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Scramble to See as Many Patients as Possible at Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Mississippi Before Closing its Doors

Derenda Hancock, co-director of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization clinic patient escorts, better known as the Pink House defenders, left, hugs a tearful abortion rights supporter Sonnie Bane, outside the Jackson Women’s Health Organization clinic in Jackson, Miss., Wednesday, July 6, 2022. The clinic is the only facility that performs abortions in the state. However, on Tuesday, a chancery judge rejected a request by the clinic to temporarily block a state law banning most abortions. Without other developments in the Mississippi lawsuit, the clinic will close at the end of business Wednesday and the state law will take effect Thursday. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Mississippi’s only abortion clinic has been buzzing with activity in the chaotic days since the U.S. Supreme Court upended abortion rights nationwide — a case that originated in this conservative Deep South state, with this bright-pink medical facility that is closing its doors Wednesday.

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Abortion Bans on Hold In Louisiana

Meg Montgomery holds a sign during an abortion-rights rally, Saturday, June 25, 2022, in Quincy, Mass., a day after the Supreme Court ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years in a decision by its conservative majority to overturn Roe v. Wade. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

The Louisiana Supreme Court rejected the state attorney general’s request to allow immediate enforcement of state laws against most abortions in a 4-to-2 ruling late Wednesday.

 

The majority said only that the court declined to get involved “at this preliminary stage.”

Louisiana’s new laws included so-called triggers to make them take effect as soon as the U.S. Supreme Court reversed abortion rights. But a state judge in New Orleans blocked enforcement until he could hear a lawsuit claiming the law is unclear about medical exceptions and when the ban takes effect.

“We look forward to the preliminary injunction hearing on Friday” in district court, said Joanna Wright, an attorney for the north Louisiana abortion clinic that filed the suit, along with others.

Attorney General Jeff Landry tweeted, “Louisiana Supreme Court is delaying the inevitable. Our Legislature fulfilled their constitutional duties, and now the Judiciary must. It is disappointing that time is not immediate.”

Landry’s request to lift the hold is premature, Justice Jefferson Hughes III, one of the majority, wrote in a concurring opinion. He said the case should go through district and appellate courts before coming to the state’s high court.

Justices William Crain and Jay McCallum disagreed with Hughes and Chief Justice John Weimer stepped aside from the case.

McCallum wrote that plaintiffs hadn’t shown that enforcing the laws before the case could be heard would cause “immediate irreparable injury,” so the hold should be dissolved.

Crain wrote that “these circumstances are at least as compelling as others” where the state’s highest court has stepped in.

“While whether these doctors will suffer irreparable harm by being prohibited from performing abortions is debatable, terminating alleged life during the period of the temporary restraining order is irreparable,” he wrote.

He also said the justices should step in now to analyze whether the laws were unconstitutionally vague.

Landry’s July 1 filing contended that abortion rights advocates who filed the suit “are willfully misreading clear terms in the law in an attempt to manufacture arguments that the statutes are unconstitutionally vague.”

Abortion rights supporters responded that the district court or a state appeal court needed to fully consider and rule before the case goes to the Louisiana Supreme Court.

Continue reading “Abortion Bans on Hold In Louisiana”

Where Abortion Remains Legal, Those States Move to Protect Out-of State Patients From Being Prosecuted by Home State

North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper signs an executive order designed to protect abortion rights in the state at the Executive Mansion in Raleigh, N.C. on Wednesday, July 6, 2022. The order in part prevents the extradition of a woman who receives an abortion in North Carolina but may live in another state where the procedure is barred. (AP Photo/Gary D. Robertson).

Democratic governors in states where abortion will remain legal are looking for ways to protect any patients who travel there for the procedure — along with the providers who help them — from being prosecuted by their home states.

 

The Democratic governors of Colorado and North Carolina on Wednesday issued executive orders to protect abortion providers and patients from extradition to states that have banned the practice.

Abortions are legal in North Carolina until fetal viability or in certain medical emergencies, making the state an outlier in the Southeast.

“This order will help protect North Carolina doctors and nurses and their patients from cruel right-wing criminal laws passed by other states,” Gov. Roy Cooper said in announcing the order.

The governors of Rhode Island and Maine also signed executive orders late Tuesday, stating that they will not cooperate with other states’ investigations into people who seek abortions or health care providers that perform them.

