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Four Missouri police officers have been indicted by a federal grand jury in connection with the assault of a fellow officer who was working undercover.  Officers Dustin Boone, Randy Hays and Christopher Myers with St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department are accused of beating the undercover officer with a riot baton and tampering with witnesses to cover up the incident, according to the Department of Justice. Myers was also charged with destroying evidence. Officer Bailey Colletta was indicted on a charge of providing false statements to a federal grand jury in connection with the incident.

The indictment charges officers Dustin Boone, 35, Bailey Colletta, 25, Randy Hays, 31, and Christopher Myers, 27, with various felonies, including deprivation of constitutional rights, conspiracy to obstruct justice, destruction of evidence, and obstruction of justice.  One of the charges carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. The other three carry a maximum of 20 years. All four counts have a maximum of $250,000 in fines.  All four officers have been placed on administrative leave without pay.

In September 2017, the officers were assigned to a Civil Disobedience Team, which conducts crowd control, in anticipation of a protest against the acquittal of Officer Jason Stockley in the shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith.  Protests broke out in St. Louis and a 22-year veteran of the St. Louis Police Department — referred to in the indictment as L.H. — was in the crowd working undercover as a protester to document crimes among the demonstrators so law enforcement could make arrests, according to the indictment.

The indictment claims the three officers believed Hall was a protester and assaulted him “while he was compliant and not posing a physical threat to anyone.”   The indictment alleges that Boone, Hays and Myers threw Luther Hall to the ground without probable cause and began to kick him and strike him with a riot baton.  Once Myers, Boone and Hays learned that Hall was a police officer, the indictment says, they made false statements justifying the assault, contacted Hall to dissuade him from taking legal action and contacted witnesses to try to influence their testimony.  Myers also destroyed Hall’s cellphone “with the intent to impede, obstruct, and influence the investigation,” according to the indictment.

The indictment also details text messages between Myers, Boone and Hays prior to the incident.  “We really need these f**kers to start acting up so we can have some fun,” Boone texted, after they determined they were going to be on the same team.  “A lot of cops getting hurt, but it’s still a blast beating people that deserve it,” said another text from Boone.  He also remarked that he would be working with a black officer and referred to him as “a thug that’s on our side.”  Hayes also texted Boone “Remember we are in south city. They support us but also cameras. So make sure you have an old white dude as a witness.”

According to the indictment, Officer Colletta — who was in a romantic relationship at the time with Hays,  was on the team that night and offered inconsistent explanations as to why they arrested L.H.  Initially, Colletta said she had never come into contact with Hall that night. Then, she claimed that she witnessed the arrest and saw Hall taken to the ground “very gently.”  Colletta also said the group had “veered off” to arrest Hall, according to the indictment. The next day, she said she learned from her sergeant that they had stopped Hall because he fit the description of a radio dispatch yet in a later statement, she claimed she didn’t recall anyone saying that.

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The former Dallas police officer who shot and killed a 26-year-old man in his own apartment has been indicted for murder after a grand jury decided to pursue the murder charge after hearing testimonies in the case.  Officer Amber Guyger, 30, entered Botham Jean’s apartment, where she shot and killed him on September 6.  Guyger turned herself in at the Mesquite jail to be booked on the murder charge, Mesquite police Lt. Stephen Biggs said. She quickly posted a $200,000 bond, nearly three months after posting a $300,000 bond on the original manslaughter charge.  Guyger faces five years to life in prison if convicted on the murder charge.

Guyger claimed she thought she was entering her own apartment, ultimately shooting what she thought was a burglar and was initially arrested on a manslaughter charge three days after the shooting.  Jean had been watching football in his apartment a few blocks north of police headquarters in the Cedars.  Guyger, who had just finished her police shift, entered and shot him.  She told authorities she had mistaken Jean’s apartment for her own and believed he was a burglar. Jean lived in the apartment directly above Guyger’s at the South Side Flats complex.

