R. Kelly released from jail; lawyer of sex abuse accusers claims more evidence in case – USA TODAY

R&B singer R. Kelly was released from a Chicago jail Saturday after someone paid $161,000 in back child support for his ex-wife.

Cook County sheriff’s spokeswoman Sophia Ansari told The Associated Press that she did not know who made the payment.

It came three days after a judge ordered Kelly jailed until he paid the total amount he owed by that date.

Kelly briefly spoke to reporters Saturday following his release, saying, “I promise you, we’re going to straighten all this stuff out. That’s all I can say right now. I promise you… I love my fans.”

Kelly’s release follows a rough week for the singer. He made headlines for his explosive interview with CBS’ Gayle King, his first talk since being charged with 10 counts aggravated criminal sexual abuse. And hours after the interview aired Wednesday, he landed back in jail for the second time in three weeks after failing to pay the overdue child support. 

The full amount was owed to his ex-wife, Andrea “Drea” Kelly, with whom he has a 20-year-old daughter, Joann, and two teenage sons, Robert Jr. and Jay.

Kelly’s attorney, Steve Greenberg also spoke to reporters Saturday, saying he hasn’t seen “one single piece of evidence” to support the sexual abuse claims against Kelly.

“We haven’t seen an interview. We haven’t seen a police report. We haven’t seen a videotape,” Greenberg said. “When we get those things, we’re going to fight this case like we fight any other case: in the courtroom, based on the evidence.”

Last month, Kelly, 52, spent three nights in jail on the sex-crimes charges after he turned himself in on Feb. 22. He was freed when a 47-year-old suburban Chicago business owner posted his $100,000 bail.

Kelly’s representative Darryll Johnson told reporters when Kelly appeared in court Wednesday, the singer was prepared to pay up to $60,000 up front, then work out a payment plan for the remainder. Instead, the judge told Kelly he’d stay in jail until the entire sum was paid.

“He was expecting that he was going to come and make an arrangement, but they wanted the entire amount. As you know he hadn’t worked in a long time. He can’t book shows, he can’t do anything,” Johnson explained. 

While it’s true that Kelly appears to have been dropped by his label, RCA Records, and some artists have pulled their collaborations with him from their streaming catalogs, his song and album sales more than doubled after Lifetime aired its docu-series “Surviving R. Kelly,” according to Nielsen. The data analytics company also says his audio and video streams spiked 76 and 85 percent.

Meanwhile, Michael Avenatti, a lawyer for two of Kelly’s sex assault accusers tweeted Saturday that he has uncovered more evidence against the singer. 

“Our investigation has now uncovered significant additional evidence that R Kelly and his handlers transported underage girls across state lines for the purpose of allowing him to sexually assault them,” he tweeted. “We will be turning over the evidence to law enforcement forthwith.”

The singer’s next hearing in his criminal case is set for March 13.

Contributing: The Associated Press, Charisse Jones and Maeve McDermott

More: R. Kelly’s ex-lawyer says he was ‘guilty as hell’ when he defended him years ago

More: Gayle King details ‘very troubling’ R. Kelly interview to Stephen Colbert

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Coleman needs special lawyer if prosecutors seek death penalty in Jassy Correia case – The Boston Globe

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Coleman needs special lawyer if prosecutors seek death penalty in Jassy Correia case
Globe Staff
The federal public defender is asking a judge to approve additional legal representation because Louis Coleman has been charged under a federal law that carries a death sentence.
By John R. Ellement
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Louis D. Coleman III has been charged under a federal law that carries a death sentence.

The man accused of kidnapping Jassy Correia off a Boston street needs a lawyer specially trained in capital cases as he has been charged under a federal law that carries a death sentence.

In court papers filed in US District Court in Boston, the federal public defender, Miriam Conrad, asked a judge to approve hiring one criminal defense attorney to represent Louis D. Coleman III
, 32, for the standard part of the federal criminal case against him. But Coleman needs additional specialized legal representation, she said, because he has been charged by US Attorney Andrew E. Lelling’s office with kidnapping resulting in a death, which calls for a life sentence — or the death penalty.

“The government has charged Mr. Coleman by complaint with a crime carrying a potential death penalty” and Coleman now needs an attorney “learned in the law applicable to capital cases,’’ Conrad wrote, quoting from the federal death penalty statute.


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No final decision has yet been made as to whether Lelling will seek the death penalty against Coleman. But if he gains the approval of his superiors in the Department of Justice in Washington to do so, the Coleman case will mark the third time a top federal prosecutor in Massachusetts has sought to impose the death penalty.

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Massachusetts has no state death penalty. But jurors in the Boston Marathon bombing trial of Dzkhokar Tsarnaev and in the prosecution of serial killer Gary Lee Sampson approved the death penalty for those defendants under federal laws. Both are pursuing appeals.

Coleman was captured Feb. 28 on Interstate 95 in Delaware driving a car containing Correia’s remains in the trunk, Lelling has said.

Correia appears to have died as a result of strangulation and blunt force trauma but was apparently not sexually assaulted, Lelling said. He declined to comment on how long Correia had been held captive and when she was killed.

Correia may have put up a fight, Lelling said at a press conference last Sunday, noting that the passenger-side windshield on Coleman’s car had cracks.


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“We don’t know yet whether those are connected to a struggle in the vehicle,” he said.

Correia, the mother of a 2-year-old girl, had gone out the night of Feb. 23 to celebrate her 23rd birthday. She disappeared early the next morning after leaving Venu, a nightclub in the Theatre District, Lelling said. Her image was captured by a security camera about 2:15 a.m. on Tremont Street, where she was approached by a man authorities say was Coleman. It appears the two did not know each other before that encounter, Lelling said.

