- R. Kelly Turns Himself In on Aggravated Sexual Abuse Charges
(CHICAGO) — R&B star R. Kelly was taken into custody after arriving Friday night at a Chicago police precinct, hours after authorities announced multiple charges of aggravated sexual abuse involving four victims, including at least three between the ages of 13 and 17.
The 52-year-old singer, whose real name is Robert Kelly, was driven to the station in a dark colored van with heavily tinted rear windows. The vehicle pulled up outside the precinct about 8:15 p.m. and a security detail for Kelly kept reporters and cameramen at arms' length as he exited the side door.
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi tweeted a short time later that was under arrest.
Kelly did not respond to questions from reporters as he walked inside the building. He was expected to be held overnight before an appearance Saturday in bond court.
Cook County State's Attorney's Kim Foxx announced 10 counts Friday against the Grammy winner. She said the abuse dated back as far as 1998 and spanned more than a decade.
Kelly has been trailed for decades by allegations that he violated underage girls and women and held some as virtual slaves.
The singer, who was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008, has consistently denied any sexual misconduct.
“He is extraordinarily disappointed and depressed. He is shell-shocked by this,” Greenberg told The Associated Press.
The arrest sets the stage for another #MeToo-era celebrity trial. Bill Cosby went to prison last year, and former Hollywood studio boss Harvey Weinstein is awaiting trial.
Best known for hits such as “I Believe I Can Fly,” Kelly was charged a week after Michael Avenatti, the attorney whose clients have included porn star Stormy Daniels, said he gave prosecutors new video evidence of the singer with an underage girl.
At a news conference in Chicago, Avenatti said a 14-year-old girl seen with R. Kelly on the video is among four victims mentioned in the indictment. He said the footage shows two separate scenes on two separate days at Kelly's residence in the late 1990s.
During the video, both the victim and Kelly refer to her age 10 times, he said.
Avenatti said he represents six clients, including two victims, two parents and two people he describes as “knowing R. Kelly and being within his inner circle for the better part of 25 years.”
The new charges marked “a watershed moment,” he said, adding that he believes more than 10 other people associated with Kelly should be charged as “enablers” for helping with the assaults, transporting minors and covering up evidence.
The video surfaced during a 10-month investigation by Avenatti's office. He told the AP that the person who provided the VHS tape knew both Kelly and the female in the video.
The jury in 2008 acquitted Kelly of child pornography charges that arose from a graphic video that prosecutors said showed him having sex with a girl as young as 13. He and the young woman allegedly seen with him denied they were in the 27-minute video, even though the picture quality was good and witnesses testified it was them, and she did not take the stand. Kelly could have gotten 15 years in prison.
Charging Kelly now for actions that occurred in the same time frame as the allegations from the 2008 trial suggests the accusers are cooperating this time and willing to testify.
Because the alleged victim 10 years ago denied that she was on the video and did not testify, the state's attorney office had little recourse except to charge the lesser offense under Illinois law, child pornography, which required a lower standard of evidence.
Each count of the new charges carries up to seven years in prison. If Kelly is convicted on all 10 counts, a judge could decide that the sentences run one after the other — making it possible for him to receive up to 70 years behind bars. Probation is also an option under the statute.
Greenberg said he offered to sit down with prosecutors before charges were filed to discuss why the allegations were “baseless.” But they refused, he said.
“Unfortunately, they have succumbed to the court of public opinion, who've convicted him,” he said.
Legally and professionally, the walls began closing in on Kelly after the release of a BBC documentary about him last year and the multipart Lifetime documentary “Surviving R. Kelly,” which aired last month. Together they detailed allegations he was holding women against their will and running a “sex cult.”
#MeToo activists and a social media movement using the hashtag #MuteRKelly called on streaming services to drop Kelly's music and promoters not to book any more concerts. Protesters demonstrated outside Kelly's Chicago studio.
As recently as Thursday, two women held a news conference in New York to describe how Kelly picked them out of a crowd at a Baltimore after-party in the mid-1990s when they were underage. They said Kelly had sex with one of the teens when she was under the influence of marijuana and alcohol and could not consent.
Latresa Scaff and Rochelle Washington were joined by lawyer Gloria Allred when they told their story publicly for the first time.
In the indictment, the prosecution addressed the question of the statute of limitations, saying that even abuse that happened more than two decades ago falls within the charging window allowed under Illinois law. Victims typically have 20 years to report abuse, beginning when they turn 18.
The singer and songwriter, whose legal name is Robert Kelly, rose from poverty on Chicago's South Side and has retained a sizable following. He has written numerous hits for himself and other artists, including Celine Dion, Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga. His collaborators have included Jay-Z and Usher.
