US Judge Orders White House To Reinstate Reporter’s Pass

US President Donald Trump speaks to the media before leaving the White House in Washington, DC for Camp David in Maryland on August 30, 2019. MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

The White House was ordered Tuesday by a federal judge to reverse its suspension of a reporter’s press credentials.

Playboy reporter Brian Karem’s White House pass was temporarily revoked after he argued with President Donald Trump’s former aide Sebastian Gorka at a July Rose Garden event.

Karem’s “hard pass” — a long-term White House press pass — was suspended for 30 days in August by Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, who cited his lack of “professionalism” and “decorum.”

But US District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras determined the standards for press behavior had not been made clear before the event and granted a preliminary injunction restoring Karem’s pass.

“Grisham failed to provide fair notice of the fact that a hard pass could be suspended under these circumstances,” the judge wrote.

The press secretary had cited the three rules regarding press etiquette — published after CNN reporter Jim Acosta temporarily lost his hard pass in November after a testy exchange with Trump.

But Judge Contreras dismissed the rules as too vague.

He said that as White House events appear to vary greatly in character, professionalism alone was “too murky” to rely upon.

Grisham had not originally cited the Acosta rules in her letters to Karem, Contreras said, “which casts some doubt on whether she thought that (they) provided any meaningful notice.”

Karem lost his pass after arguing with Gorka at Trump’s Social Media Summit, which was open to the press, in July.

A video of the two trading insults quickly went viral.

Karem called the attendees “a group of people who are eager for demonic possession.”

Gorka responded by shouting, “You’re not a journalist! You’re a punk!”

Karem celebrated the decision Tuesday by tweeting, “God bless the Constitution, free speech, due process,” and also thanking his lawyers.

AFP

US Judge Dismisses Charge Against Harvey Weinstein

Harvey Weinstein (C) arrives at Manhattan Criminal Court for a hearing on October 11, 2018 in New York City. TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP

 

A New York judge on Thursday dismissed one charge against Harvey Weinstein, but left the disgraced Hollywood titan facing five other charges in connection with alleged sexual assault.

The 66-year-old father of five, out on a $1 million bail and forced to wear a GPS monitor, attended the latest court hearing and denies any non-consensual sexual relations.

“This is obviously a very positive development,” Weinstein’s defense lawyer, Ben Brafman, told reporters outside the court.

AFP

California Voters Remove US Rape Case Judge

A US judge who came under seething criticism for sentencing a Stanford University student to six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman has been ousted from office by voters in California.

Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky was recalled by a majority of voters in Santa Clara County, south of San Francisco, during primary elections held in the state on Tuesday.

Persky, who has served on the bench for 15 years, is the first California judge to be recalled since 1932.

He set off a storm of outrage in 2016 after he handed down what was perceived as a far too lenient sentence in the sexual assault trial of Stanford student Brock Turner.

Turner, who was 19 at the time, was arrested after two students discovered him lying on top of an unconscious 22-year-old woman near a dumpster.

He denied having assaulted the woman and said they had consensual sex after meeting at a fraternity party where there was heavy drinking.

A jury, however, rejected his defense and he was convicted of three felonies.

The case drew international attention after the victim — identified as “Emily Doe” — read an emotionally charged 12-page letter at the sentencing, telling Turner he had taken away “my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today.”

The letter, which went viral, threw the spotlight on the problem of rape and sexual assault on US college campuses and galvanized women’s rights groups.

The case also sparked a national debate about judicial independence.

“This is a sad day for the California judiciary,” LaDoris Cordell, a former Santa Clara County judge who was active in the campaign against the recall, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

The voters’ message to judges, she added, was that “if they don’t go along with popular opinion… they can lose their job.”

However, supporters of the recall said Persky’s ouster was a clear message that perpetrators of such crimes would no longer get impunity.

“We’re in the middle of a historic moment, when women across all sectors of society are standing up and saying, ‘enough is enough’,” Michele Dauber, a Stanford law professor who led the campaign for Persky’s recall, told local media.

“And I think there is a sort of national reckoning with the fact that women aren’t going to experience equality as long as we’re subject to high rates of sexual violence and sexual harassment.”

AFP

Judge Orders Jay-Z To Testify In Rocawear Brand Investigation

In this file photo taken on September 15, 2017, JAY-Z performs onstage during the Meadows Music And Arts Festival – Day 1 at Citi Field in New York City. PHOTO: Nicholas Hunt / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

 

A US judge has ordered hip-hop megastar Jay-Z to testify in an investigation into the sale of his Rocawear apparel brand after he repeatedly refused to show up for questioning.

