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US prosecutors ask for 25 more years in prison for R. Kelly

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US prosecutors ask for 25 more years in prison for R. Kelly

CHICAGO (AP) — Federal prosecutors Thursday asked a judge to give singer R. Kelly 25 more years in prison for his child pornography and enticement convictions last year in Chicago, which would add to 30 years he recently began serving in a New York case.

The 56-year-old wouldn’t be eligible for release until he was around 100 if the judge agrees both to the 25-year sentence and another government request that Kelly begin serving his Chicago sentence only after the 30-year New York sentence is fully served.

In their sentencing recommendation filed late Thursday in U.S. District Court in Chicago, prosecutors described Kelly’s behavior as “sadistic,” calling him “a serial sexual predator” with no remorse and who “poses a serious danger to society.”

“The only way to ensure Kelly does not reoffend is to impose a sentence that will keep him in prison for the rest of his life,” the 37-page government filing says.

Kelly’s sentencing in Chicago is set for Thursday next week.

Kelly’s lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean, wrote in a filing last week that even with his existing 30-year New York sentence, “Kelly would have to defy all statistical odds to make it out of prison alive.” She cited data that the average life expectancy of inmates is 64.

She recommended a sentence of around 10 years, at the low end of the sentencing guidelines range, which she said could be served simultaneously with the New York sentence.

In arguing for the lesser sentence, Bonjean alleged Kelly, who is Black, was singled out for behavior that she said white rock stars have gotten away with for decades.

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“None have been prosecuted and none will die in prison,” she wrote.

Prosecutors acknowledged that a 25-year sentence in the Chicago case would be more time than even sentencing guidelines recommend. But they argued imposing a long sentence and instructing it be served only after the New York sentence was appropriate.

“A consecutive sentence is eminently reasonable given the egregiousness of Kelly’s conduct,” the filing argued. “Kelly’s sexual abuse of minors was intentional and prolific.”

At the trial in Chicago last year, jurors convicted the Grammy Award winning singer on six of 13 counts. But the government lost the marquee count that Kelly and his then-business manager successfully rigged his state child pornography trial in 2008.

Both of Kelly’s co-defendants, including longtime business manager Derrel McDavid, were acquitted of all charges.

Kelly, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, rose from poverty in Chicago to superstardom, becoming known for smash hit “I Believe I Can Fly” and sex-infused songs such as “Bump n’ Grind.”

While the Grammy Award-winner went to trial in 2008, it wasn’t until after the airing of Lifetime’s 2019 docu-series, “Surviving R. Kelly” — featuring testimonials by his accusers — that criminal investigations were kicked into high-gear, ending with federal and new state charges.

In January, an Illinois judge dismissed state sex-abuse charges prior to a trial on the recommendation of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx. Foxx said she was comfortable dropping the case because Kelly would spend decades in prison for his federal convictions.

Prosecutors at Kelly’s federal trial in Chicago portrayed him as a master manipulator who used his fame and wealth to reel in star-struck fans to sexually abuse, in some cases to video record them, and then discard them.

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After deliberating over two days, jurors convicted Kelly of three counts each of producing child pornography and enticement of minors for sex, while acquitting him of obstruction of justice, one count of production of child porn and three counts of receiving child porn.

The Chicago verdict came months after a federal judge in New York sentenced Kelly to 30 years in prison for racketeering and sex trafficking. Based on that sentence alone, he wouldn’t eligible for release until he is around 80.

Even if granted time off for good behavior, Kelly would be only be eligible for release if he serves 25 years after the New York sentence in the year 2066, the government’s Thursday filing said.

It will be up to Judge Harry Leinenweber in Chicago to decide the crucial question of whether Kelly serves whatever sentence he imposes concurrently, simultaneously, with the New York sentence or consecutively.

Kelly’s legal team is appealing his New York and Chicago convictions. Prosecutors sometimes press for long sentences for defendants sentenced at earlier trials in a bid to ensure that, if some convictions are later tossed, they will still do some time behind bars.

Bonjean argued that traumas throughout Kelly’s life, including abuse as a child and illiteracy throughout adulthood, justified leniency in sentencing the singer.

Kelly “is not an evil monster but a complex (unquestionably troubled) human-being who faced overwhelming challenges in childhood that shaped his adult life,” she said.

That the conduct for which he was convicted occurred decades ago should also be factored in, she said.