A neighbor captured a video of the immediate aftermath on her cellphone, recording Guyger calling the department she worked for to report what happened.  The shooting immediately became national news and the Dallas Police Department helped share Guyger’s narrative of what happened though she wasn’t charged with any crime for 3 days and the department failed to search her apartment before she moved.

Guyger claims the door was ajar and opened when she tried to unlock it but lawyers for Mr. Jean’s family have said that the door was closed, and that neighbors heard someone banging on the door, demanding to be let in, before the gun was fired.  Guyger fired her service weapon twice, striking Botham Jean once in the torso, according to court documents.  Mr. Jean, who worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers, died at a hospital.  Protesters rallied for weeks in Dallas after Jean’s death resulting in Guyger being fired from the department on Sept. 24th.  The department said that she was “terminated for her actions” during her arrest on manslaughter charges.

Guyger’s lawyer, Robert L. Rogers, said his client was not guilty of murder.  “I’m not surprised that there was an indictment returned, due to what I perceived to be a tremendous amount of outside political pressure, a tremendous outpouring of vindictive emotion towards my client, and actual emotion that I believe was injected into the grand jury process,” Mr. Rogers said in an interview.  Rogers said Ms. Guyger was not guilty because she believed that she was inside her apartment that night.  “I believe it was reasonable for her to believe that she was being threatened with an intruder in her home and therefore she acted in self-defense,” he said. “The law justifies her actions.”

 

 

 

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Actor and comedian Kevin Hart has stepped down from plans to host the upcoming Academy Awards ceremony, following public outcry over his past homophobic tweets and comedy routines. The Academy named Hart host of the Oscars and less than 24 hours later, Hart was discovered to be rapidly deleting his past anti-gay social media posts amid a growing uproar. Hart initially refused to apologize over the comments, before offering his resignation from the Oscars ceremony with an apology.

Soon after Hart announced he would be hosting the Academy Awards, the actor began to delete a series of old tweets after twitter users began retweeting his past homophobic comments.  One Twitter user wrote, alongside screenshots of Kevin’s past tweets, “I wonder when Kevin Hart is gonna start deleting all his old tweets.”   One of the controversial tweets from 2011 read: “Yo if my son comes home & try’s 2 play with my daughters doll house I’m going 2 break it over his head & say n my voice ‘stop that’s gay’.”  Hart made a similar comment about wanting his son to be heterosexual in a stand-up special in 2010.

Another Twitter sleuth went to the great lengths of searching every time Kevin used the words “Fag,” “homo” or “gay.”  They realized the comedian “seems to have basically stopped tweeting those words after 2011 — i.e. the year his first stand-up movie became a hit.”  While Hart has adamantly denied being homophobic, prior statements about his feelings seem conflicting to some. In a 2015 profile for Rolling Stone, he once said one of his “biggest fears is my son growing up and being gay.”  “Keep in mind, I’m not homophobic… Be happy. Do what you want to do. But me, as a heterosexual male, if I can prevent my son from being gay, I will,” he previously explained.

After the initial backlash, Hart shared an Instagram video where he said, “Stop looking for reasons to be negative…stop searching for reasons to be angry…I swear I wish you guys could see/feel/understand the mental place that I am in. I am truly happy people… there is nothing that you can do to change that….NOTHING. I work hard on a daily basis to spread positivity to all…with that being said. If you want to search my history or past and anger yourselves with what u find that is fine with me. I ‘m almost 40 years old and I’m in love with the man that I am becoming,” he continued. “You LIVE and YOU LEARN & YOU GROW & YOU MATURE. I live to Love…. Please take your negative energy and put it into something constructive. Please…What’s understood should never have to be said. I LOVE EVERYBODY..ONCE AGAIN EVERYBODY. If you choose to not believe me then that’s on you…Have a beautiful day.”

The actor and comedian later announced that he’s dropping out of his scheduled hosting gig at the Oscars rather than issue a formal apology for the series of homophobic, years-old tweets.  “So I just got a call from the Academy, and that call basically said, ‘Kevin, apologize for your tweets of old, or we’re going to have to move on and find another host,’ talking about the tweets from 2009, 2010,” Hart said in a video he posted to Instagram on Thursday night, in which he appeared to be referencing tweets in which he used homophobic slurs. “I chose to pass. I passed on the apology. The reason I passed is because I’ve addressed this several times.”

