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All that traffic, and no jail time for the man behind it?

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That is the argument federal prosecutors will make tomorrow when the man behind the infamous Bridgegate lane closures at the George Washington Bridge nearly four years ago is sentenced by a federal judge.

Federal prosecutors have recommended no jail time for David Wildstein, the Governor Christie-appointed Port Authority official behind the “Bridgegate” lane closures in September 2013 which reduced the customary three toll booths allocated to traffic from the Fort Lee entry point just south of the toll booth plaza to one booth. This caused epic, infamous traffic that gridlocked Fort Lee traffic for hours each of four weekdays, while the rest of bridge traffic into New York was apparently normal and unaffected.

Wildstein pleaded guilty to two federal felonies, both conspiracy counts (one to misapply federal funds, received by the Port Authority, and one to deprive residents of their civil rights) involving hard to define crimes which, in some corners, may be emblematic of the negative trend of overcriminalization.

(One wonders whether Wildstein’s former boss, Governor Christie, could be prosecuted for a recent state shutdown on similar charges; the fact such arguments could be made shows the peril any decision maker, in any field, faces at the hands of a vengeful prosecutor.)

At sentencing, expect both the prosecutors and defense counsel to cite various mitigating factors to argue that Wildstein should receive credit for his help to prosecutors. “Cooperating” witnesses like Wildstein almost always secure prosecutors’ agreement to recommend “leniency” if they testify truthfully and otherwise assist in ongoing prosecutions of others (sometimes, they are “co-conspirators”) in a related case, or even in unrelated matters, in exchange for agreeing to plead guilty and “accept responsibility.”
Wildstein’s slap on the wrist recommendation is not unusual, because he fulfilled his plea agreement with prosecutors. His testimony led to the convictions of two other Christie appointees: fellow Port Authority official Bill Baroni, and the Christie deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, who wrote the infamous “time for some traffic problems” email that led to both state legislative and federal criminal investigations.

These are what’s called “mitigating factors” which help prosecutors decide to recommend a lower sentence than the time “range” suggested (but not required) by federal sentencing guidelines. In this case, federal prosecutors cited Wildstein’s “substantial and very useful assistance” in the investigations and his testifying for the prosecution in last fall’s criminal trial of Baroni and Kelly.

Baroni, a former state senator, was sentenced to 24 months and Kelly was sentenced to 18 months jail time earlier this year. Both of them have had their sentences stayed while they appeal their convictions before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

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Foreign Affairs

President dispatches Pompeo after talking to Saudi King

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President dispatches Pompeo after talking to Saudi King

President Trump is sending Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Saudi Arabia to discuss the disappearance of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Turkey claims to have ample evidence that the Saudis murdered Khashoggi at their consulate in Istanbul.

The situation is tense as pressure mounts for actions to be taken against Saudi Arabia. The Saudis fired back with threats of their own if such actions are taken. All of this is happening against a backdrop of increased engagement between Saudi Arabia and the United States as they work to put together a Middle East peace agreement.

Turkey claims to have a recording of Khashoggi’s murder captured on his Apple Watch. They also have the identities of a 15-man “kill team” that was allegedly sent to the consulate to capture and torture Khashoggi. Video shows him going into the consulate with his fiancee remaining outside, but no footage has been released of him leaving the consulate and his fiancee hasn’t seen him since. Turkey claims Saudi Arabia has sufficient surveillance cameras at the consulate that could prove he left, but the Saudis claim the equipment was not recording during his visit.

My Take

The White House is trying to sweep this under the rug. As obtuse as the Saudi government has been for decades, their strategic and economic importance to the United States is great. The last thing the White House wants is to be forced to choose between their close ally and public outcry, most of which is demanding repercussions in light of the alleged evidence.

Turkey has been adamant that their theory is correct.

At some point, we’re going to have to cut ties with Saudi Arabia unless drastic changes are made. Changes are underway, but they seem too slow to compensate for the backwards nature of the country. It’s time to just cut them loose now.

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Guns and Crime

Why isn’t Katie Brennan’s #MeToo accusation getting national attention?

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It’s the type of story that should have received national attention immediately. It was sourced by a respected major news outlet, the Wall Street Journal. Both the accuser and the accused are high-ranking public official in New Jersey’s government. The accused stepped down two weeks ago when approached by WSJ for comment. Katie Brennan’s story is a major newsworthy scandal.

As of Monday morning, a day after the story officially broke and four days after it was leaked to other major news outlets, both mainstream media and the #MeToo movement are essentially silent.

That will change soon, possibly today. Brennan, a prominent volunteer for Phil Murphy’s gubernatorial campaign and current Chief of Staff at the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, released this statement:

On April 8th, 2017, Al Alvarez raped me. On April 9th, 2017 I learned that the system is broken.

I have pursued every form of justice available. But it has become clear that this system is not built for survivors.

The details of the assault portrayed in reporter Kate King’s Wall Street Journal report published today are accurate. But to date, I have received no justice.

I decided to come forward because I know that Al Alvarez, and all perpetrators, must be held accountable, must never rape again, and the justice system needs a complete change with regard to sexual violence.

New Jersey residents are only given a two-year window to file a civil suit. After spending an entire year pursuing a criminal case before hitting a dead end, I am left with less than one year to pursue civil action.

