Jeffrey Epstein guards charged with falsifying records

US financier Jeffrey Epstein appears in a photograph taken for the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services' sex offender registry on 28 March, 2017

Jeffrey Epstein was charged with sexually abusing dozens of girls

Two prison guards who were on duty on the night of disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein’s death have been charged with falsifying records.

They are accused of failing to check in on him every 30 minutes and fabricating log entries to show they had.

Epstein hanged himself in jail in August while awaiting trial on federal sex-trafficking charges.

The charges against the two guards are the first to arise from a criminal inquiry into his death.

Epstein had pleaded not guilty to sexually abusing dozens of girls, some as young as 14.

The 66 year old was already a convicted sex offender, having been jailed in Florida in 2008 for procuring a minor for prostitution.

What are the two guards accused of?

They were supposed to check on Epstein every 30 minutes on the night of his death. He had been taken off suicide watch after a previous suspected attempt to take his own life and was alone in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York.

But attorney Geoffrey Berman said the two guards had “repeatedly failed to conduct mandated checks on inmates, and lied on official forms to hide their dereliction”.

The guards were named in a statement by the Southern District of New York Attorney’s Office on Tuesday as correctional officers Tova Noel and Michael Thomas, aged 31 and 41 respectively.

For “substantial portions” of their shifts, they “sat at their desk, browsed the internet, and moved around the common area”, the statement said. They then signed “false certifications” showing that they had conducted counts of inmates.

Both guards have been charged with “making false records and conspiring to make false records and to defraud the United States”.

“We allege these officers falsified records to create the appearance they were following those protocols. The security risks created by this type of behaviour are immense,” FBI assistant director William Sweeney said in the statement.

Surveillance footage showed that no other people had entered the area where Epstein was held that evening, the statement added.

Both guards were previously reported to have been working overtime shifts on the night of Epstein’s death.

US Attorney General William Barr ordered their suspension in August after the FBI opened an investigation.

Federal prosecutors later offered the guards a plea bargain but they turned it down, according to the Associated Press news agency.

Who was Jeffrey Epstein and what was he charged with?

New York-born Epstein worked as a teacher before moving into finance. Prior to the criminal cases against him, he was best known for his wealth and high-profile connections.

Jane Doe 15: “Epstein wielded great villainous power”

He was often seen socialising with the rich and powerful, including US President Donald Trump, former President Bill Clinton and the UK’s Prince Andrew.

Epstein was accused of paying girls under the age of 18 to perform sex acts at his Manhattan and Florida mansions between 2002 and 2005. He was arrested on 6 July.

He avoided similar charges in a controversial deal in 2008, pleading guilty to a lesser charge of soliciting and procuring a minor for prostitution.

Presentational grey line

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Prince Andrew on Epstein: “There was no indication, absolutely no indication”

Trump may be Maine Sen. Susan Collins’ biggest re-election hurdle

Add in the impeachment inquiry, and the Republican has more to worry about than just her Democratic challengers

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Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, hands out candy to children outside her office during an Oct. 25 trick-or-treat event hosted by the local chamber of commerce in Lewiston. Associated Press/David Sharp

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, hands out candy to children outside her office during an Oct. 25 trick-or-treat event hosted by the local chamber of commerce in Lewiston.

LEWISTON — Republican Sen. Susan Collins has a well-funded Democrat prepping to challenge her next year. She has national women’s groups ready to attack her over her vote for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. And she’s a moderate facing an electorate that increasingly prioritizes purity.

Still, the four-term Maine senator’s biggest hurdle to re-election may be the president of her own party.

President Trump’s potential impeachment in the House and subsequent trial in the Senate presents a distinct dilemma for Collins. Of the handful of Republicans senators facing re-election next year, she has done perhaps the most to keep a clear distance from Trump. But as Democrats charge ahead toward impeachment, it looks increasingly likely that Collins will be forced to take sides in dramatic fashion. The senator, who has acknowledged she didn’t vote for the president in 2016 and still won’t say whether she will next year, may have to vote for him on the Senate floor.

