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Former Rep. William Jefferson may soon get date to report to prison
Apr-19-2012 530 0


A court hearing Friday could determine whether former Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans, will begin serving his 13-year corruption sentence before summer. Some legal experts expect federal prosecutors to ask Judge T.S. Ellis III, who presided over Jefferson's six-week 2009 trial, to revoke Jefferson's $50,000 bail and set a date for him to begin his sentence.

Ellis also could allow Jefferson to self report by a court-imposed deadline.

After sentencing Jefferson, Ellis rejected calls by prosecutors to imprison him immediately and instead allowed him to remain free with an electronic monitor pending resolution of his appeals.

Friday's hearing was scheduled after Jefferson's lawyers failed to meet last week's deadline for filing an appeal with the full 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Legal experts said the decision indicates his lawyers will go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court to challenge a unanimous ruling last month by a three-judge 4th Circuit panel rejecting Jefferson's request for a new trial.

The high court probably won't decide whether to take the case -- and they accept only a tiny percentage -- until next fall.

University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias, who has been closely following the case, said it is possible prosecutors will argue the unanimous verdict by the 4th Circuit panel makes it unlikely he'll succeed with his Supreme Court appeal.

Ellis "has been pretty strict when it comes to corruption cases," Tobias said, "and if the prosecutors move to (set a date to report to prison) the judge may well grant it."

Kevin Thomas, a consultant with the MPM Group, which helps clients with sentence-mitigation efforts, said he thinks it's likely prosecutors will prevail.

"It was unusual for him (Jefferson) to stay out after sentencing and I would be shocked if the judge let him stay out now that the appellate court has ruled," Thomas said. "But then again his attorney (Robert Trout) is formidable and he could talk a starving dog off a meat wagon."

Jefferson, 65, isn't likely to be remanded into prison immediately, though. In a filing with Judge Ellis, lead prosecutor Mark Lytle expressed no objections if Jefferson chose not to attend Friday's session at the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Va.

Neither Lytle nor Trout would comment Wednesday.

Tobias said it's no surprise Jefferson's lawyers decided not to file an appeal with the full 4th Circuit, given the unanimous ruling by the three-judge panel.

In a 64-page ruling issued March 26, the appellate judges rejected the legal arguments by Jefferson that Judge Ellis erroneously instructed the jury about what the accepted practice is for official acts by a member of Congress.

Jefferson's lawyers argued the government had dramatically expanded the definition -- taking it beyond what most consider official acts, such as casting votes, introducing bills and committee work -- to include influencing foreign officials in Western Africa on behalf of private business executives.

"The (judge's) instructions did not in any way supplant the statutory definition of what constitutes an official act; it simply explained to the jury that an official act need not be prescribed by statute, but rather may include acts that a congressman customarily performs," according to the three judges.

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AP Dec-19-2014 165 0
President Obama said Friday he thinks Sony "made a mistake" in choosing not to release "The Interview" in the wake of the devastating hacking attack which he blamed on North Korea, while vowing that the U.S. "will respond."

The president addressed the breach, at a year-end press conference, for the first time since Sony Pictures Entertainment canceled its high-profile movie release. He also spoke shortly after the FBI formally blamed Kim Jong Un's regime for the cyber-attack.

"We will respond," Obama vowed, while offering no details on what that response might entail.

He mocked the North Korean regime for launching an "all-out assault" over a satirical movie, but he also chided Sony for responding by shutting down the movie's release.

"I think they made a mistake," Obama said.

While saying he sympathizes with their situation and the concerns they faced, he said: "We cannot have a society in which some dictator some place can start imposing censorship here in the United States."

Obama said that if somebody can "intimidate" a company out of releasing a satirical movie -- in this case, one about a plot to execute North Korea's leader, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco -- "imagine what they start doing when they see a documentary that they don't like or news reports that they don't like."

Obama warned against "self-censorship," adding: "That's not who we are."

Sony has faced criticism not only from Washington but numerous actors and members of the Hollywood elite for its decision to nix the release under threats and pressure. At the same time, lawmakers and others have described the hack as a major attack with immense national security implications.

