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Baltimore Cop Not Guilty Of Most Serious Charge In Death Of Freddie Gray

Baltimore police officer Caesar Goodson Jr was found not guilty on Thursday of second-degree depraved heart murder in the death of black detainee Freddie Gray, the most serious criminal charge he faced.

Judge Barry Williams handed down the verdict in Baltimore City Circuit Court. Goodson, 46, was the driver of a police transport van in which Gray broke his neck in April 2015. His death triggered rioting and protests in the majority black city.

The judge has not yet ruled on the less serious counts Goodson faced, including three counts of manslaughter, reckless endangerment, second-degree assault and misconduct in office.

Prosecutors contended Goodson gave Gray a “rough ride,” failed to ensure his safety and should have called for a medic.

Goodson’s defense team argued that Gray caused his own injuries by falling inside the transport van. Goodson also lacked the training to recognize that Gray was hurt, they said.

Goodson, who is also black, faced the most serious charges among the six officers charged in Gray’s death, making his the marquee case for prosecutors. They failed to secure a conviction in two earlier trials of officers.

Goodson waived a jury trial, leaving it to Williams to decide his fate.

(Writing by Ian Simpson and Scott Malone)

A man, who declined to offer his name, walks past a mural of Freddie Gray in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood of Baltimore, December 17, 2015.  REUTERS/Bryan Woolston  

Judge Finds Enough Evidence For Cosby To Go To Trial On Sex Assault

By Joseph Ax

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (Reuters) – A Pennsylvania judge on Tuesday ordered entertainer Bill Cosby to stand trial on sexual assault charges over allegations that he drugged and assaulted a woman in 2004.

The ruling came after a preliminary hearing that Cosby, 78, attended in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, in which witnesses testified about statements that Cosby and his accuser, Andrea Constand, gave to police in 2005.

In court, Cosby responded with “thank you” when Judge Elizabeth McHugh announced her decision. She wished him luck.

Constand, a former basketball coach at Cosby’s Temple University alma mater, is the only woman whose accusations of sexual assault have resulted in criminal charges against Cosby.

Once one of the most beloved U.S. entertainers, Cosby has been hit by a wave of sexual assault allegations from more than 50 women, although most of the cases are too old to be prosecuted. He has denied ever assaulting anyone.

Constand told police she was attacked as she lay on a sofa “paralyzed” by drugs the entertainer had given her, said a former detective reading from a transcript of Constand’s police interview.

Cosby told her the pills would help her relax and “take the edge off.” So Constand swallowed the pills, added a sip of wine and told the comedian that she trusted him, the former detective said.

Less than an hour later, according to Constand, Cosby sexually assaulted her as she lay incapacitated by the drugs she had taken, the former detective said.

Cosby’s own 2005 interview with police in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania, where the purported 2004 assault took place, also was introduced as evidence.

Cosby admitted giving Constand 1-1/2 pills of the antihistamine Benadryl to relax her, Cheltenham Police Chief John Norris testified.

Cosby said Constand never told him to stop and was fully conscious during what he called the “petting” encounter, which he said involved fondling of genitals, Norris testified.

The hearing followed Sunday’s Associated Press report of new revelations about Cosby from his 2005 and 2006 sworn depositions, including his admission that he gave drugs to a 19-year-old woman before having sex.
Photo: Comedian Bill Cosby arrives at the Montgomery County Courthouse for a preliminary hearing related to assault charges, May 24, 2016, in Norristown, Pennsylvania, U.S.. REUTERS/Dominick Reuter/POOL

Boston Defense Focuses On Tsarnaev’s Troubled Family

By Richard A. Serrano, Tribune Washington Bureau (TNS)

BOSTON — Close to wrapping up their case, defense lawyers for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev portrayed their client Tuesday as the product of a troubled and ailing Chechen father who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, and an angry, aggressive older brother who often picked fights in Boston.

Tsarnaev was found guilty last month on all 30 charges in the April 2013 bombings, and the jury of seven women and five men will soon be deciding whether the 21-year-Russian immigrant is moved to death row or spends the rest of his life in prison with no parole.

