Category: Criminal law

Nevada Woman Charged With Killing Elderly Man After He Asked Her “To Be Nice” To Bus Passengers

Cadesha Michelle Bishop may seriously want to explore a plea deal. According to the Associated Press, the 25-year-old woman has been charged with murder after an elderly man who she shoved off a Las Vegas bus after he told her to stop abusing other bus riders and to be civil. A videotape shows Bishop matter-of-factly pushing 74-year-old Serge Fournier out a door and head first into the pavement.

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Brazil Prosecutes Comedian In Latest Attack On Free Speech

We have previously discussed the alarming rollback on free speech rights in the West, particularly in Europe (here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). We have seen comedians targeted with such court orders under this expanding and worrisome trend. (here and here). Now Brazil is joining the anti-free speech movement with a ridiculous prosecution of a comedian named Danilo Gentili. Gentili is known for his caustic and sometimes offensive jokes. One joke about a congresswoman however proved too much for the government and he is now facing criminal charges for making a joke.

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Turley Testifies In House Judiciary Committee On Trump Executive Privilege Assertions

I will be testifying this before the House Judiciary Committee on President Donald Trump’s assertion of executive privilege and congressional oversight. The Hearing will be held 10 a.m. on Wednesday, May 15th, in Room 2141 in the Rayburn House Office Building. My testimony is linked available below.

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Turley To Testify Before House Judiciary Committee On Executive Privilege

I will be testifying tomorrow before the House Judiciary Committee on President Donald Trump’s assertion of executive privilege and congressional oversight. The Hearing will be held 10 a.m. on Wednesday, May 15th, in Room 2141 in the Rayburn House Office Building.

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Graham Encourages Trump Jr. To Defy Senate Subpoena

There was a curious moment this weekend when Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, publicly advised Donald Trump Jr. that he should ignore the subpoena issued to him by the Senate Intelligence Committee. It is virtually unprecedented for the chairman of one Senate Committee to encourage a witness to defy another chairman of a Senate Committee. It is even more bizarre when the first chairman heads the Judiciary Committee.

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Barr Assigns Federal Prosecutor To Investigate Origins Of Russia Probe

Attorney General William P. Barr has assigned John H. Durham, the United States Attorney in Connecticut, to investigate the origins of the Russia Investigation. The country remains divided over the Russian Investigation with many questions raised as to political influence and targeting. Durham is a former special prosecutor with a long and distinguished record at the Justice Department, including prior investigations into CIA abuses of detainees and internal corruption. Besides, he has one of the most intense official photos in government that I have ever seen.

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Iraqi Police Forces Confront Crime Wave of Short & Ripped Jeans

The horror

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

It would seem that either Police Forces within the disputed territory of Kirkuk in Northern Iraq have otherwise vanquished all traditional urban crimes and have far too much time on their hands or a return to authoritarianism found a new attraction with withering memories of Saddam and Islamist attacks via ISIS.

Kurdish news reports police forces are arresting any miscreant and fashion terrorista openly wearing ripped or short length jeans. According to a police source, “the decision was sent to all the police stations to arrest anyone who wears short jeans and jeans with fashionable slits or rips in them.”

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Nearing The 40th Anniversary of the Filming of “The Blues Brothers”, Suspect Drives Through Mall

Screen capture of Jordan Damian video

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

When a driver reportedly amped up on methamphetamine and heroin drives his Beemer through a mall on the eve of the fortieth anniversary of the filming of the Blues Brothers, you have to wonder if it was a serendipitous synchronicity, a mission from God short on planning, or just a typical workday in East Wenatchee, WA.

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A Question Of Contempt: Why The Barr Vote Could Prove Costly For Congress

Below is my column in The Hill newspaper on the vote of the House Judiciary Committee to hold Attorney General Bill Barr in contempt of Congress. There are a number of conflicts with the Administration that present favorable grounds for Congress in a court challenge. This action is the least compelling and could ultimately undermine congressional authority with an adverse ruling.

I am honestly confused by some of the criticism including the recent column by Andrew Napolitano in Fox.com where he states “Barr knows the DOJ is not in the business of exonerating the people it investigates. Yet he proclaimed in his letter that Trump had been exonerated.” I like and respect Napolitano a great deal but that is not what the letter said. What the letter said was “The Special Counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. As the report states: ‘[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.’” That is true. Indeed, it was odd that Napolitano would focus on the collusion/coordination issue when many people have accepted that the conclusion of no criminal conduct was clear from the report. At no point does Barr say that Trump was exonerated. Indeed, he included the most damaging line from the report on obstruction in saying that Mueller expressly did not exonerate him on that question. Barr was addressing the conclusions on criminal conduct and I still do not see where, as stated by my friend Andrew, where Barr in the letter was “foolish,” “deceptive,” “disingenuous,” or “dumb and insulting.” Those are powerful accusations against any lawyer and should be tethered to a clear example in the letter of a false or deceptive statement.

