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Martellus Bennett Says He Won't Go to White House to Honor Super Bowl 51 Win
Joseph Zucker Feb-06-2017 121 0


New England Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett wasted little time revealing whether he'd join his team when it visits the White House to be honored by President Donald Trump for its thrilling come-from-behind victory in Super Bowl LI.

Bennett told reporters following New England's win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday that he will decline the invite from President Trump, according to Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News.

The Patriots have been linked with Trump more so than any other sports franchise in the United States. On Wednesday, the New York Times' Mark Leibovich reported on the various connections between Trump and New England team owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick and star quarterback Tom Brady.

The president gave a shout-out to all three after the Super Bowl:

Bennett played down any ideological differences he and his teammates might share.

"You just don't bring that to work," he said, per George. "We all have our beliefs. We accept people for who they are."

Bennett's decision to skip the White House visit doesn't come as a surprise. During Super Bowl opening night on Monday, he told reporters he was on the fence, adding he didn't "support the guy that's in the house," per NJ Advance Media's Matt Lombardo.

Bennett wouldn't be the first Patriots star to turn down the opportunity to see the president. Following the Patriots' Super Bowl XLIX victory, Brady decided not to attend the team's White House ceremony, citing a family commitment, per ESPN.com's Mike Reiss.



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Dee Thompson Aug-17-2017 107 0
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals at Dallas ruled that Erykah Badu’s comments on social media about former manager Paul Levatino were protected free speech, however the case is going back to the trial court for further rulings.

Paul Levatino worked for Erykah Badu (real name Erica Wright) for 8 years as the general manager of her business interests. His duties included merchandising, concert and event management, and marketing. He was paid through her company Apple Tree Cafe Touring.

On May 27, 2014, Badu terminated the employment of Levatino. She said on May 29, 2014, on social media that Levatino was never her manager and she had never had a manager, according to the court's opinion. She also alleged he had shut down her Facebook fan page.

In October 2014, Badu received a letter from Levatino’s lawyer Joseph H. Gillespie of Gillespie Sanford LLP stating she had defamed Levatino, and asking for a public retraction and compensation. 

On Oct. 31, 2014, Badu filed a petition seeking a declaratory judgment, saying that Levatino had never been her talent manager and was not owed any compensation. Badu next filed an amendment to the petition alleging fraud, conversion and theft by deception.

In response to the petition, Levatino filed a counterclaim “...asserting Badu’s Facebook and Twitter posts were defamatory and have caused Levatino to suffer actual damages in the form of lost compensation and earning capacity, and non-pecuniary damages.” Additionally, “Levatino asserts Apple Tree is liable for the statements and omissions made by Badu,” according to the court of appeals' Aug. 3 order.

Levatino moved for dismissal of Badu’s claims under the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA) and asserted that his pre-suit demand letters were protected activity under the TCPA. 
To be considered an exercise of the right of association under the TCPA, communication must happen “between individuals who join together to collectively express, promote, pursue or defend common interests,” according to the court's opinion.

In his petition, Levantino claimed “Attorney-client communications that culminate in a demand letter to opposing counsel expressing the common interests of the attorney and client are protected under the right of association and it was error to hold otherwise.” 

His petition also stated, “The court of appeals decision also contravenes the broadly written and liberally construed purpose of the act because instead of limiting frivolous anti-SLAPP suits, it instead incentivizes such suits by protecting parties that rush to the courthouse to file strategic retaliatory suits in response to pre-suit demand letters.”

The trial court, appellate court and Texas Supreme Court all denied his petition for review.
In its Aug. 3, ruling, the Court of Appeals Fifth District of Texas ruled that the issue of attorney’s fees was remanded back to the trial court to decide. It also ruled that Badu’s comments on social media were exercises of her right of association. 

Additionally, the Court of Appeals 5th District of Texas ruled that because Badu’s comments on social media were damaging to his reputation, and it was commonly known in the music industry that he was her manager, that Levatino presented a prima facie case of defamation. According to the Wex Legal Dictionary, a "prima facie case is a cause of action or defense that is sufficiently established by a party's evidence to justify a verdict in his or her favor, provided such evidence is not rebutted by the other party."

