Showing posts with label Legal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Legal. Show all posts

February 15, 2017

Flynn’s Firing Erupts into a Full White House Crisis

President Trump’s ouster of national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, and the circumstances leading up to it, have quickly become a major crisis for the fledgling administration, forcing the White House on the defensive and precipitating the first significant breach in relations between Trump and an increasingly restive Republican Congress.

Even as the White House described Trump’s “immediate, decisive” action in demanding ­Flynn’s resignation late Monday as the end of an unfortunate episode, senior GOP lawmakers were buckling under growing pressure to investigate it.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that it was “highly likely” that the events leading to Flynn’s departure would be added to a broader probe into Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election. Intercepts showed that Flynn discussed U.S. sanctions in a phone call with the Russian ambassador — a conversation topic that Flynn first denied and then later said he could not recall.

McConnell’s comments followed White House revelations that Trump was aware “for weeks” that Flynn had misled Vice President Pence and others about the content of his late-December talks with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

White House counsel Donald F. McGahn told Trump in a briefing late last month that Flynn, despite his claims to the contrary, had discussed U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia by the Obama administration in late December, press secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday. That briefing, he said, came “immediately” after Sally Q. Yates, then the acting attorney general, informed McGahn on Jan. 26 about discrepancies between intercepts of Kislyak’s phone calls and public statements by Pence and others that there had been no discussion of sanctions.
Trump brought in senior strategist Stephen K. Bannon and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus to join the discussion with McGahn, according to two officials familiar with the conversations who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

McGahn then conferred with Yates again the following day, Jan. 27, to try to glean more information, these two officials said. Within the White House, the matter was viewed skeptically, and Trump, Bannon, Priebus and McGahn for several days remained among the few people briefed, they said.

Over the next two weeks, the officials said, Flynn was asked multiple times about what exactly he had said. He brushed aside the suggestion that he had spoken about sanctions with the ambassador — denials that kept him afloat within the White House even as he was being actively evaluated, they said.

It was not until a Washington Post report last Thursday, in which Flynn was quoted as saying that he had no “recollection” of discussing sanctions but couldn’t be sure that he hadn’t, that the downward slide culminating in Monday’s forced resignation began, several administration officials said.

“We’ve been reviewing and evaluating this issue with respect to General Flynn on a daily basis for a few weeks, trying to ascertain the truth,” Spicer said at the daily White House press briefing. He emphasized that an internal White House inquiry had concluded that nothing Flynn discussed with the Russian was illegal but that he had “broken trust” with Trump by not telling the truth about the talks.

When asked whether Trump told Flynn to talk to Kislyak about sanctions, Spicer responded: “No, absolutely not.”

Asked why Trump had waited nearly three weeks to act after what Spicer called a “heads-up” from the Justice Department, he said that once the question of legality was settled, “then it became a phase of determining whether or not [Flynn’s] action on this and a whole host of other issues undermined” Trump’s trust. He declined to specify the “other issues.”
In an interview conducted early Monday and published Tuesday by the Daily Caller, Flynn said that he did not specifically discuss sanctions with Kislyak but rather President Barack Obama’s simultaneous expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats. He said he told the ambassador that “we’ll review everything” following Trump’s inauguration.

Current and former U.S. officials have said, however, that much of the conversation was about sanctions and that Flynn suggested that Moscow not respond in kind to the expulsions — advice that Russian President Vladi­mir Putin took in declining to take retaliatory action.

Although Trump has not publicly mentioned his view of the sanctions, Spicer said that the president “has made it very clear he expects the Russian government to de-escalate violence in the Ukraine and return Crimea,” even as he hopes to cooperate with Putin on terrorism.

Asked Tuesday on a flight to Brussels about Flynn’s ouster, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said it “has no impact” on his job. “It doesn’t change my message at all, and who is on the president’s staff is who I will work with,” he said.

Mattis was on his way to a meeting of NATO defense ministers, who were expected to discuss their significant concerns about Russian aggression. During his confirmation hearing, Mattis placed Russia first among threats to U.S. security.

Officials inside the National Security Council described low morale and concern about the future. The “worthless” message at a five-minute staff meeting Tuesday morning, one official said, was: “Keep working hard. Don’t leave.”

For those who knew and liked Flynn, another official said, “it’s sad. He’s a good man, and I hate to see this.”

