He played a killer on 'Criminal Minds.' Now he'll be a science fiction legend in Indianapolis. – Indianapolis Star

Bill Oberst Jr. has a face you know you’ve seen before but can’t figure out where. 

The actor played the inbred West Virginian killer with sunken eyes and suspenders in 2014’s “Blood Relations” episode of “Criminal Minds” on CBS. He made the network show’s list of the 14 most iconic serial killers.

Oberst was the Facebook stalker with a grungy T-shirt in the viral “Take This Lollipop” video commentary on social media privacy, which won a Daytime Emmy Award. 

He played Clark in “Scream Queens” and won the first Lon Chaney Award For Outstanding Achievement in Independent Horror Films in 2014.

And while Oberst has carved out a niche in horror, he has portrayed Jesus in places of worship as well as historical figures, including Southern humorist Lewis Grizzard.

Now he’s playing science-fiction writer Ray Bradbury, the famous author of “Fahrenheit 451” and “The Martian Chronicles,” for three days at The District Theatre in Indianapolis. “Ray Bradbury Live (forever)” is Oberst’s 90-minute play in which he assumes all of the roles, except for Ray’s wife Maggie Bradbury. Indianapolis is the second stop on the tour, which began in March at the South Pasadena Public Library in California.

It’s not biographical but instead wraps the actor’s lifelong love of the famed author with bits of his stories, reflections and interviews. And the actor is sinking his heart, soul and resources into making audiences feel more hopeful when they walk out.

“I want to avoid what I call the ‘Wikipedia dead celebrity show,’ where a famous dead person comes on stage and begins to tell you things about their life that you could read on Wikipedia,” Oberst said.

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‘It gave me hope’

A 14-year-old Oberst met Bradbury’s words for the first time during a walk through the woods in Georgetown, South Carolina. 

“There was something that was glinting down there in the pine needles, and it was the sun reflecting off the cover of one of Ray’s books called ‘S is for Space,’ ” Oberst said. 

“I picked it up and there was this man on the cover looking upward, gazing upward past me up into the trees, and the cover said ‘tales of imagination from the master of imagination, Ray Bradbury.’ “

The hopefulness captured Oberst, who called himself a misfit in almost every way. The actor said he was heavy, had bad acne, couldn’t throw a football, earned straight A’s and knew all the answers in Sunday school. It added up to a recipe for unpopularity that he fought by entertaining his tormentors so they wouldn’t bully him.

But Bradbury’s language offered a world that blessed a lonely Oberst’s spirit.

“It gave me hope … through words and through language, that I might be able to have a life that soared in some way. Ray makes your spirit want to soar,” said Oberst, who now splits time between Los Angeles and Pawleys Island, South Carolina.

From then on, Oberst ordered paperbacks from the back of “S is for Space,” a collection of short stories that combined science fiction, fantasy and small towns.

The actor still has the original copy he found in the woods that day. He’ll bring it on stage with him in Indianapolis.

Not ‘the Wikipedia dead celebrity show’

In creating a show that doesn’t lean on Bradbury’s biography, Oberst put together a thoroughly footnoted script for “Ray Bradbury Live (forever).” The actor used the author’s stories, speeches, essays, interviews — whatever Bradbury said about his work.

“I’m well aware that when you’re playing a person whose relatives are living and his family is living, especially an author that has the legacy that Bradbury does, you have a strong responsibility. You can’t just make stuff up,” said Oberst, who had previously performed Bradbury’s “Pillar of Fire” at IndyFringe in 2016.

The actor spent days inside the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, said Jon Eller, who is the center’s director and served as an adviser for the script. The center, which is preparing to become a full-fledged museum, includes a re-creation of Bradbury’s office, with his desk, paints, book collection and awards.

“You could tell that Bill was absorbing that atmosphere, he was absorbing that mood, he was slowly becoming Ray Bradbury in a very quiet way,” Eller said. “He’s a listener, he’s a watcher, he studies things.”

“That’s one of the things that really impressed us about (Oberst’s) vision of Ray and the material,” said Michael Congdon, the president of Don Congdon Associates Inc., which gave permission for Oberst’s play.

Bill has been able “to translate the written part of Ray’s work and make it come alive on the stage. You can really tell that from his expressions and his passion.” 

Michael’s father, Don, was Bradbury’s longtime literary agent.

Throughout the play, Oberst weaves in Bradbury’s most-beloved stories and characters, like Mr. Dark from “Something Wicked This Way Comes.”

“Ray had this signature anecdote about meeting the carnival magician who sat in his electrified chair called Mr. Electrico, and he touched his head with a blue sparking sword … and told Ray, ‘Live forever,’ ” Oberst said.

“So that’s the core of the show. Can you do that? Should you want to do that? How do you do that?”

