New York’s Democratic governor banned state travel to North Carolina this week, citing its residents’ supposed lack of equal protection under the law, weeks after he announced efforts to facilitate travel from New York to Cuba, which is ruled by a repressive communist dictatorship that routinely imprisons political dissenters.
“In New York, we believe that all people – regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation – deserve the same rights and protections under the law,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo in announcing a ban on “non-essential” state travel to North Carolina.
The move came in response to a new North Carolina law that restricts gendered restrooms to people of their respective biological sexes.
New York will no longer sponsor official travel to North Carolina, but Cuomo himself has recently undertaken official travel to Cuba, and teamed up with JetBlue airlines to encourage travel to the island nation, where the government has imprisoned and tortured transgender people.
Attitudes towards gay and transgender individuals on the island have liberalized in recent years, but many say they are still “harassed and detained by police,” according to a January report from Public Radio International. “They also say they can’t get jobs.”
One transgender individual described her attitude:
And even with US and Cuba relations normalizing now, she still can’t bring herself to ever go back home.
“I suffered too much trauma in Cuba. It would cause me too much panic to return there. I wouldn’t go back, even for a short visit.”
Her resolve hardens when she looks down at her arm. The self-inflicted scars left from her life in Cuba’s prisons are a permanent reminder of a time when she could not be free — could no [sic] be herself.
The attackers smashed a bottle over his head and put a staple in his forehead.
Zwolinski was assaulted outside his campaign office in Chicago.
On Thursday Rep. Cynthia Soto’s daughter and her boyfriend were arrested for the attack.
Illinois Rep. Cynthia Soto’s daughter and another campaign volunteer are accused of attacking aspiring politician Robert Zwolinski, who ran against Soto in the Democratic primary this week.
Jessica Soto and Bradley Fichter, both 26, are each charged with three felony counts of aggravated battery in connection with the assault on the 30-year-old man.
The suspects’ attorney, Frank Avila, said his clients were volunteers for Cynthia Soto’s re-election campaign and that Jessica Soto is the incumbent’s daughter.
Illinois Rep. Cynthia Soto’s daughter and another campaign volunteer are accused of attacking aspiring politician Robert Zwolinski. (ABC 7)
When it came to hiring prostitutes for sex, Stuart Dunnings III preferred escort websites such as Escort Vault and Backpage.com.
Most of the time, police say, Dunnings would meet the women at motels. Occasionally, they’d meet at a pimp’s house.
His was a ferocious habit, one that led the 63-year-old to shell out hundreds of dollars three or four times a week for a revolving cast of heroin-addled sex workers.
By the time he was arrested Monday outside a Lansing, Mich., coffee shop, Dunnings had racked up hundreds of illegal encounters in three Michigan counties between 2010 and 2015, according to an arrest affidavit.
But Dunnings wasn’t just any John, authorities say.
For the past 20 years, he’s been the top prosecutor for Ingham County, a man who put sex traffickers in jail and built a reputation as “an outspoken advocate for ending human trafficking and prostitution,” according to a statement released by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette (R).
“This is not a going into Barnes and Noble and buying something as a client or a customer,” Schuette said. “This is an instance where an officer of the law, an officer of the court, the prosecutor in the capital city of Michigan has a responsibility to enforce the law, report crimes, but he did just the opposite. He was a participant in commercial sex activity.”
Dunnings faces 15 criminal charges across three counties, including willful neglect of duty and pandering. The latter charge stems from the prosecutor paying for sex with a woman who was seeking help resolving a child custody dispute, according to the affidavit.
He was also charged with 10 counts of engaging in the services of prostitutes, a misdemeanor, in Ingham, Clinton and Ionia counties.
After being processed in the Ingham County jail, Dunnings was arraigned and released on bond.
If convicted, he could spend more than 20 years behind bars, authorities told The Washington Post.
The prosecutor’s arrest was preceded by a year-long investigation by the Ingham County Sheriff’s Office, assisted by the FBI and the state attorney general’s office, authorities said.
“I’ve known Stuart for a long time,” Ingham County Sheriff Gene Wriggelsworth said at a news conference. “We’ve done some campaigning together. This was a huge betrayal of his trust, his oath of office, his service to the people of this county.”
Dunnings is a Democrat who was first elected in 1996. He is now the highest-paid elected official in Ingham County, with a salary of $132,000, according to the Lansing State Journal.
For much of his career as a prosecutor, he appeared to be an unlikely candidate for engaging in illegal activity.
In 2001, according to the Journal, Dunnings began prosecuting the city’s prostitution-related crimes. Chief among the prosecutor’s goals, the paper reported, was imposing harsher penalties on lawbreakers.
He took an aggressive approach to his job and quickly cracked down, impounding Johns’ vehicles and smacking prostitutes and their clients with felonies after three offenses, according to the Journal.
“In the first two years alone, his prosecutors charged 19 people with felonies and impounded 53 vehicles,” the paper reported.