Various accounts of the Flynn saga offered by White House officials in recent days have added to confusion about how the administration viewed Flynn’s actions, who knew what and when they knew it.

News accounts about a Flynn-Kislyak conversation in late December — the day before Obama announced new sanctions related to Russian election interference — first surfaced in a David Ignatius column in The Post on Jan. 12. Asked the next day whether they had talked about the sanctions in light of Trump’s campaign and post-election pledges to better relations with Russia, White House officials said the subject had not been discussed.

Three days later, Pence told CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Flynn had assured him personally that there was no conversation about sanctions. Spicer offered similar assurances in a subsequent White House briefing.

On Jan. 24 or 25, based on discrepancies between comments by Pence and Spicer and what they knew from regular intercepts of Kislyak’s calls, FBI agents interviewed Flynn. Details of that interview, first reported Tuesday by the New York Times, are unknown but they could expose Flynn to possible charges if he denied that he had discussed sanctions with Kislyak. That interview was followed by the Justice notice to McGahn, who immediately informed Trump and others, officials said.

After Trump ordered McGahn to review the matter, Spicer said, he quickly concluded that the president’s “instinctive” conclusion that the discussions were not illegal was correct. But some in the White House who had long distrusted Flynn began to contemplate his departure. CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Keith Kellogg, the National Security Council chief of staff, began attending intelligence briefings with Flynn.

“The president was sort of like: Until this matter is sorted out, I want buttressing,” said the senior official, one of several who discussed the sensitive matter on the condition of anonymity. “The idea was . . . if the president decides to pull the trigger, we need to make sure that we have some options.”

Flynn was eventually made aware of the White House investigation, which led to alarm among senior Trump aides when he initially told The Post, in a Feb. 8 interview, that there had been no discussion about sanctions. He revised his remarks to the paper the next day, saying through a spokesman that “while he had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.”

The two accounts were published by The Post on the evening of Feb. 9.

“His story remained the same until that night,” Spicer told reporters in his office Tuesday evening. “There was a story in The Post where there’s a White House official that says that he could not recall. . . . Whatever that quote was is what matters. . . . His story remained the same until that night.”

Pence spokesman Marc Lotter told reporters that the vice president first became aware of the “incomplete information” Spicer had provided him by reading the same newspaper account.

Flynn was then questioned by McGahn, Pence and Priebus, who the official said was so frustrated that his tone became more that of a litigator than a colleague.

Asked Friday aboard Air Force One about the Post reporting that Flynn allegedly had not told the truth about the calls, Trump said he was not familiar with it.

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“I don’t know about that. I haven’t seen it. What report is that? I haven’t seen that. I’ll look into that,” Trump told reporters on the plane.

Spicer said Tuesday that Trump was responding only to a question about the Post report and was not speaking about the overall issue of Flynn’s contact with the Russian ambassador and his discussion of sanctions.

After discussing the situation throughout the weekend at Trump’s Florida resort, a final decision was made Monday night by Trump, along with Priebus and senior advisers Bannon and Jared Kushner, to tell Flynn to resign, officials said.

That is a notably different version of events than the one offered Monday night, when administration officials characterized Flynn’s departure as voluntary. One senior White House official said Monday that Trump had not fired Flynn but that he had made the decision to resign on his own because of “the cumulative effect” of damaging news coverage.

Robert Costa, Dan Lamothe, Ellen Nakashima and Ashley Parker contributed to this report.
Karen DeYoung is associate editor and senior national security correspondent for the Washington Post.  Follow @karendeyoung1
Abby Phillip is a national political reporter covering the White House for The Washington Post. She can be reached at  Follow @abbydphillip
Jenna Johnson is a political reporter who covers the White House. She spent more than than a year writing about Donald Trump's presidential campaign, traveling to 35 states to attend more than 170 political rallies and interview hundreds of Trump supporters.  Follow @wpjenna

