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9-year sentence for man who threatened to kill President Trump

A Connecticut man who pleaded guilty last year to a series of hoaxes, including sending a letter with white powder threatening to kill President Donald J. Trump, was sentenced to nine years in prison on Wednesday .

The man, Gary Joseph Gravelle, 53, of New Haven, pleaded guilty to seven counts related to the threats he made in September 2018, according to John H. Durham, the United States’ attorney in Connecticut.

In early September 2018, Mr. Gravelle sent a threatening letter addressed to Mr. Trump along with a white powdery substance that Gravelle said was anthrax, court records show. Other recipients of Mr. Gravelle’s threatening messages included federal probation officers, mental health care providers and a credit union. He also threatened to blow up planes and property at Burlington International Airport in Vermont.

Judge Kari A. Dooley of the U.S. District Court in Bridgeport, Connecticut, sentenced Gravelle to more than seven years in prison for the threats he made in 2018 and to two more years for breaching the terms of his release.

Mr Gravelle has been in jail since his arrest on September 8, 2018 and was previously jailed for sending threatening messages in 2010, according to Mr Durham’s office.

His guilt or innocence has never been widely disputed, according to officials and Mr. Gravelle’s lawyer. What has not been determined is where Mr. Gravelle, who has a history of mental illness, will serve his sentence.

According to his lawyer, Joseph Patten Brown, Mr. Gravelle is currently in the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Center in Rhode Island, where he receives medication but does not regularly see a therapist. Whether Mr. Gravelle is serving his sentence there, or in a hospital, will be determined later by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Mr. Brown said.

Mr. Brown would prefer the latter. “People like Gary are now just housed in prisons instead of places where they can at least get treatment,” he said in an interview.

In a sentencing note to the court, Mr Brown wrote that his client was “a sick man” who had “no intention of following through” his threats “or who appeared to have the capacity to do so”. Mr. Gravelle has targeted people “with no apparent role model” in terms of ideology, race or creed, Mr. Brown wrote. His client “has no other program than an ill-advised call for help.”

Prosecutors, in their sentencing note, acknowledged Mr Gravelle’s history of mental illness, but said his threats had deeply affected victims.

Mr. Gravelle’s threats “have disrupted the daily lives of many people and undoubtedly seriously frightened their recipients,” prosecutors wrote. The victims, prosecutors wrote, “have played no role in creating any of the accused’s problems, but are nevertheless forced to bear the brunt of them.”

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Life sentence for white man who stabbed black student to death in Maryland

A 25-year-old white man who stabbed a black student to death during a chance encounter on the University of Maryland main campus in 2017 in what prosecutors called a racially motivated hate crime was convicted on Thursday to life imprisonment.

The man, Sean C. Urbanski, was convicted in December 2019 by a jury in Prince George County, Maryland, of first degree murder in the death of Richard W. Collins III.

Mr Collins, 23, was days away from graduating from nearby Bowie State University and had recently been appointed a second lieutenant in the military. He was preparing to move to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., to train to defend the country from chemical attack.

“He was about to do great things,” Dawn Collins, Mr Collins’ mother, said at a press conference Thursday after the sentencing.

The 2017 meeting between the men was brief and violent, and the murder cast a veil over what would have been a festive time on both campuses.

According to University of Maryland police, in the early hours of May 20, Mr. Collins and two friends were standing at a bus stop outside a dormitory on the Maryland campus when they heard Mr. Urbanski, then aged. 22 years old, screaming. They watched him as he approached them.

“Not on the left, not on the left if you know what’s best for you,” Urbanski said, according to police. Mr Collins said no, and Mr Urbanski plunged a three to four inch silver blade into his chest, police said a witness told them.

When officers arrived, they found Mr. Urbanski, a University of Maryland student, sitting on a bench a few yards from where witnesses said he had just stabbed Mr. Collins, said officials. Mr Collins was pronounced dead after 4 a.m., just three days before he graduated from Bowie State.