Rhode Island Democratic Gov. Dan McKee said women should be trusted with their own health care decisions, and Democratic Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos said Rhode Island must do all it can to protect access to reproductive health care as “other states attack the fundamental right to choose.”

Maine Democratic Gov. Janet Mills said she will “stand in the way of any effort to undermine, rollback, or outright eliminate the right to safe and legal abortion in Maine.”

Their offices confirmed Wednesday that they are preemptive, protective moves, and that neither state has received a request to investigate, prosecute or extradite a provider or patient.

Their attempts to protect abortion rights come as tighter restrictions and bans are going into effect in conservative states after last month’s Dobbs v. Jackson ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturned the nearly half-century-old holding from Roe v. Wade that found that the right to abortion was protected by the U.S. Constitution. The issue reverts to the states, many of which have taken steps to curtail or ban abortions.

Several states have put new restrictions already in place since the Supreme Court ruling and more are pressing to do so. In Louisiana on Wednesday, the state Supreme Court rejected the attorney general’s request to allow immediate enforcement of laws against most abortions saying it was declining to get involved “at this preliminary stage.” Enforcement was blocked by another court last week. Attorney General Jeff Landry tweeted that Wednesday’s decision “is delaying the inevitable. Our Legislature fulfilled their constitutional duties, and now the Judiciary must. It is disappointing that time is not immediate.”

The specific fears of Democratic officials are rooted in a Texas law adopted last year to ban abortions after fetal cardiac activity can be detected. The law lets any person other than a government official or employee sue anyone who performs an abortion or “knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets” obtaining one.

The person filing the claim would be entitled to $10,000 for every abortion the subject was involved with — plus legal costs.

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear challenges to the Texas law so far.

Bernadette Meyler, a professor at Stanford Law School, said it’s not clear whether judgments against out-of-state abortion providers would hold up in courts, especially if they are not advertising their services in states with bans.

But she also said it’s not clear that the liberal states are on firm legal ground to protect their residents from any out-of-state litigation.

“Probably, they assume that some of the laws that they’re passing won’t be upheld or may not be upheld, and they’re trying to come up with as much as possible in order to resist the effects of the Dobbs decision,” Meyler said.

The resistance to cooperating with abortion-related investigations could hold up, though, she said. Places that declared themselves “sanctuary cities” and refused to cooperate with federal immigration investigations during former President Donald Trump’s presidency were able to carry out similar policies.

In Raleigh, North Carolina, Planned Parenthood President Alexis McGill Johnson said her group and other advocates for abortion access are pushing for the protections. “Everywhere we can push the imagination of what a free and equal world looks like,” she said, “we are working with those governors.”

Connecticut was the first state to pass a law to protect abortion providers, patients and others from legal action taken by other states. Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont signed it in May, before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

“In accordance with Connecticut law, we will resist any attempt by another state to criminalize or intrude on a woman’s private and lawful healthcare decisions,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said in a statement last week.

The Democratic governors of Minnesota, New Mexico, NevadaCalifornia and Washington and the moderate Republican governor in liberal Massachusetts all signed executive orders within days of the ruling to prohibit cooperation with other states that might interfere with abortion access.

“Residents seeking access will be protected, providers will be protected, and abortion is and will continue to be legal, safe and accessible, period,” said New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who has described the order as a preventative measure.

One of the largest abortion providers in Texas announced Wednesday that it’s planning to move its operations to bordering New Mexico. Whole Woman’s Health announced Wednesday that it is looking to establish a new clinic in a New Mexico city near the state line to provide first- and second-trimester abortions.

The Democratic-controlled Massachusetts House of Representatives approved a bill that aims to protect abortion providers and people seeking abortions from actions taken by other states. Delaware’s Democratic governor signed legislation expanding abortion access, with various legal protections for abortion providers and patients, including out-of-state residents receiving abortions in Delaware.

New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed two bills Friday that moved swiftly in the Democratic-led Legislature following the ruling. The new laws aim to protect the right of those from outside the state to get abortion services within its borders and bar extradition of people involved in reproductive health care services should they face charges in another state.

Murphy said he was “overwhelmingly angry” that he had to sign the bills, but equally as proud to do so.

“These laws will make New Jersey a beacon of freedom for every American woman,” he said during a signing ceremony in Jersey City, not far from the Statue of Liberty.

