Experts Dispute Trump on Women Taped at Border

Eight times over 12 days this month, the president argued for his proposed wall on the southern border by claiming that traffickers tie up and silence women with tape before illegally driving them through the desert from Mexico to the U.S., but experts never have seen such a case.

At least eight times over 12 days this month, the president has argued for his proposed wall on the southern border by claiming that traffickers tie up and silence women with tape before illegally driving them through the desert from Mexico to the U.S., reports the Washington Post. In Trump’s telling, the adhesive is sometimes blue tape. Other times it is electrical tape or duct tape. “Human trafficking — grabbing women … taping them up, wrapping tape around their mouths so they can’t shout or scream, tying up their hands behind their back and even their legs and putting them in a back seat of a car or a van…” Trump said on Jan. 11. Human-trafficking experts have no idea what he is talking about.

“I think his statements are completely divorced from reality,” said Ashley Huebner of the National Immigrant Justice Center. “That’s not a fact pattern that we see.” Nine aid workers and academics who have worked on the border or have knowledge of trafficking there said the president’s tape anecdote did not mirror what they have seen or heard. The Toronto Star cited other experts who said Trump’s lurid narrative — migrant women bound, gagged and driven across the border — does not align with their known reality. “I have no idea the roots of it,” said Edna Yang of American Gateways, a Texas-based immigration legal services and advocacy nonprofit. “I haven’t seen a case like that.” Anne Chandler of the Tahirih Justice Center in Houston said, “I’ve never had that.” Evangeline Chan of  Safe Horizon, a victim assistance group, said, “His representation of how traffickers get their victims into the country just isn’t what we’re seeing. It is very, very different.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Trump Told Cohen to Lie About Moscow Tower: Sources

President Trump directed his attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, two federal law enforcement officials tell BuzzFeed News.

President Trump directed his attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, two federal law enforcement officials tell BuzzFeed News. Trump also supported a plan, set up by Cohen, to visit Russia during the presidential campaign to meet President Vladimir Putin and jump-start the tower negotiations. “Make it happen,” the sources said Trump told Cohen. Even as Trump said publicly he had no business deals with Russia, the sources said Trump and his children Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. received regular, detailed updates about the real estate development from Cohen. In November, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying about the deal in testimony. Special counsel Robert Mueller noted that Cohen’s false claim that the project ended in January 2016 was an attempt to “minimize links between the Moscow Project and Individual 1” — widely understood to be Trump — “in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations.”

Sources said Cohen the special counsel that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie in order to obscure Trump’s involvement. Cohen’s testimony is the first known example of Trump’s explicitly telling a subordinate to lie directly about his own dealings with Russia. On the campaign trail, Trump vehemently denied having any business interests in Russia. Behind the scenes, he was pushing the Moscow project, which he hoped could bring his company profits of $300 million. The law enforcement sources said he had at least 10 face-to-face meetings with Cohen about the deal during the campaign.

from https://thecrimereport.org

DOJ Hiring Lawyers to Handle Border Wall Cases

It was a sign of coming property seizures and other legal controversies that President Trump anticipates as he plows ahead with his signature project.

The Justice Department placed an online job posting for two attorneys to handle border wall litigation in South Texas. It was a sign of coming property seizures and other legal controversies that President Trump anticipates as he plows ahead with his signature project, Politico reports. Trump has demanded that Congress provide $5.7 billion to build more than 200 miles of new and replacement barriers along the border. Those efforts will run into opposition from local landowners, environmentalists and Native American tribes. The federal government has been partially shut down 27 days over Trump’s billion border wall request, but the administration faces lawsuits from border residents who have resisted wall construction. High-profile cases in Texas involve a butterfly sanctuary and the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville, which owns property with a small chapel in the path of planned wall construction.

The two advertised legal jobs will pay between $53,062 and $138,790. The attorneys likely will deal with eminent domain property seizures and quarrels with landowners over what their land is worth, says the American Civil Liberties Union’s Chris Rickerd. If property owners fight back, cases can last more than a decade, but the law tilts heavily in favor of the government. Congress passed a spending bill last year that gave $1.4 billion to construct an estimated 84 miles of new and replacement barriers.

from https://thecrimereport.org

More Airport Security Workers Off the Job in Shutdown

Significant numbers of Transportation Security Administration agents have not been coming to work, either because of financial hardship or to underscore their opposition to being forced to work without pay. Three major airports — Atlanta, Houston and Miami — are operating under contingency plans.

Faced with growing numbers of call-outs by its workers and images of some of them lining up for food donations, leaders of the Transportation Security Administration acknowledged that “many employees … are not able to report to work due to financial limitations,” the Washington Post reports. Significant numbers of TSA agents have not been coming to work, either because of financial hardship or to underscore their opposition to being forced to work without pay. TSA officials would not provide specific employee totals, citing security concerns.

