Assistant U.S. attorney couple balancing criminal prosecutions, home life amid pandemic – The Columbus Dispatch

Marc Kovac
| The Columbus Dispatch

Heather Hill was looking forward to making Christmas cookies before the holidays, a brief bit of yuletide normalcy to end an anything-but-normal year.

She loves baking. Maybe she’ll open a bakery after she retires.

“Baking is one of my stress relievers,” she said.

Talk about a good time for stress relief, following months of global pandemic and national upheaval. For Hill and her husband, Brian Martinez, there’s the added pressures that come with their everyday work as assistant U.S. attorneys for the Southern District of Ohio.

It’s been an unrelenting year all around, with days long on pressure and short on romance and relaxation.

“What we’re dealing with isn’t any different than what a lot of other families and other couples are dealing with,” Martinez said. “When you’re working from home all the time, the work is always there. You have to make a really conscious effort to not do it … It’s a challenge when your work and your home are in the same place.”

While it’s not easy, Hill and Martinez are finding ways to cope. Their shared legal backgrounds and careers helps.

Martinez is from California. Hill is from Ohio. At one point in their legal careers, they were both living in Washington, D.C., and knew a lot of the same people.

But their paths didn’t cross until 2011, after Hill returned to her native state to become an assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, and both happened to attend an annual retreat for federal prosecutors at Miami University.

Hill’s boss, then-U.S. Attorney Carter Stewart, was friends with Martinez’s boss, then-Assistant U.S. Attorney General Tony West — tangentially, he’s Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ brother-in-law — and West was one of the featured speakers at the event that year.

It was July, in Oxford, Ohio, and Hill and Martinez hit it off, spending several hours talking about law and common connections. Martinez was interested in becoming an assistant U.S. attorney. Hill talked about her work in the Southern District of Ohio and her career aspirations.

“He listened,” Hill said. “And he actually seemed really interested. That was sort of what drew my attention initially, him being a good listener and having that interest in the intellectual side.”

Neither of them was on the lookout for a future spouse.

“I certainly did not move back to Ohio to find a future husband who was still living in D.C.,” Hill said. “We had to come to tiny little Oxford, Ohio to meet each other.”

Martinez added, “She was interesting, she was engaging, I wanted to hear what she had to say. I was there for work — I was not going to Ohio to meet my future wife. … It was certainly not something planned or intended. It was just sort of serendipity that I would happen to meet this wonderful woman and ended up talking about life and work and everything else.”

The next weekend, Hill was heading back to Washington, D.C., to visit some friends, and she and Martinez had a first official date. He was named an assistant U.S. attorney in Columbus in 2014, and the couple were married in 2016 during a trip to Greece.

Even that required a lawyerly approach, with documents gathered, legal questions considered, even the Greek Embassy in Chicago contacted in advance. Hill took the lead on the marriage case, as Martinez was in the middle of a 10-week gang trial at the time.

“It wasn’t clear for a minute if it was going to work,” Martinez said. “Once we got married in Greece, under Greek law, making sure that the state of Ohio was going to recognize our marriage as valid and lawful.”

Hill and Martinez were already balancing stressful careers with their married lives prior to the craziness of 2020. They’re both involved in the prosecution of heavy, heinous crimes committed in central Ohio and beyond.

Martinez, who serves as deputy criminal chief in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, worked to dismantle the transnational MS-13 gang’s operations in central Ohio, with convictions for 19 of 23 members involved in “multiple acts of murder, extortion, drug trafficking, money laundering, obstruction of justice and/or witness tampering,” according to court documents.

Hill, who is coordinator of the district’s Project Safe Childhood program, has led on child exploitation cases, including felony charges announced earlier this year against a Scioto County man and multiple other men and women who abused children, “potentially for decades,” according to court documents. She was honored for her work by former U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman in 2017 after leading three separate jury trials over four months that ended in convictions and prison sentences for the perpetrators.

Pandemic aside, child exploitation and other crimes haven’t stopped.

“The activity is still rampant,” Hill said.

Martinez added, “Criminals do not abide by stay-at-home orders. They don’t care about quarantining. They don’t care about social distancing. There is still child exploitation going on. There are still shootings going on. There’s still drug trafficking going on. It’s still happening. … The challenge that we have to overcome is doing our work in the midst of a pandemic.”

Working in the same office (Hill and Martinez both praised the others in U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio) and in the same profession has helped in navigating criminal prosecutions during a pandemic.