In Washington state, the governor prohibited the state patrol from cooperating with out-of-state abortion investigations or prosecutions, but he noted that he didn’t have jurisdiction over local law enforcement agencies. The executive in the county surrounding Seattle said Tuesday that its sheriff’s office and other executive branch departments will not cooperate with out-of-state prosecutions of abortion providers or patients.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s office has said the state will refuse non-fugitive extradition for criminal prosecutions around abortion, but said an executive order is not needed.

Some progressive prosecutors around the U.S. have already declared that they won’t enforce some of the most restrictive, punitive anti-abortion laws. Police in Nashville on Wednesday released a statement saying they “are not abortion police” a day after the city council passed a resolution calling on the department to make abortion investigations a low priority.

City council members in two other liberal cities in conservative states — New Orleans and Austin, Texas — have made called for similar resolutions.

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Source: Associated Press, JENNIFER McDERMOTT, GEOFF MULVIHILL and HANNAH SCHOENBAUM

Continue reading “Where Abortion Remains Legal, Those States Move to Protect Out-of State Patients From Being Prosecuted by Home State”

Man Found Guilty of Killing Rapper Nipsey Hussle

Eric Holder Jr., who is accused of killing rapper Nipsey Hussle, enters a courtroom to hear the verdicts in his murder trial at Los Angeles Superior Court in Los Angeles, Wednesday, July 6, 2022. Jurors have found the 32-year-old man guilty of first-degree murder for the 2019 fatal shooting of the rapper. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, Pool)

 A 32-year-old man who grew up on the same streets in the same gang as Nipsey Hussle was found guilty Wednesday of first-degree murder in the 2019 shooting of the Grammy-winning rapper, who rose above his circumstances to become an inspiration to the neighborhood where he was eventually gunned down.

 

The Los Angeles County jury also found Eric R. Holder Jr. guilty of two counts of attempted voluntary manslaughter for gunfire that hit other men at the scene. Prosecutors had sought two counts of attempted murder. Holder also was found guilty of two counts of assault with a firearm on the same men.

Holder, wearing a blue suit and face mask, stood up in the small court room next to his lawyer as the verdict was read. He had no visible reaction. His lawyer, Deputy Public Defender Aaron Jansen, conceded during the trial that Holder shot Hussle, 33, whose legal name is Ermias Asghedom, but had sought a lesser verdict of voluntary manslaughter.

Jansen said in an email that he was deeply disappointed in the first-degree murder verdict.

“It was always going to be tough given the high profile circumstances surrounding the case,” Jansen said.

He added that he and Holder were grateful that the jury agreed that the attempted murder counts were overcharged. They plan to appeal the murder conviction, he said.

A jury of nine women and three men deliberated for about six hours over two days before reaching the verdict. Most of their deliberations took place Friday, and they promptly came to their unanimous decision Wednesday, briefly reconvening after a four-day break. A pair of typos on the verdict form discovered as the results were read forced jurors to briefly return to deliberations before the outcome could be made official, but they had no bearing on the outcome.

“We are both proud and I am a little relieved that the verdict came in a complete, absolute agreement with the charges that Eric Holder murdered Ermias Asghedom in cold blood,” Deputy District Attorney John McKinney said outside the courtroom. “We hope that today is a day in which the Asghedom family and the friends and fans of Nipsey Hussle around the world will find some measure of closure.”

No relatives of Hussle were in the room when the verdict was read, nor did any attend the trial.

The judge has a wide range of options when he sentences Holder on Sept. 15. The first-degree murder charge alone carries a sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

“Obviously nothing that happened here today can heal the wound, nothing that happened here today can restore Mr. Asghedom to this world, but we hope that there is some resounding peace in the fact that his killer will be in prison likely for the rest of his life,” McKinney said.

The verdict brings an end to a legal saga that has lasted more than three years and a trial that was often delayed because of the pandemic.

Hussle and Holder had known each other for years growing up as members of the Rollin’ 60s in South Los Angeles when a chance meeting outside the clothing store the rapper opened in his neighborhood led to the shooting, and his death.

The evidence against Holder was overwhelming, from eyewitnesses to surveillance cameras from local businesses that captured his arrival, the shooting and his departure.

