New Mexico prosecutors announced today that they are filing charges against actor Alec Baldwin, as well as weapons handler Hannah Gutierrez Reed, for the tragic October, 2021 accident on the set of the movie ‘Rust’. The production failed to ensure several safety precautions that should never had allowed live ammunition on the set, much less in a gun handed to an actor.
Baldwin denies that he pulled the trigger. While it’s possible the gun malfunctioned, the FBI said their tests showed the gun functioned properly, meaning that the trigger would need to be pulled for it to discharge. His statements to the contrary will call his testimony into question.
That said, it will be extremely difficult for prosecutors to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. First, when he was handed the gun, he was told that it was a “cold” gun… that means he expected it to be safe. That makes it hard to prove the his lawful act “might produce death in an unlawful manner or without due caution and circumspection.” He did not have reason to pause because there were protocols in place, ammunition should not have been live on the set, and he was told the gun was cold.
That doesn’t end the analysis for several reasons. One additional factor is that he was a producer on the film. That means he may bare some more responsibility for the lack of safety on the set and the failure to ensure protocols are followed. I don’t think that rises to the level of criminal responsibility, that sounds more like civil liability. Apparently the civil wrongful death matter has already been settled by Baldwin and the production.
I think the prosecutor wants to show that they do not hold anybody above the law, but I think they will have a hard time proving criminal charges against Baldwin. Frankly, the fact that they also charged the armorer suggests her negligence may weigh against Baldwin’s responsibility. I think there is a high likelihood it will go to trial, as Baldwin will want to try to win acquittal in court, but it will be fascinating to watch from a legal standpoint.
Harvey Weinstein was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs, after a jury found him guilty of a criminal sexual act in the first degree and rape in the third degree. He faces up to 29 years in prison on both charges. The criminal sexual act carries a minimum sentence of five years. Weinstein avoided conviction on more serious charges for predatory sexual assault, which could have carried a sentence of 10 to life, as well as an additional rape charge. Due to Weinstein’s age, as well as health issues, he could be facing the rest of his life in prison.
Today, the court remanded him to custody pending sentencing. His attorneys objected, due especially to his health concerns, but the judge decided he would be held pending sentencing (which is not unusual when a sentence of several years is expected.) Sentencing is set for March 11, when Weinstein will learn his fate. His attorneys indicate the appellate process is already underway, and they may move for an appellate bond, which may be difficult to get on a sex offense with many years in prison. He also faces additional charges in California.
Film producer Harvey Weinstein is handcuffed after his guilty verdict in his sexual assault trial. Courtroom sketch by Jane Rosenberg pic.twitter.com/ZvX92lzetU
As you may have seen, trial got underway in New York City for producer Harvey Weinstein, charged with several sexual offenses in one of the landmark cases of the #metoo movement. Today, Mr. Weinstein was excoriated by the judge for using his cell phone in court, in spite of the judge’s strict rule against it, and repeated orders not to do so. His poor attorneys end up apologizing to the judge for their client’s behavior, only for the judge to “snarl” at them as well. Apparently, they had made Weinstein turn over his cellphone earlier, but he had multiple additional cell phones and continued to access them in court. He’s literally pulling tricks to confound his own attorneys as they were trying to keep him out of trouble. The judge threatened to revoke his bond for disobeying the order, which he would have been in his power to do.
Weinstein picked a particularly bad day to disobey the judge, because new charges had been filed against him in California, and the prosecution on this case was already arguing to the court for his bond to be revoked. I think the State shot itself in the foot suggesting that they had not been in contact with the Los Angeles prosecution when the indictment was conveniently unveiled to coincide with the start of his New York trial… and that the L.A. prosecutor indicated that they certainly had been in contact with the New York D.A. The defense asked for a continuance and the judge smartly resolved everything to avoid conflict: denying the request for continuance, denying the request to revoke bail on the New York case, and ultimately setting identical bail on the California case so the court can get down to the business of conducting the trial at hand, which is expected to last around two months.
Harvey Weinstein being assisted to court
The challenge for Weinstein’s lawyers, beyond the legal challenge of defending him from the charges, will be to rein in his behavior so he doesn’t end up shooting himself in the foot. He started showing up to court with a walker, and when commentators suggested he was trying to garner sympathy, he had an extensive interview with Page Sixwithout consulting his attorney. He’s trying to win in the court of public opinion while his attorneys are trying to win in actual court, where the potential penalty is life in prison. He has already gone through multiple prior attorneys, before settling on this team.
The predatory rape charges included in the New York case create a huge challenge for Weinstein’s defense team as they allow the state to introduce evidence of other offenses. This includes offenses that were not charged and that may not have been brought up until after the statute of limitations, and none for which Mr. Weinstein has admitted or been convicted of. He categorically denies all charges, and says that any sexual contact was consensual. However, the State being able to bring in a string of additional accusers presents a damning fact pattern and suggestion of guilt that will be difficult for the defense to overcome, particularly coupled with some potentially humiliating evidence. Compare the case against Bill Cosby, who’s first trial ended in a hung jury. During the second trial, the court permitted evidence from additional accusers and the jury in that case convicted Cosby. On the other hand, the charges only came about after a very public campaign creating political pressure for the prosecutors to bring charges, and one of the lead NYPD investigators was prevented from testifying due to suggestions of witness coaching and withholding evidence. The case will be a hard-fought battle for the next eight weeks. The attorneys have their work cut out for them, but at least they are being well paid.
