Here's why the FTC's new tech task force probably won't break up Facebook or Google, according to industry insiders (FB, GOOGL, MSFT, AMZN)

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  • The Federal Trade Commission has announced a new task force meant to look at antitrust behavior in the technology market.
  • It’s the first major move by the FTC to address growing public concern over the size of tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon.
  • The new task force will look at industry practices and conduct law-enforcement investigations. It also has the ability to look at both past and present mergers.
  • But industry insiders said they didn’t expect to see the FTC break up large tech companies, even if there is precedent set by its past actions in the hospital industry.

Big Tech got a big scare Tuesday when federal regulators launched a task force to patrol the market for signs of outsize power and to reexamine the validity of mergers that closed years ago.

The prospect that the likes of Facebook and Google could be forced to give up crown jewels acquired for billions of dollars — WhatsApp, in the case of Facebook, and YouTube or DoubleClick, for Google — is the most striking sign yet of the public’s unease with the corporations that dominate the internet age.

But while the Federal Trade Commission’s new Technology Task Force heralds a new era of scrutiny for an industry accustomed to hands-off treatment, industry insiders say the chances of mergers being reversed are highly unlikely.

“The idea of breaking up any company, particularly a company that doesn’t have easily separable assets like a tech company, that’s the nuclear option and it’s almost never used,” said Mark Ostrau, an antitrust lawyer with Fenwick & West.

Ostrau said what’s more likely is that the task force looks “more seriously” at new, technology-specific theories of what violates antitrust laws.

The unprecedented changes enabled by online technology, from retail to transportation, have upended long established industries and, some say, allowed newcomers to sidestep ground rules that no longer reflect the realities of the market.

Most recently, antitrust law in the US has focused on whether consumers have access to low-cost goods. So while a company like Walmart may have had a large share of a market, regulators weren’t concerned so long as there wasn’t price gouging.

Read more: US antitrust merger investigations neared record lows in 2018 even as scrutiny of Facebook, Google, and Amazon picked up

But since many of today’s largest tech companies offer free products to consumers, antitrust theorists will have to consider new issues, like whether consumers have the option to opt out of a service if they don’t like its privacy policies or whether network effects prohibit new competition from entering the market, Ostrau said.

josephjsimons hires

On the more obscure side, Ostrau said he also expected to see new developments in laws relating to anticompetitive price fixing through algorithms that enable competitors to automatically compare and adjust prices.

“That’s not so much a new theory,” Ostrau said, “but instead of clandestine face-to-face meetings, [companies are] achieving it through automatic algorithms.”

There’s precedent with Microsoft, CDK Global

The FTC’s move comes at a time when concern over data privacy and the concentration of advertising dollars have come into sharp focus. High-profile scandals such as Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica data leaks, as well as concerns over the content that gets shared on social media, have increased pressure on the government to act.

One of the most striking parts of the FTC’s announcement is that it will look at both “prospective merger reviews in the technology sector and reviews of consummated technology mergers.”

This indicated to some that the FTC could retroactively challenge past mergers, such as Facebook’s $19 billion WhatsApp acquisition in 2014 or Google’s $3.1 billion acquisition of DoubleClick in 2007.

One lawyer familiar with the FTC’s thinking said that in all likelihood the agency wouldn’t spend resources trying to break up formidable companies that will fight its decision in court.

The 2001 DC Circuit ruling on Microsoft’s antitrust case set the precedent against breaking up a company that grew organically, and a merger would need to be directly tied to anticompetitive conduct for a company to be broken up as a punishment, the person said.

bill gates

The FTC has recently prevented mergers in tech, but it’s rare.

CDK Global’s plan to acquire Auto/Mate, which was announced in May 2017, terminated in March 2018 after the FTC blocked the deal on antitrust grounds. In that case, the person said, it appeared that CDK Global wanted to acquire its emerging competition to squash it. This is most likely different from a situation like Facebook’s purchase of Instagram, which grew into a formidable player in social media once it was acquired, the person said.

The antitrust laws would need to change for a merger like Facebook and Instagram to be broken up over unrelated privacy concerns, the person said.

Whether or not the SEC wins its cases, Ostrau said technology antitrust law could move forward on momentum alone.

“There is some benefit in just opening the investigations and bringing the cases, even if the FTC doesn’t ultimately win or get a consent decree because it heightens the sensitivity to a particular area of conduct and has an effect on the industry,” Ostrau said. “To say, this is an area of potential concern, so we ought to tread carefully, whether or not there’s a case.”

Hospital mergers show a way forward

Microsoft isn’t the only antitrust case to set a precedent. Others, including the FTC, point to its past work on hospital mergers as a precedent for what could happen with technology.

The FTC said that its new Technology Task Force was modeled after the Merger Litigation Task Force, which was launched in 2002 to monitor mergers in the hospital space. That task force did in fact successfully challenge consummated mergers, including ProMedica Health System’s acquisition of St. Luke’s Hospital.