November 15, 2014

Lawyer succesfully defends alleged Sex Offender but gets fired

This undated photo provided by the California Department of Correction shows Los Angeles school district teacher Elkis Hermida, who was sentenced in 2011 to three years in prison for lewd acts against a child. The Los Angeles school district has come under criticism for successfully defending a sexual abuse lawsuit by saying a 14-year-old girl willingly had sex with Hermida, her middle school math teacher. The girl is appealing the case because the judge allowed evidence of her sexual history to be presented and because the district's lawyer blamed her for willingly meeting the teacher at a motel for sex. Photo: California Department Of Correction, AP / California Department of Correction
Photo By California Department of Correction/AP 
This undated photo provided by the California Department of Correction shows Los Angeles school district teacher Elkis Hermida, who was sentenced in 2011 to three years in prison for lewd acts against a child. The Los Angeles school district has come under criticism for successfully defending a sexual abuse lawsuit by saying a 14-year-old girl willingly had sex with Hermida, her middle school math teacher. The girl is appealing the case because the judge allowed evidence of her sexual history to be presented and because the district’s lawyer blamed her for willingly meeting the teacher at a motel for sex.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles school district removed a lawyer Friday who successfully defended it from a sexual abuse lawsuit in which he told jurors that a 14-year-old girl was partly responsible for having sex with her middle school math teacher.
The trial victory spared the cash-strapped district a potentially pricey verdict, but news of the trial strategy and remarks by attorney W. Keith Wyatt that crossing the street was more dangerous than deciding to have sex with a teacher drew criticism.
"Mr. Wyatt's comments yesterday were completely inappropriate, and they undermine the spirit of the environment we strive to offer our students every day," Dave Holmquist, general counsel for the school district, said in a statement. "Our deepest apologies go out to the young woman and her family, who were hurt by the insensitive remarks of Mr. Wyatt."
Wyatt, who had worked with the district through an outside firm for 27 years and had 18 cases pending, declined comment.
The girl who lost the case is appealing because the judge allowed evidence of her sexual history to be presented and because Wyatt blamed her for consenting to the sex.
"She lied to her mother so she could have sex with her teacher," Wyatt had told KPCC, which first reported the story. "She went to a motel in which she engaged in voluntary consensual sex with her teacher. Why shouldn't she be responsible for that?"
The teacher in the case, Elkis Hermida, was sentenced in 2011 to three years in prison for lewd acts against a child.
The Los Angeles Unified School District claimed it was unaware of the relationship between the teacher and student and was cleared last year of wrongdoing by a civil jury in Los Angeles Superior Court.
The girl was not awarded damages for the emotional trauma she said she suffered during a five-month relationship with the teacher.
The case presents an apparent inconsistency in the standard for sexual consent in California criminal and civil cases.
In criminal cases, a 14-year-old girl is too young to consent to sex. Wyatt, however, cited a federal court decision that said a minor could consent to sex in some circumstances.
The federal case cited by Wyatt relies on a California Supreme Court decision about jury instructions in an incest case, said Mary Fan, a law professor at the University of Washington. The creative application of the language was probably never envisioned by the state's high court.
"Some language plucked out of the original case has grown to monstrous proportions," Fan said. "Pretty soon it looks like a viable argument. When a court accepts it, it just grows into its own beast."
Lawyers and advocates for sexual abuse victims said the legal tactic was surprising.
"I was shocked. I've done sexual abuse cases against school districts before and I've never seen the persistence of this argument," said Holly Boyer, who filed the appeal for the girl. "I've never seen this at all that the victim willingly participated in this and that they should bear some responsibility in their injuries."
Boyer said there were enough red flags that the school should have been aware of the teacher's conduct.
He was seen hugging other girls and began to groom the victim at age 13 through texting, phone calls and exchanging photos, Boyer said, adding that the sexual abuse began when the girl was 14 and some of it occurred in the classroom.
Boyer also plans to argue that the girl's sexual past should not have been allowed into evidence. Such evidence is barred in criminal cases where rape shield laws exist, but not always in civil actions.
"It's terrible, but not unusual that a school would try to muddy the waters" by presenting such evidence, said Fatima Goss Graves, a vice president at the National Women's Law Center. "The law on whether and when that sort of evidence is permitted is sort of murky and one of the reasons why Congress is looking at additional law ... that looks more like a criminal rape shield law."