Surveillance video shows Correia getting into Coleman’s car under her own power, Lelling said, and another video shows Coleman arriving at his Providence apartment building around 4:15 a.m. and going inside alone. He allegedly returned to the car with a blanket, then carried a limp body back inside, according to Lelling.

A wake for Correia was scheduled to be held at St. Peter Church in Dorchester Friday, and her funeral Mass to be said there at 10 a.m. Saturday. Burial will be private.

Coleman has agreed to return to Massachusetts to face the federal charges, but his arrival date was not known Friday.

John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.


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Paul Manafort Is Sentenced to Less Than 4 Years in 1 of 2 Cases Against Him – The New York Times

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Paul Manafort Is Sentenced to Less Than 4 Years in 1 of 2 Cases Against Him

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President Trump’s former campaign chairman has been sentenced to less than four years in prison for financial fraud. He will be sentenced in a second case next week.CreditCreditYuri Gripas/Reuters
  • March 7, 2019

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Paul Manafort, the political consultant and Trump presidential campaign chairman whose lucrative work in Ukraine and ties to well-connected Russians made him a target of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, was sentenced on Thursday to nearly four years in prison in the financial fraud case that left his grand lifestyle and power-broker reputation in ruins.

The sentence in the highest-profile criminal case mounted by the special counsel’s office was far lighter than the 19- to 24-year prison term recommended under sentencing guidelines. Judge T. S. Ellis III of the United States District Court in Alexandria, Va., said that although Mr. Manafort’s crimes were “very serious,” following the guidelines would have resulted in an unduly harsh punishment.

A team of Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors sat glum-faced as Judge Ellis delivered his decision. Mr. Manafort, who has gout and came to the hearing in a wheelchair with his foot heavily bandaged, had asked the judge for compassion. “To say I feel humiliated and ashamed would be a gross understatement,” he said in a barely audible voice, reading from a prepared statement.

Of the half-dozen former Trump associates prosecuted by Mr. Mueller, Mr. Manafort garnered the harshest punishment yet in the case that came to a conclusion on Thursday — the first of two for which Mr. Manafort is being sentenced this month. While prosecutors sought no specific sentence, some legal experts said a prison term that amounts to one-fifth of the lightest punishment recommended had to disappoint them.

“It’s atrociously low,” said Barbara McQuade, a former United States attorney who teaches law at the University of Michigan and watched much of Mr. Manafort’s trial over the summer. While “many judges do sentence leniently in white-collar cases,” she said, “dropping all the way from 19 years to four years is absurd.”

[“I am a Caesar in my own Rome,” Judge Ellis once said as he demanded a breakneck pace during the Manafort trial.]

Mr. Manafort’s allies had long believed that Mr. Manafort had a chance of leniency from Judge Ellis, a Reagan appointee who sparred repeatedly with the special counsel’s team during the trial and has publicly voiced concerns that independent prosecutors have too much power. Minutes after the three-hour hearing started, Judge Ellis, unprompted, noted that Mr. Manafort was “not before this court for anything having to do with collusion with the Russian government to influence this election,” the core of Mr. Mueller’s inquiry.

Although Judge Ellis seemed swayed by the defense’s arguments, Mr. Manafort may face a less sympathetic reception next week when he is sentenced in the District of Columbia on two conspiracy counts by Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the United States District Court. Those charges each carry a maximum of five years. Kevin Downing, one of Mr. Manafort’s lawyers, asked Judge Ellis to order that Mr. Manafort serve both sentences simultaneously. But Judge Ellis said that was up to Judge Jackson.

For nearly two years, prosecutors pursued Mr. Manafort on two tracks, charging him with more than two dozen felonies, including obstruction of justice, bank fraud and violations of lobbying laws. They ultimately won Mr. Manafort’s pledge to cooperate after he was convicted of eight felonies in the Northern Virginia case and faced a second trial in Washington.

But although he met with the special counsel’s office for a total of about 50 hours, prosecutors said on Thursday that Mr. Manafort provided little information of value for their inquiry into how Russian operatives interfered in the 2016 presidential race and whether any Trump associates conspired with them.

Most of what Mr. Manafort told the office of the special counsel “we already knew or was already in documents,” Greg D. Andres, the lead prosecutor in the case, said in court. “It certainly wasn’t 50 hours of information that was useful.”

The evidence in the case before Judge Ellis showed that Mr. Manafort hid millions of dollars of income in overseas accounts and lied to banks to obtain millions more in loans — a financial scheme that prosecutors said was rooted in greed and in Mr. Manafort’s sense that he was above the law.

They described him as a hardened, remorseless criminal who never fully accepted responsibility for his offenses and who continued to lie to federal prosecutors even after he pleaded guilty to two conspiracy counts in a related case in Washington and agreed to cooperate with the special counsel’s office last fall.

[The rise and fall of Paul Manafort: greed, deception and ego.]

But defense lawyers cited Mr. Manafort’s age, health problems and lack of a criminal record. He will turn 70 next month.

Judge Ellis said that Mr. Manafort “has lived an otherwise blameless life,” and he cited other tax cases that had resulted in minimal prison time. “The government cannot sweep away the history of all these other sentences,” he said.

The judge ordered Mr. Manafort to pay $25 million in restitution and a $50,000 fine. He also gave Mr. Manafort credit for the nine months he had already spent in jail, which could mean Mr. Manafort would be released in just over three years.

