NEWSSTAND

63-year-old Alice Johnson Granted Clemency After 21 Years in Prison

On Wednesday, President Trump granted clemency to Alice Marie Johnson. She is a 63-year-old woman who had been serving a life sentence since the 90’s for a first-time, non-violent drug offense.

Johnson is finally a free woman due, in part, to reality star Kim Kardashian West. Kardashian West has been advocating for Johnson for months. At the end of May, that she was finally able to meet with President Trump.

Upon hearing the news, Kardashian West tweeted

“So grateful to @realDonaldTrump, Jared Kushner & to everyone who had showed compassion & contributed countless hours to his important moment for Ms. Alice Marie Johnson. Her commutation is inspirational & gives hope to so many others who are also deserving of a second chance.”

President Trump Shows Mercy

Johnson served 21 years in prison. She petitioned the Obama Administration for clemency three times, but it was denied.

Johnson’s daughter was elated. She said,

“The mercy Trump has extended toward my mom, and the advocacy of Kim Kardashian, my family will never forget that. Never.”

Johnson’s clemency is not the first to be granted President Trump this year. He has granted five pardons and two clemencies during his term.

A pardon is when a person is forgiven for the crime they committed and their criminal record is cleared for that specific crime. A clemency is different. The penalty for a particular crime is reduced, although it doesn’t clear the person’s criminal record.

Man Fights Off Armed Robber Over Louis Vuitton Bag

What would you do to protect what you’ve earned? Jerad Kluting of Holland, Michigan, fought off an armed robber to save his Louis Vuitton bag. On May 14, Kluting took his usual route home but was confronted by an unusual threat: A masked man with a gun.

Near-Death Experience

The robber recognized the bag’s luxury brand and demanded that Kluting hand it over. Instead of complying, Kluting stood his ground. According to a television interview, he said “‘You’re not getting my Louis Vuitton.’ I worked very hard for this and this bag I’ve had forever and it means a lot to me. I wasn’t about ready to relinquish it to some thug that was going to demand it from me.” Kluting purchased the designer bag for around $1,700.

The robber fired a warning shot. When his victim still refused to hand over the bag, he fired another. Kluting turned and sprinted up the sidewalk to get away. The robber shot a third time, and then a fourth – when the fourth bullet jammed his gun. Kluting was able to run to his uncle’s house, where he found safe haven.

Fight or Flight

Though this man and his prized accessory made it out unscathed, he says he would not make the same choice again. Kluting told reporters, “Yes, I do love Louis Vuitton, but I wasn’t going to be intimidated by this bully.”

Police say the robber used stolen firearm to threaten and shoot at Kluting.

Motion Picture Academy Expels Roman Polanski and Bill Cosby

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has expelled director Roman Polanski and longtime actor Bill Cosby from its membership.

Polanski, a five-time Academy Award nominee, directed classics such as Rosemary’s Baby and The Pianist. Cosby, while never an A-list movie star, enjoyed decades of stardom and respect as the patriarch of The Cosby Show and a standup comedian.

Fallen from Prominence

The Polish-born director received an Oscar award for The Pianist in 2003. He had lived through the horrors of the Nazi empire himself as a young child. However, he could not accept the award in person. He left the United States after pleading guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl. Rather than be sentenced to jail, Polanski fled to Europe.

Cosby never won an Oscar but was a member of the Academy for decades. He was convicted of aggravated indecent assault against a woman named Andrea Constand last week. The assault, which happened in 2004, went to trial the first time last year and resulted in a mistrial. 60 other women also accused Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting them, many while they were in their early 20s.

The once-prominent black actor’s name has also been removed from the Hall of Fame. In addition, Yale and Temple have rescinded their honorary degrees previously awarded to him. Ironically, Cosby was known for talking frankly to the black community about the lack of strong fathers.

In December of 2017, the Academy adopted new rules of conduct for their members. This was shortly after director Harvey Weinstein was expelled for over 100 allegations of sexual misconduct, harassment, and even rape.

In a statement announcing Cosby and Polanski’s expulsion, the Academy said, “the Board continues to encourage ethical standards that require members to uphold the Academy’s values of respect for human dignity.”