“We can understand and relate to what the other person is doing and going through,” Martinez said. “In some ways, it’s even more healthy and helpful when you can vent or confide in your spouse about, ‘Wow, this really horrible thing happened today,’ or ’This is a thing I had to do today,’ and they can understand it maybe in a way that someone else wouldn’t.”

Hill added, “We’re able to talk about problems we have in cases, frustrations with things. Each of us understands what the other one is going through.”

Not that it’s easy, with heavy caseloads and the blurring lines between work life and home life.

“It’s hard to get away from the work, especially when your office is at home,” Hill said. “You’re working all of the time.”

It’s not been a great year for romance, either, with few opportunities for impromptu restaurant dinners or vacations.

But Hill and Martinez try to find ways to unwind. They exercise or go on hikes. They watch football (Ohio State Buckeyes and the Las Vegas Raiders). They make deliberate efforts to disconnect from prosecutorial work when they can, putting down their phones or leaving laptops in bags.

“Someday, we will get back to a time when we’re coming into the office together, we’re leaving the office together, and it’s just the normal pressures,” Hill said.

Martinez added, “Yeah, it’s frustrating and it’s hard, but we realize that we’re some of the lucky ones. … There are a lot of folks out there that are out of work, looking for work, struggling in many, many ways. There are people out there who have lost close loved ones, people who are sick themselves. Heather and I, knock on wood, haven’t had to endure those true tragedies. We haven’t lost a close loved one to COVID-19, we haven’t lost our jobs.”

And when all else fails, there are always cookies — molasses cookies and chocolate chip cookies, chocolate caramel thumbprint cooks, cutout sugar cookies, an array of different brownies.

“Every year it’s a little more,” Martinez said of Hill’s Christmastime baking. “The repertoire expands.”


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Danny Masterson accusers must have claims resolved by the Church of Scientology, judge rules

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Former members of the Church of Scientology who accuse the organization of harassing them to cover up sexual assault will not have their claims heard in court. Instead, a California judge ruled Thursday, their claims will have to be weighed in a private arbitration process designed by the organization itself.

The ruling stems from a 2019 lawsuit accusing “That 70s Show” star Danny Masterson of sexual assault — and the Church of Scientology of harassing them to drop the claims. The suit was filed by actor and former girlfriend Chrissie Carnell Bixler, her husband and Mars Volta lead singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala, two anonymous accusers, and actor Bobette Riales.

In their complaint, Masterson, “a high-ranking member of Church of Scientology and Religious Technology,” is accused of sexually assaulting Bixler at various times between 1996 and 2002, drugging and raping another woman twice, in 2002 and 2003, and assaulting a woman while she was too intoxicated to consent. The accusers allege that they then faced harassment from Scientology agents, including stalking and threats of violence.

In the December 30 court order, Judge Steven J. Kleifield of the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles, did not address the merits of the claims. Rather, the ruling states that former members of the Church of Scientology are bound by an arbitration clause signed by all who join the organization.

That clause states that members of the organization agree “to be bound exclusively by the discipline, faith, internal organization, and ecclesiastical rule, custom, and law of the Scientology religion in all matters relating to Scientology Religious Services, in all my dealings with any nature with the Church.”

Signatories agree to resolve any conflict within the organization’s own “binding religious arbitration procedures.”

Because she was never a member, and thus never signed away her rights to seek justice through the court system, Thursday’s ruling does not apply to Riales, an actor and former girlfriend who accuses Masterson of raping her multiple times during their relationship. 

In June, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office charged Masterson with forcibly raping three women at his home in the early 2000s.

Masterson denies the claims.

In a statement to E! News, a lawyer for the actor praised Thursday’s court ruling.

“This was absolutely the correct result,” attorney Andrew Brettler said. “We look forward to arbitrating the claims, as the court directed.”

The Church of Scientology did not respond to a request for comment. But it previously rejected the accusations against it, calling the lawsuit a “dishonest and hallucinatory publicity stunt.”

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Fresh off bail defeat, Ghislaine Maxwell claims alleged victims motivated by money – ABC News

When Ghislaine Maxwell, the accused co-conspirator of deceased sex-offender Jeffrey Epstein, first appeared in court after her arrest in July, Annie Farmer spoke up to implore the judge to keep Maxwell behind bars until trial.

“She is a sexual predator who groomed and abused me and countless other children and young women,” Farmer told the court.

