Category: Law and Order

HBO Film Revives Lurid Claims, Imperiling Thriving Michael Jackson Estate

Michael Jackson’s damaged reputation began to recover the day he died.

The lurid accusations of child molestation that had dogged him for years fell to the background as fans around the world celebrated the entertainer who had gone from pop prodigy to global superstar over a four-decade career. Flash mobs from Stockholm to the Philippines re-enacted his video scenes, and his music sales again broke chart records.

Now, nearly 10 years after his death, the dark side of Mr. Jackson’s legend has returned through a documentary that rocked the Sundance Film Festival and is being championed by Oprah Winfrey. In addition to delivering a hit to his mended reputation, the film poses a significant risk to the Jackson estate, which has engineered a thriving posthumous career, including a Broadway-bound jukebox musical.

The four-hour documentary, “Leaving Neverland,” to be broadcast on HBO in two parts on Sunday and Monday, focuses on the wrenching testimony of two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who say Mr. Jackson abused them for years, starting when they were young boys. While the accusations are not new, their revival in the #MeToo era, with its momentum of accountability for figures like R. Kelly, Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby, gives them new meaning.

“There has always been this shadow or cloud about Michael,” said Charles Koppelman, a longtime music executive who once served as a financial adviser to Mr. Jackson. “With this documentary about to be shown to millions and millions of people, and all the notoriety that it’s now getting, I think it will have a detrimental effect to the legacy and the estate.”

The estate has already begun its war on “Leaving Neverland.” It issued a series of fiery statements around the time of the film’s Sundance debut in January and has filed a petition in Los Angeles County Superior Court for arbitration, seeking $100 million in damages from HBO. In making its case, the estate — whose beneficiaries are Mr. Jackson’s mother and three children, as well as children’s charities — portrays Mr. Robson and Mr. Safechuck as “serial perjurers” for whom HBO has become “just another tool in their litigation playbook.”

The debate over the film is likely to be intense in black communities, where figures like Mr. Jackson and Mr. Kelly have their strongest defenders, said Yaba Blay, a professor at North Carolina Central University whose specialty is black racial and cultural identities.

“If you think R. Kelly tore black America apart, this is going to destroy us,” Dr. Blay said.

On Monday night, after the conclusion of “Leaving Neverland,” HBO and the Oprah Winfrey Network plan to broadcast Ms. Winfrey’s interview with Mr. Robson, Mr. Safechuck and the film’s director, Dan Reed.

In “Leaving Neverland,” Mr. Robson, 36, and Mr. Safechuck, 41, tell parallel stories of being drawn into Mr. Jackson’s inner circle as boys. Mr. Robson met Mr. Jackson on tour in Australia at age 5 and moved to the United States two years later to be near his idol. Mr. Safechuck was 8 when he was cast in a Pepsi commercial and met Mr. Jackson.

Both men say Mr. Jackson abused them while charming their families at his 2,600-acre Neverland compound in Los Olivos, Calif. He also warned them to keep their sexual relationship secret, the men say. READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/03/business/media/leaving-neverland-michael-jackson-estate.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Farts&action=click&contentCollection=arts&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=sectionfront

Jussie Smollett charged with a felony for allegedly filing a false police report

Actor Jussie Smollett has been charged with disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report. (Theo Wargo / Getty Images)

“Empire” actor Jussie Smollett has been charged with disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report.

Chicago police announced late Wednesday that felony criminal charges against Smollett have been approved by the Cook County state’s attorney’s office. He faces up to three years in prison if convicted.

“Detectives will make contact with [Smollett’s] legal team to negotiate a reasonable surrender for his arrest,” said Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi Wednesday evening on Twitter.

Smollett’s attorneys stated that they plan to “mount an aggressive defense.”

“Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked,” said Smollet’s attorneys Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson in a statement to The Times. “Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.”

The charges follow an earlier announcement that Smollett was “officially classified as a suspect in a criminal investigation … for filing a false police report” and that detectives were presenting evidence to a Cook County grand jury.

Police initially had been investigating the Jan. 29 attack as a possible hate crime. The incident allegedly involved two people approaching the 36-year-old actor and musician while yelling racist and homophobic slurs. Smollett is gay and plays gay musician Jamal Lyon on “Empire.”

But on Saturday, Guglielmi said the trajectory of the investigation had “shifted” due to information received from two brothers who were arrested and released without charges last week. He did not elaborate on what that meant.

The brothers were identified as persons of interest in the investigation after being seen in surveillance footage around the area where the alleged attack took place.

One of the brothers was revealed to be a personal trainer Smollett had hired to ready him for a music video. The pair reportedly claimed that Smollett had hired them to carry out the attack. Smollett’s attorneys have previously disputed that claim and said the actor is “angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with.”

On Tuesday, Cook County state’s attorney Kim Foxx recused herself from the case “out of an abundance of caution” in order to “address potential questions of impartiality based upon familiarity with potential witnesses in the case.”