At the time, Mr Urbanski’s attack did not qualify as a hate crime under Maryland law, officials said. Mr Collins’ parents were successful in lobbying to change the law, which went into effect in October. Now a suspect’s past activity, and not just rhetoric on the scene, can be taken as evidence of intent. This new law is named after Mr. Collins.

Under Maryland law, offenders sentenced to life in prison are eligible for parole after 15 years, according to Prince George County state attorney Aisha Braveboy. William Brennan, an attorney for Mr Urbanski, said his client may be eligible for parole sooner given the time already served and his good behavior.

After the attack, officials said they were investigating the episode as a possible hate crime.

Mr Urbanski was a member of a Facebook group that had trafficked anti-black and sexist memes. The group was shut down after the attack and its administrator, Alex Goodman, said it was satire. “Nothing is meant to be true,” Mr. Goodman told The New York Times. “I condemn those who believe in white supremacy.”

At Thursday’s press conference, a prosecutor in charge of the case said Mr Urbanski had had wide access to such messages.

“The number of racist and hateful memes that were on her phone was just confusing,” said Jonathan Church, deputy state attorney for Prince George.

Mr. Brennan said during sentencing that his client had “a great deal of remorse” and that he deeply regretted what he had done.

Elizabeth Urbanski, Mr Urbanski’s mother, expressed the “horror and devastation” of her son’s crime. She told Mr. Collins’ parents, according to the Associated Press, “Your son Richard should be here, and it’s my son Sean’s fault that he’s not.”

At the press conference, Ms Collins said her son looked forward to a bright future.

“He had aspired to be the next General Colin Powell,” Ms. Collins said, referring to the retired four-star general and former secretary of state. “And there was nothing that was going to stop him.”

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Capitol Breach leads to harsh sentence from law enforcement

Americans watched in shock on Wednesday as a quiet protest turned into an angry mob that stormed barriers and stormed the Capitol – spraying chemicals, smashing windows and doors and looting large objects – as the Capitol Police struggled to contain the violence and at times simply retreated.

The police force, which has around 2,000 officers and has exclusive jurisdiction over the Capitol buildings and grounds, was clearly outnumbered and unprepared for the attack, although it was openly organized on social media sites like Gab and Parler.

It took more than two hours and reinforcements from other police services to restore order. A woman who appeared to have wrapped herself in a flag was fatally shot by a Capitol Police officer, according to Robert Contee, head of the city’s Metropolitan Police Department, who was called in as a backup. Another woman and two men died in the events due to unspecified medical emergencies, he said.

At least 52 people have been arrested, he said, including five for weapons and at least 26 on the grounds of the US Capitol. Most of the arrests were for violating the 6 p.m. curfew, he said, adding that police would circulate photos of those wanted for violating the Capitol building. In addition, homemade bombs were found at the headquarters of the Republican and Democratic National Committees and a cooler containing a long gun and Molotov cocktails was found on the Capitol grounds, the chief said.

Criticism of the Capitol Police has been swift and, in some quarters, ruthless.

Some law enforcement experts were astonished at the sight of an officer curled up under the crush of pro-Trump extremists and rioters using police shields and metal barricades as rams.

And leftist protesters saw a brutal double standard, claiming they had been hit by rubber bullets, manhandled, surrounded and arrested as they conducted themselves peacefully during protests against racial injustice over the course of the summer.

Attica Scott, a representative for the state of Kentucky, was arrested in Louisville on felony charges which were later dropped over the many months of protest over the death of Breonna Taylor in a botched police raid. “You can be arrested for walking while you’re black,” she said, “but you can be white and riot and get away with it.”

President Trump’s own rhetoric has included stark contrasts with the protests. After George Floyd’s death, he called the protesters “thugs” and promised those who stood in line near the White House would be greeted with “the most vicious dogs and the most ominous guns I have. never seen ”. Federal law enforcement took people in unmarked vans and used pepper spray to eliminate peaceful protesters so Mr. Trump could pose for photos outside a church.

