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Judge declines to throw out Harvey Weinstein criminal case

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NEW YORK — A New York judge declined to dismiss sexual assault charges against Harvey Weinstein Thursday, rejecting the latest push from the disgraced film producer’s lawyers to have his indictment thrown out.

Judge James Burke’s ruling buoyed a prosecution that has appeared on rocky ground in recent months amid a prolonged defence effort to raise doubts about the case and the police investigation.

Weinstein’s lawyers argued the case had been “irreparably tainted” by a detective’s alleged coaching of a potential witness and one of the accusers. They also said the grand jury should have been shown evidence that Weinstein had exchanged friendly emails with his two accusers after the alleged attacks.

But Burke ruled that Weinstein’s claims of prosecutorial misconduct had “no basis.” He also denied Weinstein’s request for an evidentiary hearing.

Weinstein’s next court date is scheduled for March 7.

Weinstein’s defence attorney, Benjamin Brafman, said he was disappointed with Burke’s ruling, but said he remains confident Weinstein will be “completely exonerated” at trial.

“We intend to vigorously defend this case to the best of our ability,” Brafman told reporters after the hearing. “It does not in any way suggest that the case against Mr. Weinstein is going to end badly.”

Weinstein has denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex. He pleaded not guilty and is free on $1 million bail. He left court without commenting.

He is charged with raping an unidentified female acquaintance in his hotel room in 2013 and performing a forcible sex act on a different woman in 2006. The Associated Press does not identify alleged victims of sexual assaults unless they come forward publicly.

Images of Weinstein, the notoriously bombastic producer of Oscar winners “Shakespeare in Love” and “The English Patient,” in handcuffs last spring were seen by many women as a cathartic moment in the #MeToo reckoning. About half a dozen women supporting Time’s Up, including actresses Amber Tamblyn and Marisa Tomei, were at the hearing Thursday.

“Today, here in New York, we saw the first steps towards justice,” Time’s Up President Lisa Borders said after the judge’s ruling.

Burke could have dismissed some or all of the charges, which would have been a major setback for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who was criticized for declining to pursue criminal charges against Weinstein when he was accused of groping an Italian model in 2015. Vance cited a lack of supporting evidence at the time, despite the existence of a clandestinely made recording of Weinstein discussing the episode with the woman.

But in recent months, Weinstein worked side-by-side with Brafman to throw doubt on the case and his accusers. They plucked emails from his movie studio’s servers they say showed Weinstein had friendly, consensual relationships with the women.

Weinstein’s defence was boosted in October by back-to-back allegations of misconduct in the police investigation.

Manhattan prosecutors dropped one of the charges against him — allegations that he raped an aspiring actress who was still in college — after evidence surfaced that Det. Nicholas DiGaudio instructed a potential witness to keep some of her doubts about the veracity of the allegations to herself.

DiGaudio allegedly told the witness in February that when she spoke to prosecutors, “less is more.” That witness never testified before the grand jury that indicted Weinstein.

Burke, in his ruling, noted that count was dismissed not because prosecutors disbelieved the alleged victim but because they determined they may not have been able to prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt.

Prosecutors also disclosed an allegation that DiGaudio urged the 2013 rape accuser to delete private material from her cellphones before handing them over to the DA’s office.

Prosecutors said the material didn’t pertain to Weinstein and the woman wound up not deleting anything. DiGaudio’s union has said he “was simply trying to get to the truth” and wasn’t trying to influence the investigation.

Late last month, Weinstein’s lawyers said they spoke to a woman who said the rape accuser asked her to corroborate her allegations, but the friend wouldn’t “make up a story.”

The friend told investigators that Weinstein and the accuser had been “hooking up” consensually for a while and that she never heard her say anything bad about him until last year, Brafman said in a court filing.

In the months after The New York Times and The New Yorker began publishing stories about Weinstein’s interactions with women, activists pressured Vance to bring charges as dozens of people came forward with claims of sexual misconduct against him.

New York Police officials poured on the pressure, too, saying publicly they believed they had gathered ample evidence to make an arrest.

Burke’s ruling revealed that Weinstein had agreed in May to testify before the grand jury considering his case. He was arrested days later and then withdrew his notice to testify before the grand jury that charged him.

