on Thursday morning.

The reports come amid a slew of sexual assault and harassment allegations against Weinstein, who co-founded entertainment company Miramax. Among Weinstein’s accusers are high-profile Hollywood stars, including Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow and Ashley Judd.

>> Related: Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow add to Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment claims 

Women started to come forward after The New York Times published a report last week detailing complaints of sexual harassment made against Weinstein over nearly three decades.

Three women, former aspiring actress Lucia Evans, Italian actress Asia Argento and a woman who was not identified, accused Weinstein of rape in a report published Tuesday by The New Yorker.

>> Related: 3 women accuse Harvey Weinstein of rape: report

Weinstein was ousted from his position at The Weinstein Company on Sunday in the wake of the New York Times report. His wife, Marchesa designer Georgina Chapman, said Tuesday that she was leaving Weinstein in light of the allegations. Weinstein said in a statement on Wednesday that he was going to counseling.

He denied the rape allegations in a statement to The New Yorker issued by one of his representatives.

>> Related: Harvey Weinstein’s wife Georgina Chapman leaving him amid sexual harassment allegations

New York police opened an investigation into Weinstein in 2015, after Filipina-Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez told officers that she was groped by Weinstein without consent.

Authorities outfitted Gutierrez with a wire and had her meet with the producer. In an audio recording of the meeting published by The New Yorker on Tuesday, Weinstein can be heard apologizing after he’s confronted about the alleged assault.

>> Related: Harvey Weinstein recording was not enough to charge him, DA says

"Why yesterday (did) you touch my breast?" Gutierrez asks in the recording.

"Oh please, I'm sorry,” he answers. “I'm used to that.”

Despite the recording, no charges were filed against Weinstein.

Prosecutors said that they were never consulted about the New York Police Department’s plan to get Weinstein to admit to the assault on tape and that the tape was not enough evidence to convict the 65-year-old. Police defended their actions, saying that the recording was one of multiple bits of evidence collected by officers and presented to the Manhattan District Attorney for prosecution.

White restaurant manager charged with enslaving black cook

A white restaurant manager in South Carolina has been charged with enslaving a black buffet cook for at least five years, according to a federal indictment unsealed this week.

>> Read more trending news 

The cook, Christopher Smith, 39, alleges that he was forced to work up to seven days a week, often for 18 hours a day without breaks, brutally beaten and threatened repeatedly.

Bobby Paul Edwards, 52, is accused in the indictment of using “force, threats of force, physical restraint and coercion” to enslave Smith at J&J Cafeteria in Conway, S.C. Conway is just inland from Myrtle Beach.

Edwards was formally charged with “attempt to establish peonage, slavery, involuntary servitude or human trafficking.” He faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty of the federal felony of “forced labor,” according to the U.S. attorney general’s Civil Rights Division. He also would have to pay up to a $250,000 fine and full restitution to Smith.

The attorney general notes that the indictment is “merely an accusation” and that Edwards is presumed innocent until proven otherwise. 

Allegations of a brutal enslavement first emerged about two years ago in a civil suit filed on behalf of the cook. The suit, which also names Edwards’s brother, the restaurant’s owner, as a defendant, is pending.

The 2015 complaint alleged that Edwards beat Smith with a frying pan, burned him with tongs that Edwards had dipped into a grease fryer, beat him with his belt buckle and fists and routinely used racial slurs in speaking to him, according to The Post and Courier. Smith, who was paid a salary of less than $3,000, has an intellectual disability, the Post reported.

On one occasion, when Smith was too slow about restocking the buffet, Edwards took Smith into the back of the restaurant and beat him with his belt buckle, according to the Washington Post’s account of the lawsuit.

“Plaintiff was heard crying like a child and yelling, ‘No, Bobby, please!’ After this beating, Defendant Bobby forced Plaintiff to get back to work,” the complaint read, according to the Post.

The Post and Courier said that Smith was forced to live in a roach-infested apartment near the restaurant and at times was so exhausted from working that someone had to feed him. 

Smith told WMBF in Myrtle Beach in 2015 that he began washing dishes after school at J&J when he was 12 years old. He worked there for more than 20 years before Bobby Edwards became the manager in 2010. 

Smith’s lawsuit says he never told anyone of the enslavement because he was afraid Edwards would kill him. The allegations came to light after a waitress told her mother-in-law of the abuse, and the woman went to state social workers.

Read more at WMBF, The Washington Post and The Post and Courier.

Rose McGowan's Twitter account suspended after Harvey Weinstein, Ben Affleck tweets

Actress Rose McGowan said Twitter has temporarily suspended her account in the wake of critical tweets about Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and actor Ben Affleck.

>> James Van Der Beek says he's been sexually harassed by 'older, powerful men'

"TWITTER HAS SUSPENDED ME," the "Charmed" star wrote on Instagram late Wednesday. "THERE ARE POWERFUL FORCES AT WORK. BE MY VOICE. #ROSEARMY"

>> See the post here

Her post included a screenshot of a message saying that her account had violated Twitter's rules, so the social network "limited some of [her] account features."

>> Seth MacFarlane made joke about Harvey Weinstein in 2013; it’s just now making sense

"While in this state, you can still browse Twitter, but you're limited to only sending Direct Messages to your followers – no Tweets, Retweets or likes," the note said

>> Harvey Weinstein recording was not enough to charge him, DA says

"Your account will be restored to full functionality in: 12 hours and 0 minutes," the note continued. "You can start your countdown and continue to Twitter once you: Delete Tweets that violate our rules."

The rule-violating tweets were not identified in the screenshot.

>> Read more trending news

The news came after McGowan slammed Weinstein and said Affleck had known about Weinstein's alleged sexual misconduct. McGowan received a $100,000 settlement from Weinstein in 1997 "after an episode in a hotel room during the Sundance Film Festival," the New York Times reported.

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