April 12, 2014

The Why Puerto Rico Rico is Legalizing Pot and Prostitution


Slash the number of public holidays by two-thirds. Eliminate dozens of government agencies. Legalize marijuana and prostitution.
From the intriguing to the impossible, there is no shortage of ideas for fixing Puerto Rico's ailing economy as the government tries to dig out from a whopping $70 billion in public debt and bring back economic growth.
The ideas have come from legislators, entrepreneurs and even members of the public, who have submitted ideas via a government-sponsored website. Of the 369 ideas sent in by the public, 156 have been accepted by a government committee for consideration, including the suggestions to legalize marijuana and prostitution, and to limit how long people can live in subsidized housing.
But all the ideas require further government approval, either with a legislative vote, or an administrative nod from the governor, agency or department. More dramatic ideas, such as legalization of marijuana or prostitution, would require public hearings, legislative approval and the governor's signature.
And prospects for approval of the various suggestions are decidedly mixed.
The governor, for example, is expected to sign a bill approved by lawmakers to release certain elderly prisoners, but not a suggestion floated by a member of the public to charge inmates for their room and board.
Puerto Rico, in dire straits following eight years of recession, has remained receptive as it debates hundreds of ideas: "We are studying all alternatives and all possibilities," said Sen. Maria Teresa Gonzalez, a member of the governor's party who has come under fire for submitting a bill that would reduce the number of holidays for public employees to six.
The island currently celebrates 20 holidays a year, double those observed in the U.S. Many people have bristled at the proposal to scrap some of the additional extra days off, some of which commemorate various historic Puerto Rican leaders. But Gonzalez said the excessive number of holidays costs the government about $500 million a year in lost productivity and interruptions in service, among other things.
"Change always brings about inconveniences," she said. "I'm convinced that before we talk about something as dramatic and disastrous as layoffs, we have to consider other ideas."
Many suggestions have come as Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla prepares to submit the first balanced budget in decades, having promised U.S. investors and credit agencies that he will eliminate an $820 million deficit. The governor has not detailed his cutbacks, prompting fears of layoffs, tax increases and cuts to public service.
Opposition legislator Rep. Ricardo Llerandi Cruz has proposed eliminating 41 government agencies, saying it would save $160 million alone in administrative costs. He said the government has many agencies performing the same functions, noting that there's a Department of Natural Resources, which protects, develops and manages the island's environmental resources, and an Administration of Natural Resources, a division within the department with responsibilities that include overseeing projects such as cleanup efforts.
"Puerto Rico is facing the worst fiscal crisis in all of its history," Cruz said. "We need to refocus or revisit governmental priorities to face these problems."
A bill in the legislature also would cap the salaries of mayors, but legislators have been debating the issue for a year as mayors continue to give themselves raises. The full-time mayor of the western town of Maricao, for example, oversees the island's second-least populated municipality with some 6,200 people and currently earns $78,000 a year, nearly double of what he earned the previous year. If the bill is approved, the mayor would earn a base salary of roughly $54,000 a year.
Manuel Lugo, an attorney who lives in the coastal town of Aguadilla, is among those who submitted the highest number of ideas on the government's website. But despite having nine of 17 ideas approved, he doesn't believe the government will take action on any of them.
"It is very difficult to change the inertia of this island," said Lugo, 43, who recently closed his office because of economic problems and is contemplating a move to Texas. "There has been no economic plan for decades. What they do here is repair and patch holes. That's not how you run a country."
Yanira Hernandez, a governor spokeswoman, said Garcia will detail how he plans to balance the budget in a special televised address in late April. The budget must be approved before June 30.
While many are concerned about what cuts will be made to balance the budget, economist Gustavo Velez said extreme measures won't be necessary if the government increases revenues and consolidates state agencies. Puerto Rico could generate $300 million more a year if it increases its capture rate on tax revenues from 56 to 75 percent, he said. The government also could suspend salary increases, Velez added.
"Puerto Rico cannot keep operating on recurring deficits," he said, noting it is unconstitutional. "We have to return to balanced budgets as the norm. Politicians have to embrace that reality."
The government also has considered tapping into the island's underground economy, estimated by some experts at $20 billion a year, representing roughly 40 percent of overall consumption.
Puerto Ricans are increasingly seeking new ways to generate money, with some opening food trucks or hunting caimans to sell the meat as shish kebabs or fried snacks.
But an estimated 450,000 people have moved to the U.S. mainland in search of new jobs and a more affordable cost of living in the past decade.
Brunilda Cintron, 56, left the island in 2001 and now lives in Kissimmee, Florida. But her daughter and mother still live in Puerto Rico, and she worries about their future.
"The government has to make some drastic decisions that will adversely affect people," Cintron said, adding that she thinks her family will soon join her in the U.S. mainland. “I don't think they're going to have a choice."
The Associated Press

September 7, 2011

Probable Cause Found On Off Duty Cop Shooting of 3 Transgendered

By Lou Chibbaro Jr.