Kelly broke into the R&B scene in 1993 with his first solo album, “12 Play,” which produced such popular sex-themed songs as “Bump N' Grind” and “Your Body's Callin'.”
Months after those successes, the then-27-year-old Kelly faced allegations he married 15-year-old Aaliyah, the R&B star who later died in a plane crash in the Bahamas. Kelly was the lead songwriter and producer of Aaliyah's 1994 debut album.
Kelly and Aaliyah never confirmed the marriage, though Vibe magazine published a copy of the purported marriage license. Court documents later obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times showed Aaliyah admitted lying about her age on the license.
Jim DeRogatis, a longtime music critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, played a key role in drawing the attention of law enforcement to Kelly. In 2002, he received the sex tape in the mail that was central to Kelly's 2008 trial. He turned it over to prosecutors. In 2017, DeRogatis wrote a story for BuzzFeed about the allegations Kelly was holding women against their will in Georgia.
Associated Press Writer Amanda Seitz contributed to this report.
- Why Food Could Be the Best Medicine of All
When Tom Shicowich's toe started feeling numb in 2010, he brushed it off as a temporary ache. At the time, he didn't have health insurance, so he put off going to the doctor. The toe became infected, and he got so sick that he stayed in bed for two days with what he assumed was the flu. When he finally saw a doctor, the physician immediately sent Shicowich to the emergency room. Several days later, surgeons amputated his toe, and he ended up spending a month in the hospital to recover.
Shicowich lost his toe because of complications of Type 2 diabetes as he struggled to keep his blood sugar under control. He was overweight and on diabetes medications, but his diet of fast food and convenient, frozen processed meals had pushed his disease to life-threatening levels.
After a few more years of trying unsuccessfully to treat Shicowich's diabetes, his doctor recommended that he try a new program designed to help patients like him. Launched in 2017 by the Geisinger Health System at one of its community hospitals, the Fresh Food Farmacy provides healthy foods–heavy on fruits, vegetables, lean meats and low-sodium options–to patients in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, and teaches them how to incorporate those foods into their daily diet. Each week, Shicowich, who lives below the federal poverty line and is food-insecure, picks up recipes and free groceries from the Farmacy's food bank and has his nutrition questions answered and blood sugar monitored by the dietitians and health care managers assigned to the Farmacy. In the year and a half since he joined the program, Shicowich has lost 60 lb., and his A1C level, a measure of his blood sugar, has dropped from 10.9 to 6.9, which means he still has diabetes but it's out of the dangerous range. “It's a major, major difference from where I started from,” he says. “It's been a life-changing, lifesaving program for me.”
Geisinger's program is one of a number of groundbreaking efforts that finally consider food a critical part of a patient's medical care–and treat food as medicine that can have as much power to heal as drugs. More studies are revealing that people's health is the sum of much more than the medications they take and the tests they get–health is affected by how much people sleep and exercise, how much stress they're shouldering and, yes, what they are eating at every meal. Food is becoming a particular focus of doctors, hospitals, insurers and even employers who are frustrated by the slow progress of drug treatments in reducing food-related diseases like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and even cancer. They're also encouraged by the growing body of research that supports the idea that when people eat well, they stay healthier and are more likely to control chronic diseases and perhaps even avoid them altogether. “When you prioritize food and teach people how to prepare healthy meals, lo and behold, it can end up being more impactful than medications themselves,” says Dr. Jaewon Ryu, interim president and CEO of Geisinger. “That's a big win.”
The problem is that eating healthy isn't as easy as popping a pill. For some, healthy foods simply aren't available. And if they are, they aren't affordable. So more hospitals and physicians are taking action to break down these barriers to improve their patients' health. In cities where fresh produce is harder to access, hospitals have worked with local grocers to provide discounts on fruits and vegetables when patients provide a “prescription” written by their doctor; the Cleveland Clinic sponsors farmers' markets where local growers accept food assistance vouchers from federal programs like WIC as well as state-led initiatives. And some doctors at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco hand out recipes instead of (or along with) prescriptions for their patients, pulled from the organization's Thrive Kitchen, which also provides low-cost monthly cooking classes for members of its health plan. Hospitals and clinics across the country have also visited Geisinger's program to learn from its success.
