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An Indiana judge has blocked the state’s abortion ban from being enforced, putting the new law on hold as abortion clinic operators argue that it violates the state constitution. Owen County Judge Kelsey Hanlon issued a preliminary injunction Thursday against the ban that took effect one week ago. The injunction was sought by abortion clinic operators who argued in a lawsuit that the state constitution protects access to the medical procedure. The judge wrote “there is reasonable likelihood that this significant restriction of personal autonomy offends the liberty guarantees of the Indiana Constitution” and that the clinics will prevail in the lawsuit.
The state of Maine and a fishing group are appealing a federal judge’s decision that new rules intended to protect endangered whales must stand. The judge earlier this month denied a request from fishermen to stop federal regulators from placing the new restrictions on lobster fishing. The rules are intended to protect North Atlantic right whales, which number less than 340. Maine Gov. Janet Mills and the Maine Lobstermen’s Association said this week they’re appealing that decision. Lobstermen have long contended the new rules are based on flawed data and are too punitive to the fishing industry.
After bashing the proceedings on his web show, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has made his first appearance outside a courthouse in Connecticut where a jury will determine how much damages he should pay for telling his audience the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a hoax. Jones showed up and made comments outside, but left a short time later, indicating he wouldn't be testifying Tuesday. Jones has criticized the proceedings from his Infowars studio in Austin, Texas, calling it a “show trial.” He has already been found liable for damages and the trial is to decide how much he must pay eight families and an FBI agent who responded to the massacre.
A federal judge in Miami has awarded $73 million in damages to the family of a prominent opponent of Venezuela’s socialist government who died while in custody in what he described as a “murder for hire” carried out by a criminal enterprise led by President Nicolás Maduro. Fernando Albán was arrested in 2018 upon arrival to the Caracas airport from New York. He died three days later in what authorities initially described as a suicide jump from the 10th floor of a building belonging to Venezuela’s intelligence services. Last year his widow and two children sued Maduro and several high-ranking members of his government for carrying out the kidnapping, torture and murder.
A Northern California woman has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for faking her own kidnapping so she could go back to a former boyfriend, which led to an three-week, multi-state search. Forty-year-old Sherri Papini pleaded guilty last spring under a plea bargain. U.S. District Judge William Shubb said he opted for a longer sentence than prosecutors recommended in order to deter others. Passersby found her with injuries including a blurred “brand” on her right shoulder. All of her injuries were self-inflicted. The married mother of two was actually staying with a former boyfriend in Southern California. He dropped her off about three weeks after she disappeared.
Federal prosecutors this week scored multiple convictions against R. Kelly at the singer’s trial in Chicago. But they lost on the headline charge, that Kelly obstructed justice by rigging his 2008 state child pornography trial, at which jurors acquitted him. Kelly's longtime business manager Derrel McDavid was also acquitted on that count. At least one legal expert said obstruction of justice charges aren’t generally hard to prove. But former federal prosecutor Phil Turners says that in this case, the facts just weren't there. U.S. Attorney John Lausch expressed disappointment in not winning convictions across the board. But he said Kelly is still looking at a prison sentence of 10 to 90 years. Sentencing is set for Feb. 23.
Federal jury in Chicago convicts R. Kelly on multiple counts, but acquits him of fixing his 2008 child pornography trial.
A sister of a teacher killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre and an FBI agent who responded to the shooting have both emotionally described what it has been like to be accused of being crisis actors by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and others. Carlee Soto Parisi and FBI agent William Aldenberg were the first witnesses to testify Tuesday as a Connecticut jury began hearing statements in a trial to decide how much money Jones owes for spreading the lie that the 2012 mass shooting in Newtown didn’t happen. The trial began Tuesday in Waterbury, only 18 miles from Newtown, where 26 people were killed in 2012. Jones' attorneys say his comments, which he now admits were wrong, were protected speech.
A federal judge in Phoenix has blocked enforcement of a new Arizona law restricting the filming of police. U.S. District Judge John Tuchi agreed with the American Civil Liberties Union and multiple media organizations that the law appeared to violate the First Amendment. He issued a preliminary injunction Friday. The law was slated to take effect Sept. 24. Republican Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich and the prosecutor and sheriff’s office in Maricopa County told the judge they would not defend the law. The judge gave the Legislature a week to decide if it will do so. Bystander cellphone videos are largely credited with revealing police misconduct and reshaping the conversation around police transparency.
A judge ruled that the jury for school shooter Nikolas Cruz can see the swastikas he drew on class assignments. Cruz's attorneys argued Thursday the Nazi symbols should not be presented because they would unfairly anger the jury and there's no evidence he targeted any of his 17 victims because of their race or religion. Judge Elizabeth Scherer rejected the argument. She pointed out that there were other equally offensive words and drawings they were not trying to block, such as an extremely offensive slur used against Black people. Cruz pleaded guilty to the 2018 killings at Parkland's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The trial is to decide whether he's sentenced to death or life without parole.