Bill Cosby Appeals Sex Assault Conviction Over Testimony from Accusers During Trial

Bill Cosby believes the 5 women who testified against him during his second trial should have never been allowed to be heard by the court.

According to the appeal filed by Cosby, and obtained by The Blast, the disgraced comedian filed documents in the Superior Court of Pennsylvania and argued that the testimony allowed during his second trial, by five women accusing him of sexual assault, was not relevant and should not have been used for a conviction.

Cosby's legal team argues the testimony was "strikingly dissimilar" to Andrea Constand's testimony during the original 2014 trial, and believe that the ultimate "conviction was not based on any credible evidence that he actually committed the crimes for which he was on trial."

The appeal was filed weeks after Pennsylvania Judge Steven O'Neill, in a post-trial memo defending his actions, said the women's testimony showed "chilling similarities" that pointed to a "signature" crime against Cosby.

As we reported, Cosby's wife Camille has been outspoken against Judge O'Neill, claiming "Judge O’Neill, with a great deal of help from the media, has tried to turn Bill Cosby into one of the most insidious stereotypes of African American men…the brutal, black buck."

Meanwhile Cosby remains by bars in a Pennsylvania prison serving a term of 3 - 10 years.

While inside, the 81-year-old has been mentoring other prisoners and holding classes he calls "Man Up." We're told he holds 15 sessions per month and encourages fellow prisoners to learn a job or trade before re-entering society.

Reps for Cosby tell The Blast, "Today, will be considered a memorable moment for Actor & Comedian Bill Cosby and his family; but most importantly, this will be an historic period for ALL American Citizens of these United States, who have been wrongfully convicted of a crime, without any proof."

The statement continues, "On this date, one of our Great American Treasures [Bill Cosby]...was finally awarded the opportunity to file his appeal with the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. This filing is an important step in ensuring that Mr. Cosby receives a hearing from a fair and impartial court. The Constitution guarantees that right to Mr. Cosby—and to all Americans—and he looks forward to securing justice in the court of appeal."

Camille Cosby also released a statement that, " America will be great when it fulfills the last four words of the revered Pledge of Allegiance ... 'and justice for all.'"



Man Convicted In Charlottesville Death Asks For ‘Mercy’ Ahead Of Sentencing

James Alex Fields Jr. drove his car into counterprotesters at a 2017 white nationalist rally. An activist was killed and dozens of others were injured.

The self-avowed white supremacist who plowed his car into counterdemonstrators opposing a white nationalist rally in Virginia two years ago, killing one person and injuring dozens, has asked a judge for mercy and a sentence shorter than life in prison.

Lawyers for James Alex Fields Jr., 22, said in a sentencing memo submitted in court documents Friday that the defendant should not spend his entire life in prison because of his age, a traumatic childhood and a history of mental illness. Fields pleaded guilty to federal hate crimes in March and is set to be sentenced on June 28.

“No amount of punishment imposed on James can repair the damage he caused to dozens of innocent people. But this Court should find that retribution has limits,” his attorneys wrote.

But prosecutors countered that the avowed anti-Semite and Adolf Hitler admirer has shown no remorse since he drove the car into the counterdemonstrators on Aug. 12, 2017, killing anti-racism activist Heather Heyer and injuring others protesting against the white nationalists.

The attorneys for Fields said that giving him something less than a life sentence would be akin to an “expression of mercy” and a “conviction that no individual is wholly defined by their worst moments.”

But prosecutors said Friday that Fields deserves a life sentence, adding that would help deter others from committing “similar acts of domestic terrorism.”

The dueling memos were filed week as the federal sentencing looms on Friday.

Fields’ case stirred racial tensions around the country. Fields pleaded in March to federal hate crime charges and admitted that he intentionally plowed his speeding car into a crowd of anti-racism protesters, killing a woman and injuring dozens.

Under a plea deal, federal prosecutors agreed not to pursue the death penalty against Fields. The charges he pleaded guilty to call for life in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.

Fields was convicted in December in a Virginia court of first-degree murder and other state charges for killing anti-racism activist Heather Heyer and injuring others who were protesting against the white nationalists. Sentencing on the state charges is scheduled for next month.

The rally in 2017 drew hundreds of white nationalists to Charlottesville to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Hundreds of counterprotesters demonstrated against the white nationalists.

In Friday’s memo, Fields’ attorneys highlighted his difficult upbringing and history of mental illness, but many of the details were redacted from public viewing. He was raised by a paraplegic single mother and suffered “trauma” by growing up knowing that his Jewish grandfather had murdered his grandmother before committing suicide, his lawyers said.

Prosecutors focused on years of documented racist and anti-Semitic behavior by Fields, which they said included keeping a picture of Adolf Hitler on his bedside table. They also said in court documents that he was recorded on a jail phone call making disparaging remarks about Heyer’s mother as recently as last month.

