Category: Legal Issues

Legalizing Marijuana, With a Focus on Social Justice, Unites 2020 Democrats

People in Colorado still remember John Hickenlooper’s crack after the state legalized marijuana, a move he opposed: “Don’t break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly.”

But Mr. Hickenlooper, the governor at the time of the 2012 initiative allowing recreational use of cannabis, eventually changed his mind. He acknowledged that fears of increased use by children did not materialize, and he boasted of the tax revenues for social programs that regulated sales delivered.

Entering the Democratic presidential race this month, Mr. Hickenlooper joined a field already jammed with pro-legalization candidates, a reflection of swiftly changing public opinion since Colorado became one of the first of 10 states with legal recreational marijuana.

The issue today is a pillar of progressive politics, but not because of graying hippies who like their Rocky Mountain High. Rather, for many Democrats, legalization has become a litmus test for candidates’ commitment to equal treatment for all races in policing and criminal justice as well as fighting economic inequality.

A Democrat who is not on board with legalization or addressing it in terms of repairing harms brought by prohibition for decades is going to have a tough time convincing any voter they’re serious about racial justice,” said Vincent M. Southerland, executive director of the Center on Race, Inequality and the Law at New York University Law School.

Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey last month introduced the pointedly named Marijuana Justice Act, which would remove the drug from the federal list of controlled substances and expunge past convictions. Supporters note that African-Americans are almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, even though rates of use are similar.

“It’s not enough to legalize marijuana at the federal level — we should also help those who have suffered due to its prohibition,” Mr. Booker said in a tweet.

Other 2020 candidates in the Senate quickly signed on as sponsors, including Kirsten Gillibrand, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris. READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/17/us/politics/marijuana-legalize-democrats.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

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.

The great Equifax mystery: 17 months later, the stolen data has never been found, and experts are starting to suspect a spy scheme

  • Equifax’s data breach on Sept. 7, 2017, stunned markets and American consumers, but where the data of those 143 million people disappeared to has remained a mystery.
  • CNBC talked to experts, intelligence officials, dark web data “hunters” and Equifax to discover where they expect the data has gone, and what it is being used for.
  • The prevailing theory today is that the data was stolen by a nation-state for spying purposes, not by criminals looking to cash in on stolen identities.

On Sept. 7, 2017, the world heard an alarming announcement from credit ratings giant Equifax: In a brazen cyberattack, somebody had stolen sensitive personal information from more than 140 million people, nearly half the population of the U.S.

It was the consumer data security scandal of the decade. The information included Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, information from credit disputes and other personal details. CEO Richard Smith stepped down under fire. Lawmakers changed credit freeze laws and instilled new regulatory oversight of credit ratings agencies.

Then, something unusual happened. The data disappeared. Completely. CNBC talked to eight experts, including data “hunters” who scour the dark web for stolen information, senior cybersecurity managers, top executives at financial institutions, senior intelligence officials who played a part in the investigation and consultants who helped support it. All of them agreed that a breach happened, and personal information from 143 million people was stolen.

But none of them knows where the data is now. It’s never appeared on any hundreds of underground websites selling stolen information. Security experts haven’t seen the data used in any of the ways they’d expect in a theft like this — not for impersonating victims, not for accessing other websites, nothing.

But as the investigations continue, a consensus is starting to emerge to explain why the data has disappeared from sight. Most experts familiar with the case now believe that the thieves were working for a foreign government and are using the information not for financial gain, but to try to identify and recruit spies.

One data hunter dives in

The missing Equifax data has been a 17-month-long obsession for Jeffrey, a cybersecurity analyst at one of the world’s largest banks. To him, it represents a sort of professional Lost City of Atlantis or Holy Grail.

Jeffrey is not the analyst’s real name. He asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak to the media. He also asked that his bank remain anonymous, because he’s one of such a narrow pool of a specific type of employee that even the name of his bank could be used to identify him.

Jeffrey is a “hunter” on the bank’s “hunt team,” and his job is searching for data on the dark web or darknet — a set of web sites that can only be accessed with special software that protects the user’s anonymity. The dark web can be used for many purposes, but most prominently serves as the internet’s underground black market, where criminals buy, sell and trade credit card data, personal information and criminal services.

Jeffrey trolls the dark web for stolen personal data that looks like it might be brand new, especially if it looks like it might belong to customers of the bank or its rivals. He is often one of the first to know that another company has been breached, and his team is often among the first to inform the victims that their systems have been breached.

So Jeffrey was surprised when he learned about the Equifax breach at the same time as everybody else, when the company announced it to the world.

Stolen consumer information usually goes up for sale immediately after a company is hacked, he explains. Criminals aim for speed so they can sell the data before a company’s tripwires ever detect it was stolen. The longer they wait, the more likely the victims and the institutions will make changes to render the data useless. This is especially true with credit card numbers, which can quickly be canceled once fraudulent charges start cropping up on them. Or when Social Security numbers — like those stolen in the Equifax breach — start getting flagged for fraud.

READ MORE: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/13/equifax-mystery-where-is-the-data.html

21 Savage Says He Didn’t Mind Barely Being Mentioned at the Grammys While In ICE Detainment

Last weekend, fans felt slighted on 21 Savage’s behalf when the Grammys came and went with barely a mention of the double nominee or his detainment by ICE officials over his immigration status. (Producer Ludwig Göransson was the only person to mention 21 Savage by name, and you might not have even spotted Post Malone’s “Free 21 Savage” shirt, as it was under his jacket.)

Last weekend, fans felt slighted on 21 Savage’s behalf when the Grammys came and went with barely a mention of the double nominee or his detainment by ICE officials over his immigration status. (Producer Ludwig Göransson was the only person to mention 21 Savage by name, and you might not have even spotted Post Malone’s “Free 21 Savage” shirt, as it was under his jacket.) Following his release on bond after nine days in custody, the British-born, Atlanta-raised musician says he honestly wasn’t bothered by the fact most of his peers didn’t offer any verbal support. “Nah, I was stressed about getting out,” he tells the New York Times in a new interview. “The Grammys is the Grammys, but when you in jail, the Grammys is nothing.”

“I don’t care what nobody say — everybody in that building who’s connected to this culture, I was on their mind in some type of way,” 21 Savage continues. “That’s all that mattered. They didn’t have to say it ’cause everybody knew it. It was in the air. All the people that was there, they said the words in other places and that matter just as much. All the big artists was vocal about the situation, so I was appreciative.”

Instead, the rapper, who says he became aware he lacked legal status as a teen, “probably like the age when you start to get your driver’s license,” after overstaying his visa, is focused on staying in the country. “My situation is important ’cause I represent poor black Americans and I represent poor immigrant Americans,” he says. “You gotta think about all the millions of people that ain’t 21 Savage that’s in 21 Savage shoes.” He is currently reportedly waiting for an expedited hearing. Oh, and despite how hard you all went, 21 Savage says he even liked your memes about how British he is. Or, at least, he acknowledges them. “Some of them was funny — I ain’t gonna lie,” he jokes. “I was appreciative of that.

READ MORE: https://www.vulture.com/2019/02/21-savage-didnt-mind-grammys-silence-while-detained-by-ice.html

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