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'San Antonio Four' Declared Innocent, Exonerated In Child Sexual Assault Case

 The San Antonio Four are free at last, justice has been served.  

The women known as the "San Antonio Four," who were accused of gang-raping two young girls in Texas, have been exonerated in the criminal case they’ve been fighting for almost two decades, reports Jezebel.

Anna Vasquez, Elizabeth Ramirez, Cassandra Rivera and Kristie Mayhugh spent nearly 15 years in prison following a 1998 conviction for allegedly sexually abusing Ramirez’s two nieces, aged seven and nine. Ramirez was convicted in 1997 for indecency with a child and aggravated sexual assault. She was handed a sentence of 37.5 years in prison, while the other defendants received a 15 year sentence for aggravated assault, and 10 years for child indecency charges.

The two minors reportedly told their grandmother that the women had sexually assaulted them twice when they stayed in Ramirez’s home. Although their accounts were deemed inconsistent, medical officials' physical evidence suggested they were abused; it showed the girls had vaginal injuries. Dr. Nancy Kellogg stood firm on the belief that the injuries the girls sustained were caused by “painful trauma.”

Amid the accusations, the women identifying as lesbians also made their case tough because of the stigma homosexuality had at the time. A documentary titled Southwest of Salem: The Story of The San Antonio Four, directed by Deborah S. Esquenazi, showcased how homosexuality was an underlying theme in their plight, specifically in the early 90s. The film was also a part of the court's decision.

“I think the only reason that the investigation was seriously pursued, why there wasn’t more skepticism about the preposterous allegations in the first place, was because these four women had recently come out as gay, that they were openly gay,” explained their attorney, Mike Ware.

One of the girls came forward and admitted their story was fabricated, and that they were coaxed by their father to lie about it because of his personal issues with their aunt, Ramirez.

Additionally, Dr. Kellogg revealed that the medical evidence was incorrect. Those two key pieces of evidence propelled Ware and The Innocence Project of Texas to proceed with re-appealing the case. The women were released in 2013, but their future was still uncertain. On Wednesday (Nov. 23), the Texas Court of Appeals ruled that “most likely,” no jury would vote against the women considering the new medical evidence they had, and the niece’s recantation, leading to their innocent ruling.

“These defendants have won the right to proclaim to the citizens of Texas that they did not commit a crime. That they are innocent. That they deserve to be exonerated,"  wrote Judge David Newall in his judgement. “These women have carried that burden. They are innocent. And they are exonerated.” In addition to being granted security from potential prosecutions, they're also eligible for millions of dollars from the state for all they've experienced by the legal system.

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Five Gang Members Sentenced To Life In Prison For The Murder Of Lesandro 'Junior' Guzman-Feliz

Five members of the Trinitarios gang were given life sentences for their role in the tragic death of Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz.

According to WABC, Antonio Rodriguez Hernandez Santiago, 25, Jose Muniz, 23, and Elvin Garcia, 25, were all sentenced to 25 years to life. Because of his age, Manuel Rivera, 19, was sentenced to 23 years to life. The group of men was the first batch to be tried in the slaying of the 15-year-old, who died on June 2018. Earlier this summer they were found them guilty of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, conspiracy and second-degree gang assault.

Jonaiki Martinez Estrella, 25, was also sentenced to life in prison without parole. He was the suspect who stabbed Junior in the neck, as seen in the harrowing surveillance footage from a nearby bodega.

“Certain words come to mind when I think about your involvement,” Judge Robert Neary told Martinez Estrella. “Senseless is one of these words. Savage is another word. But the one that often come to my mind is cowardly.”

In court, Estrella told the judge, "I'm sorry" and "My intention was not to cause death." He also blamed drugs, alcohol, and allegiance to the Trinitarios gang.

Junior's parents spoke out after the sentencing about their innocent child.

"That night, there were two deaths, Junior and I, who was left dead inside," Leandra Feliz said. "As a young boy, my son dreamed of becoming a detective, so he could protect this city...Please make sure my son's dreams come true. These killers should never be able to step out of a jail cell, so they know the moment they killed my son, they took their own lives as well."