After the Instagram confession, Hart eventually issued an apology on Twitter stating that he’s sorry for hurting anyone and that he’s “evolving.” He then said, “I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past.”

 

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The trial has begun for James Fields, the self-described neo-Nazi charged with killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 35 others at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville.  Twenty-one-year-old Fields is standing trial for first-degree murder, five counts of aggravated malicious wounding, three counts of malicious wounding and failure to stop at the scene of a fatal accident in connection with a car attack on Aug. 12, 2017.  He has entered a not guilty plea and faces 20 years to life in prison if convicted of first degree murder.

Fields is accused of ramming his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.  Video of the incident shows Field’s Dodge Challenger stopping a short distance from those marching in the area reversing, but then accelerating forward into them.  Witnesses say Fields slowly backed up his car in a downtown street then rapidly accelerated, ran through a stop sign and across a raised pedestrian mall, and drove directly into the crowd, hitting numerous individuals including Heather Heyer before ramming into a sedan.  The impact sent people flying through the air.  A few seconds after the initial impact, Fields drove in reverse at a high rate of speed for several blocks- hitting more people.  Pedestrians who had avoided the attack chased Fields along Fourth Street until he turned left and sped off down Market Street.

A Virginia State Police Bell 407 helicopter followed the car and relayed its route to ground units.  A deputy stopped and arrested Fields about a mile from the attack.  Charlottesville Police Det. Steven Young, who arrived at the scene of Field’s arrest, testified that Fields appeared  shocked and repeatedly apologized while sobbing when he was told a woman had been killed.  Young said that the Dodge had holes in the rear window—made by counter-protesters after the initial impact and heavy front-end damage. Young said that the car was “splattered” with blood and flesh with a pair of blue sunglasses stuck in the spoiler on the car’s trunk.   Young also testified that footage from the Unite the Right rally earlier in the day shows Fields chanting homophobic and anti-Semitic slurs as he marched with others.  A short time later, the helicopter footage shows his car driving into the crowd.

Testimony in the trial has largely featured first-hand accounts from people who were injured by the car attack on Fourth Street, by the intersection with Water Street.  Survivors of the deadly crash testified that the mood among counter-protesters was upbeat and celebratory before Fields slammed his Dodge Challenger into another car, triggering a chain reaction that hurled people in different directions.   Witnesses recounted the chaotic scene and testified to a litany of injuries they suffered in the crash, some of which they are still recovering from.

Ryan Kelly, a photojournalist who won a Pulitzer Prize for a photo he took that captured the moment Field’s car made impact with the crowd, also testified in the trial.  He testified that he saw the Challenger slowly backing up the hill. “I thought it was trying to get out of the way,” Kelly testified.  Then, he said he heard tires screech and saw the car speed past him on 4th Street.  “I saw the car accelerate the whole way into the protestors,” he said. “It was going fast into the crowd.”  Survivor and witness Star Peterson is also expected to testify in the trial.  Her right leg was crushed by Fields’ car resulting in her having five surgeries.  She still uses a wheelchair and cane.

Separately, a Virginia grand jury has charged Fields with 30 federal hate crime charges, some of which could result in the death penalty.  He has pled not guilty in those charges as well and no trial date has been set.

 

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An Arizona jury has found Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz not guilty of involuntary manslaughter for shooting and killing 16-year-old José Elena Rodríguez through the U.S.-Mexico border fence in 2012.  The jury hung on whether to bring a charge of voluntary manslaughter, leaving it unclear whether prosecutors would seek to try Swartz a third time. A previous jury acquitted Swartz on murder charges but deadlocked on lesser manslaughter charges.

Authorities claimed José Elena Rodríguez was throwing rocks at agents over the border fence before Swartz opened fire.  Medical examiners say José was shot 11 times with all but one of the bullets striking from behind, leading them to conclude the teen was shot in the back as he lay on the ground.  An autopsy revealed that gunshot wounds to the head, lungs, and arteries killed him.