Michael R. Sisak, The Associated Press




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National Entertainment

Gloria Vanderbilt, heiress, jeans queen, dies at 95

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NEW YORK — Gloria Vanderbilt, the intrepid heiress, artist and romantic who began her extraordinary life as the “poor little rich girl” of the Great Depression, survived family tragedy and multiple marriages and reigned during the 1970s and ’80s as a designer jeans pioneer, died Monday at the age of 95.

Vanderbilt was the great-great-granddaughter of financier Cornelius Vanderbilt and the mother of CNN newsman Anderson Cooper, who announced her death via a first-person obituary that aired on the network Monday morning.

Cooper said Vanderbilt died at home with friends and family at her side. She had been suffering from advanced stomach cancer, he noted.

“Gloria Vanderbilt was an extraordinary woman, who loved life, and lived it on her own terms,” Cooper said in a statement. “She was a painter, a writer, and designer but also a remarkable mother, wife, and friend. She was 95 years old, but ask anyone close to her, and they’d tell you, she was the youngest person they knew, the coolest, and most modern.”

Her life was chronicled in sensational headlines from her childhood through four marriages and three divorces. She married for the first time at 17, causing her aunt to disinherit her. Her husbands included Leopold Stokowski, the celebrated conductor, and Sidney Lumet, the award-winning movie and television director. In 1988, she witnessed the suicide of one of her four sons.

Tributes online came from celebrities and fans of her clothes alike. Alyssa Milano called her “an incredible woman,” Dana Delany said she treasures one of her paintings and one Twitter user mourned by remembering the canary Vanderbilt jeans she wore in junior high school.

Vanderbilt was a talented painter and collagist who also acted on the stage (“The Time of Your Life” on Broadway) and television (“Playhouse 90,” ”Studio One,” ”Kraft Theater,” ”U.S. Steel Hour”). She was a fabric designer who became an early enthusiast for designer denim. The dark-haired, tall and ultra-thin Vanderbilt partnered with Mohan Murjani, who introduced a $1 million advertising campaign in 1978 that turned the Gloria Vanderbilt brand with its signature white swan label into a sensation.

At its peak in 1980, it was generating over $200 million in sales. And decades later, famous-name designer jeans — dressed up or down — remain a woman’s wardrobe staple.

Vanderbilt wrote several books, including the 2004 chronicle of her love life: “It Seemed Important at the Time: A Romance Memoir,” which drops such names as Errol Flynn, whom she dated as a teenager; Frank Sinatra, for whom she left Stokowski; Marlon Brando and Howard Hughes.

She claimed her only happy marriage was to author Wyatt Cooper, which ended with his death in 1978 at age 50. Son Anderson Cooper called her memoir “a terrific book; it’s like an older ‘Sex and the City.'”

“I’ve had many, many loves,” Vanderbilt told The Associated Press in a 2004 interview. “I always feel that something wonderful is going to happen. And it always does.”

Noting her father’s death when she was a toddler, she said: “If you don’t have a father, you don’t miss it, because you don’t know what it is. It was really only when I married Wyatt Cooper that I understood what it was like to have a father, because he was just an extraordinary father.”

In 2016, Vanderbilt and Anderson Cooper appeared together in the HBO documentary “Nothing Left Unsaid.”

Gloria Laura Madeleine Sophie Vanderbilt was born in 1924, a century after her great-great-grandfather started the family fortune, first in steamships, later in railroads. He left around $100 million when he died in 1877 at age 82.

Her father, Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt, was 43, a gambler and boozer dying of liver disease when he married Gloria Morgan, 19, in 1923. Their daughter was 1 when Vanderbilt died in 1925, having gone through $25 million in 14 years.

Beneficiary of a $5 million trust fund, Vanderbilt became the “poor little rich girl” in 1934 at age 10 as the object of a custody fight between her globe-trotting mother and matriarchal aunt.

The aunt, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, 59, who controlled $78 million and founded the Whitney Museum of American Art, won custody of her niece.

A shocked judge had closed the trial when a maid accused the child’s mother of a lesbian affair with a member of the British royal family. The fight was chronicled in the bestselling 1980 book “Little Gloria … Happy at Last,” made into a TV miniseries in 1982 with Angela Lansbury playing Whitney.