A D.C. Superior Court judge on Sept. 2 ruled that prosecutors established probable cause that an off-duty D.C. police officer committed an assault with a dangerous weapon for allegedly firing a pistol at three transgender women and two male friends during an Aug. 26 incident in Northwest Washington.
Judge Ann O’Regan Keary ordered Officer Kenneth Furr, a 21-year veteran on the force, held without bond pending his trial. Keary said evidence presented by police and prosecutors showed that releasing the officer would pose a danger to the community.
The judge’s ruling came during a preliminary hearing in which First District police Det. James Freeman provided detailed testimony about his investigation of the incident.
Freeman testified that the victims and at least two D.C. police officers who were in the vicinity of the shooting reported that Furr stood on the hood of a car in which the victims were sitting and fired at them through the windshield.
He said witnesses and the victims reported that the incident began about 4:40 a.m. at a CVS drug store at 400 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., when Furr and one of the shooting victims reportedly got into a “verbal altercation.”
Transgender activist Jeri Hughes said one of the transgender women involved in the incident told her the verbal altercation inside the CVS store started when Furr approached one of the transgender women and invited her to engage in sex. Furr reportedly became angry when she turned him down, Hughes said, prompting the woman’s male friend to exchange words with Furr in an effort to get him to leave the woman alone.
Freeman testified that Furr and the same person who argued with Furr inside the CVS store exchanged words outside the store a short time later while Furr was sitting in his car parked nearby.
According to Freeman, Furr reportedly retrieved a handgun from the glove compartment of his car, pointed it at the person and threatened to shoot the person, who is believed to be one of the male friends of the trans women.
The same person returned to the CVS store and told a security guard that Furr had threatened him with a gun, a police affidavit says. The victim then met up with the other four people, including the three transgender women, and all five got into one of their cars and followed Furr, who drove away in his car, Freeman testified.
When both cars reached the intersection of First and Pierce streets, N.W., Furr jumped out of his car and began to shoot at the car where the five others were riding, Freeman told the court hearing. The shooting prompted the driver to crouch down to avoid being hit, causing the car he was driving to collide with Furr’s car, Freeman said.
That’s when Furr apparently climbed on the hood of the other car and fired his gun through the windshield, the victims and police witnesses reported.
Police and transgender activists who spoke with at least two of the victims said two of three transgender women in the car suffered non-life threatening gunshot wounds during the incident. Transgender activists said one of two male friends who were in the car was also was struck and suffered serious but non-life threatening wounds. All three were treated in area hospitals, the activists said.
In his testimony at the Sept. 2 hearing Freeman recounted details from a police affidavit he prepared that lists each of the five people in the car as unidentified witnesses. Neither the affidavit nor Freeman during his court testimony mentioned that three of the five people in the car at which Furr allegedly fired his gun were members of the transgender community.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Worm argued at the court hearing that police provided sufficient evidence that probable cause exists that Furr committed an assault with a dangerous weapon two times – once when he pointed the gun at one or two of the victims outside the CVS store and another time when he fired his gun at the victims while they were in their car.
News that some of the victims were members of the transgender community emerged from a police news release on the day of the incident. Deputy D.C. Police Chief Diane Groomes made personal calls to LGBT activists shortly after 5 a.m. on Aug. 26, just minutes after the incident occurred, to inform them of what happened and to note that police and the department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit were investigating the incident.
Furr’s defense attorney, Harold Martin, told Keary accounts of the incident by various witnesses appeared to differ, making it difficult to determine the events that led to the shooting. He noted that the car in which the five people were riding followed Furr in the “wee hours of the morning” and Furr had a legal right to defend himself if he believed he was in danger.
He also pointed to the police affidavit’s assertion that one of the victims admitted to being drunk at the time of the incident and another victim admitted to having smoked marijuana the night prior to the incident.
“There are a lot of unanswered questions about what happened that night,” he said.
“The defendant exhibited extremely reckless behavior,” Worm told the judge. “He shot at least five times and certainly all five could have been killed.”
She pointed to a statement by at least one of the victims that Furr shouted “Ima kill all of you” before he started shooting into the vehicle.
Worm noted a police breadth test also found that Furr “had been drinking a substantial amount of alcohol” and that he had a prior arrest in D.C. for driving while intoxicated. Police initially charged Furr with driving while intoxicated in the latest incident but the U.S. Attorney’s office did not file that charge in court.
Nearly a dozen family members and friends of Furr’s sat in the courtroom during the hearing, a fact that defense attorney Martin mentioned while arguing that Furr’s strong community ties were among the grounds for allowing him to be released while awaiting trial.
But Keary, in issuing her ruling on the matter, said the government met the legal criteria needed to have Furr held in jail, saying no combination of circumstances or mitigating factors could override her belief that Furr would pose a danger to the public if released.

