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Prince Harry in court for privacy suit against tabloid

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Prince Harry in court for privacy suit against tabloid

LONDON (AP) — Prince Harry and Elton John were in a London court Monday as the lawyer for a group of British tabloids asked a judge to toss the lawsuit they brought with several other high-profile people who allege phone hacking and other invasions of privacy.

Harry’s presence at the High Court in London signals the importance of the case, one of several lawsuits the Duke of Sussex has brought in his battle against the press. The hearing is expected to conclude Thursday.

The case alleges Associated Newspapers Ltd., which publishes The Daily Mail and The Mail On Sunday, commissioned the “breaking and entry into private property,” and engaging in unlawful acts that included hiring private investigators to bug homes, cars and record private phone conversations.

“They were the victim of numerous unlawful acts carried out by the defendant, or by those acting on the instructions of its newspapers,” attorney David Sherborne said in a court document.

Sherborne who also represents John’s husband, David Furnish, and actresses Liz Hurley and Sadie Frost, said the intrusions were “habitual and widespread” and later “concealed or covered up.”

Articles were falsely attributed to “friends,” a family source, palace sources, royal insider, or similar phrases to throw subjects “off the scent” of the true origin, Sherborne said.

Among the allegations in court papers were that Associated Newspapers unlawfully obtained the birth certificate of John and Furnish’s child before they had seen the document and illegally gleaned information on Harry’s previous relationship with Chelsy Davy, a jewelry designer from Zimbabwe.

The publisher is also alleged to have hired a private investigator to hack Hurley’s phone, stuck a mini-microphone on a window outside her home and bugged ex-boyfriend Hugh Grant’s car to gather financial information, travel plans and medical information during her pregnancy.

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John and Furnish arrived in court after a lunch break and sat in the gallery for part of the afternoon before bowing out. Harry sat near Frost toward the rear of the court during the whole session and occasionally took notes.

The case is a replay to some extent of the British phone hacking scandal that was front page news a decade ago and eventually brought down another tabloid and ended with the conviction of the former spokesperson for then-Prime Minister David Cameron.

The allegations date primarily from 1993 to 2011 but also stretch beyond 2018, Sherborne said.

The publisher denies the allegations and said the claims are too old to be brought and information about the phone hacking scandal was so widely known the subjects could have sued years ago.

“It would be surprising indeed for any reasonably informed member of the public, let alone a figure in the public eye, to have been unaware of these matters,” attorney Adrian Beltrami said in writing.

He also argued that the suit should be thrown out because it relies on information the newspapers turned over in confidentiality for a 2012 probe into media law breaking.

Beltrami said it was ironic Harry and others claimed the publisher illegally obtained information about them from evidence that was supposed to have been kept private and, thus, was itself gathered in violation of the law.

Sherborne argued that documents used in the 2012 inquiry were presumed to be public unless marked confidential.

Britain held a year-long inquiry into press ethics after revelations in 2011 that News of the World tabloid employees eavesdropped on the mobile phone voicemails of celebrities, politicians and a teenage murder victim.

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Owner Rupert Murdoch shut down the newspaper amid a criminal investigation and public uproar. Several journalists were convicted, and Murdoch’s company paid $388 million in settlements to dozens of hacking victims, legal fees and other costs associated with investigations.

Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, who had resigned and became communications chief to Conservative Party leader Cameron, was convicted of phone hacking and sentenced to 18 months in prison.

In the inquiry’s 2012 report, Lord Justice Brian Leveson said “outrageous” behavior by some in the press had “wreaked havoc with the lives of innocent people whose rights and liberties have been disdained.”

Justice Matthew Nicklin, who is hearing the current eavesdropping case, is also overseeing a separate libel lawsuit Harry brought against Associated Newspapers over an article about his quest for police protection when he and his family visit the U.K.

Harry, the younger son of King Charles III, and his wife, the former actress Meghan Markle, stepped down as working royals in 2020 and moved to the U.S., citing what they described as the unbearable intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media.

Harry has said he wants to make reforming the British media his life’s work. He fumes at British media throughout his memoir “Spare,” published in January. He accused them of hounding Meghan and blamed an overly aggressive press for the 1997 death of his mother, Princess Diana, which is mentioned in court papers.

The prince’s lawyer said the unlawful conduct by Associated Newspapers was “a major betrayal given promises made by the media to improve its conduct following the tragic and untimely death of his mother.”

