Events

Events

Weinstein Indicted on Rape Charges, More to Follow

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A grand jury in New York voted Wednesday to indict disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein on charges of rape, stemming from evidence that Weinstein forced a woman to perform oral sex on him in his office, and that he raped a second woman at a hotel, according to the Manhattan district attorney. The indictment has been expected by the public since dozens of allegations of sexual misconduct against Weinstein surfaced last year, and several months of investigative work by prosecutors and police concluded with the arrest and indictment of Weinstein this week.

“This indictment brings the defendant another step closer to accountability for the crimes of violence with which he is now charged,” Manhattan district attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said in a statement.

Mr. Weinstein surrendered to police Friday and was charged with first-degree rape and other offenses. District attorney Vance Jr. was required to obtain a grand jury indictment on these charges within six months of an arrest, but prosecutors moved rapidly after Weinstein declared he would refuse to testify in his own defense before a grand jury.

The criminal indictment charges Weinstein with first-degree and third-degree rape, and a first-degree criminal sexual act. The highest charges carry a potential of five to 25 years behind bars, if convicted. Weinstein was released Friday after surrendering his passport and posting $1 million bail.

The superstar producer, known for making award-winning films, has become an international symbol of sexual misconduct and the catalyst for the global #MeToo movement. Lucia Evans, who told The New Yorker that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex acts during what she believed was a casting opportunity at Weinstein’s TriBeCa office in 2004, co-operated with the district attorney’s office in the investigation. Her testimony resulted in the charge of first-degree criminal sexual acts against Weinstein.

The identity of the rape victim in the charges against Weinstein is not known at this time, but prosecutors said she was attached by Weinstein on March 18, 2013. “This defendant used his position, money and power to lure young women into situations where he was able to violate them sexually,” the lead prosecutor, Joan Illuzzi, said at Mr. Weinstein’s arraignment. Weinstein’s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, said both encounter were consensual, arguing Evans did not report the attack for over a decade, and that the second woman continued a romantic relationship with Weinstein for years after the alleged attack.

The district attorney said attempts by Weinstein’s legal team to discredit the legitimacy of the accusers fit his past behavior of manipulation to discredit women’s complaints and keep them silent. “The defendant’s recent assault on the integrity of the survivors and the legal process is predictable,” Vance said in the statement. Brafman said Weinstein would plead not guilty and “vigorously defend against these unsupported allegations that he strongly denies.”

“If this case actually proceeds to trial, we expect Mr. Weinstein to be acquitted,” he said.

Weinstein notified prosecutors that he was willing to provide his narrative to a grand jury, but his legal team later notified prosecutors they had insufficient time to prepare testimony after learning more details about his accusers on Friday. Brafman said the district attorney denied requests to postpone convening a grand jury to accommodate Weinstein’s legal team.

“Regardless of how compelling Mr. Weinstein’s personal testimony might be, an indictment was inevitable due to the unfair political pressure being placed on Cy Vance to secure a conviction of Mr. Weinstein.” Brafman told reporters.

District attorney Vance has faced previous criticism from law enforcement and women’s groups for his choice not to prosecute Weinstein in 2015, when a model accused him of sexual battery during an interview. Vance has defended his decision, saying prosecutors could not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Rental Truck Driver Kills 8 in Downtown Manhattan; Investigated as Terrorist Attack

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Halloween opened up darkly for New York City residents as a driver drove a pickup truck down a bike path in downtown Manhattan, killing eight pedestrians and injuring 11 other people in what is being defined as the deadliest such attack in the city since the September 11th bombing of the World Trade Center. In fact, the rampage occurred in close proximity to the World Trade Center Memorial. The frightening event ended when the driver crashed into a school bus, exited his truck and pointed guns in the air shouting “Allahu akbar” before getting shot by a policeman. The attacker, later identified as 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov, was alive but in critical condition. The guns were later found to be paintball guns.

 

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio proceeded to call the incident a terrorist attack and “a particularly cowardly act”. Investigators found notes written in Arabic in Saipov’s truck that professed allegiance to ISIS, although they have not confirmed if there are serious connections between Saipov and the terrorist organization. Saipov entered the United States in 2010 with a green card after growing up in Uzbekistan. Uzbeks have been targeted by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security in recent years as that country has had past ties to ISIS. In fact, a recent investigation found five Uzbeks in Brooklyn guilty of providing material support to ISIS. During Saipov’s time in the U.S., he lived in Paterson, New Jersey and Tampa, Florida. The truck he was driving during this attack was traced back as a rental from a Home Depot store in northern New Jersey.

 

Five of the eight that were killed in the attack were Argentinian tourists who were in New York City as part of a 30th high school reunion; one member of the group was also injured. Belgian authorities also reported one Belgian citizen was killed in the attack, in addition to three wounded. Observers felt the death toll was rather fortunate considering the attack happened just as schools were letting children out, resulting in a more-crowded-than-usual environment.