Prosecutors also said that while Fields has a history of mental illness issues, it doesn’t excuse his behavior in a way that would require a lenient sentence.

“Any mental health concerns raised by the defendant do not overcome the defendant’s demonstrated lack of remorse and his prior history of substantial racial animus,” prosecutors wrote.



Cities Nationwide Refuse To Cooperate With ICE’s Mass Deportation Raids

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Officials in major cities are taking a stand against President Trump’s threats for mass deportation in order to protect their immigrant residents.

Mayors, city officials and police departments from across the country are refusing to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement after seeing reports that the agency will launch sweeping deportation raids in at least 10 major cities over the weekend.

The raids, expected on Sunday, are targeting up to 2,000 migrant families who’ve received deportation orders, the Washington Post and Miami Herald reported on Friday. 

ICE agents are expected carry out the deportations in cities with large immigrant communities, including Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York and San Francisco.

Mayors in cities that have asserted its status as so-called “sanctuary cities,” such as San Francisco, criticized the reported deportation plans and reached out to their immigrant residents offering support.

In a statement Friday night, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she directed the Chicago Police Department to not cooperate with ICE or their enforcement efforts.

She also ordered Chicago police to cut off any access ICE has to the parts of the city’s police database that contain information on immigration enforcement activities. Lightfoot said she has “personally spoken to ICE leadership” to voice her objections to the raids.

“We are all aware of the threat from President Trump regarding raids by ICE, and in response, Chicago has taken concrete steps to support our immigrant communities,” she said.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed on Friday night reiterated her city’s status as a so-called sanctuary city, where police and city officials vow to refuse to work with federal officials to detain and deport immigrants. 

“It is unconscionable that the Federal administration is targeting innocent immigrant families with secret raids that are designed to inflict as much fear and pain as possible,” Breed said in a statement. “Here in San Francisco, we will always demonstrate our values of diversity and inclusiveness by being a sanctuary city that stands up for all our residents and neighbors.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said that the city would provide support the city’s immigrant community and warned immigrants of their rights.

In a separate statement, the Los Angeles Police Department said it would not be participating or enforcing ICE’s deportation efforts. The department did note that immigration violations are a matter of federal law and would only be handled by ICE and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms warned residents of the raids and provided a link to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative where immigrants can find resources for pro bono legal representation.

New York’s Immigrant Affairs office, which operates under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office, also alerted the city’s residents of ICE’s sweeps and shared information on immigrant rights during raids.

Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock said that the city did not receive any notice of the upcoming raids, adding that the city would not support “family separation or the round-up of immigrant families to spread fear in our community.”

The Denver Police Department told the Denver Post that they do not typically assist with any ICE operations. However, the Denver police would assist in cases of emergency.

Hancock suggested that the city would “do whatever we can to prevent the inhumane practice of family separation.”

“Threats from this [White House]. which are only a distraction from its failures, won’t weaken our resolve,” he tweeted.

Baltimore Mayor Jack Young told CBS Baltimore that he was “deeply disturbed” by the ICE reports and said the city needed to preserve the relationship residents have with its local law enforcement officers.

“I am proud that Baltimore is committed to upholding the American values of respecting the rights and dignity of every resident,” Young told the news station. “Regardless of the position of the federal government, we will continue to stand by our decision to be an inclusive, fair and welcoming city.”

While Washington D.C. was not included in reports of deportation sweeps, the district’s Mayor Muriel Bowser denounced Trump and called the sweeps “cruel.”

Cory Booker Unveils Plan To Free Thousands Of Federal Prisoners

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The 2020 presidential candidate's Restoring Justice Initiative would aim to free federal prisoners “serving unjust and excessive sentences."

Sen. Cory Booker’s (D-N.J.) presidential campaign on Thursday unveiled a plan that would grant clemency and early release to thousands of federal drug offenders “serving unjust and excessive sentences.”

Under the plan, Booker would “initiate” the clemency process for roughly 17,000 federal prisoners on his first day in office and set up a bipartisan panel that would “operate with a presumption of a recommendation of clemency,” though screen out certain individuals who may “pose a threat to public safety” based on the details of their cases or their prison history.

Booker’s plan, the Restoring Justice Initiative, focuses on three categories of prisoners: those serving primarily for marijuana charges; those who would have had shorter sentences if they were sentenced after the passage of the First Step Act, a law signed by President Donald Trump that offers some limited prison reforms and gives federal prisoners a chance to earn more days off for good behavior each year; and those who have longer sentences due to the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine.

“The War on Drugs has been a war on people, tearing families apart, ruining lives, and disproportionately affecting people of color and low-income individuals — all without making us safer,” Booker said in a statement. “As president, I will act immediately to right these wrongs, starting by initiating a clemency process for thousands of nonviolent drug offenders who have been handed unjust sentences by their government.”