September 6, 2011

Ct of Appeals:Arizona must cover gay state workers' partners during dispute

Arizona cannot cancel the insurance benefits for the domestic partners of state and university workers who are gay, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.
In a unanimous opinion, the three-judge panel said the state is not obligated to provide health insurance for its workers or their families.
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“But when a state chooses to provide such benefits, it may not do so in an arbitrary or discriminatory manner that adversely affects particular groups that may be unpopular,” Judge Mary Schroeder wrote for the court.
The ruling does not end the efforts by the administration of Gov. Jan Brewer to curtail the benefits. Instead, it simply requires the state to continue providing the coverage until there is a full trial on the merits of the state’s claim that it is entitled to provide different benefits.
Partners of gay workers had no benefits until 2008 when Brewer’s predecessor, Janet Napolitano, pushed through a change in rules to redefine what constitutes a “family.”
But the process of making that change by rule, instead of by statute, rankled legislators.
After Napolitano quit two years ago to take a job in the Obama administration, the Republican-controlled Legislature tucked a provision into the budget to statutorily define what constitutes “dependents” for the purpose of insurance coverage. That change specifically excluded the partners of those who are not married, whether gay or not.
In upholding the injunction, Schroeder noted that the state had argued it needed to make the change because of budgetary considerations. But she said there was little evidence presented of the actual cost.
In court papers, the state figured it paid out about $4 million in claims for domestic partner benefits in the first year of the change and $5.5 million the following year. There were no figures about how much of that was related solely to gay and lesbian employees.

September 4, 2011

City Persisting in Claim Robert Pinter Video Store Vice-Bust was Valid


While the police department concluded that the vice officers who made prostitution arrests of men in Manhattan porn shops in 2008 were poorly trained, the Bloomberg administration continues to defend the arrest of the gay man who blew the whistle on those busts.

“The undercover officer in this case, as a matter of law, had probable cause to arrest the plaintiff in this case,” said Victoria Scalzo, an attorney with the city’s Law Department, at an August 24 hearing before three federal appellate judges.

The panel is weighing the city’s appeal of a 2010 ruling against its motion for summary judgment against the whistleblower, Robert Pinter, in a civil lawsuit he has brought.

In 2008, Pinter, now 55, was approached by a young Asian man who aggressively flirted with him in an East Village porn shop. They agreed to a consensual sexual encounter in the young man’s car. As they were exiting, the young man, who Pinter later learned was an undercover cop, told Pinter he would pay him $50 for the sex act. Pinter said nothing. He continued walking with the young man and engaging in sexual banter. He was then arrested for prostitution.

“We believe that the totality of the circumstances add up to probable cause,” Scalzo said. “His actions demonstrated assent.”

Altogether, the Manhattan South Vice Enforcement Squad arrested at least 30 men for prostitution in six porn shops in 2008. Another 11 men and one woman were busted for prostitution in two spas that year. The same group of vice officers made most of the arrests.

The Law Department, the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement, and the police department’s legal unit cited the arrests in nuisance abatement lawsuits brought against those businesses.

Pinter went public with his story in late 2008.

In 2009, the police department’s Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB) concluded that “no misconduct occurred by members of Manhattan South Vice but that better training and tactics should be used to avoid possible entrapment defenses that may arise from prostitution arrests.”

In a 2009 meeting with Pinter, other activists, elected officials, and senior Bloomberg administration staff, Brian Conroy, then the head of the Vice Enforcement Division, said, “We do need to take a step back,” referring to the operations in porn shops, attendees at the meeting said.

On August 2 of this year, Conroy was promoted to assistant chief and placed in charge of the School Safety Division.