The Napolitano letter also ignores Barr’s statement that the report would have been released relatively quickly (removing the need for the summary) if Mueller complied with his request and that of Rod Rosenstein to identify grand jury material. It remains inexplicable that Mueller allegedly ignored those reasonable requests from his two superiors. As a result, Mueller’s people had to go back through the report to identify the Rule 6(e) material, a previously requested.

Update: The Democrats are now arguing that they are not demanding the redacted Grand Jury information despite weeks of calling for the full and unredacted report — and a subpoena that demands the entire unredacted report. They now insist that they want Barr to ask the Court to release the small percentage of Grand Jury information. That is not likely in light of the long record at the Justice Department.

Here is the column:

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“This Is Triggering”: UNC Student Attacks Pro-Life Students On Videotape

We have seen a litany of attacks on conservative and pro-life students on college campuses in the last couple of years. Even professors have joined in such attacks, including one who pleaded guilty to assault and was supported by other faculty members and even honored at other schools. The most recent example is an attack on a member of the pro-life group Created Equal at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. The attack was caught on video (below) and student Jillian Ward, 19, was charged.

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Manafort Disbarred

Former Trump campaign chair, Paul Manafort, has joined former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen in a second ignoble distinction. Both are now in prison for felonies. As for today, Manafort is also a disbarred lawyer. While Cohen was belatedly disbarred in New York, Manafort was disbarred in Washington, D.C. That certainly does not speak well for the President’s pledge to bring in the very best people. From the outset, both Cohen and Manafort had dreadful reputations in their respective bars. Cohen was known as a legal thug while Manafort was viewed as a sleazy and reckless lawyer.

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Florida Man Arrested for Profane Bumper Sticker

Free speech cases often require defending obnoxious speech or people. Dillon Shane Webb, 23, appears to be both. Webb is one of those people who think that it is funny to say obscene things and does not care at all about how his speech is impacting children or others. For that reason, Webb thought it was really, really funny to have a window sticker reading “I eat ass.” When he was asked to take down or change the offensive sticker, he refused and was arrested for criminal obscenity. The problem is that obscenity often depends who defines what is obscene. For free speech advocates, it is a standard that invites subjectivity and ambiguity in an area that depends bright line rules. That does not mean however that we cannot and should not denounce Webb for his offensive and careless speech.

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Cohen Goes To Prison After Prosecutors Refuse To Meet With Him

I was hiking on my birthday when Michael Cohen finally went to prison. By the time that he made the walk, few of Michael Cohen’s former clients or associates are likely returning his calls these days. After revealing that he taped clients without their consent and confessing to various felonies, Cohen is radioactive. However, one group of people joining the “lose my number” list is apparently chilling for Cohen: the federal prosecutors. Cohen’s counsel Lanny Davis has confirmed that Cohen has repeatedly tried to arrange meetings to share new information with prosecutors in the hopes of delaying his prison stint beginning tomorrow or securing a reduction in his sentence. They have refused. For a man who has made his career on being willing to do anything for powerful figures, Cohen is in the one place that he most feared: he is alone and out of options. In his final statement as a free man, Cohen again dangled the prospect of his sharing more information — a repeated suggestion that must truly irritate prosecutors and congressional investigators who have been repeatedly told by Cohen that he has shared everything that he knows.

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More Scream Than Substance: Why the Senate Missed The Point Of Barr’s Testimony

Below is my column in The Hill newspaper on Barr hearing and its aftermath. The Democrats continue to focus on Barr rather than the report. Congress now has 98 percent of the original report available to it. Only two percent was redacted from the sealed copy in conformity with federal law barring the release of grand jury material. Less than ten percent of the report is redacted in the public version and only a small percentage in the key obstruction section is redacted. However, the leadership prefers to fight over the remaining two percent and the Barr letter than to commence actual impeachment proceedings against Trump. I wrote back in 2017 that the Democratic leadership has long been opposed to any actual impeachment of Trump. There are obvious reason why the Democratic leaders are opposed to removing Trump. That position has held firm as leaders struggle to assure voters that they want to impeach without actually impeaching. The result is a mutual effort by Congress and White House to run out the clock. The result is political theater at its worst.

Here is the column:

High profile hearings in Congress often look like a casting call for B-Grade actors reading a low budget slasher film script. The key is that look of shock and disgust regardless of what the witness answers. The standout performer is Senator Cory Booker, who has mastered that “I Know What You Did Last Summer” look, even when asking the most mundane or mixed questions. He knows that, in this genre, the script is less important than the optics.

Indeed, the hearing with Attorney General William Barr this week seemed, at times, to involve two scripts for two different movies, with Barr reading from the 2000s “Drag Me To Hell” while Senate Democrats read from the 1970s “I Spit On Your Grave.” Senator Mazie Hirono did not even stop to listen for his responses before denouncing his failure to answer questions.

Some new information was shared, such as the fact that special counsel Robert Mueller slowed the release of his report by ignoring requests from Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to identify grand jury information in advance. There was also Barr stating he and Rosenstein asked Mueller to reach a conclusion on all crimes. Barr effectively shifted the burden over to Mueller on such questions. Claims by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that Barr lied under oath are simply unfounded and unfair.