But doctors alone can't accomplish this food transformation. Recognizing that healthier members not only live longer but also avoid expensive visits to the emergency room, insurers are starting to reward healthy eating by covering sessions with nutritionists and dietitians. In February, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts began covering tailored meals from the nonprofit food program Community Servings for its members with congestive heart failure who can't afford the low-fat, low-sodium meals they need. Early last year, Congress assigned a first ever bipartisan Food Is Medicine working group to explore how government-sponsored food programs could address hunger and also lower burgeoning health care costs borne by Medicare when it comes to complications of chronic diseases. “The idea of food as medicine is not only an idea whose time has come,” says Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and the dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. “It's an idea that's absolutely essential to our health care system.”
Ask any doctor how to avoid or mitigate the effects of the leading killers of Americans and you'll likely hear that eating healthier plays a big role. But knowing intuitively that food can influence health is one thing, and having the science and the confidence to back it up is another. And it's only relatively recently that doctors have started to bridge this gap.
It's hard to look at health outcomes like heart disease and cancer that develop over long periods of time and tie them to specific foods in the typical adult's varied diet. Plus, foods are not like drugs that can be tested in rigorous studies that compare people who eat a cup of blueberries a day, for example, with those who don't to determine if the fruit can prevent cancers. Foods aren't as discrete as drugs when it comes to how they act on the body either–they can contain a number of beneficial, and possibly less beneficial, ingredients that work in divergent systems.
Doctors also know that we eat not only to feed our cells but also because of emotions, like feeling happy or sad. “It's a lot cheaper to put someone on three months of statins [to lower their cholesterol] than to figure out how to get them to eat a healthy diet,” says Eric Rimm, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. But drugs are expensive–the average American spends $1,400 a year on medications–and if people can't afford them, they go without, increasing the likelihood that they'll develop complications as they progress to severe stages of their illness, which in turn forces them to require more–and costly–health care. What's more, it's not as if the medications are cure-alls; while deaths from heart disease are declining, for example, the most recent report from the American Heart Association showed that the prevalence of obesity increased from 30.5% in 1999–2000 to 37.7% in 2013–2014, and 40% of adults have high total cholesterol.
What people are eating contributes to those stubborn trends, and making nutrition a bigger priority in health care instead of an afterthought may finally start to reverse them. Although there aren't the same types of rigorous trials proving food's worth that there are for drugs, the data that do exist, from population-based studies of what people eat, as well as animal and lab studies of specific active ingredients in food, all point in the same direction.
The power of food as medicine gained scientific credibility in 2002, when the U.S. government released results of a study that pitted a diet and exercise program against a drug treatment for Type 2 diabetes. The Diabetes Prevention Program compared people assigned to a diet low in saturated fat, sugar and salt that included lean protein and fresh fruits and vegetables with people assigned to take metformin to lower blood sugar. Among people at high risk of developing diabetes, those taking metformin lowered their risk of actually getting diabetes by 31% compared with those taking a placebo, while those who modified their diet and exercised regularly lowered their risk by 58% compared with those who didn't change their behaviors, a near doubling in risk reduction.
Studies showing that food could treat disease as well soon followed. In 2010, Medicare reimbursed the first lifestyle-based program for treating heart disease, based on decades of work by University of California, San Francisco, heart expert Dr. Dean Ornish. Under his plan, people who had had heart attacks switched to a low-fat diet, exercised regularly, stopped smoking, lowered their stress levels with meditation and strengthened their social connections. In a series of studies, he found that most followers lowered their blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels and also reversed some of the blockages in their heart arteries, reducing their episodes of angina.
In recent years, other studies have shown similar benefits for healthy eating patterns like the Mediterranean diet–which is high in good fats like olive oil and omega-3s, nuts, fruits and vegetables–in preventing repeat events for people who have had a heart attack. “It's clear that people who are coached on how to eat a Mediterranean diet high in nuts or olive oil get more benefit than we've found in similarly conducted trials of statins [to lower cholesterol],” says Rimm. Researchers found similar benefit for people who have not yet had a heart attack but were at higher risk of having one.
Animal studies and analyses of human cells in the lab are also starting to expose why certain foods are associated with lower rates of disease. Researchers are isolating compounds like omega-3s found in fish and polyphenols in apples, for example, that can inhibit cancer tumors' ability to grow new blood vessels. Nuts and seeds can protect parts of our chromosomes so they can repair damage they encounter more efficiently and help cells stay healthy longer.
If food is indeed medicine, then it's time to treat it that way. In his upcoming book, Eat to Beat Disease, Dr. William Li, a heart expert, pulled together years of accumulated data and proposes specific doses of foods that can treat diseases ranging from diabetes to breast cancer. Not all doctors agree that the science supports administering food like drugs, but he's hoping the controversial idea will prompt more researchers to study food in ways as scientifically rigorous as possible and generate stronger data in coming years. “We are far away from prescribing diets categorically to fight disease,” he says. “And we may never get there. But we are looking to fill in the gaps that have long existed in this field with real science. This is the beginning of a better tomorrow.”
