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  • A suburban Seattle police officer faces murder trial in the death of a man outside convenience store
    on April 22, 2024 at 10:18 pm

    KENT, Wash. (AP) — Jury selection began Monday in the trial of a suburban Seattle police officer charged with murder in the death of a 26-year-old man outside a convenience store in 2019. Auburn officer Jeff Nelson shot and killed Jesse Sarey while trying to arrest him for disorderly conduct in an interaction that lasted just 67 seconds, authorities said. Sarey was the third person Nelson has killed while on duty. Citing surveillance video from nearby businesses, prosecutors said Nelson wrestled with Sarey, repeatedly punched him in the head and shot him twice. As Sarey was wounded and reclined on the ground from the first shot, which struck his upper abdomen, Nelson cleared a jammed round out of his gun, glanced at a nearby witness, turned back to Sarey and shot him again — this time in the forehead, prosecutors said. The case is the second to go to trial since Washington voters in 2018 made it easier to charge police by removing a standard that required prosecutors to prove they acted with malice; now, prosecutors must show that the level of force was unreasonable or unnecessary. In December, voters acquitted three Tacoma police officers in the 2020 death of Manuel Ellis. Nelson later said in a written statement that he believed Sarey had a knife and posed a threat before the first shot — and that Sarey was on his knees in a “squatting fashion … ready to spring forward” before the officer fired again. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder and first-degree assault. An Iraq war veteran, Nelson joined the department in 2008. The city of Auburn paid Sarey’s family $4 million to settle a civil rights claim and has paid nearly $2 million more to settle other litigation over Nelson’s actions as a police officer. In one case, the city of Auburn agreed to pay $1.25 million to the family of a different man killed by Nelson, Isaiah Obet. Obet had been reportedly breaking into houses and attempting to carry out a carjacking with a knife when Nelson confronted him in 2017. Nelson released his police dog, which bit Obet, and then shot the man in the torso. Obet, on the ground and still fighting off the police dog, started to try to get back up, and Nelson shot him again, in the head, police said. Lawyers for Obet’s family said he posed no threat to anyone when he was shot. Nelson also shot and killed Brian Scaman, a Vietnam veteran with mental issues and a history of felonies, in 2011 after pulling Scaman over for a burned-out headlight. Scaman got out of his car with a knife and refused to drop it. The trial, before King County Superior Court Judge Nicole Gaines Phelps at the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent, is expected to last several weeks. Gaines has ruled that jurors will not hear evidence about Nelson’s prior uses of deadly force or about Sarey’s history of drug use. The Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, which oversees the certification of police in the state, has moved to discipline and possibly revoke Nelson’s badge, saying he has shown a pattern of “an intentional or reckless disregard for the rights of others.” Brought to you by www.srnnews.com

  • Key takeaways from the opening statements in Donald Trump’s hush money trial
    on April 22, 2024 at 9:18 pm