Mr. Manafort was a prime target for Mr. Mueller, who is believed to be winding down his 22-month investigation and is expected to deliver a report soon to Attorney General William P. Barr. While the prosecutions against Mr. Manafort did not involve his five months of work for the Trump campaign, prosecutors clearly hoped for the collateral benefit of winning his cooperation with the Russia inquiry.

At a closed hearing in February, Andrew Weissmann, one of Mr. Mueller’s top deputies, told Judge Jackson that it was highly unusual for the government to strike a plea deal with a defendant like Mr. Manafort who had already put the government through a trial. He alluded to the government’s motives for making such a pact, citing “enormous interest” in “the intelligence that could be gathered in having a cooperating witness in this particular investigation.”

But prosecutors abandoned the plea agreement in November, saying Mr. Manafort had repeatedly lied to them. In a recent ruling, Judge Jackson agreed that Mr. Manafort had deceived investigators about three matters.

One was revealed through an inadvertent mistake in a court filing in January that showed that Mr. Manafort had lied to the prosecutors about his interactions with a Russian associate, Konstantin V. Kilimnik, who has been identified by prosecutors as having ties to Russian intelligence. Those interactions included Mr. Manafort’s transferring campaign polling data to Mr. Kilimnik.

The special counsel’s office had wanted that information kept out of the public eye to protect an open investigation. It remains unclear why Mr. Kilimnik would want such polling data, what exactly he did with it and whether the data transfer might have helped inform the Russian government’s covert operation to interfere with the American election.

It is also unclear why Mr. Manafort lied about it; prosecutors appeared to suggest that Mr. Manafort might have feared that the revelation that he had turned over polling data would have reduced his chances of receiving a presidential pardon for his crimes.

Before Judge Ellis, Mr. Manafort’s lawyers repeatedly suggested that the special counsel’s office pursued their client because of his importance to the Russia inquiry. They said his political consulting work for four American presidents, including Mr. Trump, spoke to his high ideals. And they argued that the special counsel’s office had vilified him for what are essentially garden-variety crimes that for other defendants merited only limited time behind bars.

“Most importantly, what you saw today is the same thing that we have said from Day 1,” Mr. Downing, one of Mr. Manafort’s lawyers, said in a short statement outside the courthouse. “There is absolutely no evidence that Paul Manafort was involved in any collusion with any government official or Russia.”

While Judge Ellis faulted Mr. Manafort for not apologizing for his criminal conduct, he also noted that the special counsel’s office had not requested a specific prison term.

During the trial, prosecutors put forward exhaustive evidence of how Mr. Manafort had illegally concealed his work on behalf of political parties in Ukraine that were aligned with Russia and of how he hid more than $55 million in payments from that work in more than 30 overseas bank accounts.

Once his income from Ukraine dried up, the evidence showed, Mr. Manafort deceived banks to obtain loans to sustain a lavish lifestyle. At the same time, he worked for the Trump campaign at no cost, apparently hoping his status as campaign chairman would attract deep-pocketed foreign clients. He was fired from the campaign after five months when the scandal over his hidden income from Ukraine broke in August 2016.

“The defendant blames everyone from the special counsel’s office to his Ukrainian clients for his own criminal choices,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo.

Mr. Manafort was indicted on 18 counts in the Northern Virginia case, but the jury convicted him on only eight: five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud and one count of failure to disclose a foreign bank account. Because of one holdout juror, the panel deadlocked on the other charges. Mr. Manafort admitted that he was guilty of those as well, though, as part of his plea agreement.

Correction: March 7, 2019

An earlier version of this article misidentified the lawyer Andrew Weissmann. He is a top deputy for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, not for Paul Manafort, the president’s former campaign chairman.

Noah Weiland and Zach Montague contributed reporting.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: MANAFORT GIVEN LESS THAN 4 YEARS; FACED LONG TERM. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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Ex-Nissan chief Ghosn case shines harsh light on Japan's 'hostage justice' – Reuters

TOKYO (Reuters) – The high-profile case of ex-Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn has shone a light in Japan on what critics call “hostage justice”, in which suspects can be held for months after arrest, but any reforms will likely be incremental and slow.

FILE PHOTO – Carlos Ghosn, chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, attends the Tomorrow In Motion event on the eve of press day at the Paris Auto Show, in Paris, France, October 1, 2018. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau/File Photo

Ghosn, a former titan of the global auto industry, who has French, Brazilian and Lebonese citizenship, was released on bail of 1 billion yen ($9 million) on Wednesday after being held for more than 100 days following his Nov. 19 arrest by prosecutors on suspicion of under-reporting his compensation.

In a scenario common in Japan’s justice system, Ghosn was arrested two more times on fresh suspicions, including aggravated breach of trust, each time allowing prosecutors to keep him in custody and interrogate him without his lawyers being present.

The term “hostage justice” refers to holding the suspect in custody while pressing for the “ransom” of a confession.

Ghosn’s case has sparked harsh international criticism of Japan’s justice system, in which 99.9 percent of people charged with crimes are convicted.

“The affair was reported abroad and many Japanese know that the Japanese criminal justice system is not necessarily at a global standard,” wrote former Tokyo District Court judge Takao Nakayama in the Nikkei business daily.

“In that sense, the Tokyo prosecutors opened a Pandora’s box,” he wrote. The article was part of a full-page spread headlined “What should be fixed in Japan’s ‘hostage justice’.”