The shooting followed a conversation the two men had about rumors that Holder had been acting as an informant for authorities. Jansen argued that being publicly accused of being a “snitch” by a person as prominent as Hussle brought on a “heat of passion” in Holder that made him not guilty of first-degree murder.

Hussle’s close friend Herman “Cowboy” Douglas, who was standing next to him when he was shot and testified at the trial, said the conversation he heard does not explain the killing for him.

“It feels good to get some closure, but I still need to know why,” Douglas said after the verdict.

After years of grinding that won him underground acclaim — his nickname was both a play on the name of comedian Nipsey Russell and a nod to the hustle the future hip-hop star showed in making music and selling CDs — Hussle had just released his major-label debut album and earned his first Grammy nomination when he was killed.

He was a widely beloved figure in Los Angeles, especially in the South LA area where he grew up and remained after gaining fame, buying property and opening businesses.

A year after his death, Hussle was mourned at a memorial at the arena then known as Staples Center, and celebrated in a performance at the Grammy Awards that included DJ Khaled and John Legend.

It was more than two years after that when the man who shot him would go on trial.

“Today was really about Nipsey Hussle and the legacy that he leaves behind,” McKinney said Wednesday. “This verdict and the story of his life will be talked about for sure at Crenshaw and Slauson, but the meaning of it will carry far beyond those streets.”

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Continue reading “Man Found Guilty of Killing Rapper Nipsey Hussle”

Micki Minaj’s Husband Kenneth Petty Has Been Sentenced

FILE – In this Monday, May 6, 2019, file photo, Nicki Minaj attends The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute benefit gala in New York. Minaj’s mother has filed a $150 million lawsuit against the man who is accused of killing the rapper’s father in a hit-and-run crash in February 2021. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

Micki Minaj’s husband Kenneth Petty has been sentenced for failing to register as a sex offender in the state of California. He has been placed on house arrest or in-home detention for one year. He was also ordered to pay a $55,000 fine. He also was put on three years probation.

Continue reading “Micki Minaj’s Husband Kenneth Petty Has Been Sentenced”

Violence Soars Since Slaying of Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise 

FILE – Barbecue, the leader of the “G9 and Family” gang, stands next to garbage to call attention to the conditions people live in as he leads a march against kidnapping through La Saline neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday, Oct. 22, 2021. The group said they were also protesting poverty and for justice in the slaying of President Jovenel Moise. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

A year has passed since President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated at his private home where an elite security team was supposed to protect him. Not only have authorities failed to identify and arrest all those who masterminded and financed the killing, but Haiti has gone into a freefall as violence soars and the economy tumbles.

 

Many have fled Haiti in the past year, making potentially deadly voyages aboard rickety boats filled with hundreds of Haitians that have repeatedly turned up on the shores of nearby nations. They chose to face that risk rather than go hungry and fear for their lives, as do many people who have stayed behind.

“Every day is a fight. It’s a fight to stay alive. It’s a fight to eat. It’s a fight to survive,” said Hector Duval, a plumber who now drives a motorcycle taxi to make more money since Haitians are afraid to board slow-moving buses and chance being killed by warring gangs.

Killings have soared and thousands of families have been driven from their homes by gangs battling over territory ever since Moïse was shot to death shot last July 7 at his home near the capital, Port-au-Prince.

An overwhelmed government is struggling to crack down on the gangs and reduce a spike in kidnappings linked to them. At the same time, attempts to form a coalition government have faltered in recent weeks and efforts to hold general elections have stalled, leaving many wondering where Haiti is headed.

Prime Minister Ariel Henry has promised to create a new provisional electoral council, which is responsible for organizing general elections, but that hasn’t happened. There hasn’t been a Parliament because the government failed to organize elections in 2019, and Moïse dismissed most lawmakers in early 2020 and ruled by decree for more than a year before he was killed.

Meanwhile, hopes for a trial for those arrested in the killing of the president have been derailed by the resignation of four judges appointed to oversee the investigation, with some saying they feared for their lives.

Henry himself has recognized the uncertainty hovering over the case. Last month, he tweeted: “I have the unpleasant feeling that those who conceived and financed this macabre plan are still running the streets and are still escaping our judicial system.”

More than 40 people have been arrested in Haiti, including high-ranking police officers and a group of former Colombian soldiers. At least two of three suspects detained outside Haiti were extradited to the U.S., where they face charges including conspiring to commit murder or kidnapping outside the United States.