That acquisition closed in 2010, but the hospitals operated separately during the FTC’s investigation that launched in 2011 and ultimately required divestiture. ProMedica finally divested St. Luke’s in 2016.

While the FTC may consider this a success of its task force, not everyone is convinced that it went far enough.

“The impact is merely slowing down a bad trend, not stopping it or reversing it,” said Matt Stoller, a fellow with the Open Markets Institute, a think tank that opposes corporate monopolies. “I don’t think this new task force is meaningful. I think it’s a new seating arrangement inside the building and I don’t care about that.”

As for whether it’s too difficult to break up two companies that have already merged, Stoller said companies proved they could do it anytime they decided to sell one of their assets of their own volition.

“It’s not like building moon bases on Jupiter — this is stuff they do all the time,” he said.

SEE ALSO: Meet the jet-setting Goldman Sachs banker who led Qualcomm through a hostile takeover, got stuck in Trump’s trade war, and made magic happen across the semiconductor industry

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Michael Cohen, once keeper of Donald Trump's secrets, plans to accuse the president of 'criminal conduct' – USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – Michael Cohen, the pugnacious lawyer and problem-solver for Donald Trump who has confessed to committing crimes for his benefit, is scheduled to testify for the first time in public on Wednesday before members of Congress eager to explore the details of his work for the president. 

Cohen has pleaded guilty and agreed to provide evidence to prosecutors in two separate criminal investigations into Trump and those around him. He admitted to illegally paying hush money to two women who claimed to have had sex with Trump and lying to Congress about the extent of negotiations for a Trump real estate project in Russia.

The question looming over his testimony will be whether the president himself participated in those crimes. 

A person familiar with Cohen’s planned testimony said he was prepared to testify about “criminal conduct” by Trump after he assumed the presidency. The person, who was not authorized to speak publicly, declined to characterize the conduct but said it happened during Trump’s first year in the White House.

Trump has said he was not involved in Cohen’s crimes. He argued some of them weren’t crimes at all, and he derided Cohen as a “liar” and a “rat.” Both Cohen and the Justice Department have said in court that Trump directed payoffs to two women in the final months of the 2016 campaign. And prosecutors have confirmed that they are scrutinizing the circumstances that led Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

The House Oversight and Reform Committee plans to delve widely into Trump’s businesses and finances, exploring his debts and payments for the 2016 election, his compliance with campaign finance and tax laws, his business practices, the Trump Foundation and the Trump International Hotel in Washington. Cohen had been an executive vice president and special counsel to the Trump Organization.

The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. EST Wednesday.

Cohen met behind closed doors Tuesday with the Senate Intelligence Committee and is scheduled to appear in private Thursday before the House Intelligence panel. Both of those committees planned to focus their questioning on their investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“I look forward to tomorrow, to being able to in my voice, to tell the American people my story,” Cohen told reporters as he left the closed-door session. “I’m going to let the American people decide exactly who is telling the truth.”

Asked Tuesday what he hoped to learn from a man who had already confessed to lying to Congress, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence panel, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., replied: “The truth.” 

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said lawmakers gave Cohen “an extensive grilling” on Tuesday, but she and other lawmakers declined to describe the questions they asked or the answers Cohen provided.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders called Cohen a “disgraced felon” and said that “it’s laughable that anyone would take a convicted liar like Cohen at his word, and pathetic to see him given yet another opportunity to spread his lies.” 

The oversight chairman, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said Congress has an obligation to conduct independent and robust oversight of the executive branch.

The hearing, where Cohen is appearing voluntarily after being subpoenaed by the Senate, is not supposed to include questions about Russian interference in the 2016 election, which is being investigated by the House and Senate Intelligence committees and special counsel Robert Mueller.

Republicans are expected to attack Cohen’s credibility. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top Republican on the panel, expressed disappointment with limits on questions and said he planned to ask Cohen about the crimes he admitted and other activities he refused to disclose. Jordan criticized Democrats for promoting an admitted liar as part of an effort to impeach Trump.

“Mr. Cohen cannot be trusted to partake in honest fact-finding before our body,” Jordan said.

Cohen once declared that he would “take a bullet” for Trump. Less than a year later, he became one of Trump’s main antagonists, providing information to federal prosecutors in two criminal investigations focused on the president.

In one of those cases, Cohen pleaded guilty in New York in August to tax evasion, to making false bank statements and to making illegal campaign contributions for paying hush money to two women who said they had sex with Trump.

Cohen also pleaded guilty in Mueller’s investigation in November to lying to Congress about talks for a Russian real estate project in what he described as an attempt to reduce attention on Trump’s overseas business. He told the House and Senate Intelligence committees that talks ended in January 2016 – before the Iowa caucuses – even though talks extended through at least June 2016, when Trump had effectively wrapped up the Republican nomination.