Granting bail after indictment and ahead of trial is rare for suspects who, like Ghosn, maintain their innocence, with the stated reason being fears the defendant would flee, tamper with evidence or seek to sway witnesses.

Ghosn had to agree not only to stay in Japan but to having surveillance cameras placed at his residence and to limits on his mobile phone and computer use. His first two requests for bail were rejected.

“I do think that this has made the whole system, that most Japanese on the street don’t really know exists, much more visible and much more vulnerable to criticism,” said Tokyo-based lawyer Stephen Givens.

Domestic civil rights groups and lawyers including the Japan Federation of Bar Associations have long criticized a system they say gives too much power to prosecutors and is too reliant on confessions, some later found to have been forced and false.

ASKING QUESTIONS

Ordinary citizens – and media – often equate arrest with guilt.

“Japan is a country that respects authority and I think most people assume that when somebody is arrested, that there’s a reason for that,” Givens said.

“Media … are of that view – although I do think that some of the mainstream media are beginning to ask questions and present other views.”

Prosecutors have defended the system.

“Each country has its own culture and systems,” said Shin Kukimoto, a deputy public prosecutor, at a news conference in December.

“I’m not sure it’s right to criticize other systems simply because they are different.”

High-profile cases involving forced confessions periodically attract public attention, although no outcry has been sustained.

In a possible sign the issue was creeping onto the public radar even before Ghosn’s arrest, a private broadcaster launched in 2016 a television drama called “99.9 Criminal Lawyers” about defense lawyers fighting the odds against acquittal. The title refers to the conviction rate.

Slideshow (2 Images)

Still, there is caution over prospects for change.

“I’m skeptical and it depends on what you mean by ‘change’,” said Colin Jones, a law professor at Kyoto’s Doshisha University.

“Courts are institutionally subject to foreign pressure. The trend has been a gradual increase in the rejection of detention warrants and we might see a trend toward incremental change,” he said.

Editing by Robert Birsel

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Michael Cohen's attorney reportedly approached Trump's lawyers about a pardon after April 2018 FBI raids – CNBC

An attorney for Michael Cohen raised the idea of a pardon with President Donald Trump’s lawyers after federal authorities raided Cohen’s residence and office in April, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the talks.

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Congress is now investigating those conversations, documents requested by the House Judiciary Committee revealed on Monday, the Journal said.

The pardon discussions happened as Cohen’s attorney at that time, Stephen Ryan, was working with Trump’s lawyers to determine whether documents seized by the FBI during the April raid were protected by attorney-client privilege, sources told the Journal.

The report comes days after Cohen told lawmakers on Capitol Hill last week that he never asked for a pardon from Trump, and that he would not accept one. The WSJ article noted there was no evidence that Cohen himself asked for a pardon or was aware of the alleged pardon discussions.

Trump’s lawyers – including Jay Sekulow, Rudy Giuliani and Joanna Hendon – dismissed the idea of a pardon at the time, the sources said, according to the Journal. But the paper also reported that Giuliani left open the possibility of an eventual presidential pardon.

Ryan also approached attorneys for the Trump Organization, the president’s company, about a pardon, the Journal reported. Ryan no longer represents Cohen in the criminal case.

If a pardon was not an option, Ryan left the impression that his client Cohen might flip and cooperate with investigators from the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, the paper added.

Ryan, a spokesperson for Giuliani, and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not immediately return CNBC’s requests for comment.

A spokeswoman for Cohen told CNBC in an email, “Mr. Cohen stands by his testimony before the House Oversight Committee.”

In August, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight charges, including two campaign-finance violations for arranging hush-money payments during the 2016 campaign to two women – porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal – who alleged they had sexual trysts with Trump a decade earlier. Trump has denied the affairs.

Cohen also pleaded guilty to lying to Congress. He will report to prison May 6, when he is slated to begin a three-year sentence.

Read the full WSJ article here.

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In Defense of Harvey Weinstein’s Harvard Lawyer – The Atlantic

Law Professor Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. is among the most accomplished people at Harvard. He has helped to overturn scores of wrongful convictions and to free thousands from wrongful incarceration. A sought-after defense attorney and director of Harvard’s criminal law clinic, he became the first African American in the institution’s history to be appointed as a faculty dean, a pastoral role that includes residing at Winthrop House among its undergraduates. But a vocal faction of students now wants to force his resignation, an escalating controversy covered most thoroughly in The Harvard Crimson.

According to the Crimson, vandals spray-painted the doors of Winthrop House this week with “Down w Sullivan!,” “Our Rage is Self Defense,” “Whose Side Are You On?,” and “Your Silence is Violence.” An online petition has circulated among those who want to end his role in residential life. Protesters assembled on campus to publicly show their displeasure. And Harvard administrators launched a “climate review” among the undergraduates in his charge, invoking procedures for “when climate concerns arise in a faculty-led unit.”

Sullivan confronts this “clamor of popular suspicions and prejudices” because he agreed to act as a criminal defense attorney for an object of scorn and hatred: Harvey Weinstein.

His detractors should know that by undertaking to represent such a client Sullivan is participating in a tradition older than the nation itself. The British soldiers who opened fire on a crowd of Bostonians in 1770, killing five, were among the most reviled men in the 13 colonies. Harvard alumnus John Adams, a patriot with aspirations for political office, agreed to defend them at trial, even though he knew that he was risking not only his reputation, but the safety of his family, because aggrieved Bostonians felt that their safety was implicated.