The couple has turned to British courts to combat what they see as media mistreatment. In December 2021, Meghan won an invasion-of-privacy case against Associated Newspapers over the Mail on Sunday’s publication of a letter she wrote to her estranged father.

Harry is also suing the publisher of another tabloid, the Mirror, in a separate hacking suit.

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Coachella: Earthquake shakes SoCal desert during music fest

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Coachella: Earthquake shakes SoCal desert during music fest

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — A small earthquake shook the Southern California desert Saturday near Coachella, where the famous music festival is being held this weekend. No damage or injuries were reported.

The quake, with a preliminary magnitude of 3.8, hit at 9:08 a.m. about 8 miles (13 kilometers) northeast of Borrego Springs in Riverside County, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The epicenter was about 20 miles (32 kilometers) southeast of Coachella. It struck at a depth of about 7 miles (11 kilometers), the USGS said.

A dispatcher with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said there were no calls reporting any problems from the quake.

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Matthew Perry died from acute effects of ketamine, autopsy says

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Matthew Perry died from acute effects of ketamine, autopsy says

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Matthew Perry died from the acute effects of the anesthetic ketamine, according to the results of an autopsy on the 54-year-old “Friends” actor released Friday.

The Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner said in the autopsy report that Perry also drowned in “the heated end of his pool,” but that it was a secondary factor in his Oct. 28 death, deemed an accident.

People close to Perry told investigators that he was undergoing ketamine infusion therapy, an experimental treatment used to treat depression and anxiety. But the medical examiner said the levels of ketamine in Perry’s body were in the range used for general anesthesia during surgery, and that his last treatment 1 1/2 weeks earlier wouldn’t explain those levels. The drug is typically metabolized in a matter of hours.

The report says coronary artery disease and buprenorphine, which is used to treat opioid use disorder, also contributed.

The amount of ketamine detected “would be enough to make him lose consciousness and lose his posture and his ability to keep himself above the water,” said Dr. Andrew Stolbach, a medical toxicologist with Johns Hopkins Medicine who reviewed the autopsy report at the request of The Associated Press.

“Using sedative drugs in a pool or hot tub, especially when you’re alone, is extremely risky and, sadly, here it’s fatal,” said Stolbach, who noted that both ketamine and buprenorphine can be used safely.

Perry was declared dead after being found unresponsive at his home in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles. Investigators performed the autopsy the following day.

The actor had taken drugs in the past but had been “reportedly clean for 19 months,” according to the report.

Perry had played pickleball earlier in the day, the report says, and his assistant, who lives with him, found him face down in the pool after returning from errands.

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The assistant told investigators Perry had not been sick, had not made any health complaints, and had not shown evidence of recent alcohol or drug use.

Postmortem blood tests showed “high levels” of ketamine in his system, which could have raised his blood pressure and heart rate and dulled his impulse to breathe.

Buprenorphine, commonly used in opioid addiction and found in therapeutic levels in Perry’s blood, could have contributed to the breathing problem, the autopsy said. It would have been risky to mix the central nervous system depressant with ketamine “due to the additive respiratory effects when present with high levels of ketamine,” according to the autopsy report.

The report said his coronary artery disease would have made him more susceptible to the drugs’ effects.

Perry was among the biggest television stars of his generation when he played Chandler Bing alongside Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc and David Schwimmer for 10 seasons from 1994 to 2004 on NBC’s megahit sitcom “Friends.”

His castmates, like many of his friends, family and fans, were stunned by his death, and paid him loving tribute in the weeks that followed.

Perry was open about discussing his struggles with addiction dating back to his time on “Friends.”

“I loved everything about the show but I was struggling with my addictions which only added to my sense of shame,” he wrote in his 2022 memoir. “I had a secret and no one could know.”

A woman whose name is redacted in the autopsy report told investigators that Perry had been in good spirits when she spoke to him a few days earlier, but had been taking testosterone shots which she said were making him “angry and mean.” She said he had quit smoking two weeks earlier.

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The woman said he had been receiving the ketamine infusions for his mental health, and that his doctor had been giving them to him less often because he had been feeling well.

Ketamine is a powerful anesthetic approved by U.S. health regulators for use during surgery, but in the past decade it has emerged as an experimental treatment for a range of psychiatric and hard-to-treat conditions, including depression, anxiety and chronic pain.

While not approved by regulators, doctors are free to prescribe drugs for these alternate uses if they think their patients could benefit, and hundreds of clinics across the U.S. offer ketamine infusions and other formulations for various health conditions.

