Convicted 'Pharma Bro' has an image problem, lawyer concedes
NEW YORK (AP) - Martin Shkreli, the eccentric former pharmaceutical CEO notorious for a price-gouging scandal and for his snide "Pharma Bro" persona on social media, was convicted Friday on federal charges he deceived investors in a pair of failed hedge funds.
A Brooklyn jury deliberated five days before finding Shkreli guilty on three of eight counts. He had been charged with securities fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Shkreli, upbeat and defiant outside the Brooklyn courthouse afterward, called his prosecution "a witch hunt of epic proportions" but conceded that maybe the government had found "one or two broomsticks."
Asked about his client's social-media antics, attorney Ben Brafman said it was something they would be working on.
"There is an image issue that Martin and I are going to be discussing in the next few days," he said, adding that while Shkreli was a brilliant mind, sometimes his "people skills" need work. As he spoke, Shkreli smiled and cocked his head quizzically in mock confusion.
___Sessions vows crackdown on leaks of classified information
WASHINGTON (AP) - Attorney General Jeff Sessions pledged on Friday to rein in government leaks that he said undermine American security, taking an aggressive public stand after being called weak on the matter by President Donald Trump.
The nation's top law enforcement official cited no current investigations in which disclosures of information had jeopardized the country, but said the number of criminal leak probes had dramatically increased in the early months of the Trump administration. Justice Department officials also said they were reviewing guidelines meant to make it difficult for the government to subpoena journalists about their sources, and would not rule out the possibility that a reporter could be prosecuted.
"No one is entitled to surreptitiously fight to advance their battles in the media by revealing sensitive government information," Sessions said in an announcement that followed a series of news reports this year on the Trump campaign and White House that have relied on classified information. "No government can be effective when its leaders cannot discuss sensitive matters in confidence or talk freely in confidence with foreign leaders."
Media advocacy organizations condemned the announcement, with Bruce Brown, the executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, saying the decision to review existing guidelines was "deeply troubling."
Meanwhile, a White House adviser raised the possibility of lie detector tests for the small number of people in the West Wing and elsewhere with access to transcripts of President Donald Trump's phone calls. The Washington Post on Thursday published transcripts of his conversations with the leaders of Mexico and Australia.
___US court upends murder conviction of Blackwater contractor
WASHINGTON (AP) - A federal appeals court on Friday overturned the first-degree murder conviction of a former Blackwater security contractor, ordering a new trial for the man prosecutors say fired the first shots in the 2007 slayings of 14 Iraqi civilians at a crowded traffic circle in Baghdad.
In a split opinion, the three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia Circuit ruled a lower court erred by not allowing Nicholas Slatten to be tried separately from his three co-defendants in 2014. The 33-year-old contractor from Tennessee is serving a life sentence for his role in the killings, which strained international relations and drew intense scrutiny of the role of American contractors in the Iraq War.
The court also ordered new sentences for the three other contractors, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard. They were each found guilty of manslaughter and firearms charges carrying mandatory 30-year terms.
The judges determined those sentences violated the constitutional prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment because prosecutors charged them with using military firearms while committing another felony. That statute, typically employed against gang members or bank robbers, had never before been used against overseas security contractors working for the U.S. government.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Washington said prosecutors were still reviewing the decision and had no immediate comment.
___Huff, puff, pass? AG's pot fury not echoed by task force
WASHINGTON (AP) - The betting was that law-and-order Attorney General Jeff Sessions would come out against the legalized marijuana industry with guns blazing. But the task force Sessions assembled to find the best legal strategy is giving him no ammunition, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.
The Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety, a group of prosecutors and federal law enforcement officials, has come up with no new policy recommendations to advance the attorney general's aggressively anti-marijuana views. The group's report largely reiterates the current Justice Department policy on marijuana.
It encourages officials to keep studying whether to change or rescind the Obama administration's more hands-off approach to enforcement - a stance that has allowed the nation's experiment with legal pot to flourish. The report was not slated to be released publicly, but portions were obtained by the AP.
Sessions, who has assailed marijuana as comparable to heroin and blamed it for spikes in violence, has been promising to reconsider existing pot policy since he took office six months ago. His statements have sparked both support and worry across the political spectrum as a growing number of states have worked to legalize the drug.
Threats of a federal crackdown have united liberals, who object to the human costs of a war on pot, and some conservatives, who see it as a states' rights issue. Some advocates and members of Congress had feared the task force's recommendations would give Sessions the green light to begin dismantling what has become a sophisticated, multimillion-dollar pot industry that helps fund schools, educational programs and law enforcement.
___For homeless on heroin, treatment can be elusive with no ID
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Nearly two decades of using heroin and a year of living on the streets of Philadelphia had led Steven Kemp to a simple conclusion: It was time to get sober. But when he staggered into a detox facility on a recent Friday night, his head brimming with the thought that suicide would end the pain, he was told he couldn't be admitted because he didn't have a photo ID.
Kemp said he was turned away from the hospital and spent the night stealing enough small items to trade for a handful of Xanax. He swallowed the pills, cooked up some heroin and injected the drug into his arm with the intention of mega389 [More inspiring ideas
] killing himself.