The incident occurred around 11:30 p.m. on Wednesday 10 October, 2012.  Nogales police received a call reporting “suspicious activity” on International Street, a road running directly along the border.  Officers on scene were investigating a report that two men carrying “bundles taped to their backs” had climbed the fence into the United States.  Identifying the bundles, on the basis of similar incidents in the past, as most probably containing marijuana, they called for back-up.  After several Border Patrol and Customs agents arrived, they saw the two men scaling the fence back into Mexico, empty-handed and with nothing on their backs. They commanded the two men to climb back down.  Officers reported seeing “rocks flying through the air” at the agents and also heard “gunfire,” although they were unable to identify its source.

After verbal commands from agents to cease throwing rocks were ignored, Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz then discharged his service weapon.  Swartz fired 16 rounds, hitting Rodríguez 11 times.  Rodríguez was unarmed, standing on the Mexican side of the border on a sidewalk on Calle International street, in front of a doctor’s office.  U.S. Border Patrol agent Lonnie Ray Swartz was charged with second degree murder for the killing.  Border Patrol agents are rarely criminally charged for using force but the killing sparked outrage on both sides of the border and came as the agency was increasingly scrutinized for its use of force.

Prosecutors said Swartz was frustrated over repeated encounters with people on the Mexico side of the border fence who throw rocks at agents to distract them from smugglers. They say he lost his cool when he fatally shot Rodriguez. Prosecutors acknowledge that the teen was throwing rocks at the agents but that wasn’t justification for taking his life.  A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office said prosecutors haven’t decided whether to try Swartz again on the voluntary manslaughter charge.

Swartz still faces a civil rights lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the teen’s mother.  Attorneys for Rodriguez’s mother filed the suit in federal district court in Tucson, seeking civil damages against the agents involved in what their lawsuit terms the “senseless and unjustified” death.  The suit alleges that in shooting and killing the teenager, agents “used unreasonable and excessive force” in violation of Jose Antonio’s Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights and that their actions were not legally justifiable or necessary. The suit doesn’t specify an amount sought in damages.

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This year, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has confirmed 116 cases of a rare polio-like disease, Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM).  An additional 170 possible cases of AFM are still under investigation.  The condition, which mostly affects children, causes muscles and reflexes to weaken and in some cases become paralyzed.  Most of the children with confirmed cases experienced a viral illness with symptoms including fever and cough about three to 10 days before the onset of paralysis.  It is recommended to see a doctor right away if you or your child notice a sudden weakness or loss in muscle tone, especially in the arms or legs.  Symptoms may also include a drooping face or eyelids, trouble with eye movement or swallowing, slurred speech, and in severe cases trouble breathing requiring a ventilator.

The FDA has launched a task force to further investigate and combat the spread of the illness.  Since 2014, there have been 440 confirmed cases of AFM.  More than 95% of the patients with AFM this year have been children younger than age 18 with the average age of those infected being 5 years old.  The CDC released the information to help parents identify what symptoms to look out for.  While there is no known cure, children who are diagnosed earlier on have been able to gain at least some movement with intense physical therapy.  Officials say that parents can try to prevent the disease by making their kids regularly wash their hands, keep them up to date on their vaccinations and spray them with insect repellent when they go outdoors to prevent mosquito bites.

Medical experts still don’t know much about the rare disease, which strikes just one in 1 million Americans. It’s believed that viruses like polio, West Nile, and various enteroviruses (which cause the common cold) may be linked to AFM.  The children involved in this outbreak have tested negative for polio and West Nile.  Medical experts who have been treating patients with AFM in the latest outbreak say they believe a virus called EV-D68 may be responsible for the recent uptick in cases.