President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of more than 1,700 federal prisoners over the course of his presidency. But Obama’s clemency initiative, which worked through the Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney, faced some bureaucratic hurdles that blunted its impact. Booker’s plan includes the formation of an executive clemency panel, which is intended to “revamp and streamline the clemency process.” That panel, set up by the Office of the White House Counsel, would largely remove DOJ’s Office of the Pardon Attorney from the process.

The Restorative Justice Initiative is the latest of Booker’s criminal justice reform policies. Last year, he sponsored the First Step Act, which passed the Senate in 2018 on a vote of 87-12. In March, Booker introduced the Next Step Act, which tackles police violence and racial profiling, reintegration for former prisoners and sentencing disparities.

For Booker, one of three black senators, the issue of criminal justice reform is personal. In an interview with BlacKkKlansman director Spike Lee last fall, Booker talked about his own experience being racially profiled while he was a student at Stanford University.

“I remember at Stanford just being pulled over surrounded by numerous cops all around my car, screaming at me,” he said.

“And then after it was all over, sitting there sort of holding my steering wheel, shaking, worrying that I was going to get … God knows what — anywhere from arrested to shot,” he added. “I remember taking my hand off the steering wheel once to scratch my head, or something like that, and just getting screamed at.”

Trump has used clemency in a much more limited capacity than his predecessor, often using the power when celebrities lobby him to do so or based on segments he has seen on Fox News. His pardons have also circumvented the traditional process through the Justice Department. 



Black US Soldiers Fighting on D-Day, Racism Back Home

World War II veteran Johnnie Jones, Sr. poses for a portrait at his home in Baton Rouge, La., Tuesday, May 28, 2019. He remembers wading ashore and one incident when he and his fellow soldiers came under fire from a German sniper. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

D-Day was the largest invasion the world has ever seen. Tens of thousands of Allied troops spread out across the air and sea along northern France. Their goal was to gain control of Normandy for the final military campaign against Nazi Germany.

Books and films about D-Day often show an all-white group of soldiers arriving in Normandy on June 6, 1944. Among them, about 2,000 African Americans are believed to have landed at the time.

The African Americans served in a United States military that separated people by race. But on Normandy, everyone faced the same dangers.

The only African American force in battle that day was the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion. Its job was to set up explosive-rigged balloons to prevent German airplanes from attacking the Allies.

Waverly Woodson, Junior, was a medical worker with the battalion. Before his death in 2005, he told The Associated Press in 1994 about how his landing ship hit a mine on the way to Omaha Beach.

“The tide brought us in, and that’s when the 88s hit us,” he said of the German 88 millimeter guns. “They were murder. Of our 26 Navy personnel there was only one left. They raked the whole top of the ship and killed all the crew. Then they started with the mortar shells.”

Woodson himself was wounded, but he spent 30 hours on the Normandy coast helping other wounded men before eventually collapsing. A U.S. senator is now leading an effort to award the Medal of Honor to Woodson for his actions on D-Day. However, a 1973 fire destroyed the military personnel records needed to document the actions.

Another member of the African-American unit, William Dabney, told The AP in 2009, “The firing was furious on the beach. I was picking up dead bodies and I was looking at the mines blowing up soldiers. ... I didn’t know if I was going to make it or not.” Dabney died in 2018.

Enthusiasts of England salute in front of The Brave, a monument dedicated to the American soldiers who landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day, in Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer, Tuesday, June 4, 2019, in Normandy.
Enthusiasts of England salute in front of The Brave, a monument dedicated to the American soldiers who landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day, in Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer, Tuesday, June 4, 2019, in Normandy.

Linda Hervieux wrote about the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion in her book “Forgotten: The Untold Story of D-Day’s Black Heroes, at Home and at War.”

Hervieux said the U.S. military resisted efforts to end racial separation policies as it prepared for World War II. The military kept separate units and separate areas for black and white troops.

“This was a very expensive and inefficient way to run an army. The Army ... could have ordered its men to integrate and to treat black soldiers as fully equal partners in this war. The Army declined to do so,” she said.

By the end of the war, more than a million African Americans served in the military. They included the famed Tuskegee Airmen and the 761st Tank Battalion. Black troops, however, were often put in support units responsible for transporting supplies. That did not mean they were safe from danger.

Johnnie Jones joined the military in 1943 out of Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was in a unit responsible for unloading equipment and supplies onto Normandy. Now 99 years old, Jones remembers coming under German fire and returning fire alongside other soldiers during the landing.

After the end of the war in Europe, many African American troops were met with discrimination when they returned home. Jones remembers having to move to the back of a bus as it crossed the Mason-Dixon line. The line represented the border between the free states in the North from the slave-owning states in the South before the Civil War.

“I couldn’t sit with the soldiers I had been on the battlefield with. I had to go to the back of the bus,” said Jones, who went on to become a lawyer and civil rights activist. “Those are the things that come back and haunt you.”




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