Polanski and Cosby are now the third and fourth people to be expelled from Academy membership. Harvey Weinstein was the second.

James Comey Dishes on ABC News, Tries to Implicate Trump Admin

Former FBI Director James Comey called Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein “dishonorable,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions “overmatched,” and even accused President Donald Trump of obstructing justice in a bombshell interview with ABC News.

Comey, disgraced when he was fired by President Trump, sat down with George Stephanopoulos Sunday night. He discussed not only his firing but also what went on behind the scenes in the administrations of both President Trump and former President Barack Obama.

The former director’s book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership,” will be released on April 17th. Comey has been highly active on Twitter in an effort to market the book.

Comey Holds Nothing Back

In his interview with Stephanopoulos, Comey said that Rod Rosenstein “acted dishonorably” by writing a memo to Attorney General Jeff Sessions about why Comey was fired. The disgraced director likened the Trump administration to a “mafia family,” and said Rosenstein was “part of the family now. I can’t trust him.”

Comey had much to say about Sessions as well. He stated his view “maybe…unfair to [Sessions].” Comey then asserted the job of Attorney General was “much, much bigger” than Sessions.

Calling Sessions “overmatched,” the former director admitted that he worked with Sessions only “very briefly” before being fired.

The biggest bombshell, however, came when Comey implied the president of obstruction of justice in the Michael Flynn case. He claimed that in the Oval Office, Trump spoke to him one-on-one.

Trump told Comey, “I hope you can let this go.” Comey believes this to refer to the Flynn case.

When asked if this constituted criminal obstruction, Comey waffled, saying, “possibly.”

“I mean it’s certainly some evidence of obstruction of justice. It would depend, and I’m just a witness in this case, not the investigator or prosecutor, it would depend upon other things that reflected on his intent.”

Trump has explicitly denied Comey’s accusations, calling him a liar.

Public Event Planned for Pardoned Gun Owner Brian Aitken

A public event was scheduled for Second Amendment activist Brian Aitken at a Randolph shooting range on April 14, 2018. The event is a celebration. Aitkin will be allowed to own his first gun since all of his weapons were confiscated nine years ago.

In January 2009, concealed carry permit holder Brian Aitken was arrested for unlawful possession of a weapon by a Mount Laurel police officer.

Three unloaded guns were found in Aitkin’s car. He had purchased them legally in Colorado and securely locked them in his trunk. Unfortunately, he lacked the permit necessary to carry them in New Jersey.

He was sentenced to seven years in prison, but then New Jersey Governor Chris Christie commuted Aitken’s sentence to time served after four months. More than 15,000 gun-rights activists demanded his release on a Facebook page petition.

Aitken, who was pardoned in December 2010, stated

“I’ve been fighting these Kafka-esque gun laws, and retaliation from the family courts and the rest of the court system, for the better part of a decade. As soon as I got pardoned, I moved from New York City-Manhattan to Central Pennsylvania. Since I can own guns now, I figured why not move to a free state? Guns are pretty much completely banned in the city.”

New Jersey is infamous for having some of the strictest gun laws in the country. Last year it was ranked second overall for gun law restrictions by the pro-gun control group Giffords Law Center. California was ranked #1, and New Jersey was trailed by Connecticut, Massachusettes, and New York.

Exemption Statute

New Jersey law stipulated that Atiken was required to possess a purchaser’s permit from New Jersey to own the guns. He also needed a carry permit to have them in his car. However, if he was transporting weapons for hunting, or if he was moving from one residence to another, then he would’ve been exempt from that law.

Aitken’s attorneys and supporters believe that he was part of the legal exemption to have the handguns in his car. He was moving from his parents’ home in Colorado to a residence in Hoboken, NJ at the time of his arrest.

Superior Court Judge James Morley said,

“My recollection of the case is that I ruled he had not presented evidence sufficient to justify giving the jury the charge on the affirmative offense that he was in the process of moving.”

Had there been concealed carry reciprocity laws federally, Aitken would not have had to spend any time in jail.

