Mexico scientist accused as Russian spy due for bail hearing

MIAMI — A bail hearing is set Friday for a Mexican scientist accused of spying for Russia in Miami.

An FBI affidavit said a Russian government official tasked Hector Cabrera Fuentes, 35, with tracking down a vehicle owned by a U.S. government informant.

The FBI says Cabrera and his Mexican wife did this on Valentine’s Day in an event captured by surveillance video at a Miami-area condominium complex. They attracted the notice of security by driving directly behind another car through a gate.

It’s not clear exactly why the Russians wanted this done, but the affidavit says the informant had previously provided information about Russian intelligence operations and implications for U.S. national security.

Cabrera was detained Sunday while attempting to leave the U.S. at Miami International Airport and subsequently gave a statement to the FBI. Cabrera is listed as an associate professor at the medical school jointly run by Duke University and the National University of Singapore, and was working in Singapore.

According to Cabrera’s statement, he has two wives — the Mexican one and a Russian one. The Russian woman and her two daughters were living in Germany but returned to Moscow last spring to attend to some administrative matters. Then, the Russian government wouldn’t let them leave, the affidavit said.

That prompted Cabrera to visit Moscow and his family in May 2019, where he was approached by a Russian official who he had met previously at professional events and exchanges. Cabrera told the FBI he believed the official was an intelligence officer.

It’s common for intelligence agents to insulate themselves by recruiting other people to carry out various tasks. Rarely does the recruit have full knowledge of the entire mission.

The Russian official, according to the affidavit, brought up Cabrera’s family situation in Russia and said, “We can help each other.”

Before Cabrera’s Miami mission to photograph the informant’s license plate, the FBI says the Russian official asked him to rent an apartment in the same complex as the informant but not in his real name. Cabrera paid an associate $20,000 to do so in late 2019, the FBI said.

It’s not clear from the affidavit if anything was done with the apartment.

Cabrera, a microbiologist who has held several prestigious posts, is originally from El Espinal, in the Mexican state of Oaxaca.

He is charged with acting in the U.S. on behalf of a foreign government without notifying the U.S. attorney general and conspiracy to do so. He will at least temporarily be represented by a public defender, but that lawyer hasn’t been named yet.

Curt Anderson, The Associated Press

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By The Wall of Law February 21, 2020 Off

AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EST

Intel officials say Russia boosting Trump candidacy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Intelligence officials have warned lawmakers that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election campaign to help President Donald Trump get reelected,three officialsfamiliar with the closed-door briefing said Thursday.

The warning raises questions about the integrity of the presidential campaign and whether Trump’s administration is taking the proper steps to combat the kind of interference that the U.S. saw in 2016.

The officials asked for anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence. They said the briefing last week focused on Russia’s efforts to influence the 2020 election and sow discord in the American electorate.

The warning was first reported by The New York Times and The Washington Post. The Times said the news infuriated Trump, who complained that Democrats would use the information against him. Over the course of his presidency, Trump has dismissed the intelligence community’s assessment of Russia’s 2016 election interference as a conspiracy to undermine his victory.

One day after the Feb. 13 briefing to the House Intelligence Committee, Trump berated the then-director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, and he announced this week that Maguire would be replaced by Richard Grenell, a Trump loyalist.

___

Trump ally Roger Stone sentenced to over 3 years in prison

WASHINGTON (AP) — Roger Stone, a longtime confidant of President Donald Trump, was sentenced to more than three years in prison Thursday for obstructing a congressional investigation in a case that has sparked fears about presidential interference in the justice system.

Soon after Judge Amy Berman Jackson pronounced sentence, Trump publicly decried Stone’s conviction as unfair and prominent Republican legislators were giving tacit support for a pardon. But Trump said he wasn’t ready to act just yet.

“I want the process to play out. I think that’s the best thing to do because I would love to see Roger exonerated,” he said. “I’m going to watch the process. I’m going to watch very closely. … At some point I’ll make a determination.”