"If somebody goes in and says 'I need help,' they should get it," said Kemp, 35. "I understand people have to get paid but you're supposed to be a health professional, you took an oath."
As the nation's heroin and painkiller epidemic rages, small but vulnerable populations of homeless people are sometimes turned away from the nation's already-threadbare system of drug treatment centers because they do not have valid photo identification.
Transient lifestyles are not conducive to keeping the identifying documents that are often necessary during the screening processes for drug treatment facilities. To reapply for the documents can sometimes take months, especially if a person doesn't have a stable address, birth certificate or Social Security card.
___Flynn files new financial form reporting ties to data firm
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Donald Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, disclosed a brief advisory role with a firm related to a controversial data analysis company that aided the Trump campaign, according to a filing Flynn submitted to the White House.
The disclosure of Flynn's link to Cambridge Analytica came in an amended public financial filing in which the retired U.S. Army lieutenant general also discloses income that includes payments from the Trump transition team. The filing was made public by the White House on Friday in response to an Associated Press reporter's request.
The amended disclosure lists Flynn as an adviser to SCL Group, a Virginia-based company related to Cambridge Analytica, the data mining and analysis firm that worked with Trump's campaign.
A person close to Flynn told the AP that just before the end of the campaign, Flynn agreed to do consulting for the firm, but he never performed any work or accepted any payment as part of the agreement with SCL Group. The person spoke to AP on condition of anonymity Thursday to describe details of the filing made to the White House.
The details of Flynn's role with SCL weren't fully laid out, the person said, noting that Flynn terminated his involvement shortly after Trump won the presidency.
___Amanda Knox: Woman in texting suicide case deserves sympathy
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Amanda Knox, the American exchange student convicted and later cleared of a murder in Italy, is offering her support to a Massachusetts woman convicted of manslaughter for encouraging her suicidal boyfriend to kill himself.
In an op-ed published Thursday in the Los Angeles Times, Knox wrote that Michelle Carter deserves sympathy and help, not a jail sentence.
Carter on Thursday was sentenced to 15 months in jail for the 2014 death of 18-year-old Conrad Roy III. Carter was then 17 and is now 20. A judge agreed to her request to remain free on bail while her state appeal is pending.The 30-year-old Knox is no stranger to sensational trials drawing global media coverage.
The student from Seattle was convicted along with her Italian boyfriend in the 2007 killing of Knox's roommate, British student Meredith Kercher, in Perugia, Italy. Knox spent four years in jail but was exonerated by the Italian Supreme Court in 2015.
___All-powerful Venezuelan assembly opens amid protests
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - Defying criticism from Washington to the Vatican, Venezuela's ruling party on Friday installed a new super assembly that supporters promise will pacify the country and critics fear will be a tool for imposing dictatorship.
The constitutional assembly's first order of business was selecting its head - former Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez, a loyal follower of President Nicolas Maduro.
The nomination was approved unanimously by the 545 delegates, who marched to the neo-classical legislative palace led by socialist party leader Diosdado Cabello and first lady Cilia Flores and accompanied by hundreds of red-shirted government supporters carrying roses and portraits of the late Hugo Chavez, Maduro's predecessor and mentor.
Some shouted, "He's returned!" as a jab at the opposition, which had ordered images of Chavez removed from an adjacent building when it won control of congress in 2015.
The assembly was scheduled to meet again Saturday, and Rodriguez pledged it would be taking action against Maduro's political opponents.
___Taylor Swift, ex-radio host head to court over groping claim
DENVER (AP) - Taylor Swift and her support team didn't call police after she said she had been groped by a Denver radio host during a photo session before a concert.
Instead, they called his boss, and David Mueller lost his job. The disc jockey later sued the singer-songwriter, saying he had been falsely accused and wanted $3 million in damages.
Swift countersued, claiming sexual assault, setting up a civil trial set to begin Monday in federal court in Denver that will largely turn on who the eight-member jury believes.Swift is scheduled to testify. Both sides say no settlement is in the works.
The lawsuits provide differing accounts of backstage events before Swift performed at a 2013 concert at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
___Neymar says move not cash-driven; PSG expects financial lift
PARIS (AP) - Neymar opened a new extravagant chapter in soccer history Friday as the game's costliest player by fending off questions about his financial motivations as deftly as he repels opponents on the pitch.
Paris Saint-Germain's 222 million euro ($262 million) recruit was sticking to the script at his presentation in the French capital. Leaving the prestige of Barcelona for the less exalted surroundings of PSG was about seizing the chance to raise the status of an ambitious club, rather than about the size of an annual salary reported to be 30 million euros.
"I was never motivated by money," Neymar told a crowded news conference at the Parc des Princes home of PSG. "What I think about is happiness. If I was following the money I would maybe be in some other country."
It is, however, Qatari cash that has fueled the rise of PSG over the last six years, making Neymar's world-record transfer feasible.
So while the last thing Neymar wanted to do was talk about money on his first full day as a PSG player, the man alongside him had little choice. PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi was keen to justify the outlay for the 25-year-old Brazilian, touting the financial uplift that the club expects to follow with one of the game's superstars on its squad.