Weinstein Reaches $44 Million Settlement

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Disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein has reached a $44 million deal to settle a number of lawsuits, including a class-action suit brought by alleged survivors of rape and sexual assault. The will use $14 million to pay legal fees of Mr. Weinstein’s associates, including his former board members; the remaining $30 million will go to settle claims by survivors who allege sexual crimes going back decades. The names of the women involved in the settlement have not been released but the deal was reached in order to settle a multitude of civil suits against Weinstein in the US, UK and Canada,.

The tentative settlement won’t affect a criminal case against Weinstein in New York City charging him with rape and other sex crimes brought on by two women. Weinstein has pleaded not guilty and that trial is scheduled for September.  In a separate case, Actress Ashley Judd, one of the first women to come forward, tweeted that her legal case against Mr Weinstein was ongoing and that she intended to take him to trial.

The deal was reached during bankruptcy proceedings for Weinstein Co. The sprawling negotiations encompassed attorneys for Weinstein, Weinstein Co., the company’s unsecured creditors and the New York attorney general’s office. The New York attorney general’s office sued Weinstein Co. last year after revelations surfaced showing his studio, Weinstein Company, knew for at least two years that he had been paying off women who accused him of sexual harassment and assault. They initially pushed for a victims’ fund of up to $90 million before the plans faltered after the company went bankrupt.  Under the terms of the proposed settlement, which would be paid through insurance funds, no party would admit wrongdoing.

In October 2017, the New York Times published a story detailing decades of allegations of sexual harassment against Harvey Weinstein.  Actresses Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd were among the first women to come forward.  The accusations include forcing women to massage him and watch him naked. He also allegedly promised to help some women advance their careers in return for sexual favors. Many of the instances occurred during meetings that agents, studios and assistants set up for Weinstein under the guise of a potential movie role.  The common theme in the accusations is that the harassment took place early in their careers and they kept quiet out of fear that they would destroy their budding careers.  Fear of Harvey Weinstein’s influence helped keep his treatment of women shrouded for years with a network of aggressive publicists and lawyers helping.

The film producer issued an apology acknowledging he had “caused a lot of pain” – but denied allegations that he harassed female employees over nearly three decades.  The scandal surrounding Weinstein led to the #MeToo movement, which has seen hundreds of women accusing high-profile men in business, government and entertainment of sexual abuse and harassment.

 

“American Taliban” John Walker Lindh Released From Prison

 

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John Walker Lindh, an American captured in Afghanistan in 2001 and convicted of providing support to the Taliban and of carrying a firearm and an explosive during the commission of a felony, has been released from an Indiana prison after spending 17 years behind bars.  He was captured during the invasion of Afghanistan in the fall of 2001 and returned to the United States the next year.  Lindh was freed on probation after serving 17 years of a 20-year sentence in a high-security federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., much of it in extreme isolation.

Known as the “American Taliban,” Lindh converted to Islam at the age of 16 and began regularly attending mosques.  He dropped out of high school and earned his GED.  In 1998, at the age of 17, Lindh traveled to Yemen and stayed for about 10 months to learn Arabic so that he could read the Qur’an in its original language.  He returned to the United States in 1999, living with his family for about eight months.  Lindh returned to Yemen in February 2000 and left for Pakistan to study at a madrassa.

At the age of 20, Lindh decided to travel to Afghanistan to fight for the Afghan Taliban government forces against Northern Alliance fighters.  His parents said that he was moved by stories of atrocities allegedly perpetrated by the Northern Alliance army against civilians. He traveled to Afghanistan in May 2001.  Not long after the 9/11 attacks, In November 2001, he was captured in November 2001 after being found emaciated and wounded as one of the few to survive a massacre by the Northern Alliance.

He and other fighters were brought to a make shift prison and were being questioned by the CIA officers.  Lindh initially told them he was Irish.  Soon after, a few hundred Taliban soldiers, held as prisoners of war, staged an uprising.  Over the next eight days, all but 86 of those prisoners would die, as well as many of their jailers and one of the CIA agents who was questioning them.  Once troops stormed the prison, it was discovered that Lindh was an American.

His lawyer stated “One of the first things he told Army interrogators when they questioned him on December 3, 2001, was that after 9/11 happened, he wanted to leave the front lines but couldn’t for fear of his life. John never wanted to be in a position where he was opposing the United States (and never thought he would be), and in fact he never opposed any American military.”