Only seven years later, Dunnings had adopted the illegal behavior of the very people he was putting behind bars, according to the affidavit.
He met most of the sex workers online. Over time, he became increasingly involved with them, taking them to dinner, paying their bills, buying them groceries, and even revealing his identity as a prosecutor, according to the arrest affidavit.
He paid one woman’s YMCA membership and spent $80 a week for methodone treatments for her heroin addiction, the affidavit states.
Dunnings also shared a prostitute with his brother, Steven Dunnings, a Lansing attorney who is facing two charges of engaging in the services of a prostitute, according to the affidavit.
The prosecutor became involved with another woman in 2010 after she told him she had been the victim of domestic violence and sought assistance in a “custody matter,” the affidavit states.
Dunnings invited the woman to lunch on two occasions. During their second meeting, the affidavit states, Dunnings said he knew she was struggling financially and had a proposition: money for sex.
After initially declining his offer, the woman told investigators that she eventually felt she had no choice but to accept, fearing he might “cause her problems” if she backed out, according to the affidavit.
The woman – who estimated that the district attorney paid her $600 every two weeks – told investigators that “she would not have gone along with the commercial sex if Dunnings had not been the prosecutor,” the affidavit states.
Wriggelsworth, the sheriff, told the Journal that authorities were aware of “chatter” about Dunnings’s activities, but they lacked proof. A 2015 FBI investigation into an alleged trafficker eventually led authorities to Dunnings.
Before Dunnings was arraigned Monday, his lawyer, Michael Hocking, declined to comment, according to the Journal.
The paper reported that Hocking was overheard outside the courtroom telling one of Dunnings’s relatives that the attorney general’s motivations were political in nature. He repeated a variation of that line in court, the Journal reported, telling Magistrate Laura Millmore that the charges against his client were “somewhat of a political case” full of “titillating-type accusations.”
Schuette has called on Dunnings to resign, according to the Journal.
“We live in a time where people wonder if government actually works,” the attorney general said. “People wonder if the system is rigged. People wonder whether we have a ‘wink and a nod’ justice system where the chosen few skate and escape punishment because of who they know or because they hold an important position in government.”
“Well, let me be very direct and crystal clear,” he added. “The system in Michigan is not rigged. Not on my watch.”
At a Democratic town hall in Las Vegas, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders declared himself not only a “strong feminist,” but also an “honorary woman,” a distinction given to him by feminist icon Gloria Steinem.
“I consider myself a strong feminist,” Sanders told a young woman from the audience who asked the question. “And in fact, Gloria Steinem – everybody knows Gloria is one of the leading feminists in America – made me an honorary woman many, many years ago.”
“I don’t know exactly what that meant, but I accepted it when she came to campaign for me,” Sanders added.
The answer elicited laughter from the audience. But it comes at a time when Sanders’s campaign has taken heat for the comments made by a surrogate, rapper “Killer Mike.”
At an event in Georgia this week, the rapper repeated the words of a female activist who he said told him that a “uterus” doesn’t qualify a person to be president. Sanders has dismissed the controversy as “gotcha politics.”
And on Thursday night, he did not address it but noted his efforts to pass legislation mandating equal pay for equal work for women.
“Women are making 70 cents on the dollar compared to men,” Sanders said. “Minority women, women of color… are making substantially less.”
“That has nothing to do with economics. That has everything to do with sexism,” he added.
The comments prompted nearly instant condemnation from Clinton’s allies.
Abortion-rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America slammed Sanders, saying that he failed to demonstrate that he had earned his “honorary woman” title.
“Bernie is a good man, and being a woman means understanding that we need equal pay but that equal pay doesn’t buy us much if we can’t plan our families,” NARAL President Ilyse Hogue said in a statement. “Being a woman means knowing that undoing Citizens United doesn’t secure our fundamental freedoms and restore abortion access under assault daily by anti-choice forces in this country.
“Being a woman means understanding that no man ever had to say ‘Hey guys, let’s stand together, and vote for a man’ because the status quo in this country has supported that for over two hundred years,” she added. “Even as an ‘honorary woman,’ Bernie Sanders doesn’t quite get it.”
Mississippi Democrat Kenneth Stokes urged his community this week to hurl rocks, bricks and bottles at police.
His bio page says Councilman Stokes always puts God first.
Stokes says his constituents should throw rocks, bricks and bottles at police.
The Epoch Times reported:
A Mississippi councilman has sparked controversy after calling for dramatic action against police.
Kenneth Stokes, a councilman in Jackson Ward, says he wants his constituents to send a message to police officers from other jurisdictions who chase misdemeanor suspects through their territory.
“What I suggest is we get the black leadership together, and as these jurisdictions come into Jackson we throw rocks and bricks and bottles at them. That will send a message we don’t want you in here,” he said, reported WLBT.
Stokes also said he’s looking into suing police from other jurisdictions who enter Jackson Ward.