“While Kelly was not a child in the late 1990s, he also was not the middle-aged man he was at the time of his 2019 indictment,” she argued. “Kelly was a damaged man in his late 20s.”

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She added that Kelly has already paid a heavy price from his legal troubles, including a financial one. She said his worth once approached $1 billion but that he “is now destitute.”

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Follow Michael Tarm on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mtarm

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Find more of AP’s coverage of R. Kelly’s trials at https://apnews.com/hub/r-kelly

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Remember last year’s Memorial Day travel jams? Chances are they will be much worse this year

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Remember last year’s Memorial Day travel jams? Chances are they will be much worse this year

The patience of Memorial Day weekend travelers was tested Thursday by widespread delays across the country, but there were relatively few canceled flights, raising hopes that airlines can handle bigger crowds expected Friday.

By early evening on the East Coast, more than 6,000 flights had been delayed Thursday, with the biggest backups at the three major airports in the New York City area and Dallas-Fort Worth International.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pasha Pidlubniak waits for a domestic flight at Miami International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Miami. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

 

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Pasha Pidlubniak waits for a domestic flight at Miami International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Miami. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

 

The Transportation Security Administration predicted that Friday will be the busiest day for air travel over the holiday weekend, with nearly 3 million people expected to pass through airport checkpoints. It could rival the record of 2.9 million, set on the Sunday after Thanksgiving last year.

“Airports are going to be more packed than we have seen in 20 years,” said Aixa Diaz, a spokesperson for AAA.

When they aren’t waiting out flight delays, travelers are reporting sticker shock at the prices.

At Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, Larisa Latimer of New Lenox, Illinois, said her airfare was reasonable but other expenses for a getaway to New Orleans were not.

 

 

 

 

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Motorists travel along Interstate 24 near the Interstate 40 interchange Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

Motorists travel along Interstate 24 near the Interstate 40 interchange Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

“I just have to make the accommodation,” she said. “The rental car is up … this year, the hotel accommodations were very unusually expensive.”

Kathy Larko of Fort Meyers, Florida, used frequent-flyer miles — and some flexible scheduling — to pay for her trip to Chicago.

“I’m really conscious of looking at the cost of the entire trip. We’re staying a little farther out than we normally would” to get a lower hotel rate, she said. “We’re also flying back a day later, because we could get cheaper miles.”

More travelers will be on the road. AAA estimates that 43.8 million people will venture at least 50 miles (80 kilometers) from home between Thursday and Monday, with 38 million of them taking vehicles.

 
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Travelers wait at a TSA checkpoint at the Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

 

Travelers wait at a TSA checkpoint at the Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

 

Airport unions are using the holiday weekend to highlight their demands.

About 100 workers who clean airplane cabins and drive trash trucks at the airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, started a 24-hour strike Thursday, demanding better pay and healthcare, according to the Service Employees International Union. About 15% of flights were delayed, but it was unclear whether the strike played any role.

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A planned strike at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York was averted, however. Teamsters Local 553, which represents about 300 workers who refuel passenger and cargo jets at JFK, said that it reached a settlement with Allied Aviation Services and called off a walkout planned for Friday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Ridley, 4, left, rides on a suitcase as he and his father Chris Ridley make their way through the Nashville international Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

George Ridley, 4, left, rides on a suitcase as he and his father Chris Ridley make their way through the Nashville international Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

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“We are happy an agreement has been reached, a need for a strike averted, and we are hopeful that the deal will be ratified by our members,” said Demos Demopoulos, the secretary-treasurer of the local.

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Associated Press video journalist Melissa Perez Winder in Chicago and Associated Press radio reporter Shelley Adler in Washington contributed to this report.

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Texas health department appoints anti-abortion OB-GYN to maternal mortality committee

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Texas health department appoints anti-abortion OB-GYN to maternal mortality committee

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas’ health department has appointed an outspoken anti-abortion OB-GYN to a committee that reviews pregnancy-related deaths as doctors have been warning that the state’s restrictive abortion ban puts women’s lives at risk.

Dr. Ingrid Skop was among the new appointees to the Texas Maternal Morality and Morbidity Review Committee announced last week by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Her term starts June 1.

The committee, which compiles data on pregnancy-related deaths, makes recommendations to the Legislature on best practices and policy changes and is expected to assess the impact of abortion laws on maternal mortality.