“In the Evening I expressed to Mrs. Adams all my Apprehensions: That excellent Lady, who has always encouraged me, burst into a flood of Tears, but said she was very sensible of all the Danger to her and to our Children as well as to me, but she thought I had done as I ought, she was very willing to share in all that was to come and place her trust in Providence,” he later wrote. Though he went on to sign the Declaration of Independence, and serve as vice-president and president of the United States, he counted bolstering the principle that even people accused of heinous crimes deserve a vigorous defense as “one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested Actions of my whole Life, and one of the best Pieces of Service I ever rendered my Country.”

Throughout U.S. history, criminal defense attorneys have endeavored to conserve and apply that principle. And they’ve been subjected to attacks for so doing.

“Little more than half a century ago, mainstream lawyers were frightened away from defending alleged Communists who faced congressional witch hunts, blacklisting, criminal trials, and even execution,” Harvard Law’s Alan Dershowitz wrote. “Sen. Joseph McCarthy and the millions of Americans—including many lawyers, law professors, and bar association leaders––who supported this attack on ‘communist lawyers’ made it impossible for decent lawyers who despised communism but supported civil liberties and constitutional rights for all to defend accused Communists without risking their careers.”

Defense attorneys for Communists made many feel angry and unsafe.

More recently, lawyers who defended War on Terror detainees and later sought employment in the Obama Administration’s Department of Justice were smeared by prominent figures including Liz Cheney and Bill Kristol, who dubbed them “The Al Qaeda seven” and implied that they shared the enemy’s values.

Defense attorneys for Al Qaeda terrorists made many feel angry and unsafe.

In 2016, during the second presidential debate with Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump attacked his rival as unfit to lead due to the fact that she once acted as the defense attorney for a man accused of raping a 12-year-old. (She thought he was guilty.) Defense attorneys for child predators make many feel angry and unsafe.  

Now Sullivan is defending a man who makes many at Harvard feel angry and unsafe. The Change.org petition started by a Harvard student and signed by scores more suggests that some are now disgusted by the dean and law professor.

As they put it:

For those of you who are members of Winthrop House, do you really want to one day accept your Diploma from someone who for whatever reason, professional or personal, believes it is okay to defend such a prominent figure at the centre of the #MeToo movement? Regardless of Dean Sullivan’s intentions, his role as a community leader, and as someone who should first and foremost value the safety of the students he lives with in Winthrop House, should always come first … he should step down as Winthrop House Dean immediately.

These students may not realize it, but they are creating a disincentive for ambitious young legal academics to undertake the defense of any potentially controversial client, including indigent men who stand accused of rape or sexual assault. That raises the odds of wrongful convictions, especially among the poor.

Harvard religious studies professor Diana Eck took a more forgiving approach. She told the Boston Globe that defending unpopular clients is noble and “extremely important.”

Yet she went on to say that “for our part, we also expect there to be choices made in the interests of our students and the community of students that we try to nurture.”

If there is an inherent tension between upholding an “extremely important” civic norm––legal representation for even the most reviled—and nurturing undergraduates, it seems to me that Harvard ought to prioritize conserving the norm. But is it really inherently “incongruous” for Sullivan to defend a man like Weinstein in a criminal rape trial and endeavor to promote a safe environment for students, including victims of sexual assault, as a faculty dean?

Visiting Harvard Law Professor Catharine MacKinnon emailed:

The issue is not whether Ron can represent reviled clients accused of crimes and still be the faculty dean of a college. Of course he can. The issue is substantive: whether siding with a credibly accused multiple perpetrator of sexual assault is consistent with being the person to whom sexually abused students can feel comfortable confiding in, in an institutional position of reporting such abuse. This is an equality question for Ron to consider and also for the college to consider.

To me, Sullivan isn’t “siding with” Weinstein any more than liberal attorneys who represented members of Al Qaeda at Guantanamo Bay were “siding with the enemy.” (Had any of them been faculty deans at Harvard I doubt anyone would’ve felt unsafe confiding to them that a terrorist plot was afoot.) Nevertheless, the subjective feelings of students do have some relevance here.

As MacKinnon put it:

Under these conditions, the students are entitled, as they have said, not to feel safe reporting their abuse to him, resulting in compromised access to their education on the basis of sex. Whether this outcome is consistent with his role as Faculty Dean of a college is for Harvard to decide.

Students are indeed entitled to their feelings; and deans do serve at Harvard’s pleasure. But it isn’t clear to me that a student’s equal access to education is compromised by virtue of feeling uncomfortable reporting a sexual assault to a given dean, especially when there are many other Harvard officials to whom he or she can confide. In fact, Sullivan appointed Resident Dean Linda D.M. Chavers to serve “as the house’s ‘point person’ for sexual assault issues,” the Crimson reports. “Students will also be able to seek assistance from house tutors—all of whom have been briefed on resources for sexual misconduct issues—and … the Dean of Students Office and the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response.”

The Harvard Crimson’s editorial board put its case against Sullivan this way:

We condemn his choice to represent Weinstein and urge him to address the tension between the two roles more directly than he previously has. As faculty dean, Sullivan has a primary responsibility to his students, namely in representing Winthrop House and fostering a “close-knit community” within the College. This includes upholding the College’s efforts to combat sexual assault on campus. By choosing to represent Weinstein, Sullivan has jeopardized his ability to keep the trust of an alarmingly large group of students.

One powerful retort to that way of thinking appeared in the Boston Globe, which in its coverage of the controversy quoted a Harvard Law grad taught by Sullivan:

“Do you really think that lawyers are an extension of the criminals they represent?” she asked. The woman … said Sullivan advocated for her personally, encouraged her to pursue an assault charge, and offered to handle her case pro bono. He has done the same for other women at Harvard, she noted, often taking up the case of the accuser rather than the accused.