Many of the soldiers’ relatives in Colombia are demanding a proper judicial process and an improvement in dire prison conditions.

“A lot of time there is no food, no potable water,” Nataly Andrade, wife of retired Col. Giovanny Guerrero, told The Associated Press. She visited him in prison in May and was alarmed at how much weight he had lost. In recent weeks, at least eight inmates in southern Haiti, not connected to the Moïse case, have died from heat and malnutrition.

The United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti noted that the investigation seems to have stalled and called on authorities to bring those responsible to justice as soon as possible.

“Since this crime was committed, growing insecurity, linked to the proliferation of acts of violence committed by armed gangs, has terrorized Haitian citizens and monopolized public debate in a context where the challenges facing the country are increasing day by day,” it said.

Moïse’s widow, Martine, continues to demand justice. She issued a statement this month saying she would not attend any of Thursday’s commemorations organized by the Haitian state, “whose head of government is the subject of serious suspicions of (involvement in) the assassination of the President of the Republic.”

Henry has brushed away those allegations, firing a chief prosecutor last year who asked a judge to charge the prime minister in the killing and bar him from leaving the country. The prosecutor had noted that Henry spoke twice with a key suspect hours after the killing.

Henry’s office has said the prime minister is unable to identify everyone who called him that day or determine the nature of the conversations since he couldn’t take all the calls. The suspect remains at large.

Henry is urging Haitians to focus on turning around their country.

“It is imperative that Haitians work together to reconcile segments of our society that are too divided,” he said. “This is a must if we want to restore security, deal with armed gangs and their sponsors, create a climate conducive to the holding of elections with a high turnout, in order to rebuild our democratic institutions.”

But a growing number of Haitians blame Henry for the growing insecurity.

The United Nations says that almost seven kidnappings are reported a day and that in May alone more than 200 killings and 198 abductions were reported in the country of more than 11 million people. Those kidnappings included two busloads of children and three U.N. employees and their dependents. In addition, one gang recently seized control of part of Haiti’s Court of First Instance, looting and burning case files and evidence.

“Even though we have a prime minister, no one is governing the country right now,” Ralf Jean-Pierre, a businessman from Les Cayes who lives in Port-au-Prince, said as he scanned the street while talking, fearful he might be kidnapped at any moment.

He said life for him and his family has become extremely difficult because he can’t ferry goods such as bananas, yams and tomatoes that grow in southern Haiti to the capital since warring gangs have taken over the main road connecting the two regions.

The lack of access also means that not enough aid is reaching those affected by a magnitude 7.2 earthquake that struck the south almost a year ago, killing more than 2,200 people and destroying or damaging hundreds of thousands of homes and other buildings.

Thousand have fled Haiti. The largest single incident came in late May, when 842 Haitians were stranded on the Cuban coast after their captain abandoned the boat. Hundreds of others have landed in Florida, while dozens have died at sea in recent months.

Claudia Julmiste, a nursing student, said she is trying to make ends meet by reselling underwear, bras and wigs that she buys in the neighboring Dominican Republic, although Haiti’s double-digit inflation has hit her and many others hard.

“I’m trying to make the best of it here,” she said. “I don’t want to be one of those kids getting on a boat at sea to die, but Haiti is not offering anything.”

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Continue reading “Violence Soars Since Slaying of Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise “

Could Illinois Laws Have Prevented Parade Shooting Massacre?

Yesenia Hernandez, granddaughter to Nicolas Toledo, who was killed during Monday’s Highland Park., Ill., Fourth of July parade, writes on a memorial for Toledo along with the six others who lost their lives in the mass shooting, Wednesday, July 6, 2022, in Highland Park. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Days after a rooftop gunman killed seven people at a parade, attention has turned to how the assailant obtained multiple guns and whether the laws on Illinois books could have prevented the Independence Day massacre.

 

Illinois gun laws are generally praised by gun-control advocates as tougher than in most states. But they did not stop Robert E. Crimo III from carrying out the attack in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park.

One focus is on the state’s so-called red-flag law, which is intended to temporarily take away guns from people with potentially violent behavior. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have such laws.

Here’s a look at Illinois’ red-flag and gun-licensing laws, and whether they could have been applied to Crimo:

WHAT IS ILLINOIS’ RED-FLAG LAW?

