Andrea Constand set to take the stand in Bill Cosby trial

Bill Cosby’s main accuser will testify during his sexual assault retrial Friday after several other women told jurors this week they believe he drugged and molested them.

Andrea Constand has accused Cosby of assaulting her at his home near Philadelphia in January 2004. As the chief accuser against Cosby, her testimony will be central in the criminal case against him.

Cosby has said their sex was consensual and has pleaded not guilty. His defense attorneys argued this week that Constand was a con artist who was obsessed with Cosby’s fame and money.

Constand worked as director of operations for the women’s basketball team at Temple University when she met Cosby, who was a powerful trustee at the institution. She has said Cosby acted as a friend and mentor to her.

Constand confronted Cosby in court last year, but that case ended in a mistrial after a Pennsylvania jury was unable to come to a unanimous decision.

At that trial, Constand testified that Cosby drugged her and then assaulted her when she visited his home to discuss her career.

Constand first told police about the incident in 2005, and the district attorney at the time declined to press charges. In 2006, she and Cosby settled a civil lawsuit that remained sealed for nearly a decade.

One of America’s most recognized entertainers faces three counts of aggravated indecent assault. Prosecutors said Monday that he paid Constand $3.38 million as part of a 2006 civil settlement.

Other women

Several women have testified as the jury considers whether Cosby is guilty of assaulting Constand.

Prosecutors are allowed to seek testimony from up to five other women who have said Cosby also drugged and assaulted them in previous incidents. The prosecution argues that these “prior bad acts” show Cosby has a pattern of misconduct and did not make a one-time mistake in his actions toward Constand.

Reality TV star and supermodel Janice Dickinson testified in court Thursday that she confronted Cosby and wanted to punch him in the face after she said he drugged her and raped her in a hotel in Lake Tahoe in 1982.

“Do you want to explain what happened last night, because that wasn’t cool,” she told him, according to her testimony.

“I wanted to hit him, I wanted to punch him in the face,” she said. “I can remember feeling anger, disgust, and ashamed.”

Dickinson is the fourth “prior bad acts” witness to testify in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, court against Cosby, 80, in his trial on three charges of aggravated indecent assault.

‘I couldn’t move’

Dickinson, now 63, was a supermodel in 1982 and said Cosby flew her out to Lake Tahoe, a resort area on the California-Nevada border, to meet her.

At dinner with him and another man, she mentioned she had menstrual cramps, she testified. Cosby said he had something for that and she said she was given a blue pill.

They went to a room, and she began to feel lightheaded and couldn’t get the right words out, she testified. Cosby then got on top her, she testified.

“He smelled like cigars and espresso and his body odor,” she said. “I couldn’t move, I felt like I was rendered motionless.”

“Here was America’s dad on top of me, happily married man with five children and how very wrong it was,” she said.

She recalled feeling vaginal pain.

“I passed out after he entered me. It was gross,” she testified.

When she woke up, she was sore and remembers her pajamas were halfway off, she testified. That’s when she confronted him.

During a spirited cross-examination, Cosby’s defense attorney, Tom Mesereau, asked why a passage in Dickinson’s 2002 book about the Lake Tahoe visit does not say she and Cosby had sex.

“I wasn’t under oath when I wrote that book,” she testified.

Heidi Thomas, Chelan Lasha and Janice Baker-Kinney have each testified over the past few days that Cosby incapacitated them with drugs or wine and then assaulted them in separate incidents in 1984, 1986 and 1982, respectively.

Cosby’s defense attorneys have worked to point out inconsistencies in their stories.

Woman says she felt dizzy after Cosby gave her drink

The fifth and final prior accuser to testify, Lise-Lotte Lublin, said she remembered being in Cosby’s room and blacking out, but does not remember a sexual assault.

She was 23 in 1989 when her modeling agency arranged for her to meet “The Cosby Show” star. She said Cosby spent time with her family and introduced her as his daughter to others.

“I felt like he was representing himself as a father figure and a mentor to me,” she said.

She said Cosby offered her a drink at another meeting in Las Vegas, one about acting. She said she told him she didn’t drink but he said that it would relax her.

She testified she began to feel dizzy within minutes, and he asked her to come sit with him. She sat in front of him between his legs and he began to touch her hair, she recalled.

She vaguely remembers walking down a hallway of a hotel suite, she said. She remembers nothing from then until she woke up at home in her bed, she told the court.

Years later, in January 2015, after hearing accounts from other women, she said she realized “something else had happened after I blacked out. I don’t know what it was, but I believe I know what it was.”