 

This is yet another chapter in the troubling trend of terrorists using vehicles to execute mass killings in crowded cities. For example, a truck in Nice, France killed over 80 people during Bastille Day celebrations. Even in New York City this is not an isolated incident, as a car ran through a pedestrian-heavy area in Times Square in May and killed one person. ISIS has expressed support for this tactic, advertising it in promotional material distributed within the organization. Also, it was later uncovered that a French pro-ISIS group called Centre Mediatique An-Nur had put out a threat about a Halloween attack.

St. Paul Attorney Fatal Collision

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On March 10th in St. Paul, Minnesota, a search warrant was filed in Ramsey County District Court against renowned Twin Cities attorney, Peter H. Berge who hit a red Mini Cooper on Sixth Street near the entrance to Interstate 94. Police believe the collision was shortly before hit and killing 35-year-old senior product development engineer, Scott Spoo, at the intersection of Mississippi River Boulevard and Dayton Avenue in St. Paul while he was jogging inside a crosswalk. Spoo would later be pronounced dead at Hennepin County Medical Center about an hour after the accident.

Distractions by his cellphone or possibly under the influence of a substance other than alcohol were suspected after Berge struggled with field sobriety tests at the scene of the fatal crash around 4:40pm. Some fellow traffic ongoers had seen Berge driving erratically and swerving prior to the second accident. Blood was drawn for drug testing, but police are not expected to have results for months. A drug-recognition officer at the scene wrote in a search warrant that Peter H. Berge, 60, appeared “to be under the influence of one or more substances and is unsafe to drive a motor vehicle.”

Sgt. Mike Ernster, a St. Paul police spokesman, said officers routinely ask people questions after crashes to determine if they have any medical problems that would interfere with field sobriety tests. Berge told an officer after the crash that he had “no physical defects, had not taken any medications or illicit substances, and had not consumed alcohol,” according to a search warrant affidavit.

The driver of the Mini Cooper had to flag Berge down to alert him that he struck the vehicle and to pull over to a safe location to exchange insurance information. During the insurance exchange, Berge also admitted to the driver of the Mini Cooper he had also struck a mailbox two weeks prior.

The search warrant application is seeking information as to whether Berge received any calls or text messages from his iPhone around the time of the fatal crash. During this search warrant, police will be searching for the event recorder, (better known as black-box) from attorney Berge’s car.

A week following the collision that cost Scott Spoo his life, friends said Berge had been diagnosed with malignant brain tumors. Berge’s oncologist recommended an aggressive treatment of radiation and chemotherapy. However, longtime friend does not believe that any medical issues contributed to either of Peter’s crashes that day.

12-Year-Old Boy Accused Of DUI After Dangerous Police Chase

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A 12-year-old boy is facing multiple charges after he allegedly led Austin, Texas, police on an intoxicated car chase that ended with his car slamming into a pole.

The child driver was left with only minor injuries despite two head-on crashes during Monday morning’s chase, police said at a press conference.

A patrol officer was first alerted to the problem around 7:35 a.m. when a car was seen dangerously weaving in and out of traffic. The responding officer tried to perform a traffic stop, but the vehicle allegedly sped off. Eventually it slammed head-on into another car, said Austin Police Department spokesman Ivan Ramos.

Instead of stopping, Officer Ramos said, the child driver continued on down the street. A few blocks later, the boy crashed into the pole, flipping his car. No one else was in the vehicle.

The boy was taken to a children’s hospital to be checked out.

“He’s being investigated right now for driving while intoxicated, failure to stop and render aid because of the crash he had with the other vehicle, and evading the police officers,” Ramos said.

The officer, who did not identify the boy because he is a minor, declined to comment on the child’s parents, saying not enough information was immediately available. He also declined to elaborate on the suggestion that the boy was drunk.

“We’re not going to say that there was possible alcohol involved unless there was possible alcohol involved,” he said.

The other people involved in the first crash escaped with minor injuries and did not require hospitalization, Ramos said.

Source: Huffington Post Crime

Occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge

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Government dissent is nothing new, however, on January 2, 2016, a group of individuals brought it to a whole new level.  The individuals were part of the militia movement in the United States.  The imprisonment of 2 Oregon ranchers prompted the occupation.  Dwight and Steven Hammond were convicted of Arson on federal land and were sentenced to serve 5 years.

Citizens United v. FEC

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Money in politics has been debated even more hotly this election year than any other. The people on either side of this issue have drawn lines in the sand regarding how money should be spent when it comes to electing our government officials. One side sees money in politics as a necessary evil.  The other side believes that money in politics should be banned completely.  Many believe that it is the buying and selling of American democracy.

George Zimmerman and Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” Law

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On February 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin was shot to death by neighborhood watch coordinator, George Zimmerman.  Zimmerman said that Martin was acting suspiciously and looked out of place in the gated community in which Martin was currently staying with family.  Zimmerman shot the unarmed teen, killing him.