It is clear that leadership from the Murphy administration is needed to create meaningful policy change on several levels to make sure future victims do not have to endure what I have. I urge Gov. Murphy and the Attorney General’s Office to eliminate the statute of limitations on civil action related to sexual assault, and to direct prosecutors to be more aggressive in taking on these criminal cases. Further, the Murphy administration and the General Assembly should pursue legislation to ensure New Jersey’s police and other first responders are better trained to handle sexual assault victims.

Finally, sexual predators like Al Alvarez are only able to stay in power when those around them do nothing. Several senior level members of the Murphy administration were aware of my assault and failed to take meaningful action. Al Alvarez remained employed at a senior level in the Murphy administration until just a few weeks ago, when he knew the Wall Street Journal article was coming out and opted to resign. The failure of members of Gov. Murphy’s staff to respond in an aggressive, proactive fashion is unacceptable.

To other sexual assault survivors in New Jersey, I urge you to join me in coming forward if you are able. I will stand with you, because when we stand together, we are safer and stronger. Our voice is our power. Together, we can finally receive the justice we all deserve.

Murphy has not commented other than saying Alvarez should not have been hired. He was made aware of a “sensitive matter” that needed to be discussed by Brennan in June and claimed his staff would set up a meeting. That was the last Brennan heard from Murphy.

Gov. Phil Murphy’s handling of aide sex assault allegation questioned

https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/new-jersey/governor/2018/10/14/murphys-handling-sexual-assault-allegation-called-into-question/1642517002/His accuser, Katie Brennan, was a Murphy campaign volunteer who said she spent more than a year seeking action against Alvarez for the alleged sexual assault before directly emailing Phil and Tammy Murphy in June. Phil Murphy responded within the hour, according to the Journal.

“Hang in,” he wrote. “We are on it.”

But Alvarez remained in his $140,000-a-year position until October. The alleged assault happened in April 2017.

Standards set by the #MeToo movement dictate that credible accusations should be believed. Brennan appears to be extremely credible, having reported her rape immediately after it allegedly occurred. Alvarez offered a $15,000 settlement that would have been attached to a non-disclosure agreement, which Brennan refused.

Where is MSNBC? Where is CNN? Where is Alyssa Milano?

Social media is starting to take notice. In particular, they’re going after Murphy and his wife for speaking out in support of Christine Blasey Ford’s accusations against Brett Kavanaugh.

Katie Brennan

My Take

I am a strong proponent for what the #MeToo movement once promoted and how it started. The original intent was to embolden women who had experienced sexual misconduct at the hands of men in power over them. The goal was to give courage to those who were in very tough situations.

Recently, the #MeToo movement has been weaponized. I’m not going to draw comparisons between accusations against Kavanaugh and Alvarez. That would be unfair to Ford since Brennan’s accusations against Alvarez are much more recent and have the benefit of an immediate report to the authorities. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that as of now, either the story hasn’t reached the right people or the right people have chosen to ignore it.

We can’t let them.

It’s not as if this is a political hit job against Democrats. Brennan’s image was used in Murphy’s campaign handouts and she was outspoken as a “Young Democrat of the Week” in New Jersey as a result.

Katie Brennan NJ Democrat

I don’t like when something as heinous as rape gets politicized, but silence from mainstream media and the #MeToo movement is deafening. Would they be avoiding the story if Brennan had accused a Republican?

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Culture and Religion

Katherine Timpf on fighting political correctness

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Katherine Timpf on fighting political correctness

National Review reporter and Fox News contributor Katherine Timpf often discusses political correctness. She talks about it so often that one might think it’s a subject she enjoys, but in reality it’s simply a problem she passionately wants to solve.

In American society, it is way too easy to offend. People do not want to hear that their perspectives are wrong. That’s apparently some form of violence. They don’t want to hear an opposing viewpoint. That’s allegedly a form of oppression. Many on the left feel entitled to express their opinions in any way they see fit and also to prevent others from sharing their opinions if there’s a difference in worldviews.

The hypocrisy of political correctness is thick.

As Timpf recently pointed out on National Review, it’s a problem that doesn’t have an easy solution, but trends are pointing to positive movement against the specter of political correctness.

Political Correctness: Study Finds 80 Percent of Americans Think It’s a Problem

https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/10/political-correctness-problem-according-to-80-percent-of-people/I could go on for pages and pages, but you get the point: Writing about political correctness sometimes makes me feel as if everyone has gone mad, and I’m very glad to see that this doesn’t seem to be the case. Instead, a strong majority of people apparently agrees with me. A strong majority believes that political correctness has gone too far, and probably would agree that we need to be careful to protect our ability to speak freely in this country.

That’s certainly encouraging, but it still doesn’t make me feel entirely better. After all, the small, PC-obsessed mob can sometimes be very powerful. Once it decides that someone or something is racist or sexist, that conclusion can carry a lot of weight. It can ruin careers and lives. It can remove perfectly good, innocuous words from acceptable speech, because even the people who might not see a problem with those words don’t want to risk being accused of racism or sexism for using them. The only answer is to keep fighting, to keep exposing and mocking such overreach when it occurs — and to take solace in the fact that so many people have awoken to its dangers.

Keep fighting the good fight, Ms. Timpf.

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