“We’re certainly not in denial that as we go further and further away from having a missed paycheck and going into unknowns, it’s going to start to affect people. And people will have to make a decision: ‘Can I afford to go to work today?’ ” said TSA’s Michael Bilello. “People aren’t just pretending to be sick. … What we’re hearing from the workforce is the increasing reason they’re calling out is, financially, they can no longer make it to work.” Numbers from the agency, covering Tuesday and Wednesday, show 6.1 percent of employees did not come to work on each of those days. That’s nearly one out of every 16 workers. TSA said the call-outs have forced three major airports — Atlanta, Houston and Miami — to operate under contingency plans meant to address disruptions.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Pamela Smart, Guilty in First Televised Trial, Seeks Release

Her trial became an international sensation in 1991. Now Smart, 51, wants New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu to commute her sentence for getting her former teenage lover to murder her husband.

Years before O.J. Simpson’s case was a made-for-television extravaganza, Pamela Smart starred in the first gavel-to-gavel broadcast of a murder trial in U.S. history. The trial became an international sensation, so compelling that CourtTV aired it in 1991 and a local television station in New Hampshire, where the trial was held, preempted daytime soap operas in favor of testimony about sexual obsession and betrayal, the Washington Post reports. Smart has been in a New York maximum-security women’s prison for more than two decades. She was 23 when she was given a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole after a jury convicted her of using her sexuality to manipulate her former teenage lover to murder her husband.

In phone conversations and a videotaped prison interview, she offered the Post previously undisclosed details as she mounts a new push to be released. Her detractors see a ploy to woo the public rather than a teenage boy. Paul Maggioto, who prosecuted Smart, calls her a “sociopath.” Prominent feminists have come to her aid, noting that the teenage triggerman and his three accomplices have all been released. Among those who have written on her behalf are Gloria Steinem, “Vagina Monologues” playwright Eve Ensler and Kate Millett, the author of “Sexual Politics.” A legal filing urges New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu to commute her sentence and make her eligible for parole. The state attorney general says Smart “places the blame for her crimes and her current predicament everywhere but where it belongs, squarely on herself.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Houston Judges Agree on Major Bail Reform

A new slate of Democratic judges in Houston approved comprehensive revisions to Harris County’s bail system that could clear the way for thousands of people, regardless of income, to avoid spending time in jail while awaiting trial on minor offenses.

A new slate of Democratic judges in Houston approved comprehensive revisions to Harris County’s bail system that could clear the way for thousands of people, regardless of income, to avoid spending time in jail while awaiting trial on minor offenses, the Houston Chronicle reports. The judges will present their new protocol to a federal judge, in a joint request with the sheriff, the county and poor defendants, in a class action over bail practices. The civil rights lawsuit accused the county of holding indigent clients in jail for days because they couldn’t afford costly bonds.

Under the new rule, 85 percent of people arrested on misdemeanors automatically qualify for release on no-cash bonds. People arrested for bond violations, repeat drunken driving and family violence are the only exceptions. These defendants must appear before a magistrate or judge within 48 hours, at which time they may also qualify for personal recognizance bonds. “What it means is that no one will be in jail because they cannot afford to get out,” said Presiding Judge Darrell Jordan. “This is a history making moment for civil rights not only in Harris County but for the U.S., because as the third-largest county in America, which is larger than 26 states, what we do here will be watched by all and can be emulated or replicated by all.” Sheriff Ed Gonzalez expressed his support, saying the change would improve criminal justice all around. “I have steadfastly supported bail reform, as long as it can be implemented in a way to enhance public safety,” he said.

from https://thecrimereport.org

U.S. Court Rejects Suit Over Pentagon Gun Reports

A federal appeals court rejected an effort by three major U.S. cities to require the Pentagon to be more vigilant about reporting service members who were disqualified from owning weapons to a national background check system.

A federal appeals court rejected an effort by three major U.S. cities to require the Pentagon to be more vigilant about reporting service members who were disqualified from owning weapons to a national background check system, Reuters reports. A three judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit said it lacked jurisdiction to compel the Department of Defense to fix what New York City, Philadelphia and San Francisco called a “broken” system, or to supervise improvements to the Pentagon’s “partial and inconsistent reporting.”

