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Crimes Against Children

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Two of four women who testified that Ghislaine Maxwell played a role in their sexual abuse at the hands of financier Jeffrey Epstein may be speaking at her sentencing or have their statements read aloud. Prosecutors told a federal judge in a letter Friday that two of six women who either testified or were mentioned during a December trial plan to attend the Tuesday sentencing of the 60-year-old British socialite. Maxwell’s lawyer says in a separate submission to the judge that the hearing “should not a bully pulpit for anyone who was not identified as a victim."

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A Wisconsin teenager accused of killing a 10-year-old girl will find out in September whether he will stand trial. Chippewa County Circuit Judge Benjamin Lane on Friday scheduled a Sept. 1 preliminary hearing for the 14-year-old boy. That's the step in the criminal justice process where a judge determines if enough evidence exists to bind a defendant over for trial. The boy was charged April 27 with homicide and sexual assault in connection with the death of Iliana Peters, who was known as Lily. She was reported missing on April 24 in Chippewa Falls. Searchers found her body in the woods the next morning. According to court documents, the boy told investigators he strangled Lily and sexually assaulted her body.

Social media users shared a range of false claims this week. Here are the facts: A photo of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in front of a green screen was taken in Kyiv for a virtual conference address, not outside of the country. A video claiming to show a Russian missile was created using visual effects. A man who was charged with child pornography didn’t work for Drag Queen Story Hour. A video shows dead sheep in the country of Georgia, not Idaho. And an image purporting to show a headline from The Atlantic about “Biden’s bike fall” is fabricated.

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A prosecutor has asked a federal judge to sentence Jerry Harris, former star of the Netflix documentary series “Cheer,” to 15 years in prison for coercing teenage boys to send him obscene photos and videos of themselves and soliciting sex from minors at cheerleading competitions. Attorneys for Harris are seeking a sentence of six years. Harris, 22, of suburban Naperville, pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count each of receiving child pornography and traveling with the intention to engage in illegal sexual conduct. He is due to be sentenced July 6. The prosecutor submitted a sentencing memo late Wednesday.

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Prosecutors say British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell should spend at least 30 years in prison for her role in the sexual abuse of teenage girls over a 10-year period by her onetime boyfriend, financier Jeffrey Epstein. Prosecutors made their recommendations late Wednesday in a submission to the judge who will preside over a sentencing hearing next Tuesday in Manhattan federal court. The 60-year-old Maxwell was convicted in December of sex trafficking and other crimes after a month-long trial that featured testimony from four women who said they were abused in their teens. Defense lawyers say she should spend no more than five years in prison.

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Civil trial jurors have found that Bill Cosby sexually abused a 16-year-old girl at the Playboy Mansion in 1975. The Los Angeles County jury delivered the verdict Tuesday in favor of Judy Huth, who is now 64, and awarded her $500,000. The jury’s decision is a major legal defeat for the 84-year-old Cosby. It comes nearly a year after his Pennsylvania criminal conviction for sexual assault was thrown out and he was freed from prison. Cosby did not attend the Los Angeles trial. He has repeatedly denied Huth’s allegations that he forced her to perform a sex act at the mansion.

Officials at the Oregon Department of Human Services are considering a move that would make it harder for the public to access child abuse investigations. Oregon Public Broadcasting reports similar records in the past have helped reveal systemic child abuse. The state agency is considering narrowing the type of abuse records that can be accessed for children who are placed in care outside of a home, such as a boarding school, a wilderness facility or some other kind of residential program. The rule change being proposed would allow agency leaders to largely deny most public records requests, blocking any details of substantiated or unsubstantiated abuse.

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A South Dakota judge has ruled there’s no basis to keep sealed documents related to a child pornography investigation of billionaire banker and philanthropist T. Denny Sanford. Judge James Power said in his opinion filed Thursday that affidavits supporting search warrants should be made public under South Dakota law, but he will keep them sealed until Sanford and his attorneys decide whether to appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court. The South Dakota attorney general's office declined to file charges following the investigation, saying it found no “prosecutable offenses” within the state’s jurisdiction.

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The New Hampshire attorney general’s office has released preliminary proposals for calculating payments to those who were physically and sexually abused as children at the state-run Youth Development Center. Nearly 450 former residents of what is now called the Sununu Youth Services Center have sued the state based on allegations involving more than 150 staffers over six decades. Hoping to avoid lengthy litigation, lawmakers approved a $100 million settlement fund, with individual payments capped at $1.5 million for sexual abuse victims. After lawyers for the victims provide feedback, the draft proposals will be updated and submitted to the Legislature’s fiscal committee for approval.

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Lawyers for British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell say she should face no more than four to five years in prison at sentencing later this month for her role in financier Jeffrey Epstein's sex abuse of teenage girls. They said in court papers Wednesday that Maxwell should not face all the punishment Epstein deserved. They wrote that her life has been ruined and she has faced onerous and punitive jail conditions even though she's not an heiress, villain or vapid socialite. Epstein took his own life in August 2019 while awaiting a sex trafficking trial in Manhattan. Prosecutors declined comment through a spokesperson.

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A South Florida man has pleaded no contest to charges related to trying to get $5,000 from a state senator after threatening to release what he said were sexually explicit photos of her. Court records show 20-year-old Jeremy Kamperveen entered an open plea in Broward County circuit court for extortion and other charges. He faces up to 21 years in prison at a July 19 sentencing hearing. Kamperveen was arrested in November. A Broward Sheriff’s Office arrest report didn’t identify the victim, but Florida Sen. Lauren Book, whose district includes part of Broward County, released a statement several weeks later saying the threatening messages had been sent to her.