Mumia Abu-Jamal, Convicted Cop Killer, May Be Paroled

In December 1981, young activist Mumia Abu-Jamal was working as a taxi driver in Philadelphia. While he was driving his cab, Abu-Jamal saw his younger brother William Cook (also a driver) get pulled over by police. Officer Daniel Faulkner pulled over the brother and asked him to step outside the car. Cook started fighting with Faulkner. Abu-Jamal (birth name: Wesley Cook) parked his taxi, grabbed his gun, and charged toward the two men.

Abu-Jamal and Officer Faulkner exchanged gunfire. Faulkner shot Abu-Jamal once in the stomach, and Abu-Jamal shot Officer Faulkner in the head and in the back. Faulkner died at the scene. Authorities took Abu-Jamal to a local hospital, where he confessed to the crime. Both a hospital security guard and another police officer testified that Abu Jamal said, “I shot the motherf****r, and I hope the motherf****r dies.” In 1982, a jury unanimously sentenced Abu-Jamal to death.

Activism In Prison

While incarcerated, Abu-Jamal has published books and remained active in politics. He penned a memoir and published a piece in the Yale Law Review. He has continued to recruit allies to advocate on his behalf. Their efforts are working. In 2011, a judge reduced Abu-Jamal’s sentence from the death penalty to life in prison without parole. This month, a court may reduce the sentence even further.

The Philadelphia District Attorney has requested additional information on one of the judges who sentenced Abu-Jamal. That first judge, supporters claim, may have held a bias against the defendant. A court hearing is scheduled for April 30th. If Abu-Jamal prevails in court, he may one day see freedom as a parolee. Americans who support police officers are now waiting to see how the court will treat this convicted killer.

Austin Bomber Identified After Suicide

The suspect in a sudden cluster of bombings in the Austin area is dead after detonating a bomb in his car.

Mark Conditt, 24, recorded a video on his cell phone 25 minutes long. He confessed to creating and sending the various bombs but did not explain why or how he chose his victims. While Conditt was in a hotel room making his video, the police were closing in on his identity.

The bomber was seen leaving a hotel room, and police followed him for several minutes. When it appeared that Conditt was about to get on the interstate, police ran him into the ditch. As officers approached the car, the 24-year-old used his last explosive device to kill himself.

Police found the cell phone video the next morning while recovering Conditt’s body.

Conditt lived in a house with two roommates. Both were questioned by federal agents but had no involvement in the bomber’s activities. One room in the house had a lock on it. Authorities also noticed a room contained bombmaking components and homemade explosives. They didn’t specify if they were the same room.

Lone Bomber?

The bomber did not mention any terror groups or ‘hate organizations’ in his recorded video manifesto. He was homeschooled, graduating in 2013, and wrote a series of blog posts for a college class in which he explained his political views.

Neighbors called him a “quiet, very polite, respectful young man.”

“Conversations that I had with him and with the family were all nothing that would ever lead you to believe that anything like this could ever be possible,” one next door neighbor told CNN.

Conditt was identified after authorities viewed a video of a gloved man leaving two packages at a FedEx facility in San Antonio. One of his packages exploded in the facility, injuring an employee.

Conditt’s parents made no comment.

Parkland Shooting Survivors Sue Broward County Sheriff, FBI

The families of two students that were wounded in the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida plan to sue the Broward Sheriff’s Office, the FBI, the Broward School Board.

The two survivors filing lawsuits include Kyle Laman and Anthony Borges, both 15 years old. The plaintiffs allege negligence against Broward County Public Schools, Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ principal, and its school resource officer.

Laman was shot in the foot and had to undergo two major surgeries to reconstruct ligaments, with more scheduled in the future.

Borges was shot five times. He is still recovering in the hospital.

When shots broke out, Borges rushed into action and attempted to close and lock the classroom door. This led to his injuries but helped saved up to 20 lives. While he lay on the floor, he gave a description of the shooter to the police.

His description ultimately led to the arrest of Nikolas Cruz.

The Feb. 14 shooting left 17 dead and 16 wounded. There are expected to be several more lawsuits filed in response.

