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The Arizona State University School of Criminology and Criminal Justice
The Arizona State University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication
Criminal Justice Journalists

All articles are chosen at the sole discretion of the Crime and Justice News editors. Any opinions expressed or positions taken here on Crime and Justice News are those of their respective authors.

Prosecutor Outlines 'Core Of The Conspiracy' In NYC Trump Case

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In Monday's opening statements in Donald Trump's New York City criminal trial, prosecutor Matthew Colangelo pointed jurors to what he described as the underlying scheme that resulted in Trump's alleged crimes, starting with a 2015 meeting at Trump Tower that included Trump, Michael Cohen and David Pecker, the former CEO of National Enquirer publisher American Media Inc. (AMI) Colangelo said they “struck an agreement at that meeting. Together, they conspired to influence the 2016 presidential election in three different ways.” Politico reports. Colangelo said Pecker agreed to act as the “eyes and ears” for Trump’s campaign and use the publications Pecker controlled to find negative information about Trump and report it to Cohen to prevent it from becoming public. Colangelo called this as “core of the conspiracy.” Pecker agreed to publish flattering stories about Trump, in many cases sending Trump headlines and stories about himself for his approval before they ran. Colangelo said, AMI would use its publications to run stories attacking Trump’s political opponents, including Ben Carson and Ted Cruz. After the meeting, Colangelo said, Pecker told his deputy, Dylan Howard, about the meeting and instructed him to help him carry it out. Trump lawyer Todd Blanche began his opening statement with these words: "President Trump is innocent. President Trump did not commit any crimes. The Manhattan district attorney’s office should never have brought this case." Blanche told jurors he would refer to Trump as “President Trump” because he “earned it.” “We will call him President Trump out of respect for the office that he held,” Blanche said. “He’s not just our former president. He’s not just Donald Trump that you’ve seen on TV…he’s also a man, he’s a husband, he’s a father. He’s a person, just like you and just like me.” Blanche offered a two-fold defense to jurors. First, he said, Trump cut checks to Cohen for legitimate legal services. Of Cohen, Blanche said, "He was President Trump's personal attorney. You will see documents, you will see emails. His signature block in 2017 said, 'Michael Cohen, personal attorney to President Trump.'" Secondly, Blanche said, Trump didn’t have personal involvement with the invoices from Cohen or the way they were recorded at the Trump Organization.

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Prosecutor Outlines 'Core Of The Conspiracy' In NYC Trump Case

In Monday's opening statements in Donald Trump's New York City criminal trial, prosecutor Matthew Colangelo pointed jurors to what he described as the underlying scheme that resulted in Trump's alleged crimes, starting with a 2015 meeting at Trump Tower that included Trump, Michael Cohen and David Pecker, the former CEO of National Enquirer publisher American Media Inc. (AMI) Colangelo said they “struck an agreement at that meeting. Together, they conspired to influence the 2016 presidential election in three different ways.” Politico reports. Colangelo said Pecker agreed to act as the “eyes and ears” for Trump’s campaign and use the publications Pecker controlled to find negative information about Trump and report it to Cohen to prevent it from becoming public. Colangelo called this as “core of the conspiracy.” Pecker agreed to publish flattering stories about Trump, in many cases sending Trump headlines and stories about himself for his approval before they ran. Colangelo said, AMI would use its publications to run stories attacking Trump’s political opponents, including Ben Carson and Ted Cruz. After the meeting, Colangelo said, Pecker told his deputy, Dylan Howard, about the meeting and instructed him to help him carry it out. Trump lawyer Todd Blanche began his opening statement with these words: "President Trump is innocent. President Trump did not commit any crimes. The Manhattan district attorney’s office should never have brought this case." Blanche told jurors he would refer to Trump as “President Trump” because he “earned it.” “We will call him President Trump out of respect for the office that he held,” Blanche said. “He’s not just our former president. He’s not just Donald Trump that you’ve seen on TV…he’s also a man, he’s a husband, he’s a father. He’s a person, just like you and just like me.” Blanche offered a two-fold defense to jurors. First, he said, Trump cut checks to Cohen for legitimate legal services. Of Cohen, Blanche said, "He was President Trump's personal attorney. You will see documents, you will see emails. His signature block in 2017 said, 'Michael Cohen, personal attorney to President Trump.'" Secondly, Blanche said, Trump didn’t have personal involvement with the invoices from Cohen or the way they were recorded at the Trump Organization.