“Susan Collins is in a terrible position,” said David Farmer, a Democratic operative in Maine. “The position that she’s in where she will likely … take a vote on whether to remove the president from office is going to inflame either the Democratic or the Republican base.”

Collins has kept mum on the House inquiry into whether the president abused his power by trying to get the president of Ukraine to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter because of her potential role as an impeachment juror.

But she’s already shown a willingness to criticize the president on various issues. She said it was “completely inappropriate” for Trump to ask China to investigate the Bidens. And she said his decision to pull U.S. troops from the border in Syria and leave Kurds open to attack was “terribly unwise.”

Trump often lashes out at those who criticize him, even those in his own party, like Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Ben Sasse of Nebraska.

But he has not attacked Collins, yet.

Collins’ aides shrug off questions of how presidential politics could factor into her race, and the 66-year-old senator said she’s built her career on an independence valued by Mainers.

“I just have to run, should I decide to run, my own race. And that’s what I’ve always done regardless of who’s on the top of the ticket,” she told The Associated Press.

She has said she plans to formally announce whether she’s seeking re-election later this fall.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has thrown its support behind Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon. The three other Democratic candidates are activist Betsy Sweet, attorney Bre Kidman and a late-comer, former Google executive Ross LaJeunesse.

For her part, Gideon has been touting her progressive credentials in her fundraising, but she’s stopped shy of supporting Medicare for All or the Green New Deal, though she says climate change and universal health care are important to her.

She’s unequivocal on Trump.

She supports the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry – and accuses Collins of failing to stand up to Trump. “In the times that we’ve needed her the most, since (Trump) has become president, she’s not delivering for us,” Gideon told a gathering in Portland.

Gideon raised $1 million more than Collins in the most recent reporting cycle. But Collins has raised far more money – $8.6 million – the largest of any political candidate in Maine history. Pundits suggest upward of $80 million to $100 million could be spent on this race before Election Day 2020.

Democrats see an opportunity as Collins navigates a potentially precarious path in a fractured state where Trump is reviled in liberal, coastal communities and cheered in the conservative, heavily wooded north.

Try as she might, she won’t be able to avoid Trump, who’s expected to campaign in Maine, where he claimed one of the state’s four electoral votes in 2016.

Josh Tardy, a Bangor attorney and former Republican leader in the Maine House, said Mainers expect Collins to demonstrate “due diligence” on her constitutionally imposed obligations when it comes to impeachment.

But he downplayed the impact in her race.

“I think most people view this impeachment as partisan tit for tat. I don’t think that’s (going) to drive the election needle one way or the other,” he said.

In Lewiston, a former mill town on the Androscoggin River, the senator’s challenges were clear even at a recent event hosted by the local chamber of commerce.

Collins appeared at ease as she handed out Halloween candy to children, posed for selfies and chatted with the adults. But some voters were less so.

Hillary Dow said she was “troubled” by a key vote that incensed Democrats – Collins’ support of Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual assault during the Supreme Court confirmation process. But she said she continues to back Collins because of the bigger picture – her moderate views, her bipartisanship, her track record.

“I appreciate that she’s honest and fair, and she focuses on what really matters. She’s a good person,” she said.

But one man who sought out Collins for a photo later acknowledged he might not vote at all because he’s so frustrated with national politics.

“I’m not sure if I trust anyone anymore, as far as the politicians go,” said restaurant worker Craig Aleo. “It’s a tough world right now.”

Collins conceded it’s a difficult time for a politician who has made a career trying to broker legislative deals.

“The current environment is very disturbing to me. There’s a lack of focus on what we need to do for the American people, and instead the focus is on power struggles over who’s going to control what,” she said.

Collins hails from Caribou, in the conservative 2nd Congressional District that voted for Trump. That’s where her parents served as mayor, and where her family still runs the S.W. Collins hardware store.

Ousting Collins from Maine politics, where her roots run deep, is no small task.

Cynthia Noyes, who describes herself as “liberal in Republican clothing,” fears that her friend from high school is more vulnerable this election cycle. But the Caribou flower shop owner still supports Collins, and she hopes other independent-minded voters will support her as they have in the past.

