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Stormy Daniels’ Lawyer Appears in Houston Immigration Court, Terry Thompson Will Be Tried Again for The Murder of John Hernandez, And More

What we’re following today at Houston Public Media

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Top afternoon stories:

Stormy Daniels’ lawyer appears in Houston immigration court

The attorney taking on President Donald Trump over his alleged affair with an adult film actress went to immigration court Tuesday to try to secure the release of a 9-year-old boy from Guatemala.

A judge denied Michael Avenatti's request to dismiss the removal case against the boy, whose mother was deported in June.

Avenatti and another attorney had offered to take the boy from court to the airport and fly him to Guatemala. Instead, the judge agreed to let the boy voluntarily depart the U.S. in the next 60 days, as part of the ordinary process when an immigrant child who entered the U.S. without legal permission wishes to return.

Standing outside court on Tuesday, Avenatti denied that he was representing the boy as a publicity stunt.

"I've been representing dozens of mothers and children for weeks now, traveling around the country," he said. "My record speaks for itself."


Terry Thompson, accused of fatally choking John Hernandez, left, is shown in court Wednesday, June 13, 2018 in Houston. Terry and his wife Chauna Thompson, a former Harris County Sheriff’s deputy, are charged with murder in the chokehold death of John Hernandez at a Denny’s. ( Melissa Phillip / Houston Chronicle )

Terry Thompson will be tried again for the murder of John Hernandez

There will be a second murder trial in the so called Denny's choke hold case.

Records from the Office of Harris County District Clerk Chris Daniel indicate the trial is scheduled to start on October 18.

Scot Courtney, the attorney for Terry Thompson, also told Houston Public Media his client will face another trial starting that day.

Thompson is accused of killing John Hernandez during a confrontation that occurred in May 2017 outside a Denny's restaurant in northeast Harris County.

Back in June, there was a mistrial because of a hung jury.


Harris County jury delivers death sentence in ‘honor killings' trial

A Harris County jury sentenced to death Ali Mahwood-Awad Irsan Tuesday in the last phase of the trial for the so-called ‘honor killings' case, the Houston Chronicle reported.

On July 26, Irsan, a Jordanian immigrant who is 60-years-old, had been found guilty of capital murder for the November 2012 shooting death of his daughter's husband.

Additionally, and according to testimony, Irsan arranged the ambush slaying of a young Iranian medical researcher who was a close friend of his daughter.

Jurors began to consider Irsan's sentence on Monday.


Retiring GOP state rep blasts Abbott’s move to expand power over agencies

More than a month after Gov. Greg Abbott directed state agencies to submit proposed new rules to his office before publishing them, a retiring Republican lawmaker has called out the policy as a potentially unconstitutional power grab.

"It is important to underscore that nothing in our state's constitution or statutes gives the Office of the Governor the power to veto or delay the proposal of a rule, whether by act or omission," wrote state Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana this week.

In a letter dated June 22, Luis Saenz, Abbott's chief of staff, told agency heads that the governor's office would review new policies before they are officially made available for public comment in the Texas Register. The letter did not explicitly say whether the governor would suggest or demand changes to those proposals, but directed agency officials to provide the draft rule, as well as its expected impact on local employment and the economy.

That marked a significant expansion of Abbott's executive power in a state with a comparatively weak governorship. Abbott has the power to appoint the members of various state boards, but he does not have the power to fire them.


Top morning stories:

City of Houston will reimburse homeowners for Harvey related repairs

(AP Photo/, File)

The City of Houston will reimburse homeowners for Harvey-related repairs through a program the Housing Department will launch at the end of the year.

"The reimbursement program is specifically for folks who've already gone out of pocket, maybe gone into debt, pulled down from a 401 K," said Tom McCasland, director of the Houston Housing Department.


Massive mulch mound marred Monday

Investigators believe a mulch pile in northwest Harris County spontaneously combusted Monday night.

Multiple media outlets report the fire could burn for days.


45 unauthorized immigrants arrested in Houston area

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said in a news release Monday that a recent five-day-long operation targeted people who had a criminal history and people who had skipped out on immigration proceedings.


Harris County leads state in number of fatal crashes

Speed and drunk driving are cited as the biggest factors along with distraction and lane weaving.

Interviewed here in Houston, National Safety Council President Deborah Hersman said there would be a lot fewer preventable deaths if people simply made better decisions. But realistically that's not always going to happen.

"We have to understand that we're probably not going to change human beings and make them perfect in every situation," said Hersman. "So we need to design an environment that traps the errors or is more forgiving as well."


Where is Lupe Valdez’s gun?

A gun loaned to Texas’ Democratic nominee for governor while she was sheriff of Dallas County is missing and she is working with her former department to find it, authorities said Monday.

Lupe Valdez was sheriff for 13 years before stepping down in December to challenge Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.

In a statement, spokesman Juan Bautista Dominguez said “it is possible that this weapon could have been stolen or misplaced during Sheriff Valdez’s moving transition and she is working with Dallas County Sheriff Department to locate the firearm.”

Dominguez said the weapon was a 9mm Beretta loaned to the sheriff in 2011.

The Dallas County sheriff’s department said the case is under investigation.


12-year-old injured in drive-by shooting

Houston police say a 12-year-old girl suffered a graze wound to the arm during a drive-by shooting in southwest Houston on Monday night.

She was inside her home along with four other children and two adults.

Media outlets are reporting the girl has been treated and released from the hospital.


Six years later, Austin Tice remains missing

In August of 2012, journalist and Houston native Austin Tice was taken captive in Syria while returning home from covering the Syrian civil war.

Since then Tice's parents have tried to keep attention on his case. The U.S. government reportedly still believes he is alive.

“I'm in awe of their perseverance as they continue their relentless push to bring him home,” U.S. Senator John Cornyn said of Tice’s parents in a press release. Cornyn renewed his call for Tice’s release, saying his desire to see him come home was shared by the Trump administration.

In April, the FBI offered a one million dollar reward for information leading to his return.


How do local businesses respond when controversy hits?

Some Houstonians are criticizing the ‘El Tiempo Cantina' for a social media post from last week that showed a photo of co-owner Roland Laurenzo posing next to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, prompting the business to shut down its social media accounts. For a local expert on Facebook, Twitter and other social media, that's a good idea.

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