Five months later, when Maxwell returned to the court armed with a new $28.5 million proposed bail package and more than a dozen letters of support from family and friends, Farmer, 41, again stepped forward to oppose Maxwell’s pretrial release.

“I believe that she is a psychopath,” Farmer wrote in a Dec. 15 letter to U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan. “She has demonstrated a complete failure to accept responsibility in any way for her actions and demonstrated a complete lack of remorse for her central role in procuring girls for Epstein to abuse.”

Now, just days after Nathan again rejected Maxwell’s application for bail, Maxwell’s legal team is lashing out at Farmer, publicly questioning her motivations and credibility, according to new court filings in Farmer’s civil lawsuit against Maxwell and Epstein’s estate.

In what is likely a preview of a potential defense strategy for Maxwell’s upcoming criminal trial, her lawyers suggested that Farmer’s acceptance of a confidential settlement offer from a compensation program for Epstein’s victims is indicative of a financial motivation for Farmer to make “false assertions” against Maxwell about events that allegedly occurred in the mid-1990s.

“The fact that [Farmer] seeks money from the estate and from Ms. Maxwell, in the millions of dollars, at the same time she is a government witness in an upcoming criminal trial on the same topic is reason enough to suspect that her newly asserted memories of abuse — without corroboration — are not based on the truth or a desire for ‘justice’ so much as her desire for cash,” Laura Menninger, Maxwell’s lawyer, wrote in a letter to the court late Wednesday.

“The motive for fabrication could not be clearer,” the letter continued.

Farmer filed the civil lawsuit in November 2019, eight months before Maxwell’s arrest, alleging she was sexually trafficked at age 16 as part of “Epstein and Maxwell’s organized ring of procuring young women and girls for sex.” During a 1996 visit to Epstein’s ranch in New Mexico, Farmer claims Maxwell pressured her into receiving a massage and “touched intimate parts of [her] body against her will,” according to Farmer’s complaint.

Farmer placed her civil lawsuit on hold in June while she presented her claims to the Epstein Victims’ Compensation Program, a voluntary restitution fund that began operating earlier this year. In October, Farmer accepted an offer from the program, which requires her to drop all pending litigation against the estate and any former employees of Epstein before she can collect.

But Maxwell’s legal team has objected to the dismissal of the lawsuit, demanding that Farmer first be required to disclose the amount of her settlement. Maxwell’s letter to the court this week reiterates that demand, even though a judge told Maxwell’s lawyers earlier this month that she would not order that information disclosed to Maxwell.

“The amount of money [Farmer] obtains from the Epstein program is very much a matter of public interest and will go to the very core of plaintiff’s credibility during the upcoming criminal trial,” Menninger wrote in a letter to U.S. Magistrate Judge Debra Freeman.

Farmer, 41, has publicly identified herself as “Minor Victim 2” in Maxwell’s criminal case and is certain to be called as a witness should Maxwell’s case proceed to trial next summer. Maxwell is charged with facilitating and, in some cases, participating in Epstein’s alleged sexual crimes against three minor girls, including Farmer, between 1994 and 1997. Maxwell pleaded not guilty to all the charges, and she has denied the allegations in Farmer’s civil case. Epstein died in federal custody in August 2019 while awaiting trial on child sex-trafficking charges.

Sigrid McCawley, an attorney for Farmer, responded swiftly in a letter to the court on Thursday, slamming Maxwell’s letter as a “vicious, victim-blaming” attack on Farmer.

“Ms. Farmer will not respond to Maxwell’s meritless challenges to the merits of her case, to her credibility, or to her entirely appropriate participation in Maxwell’s prosecution,” McCawley wrote. “Ms. Farmer simply states that she stands by the allegations in her [lawsuit] and any statements she made in related proceedings, and she intends to testify truthfully if called in any future proceedings.”

McCawley’s letter also noted that Maxwell is not paying any portion of the proposed settlement offer from the Epstein Victims’ Compensation Program.

“Maxwell should be quite pleased that she is escaping civil liability in this case without having to pay a dime to Ms. Farmer,” McCawley wrote.

A similar dispute is currently playing out in a civil case brought against Maxwell by another likely witness in the criminal trial. That anonymous accuser, Jane Doe, accepted a settlement offer from the compensation fund earlier this month and has also moved to dismiss her case. Doe’s allegations are substantially similar to those of “Minor Victim-1” in the criminal case.