FBI Admits They Failed Protocol…

According to a statement released by the FBI:

“A person close to Nikolas Cruz contacted the FBI’s Public Access Line (PAL) tipline to report concerns about him. The caller provided information about Cruz’s gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting. Under established protocols, the information provided by the caller should have been assessed as a potential threat to life. The information then should have been forwarded to the FBI Miami Field Office, where appropriate investigative steps would have been taken. We have determined that these protocols were not followed for the information received by the PAL on January 5. The information was not provided to the Miami Field Office, and no further investigation was conducted at that time.”

MS-13 Member Deported to El Salvador After Arrest in Virginia

A member of the violent gang MS-13 was deported back to El Salvador last week after being arrested in Virginia on immigration crimes.

Raul Ramos-Guido, 32, was detained in Falls Church, VA in 2015 for immigration violations. He has been held by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) while his deportation orders went through.

Repeat Offender

This isn’t the first time that Ramos-Guido has had a run-in with law enforcement. In 2014, he was deported back to El Salvador. He later came back to the United States and lived in Virginia illegally. A year later, he was arrested as “an aggravated felon who had previously been removed from the United States.”

While in federal custody awaiting deportation, international law enforcement agency Interpol sent out a Red Notice for Ramos’ arrest, notifying the U.S. that he was wanted in El Salvador for murder. ICE turned Ramos over to their Enforcement and Removal Operations, and he was finally removed from the U.S. on Friday.

MS-13 started in Los Angeles by immigrants from El Salvador. It has been active in the United States for over 30 years. The gang’s motto is “mata, viola, controla,” or “kill, rape, control.” Their activities on both here and abroad prove they are serious about all three.

One Justice Department official explained

they seek to live up to this motto through truly shocking acts of violence designed to instill fear: vicious machete attacks, execution-style gunshots, gang rape and human trafficking.

Total membership is estimated to be in the tens of thousands, with members spread all over Central American and most states. They are known for heroin and methamphetamine trafficking as well as other gang activity.

Ramos arrived back in El Salvador over the weekend. The real question remains — how long before he crosses into the United States a third time?

Parkland, Florida School Shooting: 10 Facts to Know

The terrible mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School claimed the lives of 17 innocent people. As the nation mourns the tragic loss of life, it seeks to answer one question: “How did this happen?” Here are 10 key facts about the attack.

Former Student Unleashes Terror

  1. Nikolas Cruz, a former student at the school, committed the mass shooting. He is 19 years old and currently in custody on 17 murder charges.
  2. Students and teachers at the school knew Cruz as a deeply disturbed young man. One math teacher told reporters that the school prohibited him from bringing a backpack to campus. A student remarked that “everyone predicted this.”
  3. A white supremacist group called “Republic of Florida” claims that Cruz was a member. However, this report has not yet been confirmed.

Victims and Heroes

4. While students ran from the bullets, teacher and football coach Aaron Feis gave his life to protect them. Feis threw himself in front of the students. During the attack, Cruz shot him twice. Feis later died from his injuries.

5. Geography teacher Scott Beigel opened his classroom door to shelter students running from the gunman in the hallway. When he opened the door, Cruz fatally shot him. One of Beigel’s students told CNN, “Mr. Beigel was my hero, and he still will forever be my hero. I will never forget the actions that he took for me and for fellow students in the classroom.”

6. Parents received haunting text messages from students who thought they were saying their final goodbyes. Student hid under desks and in closets. Many texted their loved ones about the situation.

Warning Signs

7. The FBI knew of Nikolas Cruz in September 2017. Someone reported Cruz, who commented on a YouTube video about carrying out a school shooting. Cruz left the comment under his real name.

8. The school had previously expelled Cruz for fighting. He grew up without a father, and his mother passed away last year.

Aftermath

9. The community in Parkland, Florida, is only beginning to deal with the aftermath of this shattering tragedy. Several locations have held vigils for the victims. Service groups have brought in therapy dogs and made counseling available to children and adults alike who are struggling.

10. A police officer says he found Nikolas Cruz walking on a sidewalk near the school. Cruz is held without bond. Authorities say he seems alert and responsive to questions.

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