 

Columbine Survivor & Addiction Recovery Advocate Austin Eubanks Found Dead

 

 

 

 

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Austin Eubanks, a survivor of the 1999 Columbine mass shooting and advocate for those suffering from addiction, was found dead in his home this past weekend at the age of 37. Eubanks became a public speaker on the issue of addiction after battling with opioid abuse.  Eubanks “lost the battle with the very disease he fought so hard to help others face.  Helping to build a community of support is what meant the most to Austin, and we plan to continue his work” his family said in a statement.  The family noted that Eubanks’ cause of death is unknown and it is awaiting autopsy results.

Eubanks said he became addicted to opioids after being put on powerful painkillers to manage the pain from gunshot injuries sustained in the Columbine massacre.  Eubanks was 17 at the time of the Columbine shooting.  He was in the library with his friends, trying to decide whether they were going to go fishing or play golf after school, when they heard the sound of gunshots.  “A teacher ran through the same doors that we just entered into the library, yelling at everybody to get under the tables, that somebody had a gun, and I remember just being in shock.”

Eubanks, his best friend Corey DePooter and a couple of other students hid under the same table.  About 10 minutes later, the shooters entered the library and methodically fired under each table, Eubanks said. He was shot in the hand and knee while Corey DePooter was killed instantly.  Eubanks never returned to Columbine High School after the shooting.  He was privately tutored at home three days a week until he graduated in 2000.

“Obviously, after the shooting, my life took a pretty big detour,” Eubanks said.  “As a result of my injuries, I was pretty significantly medicated about 45 minutes after being shot. I remember immediately being drawn to that feeling, because it took the emotion away,” he said of the pain medication.  Eubanks said that within a matter of weeks he developed an opioid addiction. “I learned I didn’t have to process emotion. I could keep myself numb if I was on substances,” he admitted.

He continued to struggle with addiction in his 20s.  Eubanks married at the age of 25 and had two sons but divorced four years later. Eubanks candidly spoke of years of abuse of Oxycontin, Adderall and Xanax growing worse until he lost his career in advertising and marketing, descending into a life he described as “Grand Theft Auto,” stealing cars and writing bad checks as he fed his addiction.  After multiple attempts at residential treatment, he found long-term recovery in 2011, at the age of 29.  He decided to devote his time to speaking out about addiction recovery.  He worked at Foundry Treatment Center in Steamboat Springs from 2015 to 2019, serving as Chief Operations Officer.

Boeing Facing Legal Fallout Over Air Max Crashes

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A new report reveals that members of the American Airlines pilots’ union confronted Boeing in late 2018 about features on the 737 MAX aircraft that have been implicated in two fatal crashes.  Audio has been released of an exchange between pilots and Boeing executives, recorded in November 2018 — less than a month after the Indonesia’ Lion Air Flight 610, which killed all 189 people on board and just four months before Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, which killed 157 people.

During the meeting, pilots expressed anger that a faulty sensor system on the 737 MAX was not communicated to them until after the first deadly accident and pushed Boeing to work urgently on fixing the issue. The Max 737 is still grounded and multiple lawsuits and investigations into the crashes are underway.  This news of a confrontation between Boeing and the pilots’ union comes as Boeing is being sued by its’ investors and faces large settlements with victims’ families.  Investors are suing Boeing as they allege the company artificially inflated the value of the stock by withholding knowledge of safety problems. The shareholders are seeking as much as $4.76 billion for losses from January to March 21.

It’s also been estimated that Boeing Co. and its insurers are faced with settling claims to the families of those who perished aboard two doomed jets that killed 346 people in the span of five months.  The settlements could cost the airline $1 billion and will be calculated by how long the victims knew they were plunging to their deaths.  Legal experts agree the payouts could be even higher if evidence shows Boeing knew about flaws in the planes before the tragedies. That’s already prompted investor lawsuits claiming the company hid safety risks.  Damages assessed against Boeing would be paid out by its insurers, except for what amounts to a large deductible common for major manufacturers.

