County offers reduced jail time for birth control

Yes, you read that right. Inmates in White County, Tennessee, can shave 30 days off their jail sentence if they undergo an elective birth control procedure.

Both male and female inmates can volunteer for the new program. Women receive a Nexplanon implant in their arm, which provides up to three years of continuous birth control. Men undergo a vasectomy. The procedures are free and conducted by the Tennessee Department of Health.

General Sessions Judge Sam Benningfield signed a standing order on May 15 enforcing the program.

“I hope to encourage them to take personal responsibility and give them a chance, when they do get out, not to be burdened with children,” Benningfield told CNN affiliate WTVF. “This gives them a chance to get on their feet and make something of themselves.”

Since the program started, 32 women and 38 men have volunteered. The men are currently waiting to have the vasectomies performed.

“I understand it won’t be entirely successful, but if you reach two or three people, maybe that’s two or three kids not being born under the influence of drugs. I see it as a win-win,” Benningfield said.

Controversy over new program

Not everyone is enthusiastic about the idea. District Attorney Bryant Dunaway and the ACLU are speaking against the ethics and legality of it.

“Those decisions are personal in nature and I think that’s just something the court system should not encourage or mandate,” Dunaway told WTVF.

Dunaway has instructed his staff not to make any arrangements involving the birth control program.

“Offering a so-called ‘choice’ between jail time and coerced contraception or sterilization is unconstitutional,” said Hedy Weinberg, ACLU-TN executive director, in a statement.

“Judges play an important role in our community — overseeing individuals’ childbearing capacity should not be part of that role.”

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What’s next for O.J. Simpson?

O.J. Simpson was granted parole Thursday after serving nearly nine years in prison for a 2007 armed robbery in Las Vegas. But the former NFL superstar and movie actor’s future outside of prison may not be so rosy.

Life outside the Lovelock Correctional Facility, a medium security prison in Nevada’s high desert, could well resemble Simpson’s solitary years after he was acquitted in the slayings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman, CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said Thursday.

“I think it will be a lot like life was between 1995 and 2007,” Toobin said. “He was really a pariah. His old life was gone — celebrity pitchman, sportscaster, actor, all gone.”

So what’s next for the 70-year-old who was known as the “Juice” during his football heyday?

When will Simpson go free?

The next chapter in Simpson’s life could begin as soon as October, the earliest he could be released, according to David Smith, a spokesman for the Nevada Board of Parole Commissioners. The state must now develop his release plan.

What will Simpson do?

One option for Simpson, Toobin said, would be to return to a life of memorabilia sales and autograph signings.

“I think it will be a pretty seedy existence,” Toobin said. “He’ll be trying to make money off what’s left of his fame. It’s mostly infamy, not fame.”

Simpson’s involvement in the world of memorabilia sales was what got him a nine-to-33-year sentence for his role in a 2007 incident that unfolded in a Las Vegas hotel room.

Simpson and armed associates allegedly confronted two memorabilia dealers and took pieces of memorabilia from them.

The “Juice” was convicted on charges including kidnapping, armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon.

The former college and pro football star said at his sentencing that he was trying to reclaim family heirlooms and other personal items that had been stolen from him, and claimed he was unaware his associates were carrying guns.

What skills has Simpson gained behind bars?

At his parole hearing Thursday, Simpson said that he is a Baptist, and that a few other inmates asked him to help create Lovelock’s first Baptist service.

“I worked with them,” he said. “We now have an ongoing Baptist service that … is well attended. I attend it religiously, and pun is intended.”

“I was always a good guy but could have been a better Christian and my commitment to change is to be a better Christian,” he added.

Simpson also said he recently became commissioner of the 18-team softball league.

“My primary responsibility was rules enforcement and, you know, player comportment,” he said, adding that he decided on removing players from games and suspensions.

“I never got any blowback from the guys because they know how to act. I’ve done the best I can and just trying to keep them out of trouble. So my agenda was full here. I’ve been active, totally active for as long … I’ve been here. I don’t have much time to sit around and do anything.”

He also completed a number of courses, he said, including one entitled “Alternative to Violence.”

“I think it’s the most important course anybody in this prison can take, because it teaches you how to deal with conflict, through conversation,” Simpson said.

“I have been asked many, many times here to mediate conflicts between individuals and groups,” he said. “And it gave me so many tools on how to use it, that you … try to walk these guys through. Not throwing punches at one another.”

O.J. Simpson, the webcaster and blogger?

Simpson said he completed a computer course that has helped him stay in touch with his four children.

“I took a computer course here not because I was computer illiterate, but I took the computer course because … sometimes I could never get my kids on the phone,” he said. “But if you text them or send something to them on the computer you can get them.”

In June 1967, Simpson, then 19 years old, married his 18-year-old high school sweetheart, Marguerite Whitley. The couple had three children, Arnelle, Jason and Aaren. Aaren drowned in the family swimming pool just before her second birthday in 1979.