Obama, addressing those concerns, said Friday the U.S. will respond "proportionally," in a "place and time and manner" of their choosing. He also called for improvements in cybersecurity.

The president held his last major press conference of the year following a whirlwind of major developments affecting U.S. security, diplomatic and economic interests.

Aside from the developments with the Sony cyber-attack, earlier in the week, Obama announced a push to normalize relations with Cuba following the release of American Alan Gross from Cuban custody after five years.

Obama has faced heavy criticism from Republicans and Cuban-American lawmakers of both parties for that decision. On Friday, he claimed he has no illusions about the nature of the Castro regime. "This is still a regime that represses its people," he said.

But he defended his decision, saying that nothing has changed after 50 years of the same policy, and it's time to try something different. He claimed Cuba will be "open to the world" in ways it hasn't been before. His State Department plans to open an embassy in Havana for the first time in decades, though Congress could try to block the move.

Obama also wants Congress to lift the embargo on Cuba, though he acknowledged Friday there would be a "healthy debate" on that in Congress.

Obama and his family plan to leave next for their annual holiday vacation in Hawaii. He's due back in Washington in early January.

The president faces big obstacles on Capitol Hill next year, when Republicans will take over the Senate and return with a bigger majority in the House. Foreign policy problems also persist in the Middle East and between Russia and Ukraine.

Obama said Friday he thinks there are "real opportunities" next year to "get things done."

"I'm energized," Obama said. "Interesting stuff happens in the fourth quarter."

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DEVIN DWYER Dec-17-2014 156 0
President and Michelle Obama personally identify with everyday experiences of racial bias in America that have underpinned recent protests across the country, they told People magazine in an interview to be released Friday.

“Barack Obama was a black man that lived on the South Side of Chicago, who had his share of troubles catching cabs," Michelle Obama told the magazine.

On one occasion, she said, her husband “was wearing a tuxedo at a black-tie dinner, and somebody asked him to get coffee.”

President Obama said he's even been mistakenly treated as a valet.

“There’s no black male my age, who’s a professional, who hasn’t come out of a restaurant and is waiting for their car and somebody didn’t hand them their car keys," he said, according to excerpts of the interview released today.

The first lady also described being mistreated at a Target store in suburban Washington, during a shopping trip she took in 2011.

"Even as the first lady," she told the magazine, "during the wonderfully publicized trip I took to Target, not highly disguised, the only person who came up to me in the store was a woman who asked me to help her take something off a shelf."

She said the incidents are "the regular course of life" for African-Americans and a "challenge" for the country to overcome.

Though they've lived inside the White House bubble for six years, the Obamas have been making the point that they are still in touch with the experience of minority communities.

President Obama has pushed back against criticism that he has not been aggressive enough in talking about issues of race and justice, particularly involving African-American men.

"If you look at after what happened with Michael Brown, if you looked at what happened after Trayvon, if you looked at the decision after Eric Garner, I'm being pretty explicit about my concern, and being pretty explicit about the fact that this is a systemic problem, that black folks and Latinos and others are not just making this up," Obama told BET in an interview earlier this month. "I describe it in very personal terms."

The president told People that he applauds the efforts of other prominent African-American athletes and celebrities to speak out against police brutality using the "I Can't Breathe" slogan, inspired by the case of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who died after he was put in a choke hold by a New York City police officer. President Obama has not directly weighed in on the case.

“I think LeBron did the right thing," Obama said of Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James, who wore a shirt with the slogan on the court. "We forget the role that Muhammad Ali, Arthur Ashe, and Bill Russell played in raising consciousness. I’d like to see more athletes do that -- not just around this issue, but around a range of issues.”

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Oren Yaniv Dec-16-2014 105 0
Bill Clinton has weighed in on the Eric Garner case, arguing that the unarmed Staten Island man may have been doing something illegal but “didn’t deserve to die.”

The former President is the latest powerful voice to speak publicly about the case after a grand jury on Dec. 3 declined to indict the NYPD officer who put Garner, 43, into a fatal chokehold in July.