    NEW YORK (AP) — Monday’s opening statements in the first criminal trial of a former American president provided a clear roadmap of how prosecutors will try to make the case that Donald Trump broke the law, and how the defense plans to fight the charges on multiple fronts. Lawyers presented dueling narratives as jurors got their first glimpse into the prosecution accusing Trump of falsifying business records as part of a scheme to squelch negative stories about him during his 2016 presidential campaign. Still to come are weeks of what’s likely to be dramatic and embarrassing testimony about the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s personal life as he simultaneously campaigns to return to the White House in November. Here’s a look at some key takeaways from opening statements: Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying internal Trump Organization business records. But prosecutors made clear they do not want jurors to view this as a routine paper case. Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo said the heart of the case is a scheme to “corrupt” the 2016 election by silencing people who were about to come forward with embarrassing stories Trump feared would hurt his campaign. “No politician wants bad press,” Colangelo said. “But the evidence at trial will show that this was not spin or communications strategy. This was a planned, long-running conspiracy to influence the 2016 election, to help Donald Trump get elected through illegal expenditures to silence people who had something bad to say about his behavior.” He added: “It was election fraud, pure and simple.” The business records charges stem from things like invoices and checks that were deemed legal expenses in Trump Organization records when prosecutors say they were really reimbursements to former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen for a $130,000 hush money payment to porn actor Stormy Daniels. Daniels was threatening to go public with claims she had an extramarital sexual encounter with Trump. He says it never happened. Prosecutors’ characterizations appear designed to combat suggestions by some pundits that the case — perhaps the only one that will go to trial before the November election — isn’t as serious as the other three prosecutions he’s facing. Those cases accuse Trump of trying to overturn the 2020 election he lost to President Joe Biden and illegally retaining classified documents after he left the White House. Trump, meanwhile, sought to downplay the accusations while leaving the courtroom on Monday, calling it all a “bookkeeping” case and “a very minor thing.” But he, too, has said it’s all about an election — the one this November. Trump has repeatedly claimed that the case is part of a sweeping Democratic attempt to harm his chances at reclaiming the presidency. Trump’s attorney used his opening statement to attack the case as baseless, saying the former president did nothing illegal. The attorney, Todd Blanche, challenged prosecutors’ claim that Trump agreed to pay Daniels to aid his campaign, saying Trump was trying to “protect his family, his reputation and his brand.” Blanche indicated the defense will argue that after all the very point of a presidential campaign is to try to influence an election. “It’s called democracy,” Blanche told jurors. “They put something sinister on this idea, as if it’s a crime. You’ll learn it’s not.” Blanche also portrayed the ledger entries at issue in the case as pro forma actions performed by a Trump Organization employee. Trump “had nothing to do with” the allegedly false business records, “except that he signed the checks, in the White House, while he was running the country,” Blanche said. And he argued that the records’ references to legal expenses weren’t false, since Cohen was Trump’s personal lawyer at the time. The 34 counts in the indictment are related to the payment to Daniels. But prosecutors plan to introduce evidence about a payoff to another woman — former Playboy model Karen McDougal — who claimed a sexual encounter with Trump, as well as to a Trump Tower doorman who claimed to have a story about Trump having a child out of wedlock. Trump says they were all lies. Prosecutors said they will show Trump was at the center of the scheme to silence the women, telling jurors they will hear Trump in his voice talking about the plan to pay McDougal. Cohen arranged for the publisher of the National Enquirer supermarket tabloid to pay McDougal $150,000 but not print the story in a practice known as “catch-and-kill.” Colangelo told jurors that prosecutors will play for them a recording Cohen secretly made during a meeting with Trump weeks before the 2016 election. In the recording, which first became public in 2018, Trump is heard saying: “What do we got to pay for this? One-fifty?” Trump “desperately did not want this information about Karen McDougal to become public because he was worried about its effect on the election,” Colangelo said. The defense’s opening statement previewed what will be a key strategy of the defense: trying to discredit Cohen, a Trump loyalist turned critic and expected star witness for the prosecution. Cohen pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the hush money payments in 2018 and and served prison time. Whether jurors believe Cohen, who says he arranged the payments to the women at Trump’s direction, could make or break the case for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office. Trump’s lawyer highlighted Cohen’s criminal record, describing him as a serial liar who turned against Trump after he was not given a job in the administration and found himself in legal trouble. Blanche said Cohen’s “entire financial livelihood depends on President Trump’s destruction,” noting he hosts podcasts and has written books bashing his ex-boss. “He has a goal and an obsession with getting Trump,” Blanche said. “I submit to you that he cannot be trusted.” Anticipating the defense attacks on Cohen, the prosecution promised to be upfront about the “mistakes” the former Trump attorney has made. But Colangelo said “you can credit Michael Cohen’s testimony” despite his past. “I suspect the defense will go to great lengths to get you to reject his testimony precisely because it is so damning,” the prosecutor said. Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker is the first witness for prosecutors, who say that Trump’s alleged scheme to conceal potentially damaging information from voters began with a 2015 Trump Tower meeting among the then-candidate, Pecker and Cohen. Pecker took the witness stand Monday before court broke for the day and his testimony is expected to continue Tuesday. At the meeting, Pecker — a longtime Trump friend — agreed to aid Trump’s campaign by running favorable pieces about him, smearing his opponents, scouting unflattering stories about him and flagging them to Cohen for “catch-and-kill” deals. Those included the claims made by Daniels, McDougal and the former Trump Tower doorman, Dino Sajudin, prosecutors say. Trump says all were false. Pecker will likely be asked about all the alleged efforts made by the Enquirer’s then-owner, American Media Inc., on Trump’s behalf. Federal prosecutors agreed in 2018 not to prosecute American Media in exchange for its cooperation in a campaign finance investigation that led to Cohen’s guilty plea, and the Federal Election Commission fined the company $187,500, calling the McDougal deal a “prohibited corporate in-kind contribution.” Pecker’s brief turn on the stand Monday was mainly just about his background and other basic facts, though he did say the Enquirer practiced “checkbook journalism” — paying for stories — and that he had the final say on any story about a famous person. The prosecutor referred to Trump during his opening statement as “the defendant.” Trump’s lawyer took a different tack, calling him “President Trump.” “We will call him President Trump, out of respect for the office that he held,” Blanche said. At the same time, Trump’s lawyer sought to portray Trump as an everyman, describing him as a husband, father and fellow New Yorker. “He’s, in some ways, larger than life. But he’s also here in this courtroom, doing what any of us would do: defending himself,” Blanche said. Trump sat quietly while listening to opening statements, occasionally passing notes to his lawyers and whispering in their ears. But outside of the courtroom, he continued his pattern of trying to capitalize politically on the case that will require him to spend his days in a courtroom rather than on the campaign trail. “This is what they’re trying to take me off the trail for. Checks being paid to a lawyer,” Trump said. _____ Richer reported from Washington. Associated Press reporter Jake Offenhartz in New York contributed. Brought to you by www.srnnews.com