At his parole hearing, Arnelle Simpson, O.J. Simpson’s oldest daughter, said her father was “my best friend and my rock.”

Simpson lamented to the parole board that he had missed too many graduations and birthdays. He’s anxious to get back to family and friends.

“I’ve done my time,” he told the board. “I would just like to get back to my family and friends, and believe it or not, I do have some real friends.”

Simpson and Brown married in 1985 and had two children, daughter Sydney and son Justin.

In a letter to a friend — which was read in court — Simpson wrote, “Who knows, you may even see a webcast/blog in my future.”

Simpson urged the friend, Ozzie Fumo, now a Nevada state legislator, to support prisoner education.

“It wasn’t until I got to prison that I realized just how many people did not have the exposure to … education — in part because of their circumstances i.e. gangs, bad neighborhoods, lack of parental supervision, poverty, etc.,” Simpson wrote.

How much is Simpson’s NFL pension worth?

Simpson stands to do better than most who have just been released from prison.

The NFL won’t say how much he’ll get from his NFL pension, and it’s hard to estimate without knowing some key details, such as when he decided to start collecting benefits. But according to the NFL benefits formula, if Simpson waited until age 65 to start drawing his pension, he could receive as much as $100,680 a year, and could have amassed more than $500,000 during the time he was in prison.

If he started at age 55, he would have accumulated $566,000 in benefits up until now, but he’d only get about $47,000 a year going forward.

Simpson also reportedly has made $5 million in contributions to a retirement plan run by the Screen Actor’s Guild, according to USA Today.

Were the Goldman and Brown families compensated?

Simpson was found liable in a 1996 civil trial for the deaths of Goldman and Brown-Simpson, and was ordered to pay $33.5 million in damages — more money than he had. Most of that money has not been collected.

He moved to Florida, where state law prevented his pension and home from being seized to pay the damages. Simpson’s Heisman Trophy was ordered sold and brought in $230,000.

Where will Simpson go?

Simpson told the parole panel that he will likely return to Florida.

“I could stay in Nevada but I don’t think you guys want me here,” he joked.

The Nevada Division of Parole and Probation will investigate Simpson’s proposed release plan.

Michelle Glady, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Corrections, said in a statement that if Nevada’s relocation request for Simpson “meets all criteria, Florida must accept the transfer.”

Fumo, the lawyer and Nevada state legislator, told CNN affiliate KLAS-TV that the former running back is “looking forward to the future.”

“He’s a better person than what a lot of people, you know, think he is,” Fumo said.

“He’s not going to be golfing everyday. I think the physical part has really taken a toll on his life.”

Toobin predicted Simpson’s eventual return to Florida, where bankruptcy laws will enable him to protect his assets from the Goldman family. Toobin also predicted that Simpson will likely continue to surround himself with figures from the memorabilia world.

“It’s a far cry from the old life in Brentwood, but it’s a hell of a lot better than being in Lovelock prison,” he said.

Simpson will likely make money selling interviews and memorabilia, Toobin said.

“He is a deeply delusional and self-obsessed narcissist, and, you know, good luck to America once he’s out,” he said.

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Illinois dodges downgrade to ‘junk’

Illinois has just barely avoided the dishonor of becoming America’s first “junk” state.

Moody’s decided Thursday that it won’t downgrade Illinois because the cash-strapped state finally passed its first budget in more than two years. S&P Global Ratings similarly removed the threat of an imminent downgrade last week.

Moody’s concluded that the Illinois budget deal — which includes a 32% tax hike — is enough to ease the enormous financial pressures facing the state. Illinois had built up $15 billion in unpaid bills, affecting everything from mental health services for teens to funding for state colleges and universities.

Even though Illinois has dodged another downgrade bullet, the state remains in financial disarray. After decades of mismanagement, Illinois has built up a stunning pension shortfall of $251 billion that will continue to grow, according to Moody’s.

That’s why Moody’s is keeping a “negative” outlook on the state, signaling further action could come in the next 12 to 24 months if Illinois gets back into trouble.

In addition to the “severe” pension shortfall, Moody’s said Illinois continues to grapple with a “weak governance” system and “residual political paralysis.”

It wasn’t clear if the budget compromise was going to be enough for Illinois to avoid a downgrade. Moody’s had warned right before the budget was enacted on July 6 that potential “shortcomings” in the deal could trigger a downgrade from its organization.

Moody’s reiterated on Thursday that there is a risk that Illinois will fail to cut spending and raise tax revenue by as much as the budget calls for.

Moody’s said the state’s failure to enact a budget for two straight years is partially the result of the state’s pension time bomb, which was caused by politicians delaying tough decisions.

“As the liabilities have grown more difficult, so have the potential political repercussions of addressing them,” Moody’s said.

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Family of former Miami-Dade police director still searching for answers after suicide

It happened the day after his 62nd birthday: Bobby Parker shot himself across the street from his Miami home.