The Court of Appeals Fifth District of Texas concluded that “We reverse, in part, that portion of the trial court’s order awarding Levatino attorney’s fees and cost, and remand the attorney’s fees and cost issue to the trial court to determine whether appellants’ motion was frivolous or solely intended to delay. We otherwise affirm the trial court’s order.”
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Thomas Tracy Aug-13-2017 99 0
A deranged Long Island man, left on the street since his mom evicted him, returned home Saturday to execute her, his sister and a third woman in a hammer-swinging bloodbath.

Bobby Vanderhall, 34, was sleeping peacefully inside a parked car when he was arrested about 2 miles away from the Hempstead home where police say he carved a late-night trail of terror.

The hulking Long Island man bashed all three women to death with a framing hammer, wreaking havoc in the suburban two-story home where he lived until Lynn Vanderhall gave her only son the boot.

“He came to kill mom and the sister . . . because his mother had kicked him out,” said Stephen Fitzpatrick, head of the Nassau County Police Homicide Bureau.

The third victim, identified as a friend of his sister, was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time — as was a fourth woman who escaped after watching the 6-foot, 234-pound Vanderhall smash his sister Melissa in the head with the oversized hammer.

In addition to Lynn Vanderhall, 59, and daughter Melissa, 29, police identified the other victim as Janel Simpson, 29. Janel and Melissa were best friends since childhood.
Relatives of the dead wept and howled in anguish outside the home at 125 Perry St., where bloody handprints were visible from outside.

“That’s the most beautiful memory of my daughter — her smile, her laugh,” said distraught mom Wendy Simpson. “I’m not saying it should be anybody else’s child. But why me?”

According to police, the slain mother had an order of protection against her mentally-troubled son — who now faces three counts of murder and one of attempted murder.

The order did not bar him from the home, only from harassing his mom.

Neighbor Earl Sykes, 38, was driving home from the movies around 1:20 a.m. when the surviving victim sprinted between cars, barefoot and screaming, to jump on the hood of his vehicle.

“She was covered in blood,” said Sykes, who called 911. “She kept saying, ‘He’s trying to kill us! He’s trying to kill us!’

“She kept saying his whole name. She kept saying over and over again, “Help me please.’ When the officer asked, ‘Did he take his medication?’ she was saying, ‘He was supposed to.’”

The surviving woman, identified as Candace Murray, was in stable condition at a Long Island hospital with a fractured wrist and contusions.

The killing spree started shortly after Bobby returned to the house in the middle of the night, only to find he was locked out.

“The doors were secured and he became enraged,” said Fitzpatrick. “He went to the garage, he obtained a large hammer. . . . With this hammer, he broke through the basement door.”

Once upstairs, he fatally bludgeoned his mother in the living room before heading toward the second floor. He was climbing the stairs when his sister and Murray appeared, rushing down to help Melissa’s mom, police said.

Bobby began bashing his sister as Murray fled for her life. Janel Simpson was by herself in another room, where Bobby Vanderhall killed her last, cops said.

Lynn Vanderhall threw her son out of the house at some point after a March 2017 incident where he was accused of slapping and physically harassing her, police said.

“His behavior became more unruly, more violent,” said Fitzpatrick. “His mother had enough.”

He was twice hospitalized for emotional issues, and had a rap sheet that included a 2003 DWI arrest and 2015 bust for forcibly touching a woman.


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Aug-12-2017 403 0
The death of a federal prosecutor whose body was found on Hollywood Beach in May has been ruled a suicide, the Hollywood Police Department said Thursday.

James Beranton Whisenant Jr., a prosecutor from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to detectives and the medical examiner’s office. The body of the 37-year-old man was discovered on the edge of the water near Magnolia Terrace on May 24, 2017.

"The U.S. Attorney's Office family is deeply saddened by his death. He was a wonderful lawyer and great colleague," the office said in a statement after his death. "We will miss him deeply. Our thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family."

Whisenant's LinkedIn profile said he has been an assistant U.S. attorney since January 2017. He received his law degree from the University of Florida in 2004 and had been a partner at Foley & Mansfield, PLLP, before joining the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Whisenant was also an adjunct instructor at the University of Miami Paralegal Program.

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AP Aug-12-2017 377 0
The parents of Kendrick Johnson have been ordered to pay $300,000 in legal fees for the people they accused of killing their son and covering up his death.

