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Trump Family Business Convicted on All Counts

The Trump Organization was convicted by a New York jury on all 17 counts of fraud (tax fraud and a scheme to defraud), conspiracy and falsifying business records.

Shorter version: The jury didn't believe Alan Weisselberg acted only for his own enrichment. They believed that he also acted to benefit the Trump Organization.

Remember Michael Cohen? I heard him on the car radio last week on MSNBC and he said what the Trump Org. and Weisselberg were doing is called "Grossing Up". He thought it was a theory that might appeal to the jury. In essence, by paying bonuses to Weisselberg and sons in real property, like apartments in Trump-owned buildings, instead of increasing their salaries on which the company would have to pay payroll taxes, the Trump Organization saved big on taxes. (Same for paying for private school tuition for the Weisselberg grandkids and for new expensive cars every year)[More...]

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Tulsa Shooter Targeted his Surgeon Over Excessive Pain

I'm normally not inclined to write about mass shootings, unless there's a twist I'm interested in.

Tulsa interests me. The shooter had a back operation as a result of which he allegedly suffered pain, which despite numerous calls to his surgeon's office, was not adequately addressed.

I don't know if indadequately addressed pain was the direct cause of the shootings. But I am aware that the amount of opiate pain meds a doctor can administer is now determined by the DEA, and other federal and state agencies, not a person's physician.

Pharmaceutically-made pain pills are now too hard to get. This leads people buy black market pills on the street, and unbeknownst to them, even though they ask for "oxys" or "blues" and the pills they receive are stamped with the manufacturer's name and the dosage, the pills are not pharmacutically made but made in some clandestine labatory in by Mexico by the cartels, who use some fentanyl powder they get from China. The lab workers throw in some acetominaphen (mostly in Western states) or mix some heroin or other drug with the fentanyl powder (mostly in Eastern states according to the DEA) and then use a pill press to turn it into pills and ship them to the U.S. where unsuspecting consumers have died after ingesting the synthetically made non-pharmaceutical substance.

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Swap Deal: Russian Pilot Yaroshenko Returns Home

The DEA's Most Excellent Adventures in Africa took a huge hit this week. On April 25, 2022, President Joe Biden commuted the 20 year sentence of Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko to time served so that he would be eligible for immediate release -- and transfer home to Russia, in a prisoner exchange in which an American being held in Russia would fly back to the U.S. The official commutation order for Yaroshenko is here.

The swap occurred in Turkey. Rossiya 1, Russia's main national news channel, showed video of a joyous Yaroshenko being embraced by his wife and his daughter, who was jumping up and down on the tarmac at the airport in Moscow.

I've been writing about Yaroshenko and the DEA manufactured case against him and others since 2010. Here's my account of his trial with a summary of the underlying FBI sting in which cocaine would be flown from South America to Africa and then to Europe. [More...]

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R.I.P. Kathy Boudin, Former Member of the Weatherman

Former left-wing radical, member of the Weatherman (aka Weather Underground), long-time fugitive, participant in a Black Liberation Army robbery that went terribly wrong, wife, mother and former prisoner Kathy Boudin, has died at age 78 of cancer.

What a life she led. I did not know her, but like many people in college during the Vietnam war and the 1970 explosion at an East Village townhouse where the group was making bombs, I followed their activities in the news and at anti-war rallies.

I did not know (or forgot) until reading the NY Times obituary today that the Weatherman took their name from the Bob Dylan's song, "Subterranean Homesick Blues", and the line "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows"). When I started TalkLeft (20 years ago next month), I gave it the tagline, which still appears at the bottom of the home page, "The pump don't work 'cause the vandals took the handles"-- also from Subterranean Homesick Blues. [More...]

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Jussie Smollet Gets 18 Months in Jail, Starting Now

A Chicago judge has sentenced actor Jussie Smollett to 150 days in jail, beginning immediately.

Jussie's reaction: He yelled out he's not suicidal and he's innocent. Shorter version: If he ends up dead like Jeffrey Epstein, it was not a suicide.

Smollett faced up to three years in prison for each of the five felony counts of disorderly conduct — the charge filed for lying to police — of which he was convicted. He was acquitted on a sixth count.

The Judge wasn't buying into any sympathy pleas from his supporters. In addition to the 5 months in jail, he will have to be on probation for 2 1/2 years, he has to pay $120k in restitution and a $25k fine. His grandmother told the judge that if he sends Jussie to prison, he should send her along with him. [More]

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Avenatti Cross-Examines Stormy Daniels at Trial

Michael Avenatti, already convicted and sentenced in the Nike fraud case, has been on bond due to COVID for a long time. His second fraud trial in California ended in a mistrial.

Now he's on trial in federal court in the Southern District of New York, charged with stealing money from his client, Stormy Daniels, and shortly before trial he announced he'd represent himself.

Yesterday he cross-examined Stormy Daniels. It was as bizarre as you'd expect. One topic was her ability to speak to the dead, which she claims she can do. He asked her about a house she lived in during 2019 in New Orleans: [More]...

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Rittenhouse Closing Arguments

Closing Arguments are taking place in the Rittenhouse trial.

Here is a summary of the prosecution's argument.

The judge tossed a charge of possession of a weapon by a person under 18 today because the statute required the gun barrel to be of a certain length, and the prosecution agreed that Rittenhouse' weapon was short-barreled and didn't qualify. It was punishable by a maximum sentence of 9 months.

The Judge also allowed a lesser included instruction for the shooting death of Anthony Huber.

Where the parties differ:

Rittenhouse said he feared for his life and acted in self-defense. Prosecutors sought to portray him as the aggressor who bears responsibility for the bloodshed.

The defense argument is live here.