Defense attorney Kathleen Bliss asked her about testimony and prior statements, in an apparent attempt to point out inconsistencies about her comments about sitting between Cosby’s legs.

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Arizona governor offers teachers 20% raise, but educators have questions

Faced with growing pressure from educators, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey announced Thursday his plan to give teachers 20% pay raises by the beginning of the 2020 school year. But Arizona educators who have been calling for better pay and more school fun…

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Trump’s lawyers pull back proposal for president to talk to Mueller

The FBI raid of the office of President Donald Trump’s attorney caused the president’s team to back off presenting a proposal they were preparing for special counsel Robert Mueller about an interview with the president, according to sources familiar with the matter. Trump’s legal team is now re-evaluating what, if any, interview the President should offer.

The raid happened at the same time Trump’s attorneys were meeting to get ready to make a proposal about his testimony to the special counsel.

News of the raid Monday blindsided Trump’s lawyers, who considered the move a “major breach of trust” that shattered the assumptions of good faith going into the negotiations, one source said. Another said it left them feeling “fundamentally misled.”

The lapse of trust could be insurmountable: The previous assumptions about wrapping up the investigation with a presidential interview about a finite number of topics no longer seem to be true, according to a source.

Trump’s attorneys felt Mueller’s team never told them there was going to be “a whole bucket of other stuff” to be investigated at another office, one source said.

But the attorneys went ahead with their previously planned meeting with Mueller’s team, as CNN has reported.

The attorneys had gone to the meeting ready to discuss details about how long Trump would sit for an interview and the subject matter he would discuss. The premise of the proposal by the President’s team was a single interview, a source said.

Another source described the discussions with Mueller’s team as an effort to collect information they could give Trump so that he could make an informed decision on whether to do an interview.

This source said the raid was a “massive departure from the mandate.”

Trump’s attorneys are now re-evaluating whether their client should testify, and no final decisions have been made.

There have been communications with Mueller’s team since the raid, a source says, but not substantive. At this point, the source says, there is not much to talk about.

Asked for comment, Ty Cobb, the White House special counsel, said Thursday that it is “untrue” that talks have broken off but would not speak further about it.

Trump’s attorney, Jay Sekulow, declined to comment.

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Condo association says ex-Marine’s emotional support dog is too big

Cross-Bones is his name, and he never met a human he didn’t like.

“He was quiet, but firm,” said Jean Salas.  He adopted his 70-pound dog last year, naming him after one of his former commanding officers.  Salas spent four years overseas, serving in the Marine Corps. 

“Throughout the time that I’ve had him, he has benefited me for my mental health,” said Salas.

He said Bones is his emotional support dog. 

“Whenever I’m anxious, or just feel overwhelmed, he’ll just come up to me, sit with me, cuddle up to me, comfort me.”

The Leave it to Layron team was contacted by Salas and his landlord after Salas’ application to rent his condo was denied.  The Sabal Chase Condo Association” sent Salas’ landlord a “certificate of denial” citing the association’s bylaws: “…a permitted pet may not be more than 29 pounds in weight.”

Salas’ landlord exchanged emails with the association’s managers, asking an exception be made to that weight limit.  Salas and his landlord submitted their Bones’s emotional support animal “registration” certificate.

At one point, the association manager responded, writing, “being an emotional support dog, is not the same thing as a service animal.”

We tried speaking with the managers of the association and were eventually referred to the association’s lawyer, whose comment was, “no comment.”

We talked to another lawyer:  Matthew Dietz, with the Disability Independence Group.

“There’s no difference between [the weight rule] and saying I have a mobility impairment and I need an assigned parking space.”

Dietz said the association is violating Salas’ federal fair housing rights.

“Without a doubt,” said Dietz.  “If it’s housing, you have to allow both service animals and emotional support animals.”

Dietz tried a similar case in federal court and won.  He represented an Air Force veteran whose Florida condo board ordered him to get rid of his emotional support dog because the dog was too big.

Dietz said the Salas’ association could have asked for a verification from a treating professional, to say that the person has a disability and the dog is necessary.

“In this case it was, you have an emotional support animal, you’re not allowed to live here.”

For now, Salas doesn’t have access to any of the community’s common spaces.  But Salas said his landlord is letting him and Bones stay.   

“He’s my dog,” Salas said.  “He’s family.”

Dietz said anyone who feels their housing rights are being violated should start with filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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5-year-old girl attacked after dog breaks through fence, family says

Miami-Dade Animal Services is investigating after a dog broke through a fence and attacked a 5-year-old girl this week in the Allapattah section of Miami.

