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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Staff and volunteers at Better People's fundraising walk

PHOTO: Dozens of volunteers turned out to walk and raise funds for Better People at an event in downtown Portland last year.

 

Better People, the Portland nonprofit that helps former inmates find work and stability in the community, has laid off its staff and closed its office on NE Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. But board chair Judith Belk, PhD. says the plan is to return in early 2015 with a revised program and a stronger long-term plan.

“The board voted unanimously to keep Better People open,” Belk said.

 “We will go quiet for a while to give us time to look at how we are valued and how we fit into the community. We want to get a bigger picture, but also a more precise picture of what’s needed and how do we expand our services.”

Better People lost a Multnomah county contract last year after its completion numbers dropped. And Belk, who is president of the Center for Communication and Learning Skills in Lake Oswego, says it has struggled to find grant and private funding during the economic downturn.

“Because Better People offers a program that does not charge clients tuition, our ability to deliver services depends on our funding,” she said. “So we are caught in this horrible dilemma of knowing we provide a very valuable service but we’re not able to pay staff.  When people have economic difficulties, so do nonprofits.”

Better People opened in 1998 to help former inmates overcome barriers to becoming productive stable members of society. People with a criminal history face barriers to finding work and housing when they are released. And people who have a felony in their background are banned from numerous work and housing opportunities.

 Better People’s program combines Moral Reconation Therapy—which seeks to help former inmates change negative thinking patterns and behavior – with employment assistance and support. The nonprofit helped persuade employers to give their clients a chance, and held events that raised community awareness about those barriers to success for former inmates.

Program graduates say they gained new understanding and confidence. 

"This program gave me more than just a shot at some dead-end job,” said program graduate Jason W.  “It gave me freedom from the shame I was carrying. It gave me the chance to set down the burden of what other people thought of me. It gave me the opportunity to see myself in a new light. It also gave me the chance to look at how I was treating the people around me on an everyday basis."

According to the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Administration, Moral Reconation Therapy is based on solid research and has been successfully used as a 3-6 month program inside prison systems across the country.  However, SAMHSA also found the program has struggled to find a niche within the criminal justice system.

In recent years Better People has been competing with some larger nonprofits that include prisoner re-entry programs among their services.

Volunteers of America, for example, serves thousands of people every year, offering everything from housing and addictions treatment to domestic violence support services.  Working with prisoners before, during and after their release from jail or prison, VOA claims a 70 percent success rate for its Inact reentry program which served 109 adults in 2013. And its CPR program has had similar success with young men incarcerated as teens.
Mercy Corps has re-entry contracts with the state's Department of Corrections and helps about 135 people a year find work.  
Pathfinders of Oregon offers a behavior change program similar to Better People's Moral Reconation Therapy.  The agency also offers parenting classes, substance abuse treatment and youth and family counseling programs. But Pathfinders works with inmates before they are released from prison, which may make it easier for people to complete the program.
Board members and former executive director Clariner Boston say they will be talking to other nonprofits and experts to get a clearer view of the big picture, as well as an idea of where to steer the program so it can be successful. And Belk says the board has not ruled out merging or partnering with other programs.

Mercy Corps has donated office space so Boston can continue to work with the agency’s remaining clients on a volunteer basis until they can complete the program and graduate.  A board member with a job development business also has offered program space.

“It is to Clariner Boston’s credit as such an ethical dedicated person, that she will make sure that these folks in the program—about eight or nine people –will finish,” Belk said.

The brainchild of Sen. Chip Shields, Better People opened its doors in 1998 after raising $80,000 and gaining the support of The Black United Fund, the Urban League of Portland and the Oregon Community Foundation as well as prominent community members, including: Annette Jolin, Ph.D, of PSU’s Administration of Justice program;  Bob Warren, Jr., CEO of Cascade Corporation; and Bob Kingery, founder of Nextlink Interactive.

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