The ruling by Lowndes County Superior Court Judge Richard Porter is related to a 2015 wrongful death lawsuit filed by Johnson’s parents against brothers Brian and Branden Bell, who they say murdered their son.

–Kendrick Johnson surveillance video raises questions about whether teen was alone–

Johnson was found dead rolled up in a gym mat in June of 2013, and while investigators concluded that he had died from asphyxiation while reaching for a pair of sneakers, Kenneth and Jackie Johnson insisted that it was no accident.

They claimed that Brian and Branden’s father, FBI agent Rick Bell, along with a school superintendent and former sheriff, had rolled Johnson’s body in the mat and enlisted the superintendent’s daughters to “discover” the body.

“Judge Porter has now put those false accusations to rest and determined that the Johnsons’ and their lawyer’s accusations were substantially frivolous, groundless and vexatious,” said attorney Jim Elliott, who represents former Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine. “All of those who have been falsely accused have been vindicated. Truth prevails. Justice has been done.”

In addition to the Johnsons, their attorney, Chevene King, was also ordered to reimburse the almost two dozen defendants from that initial lawsuit.
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RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA Aug-11-2017 361 0
Last month, before voting to release O.J. Simpson from prison after nine years, the Nevada parole board discussed in detail the robbery that put him behind bars and his conduct as an inmate. But one piece of Mr. Simpson’s record escaped the notice of the board, the news media, and most of the millions of people watching on television and online.

During the hearing on July 20, members of the Nevada Board of Parole Commissioners said that before his 2008 conviction for the robbery in a hotel in Las Vegas, Mr. Simpson had no history of a criminal conviction. That was incorrect.

As the world knows, Mr. Simpson was acquitted in 1995 of the murders of his former wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, in the most-watched trial in American history. But in 1989, he pleaded no contest in Los Angeles to misdemeanor battery of Ms. Simpson, who was then his wife.
The Nevada parole board did not have that information, officials with that agency said this week, so the 1989 conviction was not considered when a four-member panel voted unanimously to release him in October.

When states weigh the risk posed by an inmate, they routinely look through their own records, and also check with the National Crime Information Center, a set of enormous databases of records run by the F.B.I. Mr. Simpson’s 1989 conviction “did not appear in the N.C.I.C. history” when Nevada officials prepared a pre-sentencing report after his 2008 conviction, said David M. Smith, hearings examiner for the parole board.

He said the parole commissioners relied in part on the information in that 2008 report in assessing whether Mr. Simpson should be released. Mr. Smith’s response came in a written statement in response to questions from The New York Times, which began inquiring about Mr. Simpson’s record after a reader noted the 1989 case.

To see if it had made an error, the parole board checked the N.C.I.C. again after the inquiry by The Times. “This most recent report also makes no mention of the 1989 California court record,” Mr. Smith said.

The parole commissioners declined to be interviewed. Mr. Smith said it was impossible to tell whether knowing of the misdemeanor conviction would have influenced their decision on Mr. Simpson, who is 70, and who has had no disciplinary record from his time in prison. The decision is not subject to review unless Mr. Simpson violates the terms of his release.

Though a jury in Los Angeles found Mr. Simpson not guilty of killing Mr. Goldman and Ms. Simpson, a civil jury later found him responsible for their deaths. The killings have cast an inescapable shadow over every aspect of his life since then. Because he was acquitted of the murders, the Nevada parole board legally could not take that case into account in making its decision.

It is not clear why the 1989 case failed to turn up in the federal system, and California court officials said they did not have an explanation. But the omission highlights a frequent problem: There are major gaps in the databases, which rely primarily on accurate and complete reporting by local and state agencies.

The Justice Department has reported, for example, that states fail to transmit most of their active arrest warrants from their own databases into the federal system and often neglect to update records to show whether cases resulted in convictions. Some states still rely on paper files, making it likelier that they will not end up in the federal electronic records database, and that is even more of a problem with older records.

Gaps in the federal databases have often been noted in the context of background checks for gun purchasers, whose names are checked against those files, but far less attention has gone to the effect they have on other aspects of law enforcement, like sentencing and parole.