And talking about food in terms of doses might push more doctors to put down their prescription pads and start going over grocery lists with their patients instead. So far, the several hundred people like Shicowich who rely on the Fresh Food Farmacy have lowered their risk of serious diabetes complications by 40% and cut hospitalizations by 70% compared with other diabetic people in the area who don't have access to the program. This year, on the basis of its success so far, the Fresh Food Farmacy is tripling the number of patients it supports.
Shicowich knows firsthand how important that will be for people like him. When he was first diagnosed, he lost weight and controlled his blood sugar, but he found those changes hard to maintain and soon saw his weight balloon and his blood-sugar levels skyrocket. He's become one of the program's better-known success stories and now works part time in the produce section of a supermarket and cooks nearly all his meals. He's expanding his cooking skills to include fish, which he had never tried preparing before. “I know what healthy food looks like, and I know what to do with it now,” he says. “Without this program, and without the support system, I'd probably still be sitting on the couch with a box of Oreos.”
This appears in the March 04, 2019 issue of TIME.
- President Trump Taps Kelly Craft as New U.N. Ambassador
(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump has picked Kelly Craft, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, as his nominee to serve as the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Trump says in a pair of tweets Friday evening that Craft “has done an outstanding job representing our Nation” and he has “no doubt that, under her leadership, our Country will be represented at the highest level.”
Two people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss personnel matters had told The Associated Press that Trump had been advised that Craft's confirmation would be the smoothest of the three candidates he had been considering to fill the job last held by Nikki Haley.
Trump's first pick to replace Haley, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, withdrew over the past weekend.
- 5 Songs You Need to Listen to This Week
P!nk and Rob Thomas look to country for inspiration as they put out new tracks — one a pop anthem, one a rock anthem — that are both reflective and uplifting in turn. Kehlani's new mixtape is pure R&B bliss, all buttery slow james. Grammy-nominated rapper Tierra Whack finally puts out a song that clocks in at more than a minute, with great results. And James Bay and Julia Michaels team up for a sweet, intimate love lullaby packed with vulnerability.
- Allegations Against the Maker of OxyContin Are Piling Up. Here’s What They Could Mean for the Billionaire Family Behind Purdue Pharma
Executives from Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of the powerful opioid painkiller OxyContin, admitted in federal court in 2007 that Purdue's marketing practices and interactions with doctors had understated the strength and addictive potential of the drug — an omission that many experts believe contributed to an opioid epidemic that claimed nearly 50,000 American lives in 2017 alone.
But on Thursday, the release of a previously sealed deposition from 2015 showed that Purdue executives knew of OxyContin's strength long before that $600 million settlement. The deposition, which had been filed in court, revealed that Dr. Richard Sackler — part of the family that founded and controls Purdue, and who has served as Purdue's president and co-chairman of the board — knew as early as 1997 that OxyContin was much stronger than morphine, but chose not to share that knowledge with doctors.
“We are well aware of the view held by many physicians that oxycodone [the active ingredient in OxyContin] is weaker than morphine. I do not plan to do anything about that,” Purdue's head of sales and marketing, Michael Friedman, wrote in an email to Sackler, according to the deposition, which was obtained by ProPublica and co-published with STAT. “I agree with you,” Sackler wrote back. “Is there a general agreement, or are there some holdouts?”
The document's publication comes just weeks after the release of an unredacted 277-page lawsuit filed against Purdue by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey — itself just one of thousands of legal complaints brought against Purdue and other pharmaceutical companies by plaintiffs across the country, many of which have been rolled into one multi-district litigation in Ohio federal court. And as the evidence mounts, legal experts say Purdue could face serious consequences, from astronomical fines to injunctions that could threaten its ability to do business.
“One theme that clearly emerges from this deposition, brick by brick, is the foundation that is laid, that shows how even after this guilty plea there was a shocking lack of care for people that were at risk of abusing this drug and instead a singular focus on profit,” says Joseph Khan, a Philadelphia-based attorney who is currently bringing suits against corporations involved in the opioid epidemic.
As the New York Times reported, parts of Sackler's deposition are in conflict with his previous testimony. For example, a 2006 Department of Justice report suggested he knew in 1999 that users in internet chatrooms were discussing abuse of the drug. In the deposition, however, Sackler said he first learned of its street value in a 2000 Maine newspaper article.