Along with another theme in Bradbury’s work — what impact will you leave after you’re gone? — is a section with what Oberst calls 1940s-style movie banter. The author and his wife, Maggie Bradbury, who will be played in the Indianapolis production by Jenni White, talk about meeting and their relationship.

‘What are you leaving behind?’

Oberst doesn’t look a thing like the bespectacled Bradbury. To that end, the actor has struck a careful balance with makeup and black glasses.

“I do try to capture his vocalizations and his movements and his energy,” he said.

Oberst keys into his characters’ psyches, regardless of whether they’re the “Criminal Minds” killer or Abraham Lincoln, by finding their woundedness and humanity, he said. He does the same with Bradbury.

“Ray’s vulnerability was that I don’t know that he ever wanted to grow up. He always wanted to be a child, and he always extolled the things of childhood and the values of childhood in an adult body,” Oberst said. “You know, many of us have that dual nature.”

Behind the actor during the play will be a movie with animated footage that’s meant to show what’s going on in Bradbury’s mind. Videographer Christopher Cooksey, who worked on a documentary about the author, put it together.

When Oberst takes the stage in Indianapolis, he’ll continue a soul-enriching project that became clear to him when he walked the red carpet at a 2014 runway show in Los Angeles. The entire experience — the smiling, the strutting, the celebrity — forced him to question the impact of his life.

“That was like a nadir of my soul, that was a low moment, and it drove me, seeing (a) homeless person out there and here we are on the other side of the velvet rope, 20 feet away, with sumptuous spreads of food,” Oberst said.

“It drove me back to Bradbury, and I read that piece from ‘Fahrenheit 451,’ which said everyone must touch something, and I thought, ‘Billy, what have you touched? What have you done? What are you leaving behind?’ “

Oberst continues to act in movies and on TV, but he’s contributing as many resources as possible to “Ray Bradbury Live (forever).”

“It’s not just another project for me,” Oberst said. “It’s meaning and it’s soul.”

If you go

What: “Ray Bradbury Live (forever),” starring Bill Oberst Jr. with Jenni White

When: 8 p.m. Friday, 8:00 Saturday, 4 p.m. Sunday

Where: The District Theatre, 627 Massachusetts Ave.

Cost: $20 adults, $15 seniors and students with ID. indydistricttheatre.org or 317-308-9800.

Looking for things to do?  Our newsletter has the best concerts, art, shows and more — and the stories behind them

Contact IndyStar reporter Domenica Bongiovanni at 317-444-7339 or d.bongiovanni@indystar.com. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @domenicareports.

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Execution stopped for Dexter Johnson, sentenced to death after Harris County rape and murder – The Texas Tribune

The execution of Dexter Johnson, set for Thursday, was canceled by a federal judge Tuesday because Johnson was recently assigned a new attorney who hasn’t had time to fully investigate his case and his earlier lawyer’s potential failings, according to the ruling.

Johnson, 30, was sentenced to death after the 2007 deaths of Maria Aparece and Huy Ngo in Harris County. At 18, Johnson and four other teens carjacked and robbed the couple before taking them to a secluded area. According to court records, Johnson then raped Aparece before he and another teen shot them both.

State records claim that the deaths were part of a “twenty-five-day crime spree” by Johnson and others in which five people were murdered during robberies.

In late state appeals filed this month, his long-appointed attorney claimed Johnson was intellectually disabled and therefore ineligible for the death penalty, referring to a 2017 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that invalidated Texas’ old method of determining such disabilities. His petition noted that a new evaluation that put his IQ at 70, which is generally considered to be intellectually disabled, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied that appeal Monday. Prosecutors pointed to earlier tests before his trial with higher IQs as a reason to reject his appeal.

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On Tuesday, however, a federal court stopped his execution because it had only recently granted him an additional lawyer to look into appellate issues and any wrongdoing by his lead attorney.

Johnson asked the federal court for a new lawyer in January, claiming his current one, Pat McCann, had not explained what was going on in his case and had a conflict of interest, according to the judge’s ruling. In early February, U.S. District Judge Alfred Bennett decided to keep McCann on as Johnson’s lead attorney but also added a federal public defender to his case to “make a thorough, and independent, assessment of whether unpresented claims remain.”

Earlier this month, the public defender, Jeremy Schepers, claimed that he found significant evidence that McCann was an ineffective lawyer and that Johnson’s death sentence could be problematic in ways that had not yet been addressed by the courts — including that he likely qualifies as intellectually disabled. (McCann filed his state appeals regarding intellectual disability less than a week later.)

In his ruling, Bennett explained that Schepers’ new filing indicates more time is needed to review Johnson’s case.

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“The limited time since the appointment of counsel has not provided a full opportunity for litigating undeveloped issues,” he wrote.