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Are Homicide Rises, Falls Due To A 'Natural' Cycle Of Violent Crime?

Homicide totals are falling across the U.S. And that shift could affect the role crime — a top voter concern — plays as an issue in November’s election.  The phenomenon lacks a clear explanation. Some experts homicide peaks come and go in cycles, some cite policing improvements after the COVID-19 pandemic, and others attribute the change to the evolving national conversation about how to handle crime, reports The Hill. Experts aren’t agreed on why the number of homicides has fallen so far, so fast. Boston saw the sharpest decline from 2023 to 2024, 82 percent. In Philadelphia, homicides dropped by 37 percent; in Dallas, 27 percent; and in Chicago, 6 percent, according to estimates from city police department reports compiled by AH Datalytics. Jeffrey Fagan, professor of law and epidemiology at Columbia University, attributes the improvements to a typical crime cycle. He says, “I think there’s something natural in this cyclical nature of homicide and violence. One of the distinguishing features of what happened in the most recent period was that it had to do with murder more so than with other violent crimes. Other violent crimes rose but not nearly to the same extent as murder. It's likely to happen again, we just don’t understand the circumstances when these externalities will create the social and economic conditions for homicide rates to arise again.” Fagan cited other cycles, like in the 1960s when homicides started rising and peaked by 1972, then fell sharply. And in the late 1970s, when they took off again to peak in 1981 and then crash. And in the late 1980s, homicide rates skyrocketed and peaked in 1991 before crashing again. “So, what’s the common denominator other than the fact that there’s this recurring cycle of peaks, crashes, peaks, crashes, peaks, crashes? There’s something natural about these episodes in that they follow an epidemic pattern. Any epidemiologist will tell you that it looks like any other disease epidemic,” he said. Alex Piquero, former director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics, outlined the factors he argues caused the spike in homicides: Community prevention programs were put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, and law enforcement pulled back after the 2020 murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and because of pandemic staffing issues. Piquero, a professor of sociology and criminology at the University of Miami, said those conditions have been reset. “Their staffing levels are going up, police are around the community more, they’re targeting violent places and violent people using appropriate statistical methodology.” Andrea Headley, a criminal justice policy expert at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy, argued that investments from the federal government, whether from the bipartisan gun safety act or the American Rescue Plan, have made an impact. “We see funding for law enforcement that happened,” Headley said. “We see, which I think probably is arguably more important, is the funding and the support structures for community violence interventions, wraparound social support services, but also the investments in job programs and mentoring. Things that we know typically are correlates of violent crime. And, kind of this targeted approach of taking money from the federal level and investing it in local communities.”

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How Antiquated NY Courts Prevent Access To Trump Trial Documents

The criminal trial of former President Trump is getting 24-hour media coverage, but much of the case is happening in the dark. Cameras are banned in the courtroom, and lesser-known peculiarities of the court’s procedures have made critical aspects of the case opaque, reports Politico. A maze of arcane rules and archaic systems has made it virtually impossible for the media — and the public — to access key motions and pretrial rulings in real time. New York’s docketing practices have not been updated for the digital age. Justice Juan Merchan has imposed policies that force days or even weeks of delays before crucial documents become public. When they do, they have been subject to a heavy, court-imposed redaction process. Merchan frequently uses email to communicate with Trump’s defense lawyers and prosecutors. That’s led to a ballooning set of off-the-book messages that are shielded from the public. Some challenges with keeping the public apprised of developments in the case are baked into New York state courts’ antiquated procedures. New York state criminal court doesn’t have an online docket; the only way to see many documents filed in the case is by visiting the clerk’s office in person in Lower Manhattan or requesting each filing from the district attorney’s office or Trump’s lawyers. While the judge publicly set some deadlines for certain filings, others happen without warning, meaning anyone interested in seeing them wouldn’t know to request them. That has resulted in makeshift efforts to compensate for the lack of an online docket in a case with such intense public interest. The district attorney’s office has regularly sent out its filings to reporters, and Trump’s lawyers have begun posting theirs on the website of his lead attorney, Todd Blanche. Court officials have posted a handful of the judge’s rulings on the court website, along with a small selection of other filings from the lawyers. .