In a statement provided to TIME, Purdue said the “intentional leak of the deposition is a clear violation of the court's order and, as such, is regrettable.” The statement adds that, “Dr. Sackler described Purdue's efforts to adhere to all relevant laws and regulations and to appropriately reflect OxyContin's risks of abuse and addiction as the science of opioid pain therapy evolved over time.”
Much of the material included in the deposition pertains to activity carried out before the company's 2007 settlement, while Healey's suit relates to post-2007 behavior. But Khan says the ramifications of the document are still relevant today, given the judgements Purdue could face from juries.
“There are straight contradictions between what's in here and what the Department of Justice has put together. This is not something that will play well in front of a jury,” Khan says. “They don't have as much leverage as they might want.”
The Massachusetts complaint also includes dramatic accusations about how much Purdue executives knew about their blockbuster drug, and when they knew it.
According to lawsuit, members of the Sackler family and other Purdue executives purposefully downplayed the addictive properties of OxyContin, and promoted sales tactics meant to encourage doctors to prescribe as much OxyContin, in the highest doses and longest durations, as possible — despite the potential risks for abuse, and despite the terms of Purdue's prior settlement with the federal government. The suit also details Purdue's plans to sell addiction treatments, helping them dominate “the pain and addiction spectrum.” Purdue's board, controlled by the Sacklers, also voted to pay out $4 billion to the family between 2007 and 2018, the documents show.
In a statement provided to TIME, a Purdue representative said the attorney general's office “seeks to publicly vilify Purdue, its executives, employees and directors by taking out of context snippets from tens of millions of documents and grossly distorting their meaning. The complaint is riddled with demonstrably inaccurate allegations,” they said, and “offers little evidence to support its sweeping legal claims.” Purdue fought to keep portions of the suit from being released publicly.
If successful, Massachusetts' lawsuit could force Purdue to pay not only significant fines, but also require the company to cease certain behaviors and make efforts to remedy the damages it has allegedly caused, Khan says.
“If you think about what would restitution look like, these are staggering, almost incalculable costs,” Khan says. But the problem goes beyond money. “What would it mean to stop this epidemic they’re accused of putting into place?” he asks. “You’re not going to find anyone who knows anything about the opioid epidemic who will just say you can solve this problem overnight with a quick fix.”
Further complicating matters, Purdue's future hinges on far more than a single lawsuit.
John Jacobi, a professor of health law and policy at Seton Hall Law School, called the Massachusetts complaint “extraordinary in the length and depth of the allegations against individual defendants,” but says it is “more or less consistent” with the roughly 1,200 complaints included in the Ohio MDL, as well as the hundreds of others individually making their way through state court systems.
And for that reason, Jacobi says, Purdue could be facing consequences much larger than those included in Healey's complaint. Opioid manufacturers could face a situation similar to the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement with Big Tobacco, which forced five major manufacturers to pay out billions of dollars over cigarette marketing and promotional practices. (Mike Moore, the lawyer who orchestrated the Master Settlement Agreement, is now bringing a new suit against opioid distributors and manufacturers. He was not immediately available for comment to TIME.)
“Many people have suggested that the only way out of the thicket that all of these litigants find themselves in would be some sort of global settlement similar to what was achieved in the tobacco litigation, and I don't think that's a far-fetched suggestion,” Jacobi says. “All of those, at some point, will be gathered up and resolved.”
Khan agrees that the volume of lawsuits in the MDL could hold a major threat for opioid manufacturers. And the results of MDL cases set for trial later this year will likely set the tone for other individual suits, like Healey's, filed around the country, he says.
“There becomes a point at which it becomes mathematically impossible for every one of those plaintiffs to receive what they’re seeking,” Khan says. “Some of these companies are not going to be equipped to survive. Purdue may or may not be differently situated.”
- ‘He’s Proclaimed His Innocence.’ Trump Uses Familiar Line on Patriots Owner Robert Kraft
Repeating a line he's used before, President Donald Trump responded to a question about the charges against New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft by noting that his longtime friend had denied the accusations against him.
“Well, that's very sad. I was very surprised to see it. He's proclaimed his innocence totally and — but I'm very surprised to see it,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office Friday, just hours after authorities announced Kraft faces charges of soliciting a prostitute, alleging that he was videotaped twice receiving a sex act at a Florida massage parlor. Kraft is a frequent guest at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach.
Trump has previously used similar language when asked about men accused of sexual misbehavior.
When two of then-White House staffer Rob Porter's ex-wives alleged domestic violence, a White House spokeswoman called the allegations “simply false” and a “smear campaign.”
“We wish him well,” Trump told reporters after Porter resigned. “As you probably know, he says he is innocent and I think you have to remember that.”
When Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore faced accusations of improper sexual behavior with teenaged girls, a White House spokeswoman argued one charge was a “mere allegation.”
“Well, he denies it,” Trump told reporters. “Look, he denies it. If you look at what is really going on and you look at all the things that have happened over the last 48 hours, he totally denies it. He says it didn’t happen. And, you know, you have to listen to him, also. He said 40 years ago, this did not happen.”
Trump himself faced accusations of sexual misconduct from at least 18 women on the campaign trail, which he also denied, calling the women “horrible, horrible liars” and promising to sue them after the election.
- Bus Driver Overdosing on Heroin Crashes Bus With 12 Students Aboard, Police Say
A school bus driver in New Jersey overdosed on heroin, causing her to pass out and crash a bus carrying 12 special-needs students, police said.
Lisa Byrd, 57, was driving the bus through Newark when she crashed into a tree on Wednesday. None of the children, who range in age from 5 to 13 and were from the 14th Avenue School, sustained serious injuries.
Officers arriving on the scene found drug paraphernalia inside the bus, police said. Byrd was given Narcan – a medication used to block the effects of opioids – to revive her. She was later taken to University Hospital for treatment.
“Endangering the lives of Newark children is something we will not tolerate,” Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said. “We are grateful that none of the students were injured and that no other residents were harmed due to this incident.”
Newark Public Safety Director Anthony F. Ambrose expressed his gratitude to local police officers and reiterated the danger of driving under the influence.
“I’m pleased that members of the Newark Police and Fire divisions along with EMS quickly responded and assessed that all the children were safe and unharmed,” he said in a statement. “Driving while impaired is dangerous enough, but adding children to the situation is particularly irresponsible and heinous.”
Byrd, a driver of F & A Transport in East Orange, was charged with 12 counts of endangering the welfare of a child, possession of drug paraphernalia and driving while impaired.
Officials said Byrd's driver's license was suspended from 1996 to 2006 without specifying why it was revoked.
- Democrats Are Already Pushing Trump’s New Attorney General to Release the Full Mueller Report
Leading House Democrats told newly installed Attorney General William Barr on Friday that they expect him to relay the bulk of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's forthcoming report into Russian collusion in the 2016 election to Congress — even the classified portions.
“We write to you to express, in the strongest possible terms, our expectation that the Department of Justice will release to the public the report Special Counsel Mueller submits to you — without delay and to the maximum extent permitted by law,” six chairs of the most powerful committees in the House of Representatives wrote in a letter to Barr on Friday.
They also specified that any parts that must be redacted should be submitted to Congress — along with the rationale for doing so — so that lawmakers can assess the necessity of such omissions.
The letter was signed by Oversight Chair Elijah Cummings, Foreign Affairs Chair Eliot Engel, Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler; Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal, Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff, and Financial Services Chair Maxine Waters.
The group also told Barr they expect to receive any other information and materials from the Special Counsel “regarding certain foreign actors and other individuals who may have been the subject of a criminal or counterintelligence investigation.”
The letter comes after both CNN and the Washington Post reported that Mueller was preparing to submit his report to the Department of Justice within the next week. Under DOJ regulations, Mueller would submit his report to Barr, who would assume jurisdiction for what gets released.
The lawmakers argued in their letter that it was essential Congress receive this information to hold the President accountable, because longstanding Justice Department policy indicates a sitting President cannot be indicted.
“Congress could be the only institution currently situated to act on evidence of the President’s misconduct. To maintain that a sitting president cannot be indicted, and then to withhold evidence of wrongdoing from Congress because the President will not be charged, is to convert Department policy into the means for a cover-up,” they wrote.
The list of demands, now formalized in writing, heightens the possibility of a legal showdown between Congress and the Justice Department if the Democrats do not feel their expectations are met. Now that they hold the majority in the House, Democratic lawmakers are armed with subpoena power – something Nadler told TIME he would use to obtain Mueller's report if necessary.
“I think it's imperative that the Mueller report, when he issues it, be a public report,” Nadler told TIME last December.
- R. Kelly Charged with 10 Counts of Aggravated Criminal Sexual Abuse
R. Kelly was indicted on 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, Kim Foxx, the Cook County State's Attorney, said in a press conference on Friday.
Kelly was indicted by a grand jury that charged him with sexually abusing four victims, at least three of them underage. The accusations span between 1998 and 2010. Foxx said that each count had a sentencing range of three to seven years, which means he could face up to 70 years in prison. Kelly was expected to appear in bond court on Saturday afternoon, according to Foxx.