According to the CDC, the patients with confirmed AFM are in 31 states.  The two states with the most confirmed cases are Colorado with 15 cases and Texas with 14 confirmed cases.  Washington, Minnesota, Ohio and Pennsylvania each have 8 confirmed cases.  Illinois has 7 confirmed cases while New Jersey and Wisconsin each have 6 confirmed cases.  Alabama, Georgia, Maryland and Arkansas each reported 3 cases.  South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Iowa, New York and Massachusetts each have 2 confirmed cases.  Rhode Island, Virginia, Indiana, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Missouri, New Mexico, Arizona, Wyoming, Nevada and Montana each have 1 confirmed case.

Nineteen states have no confirmed cases.  The CDC has encouraged doctors to report cases although there is no requirement to do so.  It is not clear whether there is more of a risk of AFM in states that have a higher number of cases or if those states are just better at identifying and reporting patients.

 

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In Chicago, a gunman shot and killed three people at Mercy Hospital. The victims include a doctor, a police officer and a pharmacy technician. The gunman, identified as Juan Lopez, 32, was also killed at the scene by police gunfire.  Police say the shooting was a domestic violence incident and the shooter was in a previous relationship with the first victim.  The victims were identified as Dr. Tamara O’Neal, 38, an emergency room physician, pharmacy resident Dayna Less, 25, a recent graduate of Purdue University and Police Officer Samuel Jimenez.

Police say that at around 3:30 p.m. Monday, the gunman approached ex-fiancé Dr. Tamara O’Neal in the hospital parking lot.  As they started arguing, a friend of O’Neal attempted to intervene.  The gunman lifted his shirt and revealed a handgun, prompting the friend to flee.  O’Neal called 911 and reported the gun, bringing Chicago police to the scene. Police say two additional 911 calls in rapid succession reported an assault and then gunshots.  Lopez shot Dr. O’Neal in the parking lot and then he ran inside the hospital.  Lopez shot at two women getting off an elevator, killing pharmacy resident Dayna Less.

He then went back outside, fired at squad cars that were shielding Dr. O’Neal’s body.  Lopez then headed back inside and officers followed him inside.  Lopez exchanged gunfire with police and was struck twice in the shootout.  Officer Samuel Jimenez was also fatally wounded during that exchange.

Dr. O’Neal was rushed to the University Of Chicago Hospital where friends and colleagues were waiting on the shooting victims, unaware that she was one of them.  Friends said they were unaware of Juan Lopez’s troubled history when the two met a little over a year ago.   As recently as September, Lopez and O’Neal were engaged but O’Neal had broken it off just weeks before she was to exchange vows with Lopez, said her aunt, Vickie O’Neal.  O’Neal’s family members said it was unclear why the engagement was called off but they never could have imagined that the relationship would come to such a violent end.

Police say Lopez had a history of threatening domestic violence and in 2014, a judge granted a restraining order against him for his ex-wife.  Court records show Lopez’s ex-wife accused him of sleeping with a gun under his pillow, brandishing a weapon against a realtor and again against a neighbor.  She also said he began threatening to show up at her workplace and cause trouble. In the 2015 divorce filing, De Asa accused her husband of “constant infidelity and abuse.”  Lopez also had ongoing child support issues according to court records. Documents state that he had a difficult time keeping a job and refused to inform De Asa where he was working or living.  Lopez was currently enrolled as graduate student at DePaul University seeking a master’s degree in public service, after earning a bachelor’s degree in 2013.

The Chicago Fire Department released the personnel file of Juan Lopez.  The summary of the report says that four years ago he was terminated less than 2 months after being hired by the Chicago Firefighter Academy.  The general consensus was that Lopez was disliked.  Of the 11 female trainees interviewed by the CFD investigator, 10 had “negative remarks” about Lopez, and four “had some sort of incident” with him. All nine male trainees interviewed agreed Lopez “was a bad candidate with a bad attitude.”

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The CIA has concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last month, contradicting the Saudi government’s claims that he was not involved in the killing.  Journalist Jamal Khashoggi, entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2 and was never seen again.  An investigation found that a team of 15 Saudi agents flew to Istanbul on a government aircraft and killed Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate, where he had gone to pick up documents that he needed for his planned marriage to a Turkish woman.