“The defendant’s false statements obscured the fact that the Moscow Project was a lucrative business opportunity that sought, and likely required, the assistance of the Russian government,” prosecutors working for Mueller wrote in a court filing in that case. “If the project was completed, the company could have received hundreds of millions of dollars from Russian sources in licensing fees and other revenues.”

Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison. He is scheduled to surrender May 6.

Cohen had been scheduled to testify earlier, but the sessions were postponed because Cohen said he and his family faced intimidation from Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Trump had tweeted that investigators should watch Cohen’s father-in-law, and Giuliani said in television interviews that the relative “may have ties to something called organized crime.”

Contributing: Kevin Johnson

More about Michael Cohen and the charges against him:

Michael Cohen postpones congressional testimony, claims ‘threats’ from President Trump and Rudy Giuliani

Cohen takeaways: As Trump’s former lawyer heads to prison, political and legal implications grow for White House

Michael Cohen, Donald Trump and Russia: Prosecutors document series of lies by president’s former fixer

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The SEC's claim that Elon Musk is in contempt of court is highly unusual, a former SEC lawyer says (TSLA)

Elon Musk

  • The Securities and Exchange Commission‘s allegation that Tesla CEO Elon Musk is in contempt of the federal court that approved a settlement between Musk and the agency is highly unusual, the former SEC senior counsel Thomas Gorman told Business Insider.
  • It’s particularly rare for the SEC to bring contempt proceedings against a corporate executive, rather than the operator of an illegal enterprise, such as a Ponzi scheme, Gorman said.
  • The most likely outcome is that Musk is sanctioned, fined, and given a stern warning about the consequences of disobeying his settlement with the SEC, Peter Haveles, a partner at Pepper Hamilton, said.

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) allegation that Tesla CEO Elon Musk is in contempt of the federal court that approved a settlement between Musk and the agency is highly unusual, the former SEC senior counsel Thomas Gorman told Business Insider.

Being in contempt of court means either misbehaving in a courtroom or deliberately disobeying a court order (the SEC is accusing Musk of the latter). The SEC rarely brings contempt proceedings, Gorman said.

“There just aren’t very many of these cases around,” he said.

It’s particularly rare for the SEC to bring contempt proceedings against a corporate executive, rather than the operator of an illegal enterprise, such as a Ponzi scheme, Gorman said.

Read more: A judge just set a deadline for Elon Musk to defend himself against the SEC’s claims that he is in contempt of court

The SEC sued Musk in September, alleging that Musk made “false and misleading statements” in August about the possibility of taking the automaker private. Musk and the agency reached a settlement in September, under which Musk didn’t admit or deny the allegations in the agency’s lawsuit but stepped down as the chairman of Tesla’s board of directors for three years and paid a $20 million fine. The settlement also required Tesla to monitor Musk’s communications, including on platforms such as Twitter.

But in the months after the settlement, Musk criticized the SEC, saying in an interview with “60 Minutes” that he didn’t respect the agency. And, on February 19, Musk tweeted a projection about Tesla’s 2019 vehicle production that exceeded what the automaker had said in its most recent earnings letter.

Musk corrected the tweet, but the SEC said in a court filing on Monday that Musk had violated the terms of his settlement with the agency by not seeking or receiving approval from Tesla before publishing his tweet about vehicle production. The agency asked a judge to hold Musk in contempt of the federal court that approved the settlement.

But proving that Musk violated the terms of the settlement will be difficult for the SEC, which faces a burden of proof just below what is necessary for a criminal case, Gorman said.

“The SEC has to prove they’re right by clear and convincing evidence. It’s not enough to have a preponderance.”

The most likely outcome is that Musk is sanctioned, fined, and given a stern warning about the consequences of disobeying his settlement with the SEC, Peter Haveles, a partner at Pepper Hamilton, said.

“It’s going to be the equivalent of hitting him across the head with a two-by-four in order to get his attention.”

SEE ALSO: New York wants drivers to pay for its crumbling subway

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After a weekend locked up, R. Kelly pleads not guilty to sexual assault charges and is hoping to bail out of jail – Sand Hills Express

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  1. After a weekend locked up, R. Kelly pleads not guilty to sexual assault charges and is hoping to bail out of jail  Sand Hills Express
  2. R. Kelly leaves jail, heads to McDonald’s after female ‘friend’ posts his $100K bail  USA TODAY
  3. R. Kelly’s friends making arrangements to pay $100K bail, lawyer says
  4. After a weekend locked up, R. Kelly could get out of jail on Monday  550 KTSA
  5. R. Kelly posts bond, walks out of jail — and heads to McDonald’s  Chicago Sun-Times
  6. View full coverage on Google News

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R. Kelly will remain in jail until Monday or Tuesday until bail can be posted, lawyer says – USA TODAY

A lawyer for R. Kelly says the singer may not post bail until Monday or Tuesday.

