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DOJ Investigating Bribery Conspiracy Involving Presidential Pardons

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The U.S. Dept. of Justice is investigating an alleged scheme to bribe White House officials or related political committee with political contributions in return for a Presidential pardon, according to a court document unsealed on Tuesday.

What We Know:

  • A federal court order was signed by Chief Judge Beryl Howell on August 28th. It was filed after a government filter team was sorting through more than 50 digital devices as part of an investigation when they came across emails pointing to two alleged schemes.
  • The first scheme involved two individuals, whose names are redacted, who lobbied top White House officials to try to secure clemency of their offenses. The second scheme deemed a “bribery conspiracy,” alleges that “a substantial political contribution [was exchanged] for a presidential pardon or reprieve of sentence” by an individual whose name is being kept confidential.
  • The emails recovered by the filter team were subject to speculation on whether the government can seize them or the attorney-client privilege protected them. Chief Judge Howell ruled that the emails were not protected because them emails were sent to someone who is not a lawyer. “The attorney-client privilege applies only when the participants in the communication are the client and the client’s attorney, who is a ‘member of the bar,’ ” Howell wrote.
  • Judge Howell’s 18-page opinion offers some details about the case and the anonymous perpetrators. According to the document, no one appears to have been charged in connection to the investigation; however, the person seeking a pardon surrendered to the custody of the Bureau of Prisons, suggesting that person has already been convicted of a crime.

  • According to the US Pardon Attorney’s office, President Trump has granted 29 pardons and commuted 16 people’s sentences during his presidency. The most recent of his pardons went toward is his former national security adviser Michael Flynn,  who was charged with lying to the FBI, hiding undisclosed lobbying for Turkey, and other potential crimes. Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani has also reportedly discussed the possibility of receiving a preemptive pardon before the end of the President’s term, according to The New York Times.

In response to the events, President Trump called the investigation “Fake News!” on Twitter.

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Crime

Man Shot by Police Inside Basement After He Lunged at Officers with Knife

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The knife the man had in his hands when he lunged at an officer, police said. Courtesy of NBC4 New York

The NYPD has reported that police shot a man who seemed to hallucinate inside a Queens home after lunging at them with a knife.

What We Know:

  • Officials conducted a press conference at the scene Friday evening and stated it was the second time officers had arrived at the home, on 64th Street near 55th Avenue, that day and the third time this week regarding calls about the same man. Police responded to the home earlier Friday at around 10:50 a.m. concerning the same man. They also responded on Jan. 6.
  • The man, 41, mentioned to officers Friday morning that he had been doing crystal methamphetamine and was “contemplating suicide,” NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan said. The man, who has not been identified, was taken to the hospital right after due to his hallucinations but was later released. That same evening, a family member informed that the man was armed with a knife and damaging the basement, Monahan said.
  • Responding officers entered the home and went down a “narrow staircase” to the basement, where they encountered the man and a family member. Monahan stated four officers spent around 10 minutes trying to persuade the man to go to the hospital, but “he abruptly pulled out a large knife and shouted, “I’m not going back to the hospital.”
  • He then jumped at an officer standing on the staircase, Monahan said, at which point one officer used a taser on him while “almost simultaneously” another officer shot the man twice. According to NYPD police, he was taken to a local hospital where he was said to be in critical condition late Friday. A neighbor stated he saw the police come rushing to the scene, and next saw a man transferred out on a stretcher.

No officers were hurt. They were wearing their body cameras that had been activated, Monahan said.

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Entertainment

Michael Jackson Estate Wins Appeal in ‘Leaving Neverland’ Suit with HBO

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On Monday, December 14th, an appeals court determined Michael Jackson’s estate was corrected in fighting the allegations shown in the HBO documentary Leaving Neverland. His estate won the appeal against HBO.

What We Know:

  • According to Variety Magazine, the documentary accused Michael Jackson of sexually abusing two young boys, Wade Robson and James Safechuck. The Jackson estate sued HBO for $100 million, arguing that the documentary violated a 27-year-old non-disparagement clause from a 1992 concert film from the Dangerous tour.
  • After initially losing the court case, HBO decided to appeal the court’s decision and on December 14, the case was brought to a three-judge panel. The company argued that they had never intended to give the Jackson estate a vote in anything stated in the documentary. Network attorney, Theodore Boutrous, also argued that the 1992 contract had effectively expired once each side fulfilled its obligations. 
  • The panel rejected that argument and stated“The contract contained a broad arbitration clause that covers claims that HBO disparaged Jackson in violation of ongoing confidentiality obligations and we may only identify whether the parties agreed to arbitrate such claims; it is for the arbitrator to decide whether those claims are meritorious.” 
  • The Michael Jackson estate attorney’s Jonathon Steinsapir and Howard Weitzman provided a statement that showed gratitude for the ruling. “The trial judge and now the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has unanimously rejected HBO’s arguments,” they said. “In the court’s own words, HBO agreed it would not make any disparaging remarks concerning Jackson. It’s time for HBO to answer for the violation of its obligations to Michael Jackson.” 

Though the court has made this decision, HBO can still appeal the ruling to the full 9th circuit, to come once again in front of an arbitrator. 

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Justice

Tyler Perry Donates $100K to Legal Defense Fund for Breonna Taylor’s Boyfriend, Kenneth Walker

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Film and TV legend Tyler Perry donated $100k to Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker’s GoFundMe.

What We Know:

  • GoFundMe page was created in order to help raise funds for Walker’s legal battle against Jonathan Mattingly. Mattingly, one of the police officers who killed Breonna Taylor, was shot in the leg by Walker during the failed raid of Walker’s apartment. Back in October, Mattingly decided to sue Walker for assault, battery, and emotional distress.
  • Walker was the boyfriend of Breonna Taylor, a Black medical technician who was killed by Louisville Metro Police Department officers using a no-knock warrant back in March. The officers responsible for her death are Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove.
  • According to CBS News, a portion of the Kentucky state police ballistics report is found to be “inconclusive” regarding who fired the shot that hit Mattingly. One of Walker’s attorneys, Frederick Moore, told CBS News that the “truth is not” on Mattingly’s side.
  • Walker, who is a licensed gun owner, fired a single shot of his gun after police broke into Taylor’s apartment, thinking he was defending the residence during a home invasion.

“It’s outrageous for one of the men partially responsible for all that to sue the man who endured it,” reads the GoFundMe page.

  • “The raid that killed Breonna Taylor was poorly conceived, nightmarishly executed, and hastily covered-up. The subsequent grand jury proceedings were farcical and staged. Daniel Cameron’s statements were disingenuous, at best. Jon Mattingly’s lawsuit is the nearly-unbelievable next step in this ongoing mockery of justice,” it continued.
  • Perry’s donations to the fundraising page were made in four separate payments on Sunday afternoon to help the fund surpass its $100K goal.

This charitable act continues Perry’s recent philanthropic efforts of giving back to the community. This past Thanksgiving, Tyler Perry Studios distributed non-perishable food items and gift cards to families in need in Atlanta.

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