The law, which took effect on Jan. 1, 2019, authorizes judges to order the temporary removal of firearms from people deemed a danger to themselves or others by a judge, according to an explanation of the law by the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, a state agency.

The court order, called a firearm restraining order, also bars them from buying guns.

The law is separate from domestic violence restraining orders and laws that mandate reporting of certain behavior by some professional, such as teachers.

Illinois’ red-flag law, as in many states, is a civil matter. It is meant to be invoked within hours or days of someone making threats or displaying threatening behavior. It’s not meant to be invoked as a result of a clear crime.

DID CRIMO EVER DISPLAY THE KIND OF BEHAVIOR MEANT TO ACTIVATE THE LAW?

It appears that he did. But it isn’t clear just who knew about it and when, and whether law enforcement agencies took the behavior seriously enough.

Less than three years ago, police went to Crimo’s home following a call from a family member who said he was threatening “to kill everyone” there, according to Christopher Covelli, a spokesman for the Lake County Major Crime Task Force.

Police confiscated 16 knives, a dagger and a sword, but said there was no sign he had any guns at the time, in September 2019. Earlier, in April 2019, police also responded to a reported suicide attempt by Crimo, Covelli said.

DOES THAT MEAN CRIMO BOUGHT THE GUN LEGALLY?

Yes. He legally purchased the Smith and Wesson M&P 15 semi-automatic rifle in Illinois within the past year.

Illinois state police, who issue gun owners’ licenses, said in a statement that the then-19-year-old Crimo applied for a license in December 2019. Applicants under 21 require a parent or legal guardian to sponsor the application. His father sponsored his.

Sponsors must sign an affidavit that says the sponsor “shall be liable for any damages resulting from the minor applicant’s use of firearms or firearm ammunition.” The affidavit includes no specifics on liability if the sponsor’s child uses a gun to commit a crime. It’s also not clear if that liability extends beyond when the child turns 21, as Crimo did a year before the shooting.

State Police Director Brendan Kelly told reporters Wednesday that the father faces potential civil liability, and there is an ongoing investigation into criminal culpability. He said the matter would ultimately be decided in court.

A Crimo family attorney, Steve Greenberg, told the Chicago Tribune that the father was not aware of the threats when he helped his son with the application because his son lived with another relative at the time.

Asked if the suspect’s parents might face any charges as a consequence of what their son did, Greenberg told The Associated Press that “there is zero chance they will be charged with anything criminal.” He added: “They didn’t do anything wrong.”

DID HIGHLAND PARK POLICE PASS INFORMATION ABOUT THE THREATS TO STATE POLICE?

They did. State police confirmed that they got a warning from Highland Park police months before Crimo applied for his license. It’s not clear if the state agency went through Highland Park’s report before granting the license.

A statement from state police said only that “there was insufficient basis to establish a clear and present danger” to deny the application.

Under Illinois law, if Crimo had a felony conviction or had been committed for major mental health problems, he likely would not have gotten the license. He had no such record.

IS THE LAW INVOKED OFTEN?

It appears to be used infrequently, though related records are sometimes sealed so it’s difficult to get a full picture. Illinois legislation in 2021 included provisions to increase awareness of the state’s red-flag laws and how to use them.

The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority cites tracking done by one advocacy group, Speak for Safety Illinois, that reports 34 firearm restraining orders were filed in 2019 and 19 in 2020. Most were granted.

One suburban Chicago county, DuPage County, accounted for 12 of the filings in each year, it said. And no other county, including Lake County, which includes Highland Park, filed more than two in those years.

The vast majority of filings were by law enforcement, with family members accounting for just five filings in 2019.

WHO CAN REQUEST AN ORDER AND HOW IS A DECISION MADE?

A relative, roommate or law enforcement officer can make the request by filing an application with a local circuit court. In some cases, others can seek to initiate the process by contacting police.

Red-flag laws in some states permit doctors, teachers and colleagues to file requests, while others limit filings solely to law enforcement.

In Illinois, the burden of proving to a judge that someone is a significant threat falls on those who file the request. They can draw on multiple sources, including witness statements about violent behavior, drug abuse, police records or any threatening social media posts and emails.

If a judge sides with the petitioner, the court issues a firearm restraining order, which allows law enforcement to immediately seize any guns from the person deemed a threat and bars them from purchasing guns and ammunition.