But Maxwell is demanding that Doe, too, disclose the amount of her settlement before she consents to the dismissal of the lawsuit. And Maxwell has also requested that the court order Doe to pay Maxwell’s legal fees and costs for defending herself in the lawsuit. Doe is seeking dismissal of her case, Maxwell’s lawyers contend, “for substantially the same reasons as [Farmer] … a desire to get her money faster,” Menninger wrote.

Doe’s attorney, Robert Glassman, told ABC News last week, “Maxwell is clearly trying to gain an unfair advantage over all these victims.”

“She is inexplicably asking the judge to make a child rape victim pay for her attorney’s fees and costs. It’s unconscionable and sad,” said Glassman, a trial lawyer at the California firm Panish, Shea & Boyle.

The judge in Doe’s case has given the parties in until Jan. 15 to try to reach an agreement to dismiss the case that is acceptable to both sides. Maxwell’s lawyers are seeking a similar schedule in Farmer’s case.

But Farmer’s attorneys are asking the court to step in now and put an end to the dispute and allow Farmer to receive her payment from the compensation fund.

“Ms. Farmer has been trying to dismiss this case since October 14, when she asked the defendants to stipulate to dismissal,” McCawley wrote Thursday. “And Maxwell has delayed for no legitimate reason without providing any deadline whatsoever for responding.”

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2020 brought a wave of discrimination and harassment allegations against major companies like Amazon, McDonald's, and Pinterest. These are some of the year's high-profile legal battles.

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American workplaces have long been hotbeds of discrimination and harassment, particularly for those who aren’t white, light-skinned, male, straight, single, young, able-bodied Americans.

Since 2000, 99% of Fortune 500 companies have paid settlements in at least one discrimination or sexual harassment lawsuit, according to a report from Good Jobs First, and that’s not including the cases without a public record or incidents victims didn’t report.

Even though there are laws against pay discrimination, US companies on average still pay women just $0.82 for every dollar they pay men, and pay women of color even less — and executives have made virtually no progress in closing wage gaps across the country since the early 2000s. In 2019, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received more than 7,500 sexual harassment complaints, and 72,000 complaints about racial, sex, age, religious and other types of discrimination.

In recent years, however, empowered in part by the #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo movements, American workers are increasingly turning to the courts to hold their employers accountable for breaking civil rights laws and demand companies fix racist, sexist, ageist, ableist, and other biased pay practices and work environments.

Since 2018, companies like Google, Uber, Fox News, Riot Games, UPS, Coca-Cola, and Target have paid out multimillion-dollar settlements, and this year brought an even larger wave of high-profile cases.

Here are some of the major workplace discrimination, harassment, and retaliation lawsuits that workers filed against America’s largest companies in 2020, as well as cases where new plaintiffs joined.

Have you faced discrimination or harassment in your workplace? Contact this reporter using a non-work device via encrypted messaging app Signal at +1 503-319-3213, or by email at We can keep sources anonymous.

Amazon was accused in lawsuits this year of having hiring practices and COVID-19 safety measures that were racially biased, as well as discriminating against a pregnant transgender man.

  • February: Former hiring manager Lisa McCarrick sued Amazon after her manager allegedly asked her to stalk job applicants’ social media accounts to determine their race and gender, and then fired her when she complained. [NBC News]
  • October: Shaun Simmons, a transgender man, claimed in a lawsuit that he faced harassment and retaliation while working at Amazon and was demoted and denied a promotion after telling his manager he was pregnant. [NBC News]
  • November: Former Amazon warehouse employee Chris Smalls sued Amazon over its pandemic response, claiming it violated civil rights laws by failing to protect Black, Brown, and immigrant warehouse workers from COVID-19 while looking out for its mostly white managers. [Business Insider]
  • November: Denard Norton, a Black Amazon warehouse employee, sued the company accusing it of denying him promotions based on race and ignoring his repeated complaints about coworkers’ racist remarks. []

Bloomberg LP was hit by lawsuits accusing it of aiding and abetting Charlie Rose’s sexual harassment, as well as racial and gender bias in its pay and promotion practices.

  • June: Two women who had accused ex-CBS News host Charlie Rose of sexual harassment also sued Bloomberg for “aiding and abetting” Rose, who operated his independently owned studio out of Bloomberg’s New York headquarters. [The Hollywood Reporter]
  • August: Former Bloomberg reporter Nafeesa Syeed sued the company for pay and promotion practices that were allegedly “top-down” and systemically biased against women of color. [HR Dive]

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a private philanthropy run by Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, was sued by employees who claimed Black employees are “underpaid, undervalued, and marginalized.”