On Sunday, the singer’s defense attorney, Steve Greenberg, told the Associated Press that Kelly is capable of making his bail payment of $100,000 – or 10 percent of his $1 million bond. But Greenberg said others have to act for Kelly, and the coordination is complicated because Kelly is behind bars.

Kelly has been in jail since Friday night, when he surrendered following his indictment on charges of aggravated criminal sexual abuse against four people.

Bond can be paid by credit card or cash. But if Kelly is planning on writing a check to cover the $100,000, he’s going to have to cool his heels until his financial institution can confirm to court officials that he has the funds available to cover that amount, Joseph Lopez, a Chicago-based defense attorney, told the Associated Press. During the singer’s bond hearing on Saturday, Greenberg told the judge that the singer’s finances are “a mess.”

Kelly has a court appearance scheduled for Monday, when a judge will be assigned to oversee his case and he’ll have the opportunity to enter a plea, reported The Chicago Tribune’s Megan Crepeau and City Bureau’s Kim Bellware. 

His $1 million bail was set by John Fitzgerald Lyke Jr., the same judge who handled “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett’s bond a day earlier. 

Lyke called the allegations against Kelly “disturbing” and said the bail amount equals $250,000 for each of the four people Kelly is charged with abusing. The singer stared at the floor as the judge spoke.

A prosecutor told the judge Kelly met with one of the people he’s charged with sexually abusing during his 2008 child pornography trial. The accuser gave law enforcement a shirt that had Kelly’s DNA on it, the prosecutor said.

Kelly, who was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008, has consistently denied any sexual misconduct.

During a press conference after the hearing, Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx provided more details on the accusers, which include Kelly’s then-24-year-old hairdresser, two 16-year-olds and one person who was 14 years old at the time of the first alleged incident. The multiple alleged criminal acts of sexual assault date back to 1998.

Greenberg rejected the allegations to reporters Saturday, saying, “He is a rock star. He doesn’t have to have nonconsensual sex.”

Some of the charges stem from a newly discovered video found by attorney Michael Avenatti that allegedly shows Kelly having sex with a 14-year-old girl, according to a copy of the indictment obtained by USA TODAY.

Kelly, 52, surrendered to police at 8:15 p.m. Friday night, hours after being charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.

Greenberg has denied Kelly is a flight risk, telling the bond judge, “Contrary to the song, Mr. Kelly doesn’t like to fly,” paraphrasing the lyrics of Grammy-award winner’s hit “I Believe I Can Fly.”

R. Kelly:  Tracking his career of alleged sexual misconduct

Contributing: Jayme Deerwester, USA TODAY; Associated Press

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Criminal Minds Season 15 release date, trailers, cast, plot, spoilers, and everything we know about the… – Monsters and Critics

Criminal Minds season 15
Criminal Minds Season 15 is the last season of the long-running crime drama. Pic credit: CBS

CBS announced the renewal of the long-running police procedural crime drama Criminal Minds for Season 15 in January 2019 and confirmed that the upcoming 10-episode season will be the final season of the series.

The renewal of Criminal Minds for Season 15 and the official confirmation that it will be the final season of the series came after the Season 14 finale aired on February 6, 2019.

Criminal Minds Season 14 premiered in October 2018 and became one of the longest-running scripted primetime series on CBS and U.S. television after hitting the 300-episode mark.

Criminal Minds has remained a fan favorite over the years since it premiered on CBS in September 2005. And despite having recorded a pattern of consistent ratings slip in recent years, it has been able to retain a dedicated and loyal fanbase.

Rumors that emerged ahead of the premiere of Season 14 had suggested that CBS was considering ending the series amid declining ratings. The rumors gained traction following the decision of the producers to cut the number of episodes for Season 14 down to 15 (instead of the usual 22-24 episodes). The conclusion of Season 14 came in February and left fans wondering whether the long-running series would be renewed for Season 15.

Although fans were happy when CBS confirmed Criminal Minds for Season 15, they were disappointed to learn it would be the final season of the series. However, fans quickly recovered from the shock of the sad news and are now eagerly looking forward to the upcoming season. Criminal Minds Season 15 might even witness a ratings bump as viewers who had previously stopped watching the show are now more likely to tune in to see how the final episodes play out.

Ahead of the return of Criminal Minds for Season 15, we bring you everything we know so far, including the expected release date, latest cast announcements, plot updates and spoilers.

This page will also be updated over time with the latest news and information about Criminal Minds Season 15.

Criminal Minds Season 15 release date

Criminal Minds season 15
Criminal Minds Season 15 will feature 10 episodes. Pic credit: CBS

CBS has not announced an official release date for Criminal Minds Season 15. But the network has confirmed that the upcoming season will start production this spring and launch in the fall of 2019.

