Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: July 1, 2021

Bill Cosby's sexual assault conviction is overturned, grand jury indicts Trump Organization and its CFO, and more

1

Cosby released from prison after sexual assault conviction overturned

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned comedian Bill Cosby's sexual assault conviction, and ordered his release from prison. The court reversed lower court rulings by finding that Cosby's right against self-incrimination was violated. The decision hinged on a prosecutor's decision years ago not to prosecute Cosby, who then spoke freely about the matter in a lawsuit, only to have that testimony used against him by another prosecutor. The state's high court called that "an affront to fundamental fairness." Cosby was convicted on three felony counts of aggravated indecent assault in 2018 for drugging and sexually assaulting a woman in 2004, and was three years into a three- to 10-year sentence. Some of the dozens of women who have accused Cosby of sexual abuse called the decision to free him a grave injustice

2

Grand jury indicts Trump Organization and its CFO

A New York grand jury has indicted the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, on tax-related criminal charges, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter. The charges, expected to be revealed in court Thursday, would mark the first against former President Donald Trump's company since prosecutors three years ago started looking into allegations that included undervaluing properties to reduce the company's taxes. The charges are not expected to implicate Trump, who has denied wrongdoing and called the investigations by the Manhattan prosecutor and the state attorney general, both Democrats, politically motivated. He said earlier this week the case involved "things that are standard practice throughout the U.S. business community, and in no way a crime."

3

House approves select committee on Jan. 6 Capitol attack

The House voted 222-190 on Wednesday to establish a select committee to investigate the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a mob of former President Donald Trump's supporters. Only two Republicans — Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — voted in favor of forming the committee. No vote is needed by the Senate, where Republicans last month blocked the creation of an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the riot, arguing that Democrats would use it against GOP candidates in next year's midterm elections. "It will find the truth, which clearly the Republicans fear," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said. "It does not appear at this time that we can have a bipartisan commission. Hopefully that could still happen."

4

Death toll rises to 18 at fallen Florida condo tower

The number of people confirmed dead in the collapse of a Surfside, Florida, condominium tower rose to 18 on Wednesday after search crews found six more bodies, including two children ages 4 and 10. The Miami-Dade mayor called the loss "too great to bear." About 145 people remain missing. Crews searching for survivors in buried pockets within the rubble pile managed to build ramps designed to allow heavier equipment to get in, potentially speeding up the task of sifting through the rubble from the 12-story Champlain Towers South tower, which fell last week. Investigators have yet to determine what caused the collapse, although engineers had warned of the urgent need for structural repairs.

5

UNC-Chapel Hill board approves tenure for Hannah-Jones

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's board of trustees voted Wednesday to grant tenure to Nikole Hannah-Jones, following weeks of backlash over an initial decision to withhold the job-protecting status from the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. She is best known for conceiving the 1619 Project for The New York Times, which reexamined the legacy of slavery. Conservative critics claimed she distorted history by arguing one of the Founding Fathers' main goals in seeking independence was protecting slavery. Protesters at the meeting expressed support for Hannah-Jones, whose case was seen by many angry faculty members as a test case on equity for Black women in academia. The board's vice chair, R. Gene Davis Jr., said in announcing the 9-4 vote that it showed the board supports "academic freedom."

6

Actress Allison Mack sentenced to 3 years for role in sex cult

Actress Allison Mack was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison for her role in a sex cult. Mack, who starred on Smallville, pleaded guilty to charges of racketeering and racketeering conspiracy in 2019. Prosecutors said she recruited women to a supposed mentorship group in the organization NXIVM that engaged in sex trafficking and whose victims were "exploited, both sexually and for their labor." She "directly or implicitly required her slaves" to engage in sexual activity with NXIVM founder Keith Raniere, prosecutors said. Raniere was previously sentenced to 120 years in prison. Mack also received a $20,000 fine. In a letter, Mack apologized "to those of you that I brought into NXIVM," saying, "I am sorry I ever exposed you to the nefarious and emotionally abusive schemes of a twisted man."

7

Trump ranks 41st among former presidents in C-SPAN survey

Former President Donald Trump made his debut in C-SPAN's Historian's Survey of Presidential Leadership ranked 41st, ahead of just three ex-presidents. Trump came in ahead of Franklin Pierce, Andrew Johnson (who, like Trump, was impeached), and James Buchanan, who consistently places last. The survey measures each president based on 10 leadership qualities. Trump placed last for administrative skills and moral authority. Former President Barack Obama moved into the top 10 for the first time, moving up from No. 12 with a boost from his 3rd place ranking for pursuing liberty and justice for all, behind just Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon B. Johnson. Lincoln was ranked first in the overall survey, as he has since the survey began in 2000.

8

James Franco to pay $2.2 million to settle sexual misconduct suit

Actor James Franco will pay $2.2 million to settle a sexual-exploitation class-action lawsuit filed by Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal, two former students at his acting school, according to court documents made public Wednesday. Tither-Kaplan and Gaal accused Franco, business partner Vince Jolivette, Rabbit Bandini Productions, and the production company's general manager, Jay Davis, of sex discrimination, sexual harassment, fraudulent business practices, and intimidation, along with other allegations. The lawsuit said the Oscar-nominated actor's Studio 4 acting and filmmaking school was designed to provide the defendants with young, impressionable women to exploit. Under the terms of the settlement, Franco and the others admit no liability, and the named plaintiffs agreed to drop individual claims against Franco.

9

Judge denies Britney Spears' request to remove father as conservator

A judge has rejected a request from Britney Spears to remove her father, Jamie, as her conservator, a week after the singer called the conservatorship "traumatizing" and "abusive." Court documents filed Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court said Spears was "substantially unable" to manage her financial resources and "resist fraud," and that Bessemer Trust had been approved as co-conservator. The decision was not made in response to last week's hearing, during which Spears spoke for more than 20 minutes about the conservatorship, revealing that it has left her "depressed." Because Spears has not filed to completely terminate her conservatorship, Variety reported, the judge wasn't able to take her remarks into consideration while determining Wednesday's ruling.

10

Former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld dies at 88

Donald Rumsfeld, the twice-former defense secretary who oversaw the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, died Wednesday in Taos, New Mexico, his family said. He was 88. Rumsfeld served as defense secretary under Presidents Gerald Ford and George W. Bush, making him the youngest and oldest person to serve in that job. Rumsfeld, a longtime Republican powerbroker, also was White House chief of staff under Ford, and NATO ambassador for Ford and President Richard Nixon. But many remember him primarily as the architect of the U.S. war against al Qaeda after 9/11. Bush fired Rumsfeld in 2006 after the country got bogged down fighting insurgencies that left thousands of U.S. soldiers and many thousands more civilians dead in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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