“He was doing something he should not have been doing. That was illegal. He was selling untaxed cigarettes on the street in small volumes, trying to make a little extra money. But he didn’t deserve to die because of that,” Clinton told the news channel Fusion in an interview that’s set to air Tuesday.

He also noted that Americans have racial “preconceptions wired into us — and we have got to get beyond them.”

Clinton also spoke of a “divide that exists between the community and the police.”

The interview was taped earlier this month during a Clinton Foundation event. When addressing the Garner case and that of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen whose shooting death at the hands of a white cop in Ferguson, Mo., sparked months of protests, Hillary Clinton had called on people to “grapple with some hard truths about race and justice in America.”

Since the non-indictment in the Garner case, the city has spent $22.9 million in overtime costs to police the near-daily protests, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said Monday.

While most of the demonstrations have been peaceful, six protestors have been arrested for assaulting officers and six others are wanted for striking a pair of cops on the Brooklyn Bridge during a protest on Saturday.

Public Advocate Letitia James will try this week to make the Garner grand jury evidence public by asking a judge to unseal the minutes of the secret panel. A hearing is scheduled for Friday, but a legal expert called the request “an uphill battle,” given New York’s restrictive laws on the subject of grand juries secrecy.

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Dec-11-2014 172 0
Producer Scott Rudin has apologized for emails showing him and Sony big Amy Pascal trading racist barbs over President Obama's movie tastes.

Last November, Pascal, the co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, was headed to an Obama fund-raiser at Dreamworks chief Jeffery Katzenberg's house when she asked Rudin for advice about chatting up the President, Buzzfeed reported.

"What should I ask the president at this stupid Jeffrey breakfast?" Pascal wrote, according to the site.

Rudin replied, "Would he like to finance some movies."

"I doubt it. Should I ask him if he liked DJANGO?" Pascal replied, in reference to Quentin Tarantino's bloody slave revenge flick "Django Unchained."

In a series of nasty emails, Rudin and Pascal allegedly mused whether Obama enjoyed 'Django Unchained' and '12 Years a Slave.'

The two then continued the ugly riff, trading titles of popular movies starring black actors.

"Or the butler. Or think like a man?" Pascal said.

"Ride-along," Rudin quipped, referring to the Ice Cube-Kevin Hart buddy cop flick. "I bet he likes Kevin Hart."

This was the second time Hart's name was raised. In a different exchange, a Sony exec slammed him as "a whore" for asking to be paid to tweet about an unnamed Sony movie he was in.

Rudin apologized for the Obama emails in a comment to Deadline.com on Thursday.

"Private emails between friends and colleagues written in haste and without much thought or sensitivity, even when the content of them is meant to be in jest, can result in offense where none was intended," Rudin told Deadline.

"I made a series of remarks that were meant only to be funny, but in the cold light of day, they are in fact thoughtless and insensitive — and not funny at all. To anybody I’ve offended, I’m profoundly and deeply sorry, and I regret and apologize for any injury they might have caused."

According to Buzzfeed, Obama attended a Dreamworks fund-raiser later that night, where he praised Hollywood's role in broadcasting the country's "march toward progress" in civil rights.

He told the gathered bigwigs: "They might not know the Gettysburg Address, but if they're watching some old movie, maybe 'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner,' or 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show,' or 'Will and Grace' and 'Modern Family,' they've had a front-row seat to our march towards progress, even if their own nations haven't made that progress yet."

Rudin and Pascal's comments play out as the latest chapter in Sony's nightmarish hacking scandal, which has seen troves of sensitive data leaked online.

Unreleased movies, salary figures, A-lister's personal info — including social security numbers and aliases — have all hit the Web in recent weeks, along with embarrassing emails involving Hollywood's heaviest hitters.

Rudin and Pascal were likely already licking their wounds after emails dug up by Gawker showed them trashing Angelina Jolie.

Angry that Jolie was trying to lure director David Fincher away from his Steve Jobs movie, Rudin slammed the star as a "minimally talented spoiled brat" who hailed from "Crazyland."

Sony hasn't commented on the flap.