Five-year-old Jocelyn Maldonado and her mother were walking to church Wednesday in the 2400 block of Northwest 21st Terrace when they were attacked by the dog, a pit bull mix.

The girl was left with a large bite on her right leg. She taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital and underwent surgery.

Jocelyn’s sister, Daniela Maldonado, said her mother tried to protect Jocelyn from the dog when it broke through the fence but tripped and fell, breaking her ankle.

Daniela Maldonado said she’s helping out around to help her mom and sister while they heal. 

Daniela has her hands full but she says she wants to do whatever she can so her mom and sister feel better.

The dog is currently being evaluated by Miami Dade Animal Services.

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Former aide tells Congress of extravagant spending by EPA’s Scott Pruitt

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt routinely directed staffers to book expensive hotels, help him earn frequent flier miles and schedule meetings to align with his personal travel desires, a former top staffer told congressional investigators.

Former EPA deputy chief of staff, Kevin Chmielewski, also said Pruitt was aware of major raises given to other aides, rebutting Pruitt’s account that he was unaware of the salary bumps.

The allegations are laid out in a letter several Democratic members of Congress sent Pruitt and President Donald Trump on Thursday. The letter says the new information about how Pruitt has run the agency reveal actions that are “unethical and potentially illegal.”

Chmielewski is currently on unpaid leave from the agency after raising concerns about Pruitt’s travel practices and uses of resources and funds.

Among the allegations:

• Pruitt declined to use State Department-approved overseas hotels that already had security in place, preferring more expensive hotels with higher security costs.

• Pruitt requested aides to schedule official business in cities he wanted to visit.

• Pruitt directed staffers booking his travel on Delta to maximize his personal frequent flyer miles.

• Pruitt used the agency’s scheduling director as a “personal real estate representative.”

• Pruitt wanted staff to find reasons for him to visit his home state of Oklahoma.

• Pruitt spent more than the $5,000 allowed by law to decorate his office, including refinishing an antique desk, buying a standing desk and paying leases for art on loan from the Smithsonian.

“We will respond to Members of Congress through the proper channel,” the agency’s spokesman, Jahan Wilcox, told CNN in a statement.

The EPA has previously defended Pruitt’s travel and security practices, and Pruitt argued in recent interviews his lease was ethically sound. EPA has also said Chmielewski is among “a group of disgruntled employees who have either been dismissed or reassigned.”

Chmielewski confirmed in a brief phone interview that the letter from Democratic members of Congress laying out his closed-door testimony is accurate. He has met with both Democratic and Republican members of Congress as part of inquiries into Pruitt.

“This has nothing to do with Republicans or Democrats. This is right and wrong. I will meet with whoever wants to meet with me,” Chmielewski told CNN.

Hotel choices

The letter reveals that when Pruitt was planning a business trip last year to Australia, he ignored State Department recommendations.

“Mr. Chmielewski claimed that you refused to stay at hotels recommended by the U.S. Embassy, although the recommended hotel had law enforcement and other U.S. resources on-site,” the letter reads. “He alleged you chose to stay instead at more expensive hotels with fewer standard security resources, and to bring your security team with you, at taxpayer expense.”

Pruitt’s hotel choices have also required his security detail to pay for rooms out of their own pockets.

“According to Mr. Chmielewski, you frequently stayed in hotels that exceeded the allowable U.S. government per diem,” the letter said. “He added that while you were reimbursed for these expenses, on some occasions members of you security detail were not reimbursed for the portion of their expenses that exceeded allowable maximums.”

First class travel and pay raises

Chmielewski told investigators he was sidelined at Pruitt’s direction after refusing to retroactively approve a first-class plane ticket for another EPA political appointee, Samantha Dravis. Dravis announced last week that she is leaving the agency later this month.

“He told our staffs that following his refusal, chief of staff Ryan Jackson called Mr. Chmielewski into his office and informed him that you wished to fire or reassign him,” the Democratic members of Congress wrote to Pruitt.

Chmielewski told congressional investigators that he had personal knowledge — through a conversation with Jackson — that Pruitt was involved in the raises given to his agency attorney and the scheduling director.

Pruitt denied in a Fox News interview that he knew of the raises prior to a report by The Atlantic that uncovered the raises — one for $57,000 and another for $28,000.

But Chmielewski said the administrator was in the know.

“Mr. Chmielewski explained that he was called into your Chief of Staff’s office and told that you wanted to move him out of his position in order to give Ms. Hupp his title and a pay increase,” the letter to Pruitt reads.

The raises were “100% Pruitt himself,” Chmielewski told the investigators. The letter did not specify if Chmielewski has personally discussed the raises with Pruitt.

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