The case was marked by the Justice Department’s extraordinary about-face on a sentencing recommendation and a very public dispute between Trump and Attorney General William Barr, who said the president was undermining the department’s historical independence and making “it impossible for me to do my job.”

The president responded by asserting that he was the “chief law enforcement officer of the federal government.”

___

Infighting and online hoaxes mar Democrats’ campaign

RINDGE, N.H. (AP) — A group of Los Angeles artists were awaiting the results of the Democratic Party’s Iowa caucuses, hoping Bernie Sanders would win, when they fired off a hashtag on Twitter poking fun at Pete Buttigieg.

By the next morning, the hashtag — #MayorCheat — was trending worldwide.

“That’s so funny that we’re the first people to make this joke,” said Nick Thorburn, a 38-year-old musician.

Not everyone was laughing.

Some on social media capitalized on the trending hashtag to spread misinformation or conspiracy theories about Buttigieg, including claims that he had colluded with the Democratic Party to rig the caucuses. Other accounts accused Russian trolls of promoting the hashtag to divide Democrats.

___

Bloomberg struggles to respond to politics of #MeToo era

WASHINGTON (AP) — Mike Bloomberg’s name last appeared on a ballot a decade before #MeToo transformed cultural mores surrounding sexual harassment and the treatment of women. As he campaigns for the presidency, the 78-year-old billionaire is struggling to adjust.

The former New York City mayor was caught flat-footed during much of Wednesday night’s debate when rival Elizabeth Warren blasted his company’s use of non-disclosure agreements in cases of sexual harassment. She sought to portray such agreements as endemic of a broader culture of sexism at the company, Bloomberg LP, when he was CEO.

Bloomberg’s response was dismissive. He said those who alleged misconduct “didn’t like a joke I told” and argued that non-disclosure agreements were “consensual” deals supported by the women involved.

The response struck some women as out of touch with how the #MeToo movement has reshaped the conversation around sexual harassment in the workplace — and the use of non-disclosure agreements in particular. Employment lawyer Debra Katz, who represented accuser Christine Blasey Ford in her Senate testimony against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, said Bloomberg’s comments “really missed the mark.”

“I think Bloomberg’s comments were tone-deaf,” she said. “In this moment, when we now understand that many NDAs were entered into in coercive manners, it’s incumbent upon companies and especially those (led by people) like Bloomberg, who are public figures, to agree to revisit these issues.”

___

South Korea ups emergency response as viral cases surge

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea reported more virus cases Friday and declared a “special management zone” around a southeastern city where the surging outbreak, largely linked to a church in Daegu, threatens to overwhelm the region’s health system.

In the capital, Seoul, officials banned major downtown rallies and shut down a big park to avoid mass public gatherings where the virus could spread. Workers in protective gear also sprayed disinfectant in the city’s subway.

Health authorities reported 52 new cases of the illness, raising South Korea’s total to 156, most of them since Wednesday. The spike, especially in and around Daegu city, has raised fears the outbreak is getting out of control in the country.

And the first two cases were confirmed in South Korea’s 600,000-member military, a navy sailor and an army officer who had both reportedly visited Daegu recently.

Prime Minister Chung Se-kyun said in a televised statement the central government will concentrate its support to the southeastern region to ease a shortage in sickbeds, medical personnel and equipment.

___

Stress, rumours, even violence: Virus fear goes viral

TOKYO (AP) — You might have heard that the fear of a new virus from China is spreading faster than the actual virus.

From earnest officials trying to calm a building panic. From your spouse. From the know-it-all who rattles off the many much more likely ways you’re going to die: smoking, car accidents, the flu.

None of it seems to matter.

As the number of cases rise — more than 76,000 and counting — fear is advancing like a tsunami. And not just in the areas surrounding the Chinese city of Wuhan, the site of the vast majority of coronavirus infections.

Subway cars in Tokyo and Seoul look more like hospital wards, with armies of masked commuters shooting dirty looks at the slightest cough or sneeze. A restaurant owner in a South Korean Chinatown says visitors have dropped by 90%.