  • Without cameras to go live, the Trump trial is proving the potency of live blogs as news tools
    on April 22, 2024 at 9:18 pm

    NEW YORK (AP) — They watched from the courtroom or via closed-circuit television in an overflow room — roughly 140 reporters, most with laptops or other silenced electronic devices, serving up news at its most elemental and in rapid-fire fashion. There were utterances posted a few seconds after they left a lawyer’s mouth. Observations on how Donald Trump is reacting. Tidbits on what testimony is causing jurors to scribble notes. “Let me give you some quotes to make you feel like you’re inside the courtroom,” MSNBC’s Yasmin Vossoughian said before reading the reports of colleagues. Trump’s hush money trial is illustrating the potency of live blogs as a news tool — by necessity. Television and text journalism are normally two very different mediums. Yet because New York state rules forbid camera coverage of trials and the former president’s case has such high interest, blogs are emerging as the best way to communicate for both formats. During opening arguments in the case on Monday, CNN used one-third of its television screen to display short printed updates of what was going on, written by its three journalists stationed at the Manhattan courthouse. MSNBC did something similar with onscreen “chyrons” — superimposed text. Traditional outlets like The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Associated Press use news blogs regularly, experience that proved helpful Monday. While such blogs often supplement traditional television coverage of big events like the Academy Awards or election nights — it’s known as a “second-screen” experience — this time consumers had no other option. Some 140 reporters watched from the courtroom or via closed-circuit television in an overflow room, feeding news to editors. They’re watched carefully themselves: Two reporters covering the trial were expelled on Monday for breaking rules prohibiting recording and photography in the overflow room, where reporters who can’t get into the courtroom watch the proceedings on large screens, according to court officials. Blog dispatches sometimes felt like bits and pieces of a print story in development, like this from The Washington Post’s Devlin Barrett: “They disguised what the payments were,” (prosecutor Matthew) Colangelo said, speaking clearly and calmly with his hands in his suit pockets.” Others try to set the scene: “All 18 jurors are looking directly at the veteran prosecutor, who stands at a lectern in the middle of the courtroom about halfway between them and Trump,” wrote AP’s Michael R. Sisak. The New York Post ‘s Kyle Schnitzer wrote that Trump attorney Todd Blanche wrapped up his opening statement with a hometown appeal, quoting him in saying, “use your common sense, you’re New Yorkers, that’s why we are here.” Other observances are more analytical or seek to correct the record. The Post’s Shayna Jacobs wrote that “in opening statements, prosecutors focused heavily on the circumstantial evidence that they argue will help prove that Donald Trump paid off Stormy Daniels in 2016 to keep her from going public about an alleged encounter with Trump a decade before.” The Times’ Maggie Haberman wrote as Trump’s attorney was delivering his opening statement that “Blanche is trying to portray the the National Enquirer’s practices as similar to how other news outlets operate, in terms of deciding when and how to publish a story. That is not correct.” For CNN and MSNBC, which covered opening arguments more extensively Monday than Trump-friendly outlets Fox News Channel and Newsmax, there were some growing pains in getting used to the new form of storytelling. MSNBC used text less frequently, occasionally relying on the awkwardness of correspondents trying to search through notes for the latest quotes. “Trump lawyer: Trump is not on the hook for what Cohen did,” read one MSNBC chyron. “Trump lawyer: Nothing wrong with trying to influence an election,” read another. A handful of times, CNN’s Jake Tapper interrupted speakers to read blog dispatches that viewers were also able to see for themselves on their screens. Still, the blog-like reports were often more helpful than on-screen analysts, particularly when they tried to predict what would take place next. One MSNBC pundit confidently predicted that Judge Juan Merchan would end the day’s proceedings before a first witness was called and a CNN analyst said that first witness would wrap his testimony with a juicy revelation. Neither happened. ___ David Bauder writes about media for The Associated Press. Follow him at http://twitter.com/dbauder. Brought to you by www.srnnews.com