Steve Greenberg, R. Kelly’s attorney, said that the singer was “shell-shocked” and “extraordinarily disappointed and depressed” by the charges in an interview on Friday with the Associated Press. Greenberg said Kelly maintained his innocence but planned to turn himself into authorities on Friday night.
Greenberg did not immediately return a request from TIME for comment. On Kelly's behalf, he has repeatedly denied all accusations that Kelly engaged in any sexual misconduct or abuse.
Aggravated criminal sexual abuse is a class 2 felony. In 2017, Illinois removed the statutes of limitation for sex abuse crimes to give victims time to come forward.
This marks the second time Kelly has been charged with a sex crime by Cook County prosecutors. In 2002, he was indicted after a similar tape emerged of what prosecutors described as Kelly having sex with and urinating on an underage girl. But he was acquitted of all 21 counts of child pornography in 2008; both Kelly and the girl denied that the video depicted them.
Last month, the singer came under renewed scrutiny after the docuseries Surviving R. Kelly aired on Lifetime. Through more than 50 interviews with Kelly’s siblings, his ex-wife, accusers, and journalists like Jim DeRogatis—who has investigated Kelly for years—the series explored allegations against Kelly stretching back to the early 1990s. Women said that as underage girls, they were lured into sexual relationships by Kelly and were mentally and physically abused by him and kept from leaving his homes.
The documentary prompted Foxx to make a public plea for any accusers of Kelly to come forward. In-person protests and an online campaign, #MuteRKelly, emerged, and his label, RCA Records, dropped him under pressure.
Earlier this month, the lawyer Michael Avenatti said he had handed in a tape to the attorney’s office that showed Kelly sexually assaulting an underage girl. In a press conference on Friday afternoon, Avenatti said the tape dates back to approximately 1999 and is over 40 minutes in length. He said it shows Kelly performing sex acts on a girl, urinating on her and referring to her “14-year-old” body parts.
Avenatti said that Mr. Kelly and his team suppressed the video during the 2008 trial, and said he would pursue charges of obstruction of justice against them. “The trial was rigged in 2008,” he said. “Mr. Kelly and others close to him took specific steps to keep this out of the hands of prosecutors in connection with the 2008 trial because how critically important it was to Mr. Kelly’s ability to gain an acquittal.”
Avenatti, who is best known for representing Stormy Daniels in a lawsuit against President Donald Trump, said that the girl in the tape is one of the four victims mentioned in the indictment, and that he had recovered a second similar tape that he would soon turn over to Foxx.
“I am highly confident that Mr. Kelly will be convicted,” he said.
Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to a request to confirm whether the girl in the video was mentioned in the indictment.
In January, Kelly’s former road manager, Henry James Mason, turned himself into Georgia authorities after being accused of threatening a father who claimed Kelly had kept his daughter from her family.
On Wednesday, Greenberg said that Kelly was moving out of his Chicago recording studio due to a judge blocking Kelly’s request to work there longer into the night.
This week, Foxx also recused herself from the investigation into Jussie Smollett.
On Thursday, the lawyer Gloria Allred, who represents multiple women who have accused Kelly of abuse, held a press conference in which two additional women accused Kelly of sexual misconduct. The women said that in 1995, they were 15 and 16 years old when they were propositioned by Kelly to have sex after one of his concerts.
“You have nowhere to run and nowhere to hide,” Allred said during the press conference. “You have been able to get away with your predatory misconduct for far too long.”
With reporting from Mahita Gajanan.
- Dueling Concerts and Blocked Humanitarian Aid: What to Know About the Showdown at the Venezuelan Border
The border between Venezuela and Colombia is set to become the stage of a showdown Saturday between Nicolás Maduro’s authoritarian government and the opposition.
Juan Guaidó, the Venezuelan parliament leader who many countries now recognize as the country's interim president, has worked with the U.S. government to bring millions of dollars worth of aid to the country, where a humanitarian crisis has driven millions to the edge of starvation and forced more than 3 million people – one tenth of the population – to flee. Trucks and warehouses filled with food, medicine and other supplies now sit at several locations just outside the country – in the Colombian border city of Cúcuta, at points along the southern border with Brazil and on the nearby island of Curaçao.
But Maduro, who has refused to abandon the presidency and retains the support of Venezuela's powerful military, is refusing to let the aid in. He says it is an attempt “to humiliate the Venezuelan people” and has labelled the food “carcinogenic.” On Wednesday he banned all travel to Curaçao and on Thursday closed the border with Brazil. There, soldiers opened fire on civilians who tried to reopen it to get the aid in, killing two indigenous people.