Yet, Barr stumbled to answer when Senator Kamala Harris asked, “Has the president or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested you open an investigation of anyone?” Barr got caught up with the meaning of “suggest” then categorically denied that anyone had asked he open any investigation but said, “I’m trying to grapple with the word ‘suggest.’ I mean, there have been discussions of matters out there.” Just like the seasoned former prosecutor she is, Harris pounced on his answer and suggested that someone might have “hinted” or “inferred.”

This is why both compound and vague questions are generally barred in actual cross examination. Barr looked evasive and uncomfortable, even though he explained that his concern was that conversations clearly did cover possible investigations but he was never asked to open one. The distinction makes for bad television but is a legally important point here.

President Trump has repeatedly crossed the traditional line of separation between the White House and the FBI, with his probing of officials like former FBI Director James Comey on the status or direction of the Russia investigation. While I have been critical of Comey, he was absolutely right in his objections to the inquiries from Trump. Past presidents generally avoided meeting alone with FBI directors, much less recklessly pressing them on investigations that touched on political or personal interests.

A demand from the White House for an investigation can raise serious questions of political influence over prosecutorial decisions. However, the line can be blurry. Presidents often call for investigations on issues of national importance. After a police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, for example, President Obama held a press conference in which he was heralded for announcing that he had ordered the Justice Department and the FBI to both “independently investigate the death of Michael Brown.”

The Justice Department is part of the executive branch, and there is often discussion of the priorities and controversies involved in its investigations. For that very reason, Democrats were not aghast when former Attorney General Eric Holder publicly proclaimed he was a “wingman” for Obama. Likewise, Democrats applauded Obama when he ordered the Justice Department not to prosecute certain immigration cases. The line that cannot be crossed is the direction or influence of such an investigation.

Anyone can ask the Justice Department to look into allegations of criminal conduct. The Justice Department then makes an independent decision on whether to investigate. This includes members of Congress, who often call upon the Justice Department to investigate individuals despite their interests. Indeed, Harris has repeatedly done so, including calling for the Justice Department inspector general to investigate Barr. There is nothing improper in such a request, even if it has more political than legal merit.

Take the latest request from Senate Democrats for an investigation into Barr and Rosenstein reaching a conclusion on the obstruction evidence after Mueller had refused to do so. They wrote in a letter to the Justice Department inspector general, “It is unclear what statute, regulation, or policy led the attorney general to interject his own conclusion” that the conduct of the president did not amount to obstruction of justice here.

It is a bizarre question since the United States Code says, “All functions of other officers of the Department of Justice and all functions of agencies and employees of the Department of Justice are vested in the attorney general,” with a couple narrow exceptions dealing with administrative judges and prisons. The Justice Department makes the prosecutorial decisions, and the ultimate decision maker here is the attorney general.

What makes the request even more curious is the omission of the more obvious question. Why did Mueller not reach a decision? As I wrote on the day that Barr released his summary of the Mueller report to Congress, it is perfectly incomprehensible that Mueller did not reach a conclusion. After reading his report, his reasons for refusing are even more inscrutable.

The special counsel is mandated to “provide the attorney general with a confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions reached by the special counsel.” While the report references the Justice Department policy not to indict a sitting president, nothing suggests that a special counsel cannot reach a conclusion on the evidence of criminal conduct by a president. If there was any doubt on Justice Department policy, it should have been clarified when Barr and Rosenstein, who oversee Mueller, pressed him to reach a conclusion. Barr still cannot explain the rationale for a special counsel not reaching a conclusion.

He is not alone. Democrats have also called for an investigation of what they view as a “lack of impartiality” under the attorney general. Harris expressed surprise that Barr did not personally review the underlying evidence, consisting of millions of documents and records, collected by Mueller before reaching his conclusion on obstruction. What she ignored is that such an independent review would have negated the work by Mueller. As Barr correctly stated, “We accepted the statements in the report as factual record. We did not go underneath it to see whether or not they were accurate.” Democrats presumably would want him to do that instead of substitute his own facts for those of the special counsel.

Harris was not wrong in pressing Barr on any White House pressure to open investigations. However, there is nothing improper with the White House raising priorities and controversies with the attorney general. What raises serious ethical concerns is when those cases directly impact a president or his campaign. An attorney general should push back on anything he or she views as efforts to influence prosecutorial decisions.

Of course, every good slasher film has a sequel, and there are several in the works in this case with the calls for Mueller, Rosenstein, and former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify. Congress has every right to call on these officials, and the suggestion from Trump that he will block McGahn would be entirely unjustified. But if Congress truly wants answers and not just optics, it might try keeping the jump scares to a minimum.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.

“Psychoooooooo”: Texas Bartender Arrested For Serving Murderer Before Killing Spree

I teach “dram shop” cases in my torts class — cases where bars and bartenders are sued for “over serving” customers who later cause injuries to third parties. This week there is Texas case that involves a criminal charge against a bartender, Lindsey Glass, 27, who was arrested after allegedly violating the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code. The man that she allegedly over-served was Spencer Hight, who killed eight people after leaving the Local Public House in Plano. The bar has also been sued by the families of the victims.

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