___

German gunman calling for genocide kills 9 people

HANAU, Germany (AP) — A German who shot and killed nine people of foreign background in a rampage that began at a hookah bar frequented by immigrants had posted an online rant calling for the “complete extermination” of many “races or cultures in our midst,” authorities said Thursday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the attack exposed the “poison” of racism in the country.

The gunman, Tobias Rathjen, 43, was found dead at his home along with his mother, and authorities said they were treating the rampage as an act of domestic terrorism.

Turks, ethnic Kurds and people with backgrounds from Bulgaria, Bosnia and Romania were among those killed, according to news reports. Turkey’s ambassador said five of the dead were Turkish citizens. People of Turkish background make up Germany’s single largest minority.

Rathjen opened fire at the hookah bar and a neighbouring cafe in the Frankfurt suburb of Hanau around 10 p.m. Wednesday, killing several people, then travelled about 2.5 kilometres (1.5 miles) and fired on a car and a sports bar, claiming more victims. In addition to the dead, six people were injured, one seriously, authorities said.

___

Wrestler adds to abuse allegations against university doctor

ANN Arbour, Michigan (AP) — An Olympic wrestler on Thursday accused a University of Michigan doctor of touching him inappropriately during medical exams at the school and said the physician’s reputation for such conduct was well known among his teammates.

Andy Hrovat, who competed for the U.S. in the 2008 Summer Olympics, told The Associated Press that the encounters with the late Dr. Robert E. Anderson happened during his freshman year in 1998.

“I would like to let people know that it’s OK to come out,” Hrovat said in an interview from his attorney’s office in Denver. “It’s OK to let your voice be heard.”

He is the first athlete to make public accusations against Anderson following complaints this week from other former students that the doctor sexually abused them decades ago.

“I was warned about him from teammates, saying, ‘If anything happens and you go see the doctor, he’s going to inappropriately touch you, that’s just what Dr. A does,’” Hrovat recalled.

___

TV analyst? Spokesman? Freed ex-governor goes job hunting

CHICAGO (AP) — Job wanted: Ex-governor and ex-con with strong speaking skills and good hair seeking employment.

Fresh out of prison thanks to a commutation this week from President Donald Trump, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is in the hunt for a post-prison career.

“I need to start working and providing for my family,” the 63-year-old told Fox News this week. He didn’t elaborate on the kind of job he is seeking.

Job hunts have gotten Blagojevich in trouble before.

His expletive-laden talk captured on FBI wiretaps about landing a job or campaign cash for naming someone to Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat is part of what led to his multiple corruption convictions.

___

Trump apparently not a fan of ‘Parasite’

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is apparently not a fan of “Parasite,” his biggest complaint being that the movie was made in South Korea.

Trump started talking about the Academy Awards during a campaign rally in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Thursday. Parasite was named best picture, becoming the first non-English-language film to get the top honour.

“What the hell was that all about?” Trump said. “We’ve got enough problems with South Korea with trade. On top of that, they give them best movie of the year. Was it good? I don’t know.”

Neon, the U.S. distributor for the subtitled film, shot back on Twitter: “Understandable. He can’t read.”

The audience booed when Trump mentioned the Academy Awards and then cheered when he said: “Can we get like ‘’Gone with the Wind’ back please? ‘Sunset Boulevard,’ so many great movies.”

The Associated Press

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By The Wall of Law February 21, 2020 Off

AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EST

Intel officials say Russia boosting Trump candidacy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Intelligence officials have warned lawmakers that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election campaign to help President Donald Trump get reelected,three officialsfamiliar with the closed-door briefing said Thursday.

The warning raises questions about the integrity of the presidential campaign and whether Trump’s administration is taking the proper steps to combat the kind of interference that the U.S. saw in 2016.

The officials asked for anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence. They said the briefing last week focused on Russia’s efforts to influence the 2020 election and sow discord in the American electorate.