  • Biden, Ocasio-Cortez meet as Israel policy vexes some liberals
    on April 22, 2024 at 8:59 pm

    TRIANGLE, Virginia/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden on Monday met with U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and two other prominent liberal lawmakers opposed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Gaza bombing campaign. The meeting came as Biden’s support for Israel’s response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack has divided Democrats, fraying Biden’s coalition of voters ahead of November’s presidential election. Biden was seen walking into the Oval Office with Ocasio-Cortez as well as Senators Bernie Sanders and Ed Markey after returning aboard the Marine One helicopter to the White House from an Earth Day event they all attended in Virginia. The lawmakers have sharply criticized Israel’s policies, with Ocasio-Cortez last month describing the humanitarian situation in Gaza as like “an unfolding genocide.” Still, the congresswoman from New York earlier this month made a case for Biden’s reelection despite his support for Israel, citing a “a vested interest in protecting democracy not just here domestically, but globally,” in an interview with the media organization Zeteo. “I learned a long time ago to listen to that lady,” Biden said of Ocasio-Cortez in Virginia. “We’re going to talk more about another part of the world, too.” The White House and the lawmakers declined to comment on the subject of the meeting. Earlier on Monday, Biden said he condemned “antisemitic protests” but also “those who don’t understand what’s going on with the Palestinians.” His administration has maintained support for Israel but put increasing emphasis on the Palestinian humanitarian situation in recent months. Israel’s assault on Gaza began after Hamas Islamists attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200, according to Israeli tallies. Israel’s military offensive has killed 34,000 Palestinians in Gaza, according to Gaza’s health ministry. Human rights advocates have reported a general rise in bias and hate incidents against Jews, Arabs and Muslims. There was particular concern in recent days, with the Jewish holiday of Passover beginning on Monday evening. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Trevor Hunnicutt; editing by Jonathan Oatis) Brought to you by www.srnnews.com

  • UnitedHealth says hack could impact data of ‘substantial proportion’ of Americans
    on April 22, 2024 at 8:56 pm

    (Reuters) – UnitedHealth Group said on Monday the cyberattack at its technology unit led to a breach of health and personal information, which could cover a ‘substantial proportion’ of Americans. The company, however, did not disclose the number of people impacted by the February cyberattack at the Change Healthcare division. It said it would take several months before enough information to identify impacted individuals. The company was monitoring the internet and dark web to determine if data has been published, along with external industry experts. With about one in three U.S. patient records accessed by the unit’s health technology offerings, the cyberattack sent shockwaves across the nation’s healthcare system. The hack at Change, a provider of healthcare billing and data systems and a key node in the U.S. healthcare system, disrupted payments to doctors and healthcare facilities nationwide. The unit was breached on Feb. 21 by a hacking group called ALPHV, also known as “BlackCat”. (Reporting by Manas Mishra, Mariam Sunny and Sriparna Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri) Brought to you by www.srnnews.com