Oklahoma, the state with the highest incarceration rate in the U.S., released 462 prison inmates this week in the largest single-day commutation of sentences in U.S. history. An additional 65 inmates in Oklahoma’s total prison population of 26,000 are scheduled for release. Voters passed a ballot initiative in 2016 to change simple drug possession and low-level property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill this year retroactively adjusting sentences for inmates already serving time for non-violent crimes—a move that will save Oklahoma taxpayers about $11.9 million. The prisoners released have already served an average of three years behind bars—but some faced much, much longer sentences. “It feels amazing to be on the other side of the fence,” said one woman who was released after a 2018 drug conviction that originally came with a 15-year sentence.
Mexican smugglers have found they can get people and drugs through President Trump’s border wall with easily available power tools, The Washington Post reported last week. Using $100 cordless saws, gangsters can hack through one of the wall’s steel-and-concrete bollards in minutes, border agents told the Post. Trump has touted the new barriers as “Rolls-Royce” quality and “virtually impenetrable.” Asked about the smugglers, he said the barriers could be “very easily fixed. You put the chunk back in.” Agents in California and Texas also reported smugglers using ladders to scale the three-story-high barriers. The Trump administration has completed 76 miles of
new barriers, with 158 miles more under construction. Officials said they’re planning to install electronic sensors that can detect the vibrations of sawing.
A white man told a Latino U.S. citizen to “go back to your country” before throwing battery acid in his face outside a Mexican restaurant this week. Mahud Villalaz, 42, who left Peru 19 years ago, says a stranger asked him, “Why did you come here and invade my country?” before splashing him with a container of acid, causing second-degree burns on his face and third-degree burns on his neck. Police arrested Clifton Blackwell, 61, who’s under investigation for a possible hate crime after a surveillance camera captured the assault. Villalaz says Blackwell confronted him for parking too close to a bus stop, and after Villalaz moved his truck, Blackwell continued to berate him on the sidewalk in the heavily Latino neighborhood. “This anger toward people from other countries is being fed by our president,” Democratic Mayor Tom Barrett said.
During the 2016 campaign, then-candidate Donald Trump urged aides to “get the emails” through any sources they had, newly released testimony from the Mueller report reveals. Trump’s deputy campaign manager, Rick Gates, told investigators that retired Gen. Michael Flynn, a Trump adviser, volunteered to use his Russian contacts to pursue 33,000 emails deleted by Hillary Clinton from a private server. Gates also testified that Trump aides appeared to know in advance about email drops from Russian hackers and WikiLeaks. In addition, Gates described how Trump’s fired campaign manager, Paul Manafort, secretly advised Trump through Election Day and was the first to push the theory that Ukraine, not Russia, was behind the DNC email hack. The findings were in unreleased portions of the report made by special counsel Robert Mueller, which a judge made public last week in response to a Freedom of Information request.
New York City
A federal court rejected President Trump’s effort to block his accounting firm from turning over eight years of personal and corporate tax returns to Manhattan prosecutors this week. Trump attorney Jay Sekulow said the Supreme Court should hear an appeal, noting, “The issue raised in this case goes to the heart of our republic.” Trump’s lawyers have argued he has absolute immunity from state and federal criminal investigation—an immunity his lawyers say would extend even to shooting someone on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue. Judges, though, said they were not convinced that this case differs from the Supreme Court precedent ordering President Nixon to supply a grand jury with White House tapes. However, in its decision the court sidestepped the question of presidential immunity, saying that since the subpoena was served not on Trump but on his accountants, “compliance does not require the president to do anything at all.”
Mueller’s last case
Roger Stone lied repeatedly to Congress about his efforts to get information about stolen emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign “because the truth looked bad for Donald Trump,” a federal prosecutor asserted this week at the trial of Trump’s longtime adviser. Charging Stone with false statements, obstruction, and witness tampering, prosecutors opened their case by outlining evidence that Stone sought to gain WikiLeaks’ help for Trump’s campaign. Prosecutors say that Stone called Trump right after two separate releases of emails—and then tried to contact WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange just minutes after one of those calls with Trump. In August, Stone emailed Trump strategist Steve Bannon, “I do know how to win, but it ain’t pretty,” and told campaign chair Paul Manafort that he had an idea “to save Trump’s ass.” Stone’s attorney said his client exaggerated his WikiLeaks contacts to seem important. ■