“Do what’s right and you’ll be OK. Mainers are like that. If they think you’re doing the right thing, then you’ll be OK,” she said.

Maine’s congressional delegation backs effort to spur passage of Equal Rights Amendment

When the ERA failed to gain enough support by one old 1982 deadline, it seemed dead, but it suddenly has life again and may win approval within months.

In a move that may help enact the long-delayed Equal Rights Amendment, which would put women on equal footing in the U.S. Constitution that serves as the bedrock for the nation’s government, all four of Maine’s federal lawmakers support the extension of a deadline for its approval.

No other state’s congressional delegation offers such unanimous and bipartisan support for the measure.

The ERA, which seemed dead decades ago, suddenly has new life as Democrats in Virginia, who captured control of its legislature in this month’s election, vow to push through the proposal in January.

If they do, it would make Virginia the 38th state to endorse the amendment, enough to meet the three-fourths requirement to change the Constitution.

“The question is no longer if, but when. We will ratify the Equal Rights Amendment!” tweeted U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat who introduced a bill with Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski to try to clear a path for the measure.

It’s not going to be simple, though.

Back in 1972, with U.S. Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, a Maine Republican, supporting the proposal, Congress approved the ERA and its promise that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

Congress set a 1979 deadline for the states to endorse it.

In 1978, with the amendment’s momentum stalled, Congress agreed to give the states three more years to ratify it.

“Ten years is a reasonable time for the ERA,” U.S. Sen. Birch Bayh, an Indiana Democrat, said at the time. “This is no ordinary constitutional amendment. We are dealing with the rights of over half the people in the country.”

Dismissing Republican argument that the deadline could not be prolonged once set, Bayh declared, “It has been clear in every court decision and in every action of the U.S. Congress that the Congress has the authority to determine what is a reasonable time for ratification of a constitutional amendment.”

Despite Maine’s 1974 backing of the amendment, it fell just shy of the three-fourths of states needed, seemingly leaving the proposal dead in the water. For more than three decades after its failure, debate over the amendment largely ceased.

Supporters kept introducing new versions of the ERA in Congress without success. Then some backers got the idea of reviving the old push rather than promoting a new one.

As a result, in the last couple of years, Nevada and Illinois approved the 1972 version for the first time, with supporters arguing the time limit was merely verbiage by legislators that ought to count for nothing. Virginia’s almost certain approval when its new legislative session begins in January would, if they’re right, make the ERA the law of the land.

Legal observers are divided about the issue, which would almost certainly wind up in the hands of the federal courts to decide.

Meanwhile, though, lawmakers on Capitol Hill who support the ERA are pushing another angle to help make the ERA law. They want to remove the deadline for its passage entirely.

Most of the Democrats in the U.S. House have signed on as cosponsors of the measure — including U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden of Maine — but only a handful of senators have done the same.

U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican (rape-apologist), and Angus King, a Maine independent (who wants a coin for George H.W. ‘David Cop-a-feel’ Bush), are among the four who have agreed to endorse the Senate’s version of the measure.

U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a prepared statement that his panel plans Wednesday to take action on the proposal to drop the time limits on ERA passage.

“Congress created this deadline and, it is clear, Congress has every authority to remove it now,” Nadler said. “After decades of work by tireless advocates, it is time for Congress to act and clear the way for Virginia, or any other state, to finally ratify the ERA and for discrimination on the basis of sex to be forever barred by the Constitution.”

The House will likely go along with the decision of Nadler’s panel.

What happens in the Senate is less clear, particularly since Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, has been keeping almost every bill from consideration.

Cardin and U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, are the Senate bill’s chief sponsors, with King and Collins also on board. Senate Democrat is expected to support the bill as well.

Its passage would require more GOP support, but that might be possible. Collins and Murkowski are longtime ERA supporters and firm opponents of the bill are scarce.

“There should never be a time limit to women’s equality,” Murkowski said last summer, according to Maryland Matters, a news site. “So let’s get that out of the way. Let’s move towards full ratification and let’s finish this unfinished business.”