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Supreme Court To Decide If U.S. May Regulate 'Ghost Guns'

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider whether the Biden administration can lawfully regulate so-called ghost guns, firearms that are made from kits available online that people can assemble at home, NBC News reports . The justices took up a Biden administration appeal in defense of regulations that a lower court invalidated. The provisions are in effect while litigation continues. The Supreme Court allowed the regulations to be enforced last year. The rules were issued in 2022 by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to tackle an increase in the availability of ghost guns. The rule clarified that the parts used to make ghost guns fit within the definition of “firearm” under the federal Gun Control Act, meaning the government has the power to regulate them the same way it regulates firearms made and sold through the traditional process. The regulations require manufacturers and sellers of the kits to obtain licenses, mark the products with serial numbers, conduct background checks and maintain records. Texas-based U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor last year ruled in favor of Jennifer VanDerStok and Michael Andren, who own components they want to use to build guns. Plaintiffs also include gun rights groups and makers and sellers of ghost guns. After the Supreme Court allowed the regulation to remain in effect while litigation moved forward, the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals mostly ruled for the challengers. "Because Congress has neither authorized the expansion of firearm regulation nor permitted the criminalization of previously lawful conduct, the proposed rule constitutes unlawful agency action, in direct contravention of the legislature’s will," the ruling said. If that decision were allowed to go into effect, "anyone could buy a kit online and assemble a fully functional gun in minutes — no background check, records, or serial number required," U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar wrote. "The result would be a flood of untraceable ghost guns into our nation’s communities, endangering the public and thwarting law-enforcement efforts to solve violent crimes," she added.

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Tip Line Overwhelmed By AI-Generated Child Abuse Material

A surge in child sexual abuse material generated by AI is overwhelming authorities hindered by outdated technology and laws, says a report released Monday by Stanford University’s Internet Observatory. New AI technologies have made it easier for criminals to create explicit images of children. Stanford researchers are cautioning that the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children doesn’t have the resources to fight the rising threat. The organization’s CyberTipline, created in 1998, is the federal clearing house for all reports on child sexual abuse material (CSAM) online and is used by law enforcement to investigate crimes. Many of the tips received are incomplete or riddled with inaccuracies. Its small staff has struggled to keep up with the volume, the New York Times reports. “Almost certainly in the years to come, the CyberTipline will be flooded with highly realistic-looking AI content, which is going to make it even harder for law enforcement to identify real children who need to be rescued,” said Shelby Grossman, one of the report’s authors. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is combating a new wave of sexually exploitative content generated using AI that is still being defined by legislators and law enforcement officials. Already, amid an epidemic of deepfake AI-generated nudes circulating in schools, some lawmakers are taking action to ensure such content is deemed illegal. AI-generated images of CSAM are illegal if they contain real children or if images of actual children are used, researchers say. Synthetic ones that do not contain real images could be protected as free speech, said one of the report’s authors. The Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which fields tips from individuals and companies like Facebook and Google, has argued for legislation to increase its funding and give it access to more technology. The Stanford researchers found that the organization needs to change the way its tip line works to ensure that law enforcement could determine which reports involved AI-generated content, as well as ensure that companies reporting potential abuse material on their platforms fill out the forms completely.

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Conservatives Say High Court Police Ruling Will Help Them Fight DEI

The Supreme Court’s unanimous decision last week in favor of a St. Louis police sergeant was almost universally cast as a win for workers, who now have a lower bar for proving discrimination claims. Conservative activists are claiming that the case will give them added power to quash workplace programs for minorities and underrepresented groups, says the Washington Post . America First Legal, which has filed more than a dozen complaints over DEI policies, is factoring the ruling into its strategy, according to general counsel Gene Hamilton. The nonprofit, founded by a former President Trump adviser, will be “citing this decision in cases as we continue to dismantle so-called DEI programs, which almost always overtly discriminate against American citizens based on their race and sex,” he said. However, civil rights groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union dismissed such interpretations as fearmongering that discourages employers from expanding workplace opportunities. In 2018, Jatonya Clayborn Muldrow, a Black woman and veteran St. Louis police officer, sued her department alleging gender discrimination. Her transfer to a supervisory role resulted in a less prestigious position, and fewer perks, despite her rank and pay remaining the same. Lower courts dismissed Muldrow’s discrimination claims under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, saying they did not amount to “significant” harm, meaning a lesser title or a loss in salary or benefits. The Supreme Court was asked to consider whether Muldrow and other employees needed to show “significant harm” to bring a discrimination claim in a job transfer. The court ruled that it was not necessary to show significant harm, merely “some harm.” Legal experts agree that the ruling eased the burden of proof for workplace discrimination claims beyond lateral transfers. Proponents contend such initiatives are necessary to foster diversity and reach groups that historically have been denied advancement or locked out altogether. Critics contend they discriminate against white people and men, and are designed to advance a liberal worldview.