But on Wednesday, after giving a rally where he said he “would never concede,” he was much nicer to those who started storming the Capitol. Hours after the riot started, he finally released a video saying, “You have to go home now.” He added: “We love you.”

After the rally, around 1 p.m., the crowds gathered at the temporary fence that had been erected around the Capitol, and became increasingly lively. “There has been a noticeable change in their behavior,” said Chief Contee.

A police expert said there should have been a heavily populated perimeter circling the entire grounds of the Capitol and a second around the building itself given that extremist groups with a history of violent confrontation were involved.

“How they weren’t ready for this today, I have no idea,” said Charles Ramsey, a former DC police chief. “They were overwhelmed, they didn’t have the resources. You must be able to protect the Capitol. It’s not correct. “

Capitol Police have not answered the phone or email, nor have they issued any statement about the incident.

Members of Congress also asked for an explanation. “We must investigate the security breach at the Capitol today,” said Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California, on Twitter. “I notified our caucus and had an hour-long conversation with the Chief of Police 4 days ago. He assured me that terrorists would not be allowed in the secure square and the Capitol.

Representative Val Demings, a Democrat from Florida, said in an interview with MSNBC on Wednesday night that Capitol Police appeared to be understaffed. “It didn’t seem like they had a clear operational plan to really deal with” the thousands of people who took to Capitol Hill after Mr. Trump’s complaints of a “rigged election,” she said .

Mr Ramsey said police in riot gear should have been stationed nearby.

The perimeter officers were easily overwhelmed, the crowd – some in bulletproof vests – jostling them and spraying them with chemical plumes. On the east side of the Capitol, rioters who broke through the perimeter then confronted a line of officers on the steps, video shows. These officers eventually retreated to the stairs, allowing the crowd to follow.

Another video shows officers appearing to push aside barricades and let protesters in. Protesters climbed walls and scaffolding, climbed onto a maintenance platform, posed for photos and looted large items.

Some experts have defended the police, noting that Capitol Police routinely deal with protests, both inside and outside the building, legal and illegal, but they are none of those things.

“This is not what is happening on the US Capitol,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington think tank. “It’s totally unprecedented. It’s as close to a 9/11 attack as you can imagine, as no one has ever done it before.

Mr Wexler said legitimate questions would be raised as to why there weren’t more agents on site and why they hadn’t anticipated the threat. But he blamed most of the blame on the political leaders who legitimize violent groups. “If the president says to his supporters, ‘This is what I want you to do,’ it could be more valuable than a thousand cops,” he said.

Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore said it was unrealistic to expect the police to crack down on “people who are bent on destroying.”

“They used violence against the police. They attacked the Sacred Capitol and the Rotunda, then used tear gas or chemical agents and physical attacks, ”he said. “And what worries me is that the first thought was: why weren’t the law enforcement better prepared?

If the Capitol Police hadn’t anticipated the violence, the city did. Mayor Muriel Bowser called on the National Guard to supplement the city’s police force and warned counter-protesters and DC residents to stay away from pro-Trump actions scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.

On Monday, city police arrested Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys, a far-right fraternity that uses street brutality as political theater. Mr Tarrio, who had two high-capacity gun stores, was wanted after bragging online about burning a Black Lives Matter banner taken from a historic black church during protests last month. He was released but ordered to stay out of DC

The Proud Boys have been drumming for months in clashes in support of Mr. Trump. In a statement on one of their social media channels after the storming of the U.S. Capitol, the Proud Boys attempted to justify the violence by saying they were only copying the tactics of leftist protesters.

But Ja’Mal Green, a Chicago-based activist, said there was no comparison between the tactics or the response. “We all know that if Black Lives Matter had stormed the Capitol, lethal force would have been used to protect this building, especially because it’s a federal building,” he said. “We saw today what it means for whites to have the privilege.”