The “poor little rich girl” nickname “bothered me enormously,” Vanderbilt told The Associated Press in 2016. “I didn’t see any of the press — the newspapers were kept from me. I didn’t know what it meant. I didn’t feel poor and I didn’t feel rich. It really did influence me enormously to make something of my life when I realized what it meant.”

After spending the next seven years on her aunt’s Long Island estate, Vanderbilt went to Hollywood. She dated celebrities and declared she would marry Hughes. Instead, the 17-year-old wed Hughes’ press agent, Pasquale di Cicco, prompting her aunt to cut Gloria out of her will.

Vanderbilt came into her own $5 million trust fund in 1945 at age 21. She also divorced Di Cicco, whom she said had beaten her often, and the next day married the 63-year-old Stokowski. The marriage to the conductor lasted 10 years and produced two sons, Stanislaus and Christopher.

After her marriage broke up, Vanderbilt found herself embroiled in another custody case, this time as the mother. During the closed hearings, Stokowski accused Vanderbilt of spending too much time at parties and too little with the boys. She accused him of tyrannizing his sons and said he really was 85, and not 72 as he claimed.

Justice Edgar Nathan Jr. gave Vanderbilt full-time custody. But he commented that the court had wasted a month on “the resolution of problems which mature, intelligent parents should be able to work out for themselves.”

Vanderbilt married Lumet in 1956 and lived with him and her children in a 10-room duplex penthouse on Gracie Square. She divorced Lumet and married Cooper in 1963.

Their elder son, Carter, a Princeton graduate and editor at American Heritage, killed himself in 1988 at age 23, leaping from his mother’s 14th floor apartment as she tried to stop him. Police said he had been treated for depression and friends said he was despondent over a break-up with a girlfriend. Vanderbilt says in “Nothing Left Unsaid” that she contemplated following him, but the thought of how it would devastate Anderson stopped her.

After her success in designer jeans, Vanderbilt branched out into other areas, including shoes, scarves, table and bed linens, and china, through her company, Gloria Concepts. In 1988 Vanderbilt joined the designer fragrance market with her signature “Glorious.”

By the late 1980s, Vanderbilt sold the name and licenses for the brand name “Gloria Vanderbilt” to Gitano, who transferred it to a group of private investors in 1993. More recently, her stretch jeans have been licensed through Jones Apparel Group Inc., which acquired Gloria Vanderbilt Apparel Corp. in 2002 for $138 million.

Vanderbilt became the target of a swindle in the late 1970s and early ’80s when she made her psychiatrist and a lawyer associates in her business affairs. A court held that the two had looted millions from Vanderbilt’s bank accounts.

Vanderbilt also made headlines in 1980 when she filed, but later dropped, a discrimination complaint against the posh River House apartments, which had rejected her bid to buy a $1.1 million duplex. She claimed the board was worried that black singer Bobby Short, who appeared with her on TV commercials, might marry her.

In 2009, the 85-year-old Vanderbilt penned a new novel, “Obsession: An Erotic Tale,” a graphic tale about an architect’s widow who discovers a cache of her husband’s letters that reveal his secret sex life.

In an interview with The New York Times, she said she wasn’t embarrassed about the explicitness of her new book, saying: “I don’t think age has anything to do with what you write about. The only thing that would embarrass me is bad writing, and the only thing that really concerned me was my children. You know how children can be about their parents. But mine are very intelligent and supportive.”

Ula Ilnytzky, The Associated Press




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Friends in high places: Garth Brooks adds show after Saskatchewan premier asks

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REGINA — Country music legend Garth Brooks will be in Saskatchewan a little longer this summer thanks to the premier.

A statement from Brooks says he has added a second August concert in Regina at the request of Scott Moe.

The singer’s Aug. 10 concert sold out in 59 minutes.

The added show is to take place on Aug. 9.

After the second show was announced, Moe said on Twitter: “Great News Saskatchewan!”

It will be the first time Brooks will headline a concert in Regina and the first time Mosaic Stadium is the venue for a country music concert.

The Canadian Press

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