Nation & World Briefs

Published: 2/14/2019 10:37:38 PM
Second Fairfax accuser is intensely private single mother

GLENN BURNIE, Md. — The Maryland woman who has accused Democratic Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of raping her while they were students at Duke University in 2000 is an intensely private single mother who worked for several years as a school fundraiser and had a turbulent personal life, according to friends and court records.

Before going public last week as the second woman to accuse Fairfax of sexual assault, Meredith Watson, a 39-year-old from the Baltimore suburbs, took steps to maintain her privacy, including taking down her social media accounts. Her legal team, which previously represented three female Fox News employees suing host Bill O’Reilly for defamation, has declined interview requests on her behalf. Online searches haven’t yielded current photos or even signs of current employment.

A review of court records by The Associated Press found that Watson has a history of financial disputes and accusations of stalking from an ex-boyfriend.

Watson’s lawyer, Nancy Erika Smith, said it was not attention but civic duty that motivated her client to speak out just days after California political science professor Vanessa Tyson accused Fairfax of forcing her to perform oral sex on him while both were attending the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004.

“Ms. Watson’s principal goal for coming forward at this time was to support another victim of sexual assault who was being smeared by Fairfax,” Smith said Wednesday. “Her second goal is to not have a man who is a rapist rise to hold high political office in this country.”

Make El Chapo pay for border wall? Don’t count on it

NEW YORK — After El Chapo’s conviction in a drug-trafficking trial that included florid testimony of jewel-encrusted guns, a fleet of cash-laden jets and a personal zoo with roaming big cats, some Americans have floated an idea they see as poetic justice: Why not take some of the Mexican drug lord’s billions in ill-gotten gains and make him pay for a border wall?

That may be a tall order, especially since federal officials can’t say for sure how much Joaquin Guzman may still have from his decades of smuggling drugs into the U.S., or how exactly they intend to get their hands on it.

For now, the U.S. Department of Justice says it will be seeking forfeiture of a fortune that Guzman’s indictment valued at $14 billion. Authorities won’t say how they came up with that figure, but experts say it is likely based on evidence of the value of the proceeds of massive drug shipments and whatever assets were used as part of the trafficking enterprise.

With Guzman, who faces life in prison for smuggling tons of heroin, meth, fentanyl and marijuana into the U.S., authorities know their forfeiture estimate is partly symbolic, to send a message to other traffickers that a conviction could cost them their fortune as well as their freedom, said Duncan Levin, a former federal prosecutor who specialized in forfeiture.

“It’s obvious he doesn’t have $14 billion,” Levin said. “And whatever he has may be largely uncollectable.”

‘Mexican oxy’ pills in Southwest lift fentanyl death toll

TUCSON, Ariz. — Aaron Francisco Chavez swallowed at least one of the sky blue pills at a Halloween party before falling asleep forever. He became yet another victim killed by a flood of illicit fentanyl smuggled from Mexico by the Sinaloa cartel into the Southwest — a profitable new business for the drug gang that has made the synthetic opioid responsible for the most fatal overdoses in the U.S.

Three others at the party in Tucson also took the pills nicknamed “Mexican oxy.” They were saved after partygoers flagged down police who administered naloxone overdose reversal medication.

The pills vary widely in strength, from a tiny amount to enough to cause lethal overdoses. Law enforcement officials say they have become a lucrative new product for the cartel, despite the conviction this week of Sinaloa kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera in New York.

The four Tucson partiers thought they were taking oxycodone, a much less powerful opioid, investigators believe. The death of Chavez and many others, officials said, illustrate how Arizona and other southwestern states bordering Mexico have become a hot spot in the nation’s fentanyl crisis. Fentanyl deaths tripled in Arizona from 2015 through 2017.

“It’s the worst I’ve seen in 30 years, this toll that it’s taken on families,” said Doug Coleman, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration special agent in charge of Arizona. “The crack (cocaine) crisis was not as bad.”

Avenatti says he has video evidence against R. Kelly

CHICAGO — Attorney Michael Avenatti said Thursday he has given Chicago prosecutors new video evidence of R&B star R. Kelly having sex with an underage girl.

Avenatti said the video isn’t the same evidence used in Kelly’s 2008 trial, when he was acquitted on child pornography charges. CNN reported the nearly 45-minute VHS tape shows a man appearing to be Kelly performing sex acts with a girl who refers to her body parts as 14 years old.

Tandra Simonton, spokeswoman for Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, wouldn’t confirm the office is investigating.

Kelly and his attorney have for years denied allegations of sexual misconduct involving women and underage girls. His attorney didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday on the latest allegations.

Avenatti is best known for representing porn star Stormy Daniels in a lawsuit against President Donald Trump. He said his office was retained in April 2018 by multiple people regarding allegations of sexual assault of minors by Kelly, whose legal name is Robert Kelly.

Trump gains weight, now considered obese

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has put on some pounds and is now officially considered obese.

The White House on Thursday released results of his most recent physical, revealing that his Body Mass Index is now 30.4. That’s based on the fact that he’s now carrying 243 pounds on his 6-foot, 3-inch frame. That’s up from 236 pounds in September 2016 before he became president.

An index rating of 30 is the level at which doctors consider someone obese under this commonly used formula. About 40 percent of Americans are obese, and that raises their risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke and some forms of cancer.

Trump, doesn’t drink alcohol or smoke, but he’s not a big fan of the gym either. He says he gets plenty of walking in around the White House complex.

As for his diet, Trump’s love of fast food remains. Last month, he invited the college football champion Clemson Tigers to the White House during the partial government shutdown. With the White House kitchen too understaffed to cater a meal, Trump stepped in: He ordered burgers, french fries and pizza.

10 days before show, full-on revolt over the Oscars

Would anyone — anyone at all — like to thank the academy?

This is normally the time of year when Oscar hopefuls are readying acceptance speeches that almost always begin with a few words of gratitude for the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. But that sentiment has been hard to come by in the torturous and troubled lead-up to the 91st Academy Awards.

After a litany of public-relations disasters, backtracks and missteps, the latest dust-up surrounds the film academy’s plans to remove four categories from the live portion of Feb. 24’s broadcast, including cinematography and editing, arguably the two most foundational components of moviemaking.

On Wednesday evening, dozens of Hollywood heavyweights — including Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, Brad Pitt, cinematographer Roger Deakins and director Damien Chazelle — issued an open-letter to the academy’s leadership blasting the decision to not air the four awards.

“Relegating these essential cinematic crafts to lesser status in this 91st Academy Awards ceremony is nothing less than an insult to those of us who have devoted our lives and passions to our chosen profession,” the group wrote. “When the recognition of those responsible for the creation of outstanding cinema is being diminished by the very institution whose purpose it is to protect it, then we are no longer upholding the spirit of the Academy’s promise to celebrate film as a collaborative art form.”

From Associated Press




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