Federal prosecutors charged 22 suspected MS-13 gang members for their roles in seven “medieval-style” murders, one of which allegedly involved six gangsters dismembering a rival with machetes before carving out his heart and dumping his remains into a canyon. Nineteen of the defendants entered the U.S. illegally within the past four years, mostly from Honduras and El Salvador, according to an indictment unsealed this week. All but two are younger than 24. They sought entry or promotion within the “Fulton Clique,” one of about 20 MS-13 units in Los Angeles, and mostly targeted other undocumented immigrants suspected of cooperating with law enforcement, belonging to a rival gang, or fraudulently claiming MS-13 membership; the dismembered man was thought to have defaced MS-13 graffiti. Other murders were carried out with baseball bats or knives on victims lured to an abandoned building, empty rooftop or park, or Angeles National Forest.
A judge this week ordered former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone to stop using Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter after he repeatedly mocked officials involved in his upcoming case. Stone, 66, a longtime GOP consultant and self-described “dirty trickster,” awaits trial in November on charges of obstruction of justice, witness tampering, and lying to investigators about his contacts with WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign. Stone relentlessly defied a gag order and continued to comment on the case, including writing on Instagram that former CIA Director John Brennan is a “psycho” who should be “hanged for treason.” Declining to revoke his bond—which would only give Stone more publicity—Judge Amy Berman Jackson said, “I am wrestling with behavior that has more to do with middle school than a court of law.”
President Trump hosted 200 of his most enthusiastic online surrogates at a White House “social media summit” last week, inviting right-wing activists, conspiracy theorists, and meme makers. Trump complimented his guests’ talents, saying, “The crap you think of is unbelievable.” Attendees included James O’Keefe, an activist who stages video “stings’’ of liberals; Ali Alexander, who’s challenged the blackness of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.); and Bill Mitchell, who touts the anti-government QAnon conspiracy. The summit focused on what Trump called the “dishonesty, bias, discrimination, and suppression” of social media companies, although Twitter and Facebook weren’t invited. Trump also boasted about his successesful Twitter provocations, such as the claim that President Obama wiretapped his campaign. “I used to watch it like a rocket ship when I put out a beauty.”
The House passed a defense bill requiring congressional approval for any use of military force against Iran, except in cases of self-defense. The vote sets up a showdown in the GOP-controlled Senate, which has rejected similar restrictions. More than two dozen House Republicans joined Democrats to include the provision in a $733 billion spending package, although no Republicans voted for the overall bill, which also returns transgender troops to the armed forces, blocks using the military budget to fund detentions by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and suspends certain weapons sales to Saudi Arabia. The new limits would counter the expansion of the president’s war powers, which have steadily grown, especially since Sept. 11, 2001. The simmering conflict with Iran reached a near-boiling point last month, when President Trump authorized, then called off, an airstrike in response to Iran’s downing of a U.S. surveillance drone.
New York City
Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera was sentenced this week to life in prison plus 30 years, likely in a Colorado “supermax” facility known as the Alcatraz of the Rockies. Guzmán, 62, waited in solitary confinement in Manhattan since his February conviction on 10 counts of murder, drug, and money-laundering charges. He reappeared in court having grown back his trademark mustache; after turning to his family and tapping his heart, the former Sinaloa cartel leader said confinement amounted to “psychological, emotional, and mental torture.” Upon being extradited to the U.S. in 2016, “I expected to have a fair trial,” Guzmán said through an interpreter, “but what happened was exactly the opposite.” Prosecutors presented a mountain of evidence, which Judge Brian Cogan said illustrated “overwhelming evil.” Guzmán was also ordered to pay back $12.6 billion in revenue his organization generated distributing drugs in the U.S.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Thousands of protesters demanded the resignation of Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosselló this week; police used tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets against the demonstrators. Authorities say protesters threw cobblestones and bottles and lit dozens of fires in the streets. The multiday protests followed the leak of encrypted chats involving Rosselló and top aides, in which the governor, 40, used racial and homophobic slurs, called a former New York City Council leader of Puerto Rican background a “whore,” and joked about shooting San Juan’s mayor. “Chatgate” came days after the FBI arrested two former Rosselló officials for allegedly misusing $15.5 million in federal funding and amid ongoing fury over the response to Hurricane Maria. As protesters gathered outside the governor’s mansion—chanting, in Spanish, “There are more of us, and we are not afraid”—Rosselló insisted he would not step down.
Los Angeles Times/TNS, Getty, AP (2) ■