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story.lead_photo.caption Lifeng Ye, the mother of slain University of Illinois visiting scholar Yingying Zhang, cries out in grief Monday as her husband Ronggao Zhang (left) addresses reporters after a federal jury convicted Brendt Christensen of murder in Peoria, Ill.

Man convicted in China scholar's slaying

PEORIA, Ill. -- Jurors deliberated less than 90 minutes before returning a guilty verdict Monday at the federal death-penalty trial of a former University of Illinois doctoral student who killed a visiting scholar from China after abducting her at a bus stop.

Brendt Christensen, 29, looked straight ahead and showed no emotion as a guilty verdict was announced against him. The swift conviction was expected because Christensen's attorneys acknowledged from the start that he raped and stabbed Yingying Zhang in June 2017. Prosecutors say he beat her to death with a baseball bat and decapitated her.

The judge has said there will be a break of a week or more before the penalty phase, a sort of mini-trial that could last several weeks. Illinois no longer has capital punishment, but Christensen could be sentenced to death because he was convicted in federal court.

Jurors found Christensen guilty of kidnapping resulting in death, which carries a possible death sentence. Prosecutors are expected in the penalty phase to focus on Christensen's brutally, with the defense broaching mental health issues.

3 Chinese banks held in contempt in U.S.

WASHINGTON -- A U.S. judge has found three large Chinese banks in contempt for refusing to comply with subpoenas in an investigation into North Korean sanctions violations. The order triggers for the first time a provision that could cut off one of China's largest banks from the U.S. financial system at the demand of the U.S. attorney general or treasury secretary.

The three banks are not identified, but details in court rulings align with a 2017 civil forfeiture action in which the Justice Department alleged that China's state-owned Bank of Communications, China Merchants Bank and Shanghai Pudong Development Bank worked with a Hong Kong front company accused of laundering more than $100 million for North Korea's sanctioned, state-run Foreign Trade Bank.

The bank at risk of losing access to U.S. dollars, the lifeblood of international finance, appears to be Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, China's ninth-largest bank by assets, whose roughly $900 billion makes it comparable in size to Goldman Sachs. Matching details include its ownership structure, limited U.S. presence and alleged conduct with the other banks.

The ruling means that Attorney General William Barr or Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin can terminate the bank's U.S. account and ability to process U.S. dollar transactions.

Panel cuts deal with McGahn's ex-aide

The House Judiciary Committee on Monday announced a tentative agreement to question a former White House lawyer whose written notes provided key evidence to Robert Mueller's investigation of Russia interference in the 2016 election.

The panel announced that Annie Donaldson, the former chief of staff to onetime White House counsel Donald McGahn, has agreed to provide the panel with written answers to questions. She will also appear for testimony after Nov. 1.

The panel, which subpoenaed Donaldson to appear on Monday, granted the delay because she no longer lives in the Washington area and is in her third trimester of pregnancy, limiting her ability to travel.

"Ms. Donaldson had a front row seat to many of the instances outlined in the Mueller Report dealing with President Trump's alleged obstruction of justice and other abuses of power, which is why she is a key witness for the committee in our ongoing work to hold the president, his associates, and members of his administration accountable," said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.

San Jose gunman kills 4 people, himself

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- What appeared to be a standoff Sunday night ended with the discovery of one of the deadliest shootings in San Jose history: Five were people killed, including the suspect, in what police described as a quadruple murder-suicide.

San Jose police confirmed Monday morning that three women and one man were shot to death by a man who then killed himself, in what appears to be a family or domestic conflict, based on emergency calls to police.

None of the victims were immediately named by authorities Monday, pending their formal identification and notification of their next of kin.

The suspect was described as a Vietnamese man in his 60s. His wife and 17-year-old daughter were among several family members who were able to escape the home when the gunfire began, according to witness accounts to police.

San Jose police spokeswoman officer Gina Tepoorten said two wounded victims were evacuated from the shooting scene and rushed to a hospital, where both died soon after.

As officers surrounded the residence, police tried to contact the shooter and assess whether more people were inside, Tepoorten said.

Around five hours after the first 911 call, officers entered the home and found the suspected shooter dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said.

-- Compiled by Democrat-Gazette staff from wire reports

Photo by AP/Bay Area News Group/ARIC CRABB
Police officers talk Monday with a man (left) near the scene where five people were killed in San Jose, Calif., in what police say was a quadruple murder-suicide.

A Section on 06/25/2019

Print Headline: 3 Chinese banks held in contempt in U.S. Jury finds man guilty of killing scholar Man convicted in China scholar's slaying Questioning ex-White House lawyer OK'd Panel cut deal with McGahn's ex-ai...

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