  • November: ex-CZI employee Ray Holgado sued the nonprofit, claiming he was consistently denied promotion and growth opportunities, and was treated differently because of his race. [Business Insider]

Disney was sued in 2019 over gender-based pay discrimination, and multiple additional women joined the lawsuit this year.

  • March: Chelsea Henke became the tenth Disney executive to join a lawsuit filed against the company in April 2019 that alleged “rampant gender pay discrimination.” [LA Times]

Facebook became the subject of a federal complaint alleging the company is biased against Black employees and candidates.

  • July: While not a formal lawsuit, a Facebook recruiter and two rejected job applicants filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accusing Facebook of “racial discrimination” against Black workers and applicants “in hiring, evaluations, promotions, and pay.” [Business Insider]

Fox News ex-host Ed Henry was accused of sexual assault, while hosts Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Howard Kurtz, and Gianno Caldwell were all accused of harassment in a lawsuit by a former producer.

  • July: Former Fox News producer Jennifer Eckhart claimed in a lawsuit that ex-host Ed Henry violently raped her, and that Fox News knew and refused to discipline him, while former Fox guest Cathy Areu alleged she was sexually harassed by Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Howard Kurtz, and Gianno Caldwell. [Business Insider]

Goldman Sachs allegedly covered up sexual misconduct by a top lawyer, and the woman who spoke publicly about it sued, claiming the company retaliated against her.

  • October: Former Goldman Sachs employee Marla Crawford claimed one of the bank’s top lawyers, Darrell Cafasso, sexually harassed a female subordinate and that Goldman covered up the allegations and retaliated against her for trying to speak publicly about it. [Business Insider]

Google ex-employees who sued the company in 2017 over gender pay disparities asked the court this year to expand their case to include 10,800 additional coworkers.

  • July: Four employees who sued Google in 2017, alleging women at the company are paid about $16,794 less than men in similar positions, asked the court to grant their lawsuit class action status, which would allow them to represent 10,800 other female Google employees. [Business Insider]

Hearst, the parent company of Esquire magazine, was sued by an ex-executive at Esquire who claimed she faced gender and age discrimination from her former boss.

  • September: Former Esquire ad executive Lauren Johnson, 52, sued Hearst, the magazine’s parent company, claiming she faced age and gender discrimination as well as retaliation for complaining, and that her boss Jack Essig “regularly mocked” older employees and female workers. [Business Insider]

Johnson & Johnson was sued by an ex-exec who claimed she faced “sexist, harassing and demeaning” behavior from male coworkers due to her gender and sexual orientation.

  • December: Gina Bilotti, a high-ranking 25-year veteran of Johnson & Johnson, sued the company, claiming she had endured years of discrimination, harassment, abuse, and retaliation on the basis of her gender and sexual orientation. []

Marriott was sued by a Black ex-employee who claimed he was fired in retaliation for complaining about racist behavior by coworkers.

  • July: Kaseam Seales, formerly a bellhop at a Marriott hotel in New Jersey, claimed the company fired him in retaliation for complaining that his coworkers were exhibiting racist behavior toward him, and that they consistently gave more lucrative shifts to white bellhops. [Providence Journal]

McDonald’s is facing two racial discrimination lawsuits from Black franchisees as well as a class action sexual harassment suit, and could be on the hook for billions of dollars in damages.

  • April: McDonald’s employees filed a $500 million sexual harassment class-action lawsuit against the company, claiming they faced physical and verbal harassment from coworkers and customers. [Business Insider]
  • August: 52 Black ex-franchisees filed a $1 billion racial-discrimination lawsuit against McDonald’s, claiming the company sent them on “financial suicide missions” by pushing them to open stores in less profitable locations, eventually cutting the number of Black franchisees by 50% over the past two decades. [Business Insider]
  • October: In a separate class action suit, current Black franchisees said they faced a “pipeline of discrimination” from McDonald’s, which allegedly imposed “two standards” for white and black owners, giving white franchisees better opportunities while being more strict with Black owners on safety inspections. [Business Insider]

Morgan Stanley’s first diversity officer sued the bank over claims of racial discrimination and retaliating against employees who tried to make its culture more inclusive.