According to Stokes’ bio on the Ward’s website, he was first elected in 1989. He served for six terms before becoming a county supervisor, but returned to the council in a special election after his wife was made a county judge.
Former state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was convicted on all seven criminal counts Monday in a corruption scheme that traded taxpayer cash and political favors for nearly $4 million in payoffs.
A Manhattan federal jury deliberated less than three days before finding the veteran lawmaker guilty of seven charges of honest-services fraud, extortion and money laundering.
Silver, 71, faces a maximum 130 years in prison for the long-running scam.
The conviction of Silver – for decades one of the three most powerful politicians in the state – was a huge victory for anti-corruption crusading Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara.
”Today, Sheldon Silver got justice, and at long last, so did the people of New York,” Bharara said in a statement.
Jurors had appeared to be in disarray several times during deliberations, with one demanding to be taken off the panel because she said other members were hassling her over her views, and another claiming a newly discovered conflict of interest earlier Monday..
The second juror, Bronx cabbie Kenneth Graham, 69, told the judge that he only recently learned that he leases his taxi medallion from a man who “associates with Mr. Silver.” The judge refused to excuse him.
“He was guilty, and that’s all,” Graham said of Silver outside court, when asked about the verdict.
“All of [the evidence] was compelling. We come to a conclusion, and he was guilty.”
But Graham indicated that the jury struggled to come up with its verdict.
“It was hard… on the last day and the day before… There was a lot of hold-outs,” he said.
“I feel relief. Maybe I don’t feel good,” he added.
The decision cemented a stunning fall from grace that began when the Manhattan Democrat was busted in January following more than three decades as one of state’s most powerful pols.
His arrest forced Silver to resign his leadership post, but he held onto his longtime Assembly seat.
Under state law, Silver’s conviction automatically boots him from office and bars him from ever again holding any state position.
Monday’s verdict came midway through the corruption trial of Silver’s onetime counterpart in the state Senate, former Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who’s charged in an unrelated influence-peddling scheme along with his son, Adam.
During Silver’s 3½-week trial, prosecutors presented an array of evidence that included testimony from co-conspirators who turned rat to avoid getting charged in the case.
Columbia University cancer doctor Robert Taub – who got $500,000 in taxpayer-funded research grants from Silver – testified that he steered dozens of asbestos victims to Silver for legal representation by the Weitz & Luxenberg law firm.
Silver, who was “of counsel” at Weitz & Luxenberg at the time, pocketed more than $3 million for delivering the clients.
Veteran Albany lobbyist Brian Meara also testified that he set up a meeting between Silver and an exec at the Glenwood Management development company, which hired another law firm with ties to Silver to handle its lucrative property tax litigation.
Silver – who changed his position on legislation extending real estate tax abatements and blocking stricter rent regulations – got more than $700,000 from the firm of Goldberg & Iryami, with Meara testifying that he was both “surprised and concerned” when Silver revealed the fee-splitting arrangement.
During closing arguments, prosecutor Andrew Goldstein told jurors that Silver was motivated by greed: “This was bribery. This was extortion. This was corruption – the real deal. Don’t let it stand.”
Goldstein also blasted as “preposterous” Silver’s claim that his actions were merely “politics as usual in Albany.”
Defense lawyer Steven Molo insisted that Silver had never engaged in the sort of “quid pro quo” that’s legally required to sustain a conviction for honest-services fraud.
Molo also accused prosecutors of viewing Silver through a “dirty window,” adding that they had “failed to demonstrate that any harm has occurred.”
H/T Right Scoop
An aide to Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI) was arrested in Baltimore last week for allegedly beating his male lover with a shovel, CQ Roll Call reports.
CQ Roll Call, which obtained the police report, details allegations that Levin staffer Tim Foster beat an unnamed, 39 year old black man, identified as Foster’s boyfriend, with a small black and red shovel just after midnight on Oct. 8. The beating left the victim hospitalized with wounds to his upper back, neck and torso.
Foster put his boyfriend in a choke hold and stated, “I want to kill you. Die dirty faggy,” the man later told police. Foster released him, then allegedly grabbed a stainless kitchen knife. As the boyfriend fled toward the stairs, Foster chased him and warned, “When you reach the fifth step, I am going to stab you.”
Foster lunged at his boyfriend with the knife. But Foster’s wife “got in the way” and the knife then fell to the floor, the report states.
The boyfriend told police he attempted to escape the property, but was again assaulted by Foster. This time, Foster struck him in his upper back with a small black and red shovel. Foster continued to assault the man until he got into his vehicle, the report states.
Foster has been charged with second degree assault and “dangerous weapons charges.” He was placed under arrest early Thursday morning and spent the night in the Baltimore County Detention Center before being released, Roll Call reported.
Levin’s office did not have a comment for Roll Call about the incident. However, the publication reports that Foster has been placed on unpaid leave.
Foster, who is Levin’s online communication manager, has reportedly worked for the Michigan lawmaker for seven years.