After an investigation that lasted more than a year, the Alabama Ethics Commission on Wednesday found probable cause that Gov. Robert Bentley (R) violated the state's campaign finance and ethics laws.
The commission determined that Bentley had used public resources for his personal interests, used money from his campaign to pay the legal fees of his former political adviser Rebekah Mason, and improperly received a campaign contribution and made a loan to his campaign account outside of the window allowed by law. These violations are all Class B felonies, punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $20,000 fine, and the ethics commission's decision now sends the investigation to the Montgomery County district attorney.
In March 2016, state auditor Jim Zeigler filed a complaint claiming that Bentley and Mason were having an affair and that the governor was fraudulently using state resources to carry it out, and a state corrections officer who ran against Bentley in 2014 also filed six ethics complaints against him. "The ruling of the Ethics Commission is only one step in holding Gov. Bentley accountable," Zeigler said. "The next step can be taken by the district attorney or the House Judiciary Committee."
The Alabama House Judiciary Committee is considering impeachment charges against Bentley, with a hearing tentatively scheduled for next week, and he's already under investigation by the Alabama state attorney general's office, AL.com reports. Bentley has denied any wrongdoing. For more on the scandal, watch AL.com's handy video guide below. Catherine Garcia
Data released Monday by the FBI revealed that murders in the United States rose dramatically between 2014 and 2015. After two decades trending downward, the murder rate rose 10.8 percent between 2014 and 2015, the "biggest single-year percentage jump since 1971," The Guardian notes.
The bulk of the increase was due to a jump in the murders of black men, as the data shows at least 900 more black men were killed in 2015 than in 2014. Additionally, 71.5 percent of murders in 2015 were committed with firearms, up from 67.9 percent in 2014.
The increase put the total murders in the U.S. at 15,696, just shy of 2009's number — but still just half of the total in 1991, the peak of the country's violent crime wave. Read more about the FBI's latest data at The Guardian. Kimberly Alters
NFL officials "improperly attempted to influence" a major U.S. government study on the link between football and brain disease, Democratic members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce said in a report released Monday.
In 2012, the NFL pledged $30 million to the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health for unconditional use toward research on medical conditions in athletes. But when the league learned the money would fund a $16 million study on football and brain disease led by Boston University researcher Robert Stern, who has criticized the NFL in the past, the league allegedly tried to pressure the NIH to transfer the project to more league-friendly researchers. When the NIH refused, the NFL backed out of the funding agreement, and taxpayers bore the cost of the research.
"These concerns were raised for review and consideration through the appropriate channels," an NFL spokesman said in a statement Monday. The report, which you can peruse here, is the latest in a string of allegations that the league has attempted to cover up potential connections football has to concussions and brain disease. Julie Kliegman
This New York Times investigation uncovered troubling anecdotes about Trump's private interactions with women
For months, BuzzFeed News has been all over Donald Trump's history of disturbing public comments about women. Now, The New York Times gives us a glimpse into his private interactions with the opposite sex, via dozens of women who have worked with the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.
On Saturday, the newspaper published an investigation revealing women who describe Trump as having made unwanted advances and inappropriate and demeaning comments to them in private settings.
Carrie Prejean, Miss California 2009, told in her memoir of Trump lining up the Miss USA contestants and evaluating them personally at a rehearsal:
It became clear that the point of the whole exercise was for him to divide the room between girls he personally found attractive and those he did not. Many of the girls found the exercise humiliating. Some of the girls were sobbing backstage after he left, devastated to have failed even before the competition really began to impress "The Donald." [The New York Times]
In an interview, Trump denied this anecdote and many of the others reported, including that he asked an ex-girlfriend to rate his ex-wives' attractiveness. For more troubling details, including comments about women's weights and pet names for high-up female executives, head over to the Times. Julie Kliegman
Vide footage from a rally in Tucson, Arizona, for Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump appears to show an attendee punching and kicking a protester until security intervened.
Went to the Trump rally just to see how crazy it would be........this is insane pic.twitter.com/QFwSwmNoI0
— Alex Satterly (@alex_satterly) March 19, 2016
Another video appears to show campaign manager Corey Lewandowski grabbing the collar of a different protester, The Washington Post reports.
Here is Donald Trump's campaign manager in the Tucson crowd grabbing the collar of a protester. pic.twitter.com/JZ9RntWlHY
— Jacqueline Alemany (@JaxAlemany) March 19, 2016
A statement from the campaign said Lewandowski, who is currently under fire for allegedly assaulting a reporter at a campaign event, did not grab the man.
The video was posted as Donald Trump comes under fire for hostility and violence at his events, including the alleged assault of a reporter by his campaign manager. Recently, a Trump rally pledge has also evoked memories of the Nazi salute. Julie Kliegman
CBS News reporter Sopan Deb covered the canceled Donald Trump rally in Chicago on Friday night, capturing striking footage of protesters and supporters alike.
I've never seen anything like what I'm witnessing in my life.
— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) March 12, 2016
Then, seemingly without much warning, Deb himself was reportedly thrown on the ground and handcuffed. He was charged with resisting arrest, though the video footage doesn't show him resisting. Deb has since been released.
Watch the incident unfold below. Julie Kliegman
Crossword editor Timothy Parker helms the USA Today puzzle as well as Universal Crossword, a widely syndicated puzzle. In 65 instances, he replicated puzzle themes and answers from The New York Times' crossword, a new FiveThirtyEight report finds.
FiveThirtyEight looked at a database assembled by a crossword editor and a software engineer. In addition to appearing to copy distinct elements from other puzzles, Parker published crosswords under pseudonymous bylines in both series he edits.
While Parker admitted to using pseudonyms, he denied accusations of plagiarism.
"To me, it's just mere coincidence," he said. "We don't look at anybody else's puzzles or really care about anyone else’s puzzles."