The warning was first reported by The New York Times and The Washington Post. The Times said the news infuriated Trump, who complained that Democrats would use the information against him. Over the course of his presidency, Trump has dismissed the intelligence community’s assessment of Russia’s 2016 election interference as a conspiracy to undermine his victory.

One day after the Feb. 13 briefing to the House Intelligence Committee, Trump berated the then-director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, and he announced this week that Maguire would be replaced by Richard Grenell, a Trump loyalist.

___

Trump ally Roger Stone sentenced to over 3 years in prison

WASHINGTON (AP) — Roger Stone, a longtime confidant of President Donald Trump, was sentenced to more than three years in prison Thursday for obstructing a congressional investigation in a case that has sparked fears about presidential interference in the justice system.

Soon after Judge Amy Berman Jackson pronounced sentence, Trump publicly decried Stone’s conviction as unfair and prominent Republican legislators were giving tacit support for a pardon. But Trump said he wasn’t ready to act just yet.

“I want the process to play out. I think that’s the best thing to do because I would love to see Roger exonerated,” he said. “I’m going to watch the process. I’m going to watch very closely. … At some point I’ll make a determination.”

The case was marked by the Justice Department’s extraordinary about-face on a sentencing recommendation and a very public dispute between Trump and Attorney General William Barr, who said the president was undermining the department’s historical independence and making “it impossible for me to do my job.”

The president responded by asserting that he was the “chief law enforcement officer of the federal government.”

___

Infighting and online hoaxes mar Democrats’ campaign

RINDGE, N.H. (AP) — A group of Los Angeles artists were awaiting the results of the Democratic Party’s Iowa caucuses, hoping Bernie Sanders would win, when they fired off a hashtag on Twitter poking fun at Pete Buttigieg.

By the next morning, the hashtag — #MayorCheat — was trending worldwide.

“That’s so funny that we’re the first people to make this joke,” said Nick Thorburn, a 38-year-old musician.

Not everyone was laughing.

Some on social media capitalized on the trending hashtag to spread misinformation or conspiracy theories about Buttigieg, including claims that he had colluded with the Democratic Party to rig the caucuses. Other accounts accused Russian trolls of promoting the hashtag to divide Democrats.

___

Bloomberg struggles to respond to politics of #MeToo era

WASHINGTON (AP) — Mike Bloomberg’s name last appeared on a ballot a decade before #MeToo transformed cultural mores surrounding sexual harassment and the treatment of women. As he campaigns for the presidency, the 78-year-old billionaire is struggling to adjust.

The former New York City mayor was caught flat-footed during much of Wednesday night’s debate when rival Elizabeth Warren blasted his company’s use of non-disclosure agreements in cases of sexual harassment. She sought to portray such agreements as endemic of a broader culture of sexism at the company, Bloomberg LP, when he was CEO.

Bloomberg’s response was dismissive. He said those who alleged misconduct “didn’t like a joke I told” and argued that non-disclosure agreements were “consensual” deals supported by the women involved.

The response struck some women as out of touch with how the #MeToo movement has reshaped the conversation around sexual harassment in the workplace — and the use of non-disclosure agreements in particular. Employment lawyer Debra Katz, who represented accuser Christine Blasey Ford in her Senate testimony against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, said Bloomberg’s comments “really missed the mark.”

“I think Bloomberg’s comments were tone-deaf,” she said. “In this moment, when we now understand that many NDAs were entered into in coercive manners, it’s incumbent upon companies and especially those (led by people) like Bloomberg, who are public figures, to agree to revisit these issues.”

___

South Korea ups emergency response as viral cases surge

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea reported more virus cases Friday and declared a “special management zone” around a southeastern city where the surging outbreak, largely linked to a church in Daegu, threatens to overwhelm the region’s health system.

In the capital, Seoul, officials banned major downtown rallies and shut down a big park to avoid mass public gatherings where the virus could spread. Workers in protective gear also sprayed disinfectant in the city’s subway.

Health authorities reported 52 new cases of the illness, raising South Korea’s total to 156, most of them since Wednesday. The spike, especially in and around Daegu city, has raised fears the outbreak is getting out of control in the country.