While Pinter initially pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, that plea was vacated and the charges against him were dropped. He sued in federal court in 2009 as did another four men who were busted. The city settled with the four men earlier this year. A fifth man sued in state court and that case is ongoing.

In Pinter’s case, in early 2010, the city sought immunity from a lawsuit for Shari A. Hyman, director of the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement, and the officers who made Pinter’s arrest, arguing that they had probable cause. The city also asked for summary judgment in its favor, saying that Pinter’s rights were not violated by the arrest.

While the city did not ask Judge Shira A. Scheindlin to rule on every issue in the suit, had she found for the city, that would have effectively gutted Pinter’s case.

In her ruling last September, Scheindlin rejected every request that the city sought, except that she dismissed the case against Hyman.

“Defendants’ motion is denied in all other respects because Pinter has alleged a violation of the clearly established right to be free from arrest without probable cause,” Scheindlin wrote.

The city appealed.

Ralph K. Winter, one of the three appellate judges, appeared to doubt the city’s position. Winter was initially confused about who discussed money for sex.

“I have to say, my confusion was their case is actually weaker with the undercover offering money,” he said.

Judge José A. Cabranes seemed concerned with the consequences of any ruling the panel makes and asked the city and Pinter’s attorney, James I. Meyerson, to submit memos on that question.

The third judge, Joseph M. McLaughlin, did not speak during the hearing.

August 25, 2011

Lawyer Norm Kent to Defend Lt. Dan Choi on 'Failure to Obey'


A month before Congress repealed “don’t ask, don’t tell” in December, gay ex-Army Lt. Dan Choi and 12 other activists handcuffed themselves to a fence outside the White House to protest the law.
U.S. Park Police ordered Choi and the others to remove themselves and go away. When they didn’t, police used bolt cutters to break the cuffs and arrested the 13, charging them with failure to obey the officers.
Choi, who goes on trial Monday in Washington, D.C., didn’t follow the officers’ orders because he couldn’t, according to his lawyer, Norm Kent of Fort Lauderdale.
“One of the defenses I intend to invoke is impossibility,” said Kent, 61, who also publishes South Florida Gay News. “Dan didn’t have the key, so how could he comply to the order to leave if he was chained to the fence?”
Video of the Nov. 15 protest was posted on YouTube. “The demonstrators chanted in protest of the U.S. military’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy. Officers gave three verbal warnings to the defendants that they were in violation of federal regulations and needed to leave the area,” Kent said.
Police made a big boo-boo in the way they handled Choi’s arrest, he said.
“They should have unbolted him first, then asked him to leave,” Kent said, adding that the protesters were “handcuffed with their hands behind their backs.”
The other 12 defendants pleaded no contest, Kent said, but not Choi.
“Dan is refusing to take any plea deals,” Kent said. “He’s standing up for his rights and going to trial.”
If found guilty of the misdemeanor failure-to-obey charge, Choi faces six months in jail.
Choi has hired four lawyers to defend him, including Kent, 61, a radio talk-show host also known for fighting to decriminalize marijuana possession.
“Norm Kent is on my team because he is a suit of armor for the protection of the First Amendment in America,” Choi, 30, told The Miami Herald via a Facebook message.
Other attorneys on the case: Christopher Lynn, Yetta Kurland and Robert Feldman.
Congress repealed ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ on Dec. 18. President Barack Obama signed off on the repeal July 21 and the military gay ban will officially end Sept. 20.
Choi — discharged from the Army after he told MSNBC talk host Rachel Maddow in 2009 that he is gay — hopes to rejoin the service.
“I will be honored and most dignified to return to the ranks with my head held high in unequivocal pride and enduring optimism that our nation can indeed live up to its motto, that all are created equal,” said Choi, grand marshal of the 2010 Miami Beach Gay Pride parade. “Upon return I will know in dogged mind and soul, that while I may die for my country, I do not live free and equal in my country.”

June 20, 2009

NYS Bar Association changes to recognize gay marriages

The New York State Bar Association now backs gay marriage.

Delegates for the association adopted a resolution Saturday asking state legislators to give full marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The Association said New York's Domestic Relations law should also be changed to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Bar Association president Michael Getnick says the reform is needed to ensure equal legal rights for gays and lesbians.

The Bar's previous position on gay marriage was that the state could take other actions to guarantee those rights, like recognizing domestic partnerships or civil unions.

The New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary bar association in America.

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