If they have one, they also must turn in their firearm owner’s identification card.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER AN ORDER IS ISSUED?

An emergency order can been issued the same day and remains in effect for up to 14 days. The judge can rule on it without the presence of the subject of the request.

If the emergency order is issued, it is followed by a full hearing after which a judge will decide if a longer, six-month order is warranted. The standard of proof is higher at such a hearing. Subjects of a hearing can argue before a judge why an order isn’t called for.

If the six-month order is issued, it cannot be easily extended. If the person who filed the initial request believes the subject of the order still poses a danger, another hearing with the same levels of proof must be held again.

DO RED-FLAG LAWS PREVENT VIOLENCE?

According to the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, there’s clear evidence that firearm restraining orders help prevent some suicides. It’s less clear that they prevent deadly acts of gun violence, like mass shootings. The agency says the causes of such attacks are often too complex to draw clear links.

Continue reading “Could Illinois Laws Have Prevented Parade Shooting Massacre?”

“But Thems the Break”: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to Resign

 

FILE – Britain Conservative Party MP, Boris Johnson, left, speaks to the media to launch his campaign as a candidate to be the Mayor of London, outside City Hall in central London, Monday, July 16, 2007. British media say Prime Minister Boris Johnson has agreed to resign on Thursday, July 7 2022, ending an unprecedented political crisis over his future. (AP Photo/Sang Tan, File)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed to resign Thursday after days of defections crippled the controversial leader and left him unable to govern.

Continue reading ““But Thems the Break”: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to Resign”

First Running of Bulls and Steers in Pamplona, Spain, Since 2019; Several Falls and Knocks But No One Gored

People run through the streets with fighting bulls and steers during the first day of the running of the bulls at the San Fermin Festival in Pamplona, northern Spain, Thursday, July 7, 2022. Revellers from around the world flock to Pamplona every year for nine days of uninterrupted partying in Pamplona’s famed running of the bulls festival which was suspended for the past two years because of the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)

The first bull run in three years took place Thursday at the San Fermín festival in the Spanish city of Pamplona. No one was gored, but several runners took knocks and hard falls as tens of thousands people reveled in the return of one of Europe’s most famous traditional events.

 

Six bulls guided by six tame oxen charged through Pamplona’s streets for around two minutes and 35 seconds without provoking too much carnage among the thousands of observers and participants cramming the course.

Several runners were stomped, trampled or shoved to the cobblestone pavement. A animal’s horn smacked at least two men in the head, but neither suffered a skewering.

The Pamplona hospital said six people were brought in for treatment. They included a 30-year-old American man who fractured his left arm and a 16-year-old Spanish girl who lost part of a finger in the bullring, where a pile-up of runners occurred at the entrance. Four Spanish men between the ages of 19 and 45 also were injured.

Ryan Ward, an American tourist from San Diego, California, said the risk of running with the bulls was well worth the rush.

“I feel like I need to cry. It’s just so many emotions built up in me, running with ‘mis amigos’ (my friends). I don’t know where they are, I lost everyone,” he said after finishing the bull run unscathed.

“It felt like two seconds, it was probably like a minute when I actually had the bulls running by me, but it felt so quick, like a blink and it was gone,” Ward continued. “It’s amazing, incredible, one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.”

Thursday’s early morning bull run was the first of eight scheduled. The rest of day usually includes massive drinking, eating and attending cultural events.

Eight people were gored during the 2019 festival, the last held before the coronavirus pandemic. Sixteen people have died in bull runs since 1910, most recently in 2009.

The bulls that run each morning are killed in the afternoon by professional bullfighters. Animal rights activists have campaigned against the slaughter of the animals, but bullfights are still popular among segments of Spanish society and an integral part of the San Fermín festival.

The incredibly popular Pamplona festivities were canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic.

Spain’s strong vaccination program has allowed life to return to more or less normal, but a recent uptick in cases led Pamplona authorities to recommend using face masks when necessary. That said, masks were a very rare sight among the throngs of people packing the city’s square for the official kickoff of the party on Wednesday or during the first bull run.

Thousands of men, and some women, participate in the “encierros,” or bull runs, trying to avoid the massive bulls and oxen that thunder along the narrow, twisting cobblestone streets of Pamplona’s old quarter.