Two years after his death, Parker’s police family still has no answers. His wife of nearly 40 years along with his three children, are living with the mystery every day.

The Parkers looked through pictures, remembering the rock of their family.

“I could not have imagined a better father for my kids,” Veronica Parker said about her late husband. “He said, ‘All you have to do is get up and breathe. I’ll take care of the rest.'” 

Bobby Parker was also the patriarch of an extended family — the Miami-Dade Police Department — for 33 years.

In 2004, he became the first black police director.

In July 2015, six years after he retired, Bobby Parker took his own life.

“I’ve torn this house apart. I tore the Georgia house apart. I tore the North Carolina house apart — (and found) nothing,”   Veronica Parker said. “I looked through his phone. His iPad. His personal papers — nothing.”

Veronica Parker recalls her husband being happy the day he died.

“The storm came and then the lights went out,” she said. “I was standing in the front yard and my sons, they went to the back, and I heard them scream. They said ‘Daddy, no.’ I knew it wasn’t good. And that’s when I saw him.” 

When Veronica Parker saw her husband’s body she closed his eyes and laid on top of him. 

“I think it was rescue that took me off,” she said. 

Parker’s two sons took Local 10 News’ Calvin Hughes to the canal across from their home, where they found their father’s body.

“I just broke down in tears. Never thought I would find my father here laying down,” Robert Parker  Jr. said. “It’s been very tough. Think about him every day.”

Kyron Parker said he thanks God daily for the time he had with his father. 

“It was just so unexpected,” Kalika Parker said about her father. “For someone to be so happy at that time. You just never know. And the reason we believe it was mental illness is he just didn’t display the signs.” 

Veronica Parker said her husband’s passing wasn’t just a loss for her and her family, but for the community.

“His race was done and we finished his race. And it was time for him to go. His work was done here,”  Veronica Parker said.

Friday would have been Bobby Parker’s 64th birthday. In remembrance of the former police director,  Veronica Parker is having a celebration at 790 South Biscayne River Drive in Miami.

She is accepting donations for the foundation named in his honor two years ago, hoping to raise $1 million. Donations can be made through the family’s GoFundMe account. 

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Body camera footage prompts review of 100 Baltimore cases

About 100 cases involving at least one of three Baltimore police officers are under review by the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office. The review comes after the discovery of body camera footage that allegedly shows one of the cops in the trio planting evidence at the scene of a January drug arrest, according to Baltimore city officials.

“My team has been working around the clock to ensure a thorough evaluation of each and every case,” Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said in a news conference Thursday.

A team of prosecutors will assess “whether there are alternative ways to prove the case and the officers’ involvement in that particular case,” Mosby said.

The investigation was prompted by the release of body camera video by the Maryland Office of the Public Defender on Wednesday. It shows the officer placing a plastic bag into a food can, then partially hiding it under a piece of debris. Thirty seconds later the audio begins, and the officer says, “I’m going to check here. Hold on,” as his colleagues laugh. The officer then gives a cursory look at other items in the debris-strewn lot and appears to stumble onto the drugs in the can.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said it was possible that officers were re-enacting the discovery of the drugs.

“It’s certainly a possibility that we’re looking into to see if the officers in fact replaced drugs that they had already discovered in order to document their discovery with their body-worn cameras on,” Davis said.

But Thursday, other city authorities, including Mosby, said it is not often they see a re-enactment.

“This is actually the first time this situation has come up for our unit,” said Sandra Goldthorpe, division chief for the evidence review unit within the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office.

On Wednesday, the Baltimore Police Department announced that it launched an investigation into the initial incident and released several additional body camera videos from the same arrest. Mosby said authorities reviewed a total of 10 body camera videos from that incident during their initial review of the case.

The 100 additional cases under scrutiny show “some sort of involvement” by at least one of the three officers in question.

One officer in the video has been suspended, and two others were placed on administrative duty pending an investigation by the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility.

While the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office watched and assessed footage from the 10 body camera videos involving the officers, one of them testified in another case in district court on Monday.

The defense attorneys in that case were made aware of the video and cross-examined the officer while he was on the stand, according to Mosby.

“The officer denied planting any drugs,” said Janice Bledsoe, deputy state’s attorney of criminal justice. “My understanding is the cross-examination ended very quickly because the officer was not involved in the search of the vehicle.”

Two days before the trial date for the drug arrest from the video footage, the public defender brought the camera footage to prosecutors. He suggested allowing his client to plead guilty to time served to resolve the matter, but prosecutors promptly dismissed the case upon reviewing the footage.

Mosby said her office reviews 150-318 cases a day, and both the Baltimore Police Department and Mosby’s office have departments that specifically review body-camera footage.

Mosby called the footage “something that wasn’t immediately visible or apparent” when it was initially reviewed, and Davis said they don’t review every minute of the footage.

“This is a matter of public safety and we are laser-focused on this particular incident,” Mosby said.

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