05 24 2016
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  • The judge concluded Officer Edward Nero played little role in the arrest and wasn't responsible for the failure by police to buckle Gray in  
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  • Bill Cosby faces a preliminary hearing Tuesday to determine if his criminal sex-assault case in suburban Philadelphia goes to trial.Prosecutors had declined to charge the comedian-actor over the 2005 complaint, but arrested him in December after his explosive deposition in the woman's lawsuit became public. In the testimony given in that deposition, Cosby is grilled about giving drugs and alcohol to women before sex; making secret payments to ex-lovers; and hosting Andrea Constand at his home. They knew each other through Temple University, where he was a trustee and she managed the women's basketball team. Bill Cosby's wife refused to answer dozens of questions during a combative deposition in a defamation lawsuit filed by seven women who say the comedian branded them liars after they accused him of sexually assaulting them, according to a transcript released Friday. Camille Cosby was subjected to intense questioning by the women's lawyer, who repeatedly pressed her to say whether she believes her husband "acted with a lack of integrity" during their 52-year marriage. The lawyer also asked if her husband used his position and power "to manipulate young women." Camille Cosby didn't answer those questions and many others after her lawyer cited marital privilege, the legal protection given to communications between spouses. She repeatedly said she had "no opinion" when pressed on whether she viewed her husband's behavior as dishonest and a violation of their marriage vows. About 50 women have publicly accused Bill Cosby of forcing unwanted sexual contact on them decades ago. Cosby has denied the allegations. He faces a criminal case in Pennsylvania, where prosecutors have charged him with sexually violating a former Temple University employee, Andrea Constand. He has pleaded not guilty. Camille Cosby answered questions in the deposition Feb. 22 and again April 19 after her lawyers argued unsuccessfully to stop it. A judge ruled she would have to give a deposition but said she could refuse to answer questions about private communications between her and her husband. Camille Cosby's lawyer, Monique Pressley, repeatedly cited that privilege and advised her not to answer many questions asked by the women's lawyer, Joseph Cammarata. The exchanges between Cammarata and Cosby became testy at times, and she admonished him: "Don't lecture me. Just keep going with the questions." Using a transcript of a deposition Bill Cosby gave in a civil lawsuit filed by Constand in 2005 and a transcript of an interview she gave to Oprah Winfrey in 2000, Cammarata asked Camille Cosby about extramarital affairs her husband had. "Were you aware of your husband setting up trusts for the benefit of women that he had a sexual relationship with?" Cammarata asked. She didn't answer after her lawyer cited marital privilege. Cammarata asked her about Shawn Thompson, a woman who said Bill Cosby fathered her daughter, Autumn Jackson, in the 1970s. Jackson was convicted in 1997 of attempting to extort money from Bill Cosby to prevent her from telling a tabloid she's his daughter. He acknowledged he had an affair with her mother and had given her money. "Was it a big deal when this came up in the 1970s that your husband had — big deal to you that your husband had an extramarital affair and potentially had a daughter from that extramarital affair?" Cammarata asked. "It was a big deal then, yes," Camille Cosby replied. She said she had "no opinion" on whether her husband's admission he obtained quaaludes to give to women with whom he wanted to have sex violated their marriage vows. Her lawyer objected and instructed her not to answer when Cammarata asked her if she ever suspected she had been given any type of drug to alter her state of consciousness when she had sex with her husband. A spokesman for the Cosbys declined to comment on her deposition. The Cosbys have a home in Shelburne Falls, an hour's drive from Springfield, where the lawsuit, seeking unspecified damages, was filed. An attorney handling a separate lawsuit against Bill Cosby revealed Friday that Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner provided sworn testimony Wednesday. In the sexual battery lawsuit filed in Los Angeles, Judy Huth says Cosby forced her to perform a sex act on him at the Playboy Mansion around 1974, when she was 15. Bill Cosby's former lawyers have accused Huth of attempting to extort him before filing the case and have tried unsuccessfully to have it dismissed. Huth's attorney, Gloria Allred, said Hefner's testimony will remain under seal for now. Hefner also was named as a defendant in a case filed Monday by former model Chloe Goins, who accuses Bill Cosby of drugging and sexually abusing her at the Playboy Mansion in 2008.   The Associated Press generally doesn't identify people who say they're victims of sexual abuse, but the women accusing Cosby have come forward to tell their stories.___AP Entertainment Writer Anthony McCartney contributed to this report from Los Angeles.
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  • Some hope killing will bring peace in Afghanistan     
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Isa SaharkhizIsa Saharkhiz

Isa Saharkhiz and his son Mehdi haven't seen each other in nearly a decade.

But the dream of a reunion between the dissident journalist and his 32-year-old son came one step closer to fruition when Iranian authorities unexpectedly released the elder Saharkhiz last week after imprisoning him for more than four years.

"Yes, it was a surprise," said Saharkhiz, speaking by phone to CNN from his home in Tehran.

The longtime critic of the Iranian regime described how last Thursday, a prison official made an unannounced visit to the hospital room where he had been detained for months due to his deteriorating health conditions.

"He told me that 'you are released now,'" Saharkhiz said. Within hours, he was back at his home surrounded by his wife and daughter and friends.

Mehdi was at the design company in northern New Jersey where he works as a production manager when his relatives in Iran called with news of his father's release.

"I was really shocked," he recalled.