And, she noted, in law school he was known for encouraging students to practice both sides—as prosecutor and defense—often trading the roles himself. “It’s completely flawed to suggest that attorneys can’t step into and out of roles and representations and keep them separate,” said the woman, who went on to become a sex crimes prosecutor.

The woman’s account suggests that Sullivan does deserve the trust of victims and underscores the dubiousness of judging him on the basis of a single client he represents in a career full of them rather than his behavior over decades in academic life.

Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig echoed the argument that it’s possible to be a survivor of sexual assault and yet feel comfortable with Sullivan’s choice.

“I was raped repeatedly as a boy,” he wrote me. “I would have no problem with Sullivan representing the man who raped me. That’s because I have a clear sense of how vicious and arbitrary the criminal justice system can be. That knowledge leads me to believe that we should encourage adequate representation, not scorn excellent representatives. Defending a criminal defendant is not to defend a crime. That understanding is fundamental to a just criminal justice system.”

A less personal retort, this one responding directly to the Crimson editorial, was offered in an unpublished letter to the editor shared with me by Harvard Law Professor Randall Kennedy. He rejected the notion that there is an incongruity between defending a man accused of sexual misconduct as an attorney and promoting a comfortable environment for undergraduates as a faculty dean. “The skills, capacities, and dispositions that would help to make a person a valued defense counsel are also the skills, capacities, and dispositions that would help to make a person a valued Faculty Dean,” he argued. “These features include poise, close listening, mastery of relevant information, and a willingness and ability to safeguard the rights of all sorts of people, including outsiders, the ostracized and, indeed, the villainous.” He proceeded to ask:

The position advanced by the Editorial Board would presumably disqualify any lawyer who represents or has represented people accused of sex offenses.

Does that mean that a latter day Bella Abzug or Thurgood Marshall would be disqualified as a prospective Faculty Dean?  Both represented defendants charged with rape.

Writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education on the same subject, Kennedy mused that this episode “displays the intensity of the anger at sexual malfeasance and the institutional indifference that has allowed such misconduct.” He asserted—and I concur—that “anger is warranted” as “sexual harassment and assault are all too prevalent and prohibitions against them remain all too ineffective.” And he urged overdue reforms. Yet he cautioned that “anger, untethered from principles, is sometimes woefully misguided.”

Computer Science Professor Harry Lewis adds that residential life at Harvard ought to teach “how to engage in a spirit of civic optimism with people whose decisions and actions you find disagreeable.” He thinks a society in which members play multiple roles “holds together peacefully and productively only through the exercise of reason applied to deep but sometimes competing commitments to individual freedom and to the common good,” requiring “sublimation of one’s own emotions… empathy toward others…” and rejecting the view “that discord is intolerable and personal comfort is supreme.”

More than any student discord, I was alarmed by the administration’s decision to investigate the “climate” at Winthrop House in response to this controversy (and perhaps also fallout from Sullivan’s defense of a colleague accused of sexual harassment). Rachael Dane, Director of Media Relations for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard, took issue with my use of the word “investigation” in an email correspondence. She wrote: “I think it is important to emphasize that we are not undertaking an investigation. We are using ordinary processes to collect information from the entire Winthrop Community.”

Harvard Professor Jeannie Suk Gersen emailed me her concerns with such “processes”:

Professor Sullivan has chosen to represent and defend persons whom many people would not defend. Strong disagreement with those choices is of course part of the exploration of differences of principle and opinion that we’d hope for in a university. That is not shocking or troubling, and a university should support that debate. What is shocking is that Harvard is undertaking an official “review” of the “climate” arising from Professor Sullivan’s professional choice to represent particular clients. The review is not based on an allegation that Professor Sullivan has violated any university policy.

It is based on some students’ demands that Professor Sullivan be removed as faculty dean because they are disturbed and distressed by his professional choice.

Announcing a “climate review” holds out a not at all veiled threat of removal from the faculty dean position based on what the climate review will reveal.  We can kid ourselves that this is simply about a resident dean position that is “pastoral,” and that the university would of course not proceed this way regarding regular teaching faculty positions. But that distinction is illusory, since faculty members are also mentors, advisors, role models, and supportive figures, who, by virtue of their position, are part of the Title IX reporting apparatus.

Faculty members are now on notice that based on positions we take, clients we represent, or causes we speak out on, our university may determine that the “climate” is so negatively affected by some students’ reaction to work that it must take “action,” perhaps including removal. What are the chances that, seeing this, other faculty will dare defend such a reviled person or make a highly controversial argument inviting blowback, if there’s a real chance of triggering an official “climate review”? We are witnessing a major illiberal turning point in universities, but this moment is remarkable because it’s the Harvard administration acting in its official capacity, not just some stray voices.

Harvard Professor Janet Halley called Harvard’s actions “deeply disturbing.” She explained in an email:

The right to counsel even for the most despised defendants, the basic role of counsel in our legal order, the presumption of innocence, academic freedom, and the right of University employees to assist persons accused in the University’s Title IX proceedings—are all implicated here.  A small minority of students has asked the University to throw all these fundamental values out the window; it is deeply shocking to watch University administrators accede to these demands.  Finally, the “climate survey” technique is a dangerous precedent as a matter of employment rights and as a threat to academic freedom.  It’s a thinly veiled version of the heckler’s veto. The space for genuine intellectual controversy within the Harvard community has been narrowed by the University’s cowardly proceedings in this case.    

