Chicago police release hundreds of videos, documents on Jussie Smollett investigation

CHICAGO — On the night Jussie Smollett reported being the victim of a vicious hate crime, he stepped forward to greet police officers wearing a powerful symbol of the attack he said he suffered: a thin white rope looped around his neck, braided into a tangled noose and reaching below his chest.

“The reason I’m calling (police) is because of this s—-,” one of Smollett’s managers told the officers, reaching toward Smollett to grab the noose with disdain.

“Do you want to take it off or anything?” an officer asked Smollett, then an actor on the Fox show, “Empire.”

“Yeah, I do. I just wanted y’all to see it,” said Smollett, struggling for a moment to remove the loops of rope around his neck.

Chicago police released the curious exchange along with hundreds of other videos late Monday afternoon as well as hundreds of pages of texts, emails and internal documents in the latest document dump in a case that stoked an international media firestorm.

Smollett, who is African American and openly gay, reported that two men attacked him on a frigid January night in downtown Chicago, slipping a noose around his neck and shouting racist and homophobic slurs.

Following an intense investigation by Chicago police, Smollett eventually turned from victim to suspect.

— Chicago Tribune

Supreme Court says law imposing extra prison time for ‘crimes of violence’ is too vague

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday struck down part of a 1980s-era crime law that adds longer prison terms for offenders who carried a gun during a “crime of violence,” with Justice Neil M. Gorsuch speaking for the court and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh in dissent.

The court by a 5-4 vote ruled for two Dallas men who were convicted of robbing several convenience stores and then were given an extra 25 years in prison for carrying a sawed-off shotgun during the crime.

The dispute highlights a sharp difference between President Donald Trump’s two appointees. Gorsuch is a libertarian who is skeptical of the government, and Kavanaugh is a more traditional law-and-order conservative.

Gorsuch, speaking for the court, said the justices should not uphold “vague” laws that do not “give ordinary people fair warning about what the law demands of them.” Maurice Davis and Andre Glover were convicted of robberies. In addition, they were charged with a “conspiracy” to carry a gun during an act that “by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force will be used.” That conviction added 25 years to their terms, for a total of 41 for Glover and 50 for Davis.

But Gorsuch, joined by the court’s four liberals, said law regarding a “crime of violence” was unconstitutionally vague.

— Los Angeles Times

Trump official says U.S. is running out of money to shelter migrant kids

WASHINGTON — The U.S. government may run out of money in July to shelter migrant children apprehended as they cross the southern border with Mexico, said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

“We are full,” he told reporters after a meeting at the White House on Monday. “We do not have capacity for more of these unaccompanied children to come across the border.

“At some point in early July we are probably going to be out of money,” Azar said. “This isn’t political; this isn’t about immigration.”

Azar’s department is responsible for managing a network of privately run shelters for migrant children apprehended by U.S. immigration authorities. The number of children in the government’s care has grown thanks to a surge of migrants at the southern border. Customs and Border Protection says it’s apprehended more than 56,000 children unaccompanied by their parents or other caregivers at the border since October.

HHS says it received about 49,000 children from immigration authorities in the entire 2018 fiscal year, which ended in September.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bill last week that would provide $4.6 billion in emergency money the Trump administration has sought to deal with the migration surge. The full Senate will vote on the bill this week, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has said.

The House will vote on its own version of the legislation this week.

— Bloomberg News

Federal jury finds man guilty of kidnapping, slaying Chinese scholar

PEORIA, Ill. — A federal jury on Monday deliberated for less than two hours before finding Brendt Christensen guilty in the kidnapping and slaying of Chinese scholar Yingying Zhang in 2017.

The 12-member panel will now be asked to decide whether Christensen, 29, should be sentenced to death for the crime. That process is expected to begin July 8.

Christensen sat expressionless as the verdict was read. He could receive the first death sentence in years in Illinois, which abolished the death penalty in state courts in 2011.

Outside the federal courthouse, Zhang’s father, Ronggao Zhang, read a statement in Chinese that was translated into English after the guilty verdict. He thanked the “many people in China, America and across the world who have reached out to us in friendship to support us.”

“We have missed Yingying tremendously in the past two years,” he said. “As of today, we still could not imagine how we could live the rest of our lives without her. There is no language that can describe our pain and suffering. We hope and believe that this trial will eventually bring justice to Yingying and us. Our wish has always been to find Yingying and bring her home. We will not give up.”

Zhang’s mother, brother and boyfriend stood with her father outside the courthouse as he read the statement. Zhang’s brother consoled his mother as she wailed in grief.

Christensen’s father did not say anything to reporters as he left the courthouse Monday.

The verdict came as little surprise as Christensen’s attorneys admitted in their opening statement that he killed Zhang, a 26-year-old visiting scholar at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign whose body has not been found.

The jury found Christensen guilty of all three counts against him — one count of kidnapping resulting in death and two counts of lying to federal agents.

— Chicago Tribune

2 Italian cities win vote to host 2026 Winter Olympics

For weeks, it seemed that Italy held the edge in bidding for the 2026 Winter Games. On Monday, Olympic leaders made it official.

The cities of Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo beat out a rival bid from Sweden on a 47-34 vote as the International Olympic Committee made good on its desire to return to a traditional winter sports setting.

“The passion and knowledge of Italian fans, together with experienced venue operators, will create the perfect atmosphere for the best athletes in the world,” IOC President Thomas Bach said, describing the winner as “a classic Alpine environment.”

The IOC noted the Milan-Cortina bid was bolstered by “unified backing” from local and national government. Previously, an evaluation report had seemed to give Italy the advantage, in part, because of financial guarantees for construction.

Italy recently hosted the Winter Olympics, with Turin serving as host in 2006. The Cortina d’Ampezzo resort area had a previous turn, too, in 1956.

Sweden had proposed Stockholm and Are in hopes of earning its first Winter Games, but government officials had not promised significant support.

— Los Angeles Times