The cities sued after former Air Force member Devin Kelley killed 26 people in 2017 at a Sutherland Springs, Tx., church before killing himself. Kelley, 26, was convicted in a 2012 court martial of assaulting his wife and stepson and should not have been allowed to possess weapons. His conviction had not been entered into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The cities said the Pentagon had failed to report some 15,000 current or former personnel who could not own guns because of court martial convictions or dishonorable discharges, and that this undermined their ability to fight violent crime. Writing for the court, Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson praised efforts by cities and towns nationwide to protect the public from violence that is too often committed by people who should not have firearms. He said federal law “does not permit their efforts to include judicial supervision of the myriad programmatic workings of the federal government.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Barr Agrees to Study Criminal Justice Race Disparities

A civil-rights leader complains that William Barr, President Trump’s attorney general nominee, was a “general in the war on crime and drugs that was rooted in racism.” Barr agreed to a request by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) to study the issue.

William Barr’s vision of law and order was forged at the height of the 1990s crack epidemic, when the consensus was that long mandatory prison sentences were the best way to fight crime. Since then, bipartisan support has shifted toward more lenient punishments and prison alternatives. Barr, President Trump’s pick for attorney general, is signaling that his views on the subject are changing. The vastly different landscape confronting Barr was reflected in the second day of his confirmation hearing on Wednesday, which featured testimony from an array of legal, political, police and civil-rights leaders, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Still, Barr’s focus on violent crime and immigration approach largely dovetails with that of his predecessor, Jeff Sessions, who urged federal prosecutors to pursue the toughest punishments in most cases, with a focus on guns, drugs and gangs. Some civil-rights leaders warned that Barr’s approach is out of touch. “He was a general in the war on crime and drugs that was rooted in racism,” Derrick Johnson of the NAACP, testified Wednesday. “We need an attorney general who understands both the history and persistence of racism in our criminal justice system,” Johnson said. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) said on Tuesday that Barr has previously suggested that blacks and whites are treated the same way by the criminal justice system, a claim Booker said countless studies have shown to be untrue, reports Vox.com. Booker  pressed Barr to commit to a study on these disparities, which Barr agreed to do, saying, “I’ll have the Bureau of Justice Statistics pull together everything they have.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Barr Won’t Commit to Releasing Full Mueller Report

President Trump’s nominee for attorney general, William Barr, said at his confirmation hearing that he wanted to release as much as possible of what special counsel Robert Mueller finds. But he said he needed to learn more about the report and the regulations that govern releasing information from it before deciding what to do.

The speculation surrounding the Russia investigation assumes that special counsel Robert Mueller will release a report of his findings that will serve as the definitive explanation of how Russia interfered in the 2016 election and whether President Trump or his associates coordinated with Moscow. But there is no such guarantee, the New York Times reports. The law does not require the Justice Department to release a report, and Mueller has been silent on the issue. Trump’s nominee for attorney general, William Barr, said at his confirmation hearing that he wanted to release as much of what Mueller found as possible. He said he needed to learn more about the report and the regulations that govern his releasing information from it before deciding what to do about disclosing the findings. “I don’t know what, at the end of the day, what will be releasable,” Barr told Senators.  “I don’t know what Bob Mueller is writing.”

Senate Democrats will oppose Barr’s nomination unless he agrees to release the entire report Mueller produces, except for redactions of sensitive national security information. The current regulation instructs Mueller to give the attorney general “a confidential report” explaining his decisions about whom to prosecute and whom not to charge.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Pennsylvania Prisoner Decline Due to ‘Common Sense’ Reforms, says Gov.

Pennsylvania cut its prison population by more than a thousand inmates last year, a figure equivalent to the population of one entire state prison. It was the largest year-over-year decrease of inmate population on record, said Gov. Tom Wolf.

Pennsylvania cut its prison population by more than a thousand inmates last year, a figure equivalent to the population of one entire state prison. It was the largest year-over-year decrease of inmate population on record, said Gov. Tom Wolf, who said the decline “demonstrates that common sense criminal justice reforms work and bolsters the case for expanding reforms.” The 2.2 percent reduction left the prison population at 47,370, the lowest in about a decade and just above 2007 levels, reports Philly.com. The number of prisoners newly sentenced to state prison fell by 617 compared with 2017, while the number of parole violators declined by 575. Wolf and Corrections Secretary John Wetzel cited diversion for technical violators made possible by the consolidation of the Department of Corrections and the state parole board, which Wolf did by executive order.

The Commonwealth Foundation, a free market think tank, said the inmate decline was part of a trend tracking Pennsylvania’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative, a package of legislation designed to reduce prison spending that passed in 2012, when the population was at more than 51,000 inmates. A second legislative package failed to pass in the last session. It was projected to further reduce the prison population through changes such as automatically paroling certain prisoners on their minimum sentence dates if they had behaved well in prison. The savings would be reinvested in funding probation and parole to reduce recidivism. “Only a decade ago, Pennsylvania was shipping inmates to other states because of overcrowding,” Wetzel said. Now, Delaware is paying Pennsylvania $40,000 per day to house 330 prisoners at Camp Hill state prison under a two-year agreement.

from https://thecrimereport.org