Harvard Law Professor Scott Westfahl, however, defended the idea of a “climate” review, also by email:

I don’t think the ‘climate’ review meaningfully threatens defense attorneys generally or related social norms. As an educator, I see this as a great teaching moment that will hopefully help our community appreciate that from John Adams, Harvard Class of 1755, to Ron Sullivan, Harvard Law Class of 1994, we have produced graduates who courageously advocate for the accused even when it is most unpopular to do so.

In his view, “We are all better off as a result,” and he noted, “I completely support the right of Professor Sullivan, an extremely talented defense lawyer, to take on a very difficult case. Should Mr. Weinstein be convicted, there will be absolutely no doubt that he received a fair hearing with the best possible defense counsel.” He added that he draws a distinction between representing Weinstein at trial and hiring investigators for Weinstein, as previous attorneys did. There’s a difference, he noted, “between fact-finding and unethical intimidation.”

Neither Harvard Dean Claudine Gay nor Dean Rakesh Khurana wanted to comment for this article, and an attempt to reach President Lawrence Bacow failed.


There’s more at issue here than the idea that every accused criminal, no matter how heinous, deserves a zealous defense.

  • Victims of a given crime are not rendered “unsafe” or re-victimized by mere proximity to an attorney who has defended someone accused of that crime.
  • Representing clients accused of heinous crimes does not render a lawyer unable to provide “pastoral guidance.” (Students can of course choose to ignore or avoid guidance from people whose moral intuitions and values differ from their own.)
  • Harvard faculty members who are also defense attorneys should not be subject to “climate” investigations just because they represent unpopular clients.

Harvard should of course tolerate the viewpoints that a defense attorney who represents a heinous criminal is therefore creepy, or acquires the stink of the attendant crime, or cannot be trusted to counsel and mentor undergraduate students. And liberals should be forgiving of undergraduates who toy with those civically dangerous positions as they wrestle with a fraught subject that even adults who know better find hugely challenging to confront with circumspection.

But Harvard should never adopt those viewpoints, and should teach students why generations of principled attorneys suffered and sacrificed to oppose them. Even those who seek to exclude defense attorneys from polite society are not necessarily bad people. But they fail to grasp how much they risk as they work to further weaken the norm against punishing the lawyers of the reviled.

As Andrew W. Liang put it in the Crimson, if enough attorneys “feel the need to think twice… there will be no distinction between a trial by public opinion and a trial in a court of law. The onslaught of negative publicity for a lawyer will be so costly that few good attorneys will want to defend those who—for one reason or another—have been presumed guilty by a public majority. Such individuals will find no advocate… and the integrity of our legal system will cease to exist.”

Emails responding to this article from any perspective are encouraged—write to conor@theatlantic.com and note if you don’t want your name shared if your letter is published.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.

Conor Friedersdorf is a California-based staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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R. Kelly lawyer feud gets personal: ‘He has a Ferrari and I have a Maserati’ – Chicago Sun-Times

These tweets ain’t so sweet!

Last May, Chicago attorney Steve Greenberg tweeted out a “love” note to attorney Michael Avenatti, who has a penchant for grabbing national headlines.

“We should find a case to try together. I love watching you work. @MichaelAvenatti.”

Well, that was then.

RELATED: Read our coverage of the R. Kelly investigation

It’s war now.

Since then, Greenberg and Avenatti have become internet enemies, sparring and spewing in the Twittersphere like two proverbial cats from Kilkenny. Avenatti says Greenberg is “embarassing.” Greenberg calls Avenatti a “coward.”

The war of words was ignited when Avenatti went on the warpath to lock up R. Kelly, who is represented by Greenberg. Kelly was charged last week with sexually abusing four people dating back to 1998, including three underage girls.

Avenatti has provided the Cook County State Attorney’s Office with documents and sex tapes allegedly showing R. Kelly having sex with a minor and says he represents one of the people mentioned in the criminal charges.

So what started the spar war?

On Feb. 14, Avenatti tweeted a statement confirming he had turned over the video to law enforcement and said it allegedly showed the singer having sex with a 14-year-old girl.

That day, Greenberg sent a tweet giving “credit to Avenatti for moving his alleged fraud from the focus to my client.” That was in apparent reference to reports that Avenatti had given up control of his California law firm after a former partner alleged he used its assets to finance an over-the-top lifestyle.

In response to Greenberg’s tweet, Avenatti replied: “Credit to you for managing to gain an acquittal for a child molester and put him back on the street so that he could continue engaging in sexual assault of underage girls.”

Greenberg, however, was not R. Kelly’s attorney during the trial in which the singer was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008.

The next day Avenatti referred to Greenberg as “a hack criminal attorney.”

Then, as Greenberg told Sneed in an interview this week: “He blocked me on Twitter.”

Greenberg said up until that point, he thought Avenatti, who rose to prominence as the attorney for Stormy Daniels, the porn star who had an affair with Donald Trump, ran a decent legal practice.

“My understanding was he was a fine lawyer, but he should get back in his lane,” Greenberg said. “He should be professional. Some of what he says might be right, some wrong. But why insult me in this form of pitchfork justice?”

Greenberg took offense at Avenatti’s criticism of his legal skills. “He doesn’t know anything about me. What an a–hole. He’s grandstanding. I’m not going to debate him about my legal abilities!” he told Sneed.

On Twitter, though, Greenberg posted details of his track record in court and told Avenatti he had won more criminal cases than “you have … in your entire life.” He ended that tweet: “Have a nice flight back to wherever you came from. Bye.”