There are a host of legal issues likely to be raised should Congress opt to drop its old 1982 deadline for the ERA’s passage.

One of them arose when five states that approved the amendment soon after its submittal for ratification — Nebraska, Tennessee Idaho, Kentucky, and South Dakota  — voted again before the 1982 deadline to rescind their approval.

Whether they can do that or not has never been resolved by courts. At the time, the only court case pondering the matter was tossed out as moot once the deadline passed without enough states giving the ERA a thumbs up.

However, Congress itself refused to recognize efforts by two states to rescind their backing of the 14th Amendment after the Civil War, a precedent that may matter.

If it does come down to a court fight, there’s at least one justice on the Supreme Court unlikely to shoot down the ERA.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once told the National Press Club she would like to see the amendment approved.

Legislation, she said, “can be repealed, it can be altered. So I would like my granddaughters, when they pick up the Constitution, to see that notion — that women and men are persons of equal stature — I’d like them to see that is a basic principle of our society.”

Meghan Murphy: Canadian feminist’s trans talk (“men aren’t women”) sparks uproar

Meghan MurphyMeghan Murphy says she wants to ensure the safety of women

A Canadian library has been criticised for refusing to cancel an event hosting a feminist with controversial views on transgender rights.

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside a branch of the Toronto Public Library as writer Meghan Murphy gave a talk inside.

The library defended its decision to allow her talk on gender identity and “society, the law and women”.

Campaigners have called Ms Murphy anti-transgender, which she denies.

Toronto police quoted by Global News said officers had been present inside and outside the event to “keep the peace.”

Global News reporter Kamil Karamali tweeted that attendees were escorted by police out the back of the building when the talk ended.

White space

What is Meghan Murphy’s stance?

Ms Murphy says she wants to ensure the safety of women in places like female prisons, women’s refuges and changing rooms.

In Canada, she has spoken against a bill that amended Canada’s rights act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender expression and identity over concerns it could undermine women’s rights by eroding their “safe spaces”.

“Under current trans activist doctrine we’re not allowed to exclude a man from a woman’s space if he says that he’s female and I find that quite dangerous and troubling,” she told the BBC.

She says she believes the transgender activist movement is “regressive and sexist” and ignores women and girls.

The talk’s organisers, a group called Radical Feminists Unite, have said they are “not a hate group, and we do not espouse hate speech, or advocate for the removal of rights from any marginalised group”.

The event was sold out.

Judith Taylor, from University of Toronto’s Women and Gender Studies Institute, calls Ms Murphy “basically a provocateur”.

She thinks that Ms Murphy, in asserting the rights of one group “is implicitly trying to sideline another” and disagrees with Ms Murphy that safe spaces and diversity cannot coexist.

“The more that we start embracing that diversity the better our learning and the better our strength,” she said.

What has the library said?

City librarian Vickery Bowles released a statement in mid-October defending the decision to host the event, saying that as a public institution it has “an obligation to protect free speech”.

She said that while the library supports the LGBT community and can cancel a room rental if it believes “the event will promote discrimination, contempt or hatred for any individual or group” this case does not violate its rental policies.

Toronto Mayor John ToryImage copyrightTORONTO STAR VIA GETTY IMAGES
Image captionToronto Mayor John Tory called the library’s decision “disappointing”

Ms Bowles, who sought legal opinion on the matter, added Ms Murphy has never been charged with or convicted of hate speech in Canada.

The decision to honour the room booking received the support of PEN Canada, a major writers’ organisation, on Monday.

What has been the response?

Opponents to the library’s decision include Toronto Mayor John Tory, who has called it “disappointing”.

An online petition started by three local authors calling for the event to be cancelled had more than 8,000 signatures by Tuesday.

Those who signed it said they would no longer participate in library events if Ms Murphy’s talk went ahead.

Pride Toronto, the organisation behind the city’s annual pride festival, warned the library “there will be consequences to our relationship for this betrayal”.

It said in a statement that Ms Murphy’s views are “a denial of the lives, experiences and identities of trans people”.