Despite all that, Guaidó has promised the aid will get into Venezuela “one way or another” by Saturday. As aid amasses on the border and Maduro's military prepares to face-off with Guaidó supporters, here's what to know about the stand-off:
Why do Venezuelans need humanitarian aid?
Venezuela's current crisis dates back to its Socialist Revolution in 1998, led by Maduro's predecessor and mentor Hugo Chávez, who was elected on a platform of eliminating poverty. For years he used Venezuela's vast oil wealth (the country has the largest proven reserves in the world) to fund expansive social programs, such as subsidized utilities and free health care and education.
But both Chávez and Maduro also presided over widespread corruption and economic mismanagement. The government structured Venezuela's economy to focus on oil revenues and importing food in order to benefit the military and political elite, which controls both sectors, says Diego Moya-Ocampos, a Venezuela expert at risk analysts IHS Markit.
“They started to generate a crisis, where the country was producing less and less,” he says, adding that the country produces only around 20% of the food it needs. “These shortages have been common in Venezuela for many years now.”
Things got dramatically worse in 2014, when a drop in global oil prices meant the government had less cash to import food. At the same time, falling investor confidence in the country sent the value of Venezuela's currency, the Bolívar, into free fall. Since then acute shortages of food and other imported goods have lead to widespread hunger, with the average Venezuelan losing 24 pounds in 2017. The lack of basic medicine has crippled the health system. People with chronic illnesses can't access treatment, and diseases like measles and malaria, previously wiped out, have surged.
Determined to maintain his grip on power, Maduro has grown increasingly authoritarian, sidelining the opposition-held parliament, replacing judges on the supreme court, repressing protests with violence, and imprisoning political opponents.
Who is trying to bring aid into Venezuela?
Guaidó, the 35 year-old leader of an opposition party, claims that Maduro won his second term in May 2018 in rigged elections. Because of this, Guaidó says, the constitution mandates that he, as the head of parliament, take charge to call new elections.
The U.S., along with most other Western democracies, quickly recognized Guaidó as interim president after his inauguration ceremony on Jan. 23 and the Trump Administration has vowed to help him take power. They also answered his call for humanitarian assistance, with National Security Adviser John Bolton pledging $20 million of aid. Canada, Germany and others have also contributed.
Colombia, which has dealt with an influx of over a million desperate Venezuelan refugees, is helping to coordinate efforts to get the aid in. Meanwhile, British billionaire Richard Branson has helped to organize a massive pop concert at the Tienditas bridge near Cúcuta on Friday and Saturday, featuring some of Latin America's most famous acts, to raise money for more supplies. Maduro has organized his own rival concert on the other side of the border.
U.N. agencies, along with the Red Cross and Catholic charity Cáritas, have refused to help bring aid in, saying that it is too political a move for neutral aid groups to join in. “The action of the Red Cross is based on two principles: humanity and neutrality. Neutrality is the most important one in situations like this,” Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies told CNN.
Will the aid get in?
Though Guaidó has pledged to get the supplies into Venezuela by Saturday, it is far from clear that he will be able to do so, because the military is enforcing Maduro's blockade.
The military used oil tankards to close off the main road bridge to Cúcuta in Colombia. On Thursday night, the Venezuelan national guard blocked the path of a convoy of buses transporting opposition members of parliament participating in the aid efforts. Many fear the next few days will see more violent clashes between the armed forces and Guaidó supporters, like the one at the Brazilian border.
The military's continued support for the regime in the face of the humanitarian and political crisis can be explained by the comfortable life top generals have enjoyed under him. The regime has given the military control over imports, oil and other industries, and also allowed them to take part in a widespread corruption and organized crime.
“Corruption has corroded the entire institution, all along chain of command, and the counterintelligence agency has kept track of who is involved in what,” Raul Gallegos, a political analyst based in Bogotá, told TIME last month. “We cannot readily expect the security forces to respond the way any other institution would under similar pressure.”
Will the aid help topple Maduro?
Whatever happens, though, the stand-off will undermine Maduro's grip on power, Moya-Ocampos says. “If he manages to block the aid, it will be clear he is out of touch with the population’s need,” he says. “If it enters, it will show he no longer controls the security apparatus – either way he looks weaker and weaker.”
The international community is hoping that the spectacle of badly-needed aid piled up on the border will prompt the lower ranks of the military to rebel against the high command, either by allowing the supplies in, or even by abandoning their support for Maduro entirely.
Moya-Ocampos says the showdown over aid will be the start, not the end, of fundamental change in Venezuela. “It might not happen immediately, but this episode is going to start off a process of division inside the armed forces, which I do think is irreversible.”