Greenberg has told the press Avenatti should be “criminally investigated” for the way he handled the child pornography tapes allegedly involving R. Kelly, after some of the tapes ended up in the hands of a CNN reporter.

Avenatti, who is also never at a loss for words, told Sneed he didn’t remember the tweet valentine Greenberg had posted last May 9. He blamed Greenberg for the feud.

“I started cooperating with investigators and turning over information to the state attorney’s office when he [Greenberg] started attacking me for no reason,” said Avenatti.

“He holds a press conference after his client’s arrest and talks about me personally.

“He’s also gone after me on social media,” Avenatti said.

“I’ve never worked with Steve. And I don’t work with people who purposely misstate the law and the facts. Everything he said about me is false.”

Why does Avenatti think he is being attacked? “I believe he will do anything to distract away from the abhorrent conduct of his client,” he said.

Greenberg, no shrinking violet, has told the media: “I think all the women are lying.”

“Unfortunately the state’s attorney has now succumbed to public pressure, to pressure from grandstanders like Michael Avenatti and [attorney] Gloria Allred, and brought these charges. Mr. Kelly is strong. He’s got a lot of support, and he’s going to be vindicated on all these charges, one by one if it has to be.”

Avenatti says Greenberg is the one who is unprofessional.

“Nothing says ‘I’m a professional and not grandstanding’ like taking selfies with the press moments before the bail hearing for your client, who is facing life in prison. #ClownShow,” Avenatti tweeted after Greenberg was seen taking cellphone pictures the day R. Kelly was charged.

Greenberg has another theory about why the two clashed: “He has a Ferrari and I have a Maserati. Maybe that’s why I am not up to his standards!”

On and on it goes.

Only this type of Twitter-styled American justice is not just stirred the pot, it’s sadly shaking it.

Sneedlings . . .

Saturday birthdays: Rebel Wilson, 39; Jon Bon Jovi, 57; and Ben Roethlisberger, 37. . . . Sunday birthdays: Camila Cabello, 22; Buddy Valastro, 42; Jessica Biel, 37, a belated birthday wish to PJ O’Dea, 93 and Ted Tetzlaff, priceless.

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Trump rages at ex-lawyer Michael Cohen after scathing testimony: 'Your heads will spin when you see the lies' – CNBC

President Donald Trump on Friday launched his first Twitter attacks against Michael Cohen since his former longtime lawyer and fixer provided riveting testimony about their relationship before Congress.

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After returning from his second summit with the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in Vietnam — which was cut short and failed to produce any new agreements — Trump tore into Cohen in a Friday morning tweet storm, accusing him of “going rogue” and committing “perjury on a scale not seen before.”

Cohen, 52, pleaded guilty last year to crimes including campaign finance violations and tax evasion, as well as lying to Congress in prior testimony in 2017. He cut agreements with federal prosecutors in New York and with special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian meddling and possible collusion with Trump’s campaign in the 2016 election.

Cohen is scheduled to be incarcerated in May for a three-year prison term. But on Wednesday, he appeared before the House Oversight Committee in a public hearing to testify that his former boss was a “racist” and a “con man” who committed potentially criminal activity since becoming president.

Trump had responded generally to Cohen’s testimony during a television interview while in Hanoi for the summit with Kim. The president claimed Cohen “lied a lot” during the hearing, but added: “It’s very interesting because he didn’t lie about one thing: He said no collusion with Russia.”

Trump, who has no public events scheduled for Friday, amped up his rhetoric in a five-tweet salvo against Cohen.

“Wow, just revealed that Michael Cohen wrote a ‘love letter to Trump’ manuscript for a new book that he was pushing,” Trump claimed. “Book is exact opposite of his fake testimony, which now is a lie!”

The president claimed the book was “written and submitted long after Charlottesville and Helsinki, his phony reasons for going rogue.” Trump was referencing Cohen’s claim in the hearing that the president’s conduct in Helsinki and Charlottesville, Virginia, led the fixer to reconsider his loyalty to Trump.

In 2017, Trump said “there were very fine people, on both sides” of a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, in which one counterprotester was killed. In Helsinki, Trump appeared to accept as genuine Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denial that the Kremlin meddled in the 2016 election — a position that broke with U.S. intelligence.

Trump appeared to be referring to Cohen’s book deal with Hachette Book Group that was reportedly in the works in early 2018, but fell apart after FBI agents raided Cohen’s properties in April. Cohen said Wednesday that that deal was worth about $750,000, for a book to be titled “Trump Revolution: From the Tower to the White House, Understanding Donald J. Trump.” He testified that he turned down the deal.

The White House did not confirm to CNBC whether Trump was referencing that book deal specifically.

Trump called on Congress to “demand the transcript” of that book. “Your heads will spin when you see the lies, misrepresentations and contradictions against his Thursday testimony. Like a different person! He is totally discredited,” Trump wrote.

The suggestion that the alleged manuscript, written before the falling out between Cohen and Trump, would not match Cohen’s sworn testimony Wednesday is likely.

But Cohen already admitted on multiple occasions in that hearing that he told lies for Trump.

“The last time I appeared before Congress, I came to protect Mr. Trump,” Cohen said. “Today, I’m here to tell the truth about Mr. Trump.”

Trump continued venting rage on Twitter against Cohen, as well as the newly revealed and continued investigations into Trump’s finances.

Trump then returned to the “book manuscript,” which “shows that he committed perjury on a scale not seen before.”

“He must have forgotten about his book when he testified,” Trump said.

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