A city crosswalk painted in the rainbow colours of the LGBT flag in downtown TorontoImage copyrightLIGHTROCKET VIA GETTY IMAGES
Image captionA city crosswalk painted in the rainbow colours of the LGBT flag in downtown Toronto

Two city councillors – Kristyn Wong-Tam and Mike Layton – are asking for a review of policies governing the use of community spaces at the Toronto library and other public spaces.

Early this year, a similar talk that included Ms Murphy at a public library in Vancouver drew both protesters and a sold-out crowd. The library was later barred from participating in the city’s pride parade.

In May, Ms Murphy was invited to the Scottish Parliament to speak on transgender issues as Edinburgh planned reforms to the Gender Recognition Act to allow people to “self-declare” their legally recognised gender.

Campaigners at the time said Ms Murphy wanted transgender equality protections “ripped apart”.

She was also banned from Twitter for stating that “men aren’t women” and for “misgendering” transgender women on the site. She has taken legal action against the company.

Is Mitch McConnell Trying to Kill the Violence Against Women Act?

OCTOBER 24, 2019

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By Amy Goodman & Denis Moynihan

Twenty-five years ago, the Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA, was signed into law. The protections it afforded to victims of sexual and domestic violence and stalking were renewed and expanded in 2000, 2005 and 2013. Last April, the U.S. House of Representatives passed, with bipartisan support, yet another renewal, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, H.R. 1585, this time with added protections for women on tribal lands, for members of the LGBTQ+ community, and with new limits on the ability of perpetrators of domestic violence to obtain guns. The bill was sent to the Republican-controlled Senate, where it has languished. One Senate staffer confirmed Wednesday that “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hasn’t put it on the legislative schedule.”

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, during which many survivors of domestic abuse and their supporters wear purple to draw attention to this problem, considered a national epidemic. Every 16 hours in the United States, a woman is shot to death by her partner.

The text of the current bill contains statistics worth repeating:

“Women in the United States are 11 times more likely to be murdered with guns than women in other high-income countries. Female intimate partners are more likely to be murdered with a firearm than all other means combined. The presence of a gun in domestic violence situations increases the risk of homicide for women by 500 percent.”

The bill continues: “Homicide is one of the leading causes of death for women on the job. Domestic partners or relatives commit 43 percent of workplace homicides against women … in 2010, homicides against women at work increased by 13 percent despite continuous declines in overall workplace homicides in recent years.”

This new House VAWA bill, one of the earliest considered by the new Congress, which includes a historic number of women, passed by a vote of 263 to 158, with 33 Republicans joining the Democratic majority. The Republican support came despite opposition from the National Rifle Association, which strongly opposes language in the bill to close the “boyfriend loophole,” which allows gun purchases by unmarried, domestic or intimate partners who have been convicted of abuse or are under a restraining order.

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Last week, Everytown for Gun Safety reported: “Every month, an average of 52 women are shot and killed by an intimate partner. Nearly 1 million women alive today have reported being shot or shot at by intimate partners, and 4.5 million women have reported being threatened with a gun. In more than half of mass shootings over the past decade, the perpetrator shot a current or former intimate partner or family member as part of the rampage.”

Amplifying that last statistic, March for Our Lives, the gun control group founded by teenage survivors of the Parkland, Florida, massacre on Valentine’s Day 2018, sent out an email calling domestic violence a gun violence issue, noting that at least 54% of mass shootings are committed by domestic abusers. The list of mass shooters who were known domestic abusers or stalkers is long. In Parkland, the shooter had stalked another student and killed her in the massacre; in Sutherland Springs, Texas, the shooter had been convicted of domestic violence, but that conviction was not shared on the FBI’s National Crime Information Center database, allowing him to purchase guns; in Newtown, Connecticut, the shooter killed his mother first before heading to Sandy Hook Elementary; the Pulse nightclub shooter in Orlando was physically and verbally abusive to his wife; and, most recently, in Dayton, Ohio, the shooter had kept a “rape list” of potential targets in high school and killed his sister during his murderous rampage.