Father was rounded up during 2009 unrest in Iran

Since 2009, the younger Saharkhiz has led a one-man digital campaign from his home in New Jersey aimed at liberating his father.

"I confess that I am not ashamed that my father is in prison. And I am proud of him...his bravery has made life harder for the cowards in power," Mehdi announced on camera in Farsi, in a 2009 video he posted on YouTube.

The young man appeared in the video wearing a T-shirt printed with his father's portrait.

Iranian security forces first arrested Isa Saharkhiz, 59, during the summer of 2009.

The former journalist had been working as an international spokesman for the campaign of Mehdi Karroubi, a moderate politician who ran for president in June 2009.

Huge street protests erupted that month after Iranian authorities declared the firebrand incumbent candidate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad winner of the election. Opposition groups accused the Iranian regime of rigging the results in favor of Ahmadinejad, a claim Tehran vehemently rejected.

In the ensuing crackdown on what became known as the Green Movement, Karroubi and another opposition presidential candidate, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, were placed under house arrest.

Security forces used brute force and widespread arrests to crush the street protests, while also rounding up top officials from Mousavi and Karroubi's political campaigns, including Isa Saharkhiz.

"They tortured me," he said, describing how officers beat him and broke his ribs during his initial detention.

Iranian authorities justified the 2009 crackdown by frequently accusing opposition leaders of being part of a foreign conspiracy aimed at overthrowing the government. Iranian officials also accused some protesters of being mohareb, or enemies of God.

Saharkhiz later received a sentence of three years in prison for conspiring against the government and insulting the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Singled out as a former insider?

During his incarceration, the writer said he was subjected to physical and emotional abuse, while also being held in solitary confinement for long periods.

"In January, in the winter, they sent me on the roof of the jail for two hours when the weather was very cold," Saharkhiz said. "They put me out without any shoes, any socks, and very few clothes."

Experts say Iranian authorities reserved especially harsh treatment of well-known intellectuals such as Saharkhiz because he was a former regime insider, who had risen to prominence after the Islamic Revolution of 1979. For a decade, he worked as a reporter for one of the main state news agencies. He also founded a free-speech advocacy group called the Society for the Defense of Freedom on the Press.

"Saharkhiz is not an outsider to the regime. Like others in the reformist movement that emerged from within the ranks of the government of the Islamic Republic, Saharkhiz angered many, including the Supreme Leader," said Behzad Yaghmaian, an Iranian-American academic and author of "Social Change in Iran."

Yaghmaian commended Saharkhiz for his "principled resistance to the government and the supreme leader."

"People like Saharkhiz are considered even more dangerous than those opposing the regime from outside," he added.

As the elder Saharkhiz languished in prison in 2009, his son Mehdi became an opposition activist from the relative safety of exile in New Jersey.

Using Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, Mehdi distributed amateur videos smuggled from Iran showing Iranian security forces beating and arresting demonstrators.

"The least I can do is get their voices out," he said, in a 2010 interview with CNN.

Election of Rouhani may have had impact

Mehdi has lived in the United States for many years, and last year became a naturalized American citizen. His father was stationed in New York for several years in the 1990s while working for IRNA, the official Iranian news agency. During that time, Mehdi attended high school in suburbs outside New York City.

Four years after his arrest, the elder Saharkhiz said there was no formal reason given for his release. But he said the move was likely linked to the recent election of Hassan Rouhani to the post of president.

Several other dissidents detained during the 2009 crackdown were released last month, according to the English-language daily Tehran Times. The Iranian government never issued a formal explanation for why these political prisoners were freed.

Rouhani campaigned on a platform of reform and an end to Iran's international isolation. Last month, he called for a negotiated end to Tehran's long feud with Washington over its nuclear program. His charm offensive during a visit to the United Nations General Assembly climaxed with a brief phone conversation with Barak Obama. It was the first direct contact between American and Iranian presidents in more than 30 years.

"Not the system, but the situation has changed," explained Isa Saharkhiz, during his interview with CNN.

Though optimistic about Rouhani's presidency, Saharkhiz warned that Iran was a "double state," where true power lies in the hands of Supreme Leader Khamenei and senior military commanders.

He argued that expanded relations with Washington and the removal of crippling economic sanctions would help moderate figures such as Rouhani engaged in policy and power struggles with Iranian hard-liners. Removal of American embargoes would also help ordinary Iranians who could no longer afford life-saving foreign phamaceuticals, he said.

Saharkhiz's note of cautious optimism was echoed by his son.

"There's a lot of hope from what Rouhani did in the U.S. and there's a lot of good response from the people," Mehdi said. "But then you have a lot of people who were in charge before the election and are still in charge and don't like it."

Son not sure when he can travel to Tehran

For now, Mehdi says it is not safe for him to return to Iran to visit his father. He has yet to fulfill his mandatory Iranian military service, and he fears he could be detained due to his own outspoken criticism of the regime.

"Maybe in a few years I will be able to go back, but it's a really big risk," he said.

Meanwhile, his father predicted he is still at risk of being thrown back in prison.

"I will support freedom in Iran, and maybe criticize the leadership in Iran," he said. "So it is possible that they will come here and capture me again."

Both father and son hope, however, that the authorities will lift an earlier travel ban that prevented the veteran journalist from leaving Iran.

If so, the two hope to reunite for the first time in more than a decade in a third country such as the United Arab Emirates or Turkey.

"It will be a very emotional time," Isa Saharkhiz said.

It would be, his son said, a dream come true.

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