US market regulators are investigating possible securities law violations by the Iconix Brand Group, which markets apparel brands including Joe Boxer and London Fog.

Iconix paid Jay-Z more than $200 million for Rocawear assets. But in March 2016, the company announced a $169 million write-down of Rocawear, followed by a $34 million write-down this March, the Securities and Exchange Commission said.

Paul Gardephe, a federal judge in Manhattan, signed a written order requiring Jay-Z, real name Shawn Carter, to appear for testimony on May 15 at 9:00 am at a mutually agreed location.

“The court expects the parties to proceed in good faith, and that all reasonable efforts will be made to complete respondent’s testimony in a single day,” Gardephe said in the written order, dated Tuesday.

The SEC asked a federal judge to intervene last week, saying the repeat Grammy winner should be compelled to testify in the investigation after he ignored subpoenas in November and again in February after he hired new lawyers.

In a statement issued through Jay-Z’s attorneys last week, a representative said the star “had no role” in Iconix’s actions as a public company, and was “a private citizen who should not be involved in this matter.”

The SEC says it is seeking Jay-Z’s testimony about his joint ventures with Iconix among other matters. There is no indication he has violated securities laws.

AFP

U.S. Sentences Nephews Of Venezuelan First Lady To 18 Years

A US judge on Thursday sentenced two nephews of Venezuela’s first lady to 18 years in prison for drug trafficking, damning them as “not the most astute drug traffickers that ever existed.”

Efrain Antonio Campo Flores, 31, and Francisco Flores de Freitas, 32, were convicted by a New York jury last year after being arrested in a US sting operation Haiti in 2015.

District Judge Paul Crotty imposed the 18-year jail term in a Manhattan federal court on Thursday and fined each cousin $50,000.

US government prosecutors had requested a 30-year sentence, arguing that they believed they could operate with impunity as members of the most powerful family in Venezuela.

Defense lawyers sought the minimum 10-year penalty and the two cousins apologized in court, Flores de Freitas breaking down into tears at the mention of his nine-year-old son and asking the judge for a chance to repair his mistakes.

“If they were not from Venezuela but from the Dominican Republic or the Bronx this would be a 10-year case,” said defense attorney David Rody.

But “they’re not the (Venezuelan) president and they should not bear the brunt of the government’s ire towards Venezuela,” he added.

The judge ruled that the two defendants seemed “more concerned about the impact on the family than on violating the law in the United States.”

He noted that “opportunities for visitation from Venezuela will be very limited” given US travel restrictions imposed on many Venezuelans with ties to President Nicolas Maduro’s government.

Their arrest and trial fanned tensions in already fraught US-Venezuelan relations, with Washington at loggerheads with Maduro and the South American oil giant mired in economic crisis.

The cousins, who are sons of brothers of First Lady Cilia Flores, were convicted of plotting to smuggle 800 kilos (1,760 pounds) of cocaine into the United States, as well as manufacturing and distribution with the intent to import.

The Venezuelan government says they were framed.

Lawyers for both defendants argued that they fell into a trap set by the US Drug Enforcement Administration in a sting operation that offered $20 million for the drugs.

US prosecutors say the men believed they were above the law as relatives of Maduro. Their aunt, Cilia Flores, was speaker of the National Assembly from 2006 to 2011.

AFP

Second US Judge Orders Freeze On Trump Travel Ban

Donald Trump

A second US judge ordered a freeze on President Donald Trump’s newest travel ban order Wednesday, saying it was essentially targeted at Muslims in violation of the US Constitution.

Maryland federal judge Theodore Chuang said the ban of travelers from six majority-Muslim countries and North Korea, and on many officials from Venezuela, essentially had not changed from the first two versions, which were shot down in lower courts as discriminating against a single religion.

He pointed out, as in earlier rulings, that Trump had repeatedly promised a ban on Muslims coming into the country during last year’s presidential election.

Chuang was the second judge this week to order a block on the open-ended ban, issued in a White House executive order in September and which was to come in effect on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Hawaii federal district judge Derrick Watson also objected to the ban, saying it illegally discriminated against the entire populations of six countries — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — and would not, as it claimed, add to US national security.

Trump has battled with the courts since the first version of the ban, and in June finally gained Supreme Court approval to implement an amended second version for 90 days, which ended last month.

On Tuesday the White House said it would fight the newest ban by Watson, pointing to yet another likely fight in the Supreme Court.

“We are therefore confident that the judiciary will ultimately uphold the president’s lawful and necessary action and swiftly restore its vital protections for the safety of the American people,” the White House said.