According to reports, Foxx had spoken to one of Smollett’s relatives after the alleged attack was reported and “acted as a go-between with Chicago police.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Fox issued a statement of support confirming Smollett would remain a part of “Empire” despite reports that the actor’s scenes in upcoming episodes were being slashed due to the uncertainties surrounding the case, including claims that the attack was a hoax.

Panic Erupts at Hamilton Performance Because of False Active Shooter Threat

A Friday evening Hamilton performance in San Francisco left three people injured after an attendee suffered a medical emergency that was mistaken for an active shooter situation. Per CNN, a woman experienced a heart attack during the musical’s pivotal scene when Alexander Hamilton is shot by Aaron Burr in a duel, which caused many audience members to “self-evacuate” after believing the woman, who stood up to leave the theater to seek treatment, was actually shot. Panic further spread when someone in the audience yelled “gun!”, prompting the theater’s attendees to stampede outside. Police told CNN that three people were injured and taken to a nearby hospital as a result, with the most serious injury being a broken leg. The woman who suffered from the heart attack was also hospitalized and in critical condition.

In a tweet, the city’s Orpheum Theatre said an attendee “activated the theater’s fire pull station,” which instructed the audience and cast to “follow the life/safety system’s automatic announcement and exit the theater.” However, followup tweets from attendees said they believed the theater failed these supposed safety protocols, with many people likening what happened to “mass chaos” with “absolutely no support and direction” from the staff. In fact, one attendee witnessed “staff hiding themselves” from the pandemonium.

Jussie Smollett Being Investigated As ‘Active Participant’ in His Own Attack

The investigation into the assault on Empire actor Jussie Smollett took another twist on Saturday night. Chicago police apparently now believe Smollett paid two men to stage the attack, according to CNN. Reached for comment about the report, a Chicago police spokesman would only confirm that “the information received from the individuals questioned by police earlier in the Empire case has in fact shifted the trajectory of the investigation.” He added that police have “reached out to the Empire cast member’s attorney to request a follow-up interview.”

On Friday, news broke that two brothers were arrested in connection with the attack, one of whom worked on Empire. Chicago’s ABC7 had reported on Thursday that police believed Smollett staged his attack because he was being written off the show, but police later denied they were treating Smollett as a suspect, and 20th Century Fox denied that Smollett was being written off.

According to Deadline, the two men were released at 9 p.m. on Friday after being held for 48 hours. A law enforcement source also told the publication that “the new direction of the investigation is now based on the premise that Mr. Smollett was an active participant in the incident.”

California Has a High Rate of Police Shootings. Could a New Open-Records Law Change That?

LOS ANGELES — After her son, Eric, was killed by the police in Los Angeles two years ago when officers mistook a water pistol he was holding for a real gun, Valerie Rivera channeled her grief into activism. She joined Black Lives Matter and lobbied the State Legislature to open to the public California’s records on police shootings, which have long been hidden.

She wanted, she recently wrote in a court filing, to “understand what really happened, and to advocate for change so that officers do not kill civilians, and are held accountable when they do, so that other families do not have to suffer as mine has.”

Her efforts paid off. Under a new state law, Ms. Rivera and other members of the public can now request to see the investigative records, prying open for the first time California’s strict secrecy laws regarding police shootings and serious misconduct by officers.

But, just as activists and state lawmakers have sought to bring decades-old investigative records to light, police unions have tried to jam the door shut. While police departments have said they would comply, police unions up and down the state, including in Los Angeles, have filed lawsuits challenging the law, arguing that it shouldn’t be applied retroactively. The union lawsuits have succeeded in some jurisdictions in getting temporary stays from the court.

The debate has opened up old wounds in a state that has been plagued by a high rate of killings by police officers, and it has showed how contentious and complex criminal justice reform can be, even after reform measures are passed.

California may be one of the most liberal states in the nation — its politics have shifted substantially in recent decades amid sweeping demographic changes — but paradoxes abound, especially when it comes to police matters and criminal justice. The state has the largest death row in the country, and voters, in a ballot measure, have demanded that the state speed up executions.

It also has one of the highest rates of police shootings in the country. Though there is no central database to track police shootings nationally, an analysis of data from 2013 to 2017 by Mapping Police Violence, an advocacy group that maintains a database of police killings, ranked the Bakersfield Police Department as the fifth deadliest in the country.

Now, at least on paper, California has gone from one of the most secretive states on police shootings to one of the most open. New York, by contrast, strictly limits the amount of information on police shootings that is made public.

Some other states, including Alabama, Georgia and Florida, are more transparent than California, according to research by the American Civil Liberties Union. These states allow open access to a broad range of police files, including disciplinary records of individual officers, and not just those concerned with police shootings.

READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/12/us/california-police-records.html


Untangling 21 Savage’s ICE Arrest: What Happened and What’s Next?

Image via Getty/Prince Williams

On Feb. 3, it was reported that 21 Savage had been arrested in Atlanta, along with his cousin and fellow rapper Young Nudy, and taken into U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody. ICE alleges that the father of three, who grew up in Atlanta, is a national of the United Kingdom. The agency claims his visa expired in July 2006, when he was 14 years old. According to ICE, Young Nudy “was arrested and charged with aggravated assault and participation in criminal gang activity,” as part of an operation targeting him and two other men, but not 21.