The Ethiopian crash, following the October crash of a Lion Air flight, led to the worldwide grounding of the 737 Max, the revamped version of a plane model that accounts for a third of Boeing’s operating profit. There are multiple ongoing investigations is a U.S. Justice Department probe of how American regulators certified a flawed part of the plane’s flight-control system.  The precise causes of the crashes are still being determined but the preliminary evidence is raising the liability risk for Boeing

The Ethiopian flight crashed six minutes after takeoff, and Lion Air crash occurred about 11 minutes into flight. In both instances, preliminary reports show the pilots struggled for several minutes to regain control of planes that were in uncontrolled dives and reached speeds of almost 600 miles an hour. That suggests the victims knew their fate.  It’s been reported that some defendants are offering cash settlements in exchange for a pledge not to pursue legal claims. Families of crash victims in Indonesia, where the average annual income is about $3,400, have been approached by Lion Air with an offer of more than 1 billion rupiahs ($90,000).

 

 

 

Monsanto Loses 3rd Round Up Cancer Trial

 

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Monsanto has been ordered to pay its highest damages yet in the third lawsuit over the popular weed killer Roundup.  A jury has ordered Monsanto, which is owned by German pharmaceutical giant Bayer, to pay more than $2 billion in punitive damages to Alva and Alberta Pilliod — a couple who were both diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer after using Roundup on their properties for over 30 years. The main ingredient in the herbicide is glyphosate, and is said to cause the cancer.

Alva Pilliod and his wife, Alberta, are in their 70s and have been married for nearly 50 years. They started using Roundup in the 1970s and continued using the weed killer until only a few years ago. The Livermore couple has two children and four grandchildren.  Alva was diagnosed in 2011 with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in his bones that spread to his pelvis and spine. Alberta was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma brain cancer in 2015.  At the request of their attorneys, a judge expedited the trial due to their advanced ages and cancer diagnoses.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs estimate that there are tens of thousands of similar cases against Roundup pending in courts around the country.  The guilty verdict is the third time a jury has found the company at fault in California since mid-2018. In March, a San Francisco jury awarded $80 million to a man who blamed his cancer on his extensive use of Roundup. In August 2018, another San Francisco jury awarded $289 million to a fourth plaintiff. On appeal a judge later slashed that payout to $78 million. Bayer is appealing each of these verdicts. The company insists there is no link between Roundup and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Another trial, Gordon v. Monsanto, is scheduled for August in St. Louis County in Missouri, the site of Monsanto’s former headquarters.  Other upcoming trials against the makers of RoundUp include

St. Louis County Court – Lamb & Cohen v. Monsanto set for September 9, 2019

St. Louis County Court – Winston v. Monsanto set for October 15, 2019

Montana 18th Judicial District Court Gallatin County – Cazier v. Monsanto – postponed

St. Louis City Court – Wade v. Monsanto set for January 21, 2020

 

Bayer has seen its stock price plummet 40 percent since it purchased Monsanto last year for $63 billion. At its recent annual meeting, a shareholder revolt ensued, with more than half of the shareholders voting against absolving management for its decision to acquire the St. Louis-based seed and pesticide company.

 

 

Confessed Serial Killer May Be Linked To 2 More Louisiana Victims

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Louisiana investigators say confessed serial killer Samuel Little from Lorain, may be linked to two more unidentified cold case victims in the state.  Little has drawn haunting portraits from memory of women the FBI believes he murdered.  The FBI has released the pictures in hopes some of the victims can be identified.  Little, 78, says he killed 94 women from 1970 to 2005.  Police have confirmed more than 36 cases so far, a tally that puts Little among the deadliest serial killers.  He pled guilty to a Texas woman’s death in January and has been convicted in the deaths of three women from California.

Little was arrested on September 5, 2012, at a homeless shelter in Louisville, Kentucky, after authorities used DNA testing to establish that he was involved in the murder of Carol Elford, killed on July 13, 1987; Guadalupe Apodaca, killed on September 3, 1987; and Audrey Nelson, killed on August 14, 1989.  All three of their bodies were found dumped in the streets of LA.  He was extradited to Los Angeles, where he was charged on January 7, 2013.  He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in September 2014.

Months later, police said that Little was being investigated for involvement in dozens of murders committed across 14 states between 1970 and 2005.    On November 9, 2018, Little confessed to the 1996 fatal strangulation of Melissa Thomas.  In December 2018, Little pled guilty to the 1994 murder of Denise Christie.  confessed to the 1979 murder of 23-year-old Brenda Alexander whose body was found in Phenix City.  Little also confessed to the 1977 murder of an unidentified woman and the 1982 strangling murder of 18-year-old Fredonia Smith.