The stay of execution only lasts for 90 days since the new attorney’s appointment. That 90-day period ends Monday, but the county will then have to go back to state court to request a new execution date that will be set at least 90 days in the future. Harris County prosecutors still expect Johnson’s death sentence to be carried out soon.

“His day of reckoning is inevitable,” First Assistant District Attorney Tom Berg said in an emailed statement. “The issue at hand has nothing to do with the district attorney’s office and we anticipate a new execution date will be set shortly.”

McCann said after the ruling that he wished the newly appointed attorney would have worked with him to make a stronger case in his last unsuccessful appeal, since he has deep experience in Johnson’s case. He also said regardless of how it came about, he’s happy his client was spared for now.

“The main thing is Mr. Johnson has some chances to establish that he actually has intellectual disability, and his family got some good news,” he said.

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A drugmaker is accused of using free Las Vegas trips, fancy dinners, spa treatments, and Starbucks gift cards to bribe doctors to sell more of its expensive drug (MNK)

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  • A company now owned by the $1 billion drugmaker Mallinckrodt is accused of paying doctors and their office staff “bribes” to increase their prescriptions in a whistleblower lawsuit from two former employees. 
  • The US government recently decided to get involved in the whistleblowers’ case.
  • The alleged bribes included Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts gift cards, Las Vegas trips, spa treatments, and sponsored happy hours, according to the suit.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A drugmaker is accused of resorting to bribing doctors and, when that failed, their office staffs to sell its expensive drug, with everything from Starbucks gift cards to free Las Vegas trips, lavish dinners, sponsored happy hours, and karaoke excursions.

The allegations come from a whistleblower lawsuit by two former employees of the company Questcor. Questcor was acquired by the drugmaker Mallinckrodt in 2014. The Pennsylvania district court suit was initially filed in 2012 and unsealed last month because the US government decided to intervene.

Mallinckrodt shares dropped 14% on Tuesday after CNN reported the lawsuit, wiping out more than $200 million in market value. 

At the heart of this lawsuit and others is a controversial decades-old drug for infantile spasms called Acthar, which became highly profitable for Mallinckrodt thanks to big price increases and a push for doctors to use it “off-label” for new conditions, including to treat the chronic disease multiple sclerosis. 

Acthar cost as much as $150,000 per patient by 2012, according to the whistleblower complaint, much more than a generic steroid alternative, which could cost as little as $800.

The suit alleges that’s why Questcor turned to bribes.

Acthar’s main competitor “is cheaper, requires a shorter course of treatment and is the standard-of-care for treating exacerbations of MS. Questcor’s response to this challenge has been to bribe physicians to prescribe and promote H.P. Acthar Gel instead of Solu-Medrol,” the rival product, the complaint alleges.

Mallinckrodt said in a statement that the lawsuit was years old and that allegations largely have to do with “legacy Questcor conduct.” The company has been cooperating with the Department of Justice and participating in “advanced settlement talks” over the past few months, it said. 

“As the lawsuit principally concerns allegations of legacy conduct prior to Mallinckrodt’s acquisition of Acthar Gel, we do not envision any impact to how Mallinckrodt conducts business today,” the statement said. “Mallinckrodt strongly disagrees with the substance of the complaint and the sensational characterization of the allegations.”

Alleged bribes included free junkets to Las Vegas and karaoke excursions, whistleblowers say

The alleged bribes given as examples in the lawsuit vary dramatically. 

One star sales specialist took doctors on junkets to Las Vegas and gave them spa treatments, the suit alleges. The salesperson bragged to one of the whistleblowers of her success going on karaoke excursions with Asian physicians, according to the complaint.

Another doctor, who practiced in Yonkers, New York, started prescribing Acthar after being taken to a lavish dinner with her husband and other doctors at a restaurant in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Westchester, New York, the complaint alleges.

And when doctors wouldn’t take meetings with salespeople, the suit alleges that sales personnel turned to bribing office staff with Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks gift cards. Some of those gifts were valued at as much as $500, according to the complaint.

Those alleged bribes were just some of the many ways the company is accused in the lawsuit of pushing Acthar prescriptions. Other methods included doling out research funds to doctors who promoted the product and “exorbitant” speaker fees of $2,000 a presentation or even more, the suit alleges.

According to the allegations in the suit, one doctor at the University of Texas was paid $500 a patient for each research trial he led testing out Acthar, plus more to promote the results to doctors all around the US.

“These trials are of dubious scientific value because they were neither placebo-controlled nor double-blind,” the lawsuit says.

“None have been published in peer-reviewed journals, none have led to an application to expand the FDA approval for H.P. Acthar Gel, and none have demonstrated that H.P. Acthar Gel is any more efficacious than Solu-Medrol,” the competitor, the suit says.

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