The CIA examined multiple sources of intelligence, including a phone call that was intercepted by U.S. Intelligence, that the prince’s brother Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, had with Khashoggi.  Khalid told Khashoggi that he should go to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to retrieve the documents and gave him assurances that it would be safe to do so.  It is not clear if Khalid knew that Khashoggi would be killed, but he made the call at his brother’s direction.

The CIA’s conclusion about Mohammed’s role was also based on the agency’s assessment of the prince as the country’s de facto ruler who oversees even minor affairs in the kingdom. “The accepted position is that there is no way this happened without him being aware or involved,” said a U.S. official familiar with the CIA’s conclusions.  CIA analysts believe he has a firm grip on power and is not in danger of losing his status as heir to the throne despite the Khashoggi scandal.

The Saudis have offered multiple, contradictory explanations for what happened at the consulate, after initially denying any knowledge of his whereabouts.  Their latest explanation was that a rogue band of operatives who were sent to Istanbul to return Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia, in an operation that veered off course when the journalist “was forcibly restrained and injected with a large amount of a drug resulting in an overdose that led to his death.”

Among the intelligence collected by the CIA is an audio recording from a listening device that the Turks placed inside the Saudi Consulate.  The Turks gave the CIA a copy of that audio which shows that Khashoggi was killed within moments of entering the consulate.  According to officials who have listened to the recording, Khashoggi died in the office of the Saudi consul general, who can be heard expressing his displeasure that Khashoggi’s body now needed to be disposed of and the facility cleaned of any evidence.  The CIA also examined a call placed from inside the consulate after the killing by an alleged member of the Saudi hit team, Maher Mutreb.  Mutreb called Saud al-Qahtani, then one of the top aides to Mohammed, and informed him that the operation had been completed.

CIA analysts also linked some members of the Saudi hit team directly to Mohammed himself as they have served on his security team and traveled in the United States during visits by senior Saudi officials, including the crown prince.   After Khashggi disappeared on Oct 2, U.S. intelligence agencies began searching archives of intercepted communications and discovered material indicating that the Saudi royal family had been seeking to lure Khashoggi back to Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor Saud al-Mojeb issued a statement saying that his office has indicted 11 suspects and has requested the death penalty for (5) individuals who are charged with ordering and committing the crime.  According to the office, the five members of the team “have confessed to the murder.”  The Saudi prosecutor’s office says that Khashoggi’s killers planned his death 3 days before prior to him entering the consulate and that the highest-level official behind the killing is Ahmad al-Assiri, an adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

 

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Prosecutors in Connecticut and New York are considering charges of fraud and racketeering against the billionaire Sackler family, whose company Purdue Pharma produces the prescription painkiller OxyContin.  Earlier this year, The New York Times reported Purdue executives knew OxyContin was highly addictive as early as 1996, the first year after the drug hit the market, but still promoted it as less addictive than other opioids.  Many feel that Purdue Pharma planted the seeds of the opioid epidemic through its aggressive marketing of OxyContin.  The pharmaceutical giant has long claimed it was unaware of the powerful opioid painkiller’s growing abuse until years after it went on the market.

A copy of a confidential Justice Department report uncovered that federal prosecutors investigating the company found that Purdue Pharma knew about “significant” abuse of OxyContin in the first years after the drug’s introduction in 1996 and concealed that information.  Company officials had received reports that the pills were being crushed and snorted; stolen from pharmacies; and that some doctors were being charged with selling prescriptions.  In 2006, 10 years after the drug was first put on the market- federal prosecutors wrote that the drug maker continued “in the face of this knowledge” to market OxyContin as less prone to abuse and addiction than other prescription opioids.

