News Roundup

On Wednesday, a ruptured gas line in Durham caused a massive explosion that killed one person and injured 25 others while also completely destroying a building and damaging property nearby.  The Durham Herald Sun reports that nine firefighters were among those injured in the blast as the department was in the process of evacuating people from the area surrounding the ruptured line.  At the time of writing, the precise cause of the rupture and explosion was still being investigated.  Keep reading for more news.

Hicks.  The News & Observer says that Durham District Attorney Satana DeBerry has announced that her office will not seek the death penalty in the first-degree murder prosecution of Craig Hicks based on the killing of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill in 2015.  DeBerry said that proceeding without seeking the death penalty will allow the prosecution to move forward more quickly.

Avenatti.  The New. York Times reports that Michael Avenatti’s legal troubles worsened this week when he was indicted on three dozen new criminal charges including tax fraud and bankruptcy fraud.  Federal prosecutors in California allege that Avenatti stole millions of dollars from clients while lying about his business and income to the IRS and others.  These new allegations come a month after Avenatti was charged in California and New York with extortion and bank and wire fraud.  As one example of the allegations against Avenatti, he is accused of using $2.5 million of a client’s $3 million settlement to purchase a stake in a private jet.

Assange.  The Associated Press reports that British police “hauled a bearded and shouting Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian Embassy” in London on Thursday, arresting him on U.S. charges of conspiring with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to obtain government secrets by computer hacking.  Assange has been living in the embassy for years, initially going there while on bail in Britain to elude sexual assault charges in Sweden.  Soon after being arrested, Assange appeared in Westminster Magistrates’ Court where a judge “wasted no time” in deciding that Assange’s seven-year stay in the embassy breached his bail conditions.

Embassy.  The Assange story is made more interesting by the unusual circumstances under which he left the Ecuadorian Embassy.  The Guardian reports that Ecuador withdrew asylum from Assange not only because of the U.S. charges, but also because he was a bothersome houseguest.  Already under stringent directives to “clean his bathroom and take better care of his cat,” Assange apparently wore his welcome out by “permanently accus[ing] [embassy] staff of spying on and filming him” on behalf of the United States, “innumerable acts of interference in the politics of other states,” and general “rudeness.”

Craig.  Reuters reports that Greg Craig, who served as a White House attorney for President Obama, was indicted on Thursday for failing to register as a foreign agent and lying to the Justice Department about work he performed for Ukraine.  The prosecution arose from the Special Counsel probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.  The Reuters report says that Craig is accused of lying about a legal review of the Ukrainian government’s corruption prosecution of the country’s former prime minister that he produced while working with a New York law firm.  Craig allegedly did not disclose that the report was financed by a wealthy Ukranian client of Paul Manafort, who had requested the work.

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