And the first two cases were confirmed in South Korea’s 600,000-member military, a navy sailor and an army officer who had both reportedly visited Daegu recently.

Prime Minister Chung Se-kyun said in a televised statement the central government will concentrate its support to the southeastern region to ease a shortage in sickbeds, medical personnel and equipment.

___

Stress, rumours, even violence: Virus fear goes viral

TOKYO (AP) — You might have heard that the fear of a new virus from China is spreading faster than the actual virus.

From earnest officials trying to calm a building panic. From your spouse. From the know-it-all who rattles off the many much more likely ways you’re going to die: smoking, car accidents, the flu.

None of it seems to matter.

As the number of cases rise — more than 76,000 and counting — fear is advancing like a tsunami. And not just in the areas surrounding the Chinese city of Wuhan, the site of the vast majority of coronavirus infections.

Subway cars in Tokyo and Seoul look more like hospital wards, with armies of masked commuters shooting dirty looks at the slightest cough or sneeze. A restaurant owner in a South Korean Chinatown says visitors have dropped by 90%.

___

German gunman calling for genocide kills 9 people

HANAU, Germany (AP) — A German who shot and killed nine people of foreign background in a rampage that began at a hookah bar frequented by immigrants had posted an online rant calling for the “complete extermination” of many “races or cultures in our midst,” authorities said Thursday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the attack exposed the “poison” of racism in the country.

The gunman, Tobias Rathjen, 43, was found dead at his home along with his mother, and authorities said they were treating the rampage as an act of domestic terrorism.

Turks, ethnic Kurds and people with backgrounds from Bulgaria, Bosnia and Romania were among those killed, according to news reports. Turkey’s ambassador said five of the dead were Turkish citizens. People of Turkish background make up Germany’s single largest minority.

Rathjen opened fire at the hookah bar and a neighbouring cafe in the Frankfurt suburb of Hanau around 10 p.m. Wednesday, killing several people, then travelled about 2.5 kilometres (1.5 miles) and fired on a car and a sports bar, claiming more victims. In addition to the dead, six people were injured, one seriously, authorities said.

___

Wrestler adds to abuse allegations against university doctor

ANN Arbour, Michigan (AP) — An Olympic wrestler on Thursday accused a University of Michigan doctor of touching him inappropriately during medical exams at the school and said the physician’s reputation for such conduct was well known among his teammates.

Andy Hrovat, who competed for the U.S. in the 2008 Summer Olympics, told The Associated Press that the encounters with the late Dr. Robert E. Anderson happened during his freshman year in 1998.

“I would like to let people know that it’s OK to come out,” Hrovat said in an interview from his attorney’s office in Denver. “It’s OK to let your voice be heard.”

He is the first athlete to make public accusations against Anderson following complaints this week from other former students that the doctor sexually abused them decades ago.

“I was warned about him from teammates, saying, ‘If anything happens and you go see the doctor, he’s going to inappropriately touch you, that’s just what Dr. A does,’” Hrovat recalled.

___

TV analyst? Spokesman? Freed ex-governor goes job hunting

CHICAGO (AP) — Job wanted: Ex-governor and ex-con with strong speaking skills and good hair seeking employment.

Fresh out of prison thanks to a commutation this week from President Donald Trump, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is in the hunt for a post-prison career.

“I need to start working and providing for my family,” the 63-year-old told Fox News this week. He didn’t elaborate on the kind of job he is seeking.

Job hunts have gotten Blagojevich in trouble before.

His expletive-laden talk captured on FBI wiretaps about landing a job or campaign cash for naming someone to Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat is part of what led to his multiple corruption convictions.

___

Trump apparently not a fan of ‘Parasite’

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is apparently not a fan of “Parasite,” his biggest complaint being that the movie was made in South Korea.

Trump started talking about the Academy Awards during a campaign rally in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Thursday. Parasite was named best picture, becoming the first non-English-language film to get the top honour.