Prosecutors found that the company’s sales representatives used the words “street value,” “crush,” or “snort” in 117 internal notes recording their visits to doctors or other medical professionals from 1997 through 1999.  The investigation cited emails showing that Purdue Pharma’s owners, Richard Sackler and founders Raymond and Mortimer Sackler, were sent reports about abuse of OxyContin and another company opioid, MS Contin.  Purdue Pharma’s general counsel, Howard R. Udell, wrote in an email in early 1999 to another company official “We have in fact picked up references to abuse of our opioid products on the internet.”  That same year, company officials learned that OxyContin was being described as “the hottest thing on the street — forget Vicodin” according to emails.  Just a year after that email exchange, Udell and other company executives testified in Congress and elsewhere that the drug maker did not learn about OxyContin’s growing abuse until early 2000, when the United States attorney in Maine issued an alert. The company still maintains that position despite evidence to the contrary.  After a four-year investigation, the prosecutors recommended that three top Purdue Pharma executives be indicted on felony charges, including conspiracy to defraud the United States, which could have sent the men to prison if convicted.

Instead, top Justice Department officials in the George W. Bush administration did not support the move and the government settled the case in 2007.  Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty to a felony charge of “misbranding” OxyContin while marketing the drug by misrepresenting, among other things, its risk of addiction and potential to be abused. Three executives; Michael Friedman, Dr. Paul D. Goldenheim and Howard Udell, each pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor “misbranding” charge that solely held them liable as Purdue Pharma’s “responsible” executives and did not accuse them of wrongdoing. The company and the executives paid a combined $634.5 million in fines and the men were required to perform community service.

Over the past two decades, more than 200,000 people have died in the US from overdoses involving prescription opioids and the epidemic was declared a Public Health Emergency in 2017.  While the Justice Department may hail the settlement as a victory, many feel the decision not to bring more serious charges and air the evidence prosecutors had gathered meant that a critical chance to slow the trajectory of the opioid epidemic was lost.

 

 

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A 26 year old security guard was shot and killed by a police officer outside a bar in the Chicago suburb of Midlothian.  Jemel Roberson was working at Manny’s Blue Room Bar, in Robbins, Illinois, when a fight broke out and security personnel asked a group of men to leave.  Soon after, at least one man returned to the bar and began shooting, injuring some of the people in the bar. Security returned fire and Roberson detained the man.

Jemel Roberson reportedly grabbed and held the suspected shooter to the ground, with his gun in his back.  When police officers from the Robbins and Midlothian police department arrived on the scene around 4am, witnesses say Roberson was immediately shot, despite people at the bar screaming that he was a security guard. According to witness statements given to local outlets, the officer fired even as witnesses were screaming that he was security.  Four other people, including a man believed to be the suspect behind the bar shooting, were injured in the incident.

At the time, Roberson was armed and held a valid gun owner’s license. One patron who witnessed the killing said the cops “saw a black man with a gun, and basically killed him.” An autopsy concluded that Roberson’s death was a homicide. Roberson was father of a 9-month-old son named Tristan; his partner, Avontea Boose, is pregnant with their second child. Roberson’s family has filed a federal lawsuit seeking $1 million dollars, calling the fatal shooting “excessive and unreasonable” and says it violated Roberson’s civil rights.

Illinois State Police are investigating the shooting and have said that the officer gave Roberson “multiple verbal commands” to drop his weapon before opening fire. “According to witness statements, the Midlothian Officer gave the armed subject multiple verbal commands to drop the gun and get on the ground before ultimately discharging his weapon and striking the subject,” state police said in a statement.  The agency added that Roberson was not wearing anything that identified him as a security guard though witnesses say he was wearing a hat with the words SECURITY clearly emblazoned on the front as well as a bright orange vest with the words Security on it.  Multiple witnesses have also contradicted the state police account, saying the officer started firing at Roberson before giving him an adequate chance to respond to his verbal commands.

After learning that its officer had shot a security guard, the Midlothian Police Department issued a statement offering condolences to Roberson’s family and calling the shooting “the equivalent of a ‘blue on blue,’ friendly fire incident.”  Midlothian police Chief Daniel Delaney wrote on the department’s Facebook page “What we have learned is Jemel Roberson was a brave man who was doing his best to end an active shooter situation at Manny’s Blue Room.  The Midlothian Police Department is completely saddened by this tragic incident and we give our heartfelt condolences to Jemel, his family and his friends. There are no words that can be expressed as to the sorrow his family is dealing with.”