All seasons of the series since inception have premiered in September or October, so fans can expect the final season of Criminal Minds to return in September or October of 2019.

How many episodes will Criminal Minds Season 15 feature?

Criminal Minds season 15
Criminal Minds Season 15. Pic credit: CBS

CBS has also confirmed that Criminal Minds Season 15 will feature 10 episodes. This is the least number of episodes since the show premiered in 2005. All previous seasons before Season 14 featured 20-24 episodes. Criminal Minds Season 14 first broke the pattern with 15 episodes, and now the final Season 15 is set to feature only 10.

The 10 episodes will bring the total number of episodes since the series premiered in 2005 to 324.

Criminal Minds is likely to retain the Wednesday 10/9c slot on CBS during its final run.

Criminal Minds season 15
Criminal Minds. Pic credit: CBS

Criminal Minds: Overview

Criminal Minds season 15
Criminal Minds is created by Jeff Davis. Pic credit: CBS

Criminal Minds is created by Jeff Davis. Showrunner Erica Messer co-executive produces the series with creator Jeff Davis, Mark Gordon, Breen Frazier, Deborah Spera, Janine Sherman Barrios, Harry Bring, Edward Allen Bernero, and Gleen Kershaw.

The production companies behind the series include CBS Television Studios and ABC Studios in association with The Mark Gordon Company, Touchstone Television and Paramount Network Television.

The series is distributed in the U.S. by CBS Television Distribution and worldwide by Disney-ABC Domestic Television

Criminal Minds follow an elite team of FBI behavioral experts who track the country’s most notorious criminals.

Criminal Minds Season 14 stared Joe Mantegna, Matthew Gray Gubler, Aisha Tyler, Paget Brewster, A.J. Cook, Daniel Henney, Kirsten Vangsness and Adam Rodriguez.

CBS announced the renewal of the crime drama for Season 15 on Thursday, January 10, 2019, and confirmed that the upcoming season will air during the 2019-2020 TV season. CBS also confirmed that Criminal Minds Season 15 will be the final season of the long-running crime drama.

“It’s really bittersweet, but I’m so, so grateful to CBS for giving us this heads-up,”  showrunner Erica Messer said while reacting to the news that season 15 will the final season of Criminal Minds… they respect this series and the cast and the crew and the fans enough to end this properly.”

The announcement that Season 15 will be the final season of the series did not come entirely as a surprise. The show’s declining ratings had sparked speculation that CBS would soon end the series despite its continued success online and in syndication.

The series dropped from a 1.39 average rating (18-49 demo) and 7.466 million viewers (Live+SameDay) in Season 12 to 0.99 and 5.730 million viewers in Season 13, and finally to 0.76 and 4.670 million viewers in Season 14.

The delay to confirm the show for Season 14, after Season 13 ended with a cliffhanger, sparked rumors that it was about to be canceled. Although CBS eventually renewed the series for Season 14, the abrupt decision to cut the number of episodes to 15 (instead of 22-24 episodes) signaled to fans that the network was really preparing to wrap up the series.

Fans were expecting news of the show’s cancellation when CBS announced its renewal for Season 15 but confirmed that it would be the final season.

CBS president of Entertainment Kelly Kahl told Deadline that the decision to cancel the show was to allow the network to focus more on new original series.

“As scheduling evolves and we try to get more original episodes on air, we have to cut and paste and sometimes trim episodes on some of those shows to get more originals on the air,”  she said.

The drive to focus on fresh programming prompted the decision to end the series on a relatively high note amid declining ratings, and hopefully, Season 15 will see a significant bump in total viewers due to fans who had long given up on the show returning to see how it all ends.

With CBS having confirmed that filming of Criminal Minds Season 15 will start this spring, fans are looking forward to the launch of the final season of the series in September or October 2019.

Criminal Minds Season 15 trailer

Criminal Minds season 15
Criminal Minds Season 15 set to premiere in 2019. Pic credit: CBS

CBS has not yet released a trailer for Criminal Minds Season 15.

The network debuted the first Season 14 teaser in September 2018, ahead of the season premiere on October 3, 2018.

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Thus, if, as expected, Criminal Minds Season 15 premieres in the fall of 2019, fans can expect the first teaser or official trailer to come out in August or September of 2019, and possibly even earlier.

Criminal Minds Season 15 cast

Criminal Minds season 15
CBS renews Criminal Minds for Season 15. Pic credit: Criminal Minds

It is expected that the series’ main cast will return for Criminal Minds Season 15.

Criminal Minds Season 14 starred Joe Mantegna as David Rossi, Paget Brewster as Emily Prentiss, Matthew Gray Gubler as Dr. Spencer Reid, A.J. Cook as Jennifer “JJ” Jareau, Aisha Tyler as Dr. Tara Lewis, Kirsten Vangsness as Penelope Garcia, Adam Rodriguez as Luke Alvez, and Daniel Henney as Matt Simmons.