According to authorities, he also confessed to the 1982 murder of 55-year-old Dorothy Richards, the 1996 murder of 40-year-old Daisy McGuire, the 1978 murder of 36-year-old Julia Critchfield, the 1978 murder of 19-year-old Evelyn Weston, the 1982 murder of 20-year-old Rosie Hill and the 2005 murder of 46-year-old Nancy Carol Stevens.  Police have linked him to the 1981 murder of 23 year old Linda Sue Boards.  He has also been linked to two murder victims who remain unidentified.

Little confessed to strangling all his victims and dumping their bodies in wooded areas. Without a gunshot or knife wound, many of the deaths were blamed on overdoses or accidents and murder investigations were never opened. The victims were often involved in prostitution or addicted to drugs and their bodies sometimes went unidentified.  According to the FBI, Little remembers his victims and the killings in great detail.   He remembers where he was and what car he was driving but is less reliable with remembering dates.

Little began making the confessions in exchange for a transfer out of the Los Angeles County prison in which he was being held.  The FBI says Little is in very poor health and will stay in prison until his death.  He uses a wheelchair, and suffers from diabetes and a heart condition.  Little has confessed to dozens of murders and has drawn 26 portraits of some of his alleged victims.  One of his victims has been identified from the portraits so far.  Martha Cunningham of Knox County, Tennessee who was 34 years old when Little murdered her in 1975.   The agency is releasing these photos now to identify his victims and provide closure and justice in unsolved cases.  If you have any information that can help, call 800-634-4097.

Minnesota Officer Convicted in Death of Justine Ruszczyk

 

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A jury has found former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor guilty of third-degree murder and second degree manslaughter in the killing of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, an Australian woman who called 911 to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her home. The jury of ten men and two women acquitted Noor on an additional count of second-degree murder in the killing.  Noor faces up to 12 and a half years for third-degree murder and four years for second-degree manslaughter. His sentencing date is set for June 7.

For each charge, the jury had to unanimously decide whether they believed Noor was guilty or not guilty. Each charge Noor faced involved causing the death of Ruszczyk, but the three counts have different elements.  Second-degree murder means killing someone intentionally, but without premeditation.  Third-degree murder includes acting with a “depraved mind” — shooting without knowing the target — and “without regard for human life” in causing someone’s death, but without intending to do so.  Second-degree manslaughter is acting in a negligent way and creating an “unreasonable risk” in actions that cause death.

Noor’s lawyer said a “perfect storm” of events led him to open fire on Ruszczyk the night of July 15, 2017, when she called 911 to report a possible assault in progress in an alley behind her Minneapolis home.  Ruszczyk called police twice that night — once to report a possible assault, then to see where officers were.  When they arrived on the scene, Noor and his partner Matthew Harrity drove down an alley in south Minneapolis with their squad car’s lights down. They drove slowly and quietly.

Then, Harrity testified, he heard a “thump” and a “murmur.” Ruszczyk approached the officers on their vehicle’s driver’s side.  Noor, who was seated in the passenger seat, shot Ruszczyk through the open driver’s-side window of the vehicle as she approached his police cruiser in her pajamas.  Noor testified that he feared for his partner’s life as Ruszczyk approached their squad car in the dark, empty alley. But Hennepin County prosecutors said Noor overreacted and failed to properly assess the situation before firing a gunshot into Ruszczyk’s abdomen.  Ruszczyk was pronounced dead on the scene.

Sixty witnesses testified during the nearly month-long trial, including use-of-force experts, neighbors, and Noor’s partner, Matthew Harrity.  Harrity was behind the wheel of their squad car when Noor shot Ruszczyk from the passenger seat. He testified that he was startled by a noise on the rear driver’s side door as Ruszczyk approached the vehicle.  Noor testified that Harrity’s terrified expression and the sight of Ruszczyk with her hand raised jolted him into action. Although he did not see a gun in Ruszczyks’ hand, he feared his partner might be shot as she began to raise her hand, he said.

Experts differed on whether Noor’s use of force was reasonable or justified.  The prosecution’s use of force expert said that Noor’s use of deadly force was unreasonable.  Being “startled” is different than “fearing death or great bodily harm.”  The defense’s use of force expert said Noor’s conduct was an “objectively reasonable” response to the situation.  “It’s late at night. It’s dark in the alley,” Kapelsohn said, noting Noor heard his partner say “oh Jesus.”