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Lori Loughlin begins 2-month sentence for role in admissions scandal

Actress Lori Loughlin went to federal prison on Friday, five months after she and her husband pleaded guilty to conspiring to get their two daughters admitted to the University of Southern California in as rookies in rowing, although none have participated in the sport.

Ms Loughlin, 56, went to federal prison in Dublin, Calif., To begin a two-month sentence, according to prosecutors, who said Ms Loughlin had agreed not to seek early release due to the coronavirus pandemic. She was originally scheduled to report to prison on November 19, but prosecutors said they had reached an agreement to allow her to start her sentence earlier.

Actress Felicity Huffman, who admitted in May to paying $ 15,000 to have a supervisor illegally correct her daughter’s SAT responses, served 11 days in the same jail, 35 miles east of San Francisco, which houses more than 870 inmates.

Ms Loughlin was also sentenced to two years of supervised release, during which time she must complete 100 hours of community service and pay a fine of $ 150,000, prosecutors said.

Ms Loughlin and Ms Huffman were among the most high-profile defendants in the nationwide admissions pursuit, in which financiers, lawyers and celebrities have been charged with conspiracy to cheat exams or bribe coaches , showing how far some wealthy parents go to get their kids to prestigious colleges.

More than 50 people have been charged in the massive case, which was orchestrated, prosecutors said, by William Singer, a businessman from Newport Beach, Calif., Who has been cooperating with federal investigators since September 2018.

Ms Loughlin, best known for playing Aunt Becky on the 1990s sitcom ‘Full House,’ and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, 57, a fashion designer, became the 23rd and 24th parents to plead guilty to the case in May. . Prosecutors said the couple paid $ 500,000 to have their children admitted to USC

Unlike Ms Huffman, who released a long, moving statement expressing shame for her actions and apologizing to the hard-working students and their parents, Ms Loughlin made no public statement when she pleaded guilty via Zoom .

But upon her conviction in August, Ms Loughlin tearfully apologized. She said she believed she was acting out of love for her children, but realized that she had only undermined them and contributed to inequalities in society.

“This awareness is weighing heavily on me,” said Ms. Loughlin, “and while I wish I could go back and do things differently, I can only take responsibility and move on.

Mr Giannulli is expected to report to jail for a five-month sentence on Nov. 19, prosecutors said. He was also sentenced to two years of supervised release, during which time he must perform 250 hours of community service and pay a fine of $ 250,000.

One of the prosecutors, Eric S. Rosen of the Massachusetts District Attorney’s Office, said in May that Ms Loughlin and Mr Giannulli knew Mr Singer was mistakenly portraying their two daughters at USC as experienced coxswains. , and that they had both bothered to keep the staff members of the Girls’ High School in the dark.

After their youngest daughter was provisionally admitted to USC as a sports rookie, Mr Singer told the couple to be quiet, Mr Rosen said. Ms Loughlin texted her youngest daughter, the prosecutor said, warning her that telling her high school counselor that USC was her first choice could be “a flag for the weasel to mingle” and not “Tell this man too much. “

Kate Taylor contributed reporting.

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Keith Raniere, leader of Nxivm Sex Cult, faces a life sentence

Keith Raniere promised a path to happiness, appealing to prosperous and wealthy people who felt they had no higher purpose in life. His company, Nxivm, offered self-improvement workshops that have become popular in Hollywood and in the business community.

But beneath the surface, Mr Raniere was a puppeteer controlling a sectarian criminal enterprise, prosecutors revealed during his trial. Some women in Nxivm were forced to have sex with Mr. Raniere and were even branded with his initials in a secret ceremony.

On Tuesday, Mr. Raniere, 60, will be sentenced in federal court in Brooklyn for his involvement in sex trafficking and other crimes. The hearing begins at 11 a.m.

Mr Raniere’s conviction last year capped a staggering fall for a man who was once idolized by his supporters, but who has since been exposed as a fraudster who exploited Nxivm membership for money, sex and power.