Showrunner Messer had revealed ahead of the premiere of Season 14 that some of the main cast members were due to renegotiate their contracts.

Multiple media sources reported on February 20, 2019, that Rachael Leigh Cook (Perception) will play Max in Criminal Minds Season 15. Cook is expected to appear in at least two episodes out of the 10 episodes of Season 15.

Max, a new love interest for Reid, is described as a “quirky, kind-hearted and candid woman” who further complicates Reid’s already complicated love life by entering into an “unusual” relationship with him (after J.J. confessed her love for him in the final episode of Season 14).

The series suffered a major loss when Thomas Gibson, who played Aaron Hotchner, was dismissed from the show after Season 12. Gibson was dismissed following an on-set altercation in which he reportedly kicked a writer in the shin.

Gibson was subsequently written out of the show, but since he left, rumors have swirled about his return as Hotch. The rumors gained traction after CBS confirmed that Criminal Minds Season 15 will be the last season of the series. But given the circumstances of his exit, it seems unlikely that the showrunners would want him back.

Fans are also speculating on firmer grounds that Shemar Moore, who departed the series after 11 seasons, will return for Season 15, and that his character Derek Morgan will team up once again with his former BAU colleagues. Moore has returned to guest star on the show on a number of occasions after he left. He appeared in the Season 12 finale of the show. He also appeared in the fifth episode of Season 13.

But regardless of who returns or doesn’t return, it is expected that Joe Mantegna’s David Rossi will play the leading role in Criminal Minds Season 15.

Criminal Minds Season 15 plot and spoilers

Criminal Minds season 15
Criminal Minds Season 15 is the shows last. Pic credit: CBS

Criminal Minds follows a team of FBI behavioral specialists who use their expertise to track criminals.

Criminal Minds Season 14 picked up from Season 13’s cliffhanger when Reid and Garcia found themselves captives of the cult leader Benjamin David Merva, played by Michael Hogan.

Season 14 ended on a happy note with the team in Washington D.C. for  Rossi’s (Joe Mantegna) wedding.

Showrunner Erica Messer has confirmed that there will be a time jump of about six months between the ending of Season 14 and the start of Season 15.

Criminal Minds Season 15 will kick off with a two-part two-hour story that follows Rossi’s obsessed hunt for the Chameleon, played by Mike Moseley.

“We kick off the final ten with a two-parter, basically. Whether they’re aired at the same time or not is unclear, but it’s a two-hour story,” Messer told “The emotional journey of our heroes [picks] up about six months after this finale has aired, and chasing the Chameleon.”

Criminal Minds season 15
Criminal Minds Season 15. Pic credit: CBS

Messer explained that the Chameleon was chosen as the bad guy for the final season following Mike Moseley’s impressive performance in Season 14.

“Moseley did such an amazing job with that episode, and we just felt like that was a worthy adversary, especially given how he really shocked and rocked Rossi’s world,” Messer continued in the interview with “We pick up with Rossi’s obsession in catching him in the final ten, and then that will play throughout, which is, you know, not a usual thing for us.”

Messer promised fans that catching Chameleon will prove challenging. Rossi’s obsession with catching the Chameleon will cause frustration for some members of the team who feel they are focusing on the wrong case.

Criminal Minds Season 15 will also pick up where Season 14 finale left off on J.J’s confession of secret love for Reid.

“I’ve always loved you,” she told Reid.”I was just too scared to say it before. And things are really just too complicated to say it now…. But you should know.”

Showrunner Messer confirmed in an interview with TVLine that Criminal Minds Season 15 will further explore J.J.’s feelings for Reid.

Although we can expect that Max’s arrival will make matters even more complicated than J.J. anticipated, we don’t yet have a clear picture of how Max will fit into what could end up a love triangle.

The fact that J.J. is married and that her husband, Detective William LaMontagne Jr., is returning for Season 15 could also further complicate the story.

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R. Kelly due in court after turning himself in to police – CBS News

Chicago — R. Kelly turned himself in to Chicago police late Friday, hours after Illinois prosecutors announced he had been charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. Kelly is accused of abusing four victims, at least three of whom were allegedly underage, in incidents that date back to 1998, according the indictment. The most recent alleged abuse was in 2010.

Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in a tweet Friday night that Kelly would be fingerprinted, photographed and processed. He will remain in police custody and appear in court on Saturday, Guglielmi said. He will be in court for a bond hearing, CBS Chicago reported.

Kelly’s attorney Steve Greenberg said Friday evening the R&B star is “shell-shocked” and “extraordinarily disappointed and depressed” by the sex abuse charges. Greenberg said he offered to sit down with prosecutors to discuss “why these charges are baseless,” but they refused, the Associated Press reported. He said Kelly maintains his innocence and looks forward to being acquitted at trial.