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Dec-05-2014 144 0
A federal review of policing in Cleveland found that officers' use of unreasonable force was part of a pattern of behavior that was in some cases endorsed by supervisors.

The Justice Department's scathing findings, disclosed Thursday as a wave of protests took aim at police conduct in Ferguson, Mo., and New York, were relayed to city officials in a 58-page summary of a 21-month investigation into policing operations.

Cleveland also has been the site of protests over last month's police shooting of a 12-year-old boy, who was in possession of a toy gun.

The officer identified as the shooter in the case reportedly displayed emotional problems and poor firearm skills in his former job with a neighboring law enforcement agency before joining the Cleveland force where he was a rookie officer at the time of last month's incident.

The Justice review examined 600 incidents in which police used some method of force between 2010 and 2013. It concluded in part that law enforcement is "sometimes chaotic and dangerous … and frequently deprives individuals of their constitutional rights.''

Among the most troubling disclosures:

• In addition to fatal shootings, the excessive force involved victims who were struck in the head, sometimes with the butts of police-issued firearms.

• Some of the incidents involved the mentally ill or emotionally disturbed in cases where officers were called merely to check on their welfare.

• Poor training contributed to cases in which policed employed dangerous tactics that placed the general public at risk.

"Determining whether a pattern or practice of the unreasonable use of force exists was not a close case,'' the report concluded.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced the findings in Cleveland, where federal authorities urged the appointment of a monitor as part of a tentative agreement to oversee needed reforms.

"We have determined that there is reasonable cause to believe that the Cleveland Division of Police engages in a pattern or practice of using excessive force,'' Holder said at a briefing where he was joined by Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson.

Jackson was among a number of local leaders who had called for the federal review.

"Although we may have disagreements on some facts or conclusions drawn,'' Jackson said, "the city of Cleveland remains committed to continue making appropriate changes to the policies, procedures and training that guides the use of force by the division of police.''

The mayor did not elaborate on the nature of the "disagreements.''

The Justice examination, Holder said, had revealed "systemic deficiencies, including insufficient accountability, inadequate training and equipment, ineffective policies and inadequate engagement with the community.''

Holder also was in Cleveland as part of a six-city tour aimed at mending strained relations between the police and the communities they serve.

In addition to the community meetings, the administration has established a national task force to review law enforcement practices; established new standards for the distribution of surplus military equipment to police agencies; and pledged to help fund the distribution of 50,000 body-worn cameras to police departments as a guard against officer misconduct.

"We are committed to moving forward together, here in Cleveland and throughout the nation to spur renewed engagement, renewed trust and renewed momentum to translate coordinated action into meaningful results,'' Holder said.

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Clinton Yates Dec-04-2014 298 0
The District lost an actual native son, Wednesday, one who truly wanted to do right by his hometown.

A.J. Cooper was a likable rascal turned community activist. He died of a heart attack, a cruel irony for a man who gave so much of his heart to this city. He was 34.

I’d known A.J. for years, ever since we were elementary school kids on the playground. He was sort of a wild kid, but he had charisma. He ended up leaving my school, but we played in the same Little League when we got older. After that, he went on to host BET’s Teen Summit, a show that made him somewhat of a national star, but more importantly solidified his interests in the youth of America.

Two years ago, when he ran for city council for the first time, it quickly became obvious that he was a young voice that the Wilson Building could use. He believed in working to curb teen pregnancy because it so often derailed the educational opportunities that kids had available to them. Most recently, his work in urban farming initiatives occupied his time. He was a young man that cared about his city, plain and simple.

In April, Complex magazine highlighted Cooper as one of “The D.C. Entrepreneurs Who Are Turning Chocolate City Green.” In it, Cooper’s work as the founder for Freedom Farms is lauded. “A.J. Cooper has realized what a lot of folks have not—that poverty, pollution and unhealthy food are all connected to an urban community’s upward mobility and ability to thrive,” Angel Elliot wrote. “He’s one of the leaders of the urban sustainability revolution that are using locally-owned and operated aquaponics farming to deliver low-cost healthy food to D.C. residents who wouldn’t normally have access to it.”