Former NFL player Kellen Winslow is on trial in California for a dozen charges related to alleged sexual assaults, lewd conduct, and indecent exposure: he faces up to life in prison. The first of five accusers testified yesterday, and it did not go well for the prosecution. The victim’s credibility was attacked thoroughly on the stand: her testimony was “shaking and baffling” according to USA Today and she was “caught in a web of lies and contradiction” according to Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel. Wetzel reports that her story changed while she was on the stand, contradicted her prior testimony, and only her word can overcome Winslow’s claim that the encounter was consensual. The state has four more alleged victims with several different claims. It will be hard for Winslow to overcome that many allegations presented to the same jury, but the outcome is far from a forgone conclusion.
The first step was often to have Singer cheat on the tests. It appears this would be accomplished in several steps: Singer and his cohorts, some of which are cooperating witnesses, would have the parents claim a learning difference that would allow their children more time and to take the test at a different location. Singer would use a testing location that he “controlled” to then improve the children’s performance on the test, getting higher scores and making the children more attractive to elite schools. The children would not even know about the adjusted tests, leaving them to believe they had just performed well.
There was a second approach that involved bribing the schools. In some instances, Singer’s connections would designate the students as recruits for college athletics teams to facilitate their admission. Singer also ran a charitable organization through which he would funnel the money to coaches, such as Yale women’s soccer coach Rudolph “Rudy” Meredith, who had coached there for more than 20 years. Nine coaches and sports administrators have been indicated, including those from schools such as Stanford, USC, Texas and Yale.
The operation involved more than two hundred FBI agents, multiple cooperating witnesses, and has ensnared rich and powerful people such as actresses Felicity Huffman & Lori Loughlin, as well as CEOs and prominent lawyers. Some payments were in the thousands, while others paid up to $6 million to get their children into competitive elite schools.
Los Angeles had their first successful prosecution of DUI on a scooter. And not like a Vespa, but one of those little motorized scooters. It sounds like California has a law written similar to Florida’s that prohibits operating any VEHICLE under the influence. Nicholas Kauffroath plead to one count of DUI, and another count of hit and run, after he struck an elderly gentleman and sped off on his scooter. I’ve seen DUIs on bikes, and even a motorized cooler, so keep that in mind that you don’t drink and drive/ride/roll!
OJ Simpson is coming up for parole this year, and might actually be able to get out this fall. He’s in prison in Nevada for his role in a robbery since 2008, when he was sentenced to up to 33 years. He came up for parole on some of those charges in 2013, and was granted parole to those charges, but was not eligible for every count for which he is imprisoned. The other charges will be parole-eligible in October and they will likely hold the hearing on eligibility this summer. It’s completely within the discretion of the parole board, but in light of his being granted parole earlier on the other charges, and due to his advancing age, I expect he will be able to get parole later this year. I am far from an expert on it, since I don’t practice in Nevada, but Sports Illustrated does a great job looking into the process.
CEO Carl Ferrer charged with multiple felony counts
Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer
Backpage.com is known among the criminal bar as a webpage that carries personal ads targeting ‘adult services’, like the old back pages of tabloid papers. It’s not unusual for that to be the source leading to prostitution arrests. California Attorney General Kamala Harris initiated these charges as part of a crackdown on human trafficking. As far as I know, it’s the first time a webpage publisher has faced criminal charges for a hosting-type situation. It will be interesting if these charges will hold up, and for the First Amendment ramifications for charging a publisher. Some of the facts cited by the LA Times are damning, as these men were making millions from the website, and there are shocking numbers of minors being trafficked by pimps on Backpage.
Matthew Muller was admitted to practice law in California in 2011 after graduating Harvard Law. A decorated former Marine, he could have accomplished anything with his life, and now he is facing life behind bars. Muller pled guilty on Thursday to a kidnapping and ransom plot, and his attorney is concerned that he could be sentenced to life in prison. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors agreed to recommend no more than 40 years in prison, but the ultimate sentence will be up to the judge.
When Denise Huskins and her boyfriend Aaron Quinn reported that they had been kidnapped, investigators did not believe them, and developed a theory that the report was a hoax. That was finally shot down when Muller was caught in another home invasion/attempted robbery and discovery the trappings of this offense. He had demanded $17,000 in ransom payments that he never collected, and Ms. Huskins was ultimately dropped off safely at her family home.
Huskins and Quinn have filed a lawsuit against the Vallejo police department for their mishandling of the case, and claim that they had to move our of town after the department’s allegations of a bogus kidnapping. Police doubted Ms. Huskins because they thought she didn’t act like a kidnapping victim: going as far to require Mr. Quinn to provide DNA samples. The whole case is crazy: I look forward to seeing it on ’48 Hours’ or even in a movie.
I should say “wanna be Batman”, as I have a feeling it wasn’t Bruce Wayne. Police in Washington were called out to a bar regarding a man assaulting the bouncers with a knife affixed to a pole. After threatening an employee with his spear, the man fled with officers in pursuit. He threw something at the vehicle, and officers later discovered it was a Batarang: a sharpened ninja star in the shape of a bat. This Batman didn’t get away, and was arrested for felonious assault, and more charges expected.