R. Kelly Charged With Multiple Counts Of Aggravated Criminal Sexual Abuse
R&B singer R. Kelly arrives at the 1st District-Central police station on February 22, 2019 in Chicago.


According to court records, Kelly’s first court date has been scheduled for March 8. If he is convicted on all 10 counts, a judge could decide that the sentences run one after the other, making it possible that he receives a sentence of up to 70 years behind bars, the Associated Press reported. Probation is another option under the statute, said Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.

Kelly has for decades faced allegations of sexual misconduct with underage girls, but had denied them. Greenberg has maintained the singer’s innocence and said that he never knowingly had sex with underage girls.

“I have a client who hasn’t committed any crime, so I don’t have a lot of work to do as a criminal defense lawyer,” Greenberg told CBS News last week.

Last month, Foxx asked for possible alleged victims of sexual assault or domestic violence by Kelly to come forward after the “deeply, deeply disturbing” allegations outlined in the Lifetime docu-series “Surviving R. Kelly.” 

“In order to have an investigation … we have to have victims and witnesses who are willing to come forth with whatever information that they have,” Foxx said.

The docu-series, which aired on Lifetime, features 50 interviews, including accuser Jerhonda Pace; the parents of one of Kelly’s alleged victims; Kelly’s ex-wife, Andrea Kelly; ex-girlfriend Kitti Jones and brothers Carey and Bruce Kelly.

Foxx said she saw some of the docu-series.

R. Kelly faces charges amid sex abuse allegations

“I was sickened,” she said. “I was sickened by the allegations. I was sickened as a survivor. I was sickened as a mother. I’m sickened as a prosecutor.”

After the charges were announced, “Surviving R. Kelly” producer dream hampton on Twitter said: “The survivors are heroes.”

The state’s attorney’s office identified the victims only by initials. The first, H.W., was involved in incidents between May 26, 1998 and May 25, 1999, according to the state’s attorney’s office. The grand jury returned an indictment of four counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse related to H.W., who was under 17. 

The second, R.L., was involved in an incident between Sept. 26, 1998 and Sept. 25, 2001. The grand jury returned an indictment of two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse related to R.L., who was also under 17, according to the state’s attorney’s office. The indictment does not list an age for the third victim, L.C., who was involved in an incident on Feb. 18, 2003. 

The grand jury returned an indictment of one count of aggravated criminal sexual abuse related to that incident, which the indictment said happened during the course of an attempted criminal sexual assault. The fourth victim, J.P., was involved in incidents between May 1, 2009 and Jan. 31, 2010. The grand jury returned an indictment of three counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse related to J.P., who was under 17, according to the state’s attorney’s office.

Last week, a law enforcement source told CBS News that prosecutors in Chicago have obtained a nearly 45-minute video that purportedly shows Kelly engaging in sex acts a 14-year-old girl.

Attorney Michael Avenatti says VHS tape shows R. Kelly with underage girl

Lawyer Michael Avenatti turned the video over to the Cook County state’s attorney and told CBS News he got the tape from someone who knows both Kelly and the alleged victim “extremely well.” He described it as a “bombshell of epic proportions.” CBS News has not viewed any of the footage, but Avenatti said he and Illinois prosecutors are certain Kelly is the man on the tape.

“After 25 years of serial sexual abuse and assault of underage girls, the day of reckoning for R. Kelly has arrived,” Avenatti tweeted Friday.

Avenatti, who was approached by an individual seeking representation in April, said he received the tape earlier this month. He claims R. Kelly’s voice can be heard on the recording and that a telltale mole on his back is clearly visible.

CBS News has confirmed the video was recently turned over to the Cook County state’s attorney in Chicago, where Kelly lives.

Speaking at a press conference after the charges were announced Friday, Avenatti said that the girl in the video he turned over to Foxx’s office is one of the victims listed in the indictment. He said he represents at least one of the four victims, but wouldn’t say whether the victim he represents is the girl he says is seen in the video.   

Avenatti says he represents six clients, including two victims, two parents and two people he called whistleblowers who he said could be described as “knowing R. Kelly and being within his inner circle for the better part of 25 years.”

Avenatti said the video he turned over to Foxx’s office shows two separate scenes from two different days at Kelly’s home sometime around 1999. He said it shows Kelly having sex with the girl and urinating on her. He said it also shows Kelly and the girl watching another video on a television, also apparently of Kelly having sex with a young girl. He says both Kelly and the victim state in excess of 10 times in the video that the girl is 14 years old.

“This tape leaves no question as to whether R. Kelly is guilty of multiple sexual illegal acts against a 14-year-old girl,” Kelly said.

He said he has another video and is in the process of obtaining a third, but wouldn’t detail what was in the two videos.