Skop, who has worked as an OB-GYN for over three decades, is vice president and director of medical affairs for the Charlotte Lozier Institute, an anti-abortion research group. Skop will be the committee’s rural representative.

Skop, who has worked in San Antonio for most of her career, told the Houston Chronicle that she has “often cared for women traveling long distances from rural Texas maternity deserts, including women suffering complications from abortions.”

Texas has one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the U.S., and doctors have sought clarity on the state’s medical exemption, which allows an abortion to save a woman’s life or prevent the impairment of a major bodily function. Doctors have said the exemption is too vague, making it difficult to offer life-saving care for fear of repercussions. A doctor convicted of providing an illegal abortion in Texas can face up to 99 years in prison and a $100,000 fine and lose their medical license.

Skop has said medical associations are not giving doctors the proper guidance on the matter. She has also shared more controversial views, saying during a congressional hearing in 2021 that rape or incest victims as young as 9 or 10 could carry pregnancies to term.

Texas’ abortion ban has no exemption for cases of rape or incest.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which says abortion is “inherently tied to maternal health,” said in a statement that members of the Texas committee should be “unbiased, free of conflicts of interest and focused on the appropriate standards of care.” The organization noted that bias against abortion has already led to “compromised” analyses, citing a research articles co-authored by Skop and others affiliated with the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

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Earlier this year a medical journal retracted studies supported by the Charlotte Lozier Institute claiming to show harms of the abortion pill mifepristone, citing conflicts of interests by the authors and flaws in their research. Two of the studies were cited in a pivotal Texas court ruling that has threatened access to the drug.

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

A Michigan dairy worker has been diagnosed with bird flu — the second human case associated with an outbreak in U.S. dairy cows.

The male worker had been in contact with cows at a farm with infected animals. He experienced mild eye symptoms and has recovered, U.S. and Michigan health officials said in announcing the case Wednesday.

A nasal swab from the person tested negative for the virus, but an eye swab tested Tuesday was positive for bird flu, “indicating an eye infection,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said.

The worker developed a “gritty feeling” in his eye earlier this month but it was a “very mild case,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s chief medical executive. He was not treated with oseltamivir, a medication advised for treating bird flu, she said.

The risk to the public remains low, but farmworkers exposed to infected animals are at higher risk, health officials said. They said those workers should be offered protective equipment, especially for their eyes.

Health officials say they do not know if the Michigan farmworker was wearing protective eyewear, but an investigation is continuing.

In late March, a farmworker in Texas was diagnosed in what officials called the first known instance globally of a person catching this version of bird flu from a mammal. That patient reported only eye inflammation and recovered.

Since 2020, a bird flu virus has been spreading among more animal species — including dogs, cats, skunks, bears and even seals and porpoises — in scores of countries.

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The detection in U.S. livestock earlier this year was an unexpected twist that sparked questions about food safety and whether it would start spreading among humans.

That hasn’t happened, although there’s been a steady increase of reported infections in cows. As of Wednesday, the virus had been confirmed in 51 dairy herds in nine states, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. Fifteen of the herds were in Michigan.

The CDC’s Dr. Nirav Shah said the case was “not unexpected” and it’s possible more infections could be diagnosed in people who work around infected cows.

U.S. officials said they had tested 40 people since the first cow cases were discovered in late March. Michigan has tested 35 of them, Bagdasarian told The Associated Press in an interview.

Shah praised Michigan officials for actively monitoring farmworkers. He said health officials there have been sending daily text messages to workers exposed to infected cows asking about possible symptoms, and that the effort helped officials catch this infection. He said no other workers had reported symptoms.

That’s encouraging news, said Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota epidemiologist who has studied bird flu for decades. There’s no sign to date that the virus is causing flu-like illness or that it is spreading among people.

“If we had four or five people seriously ill with respiratory illness, we would be picking that up,” he said.

The virus has been found in high levels in the raw milk of infected cows, but government officials say pasteurized products sold in grocery stores are safe because heat treatment has been confirmed to kill the virus.

The new case marks the third time a person in the United States has been diagnosed with what’s known as Type A H5N1 virus. In 2022, a prison inmate in a work program picked it up while killing infected birds at a poultry farm in Montrose County, Colorado. His only symptom was fatigue, and he recovered. That predated the virus’s appearance in cows.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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