One of the most controversial figures selected by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for his investigative team was Andrew Weissmann. While some criticized Weissmann for perceived bias, many of us focused on his record of prosecutorial excess. Now a law professor at New York University, Weissmann appears eager to fulfill both criticisms. After the commutation of Roger Stone, Weissmann called for Stone to be pulled in front of a grand jury. It did not matter that there was no crime under investigation or likely criminal charge based on the use of a presidential power that is virtually absolute. Weissmann seemed to call for the use of the grand jury for a fishing expedition — precisely the type of alleged excessive use of prosecutorial power that he faced at the Justice Department. Weissmann is reportedly writing a book on the investigation with the reported titled “Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation.”
A New York City education council meeting recent attracted national attention after one member of the council (and its past President), Robin Broshi, accused another member, Thomas Wrocklage, of racism after he was seen in a zoom meeting bouncing a black child on his lap. The video below is rather breathtaking but the incident has led to countervailing claims of racism and slander. As is often the case, we tend to jump on any novel torts claims and this is a good example of the tension between opinion and slander, particularly in such overheated (indeed radioactive) moments in public debates. It is unfortunately an increasingly common legal question in today’s rage-filled politics. The video of his meeting has now been shown throughout the world. However, it has some interesting elements as a pedagogical tool for understanding the underlying applicability of tort liability, or lack thereof.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declined to condemn the destruction of a statue of Christopher Columbus in the city of Baltimore (where she was born and raised) yesterday in the latest example of politicians enabling such mob action with their silence. When asked about a mob pulling down the statue and dumping it in the harbor (with no interference from police), Pelosi simply declared “People will do what they do.” Indeed, they will when leaders refuse to condemn their conduct. Her comment explains why a recently arrested supporter of Antifa declared that they are winning in the campaign to destroy statues and memorials. Update: Maryland Governor Larry Hogan blasted Pelosi for being out of touch with her comments. Rather than pander to the most extreme elements of these protests, Hogan insisted “while efforts towards peaceful change are welcome, there is no place in Maryland for lawlessness, vandalism, and destruction of public property.”
I previously discussed on Twitter that Michael Cohen seemed to me to be in violation of the standard obligations of federal prisoners given furloughs during the pandemic when he was seen at a high-end restaurant. His lawyer strongly disagreed that Cohen’s conduct violated the conditions but Cohen has now been taken back into custody according to media reports. This is not the first time that Cohen’s culinary impulses have gotten him into hot water.
By any measure, Harvard Professor Steven Pinker, who holds the Johnstone Family Chair of Psychology, is one of the most influential intellectual leaders in the world. He is also someone who believes in robust intellectual discourse and free thought and speech. That propensity for academic freedom has now made him a target of hundreds of academics and graduate students who are seeking his removal from the Linguistic Society of America. The letter is one of the most chilling examples of the new orthodoxy that has taken over our academic institutions. The signatories seek his removal for holding opposing views on issues like underlying causes of police shootings and other research. The cited grievances are at best nuanced and at worst nonsensical. Yet, hundreds signed their names and academic affiliations to try to punish a professor for holding opposing views to their own. We have been discussing these cases across the country including a similar effort to oust a leading economist from the University of Chicago. It is part of a wave of intolerance sweeping over our colleges and our newsrooms — a campaign that will devour its own in the loss of academic freedoms and free speech. (I should note that I do not know Dr. Pinker and, to the best of my knowledge, I have never met him).
Rep. Iihan Omar has been much in the news for her extreme positions on defunding police departments and yesterday calling for the dismantling of not just the American economy but the political system. In declaring her support for sweeping legislation yesterday, Omar railed against the American economic and political systems as a “system of oppression” and insisted that we cannot allow people to “prioritize profit without considering who is profiting.” That question however is now being raised in growing ethical concerns over Omar giving her husband’s company a massive amount of her campaign funds. This has been an issue that I have written about for over two decades as a legal but corrupt practice. The two stories show once again that the only defining element in Washington greater than irony is hypocrisy in both of our political parties.
We have been discussing protest related charges that raises troubling or novel issues. The charges against two protesters Viet Tran, 21, and Alexandria Dea, 26, are both. They are charged under a little known (and even less used) law barring unauthorized dissemination of intelligence data. The data came in the form of a Des Moines Police Department bulletin that was pulled from the back pocket of a police officer during struggles with protesters.