“What the hell was that all about?” Trump said. “We’ve got enough problems with South Korea with trade. On top of that, they give them best movie of the year. Was it good? I don’t know.”

Neon, the U.S. distributor for the subtitled film, shot back on Twitter: “Understandable. He can’t read.”

The audience booed when Trump mentioned the Academy Awards and then cheered when he said: “Can we get like ‘’Gone with the Wind’ back please? ‘Sunset Boulevard,’ so many great movies.”

The Associated Press

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TV analyst? Spokesman? Freed ex-governor goes job hunting

CHICAGO — Job wanted: Ex-governor and ex-con with strong speaking skills and good hair seeking employment.

Fresh out of prison thanks to a commutation this week from President Donald Trump, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is in the hunt for a post-prison career.

“I need to start working and providing for my family,” the 63-year-old told Fox News this week. He didn’t elaborate on the kind of job he is seeking.

Job hunts have gotten Blagojevich in trouble before.

His expletive-laden talk captured on FBI wiretaps about landing a job or campaign cash for naming someone to Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat is part of what led to his multiple corruption convictions.

Here’s a look at what jobs might be out there for the one-time contestant on Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice” reality TV show:

Q: WHAT ARE THE RANGE OF POSSIBLE JOBS?

A: His options could include becoming a commentator on a cable news channel, where criminal convictions aren’t necessarily a disqualification. A self-employed podcaster could be another option.

Blagojevich could try to parlay his relative fame into a gig on another reality TV show. Producers might see his sometimes engaging and offbeat character as a draw.

Blagojevich himself mused about dream jobs in the secret recordings of his phone that played central roles at his two corruption trials.

“Why can’t I be ambassador to India?” he is heard telling an aide. He later adds, “Gotta think I can at least be ambassador to Macedonia.”

He also talked about heading a philanthropic organization.

He could do a book. A confessional-type book could attract interest, one in which he describes a metamorphosis as he served eight years of a 14-year sentence. But the only obvious change in Blagojevich is that his trademark thick hair changed from black to white.

His insistence that he never did anything wrong is wholly unchanged.

When his Fox News interviewer asked Wednesday if he felt even a “modicum of regret” for decisions that led to his imprisonment, Blagojevich responded promptly, “No.” He added categorically: “I broke no laws. I crossed no lines.”

He has spoken at length in recent days about what he described as an overzealous federal justice system, echoing Trump. That could position him as a spokesman for advocacy organization that agrees with him.

Q: MIGHT TRUMP OFFER HIM A JOB?

A: That seems far-fetched. But it’s possible Blagojevich believes Trump could follow up a commutation with a job offer in his administration.

In recent days, it sometimes seemed Blagojevich might be pining for something more from Trump.

The Chicago Democrat heaped praise on the Republican president as he addressed reporters outside his home Wednesday, a day after his release from a federal prion in Colorado. Blagojevich went so far as to say he’d vote for Trump, calling himself a “Trumpocrat.”

Q: WHAT SALARY MIGHT HE BE LOOKING FOR?

A: At trial, prosecutors highlighted Blagojevich’s extravagant tastes. They said he and his wife, Patti, spent more than $400,000 on clothes that included tailored suits and furs. On a single day, he even shelled out $1,300 on ties.

As governor, Blagojevich made a salary of around $177,000. In wiretaps, he sounds unimpressed when someone mentions that being the head of a non-profit might bring in $200,000 or $300,000. “Oh, that’s all?” he says.

Blagojevich and his wife were awash in more than $200,000 in consumer debt when he was arrested in 2008. Their debts deepened as his legal bills stacked up.

Q: WHAT MIGHT CURTAIL HIS JOB PROSPECTS?

A: His severely tainted reputation, for starters. Many employers may be reluctant to associate their companies with a disgraced politician whose convictions included trying to shake down the CEO of a children’s hospital.

Agents arrested then-Gov. Blagojevich after wiretaps recorded him gushing about using his power to appoint someone to the Senate seat to land a well-pay job or campaign cash, saying the leverage it provided was ” f—— golden.”

