05 23 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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Protesters in downtown Portland

Attorney general Ellen Rosenblum confirmed Tuesday that an investigator with the Oregon Department of Justice had conducted digital surveillance on those who had used the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag on social media.

The confirmation came after Urban League of Portland President and CEO Nkenge Harmon-Johnson sent a letter addressed to Rosenblum, saying her husband, Erious Johnson, the DOJ’s director of civil rights, had learned he was profiled by his own agency. The letter, which was signed by seven other civil rights and labor leaders, was shared with media and posted to signing organizations’ websites.

Rosenblum’s office did not reply to The Skanner’s request for comment, but did release a statement saying she was “outraged” by her office’s use of digital surveillance.

“I recently became aware that an employee of the Oregon DOJ Criminal Division was conducting a digital search of Twitter hashtags including #blacklivesmatter,that led him to the Twitter account of a close and trusted member of my inner circle staff, Erious Johnson Jr. I informed Mr. Johnson of this, told him that I was outraged by it, and that I had immediately ordered a stop to it.”

Rosenblum also told The Oregonian Tuesday an investigator used an online search tool to look up Twitter hashtags as part of threat-assessment work, including use of the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag by users in the Salem area.

That investigator, who she did not name, has been placed on paid leave, and there may be others, Rosenblum said. She also told The Oregonian she has hired an investigator to look into the department’s use of digital surveillance.

Harmon Johnson declined to comment, deferring to others who had cosigned the letter. Shortly after her letter posted, the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon put out a press release with statements from director David Rogers and legal director Mat dos Santos.

“Under Oregon law, it is illegal for state law enforcement to gather information about people’s political, religious and social views, associations or activities. Not only is such profiling illegal, but it seriously threatens our democracy by chilling First Amendment speech and activities. We encourage the Attorney General to take immediate action and support a full and transparent investigation,” Rogers’ statement said.

Mat dos Santos, legal director for the state, said, “Oregonians deserve to know the full extent of the state’s involvement in this illegal and racially-based surveillance. In response to these incidents, we are preparing to file records requests to reveal the scope of the program and who else was caught up in this dragnet.”

Portland attorney Bronson James, who represents the anti-violence group Don’t Shoot PDX, told The Skanner he found the revelations deeply troubling.

“I believe that she didn’t know what was going on,” James said of Rosenblum. “The key question is to what extent it was going on. Was this a single individual or a coordinated effort? Was there federal collaboration? How long has this data gathering been going on? All of these questions need to be answered. I think it’s good that the AG has appointed an independent investigator to do this. I think it’s important that the investigator partners independently with myself and the afflicted groups to ensure the investigation is thorough and asks the right questions.”

The Skanner also contacted the Black Lives Matter Portland chapter but did not receive a response in time for its deadline. Black Lives Matter Portland is a local chapter of the national group started in 2012.

The phrase has also been used by protesters and organizations not connected to the organization, including Don’t Shoot Portland, which held its first public demonstration in August 2014.

Harmon Johnson also released a letter to Urban League members Tuesday hosted on the Urban League’s site in which she said she spoke for herself and her family only, expressing dismay that simply using a hashtag intended to express solidarity would make one subject to state surveillance.

“When there is probable cause to suspect that a crime has been committed, law enforcement can and should investigate,” Harmon Johnson wrote. “But what motivation could the Oregon Department of Justice Criminal Justice Division have had for conducting a threat assessment of my husband in the first place, let alone creating a file, and delivering it to the Attorney General, for further action? Yet, when nothing threatening was found, the department continued its investigation and escalation. If they labeled him a threat, who else is being wrongly targeted in this way?”

During a Wednesday-afternoon interview on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s “All Things Considered,” Rosenblum said the investigator had used a tool called Digital Stakeout. The company’s website describes it as a “cloud-based threat intelligence platform that mines the web in real-time and reveals what matters.” She also said the surveillance may have been illegal and a criminal investigation may be warranted.

The ACLU of Oregon notes, in a statement on its website, the surveillance is a violation of a state law passed in 1981 prohibiting the collection of information about “the political, religious or social views, associations or activities” of any individual or organization unless it is directly relevant to a criminal investigation.

Rosenblum is also leading a law enforcement racial profiling workgroup, established by House Bill 2002, which passed out of the legislature this year. The workgroup includes Kayse Jama, one of the signers of Harmon Johnson’s letter.

The Urban League is encouraging members of the public to share stories, concerns, questions or support regarding state surveillance by writing to WeMatter@ULPDX.org.

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