ICE was founded in 2003, with the purpose of “smart immigration enforcement, preventing terrorism and combating the illegal movement of people and trade.” The agency, along with Customs and Border Protection (CBP), has faced heavy scrutiny over the last few months for its role in President Trump’s “family separation policy” at the U.S./Mexico border, which has resulted in the separation of at least 2,737 children from their parents, as well as the deaths of multiple children and adults in ICE detention centers. There is currently a backlog of 800,000 cases piled up in U.S. immigration courts.

The news of 21 Savage’s arrest has come as a shock to fans, most of whom were not aware that he was an immigrant. We’ve spoken with immigration attorneys about how this could have happened, and what the implications are for 21 Savage and other undocumented immigrants.

Image via Getty/Prince Williams

On Feb. 4, attorney Charles H. Kuck, who represents 21, released a statement revealing that the 26-year-old rapper’s family “overstayed their work visas, and he was left without legal status through no fault of his own.” Kuck also says that 21 currently has a pending application from 2017 for a U visa—a nonimmigrant visa for victims of crimes (and their immediate family members) who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse while in the United States, and agree to cooperate with government officials in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. According to TMZ, 21 Savage was shot during a 2013 incident where his best friend was murdered, an event that Kuck says “severely affected” him, both physically and mentally. Being a victim of this crime could potentially put 21 Savage in a position for permanent residence.

READ MORE: https://www.complex.com/music/2019/02/21-savage-arrested-by-ice-what-comes-next/the-latest-on-21

International Pickpockets Ride New York’s Subway, Pilfering and Profiting The thieves are not known to the police, which helps them evade detection. They also move from city to city, trying to stay ahead of investigators.

In Manhattan alone, transit larcenies were up 15 percent in 2018, with 754 reported cases.

A man and woman walked out of a subway car at the 51st Street station in Manhattan and darted into the next one on the same train. A plainclothes police officer noticed.

It was rush hour on a Tuesday evening in September on the busy No. 6 line. The officer watched as the woman dipped her hand into a commuter’s purse while her partner stood in front of her, shielding her from view, according to the officer’s affidavit. The woman lifted out a wallet, and the officer and his partners closed in.

She threw the wallet to the ground, and the commuter quickly identified it as hers. The woman, Jenny Gomez Velandia, 27, and her accomplice, John Diaz-Albarracin, 31, were arrested, according to a criminal complaint. What seemed like a routine pickpocketing had been thwarted.

But the suspects were not routine. Unlike most pickpockets, they had no criminal history in New York City. They were not locals. They were from Colombia and had come to New York for the purpose of stealing wallets on subways, one of several international pickpocket rings to descend on the transit system in 2018, the police said. “They come, they do what they can do, then they move,” said Chief Edward Delatorre, who leads the Police Department’s transit bureau. The woman and man arrested in September were tied to nine other thefts in the subway, the police said.

Little is known about these international pickpocket crews outside of the narrow scope of their crimes, the police said. They tend to avoid detection longer than their local counterparts because they are new faces, and their lack of criminal histories in the city is to their advantage when they are caught. They move from city to city, trying to stay ahead of investigators.

A three-man ring from Chile worked the No. 7 train in Queens during the United States Open last summer, when the platforms were extremely crowded, the police said. The three were finally caught in Manhattan. On Aug. 28, a straphanger on an uptown No. 4 train “felt himself being jostled” by a man beside him wearing a black bag. He realized his wallet was gone, and he told officers at the 59th Street station, who arrested the man with the bag, Victor Diaz Jimenez, 33, according to a criminal complaint. He was carrying, among other things, three MetroCards and four phones.

“I’m used to this,” Mr. Jimenez later told the police, according to court documents. “Everywhere I go, every country kicks me out.”

He described his methods. “This is how I make my living,” he told a detective. “I open the purses, put my hands in and take the wallets out. I pick people who are distracted.” He recalled lifting a wallet from “a tourist on the green line.” He took stolen credit cards to Target to buy watches he sold on the street, he said, and if the card had already been reported stolen, he threw it away.

“I’ve only been here for two weeks,” he said.

The police also arrested two teenagers who worked with Mr. Jimenez, Michael Camilo Joya Pinzto and Jhon Quintero Santos, despite Mr. Jimenez’s claims that he did not involve them in his work.

That group, like the Colombians, was tied to other crimes: nine previous grand larcenies in Queens and Manhattan — and in Mr. Jimenez’s case, elsewhere in the country. The police discovered an open arrest warrant for Mr. Jimenez from Kansas City, Kan., where he was wanted for charges of larceny and identity theft, according to prosecutors there. Mr. Jimenez remains on Rikers Island, facing a possible extradition to Kansas, and he declined a request for an interview.

READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/27/nyregion/pickpockets-nyc-crime.html?action=click&module=News&pgtype=Homepage