One of the most admirable qualities about Jay, as many people called him, was that he always had something to prove. As part of a lineage that included Tuskegee Airmen and the famed Cooper-Cafritz family, he never wanted to prove himself on anyone else’s back. When he likely could have lined up donors, endorsements and support for his political ambitions through the help of his name, he didn’t. He wanted to do it himself.

In politics, you never know what people’s motivations are. Some people want to be famous, others just want to get things done. Cooper fell in the latter category. And when you look out on the political spectrum and you see so many self-aggrandizing buffoons at all levels of local government, the thought of losing someone who truly wanted better for everyone is enough to make you cry.

Those who knew Jay before he went to the military, changed his life and decided to serve people will remember a young man who did his best to speak his mind. Perhaps Jay’s motivation can be best illustrated in a Facebook exchange I read Wednesday afternoon. Cooper still had dreadlocks at the time and was out with friends. In the comments someone wrote: “Jay, I still don’t understand the transition from the person I see in this picture to the person I see today! What was the motivating factor … the guiding light … the epiphany that led you into military life?”

His reply, in retrospect, is heartbreaking.

“I wanted to do something that meant something. Be a part of something greater than myself and serve my country rather than just enjoy the life that it provided me,” Cooper wrote back in 2010. “Most of all, being a kid from DC and having friends get killed as I was growing up made me want to make sure an I had an honorable death, not just some random murder.”

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Dec-01-2014 282 0
President Obama is proposing:

President Obama is proposing a three-year, $263 million spending package to increase use of body-worn cameras, expand training for law enforcement and add more resources for police department reform. The package includes $75 million for to help pay for 50,000 of the small, lapel-mounted cameras to record police on the job, with state and local governments paying half the cost. The FBI estimates there were just under 700,000 law enforcement officers in the US in 2011.

President Obama's staff is drafting an executive order that will require federal agencies that run the programs to work with law enforcement and civil rights and civil liberties organizations to recommend changes within four months.

President Obama also plans to sign an executive order to create a Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which will include law enforcement and community leaders. The purpose would be to examine how to reduce crime while maintaining public trust through measures like increased police training. The task force is being co-chaired by Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey and Laurie Robinson, a professor at George Mason University and former assistant attorney general at the Justice Department.

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Dec-01-2014 241 0
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will visit Atlanta Monday and speak at Ebenezer Baptist Church at a post-Ferguson, Mo. discussion about police-community relationships, CNN reports.

Holder’s appearance is likely part of a coordinated White House strategy announced last week by President Obama to strengthen relationships between police and the communities they serve.

Protests have continued throughout the nation after a grand jury last week chose not to indict the Ferguson, Mo. police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown after the officer scuffled with the unarmed teenager.

According to the CNN report:

Holder will hold a roundtable discussion with law enforcement, local officials, community leaders, student leaders and faith leaders on race relations and policing in minority communities.

Following the meeting, Holder will speak at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr. once preached.

The town hall is scheduled to begin at 6:30 tonight

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AP Dec-01-2014 102 0
Law enforcement officials were criticized for their militarized response to protests in Ferguson after a police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown. A grand jury last week refused to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the case.

After meeting with his Cabinet, President Obama will gather young civil rights leaders to the Oval Office, the White House said. Topics for that discussion will include the mistrust between law enforcement and communities of color.

Later Monday, the president will meet with elected officials, community, civil rights and faith leaders, and law enforcement officials. That meeting will center on ways communities and law enforcement can work together to build trust to strengthen neighborhoods.

Recent events in Ferguson and elsewhere have shown the need for "strong, collaborative relationships" between local police and their communities, a White House official said.

The official also said a "disintegration of trust" between law enforcement and the people they protect and serve can destabilize communities and undermine the legitimacy of the criminal justice system. Public safety can also be undermined, the official added.

Current and former police chiefs said on Sunday that law enforcement agencies around the nation must not repeat the mistakes that led to riots in Ferguson.

Former New York police commissioner Bernard Kerik and deputy Dallas police chief Malik Aziz, appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” criticized the police response to social unrest in Ferguson and said officials failed to anticipate a volatile situation.

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