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A Texas judge has temporarily blocked the state from investigating families of transgender children who have received gender confirming care. The judge on Friday issued a temporary restraining order halting the state's investigations of three families who sued. The order also prevents the state from opening any similar investigations against members of the LGBTQ advocacy group PFLAG Inc. The ruling comes about a month after the Texas Supreme Court allowed the state to investigate parents of transgender youth for child abuse while blocking the investigation of one family that had sued.

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Three Texas families with transgender children are suing the state over its investigations into them over gender-confirming treatment the youths have received. The lawsuit filed Wednesday is the latest challenge over the state looking into such treatments as child abuse. The lawsuit also asks a Texas judge to block similar investigations against other members of an LGBTQ advocacy group. The lawsuit comes a little over a month after the Texas Supreme Court allowed the state to investigate such treatments while ruling in favor of one family being investigated.

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More than 30 people have filed a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse at a now-closed Los Angeles County shelter for kids waiting placement in foster homes. Their attorneys said Thursday there are more than 200 former foster children who were molested by staff and other residents at MacLaren Children's Center in El Monte. The victims include a boy who says he was 6 when he was molested by a male staffer who locked the boy in a closet as punishment for screaming during the assault. LA County's Children and Family Services agency issued a statement declining to comment on the lawsuit but said the allegations will be thoroughly examined. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

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Video testimony played for jurors at a civil trial shows Bill Cosby denying sexually abusing a teenage girl at the Playboy Mansion in the mid-1970s. The 12 minutes of clips played Wednesday for Los Angeles County jurors represent the first time Cosby's voice has been heard in the six days of trial. In one clip he flatly denies forcing Judy Huth, who is suing him, to perform a sex act. Asked whether he knowingly sought relationships with girls under 18 in the 1970s, Cosby answers “no” but says he also did not generally make sure those he pursued were 18.

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Prosecutors say R. Kelly, the R&B superstar known for his anthem “I Believe I Can Fly,” deserves at least 25 years behind bars for sexually abusing women and girls. They demanded the sentence on Wednesday in advance of his sentencing later this month. A New York City jury found Kelly guilty of racketeering and multiple other counts last year at a sex-trafficking trial that was seen as a signature moment in the #MeToo movement. Kelly’s lawyers have argued that he deserves only a maximum of about 17 years.

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The leader of La Luz del Mundo church has been sentenced to more than 16 years in a California prison for sexually abusing girls. Naasón Joaquín García was sentenced Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court after several of his victims made emotional pleas to the court in which they called him evil and a monster. García, who is considered the “apostle” of Jesus Christ by his 5 million worldwide followers, had vigorously fought the charges until he abruptly pleaded guilty last week to three felonies. The church says he pleaded guilty because he didn't think he could get a fair trial.

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A former North Dakota state senator who resigned following a report that he traded scores of text messages with a man jailed on child pornography charges says he was unable to return his state-owned laptop and iPad because they were seized by law enforcement. Ray Holmberg, North Dakota’s longest-serving state senator, resigned June 1. He turned in his parking pass and an electronic key card but not the state-owned electronics. Law enforcement searched Holmberg’s Grand Forks condominium on Nov. 17.  The search came about three months after Holmberg exchanged 72 text messages with Nicholas James Morgan-Derosier, who was in jail.

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A dispute over the arcade game Donkey Kong arose during the civil trial of Bill Cosby over allegations that he sexually assaulted a 16-year-old girl at the Playboy Mansion in 1975. Cosby has denied the allegations by Judy Huth. On Monday, Huth's high school friend Donna Samuelson, who visited the mansion with Huth and Cosby, was on the stand and questioning focused on a video game she says she was playing when the alleged abuse occured. Cosby attorney Jennifer Bonjean asked her why in statements before the trial she had repeatedly said she played Donkey Kong, which was not introduced until 1981. Samuelson said that she simply got the name wrong, and had been playing different games.

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California prosecutors say the leader of Mexican megachurch La Luz del Mundo has admitted he sexually abused three girls. Naasón Joaquín García pleaded guilty Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court to sexual acts with three of his followers who were minors at the time. The California attorney general's office had accused him of using his spiritual influence to have sex with several female followers. Garcia has been in jail since 2019 and had vehemently denied the charges. He was scheduled to go on trial Monday on charges that included human trafficking and child rape. The church and Garcia’s lawyers did not immediately comment on the guilty plea.

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An Indiana man accused of abusing his 12-year-old son and starving the child to death has pleaded guilty to murder. Luis Eduardo Posso Jr. entered the plea Wednesday under an agreement with prosecutors that calls for the dismissal of other charges, including neglect of a dependent resulting in death and battery resulting in injury to someone younger than 14. The transient man carried the body of his son, Eduardo Posso, into the emergency room of a Bloomington hospital in May 2019. An autopsy showed the child had been beaten and starved and that he weighed only 50 pounds. The Herald-Times reports that a Monroe County judge dismissed a petition seeking life in prison without parole and scheduled Posso’s sentencing hearing for Aug. 18.

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A military veteran who once faked his own death to try to avoid criminal charges has been convicted of sexually assaulting a girl and impregnating her when he was 40 and she was 14. A jury convicted Jacob Blair Scott of Moss Point, Mississippi, on Thursday. Circuit Judge Kathy King Jackson sentenced him to 85 years in prison. Scott was supposed to turn himself in to face charges of assaulting the girl, but he faked his death in 2018 by leaving a boat with a gun and a suicide note in Orange Beach, Alabama. Scott was captured in early 2020 in Oklahoma.

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