Defense lawyers, hoping for the life sentence, on Tuesday sought to show how he was affected by family members, from their history in the Chechen region to their immigration to Boston when Tsarnaev was eight.

There has been much testimony in the trial about his mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaev, who became a strict Muslim at the time that her oldest son, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was becoming an Islamic radical.

Testimony Tuesday was the first that centered on his father, Anzor Tsarnaev.

Dr. Alexander Niss, a former Boston psychiatrist who now practices in Los Angeles, testified that for two years he treated the father for PTSD, nightmares, anxiety, hallucinations, and near dementia. Niss said the father, a former boxer, was deeply affected by the Chechen wars in the 1990s.

“He had a lot of anxiety, and panic attacks,” Niss said. “He had flashbacks. He had a lot of paranoia. He was afraid of the Russian KGB, thought they were following him and looking through his window at his home.”

The father, who is living in Russia, was not called to testify.

Amanda Ransom, a college friend of Tamerlan’s wife, described Tamerlan’s cruel behavior, saying he dressed flashy, drove a Mercedes and was prone to starting fights. She recalled him once angrily punching a man for speaking to his wife Katherine and said she sometimes could hear him screaming and throwing things at her as well.

One night in their school dorm, she said, “I heard him laughing and she was crying in her room. After they had had sex he told her he had AIDS and when she started to cry, he laughed at her. He said he wasn’t serious, it was a joke.”

Henry Alvarez, a fellow high school wrestler with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, said he had been shocked to learn that his former teammate was arrested in the bombings. “I never could imagine he would do something like this,” Alvarez said.

The defense is expected to put on expert testimony about the harsh conditions at the federal Supermax prison, where Tsarnaev presumably would go if he is sentenced to life, and then end its case Wednesday or Thursday.

Photo: Boston Marathon Bombing via Facebook

Jury Quits For The Day With No Verdict In Boston Marathon Bombing Trial

By Richard A. Serrano, Tribune Washington Bureau (TNS)

BOSTON — After deliberating for more than seven hours Tuesday, a federal jury in the capital murder trial of Russian immigrant Dzhokhar Tsarnaev adjourned for the day without reaching a verdict and will return Wednesday morning to continue considering the fate of the lone defendant in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

Jurors sent two questions to the court at the end of the day. U.S. District George A. O’Toole Jr. did not reveal the questions or characterize them in any way. Instead, he said he would meet with prosecutors and defense lawyers to discuss the questions.

A panel of seven women and five men was chosen to hear the case. Tsarnaev faces 30 counts, 17 of which could carry the death penalty.

The silence from the locked jury room was a bit puzzling to some observers. Many expected a swift guilty verdict, given that Tsarnaev’s defense lawyers conceded to the jury that he played a part with his now-deceased brother in killing three people and injuring more than 260 others.

Though the defense team has said it expects a guilty verdict, it is arguing that Tsarnaev was naive and that his older brother, Tamerlan, induced him to detonate one of the two pressure-cooker bombs. Lead defense lawyer Judy Clarke described Tamerlan as the leader and her client as his follower.

“They’re both different people who thought differently, acted differently and had a different role in the conspiracy,” she said.

Prosecutors put on a nearly monthlong, vigorous case including surveillance videos, bomb shards, and fingerprint samples that tied the 21-year-old Tsarnaev to the explosions. The government also brought in victims to testify about their injuries. Some came to court with missing legs and in wheelchairs or on crutches.

In an impassioned closing statement Monday, prosecutors said the two Tsarnaevs were equal partners in planning and carrying out the terrorist attack, the worst in the U.S. since September 11, 2001.

Aloke Chakravarty, an assistant federal prosecutor, pointed at Tsarnaev sitting next to his lawyers and told jurors that he left a “confession” inside a boat where he was hiding.

“He wanted to tell the world why he did it, and he wanted to take credit,” Chakravarty said.

If Tsarnaev is convicted on any of the charges that carry the death penalty, the trial would move to the penalty phase, in which jurors would decide whether he would be put to death or given life in prison with no parole.

Photo: Rebecca Hildreth via Flickr