Lisandro Guzman, Junior's father, also spoke about the grieving process. The family has faced heartache following the verdict after the sentencing was delayed three times.

"I struggle daily to find meaning in my life," he said. "I am no longer the person I once was. It is impossible to find a purpose in life. You will never have the ability to understand the pain that you caused. I will never forgive you. You deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law."

SENTENCING IN JUNIOR CASE: ESTRELLA: LIFE WITHOUT PAROLERIVERA: 23 TO LIFEMUNIZ: 25 TO LIFESANTIAGO: 25 TO LIFEGARCIA: 25 TO LIFE #JUSTICEFORJUNIOR

— Anthony Carlo (@AC_TV12) October 11, 2019

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Fat Joe performs on stage during Rihanna's 5th Annual Diamond Ball Benefitting The Clara Lionel Foundation at Cipriani Wall Street on September 12, 2019 in New York City.
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Fat Joe Responds To Claims Of Appropriating Santería Culture In "Yes" Video

Fat Joe has offered apologies to those who interpreted a homage to Santería as an insult in his new video "Yes" featuring Cardi B and Anuel AA.

Released Monday (Oct. 7) the video, directed by Eif Rivera, features stereotypical music video troupes like women twerking under neon fluorescent lights. In addition to standout verses from Cardi B and Anuel, the visual includes a moment where a group of women takes part in the Lucumí religion. It's paired with the song's sample, "Aguanile" by the late salsa legend Héctor Lavoe. The moment is fairly quick but this didn't stop many from raising a brow to it.

As Joe promoted the video on Twitter, one user called him out for allegedly appropriating spiritual practice. "You disrespected the Lukumi religion. How are you going to take our religious imagery and sacred music and pervert it with "Ass up face down?" the user said. "Falta de respeto the Orishas will take everything away from you one by one! There was no reason for this."

Joe explained how it was an essential blessing to the intro and Lavoe, who also practiced Santería.

"We tried to pay respect at the intro of the video everyone who took part of this video knew the concept," he said. "We have nothing but respect Hip hop has always taken samples and flipped it into something new I tried to pay homage. Sorry, you took offense, I understand."

We tried to pay respect at the intro of the video everyone who took part of this video knew the concept, we have nothing but respect Hip hop has always taken samples and flipped it into something new i tried to pay homage sorry you took offense i understand https://t.co/R6E2dgljmA

— FAT JOE (@fatjoe) October 9, 2019

Hailed as a salsa pioneer in New York during the golden age of the genre, Lavoe was a beloved musician who helped popularize salsa with albums like Cosa Nuestra, De Ti Depende and Comedia. "Yes'" sample "Aguanile" comes from his eighth album, El Juicio. 

Watch "Yes" and the homage of sorts below.

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Five-Year-Old Girl Saved By Samaritans After Father Jumps With Her In Front Of NYC Subway

A five-year-old girl was saved by good samaritans after her father jumped with her off a subway track in New York City.

According to CBS News, the incident happened Monday on the 4 line in the Bronx around 8 am. Bystanders claimed to see the man on the phone as he was holding his daughter's hand. A few moments later, he was seen jumping onto the tracks as the train arrived at the Kingsbridge stop.

Commuters like Jairo Torres made a move to save the little girl, who landed between the tracks. As many recorded the moment, Torres and another man are seen saving the child from under the train. Her father was killed instantly.

"She says 'What happened to my daddy?'" he said. "I said 'Don't look at your daddy. Come to me. Crawl like a puppy.' I never think about anything, I just cared about saving the life of the baby."

Niurka Caraballo can be heard in several bystander videos screaming for her child. She told reporters her daughter miraculously only suffered scrapes and bruises. She was taken to a local hospital and brought home in her godfather's arms. Caraballo thanked Torres and the heavens above what she called a miracle.

"My little girl is in perfect condition thanks to God and the angels that protected her," Caraballo said. "Those living angels with my little girl. Thank you, thank you."

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