Former Nxivm members said Mr Raniere and his entourage preyed on insecure people who hoped that immersing themselves in expensive self-help classes would pave the way for fulfillment. Even highly educated people found themselves trapped in Mr. Raniere’s system, which he sold as the only way to overcome their fears, shaming anyone who tried to stop.

During Mr Raniere’s trial, prosecutors lifted the veil of a sordid side on Nxivm (pronounced NEX-ee-um). A primary focus was a secretive women-only group within the organization. During a videotaped initiation ceremony, the women lay naked on a table, saying, “Master, please mark me,” as a cauterizing pen burned their skin. without anesthesia.

Some of these women said they were thinking of joining a women’s empowerment group, only to find out that they had been ordered to have sex with Mr. Raniere.

The women, known as “slaves”, needed permission to eat and were regularly required to hand over guarantees such as sexually explicit videos, which they constantly feared would be broadcast. Prosecutors called it extortion.

A jury convicted Mr Raniere last summer after a six-week trial. Prosecutors charged him with racketeering, enforcing a statute that had been used to dismantle Mafia families in New York. In addition to sex trafficking, the jury found him guilty of crimes including child pornography, forced labor, identity theft and obstruction of justice.

Prosecutors have said in court documents that Mr Raniere deserves a life sentence, a sentence that is generally reserved for cases involving death or murder.

Lawyers for Mr. Raniere argued that no one had been “shot, stabbed, punched, punched, slapped or even shouted at”. This was not the typical case of organized crime, and Mr Raniere should not be sentenced to more than 15 years in prison, they argued.

“No one ever testified that he or she joined a drug gang, the Genoese family or a cartel because they believed that by doing so they could make the world a better place or bring a higher level of ‘humanity to themselves and to others,’ his lawyers wrote.

Prosecutors said Mr. Raniere’s refusal to accept responsibility and his contempt for his victims demonstrated that a life sentence was the only way to prevent him from harming more people.

To this day, Mr Raniere has many supporters who believe he was wrongly convicted and insist that all activity at Nxivm was among consenting adults. Dozens wrote letters to the court asking for clemency.

Mr. Raniere himself expressed no regret, accusing the federal judge, Nicholas G. Garaufis, of corruption and demanding a new trial.

“He is not sorry for his conduct or his choices,” his lawyers wrote in a court file last month, adding that he “intended to fight this case with all his might, confident that he will a justified day. “

In recent months, Mr. Raniere has led a campaign to overturn his conviction. He asked his supporters to create a podcast on his case and organize a contest to find errors in his lawsuits in exchange for a cash prize of $ 25,000, according to court documents.

The company was largely funded by an heiress to the Seagram liquor fortune, Clare Bronfman, who spent more than $ 100 million of her inheritance to pursue Mr Raniere’s enemies and support the organization. She even bought an island in Fiji that Nxivm leaders used as a retreat.

One of Nxivm’s top recruiters was Allison Mack, the former TV actress best known for her role on “Smallville,” whose rave reviews helped bring Hollywood celebrities into the organization. The Dalai Lama spoke at an Nxivm event.

Mr Raniere was charged along with five women in his circle, including Ms Bronfman and Ms Mack. Each of them pleaded guilty before his trial.

Ms Bronfman was sentenced last month to more than six years in prison for her role in Nxivm. The others do not yet have sentencing dates.

The group’s sales pitch claimed Mr. Raniere was a genius with one of the highest IQ scores in the world.

In fact, prosecutors said, he earned a GPA of 2.26 from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, after failing some of the math and science courses he took. ‘later boasted to follow.

Many Nxivm members have never had sex with Mr. Raniere, but they have faced pressure to pay more and more classes, sometimes taking on debt to do so. A couple estimated they spent $ 300,000 on Nxivm courses and were forced to file for bankruptcy, prosecutors said.

Since Mr. Raniere co-founded Nxivm in 1998, approximately 18,000 people have attended his courses in the United States, Mexico and Canada.