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AP Medical Writer Carla K. Johnson in Washington state, Health Writer Matthew Perrone in Washington, D.C., and Ryan J. Foley in Iowa City, Iowa, contributed reporting.

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Elton John testifies for defense in Kevin Spacey sex assault trial…

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Elton John testifies for defense in Kevin Spacey sex assault trial…

By BRIAN MELLEY

Published [hour]:[minute] [AMPM] [timezone], [monthFull] [day], [year]
 

 

 

LONDON (AP) — Kevin Spacey ‘s lawyers enlisted the help of an A-list star Monday in his sexual assault trial, calling on Elton John and his husband to cast doubt on one of the Oscar winner’s accusers at the end of the defense case.

John appeared briefly in the London court by video link from Monaco after his husband, David Furnish, testified that Spacey did not attend an annual gala ball at their Windsor home at the time that the accuser said he was attacked in a car.

John was the final witness for the defense and was followed by character testimonials from colleagues, friends and family that had Spacey in tears in the dock when they were read aloud by his lawyer in Southwark Crown Court.

Spacey, 63, has pleaded not guilty to a dozen charges that include sexual and indecent assault counts and one count of causing a person to engage in penetrative sexual activity without consent.

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One of the alleged victims said he was driving Spacey to the White Tie & Tiara Ball in 2004 or 2005 when the actor grabbed his crotch so forcefully that he almost ran off the road.

Furnish supported Spacey’s own testimony that the only year he had attended the event was 2001. Furnish said he had reviewed photographs taken at the party from 2001 to 2005 and Spacey only appeared in images that one year. He said all guests were photographed each year.

John, who was wearing yellow tinted glasses, a dark jacket and light blue open-collar shirt, said the actor attended the party once in the early 2000s and arrived after flying to England on a private jet.

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Spacey’s appearance was a surprise and memorable because it was a big deal, said Furnish, a filmmaker and John’s manager, who also appeared from Monaco.

“He was an Oscar-winning actor and there was a lot of buzz and excitement that he was at the ball,” said Furnish.

John said the actor spent the night at their house after the event. He also confirmed that Spacey bought a Mini Cooper at the auction held that night for the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

Spacey said he spent the most money “ever” on that model of car and he kept it in John’s garage until he could pick it up later.

The alleged victim said he may have gotten the year wrong, but that he would not have forgotten the incident because it took his breath away and he was driving and almost crashed the car.

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The timeline, however, is important because the man testified that Spacey had fondled him over several years beginning in the early 2000s. The incident was the final occasion, he said. He threatened to hit the actor and after that avoided him.

Spacey said the two were friends and they engaged in some romantic contact but the man was straight, so the actor respected his wishes not to go further. He said he was crushed when he learned the man had complained to police about him and said the man had “reimagined” what had been consensual touching.

Furnish said he was familiar with the accuser and described him as “charming,” the same term Spacey used.

Over two days of testimony last week, the two-time Academy Award winner insisted that he never sexually assaulted three of the four accusers who described disturbing encounters between 2001 and 2013. The acts allegedly escalated from unwanted touching to aggressive fondling to one instance of performing oral sex act on an unconscious man.

Spacey dismissed one man’s fondling claims as “pure fantasy” and said he shared consensual encounters with two others who later regretted it. He accepted the claims of a fourth man, saying he had made a “clumsy pass” during a night of heavy drinking, but he took exception to the “crotch-grabbing” characterization.

Defense lawyer Patrick Gibbs rested his case after reading statements from 10 character witnesses who praised the actor’s work and compassion toward others.

Spacey dabbed at his eyes with a tissue as Gibbs read the words of actor Robert Sean Leonard, known for his role on the TV show “House” and the movie “Dead Poets Society.” Leonard said Spacey was “positive, supportive and respectful” and someone he admired greatly.

“He’s more than a successful actor, he’s a movie star, but unlike every other movie star I’ve worked with, he doesn’t know it,” Leonard said. “Stardom was never his goal. He loves and respects the work, and he loves and respects the people he works with.”

Closing arguments are expected later in the week. Spacey is free on bail.

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John’s testimony came just over a week after he wrapped up his 50-year touring career with a show in Stockholm.

It’s the second time the “Rocket Man” star and Furnish have made appearances in a London courtroom this year. The two also showed for hearings in March at the High Court in their phone hacking lawsuit with Prince Harry against the publisher of the Daily Mail newspaper.

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