The F.B.I. said it could not comment on a specific case or the practices of individual agencies, but noted in a statement that participation “from our state and local partners is voluntary, not compulsory.”

Nevada officials noted that misdemeanor cases were sometimes expunged from the record years later, for defendants who stay out of trouble, and that records could be sealed by court order.
But the 1989 case appears, unsealed, in California’s database, where The Times was able to find it, and a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County courts confirmed that the conviction was never expunged, remaining a part of Mr. Simpson’s record. Under California law, a no-contest plea is a conviction.

Mr. Simpson’s lawyer at the parole hearing, Malcolm P. LaVergne, said he was aware of the earlier case, but did not know why California would not have submitted it to the federal database.
“I’m not a California lawyer,” he said. “There are questions here I can’t answer for you.”

In 2007, Mr. Simpson and a group of other men, two of them carrying guns, went to the Las Vegas hotel room of a sports memorabilia dealer and took hundreds of items from him. Mr. Simpson said he was merely reclaiming property that had been stolen from him, but he was convicted in 2008 of robbery, kidnapping and other charges.

A judge sentenced him to nine to 33 years in prison, but did not take the 1989 conviction into account because it was not in the pre-sentencing report. Mr. Simpson became eligible for parole for the first time this year.

At his parole hearing, Mr. Simpson said, “I basically have spent a conflict-free life” and “I’ve always been a guy that got along with everybody,” though Ms. Simpson and others had said he beat her multiple times.

The 1989 case was reported by news media at the time, and received a fresh round of attention after Mr. Simpson became a suspect in the murders.

In that case, prosecutors charged that early on New Year’s Day, at the Simpson home in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles, Mr. Simpson punched, kicked and slapped his wife while yelling “I’ll kill you.” He first denied the accusations, but a few months later, he pleaded no contest to one count of spousal battery.

The charge carried a maximum sentence of a year in jail, but a judge opted not to incarcerate Mr. Simpson, instead ordering him to perform community service and receive counseling.
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Peter Sblendorio Aug-08-2017 84 0
An Atlanta rapper who called himself "bulletproof" after he was shot 10 times and survived was killed by an unidentified gunman Sunday evening in DeKalb County, Ga., according to officials.

Yung Mazi — who had collaborated with big-name artists such as Rich Homie Quan and Yung Thug — was gunned down in the Kirkwood neighborhood of Atlanta, the DeKalb County Medical Examiner’s office said.

The shooting occurred at around 8:55 p.m. when the rapper, 31, appeared to be leaving the Urban Pie pizza restaurant.

Atlanta Police did not disclose his identity in their police report, but confirmed a 31-year-old male died in the area after sustaining multiple gun wounds. Authorities responded to the scene after hearing gunshots outside the the department's Zone 6 precinct, which is located nearby.

Officials said no suspects are in custody, and the investigation for the rapper's shooter is ongoing.

Yung Mazi, whose real name was Jabril Abdur-Rahman, claimed in a video last year that he had survived 10 gunshots during his lifetime. He tweeted last December that "God made me bulletproof" following a shooting at a Waffle House in Buckhead, Ga.

The rapper's brother, Luqman Abdur-Rahman, asked for privacy in a short phone conversation with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

"We're praying for him and all involved," he told the newspaper.

Yung Mazi's colleague Rich Homie Quan, meanwhile, paid tribute to the artist by sharing an Instagram photo of his late collaborator counting money.

"Rest easy Mazi," he captioned the picture.
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Ian Cummings Aug-03-2017 61 0
NAACP officials say their recent travel advisory for Missouri is the first that the civil rights group has issued for any state.

But the warning follows a recent trend of similar alerts issued by other groups for vulnerable people around the United States.

The travel advisory, circulated in June by the Missouri NAACP and recently taken up by the national organization, comes after travel alerts began appearing in recent years in light of police shootings in the U.S. and ahead of immigration legislation in Texas and Arizona.

The Missouri travel advisory is the first time an NAACP conference has ever made one state the subject of a warning about discrimination and racist attacks, a spokesman for the national organization said Tuesday.

Missouri became the first because of recent legislation making discrimination lawsuits harder to win, and in response to longtime racial disparities in traffic enforcement and a spate of incidents cited as examples of harm coming to minority residents and visitors, say state NAACP leaders.