Prosecutors cited that comment to explain why they moved fast to arrest Blagojevich. An appeals court later tossed convictions based on his bid for a job but upheld ones based on his attempt to trade an appointment for money.

Blagojevich can’t run for office in Illinois under conditions set by state legislators when they ousted him as governor in 2009.

Blagojevich, who got his law degree from Pepperdine University in 1983, can probably cross lawyer off the prospective jobs list.

The Illinois Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission is scheduled to hold a hearing next week that will likely lead to his disbarment. A former complaint says his crimes “adversely reflect on his honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer.”

Q: WHAT ARE HIS QUALIFICATIONS?

A: After law school, Blagojevich worked as a Cook County prosecutor. Years later, he won an Illinois House seat, then U.S. House seat. He won the Illinois governorship in 2002 running on a pledge to crack down on corruption.

The son of Serbian-American parents is well-read and has a good memory, sometimes showing that by naming all the U.S. presidents in the proper order.

As a politician, he demonstrated a Bill Clinton-like ability to contact with people of disparate backgrounds. Perhaps that could open the way to a sales or marketing job.

But he’s often demonstrated a lack of common sense and everyday know-how.

Trump fired him from “Celebrity Apprentice” after Blagojevich struggled with basic tasks like sending emails from a cellphone.

Former staff recall Blagojevich as disengaged and disorganized as governor, and that he was someone who would go out of his way to avoid hearing bad news.

Blagojevich would go so far as hiding in a bathroom to avoid discussing the state budget with his budget director, a former deputy governor, Robert Greenlee, testified at one of Blagojevich’s trials.

Blagojevich also had trouble focusing on legislation and could let paperwork pile up, Greenlee said. Among the duties Blagojevich rarely got to were petitions from Illinois state prisoners desperately seeking gubernatorial pardons.

___

Follow Michael Tarm on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mtarm

Michael Tarm, The Associated Press




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Mississippi man accused of killing 8 tears up during trial

MAGNOLIA, Miss. — Testimony from a Mississippi woman whose son and nephew were two of the eight victims killed in an early morning shooting in 2017 was so emotional that the man accused of killing them was in tears.

The Daily Leader reports that Shayla Edwards took the stand Wednesday and testified that Willie Cory Godbolt, a relative by marriage, had taken her son running through his neighbourhood.

“Mama, I learned how to breathe when you’re running,” Edwards said her 11-year-old son Austin excitedly told her a week before Godbolt allegedly shot him to death.

Days later, while at her sister’s house, Edwards would hold her son’s lifeless body to her chest and kiss him, rocking him and begging him to wake up.

She began to cry when shown the crime scene photos of Tiffany Blackwell’s living room that showed the bodies of Austin and Blackwell’s 18-year-old son Jordan.

Godbolt shook his head listening to Edward’s testimony, his face wet with tears while she talked about how Godbolt had been a part of their lives for decades and was a part of their church family, the Daily Leader reported.

Blackwell followed her sister on the stand, recounting a similar version of the night they left her home after Godbolt’s ex-wife, now Sheena May, called her for help after Lincoln County Sheriff’s deputy William Durr, May’s mother Barbara Mitchell, her sister Toccara May and her aunt Brenda May were shot multiple times and killed. Married couple Ferral and Sheila Burrage were also fatally shot at a third location.

Blackwell testified that her nephew Caleb, Shayla Edward’s son, later called her to tell her the devastating news.

“He said, ‘Aunt Tiffany, Cory killed Jordan and Austin,’ “she said.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Godbolt, 37. He has pleaded not guilty to four counts of capital murder, four counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, two counts of kidnapping and one count of armed robbery.

The killings began after Godbolt entered his in-laws’ home in Bogue Chitto and got into an argument with his estranged wife and her family over the couple’s two children, a witness testified earlier in the trial.

Godbolt has remained in custody since his arrest on May 28, 2017, hours after the shootings that Memorial Day weekend.

Testimony is expected to continue next week.

The Associated Press

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