We previously discussed the arrest of Samantha Shader, 27, and her sister, Darian, 21, in one of the Molotov cocktail attacks on police in New York City. There is now a twist where a third individual is being charged as an accomplice. Samantha Shader reportedly blamed a black male for giving her the explosive. The FBI however has alleged that the accomplice was a friend from upstate New York who is white. At issue is a Bulleit whiskey bottle that Samantha Shader is accused of throwing at a police van on May 30th. The allegations against three African Americans by a self-described social justice activist is a rather unexpected twist in an already bizarre case. It could present an difficult issue for the defense in pre-trial admissibility challenges.
The problem with never admitting a mistake as President is that it requires others to defend it no matter how indefensible. That is the problem with declaring that “99 percent” of U.S. coronavirus cases are “totally harmless” is that statistics are tricky things that often demand actual proof. Mark Twain once said “facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable,” just not this pliable. Rather than just admit that the President overstated this point, the White House proceeded to try to prove the unprovable with predictably ridiculous results. Even the President’s top health advisers refused to support the statement. It is another example of the expenditure of unnecessary energy and focus to avoid admitting a mistake. One can still maintain that most people exposed to this virus show mild or no symptoms without dying on this statistical hill (with graphs that actually show that the statistical claim is wrong).
It is bad enough when you become a political rally cry for the right as a man trying to destroy our economy or instill fear into the nation. Now, Dr. Anthony Fauci is being called a mass murderer who, with the cabal of Bill and Melinda Gates, are seeking to “depopulate the Earth.” That is hardly the most deranged thing that Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, 87, has uttered, but it may be the most dangerous. Farrakhan is encouraging people to refuse vaccinations, a problem that is already causing world health leaders concerns in Africa. This is viewed as the new “epicenter” for the pandemic with Africans facing a threat with the need to protect hundreds of millions of Africans. Health officials will need their cooperation but they have now heard from Farrakhan who has declared that, if they want to live, “Do not take their medication.”
We have been discussing the case of Jason Charter, the George Washington University student who is alleged by the government to be the “ringleader” of the attack on the statue of Andrew Jackson near the White House. He is also accused of participating in the destruction of the statue of Confederate leader Albert Pike in Washington on June 19th. This case raises some difficult questions over the admissibility of his political views. However, he may be making that issue easier (and harming his case) with continued comments on an unverified Tweeter account where he continues to support Antifa and claim victory. The public comments raise the possibility of an effort to trigger a politically-infused case like the “Chicago Eight” prosecution after the 1968 Democratic National Convention. These comments have greater value in rallying supporters than building a defense.
There is a truly bizarre criminal case out of South Beach in Miami. Nachem Gross, 72, is charged with aggravated battery for an attack on Gerald Steiglitz, 86, in an elevator. Putting aside the fact that both are elderly, the battery was an effort of Gross to maintain social distancing to avoid Covid-19. The incident was caught on video. The world has gone completely mad.
Lisa Bloom has struggled for the last few years with what was a carefully maintained media image. There was the dust up with her former client Kathy Griffin. She then broke from her client Harvey Weinstein in a public reversal. Then there was her public statement that she believed that Joe Biden was a rapist who continues to lie about his crime but that she would still support him. Now she is in the middle of litigation where she is accused of preventing families of four special needs children from getting settlement funds because she wanted a cut. They insist that she abandoned them and never had a fee agreement.
There is an interesting charge out of Florida where Donovan Russell Jester stole and crashed a roughly $1 million yacht. He apparently lived on the boat for three months. He was charged with the grand theft vessel. What is interesting is that this crime comes with a potential 30 year sentence. Continue reading “Florida Man Caught After Crashing $1 Million Yacht and Faces 30 Years In Prison”
NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) had a bizarre encounter yesterday when a man dressed only in a bra and panties rushed them near Black Lives Matter Square and the area claimed earlier as the “Black House Autonomous Zone.” Mitchell immediately asked “where’s the police” and Norton added “where’s the police when you need them?” It is a question that many of us have been asking D.C. officials for weeks as police have stood by and watched statues destroyed and defaced around the city. This week, D.C. Chief of Police Peter Newsham stated that his department has made the “tactical decision” not to intervene as certain statues have been torn down in front of them. I have been highly critical of both this destruction and the failure of D.C. officials to act, including the iconic bust of George Washington on my own campus at George Washington University.