Those incidents included racial slurs against black students at the University of Missouri and the death earlier this year of 28-year-old Tory Sanders, a black man from Tennessee who took a wrong turn while traveling and died in a southeast Missouri jail even though he hadn’t been accused of a crime.

“How do you come to Missouri, run out of gas and find yourself dead in a jail cell when you haven’t broken any laws?” asked Rod Chapel, the president of the Missouri NAACP.

“You have violations of civil rights that are happening to people. They’re being pulled over because of their skin color, they’re being beaten up or killed,” Chapel said. “We are hearing complaints at a rate we haven’t heard before.”

At the same time, Chapel said, the state government is throwing up barriers to people seeking justice in the courts for discrimination. The travel advisory cites legislation signed by Gov. Eric Greitens that will make it more difficult to sue for housing or employment discrimination.

Asked about the travel advisory on Friday in Kansas City, Greitens said he hadn’t seen it yet. His office did not return messages seeking comment on Tuesday.

The new law on discrimination lawsuits takes effect Aug. 28, and Chapel urged people to file any complaints they have before then.

Chapel, who was silenced by a Missouri House committee chairman while speaking against the legislation earlier this year, said he was especially alarmed that the University of Missouri System backed an earlier version of the bill.

The NAACP’s advisory also cites the most recent attorney general’s report showing black drivers in Missouri were 75 percent more likely to be pulled over than whites. Those reports have been showing the disparity since the attorney general began releasing the data in 2000.

In May, the owner of a Blue Springs barbershop found his shop windows stained with racial slurs. The same two words appeared on three separate windows in black paint: “Die (N-word).”

“The advisory is for people to be aware, and warn their families and friends and co-workers of what could happen in Missouri,” Chapel said. “People need to be ready, whether it’s bringing bail money with them, or letting relatives know they are traveling through the state.”

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AP Jul-31-2017 96 0
Allen Iverson did not show up for the Big3's games in Dallas, and the league says it is investigating his absence.

The former NBA MVP is the biggest star in Ice Cube's 3-on-3 league of former NBA players. Iverson signed on as a player and coach of Three's Company for the league's inaugural season.

He hasn't been playing very much - he didn't play at all in his much-hyped return to Philadelphia - and the league says in a statement it had no advance notice that Iverson wouldn't attend the game Sunday.

The league says it will make a statement once it has gathered all the facts surrounding Iverson's absence.

DerMarr Johnson, the team's co-captain, took over the coaching duties Sunday.
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Omar Villafranca Jul-27-2017 113 0
A police supervisor in Texas is defending the actions of a constable who was in a confrontation last week with a young man. Millions have seen the cellphone video, and some believe the constable crossed the line.

The cellphone video captures a moment when a Harris County constable stopped 20-year-old Marlin Gipson as he and his brothers were passing out business cards for his lawn service last week.
"I'm kind of busy, I'm trying to make money," Gipson can be heard saying in the video.

The officer then says, "Yeah, but when I saw you, you were going from door to door."
Gipson did not have an ID card on him when asked by the officer.

Then, the situation got tense, after Gipson asked the constable for his information.
"Tell you what," the officer says. "Just turn around and put your hands around your back."
"For what? Hey! Nope," Gipson says. He instead left the scene.

Gipson spoke with CBS News and showed us the business cards he was handing out.
"I would still be doing this right here," Gipson said as he fanned out the cards in his hand. "Lawn service, making money that's the goal… trying to support our family."

Constable administrator Alen Rosen said Gipson left because of an outstanding misdemeanor assault warrant.

"So when originally stopped and questioned by the officer, that was why he really didn't want to say who we was," Rosen said.

Constables came to his house later that day. Gipson recorded that, too. He said constables broke down his door, tased him and sicced a K-9 on him that left bite marks on his arm.

"I can't even lift certain stuff no more," Gipson told us. "My arm is still numb in certain spots. I can barely lift it up."

But Rosen says his officers did nothing wrong.

"We gave Mr. Gipson, before the police dog went upstairs, we told him four different times, we even yelled, 'police dog, police dog come out,'" Rosen explained.

The Harris County constable says they have body camera video that backs up their side of the story, but they have not released it.
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