Avenatti also said he has evidence that Kelly and others close to him engaged in obstruction of justice to “rig” the outcome of Kelly’s 2008 trial. Kelly was acquitted on child pornography charges in 2008 after disputing he was the man seen in a grainy video having sex with an underage girl.  Avenatti said the tape in that case is different from the one he provided. He did not say whether the new tape showed a different alleged victim. 

Avenatti said Kelly had over 10 “enablers” over the years he said “turned a blind eye” to the alleged abuse, and Avenatti vowed to investigate them.

He praised Foxx and her office for their professionalism and said he expects Kelly to be convicted.

“He should never walk free another day in his life as a result of the over two decades of abuse he dished out and participated in time and time again,” Avenatti said.

R. Kelly accuser says R&B singer threatened her and her family

On Thursday, two new Kelly accusers spoke out publicly with their lawyer, Gloria Allred. The women, Latresa Scaff and Rochelle Washington, said Kelly picked them out of a crowd at a Baltimore party in the 1990s when both were underage, asked them back to his hotel and exposed himself. Scaff said she engaged in sexual activity with Kelly, but said she was under the influence of marijuana and alcohol and didn’t have the capacity to consent.

Allred said the two women planned to meet with the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York, the AP reports. She reportedly didn’t say why she had chosen that jurisdiction for alleged crimes in Maryland.

“The days of running and hiding his victimization of women from the criminal justice system have now come to an end for R. Kelly,” Allred said in a statement. 

Jericka Duncan contributed to this report.   

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‘Criminal Minds’ Casts Rachael Leigh Cook as Love Interest for Reid After Its Shocking Finale –

    Why are you toying with us like this, Criminal Minds!?

    The CBS show shocked viewers during the season 14 finale, when it was revealed that J.J. Jareau (A.J. Cook) has “always loved” Dr. Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler). Though she tried to backtrack on her confession at Rossi’s (Joe Mantegna) wedding, we all suspect that the married agent is majorly crushing on her coworker.

    What the episode didn’t quite unpack, though, was how Reid felt about the complicated situation. And it sounds like things aren’t going to get any easier for the BAU’s biggest heartthrob.

    criminal minds

    Look how cute #Jeid is though…

    Cliff Lipson

    According to TV Line, the 15th and final season of the show (sniff) will introduce a new love interest for Reid. Actress Rachael Leigh Cook has been cast as Max, a “quirky, kind-hearted, candid woman” who catches his eye. She will reportedly appear in at least two episodes, which means it could be just a fling to force J.J. into acting on her real feelings, or it could expand into something more. Here’s betting J.J. is jealous either way.

    rachel leigh cook

    Rachael Leigh Cook will star as Max.

    Rachel Luna

    Rachael likely looks familiar to you, and we know why: She’s starred in several Hallmark movies, including Valentine in the Vineyard, Frozen in Love, and Summer Love. Of course, many will remember her from She’s All That, too.

    The creators are still keeping us in suspense about what else we can expect from the love triangle, but we do know that they’re not going to shy away from the topic.

    “We’re going to dive into that in the first two hours [of Season 15] because we can’t leave everybody hanging and then pretend it didn’t happen,” showrunner Eric Messer told TV Line. “It’s definitely a huge driver for the first handful of episodes that will help add layers to those characters again.”

    Megan Stein is the senior editor for, covering entertainment news ranging from outrageous moments on “The Voice,” to the latest happenings with HGTV stars.

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    Criminal Minds: Rachael Leigh Cook Cast as [Spoiler]'s Love Interest – TVLine

    Criminal Minds is showing Reid some love in its 15th and final season. TVLine has learned exclusively that Rachael Leigh Cook (Perception) has been tapped to play Max, a quirky, kind-hearted, candid woman who strikes up an unusual relationship with Matthew Grey Gubler’s alter ego. Cook will appear in at least two of the CBS procedural’s final 10 episodes.

    With this news, Reid’s love life appears to be suddenly complicated. (When it rains…..) For as Season 14 drew to a close, longtime colleague JJ shared with Spence at gunpoint, “I’ve always loved you. I was just too scared to say it before. And things are really just too complicated to say it now…. But you should know.”

    Show boss Erica Messer told TVLine the first two hours of Season 15 “will pick up that thread,” because we can’t … pretend it didn’t happen. It’s definitely a huge driver for the first handful of episodes that will help add layers to those characters again.”

    When Criminal Minds concludes next season it will have aired 324 total episodes, landing the show inside U.S. TV’s all-time Top 20. “It’s really bittersweet, but I’m so, so grateful to CBS for giving us this heads-up,” Messer shared. “I think one of my biggest fears was always, ‘Oh man, what if we don’t know’ and then they just don’t bring back the show? But they respect this series and the cast and the crew and the fans enough to end this properly.”

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