500 National Guard troops are on call for after the verdict if requested by the state police. [More...]

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Michael Avenatti Sentenced to 2.5 Years in Nike Fraud Case

Michael Avenatti, the former attorney for Stormy Daniels and self-created pundit, was sentenced in federal court in New York yesterday to 2.5 years in prison for his scheme to defraud Nike. On February 14, 2020, following a three week jury trial, he was convicted on all three of the charges against him.

The charges were: Transmitting interstate communications with intent to extort, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 875(d) (Count One); Hobbs Act extortion, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951 (Count Two); and honest services wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1343 and 1346 (Count Three).

The sentence was substantially less than the sentencing guideline range as calculated by Probation (135-168 months). [More...]

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Trump Organization and Alan Weisselberg Indicted

Here is the 25 page Indictment of the Trump Organization and its chief officer, Alan Weisselberg.

The Indictment alleges the Trump Organization ran a tax fraud scheme for 15 years, allowing executives to evade taxes by compensating them "off the books." From the New York Times:

The 15-count indictment, which charged the Trump Organization with committing a scheme to defraud, criminal tax fraud and falsifying business records, accused the company of a long-running conspiracy to help executives, including Mr. Weisselberg, evade taxes on perks and bonuses while at the same time decreasing the company’s own tax obligations.

It also charged Mr. Weisselberg with failing to pay taxes on leased Mercedes-Benzes, bonuses and a rent-free apartment paid for by the company. The indictment also charged him with grand larceny, accusing him of essentially cheating the I.R.S. out of tax revenue.

According to the Times, the investigation continues, with Donald Trump as the next potential target.

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Bill Cosby Freed After Appellate Victory

Bill Cosby's criminal conviction for sexual assault justly met its demise in the PA Supreme Court yesterday, not on a technicality, but because the decision to charge and try him was a bait and switch that violated one of the most basic tenets on which our criminal justice system is founded: due process of law. The Court found the violation was so egregious that only a remedy of dismissal with no chance of retrial was appropriate. Cosby was freed from prison immediately.

The 79-page opinion is here. There is some really good language on the awesome (as in huge, not terrific) power of prosecutors and why, when prosecutors make a promise to a defendant that induces him to give up a constitutional right, that promise must be enforced.

There's also a word I rarely see, and the opinion uses it three separate times: Undergird. (It means brace or support (an underpinning) and apparently was first used in the 1500's). [More...]

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NY AG Joins State Criminal Investigation of Trump

The New York Attorney General announced it has joined the New York DA's criminal investigation of the Trump Organization. Previously, the AG's investigation was civil rather than criminal.

A spokesman for the state's top prosecutor, Letitia James, said the inquiry into Mr Trump's property company was "no longer purely civil"....We are now actively investigating the Trump Organization in a criminal capacity, along with the Manhattan DA."

The AG spokesman said it has notified the Trump Organization of the change in status. According to the New York Times, it's about Trump Org. Chief Financial Officer Alan Weisselberg and his family. [More...]

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Ghislaine Maxwell Denied Bail Again

Ghislaine Maxwell's lawyers tried hard to have her released on bail this month. The Government fought them tooth and nail. Guess who won? The Government. The full order is not yet released because the parties have to go through it and redact it to protect the privacy interests of those mention. But the short version is here.

The ruling is based strictly on flight risk, as the Government didn't argue she was a danger to the community. [More...]

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Ghislaine Maxwell's Deposition Transcript Released

Personally, I would have kept the 2016 deposition transcript of Ghislaine Maxwell sealed. The appeals court decided differently and released the transcript today. Ms. Maxwell is facing criminal charges and is entitled to the presumption of innocence. The only effect of the unsealing will be to further pollute the possible jury pool with the salacious questions asked by the accuser's lawyer (virtually all of which Maxwell denied.)

Deposition transcripts in federal civil cases are not routinely filed with the court, they remain with the lawyers for the parties. It is usually excerpts rather than entire depositions that are admitted at hearings and trial.

The defamation case that was the genesis of this deposition is over. Why should the deposition transcripts be released now as opposed to a year from now? I think they should have remained sealed until after Ms. Maxwell's trial.

The transcript is available here.

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Breonna Taylor Grand Jury Protests

Daniel Cameron, the Kentucky Attorney General announced yesterday that no police involved in the raid that led to the shooting death of of Breonna Taylor will be charged with murder. One former officer, Brett Hankison, was charged with First Degree Criminal Endangerment (the victims of which were Taylor's neighbors), while the other two officers involved, Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Officer Myles Cosgrove, were not charged with any criminal offense. (It was Cosgrove who fired the bullet that struck and killed Ms. Taylor).

The charges accuse Hankison of firing blindly into several apartments and recklessly endangering Taylor’s neighbors, but do not charge him with firing at or killing Taylor. Two other officers involved in the March 13 incident, Detective Myles Cosgrove and Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, were not charged. Cosgrove fired the shot that killed Taylor, according to Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, but the grand jury considered his action justifiable.

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Scott Peterson Death Penalty Reversed

The Supreme Court for the state of California has issued a unanimous 101 page opinion in the Scott Peterson case. Peterson was convicted of killing his pregnant wife Lacie Peterson, whose decomposed body and that of the fetus who would have been named Conor had he been born alive, were found in the water a mile from where Peterson said he had been fishing months earlier. Peterson was convicted sentenced to death. Cable news followed every detail of the case, night after night, from the day of Laci's disappearance through the trial.

The death sentence was reversed because the trial court judge excluded jurors who were opposed to the death penalty in general, but never questioned as to whether they could put those feelings aside and judge this case by its facts, or whether, should they find Peterson guilty, they would impose the death sentence no matter what. U.S. Supreme Court precedent is clear that the Court must not. [More...]

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