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Title IX Fixes To Aid Transgenders, Change Sex Assault Rules

The Biden administration finalized sweeping new rules barring schools from discriminating against transgender students and ordering significant changes for how schools adjudicate claims of sexual harassment and assault on campus. The provisions regarding gender identity are the most politically fraught, feeding an election-year culture clash with conservative states and school boards that have limited transgender rights in schools, banned discussion of gender identity in classrooms and removed books with LGBTQ+ themes. Mindful of the politics, the administration is delaying action on the contentious issue of whether transgender girls and women should be allowed to compete in women’s and girls’ sports, the Washington Post reports. The long-awaited regulation represents the administration’s interpretation of Title IX, a 1972 law that bars sex discrimination in schools that receive federal funding. Title IX is best known for advancing equal treatment for women in sports, but it also governs how schools handle complaints of sexual harassment and assault, a huge issue on many college campuses. Now the Biden administration is deploying the regulation to formalize its long-standing view that sex discrimination includes discrimination based on gender identity as well as sexual orientation, a direct challenge to conservative policies. Ten states, for instance, require transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their biological sex identified at birth, says the Movement Advancement Project. Some school districts will not use the pronouns corresponding with a trans student’s gender identity. Both situations might constitute violations of Title IX under the new regulation. In addition, a school's failure to address bullying based on gender identity or sexual orientation could be a violation of federal law. “No one should face bullying or discrimination just because of who they are or who they love. Sadly, this happens all too often,” said Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights investigates allegations of sex discrimination, and schools that fail to comply risk losing federal funding. A senior administration official said that the office could investigate cases where schools were potentially discriminating, even if they were following their own state’s law. The final regulation includes provisions barring discrimination based on pregnancy, including childbirth, abortion, and lactation.

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Will NY Law Protect Officer Who Ran Red Light, Killing Father?

Police Officer Justin Byrnes sent his 2.5-ton police cruiser barreling through an intersection at 88 mph just before he rammed into Sabeeh Alalkawi, killing the father of twins in the early hours of Feb. 22, 2023, in upstate New York. Byrnes, who was responding to a domestic disturbance call, was traveling nearly three times the posted 30 mph speed limit that night. The officer made a last-ditch attempt to hit the brakes, but his SUV zipped over the last 100 yards in less than three seconds, USA Today reports. A police reconstruction report found Byrnes responsible for the tragedy, saying his decision to drive through a red light without caution was the “primary contributing factor." His case is one more example where police have crashed a car into someone or something with devastating consequences, one of hundreds of cases being examined in a deep investigation by USA Today Network-New York and Syracuse University called "Driving Force." Across the U.S., thousands have been killed during police pursuits. Police have been  distracted by on-board computers , hit each other, wrecked cars rushing to a scene or  have driven into trees and buildings . Vehicle speed and training remain factors, experts say. In New York, a state law that allows police officers to break traffic rules when racing to emergencies is used  to protect them from discipline  when they make poor driving decisions and smash their cars along the way, the Driving Force investigation found. Unless an investigation by the New York State Attorney General’s Office determines Byrnes acted recklessly or with negligence, the officer will not face criminal charges because of the state law that offers him broad immunity when responding to a call. A year after Alalkawi's death, his family is still waiting for that decision. For now, Byrnes is still working for the police department — on desk duty.