  • June: Marilyn Booker, Morgan Stanley’s first diversity officer, claimed in a racial-discrimination lawsuit that the bank retaliated against her and other Black female employees and eventually fired her for trying to make the bank’s workforce more diverse and inclusive. [The Washington Post]

The NCAA was sued by HBCU athletes who claimed the organization’s academic performance policies are biased against their schools.

  • December: Athletes from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) sued the National Collegiate Athletic Association, college sports’ governing body, claiming its academic performance standards — which are ostensibly meant to improve graduation rates — simply ended up discriminating against their schools, and thus disproportionately impacted Black student athletes. [NPR]

Oracle was sued in 2017 by female employees over gender pay disparities, and a court earlier this year opened the class action to more than 4,000 other current and former employees.

  • May: Three female Oracle employees sued the company in 2017, claiming it paid women less than men, citing an economists’ study that found the pay gap averaged $13,000 per year. This year, a court granted the case class action status, opening the door for more than 4,000 current and former employees to join the suit. [The Mercury News]

Pinterest recently paid a former executive $22.5 million to settle a gender discrimination lawsuit and is facing another from shareholders over alleged racial and gender discrimination.

  • August: Ex-Pinterest COO Françoise Brougher filed a gender-bias lawsuit against the company, claiming she faced pay discrimination and sexist behavior from other executives. Pinterest paid $22.5 million in December to settle the suit. [Business Insider]
  • December: Following Brougher’s lawsuit and explosive allegations by dozens of current and former employees, Pinterest shareholders sued the company, accusing it of harming investors by creating and perpetuating a culture of racial and sex discrimination. [Business Insider]

Uber was sued by a driver who claimed the company’s five-star rating system is racially biased.

  • October: Thomas Liu, a former Uber driver, sued the company after it kicked him off the platform because his driver rating had fallen below a 4.6 out of 5. He claimed Uber’s use of the system amounted to “intentional race discrimination” because of the “widely recognized” notion that racism often slips into customers’ evaluations of workers. [Business Insider]

Warner Bros. was sued by a former executive who alleged she faced gender discrimination and harassment from men in the company’s senior ranks, which she called an “old boys club.”

  • October: An ex-Warner Bros. executive sued the company over gender discrimination, claiming she was fired in retaliation for raising complaints about sexist behavior and harassment by male executives. [Deadline]

WeWork was hit with at least three lawsuits from former employees alleging harassment, discrimination, and that a manager intimidated an employee by, among other things, bringing a crossbow and knives to work.

  • July: WeWork became the subject of three new gender and race discrimination and harassment lawsuits this year, including from an employee who claimed her boss brought a crossbow and knives to work, implied he had connections to the Mafia, and made unwanted sexual advances. Two Black employees also said they were paid less than white coworkers and faced retaliation for raising issues, with one also saying she was sexually harassed. [Business Insider]

Are there other high-profile discrimination or harassment lawsuits that should be added to this list? Contact this reporter using a non-work device via encrypted messaging app Signal at +1 503-319-3213, or by email at

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Why this Criminal Minds star's website is disappearing – Looper

Flash was a dominant internet video format in the early 2000s, associated with viral animated comedy videos on sites like Ebaum’s World and Homestar Runner. However, it was widely criticized by web developers (and Steve Jobs himself) for its myriad performance and security issues, and declined rapidly after the rise of YouTube. 

So Flash as a platform and a style is closely associated with a specific time in internet culture history. And the landing page of Gubler’s website is extremely 2004, when “random” humor was the popular style of expression online. Gubler’s cutesy-creepy illustrations and the website’s autoplaying musical score are reminiscent of the famous Flash video series Salad Fingers, a cultural artifact of 2004. The site hearkens back to a bygone era when it was cool to buy t-shirts at Hot Topic that said things like “ninja monkeys are meeting as we speak, plotting my demise” and when you could only watch videos (that took two minutes to load) on your Gateway desktop computer. The death of Flash means a part of millennial cultural history is being lost.

Though his handmade website is sadly going the way of the Crazy Frog, Gubler will be fine — he has other outlets of expression. He posts some of his (really good, mildly disturbing) art on Instagram, though not as much as he posts on his website. Plus, as long as he still owns the domain name, he can switch to a supported platform — and it seems like that’s what he’s going to do. Gubler signed off his post announcing the shutdown with “p.s. don’t be blue, something top secret is coming soon. floorgmorg!” 

In the end, Gublerfans may be able to say floorgmorg to doogan gooseberry and the rest of the gang in another format, hopefully soon.

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