Last Saturday, the Houston Astros defeated the New York Yankees, clinching a spot in the World Series. Among three female journalists in the Astros locker room covering the celebration was Sports Illustrated’s Stephanie Apstein, who was wearing a purple domestic-violence awareness bracelet. Houston Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman yelled at them, “Thank God we got Osuna! I’m so f***ing glad we got Osuna!” The Astros signed relief pitcher Roberto Osuna from the Toronto Blue Jays in 2018, weeks after he received a 75-game suspension related to accusations he assaulted his child’s mother. On Thursday, after conducting an investigation with Major League Baseball, the Astros fired Taubman.

One goal of the Violence Against Women Act is to educate people across all sectors of our society, to make domestic abuse simply unacceptable. “VAWA’s overwhelming impact on the lives of victims makes the need for reauthorization more critical now than ever,” writes Lynn Hecht Schafran of Legal Momentum (the new name for the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund). “VAWA is moving the culture forward toward a future where everyone can live free from violence.”

Free Speech for People: Reclaim the Court

The Supreme Court is facing a crisis of legitimacy. In the wake of Brett Kavanaugh’s hasty confirmation last year, Americans are on edge as the Court rules on issues that radically impact our lives.

Brett Kavanaugh may have been confirmed to the Supreme Court, but the fight isn’t over. We’re asking House members to investigate his fitness for office since the Senate failed to do so. Because no matter how entitled Kavanaugh thinks he is, that seat belongs to us – the people. Join Women’s March, Demand Justice, and Center for Popular Democracy on the anniversary of his confirmation, October 6th, to Reclaim the Court.

RECLAIM THE COURT

Sunday, October 6th at 12:30 PM ET

Columbus Circle

Free Speech For People has repeatedly called for Kavanaugh’s impeachment on the basis of perjury, credible sexual assault allegations, and actions during his confirmation process which brought the judiciary into disrepute. Today, we renew that call and we are proud to join with our allies in demanding that the House of Representatives open this investigation.

A thorough vetting of Brett Kavanaugh and his actions is more important now than ever. The House has a constitutional duty to conduct this investigation and to finish the work that the Senate failed to complete last year. But they need to act now.

RSVP at www.ReclaimTheCourt.com and Facebook. Let’s do this.

In solidarity,

Free Speech For People

BBC: Two New York ex-policemen walk free after sex with handcuffed suspect

Former NYPD officers Eddie Martins (L) and Richard HallFormer NYPD officers Eddie Martins (L) and Richard Hall

Two former New York detectives have walked free after admitting to having sex with a handcuffed 18-year-old woman after arresting her.

Eddie Martins and Richard Hall arrested the woman for possession of marijuana before having sex with her in the back of a van in exchange for her release.

They will serve five years probation but escaped the prosecutor’s request for one to three years in prison.

The men were initially accused of rape but the charges were later dropped.

On Thursday the former police officers, both in their mid to late thirties, pleaded guilty to official misconduct and other charges linked to the incident.

The police officers pulled the woman over in September 2017 as she was driving with friends and found her to be in possession of marijuana.

They then took turns to have sex with her in the back of the police vehicle, the court heard. The police officers did not report the arrest.

Afterwards, the woman went to hospital, where tests identified DNA matching both detectives.

The rape charges were dropped because the victim’s credibility was “seriously, seriously questionable” and the charges could not be proved beyond reasonable doubt, said Justice Danny Chun.

The woman’s attorney, Michael N. David, said it was a “complete injustice” that the ex-police officers escaped a jail sentence.

A NYPD van pictured in New YorkThis New York police van has the slogan “Courtesy, Professionalism, Respect” painted on the side

As a result of the case, a loophole was closed that previously allowed New York police officers to have sex with those in custody as long as it was consensual.

Martins and Hall, who resigned from the New York police department in 2017, “engaged in a shocking abuse of power”, said Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, adding that he “would have preferred to see them serve prison time”.

“We could not apply the new law retroactively, and serious credibility issues in this case precluded us from proceeding on additional charges,” said Mr Gonzalez, “yet we remained committed to holding these defendants accountable”.