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Trump’s Trial Puts Spotlight on Threats to Women

With the start of former President Trump’s unprecedented criminal trial, there is an inescapable spotlight on the effect of potential threats to women. Before the trial, Trump repeatedly criticized the judge's daughter. The mere prospect of being identified as a juror and the potential online harassment and other threats that could come with that, led at least two women to express concern or hesitation about further participation, The Louisiana Illuminator reports . Trump’s behavior is part of a pattern that targets women and appeals to voters often based on misogyny, experts said. “We live in a society in which violence against women is unchecked and normalized,” said Juliet Williams, a professor of gender studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Women on the jury may have more experience with bullying, being threatened, especially being victims of violence — and so less willing to put themselves in the bullseye of that.” The jury selection process included dismissals on Thursday of two people who had initially been seated, including the woman who was excused after expressing concern that her identity could be revealed. On Friday, a woman who was dismissed during questioning said she has “bad anxiety” and worried about people finding out about her involvement in the trial. Another burst into tears, adding: “This is so much more stressful than I thought it was going to be,” before she was excused. Williams said it’s reasonable for any juror to fear being targeted by Trump and his supporters, particularly if the verdict doesn’t go the way they wish. “The reason why women and people of color on the jury sitting alongside white men — even white women — should feel more concerned is that this is a politician who has built a base based on overt and unapologetic misogyny and racism,” she said. Sarah Sobieraj, a sociology professor at Tufts University and author of “Credible Threat: Attacks Against Women Online and the Future of Democracy,” emphasized the increasing danger of doxxing, where personal details like addresses and contact information are exposed online. Fox News host Jesse Watters exacerbated this risk on Wednesday by airing selected jurors' personal information, including their residences and workplaces.

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At Deadline, Biden Signs Extension Of Controversial Surveillance Law

President Biden signed legislation reauthorizing a key surveillance law after divisions over whether the FBI should be restricted from using the program to search for Americans’ data nearly forced the statute to lapse , the Associated Press reports. Barely missing its Saturday midnight deadline, the Senate approved the bill by a 60-34 vote hours earlier with bipartisan support, extending for two years the program known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). “In the nick of time, we are reauthorizing FISA right before it expires at midnight,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). “All day long, we persisted and we persisted in trying to reach a breakthrough and in the end, we have succeeded.” U.S. officials have said the surveillance tool, first authorized in 2008 and renewed several times since, is crucial in disrupting terrorist attacks, cyber intrusions, and foreign espionage and has produced intelligence that the U.S. has relied on for specific operations, such as the 2022 killing of al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri. "If you miss a key piece of intelligence, you may miss some event overseas or put troops in harm’s way,” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said. “You may miss a plot to harm the country here, domestically, or somewhere else. So in this particular case, there’s real-life implications.” The new law will renew the program, which permits the U.S. government to collect without a warrant the communications of non-Americans located outside the country to gather foreign intelligence. The reauthorization faced a long and bumpy road to final passage after months of clashes between privacy advocates and national security hawks pushed consideration of the legislation to the brink of expiration.

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Man Charged With Breaking Into L.A. Mayor Bass' Home

A 29-year-old Los Angeles man smashed a window and broke into the home of Mayor Karen Bass early Sunday morning. Ephraim Matthew Hunter was arrested, said Capt. Kelly Muniz, the Los Angeles Police Department’s chief spokeswoman. Bass was home at the time. Nothing was taken, and no injuries were reported, reports the Los Angeles Times “This morning at about 6:40 a.m., an intruder broke into Getty House through a window. Mayor Bass and her family were not injured and are safe. The Mayor is grateful to LAPD for responding and arresting the suspect,” said Zach Seidl, deputy mayor of communications. Getty House is the official residence of the mayor of Los Angeles. Hunter is being held in lieu of $50,000 bond. This is the second time in three years Bass has been the victim of a break-in. While she was running for office in 2022, two men stole a pair of handguns from her home, bypassing cash and electronics and taking only the weapons. Patricio Munoz and Juan Espinoza pleaded no contest to burglary and grand theft of a firearm, and both received prison sentences. Bass served as a Democratic member of Congress from 2011 until her election as the city’s 43rd mayor in 2022. The former state Assembly leader is the first woman and second Black person to hold the post, after former Mayor Tom Bradley, who served from 1973 to 1993.

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About Crime And Justice News
Crime and Justice News is a daily digest of criminal justice stories from across the nation. Each day, veteran journalists led by Ted Gest provide summaries of newsworthy reporting on all aspects of crime and punishment. Our news coverage is complemented by expert commentary and research to provide insights into important criminal justice issues and a deeper understanding of the criminal justice system.
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The National Criminal Justice Association
The Academy for Justice at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University
The School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University
The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University
Criminal Justice Journalists
All articles are chosen at the sole discretion of the Crime and Justice News editors. Any opinions expressed or positions taken here on Crime and Justice News are those of their respective authors.
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