The course of 875 meters (956 yards) is sprayed with a substance to help prevent the bulls from slipping on the tight corners. The run usually is over within three heart-stopping minutes.

Expert bull runners, mostly locals, try to sprint at full steam just in the front of the bull horns before peeling off at the last second. The inexperienced, a group that includes most foreigners, do well enough to scramble out of the way, often ending up in piles of fellow runners.

Almost everyone in Pamplona this week wears the traditional white shirt and pants with red sash and neckerchief for the festival.

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Continue reading “First Running of Bulls and Steers in Pamplona, Spain, Since 2019; Several Falls and Knocks But No One Gored”

Open Lesbian Brittney Griner’s Moscow Trial Continues Despite Call on US to Seek Deal 

FILE – Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner during the first half of Game 2 of basketball’s WNBA Finals against the Chicago Sky, Oct. 13, 2021, in Phoenix. Jailed American basketball star Brittney Griner returns to a Russian court Thursday July 7, 2022, as calls increase for Washington to do more to secure her release. Griner was detained in February at a Moscow airport after vape canisters with cannabis oil allegedly were found in her luggage. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri, File)

Jailed American basketball star Brittney Griner returns to a Russian court Thursday amid a growing chorus of calls for Washington to do more to secure her release nearly five months after she was arrested on drug charges.

 

Griner was detained in February at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport after vape canisters with cannabis oil allegedly were found in her luggage. She faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of large-scale transportation of drugs.

The trial of the Phoenix Mercury star and two-time Olympic gold medalist began last week but the second session was adjourned because two scheduled witnesses did not appear. Such delays are not uncommon in Russian courts and her detention has been authorized through Dec. 20, suggesting the proceedings could last months.

It was unclear if Griner would testify Thursday.

Although Griner’s supporters initially kept a low profile, calls for the United States to take action spiked after the trial’s first day.

The State Department has designated her as wrongfully detained, moving her case under the supervision of its special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, effectively the government’s chief hostage negotiator.

However, Washington hasn’t made public its strategy in the case and the U.S. may have little leverage with Moscow because of strong animosity due to Russia’s military actions in Ukraine. The White House said President Joe Biden called Griner’s wife on Wednesday to assure her that he’s doing all he can to obtain the athlete’s release, as soon as possible. They spoke after Biden read a letter from Griner in which she said she feared she’d never return home.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, one of America’s most prominent Black activists, this week called for Biden to arrange a prayer meeting with Griner, saying, “Four months is too long for this to have gone on, and I hope the President acts on her pleas to come home.”

An organization called Win With Black Women sent Biden a letter saying Secretary of State Antony Blinken “has called Cherelle Griner, Brittney’s wife, assuring her and stating publicly that Brittney’s safe return was a matter of personal priority; however, we are concerned that the rhetoric does not appear to align with the actions taken to date. We urge you to make a deal to get Brittney back home swiftly.”

Russian news media have repeatedly speculated that Griner could be swapped for Russian arms trader Viktor Bout, nicknamed “the Merchant of Death,” who is serving a 25-year sentence in the U.S. on conviction of conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens and providing aid to a terrorist organization.

Russia has agitated for Bout’s release for years. But the wide discrepancy between Griner’s alleged offense and Bout’s global dealings in deadly weapons could make such a swap unpalatable to Washington.

Others have suggested that she could be traded along with Paul Whelan, a former Marine and security director serving a 16-year sentence in Russia on an espionage conviction that the U.S. has repeatedly described as a setup.

Russia has shown no signs of backing off.

“This is a serious offense, confirmed by indisputable evidence … Attempts to present the case as if the American was detained illegally do not hold up,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexei Zaitsev said Wednesday.

“The law has been violated, and arguments about the innocent nature of Griner’s addiction, which, by the way, is punishable in some U.S. states, are inappropriate in this case,” he said.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned Thursday that “attempts by the American side to make noise in public … don’t help the practical settlement of issues.” U.S. criticism, including a description of Griner as wrongfully detained and comments about the Russian judicial system, “makes it difficult to engage in detailed discussion of any possible exchanges,” he said.

Ryabkov noted that until Griner’s trial is over “there are no formal or procedural reasons to talk about any further steps.”

Continue reading “Open Lesbian Brittney Griner’s Moscow Trial Continues Despite Call on US to Seek Deal “