- The Baltimore City Council is asking for Mayor Catherine Pugh to resign after a report showed that she had been working on book deals with the University of Maryland Medical System while she was on its Board of Directors.
- The State Prosecutor opened an investigation into the incident.
- Pugh is currently on a leave of absence for medical reasons but says she intends to return when in good health.
Pugh’s Book Deal controversy
Members of the Baltimore City Council signed a letter on Monday requesting the resignation of the city’s mayor, Catherine Pugh.
Pugh is currently embroiled in a scandal surrounding book deals she made with the University of Maryland Medical System, a group she was on the Board of Directors of. Between the years 2011 and 2018, UMMS paid Pugh $500,000 for 100,000 copies of her children’s book “Healthy Holly.” They then distributed them to locals schools and daycares.
According to the Baltimore Sun, who first reported on the controversy in March, Pugh also sold copies of Healthy Holly to Kaiser Permanente and Associated Black Charities.
When these deals started, Pugh was a state senator. During this time frame, Pugh signed onto legislation that aided UMMS. Kaiser Permanente was also working on a contract with the city of Baltimore for employee benefits.
Since the controversy has unfolded, Pugh has stepped down from the board at UMMS. She also returned her most recent payment of $100,000, as the books in that order had yet to be published. The Maryland State Prosecutor has also opened an investigation into her various book deals, as not disclosing these deals on ethics forms could count as perjury or misconduct.
//www.instagram.com/embed.jsView this post on Instagram
I was thrilled to join #KaiserPermanente and the @LewisMuseum on Saturday for an exciting day focusing on culture and good health for #Baltimore residents and share excerpts from my children’s book Healthy Holly: Vegetables are not just Green. #healthybaltimore #mybmore #baltimore
“I sincerely want to say that I apologize that I have done something to upset the people of Baltimore,” she said issuing an apology at a public appearance. “I never intended to do anything that could not stand up to scrutiny.”
On April 1, Pugh announced she would be taking a leave of absence from her role as mayor, but cited reasons unrelated to the scandal. Instead, she said the leave was to recover from pneumonia, which she had recently been hospitalized for. Her spokesperson said that she plans to return to the job when her health allows it.
Pugh’s Resignation is Requested
Fourteen councilmembers signed the resignation request. The only member who did not sign was Jack Young, who is serving as the acting mayor while Pugh is out.
The letter is a brief two sentences, and states that her resignation would be in “the city’s best interest.”
With the letter, Councilmember Eric Costello released a statement claiming that the ongoing investigations make it “impossible for Mayor Pugh to govern effectively.”
Peter Franchot, Maryland’s Comptroller, has also asked that Pugh resign. On Sunday, he made an appearance on WBAL-TV saying that this scandal has harmed the city’s reputation and that the first step in repairing it is her leaving office.
“Now (Baltimore) is kind of a laughing stock around the country because of this crazy scandal that the mayor is involved in,” he said during an interview. “We need to emphasize that this kind of disgrace is not what we’re known for in Maryland or in Baltimore. And we need to recover from it. But at a minimum, she has to step aside.”
See what others are saying: (The Baltimore Sun) (CBS Baltimore) (PBS)
NYC Mayor Declares Public Health Emergency After Measles Outbreak
- New York City has declared a public health emergency following a severe measles outbreak, largely in Brooklyn.
- Residents of the Williamsburg neighborhood will be required to be vaccinated against measles, or else they will have to pay a fine.
- This has received some backlash, but Mayor Bill De Blasio maintains that this is both legal, and the only way to combat the issue.
Public Health Emergency in NYC
Mayor Bill De Blasio declared a public health emergency in New York City in response to the recent measles outbreak.
The measles outbreak began in the city in October, and since then there have been 285 confirmed cases of the disease. This is a very large increase, as there were only two cases of the diseases in New York City throughout all of 2017.
The outbreak is most severe in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, where a vast majority of the cases have been reported. De Blasio is mandating that every one in four zip codes in and near the area get the MMR vaccine, which according to the disease, is 97% effective. Those who do not will have to pay a $1,000 fine.
During a press conference in Williamsburg, De Blasio insisted that vaccines were the only way to stop the measles from spreading throughout the city.
We cannot allow this dangerous disease to make a comeback in New York City. We have to stop it now,” he said. “The only way to stop this outbreak is to ensure that those who have not been vaccinated get the vaccine. It’s crucial for people to understand that the measles vaccine works. It is safe, it is effective, it is time tested.”
The Orthodox Jewish community in Williamsburg, specifically children, have experienced the most cases of the measles. In December, the city mandated that schools, daycares, and yeshivas, which are Orthodox Jewish schools, had to turn away kids who were not vaccinated. Forty patients alone have come from one yeshiva that did not follow this order.
According to the Commissioner for New York City’s Department of Health, Dr. Oxiris Barbot, leaders in the Orthodox Jewish community largely approve of vaccines. However, anti-vax beliefs have still spread, causing lower vaccination rates.
Dr. Barbot blames this movement for the outbreak.
“This outbreak is being fueled by a small group of anti-vaxxers in these neighborhoods,” she said in a statement. “They have been spreading dangerous misinformation based on fake science. We stand with the majority of people in this community who have worked hard to protect their children and those at risk.”
Measles Parties on the Rise
Dr. Barbot also spoke out against “measles parties,” which are situations where parents of unvaccinated children expose their kids to someone who already has measles. This was a popular practice before vaccines were widespread, as many think that by exposing their child to the disease, they will build their immunity.
However, this has not actually been scientifically proven to be effective. In fact, this can actually just result in your child getting the measles, as the disease is highly contagious. Health officials are concerned that this fad is coming back into fashion for New Yorkers.
“We are concerned about families having measles parties,” said Dr. Barbot. “I know that parents may be afraid of getting their child vaccinated, but as a pediatrician, I know that getting vaccinated is far safer than getting measles.”
The CDC’s Disease Detectives
New York City will be using “disease detectives” from the CDC to both enforce this mandate and to stop the spread of measles throughout the city.
Like their quirky name suggests, disease detectives investigate the spread of measles through various stages of questioning, and other kinds of research. On their site, the CDC describes their role by saying, “Like investigators at the scene of a crime, these disease detectives begin by looking for clues.”
They work to anwer four main questions: Who is sick?; What are their symptoms?; When did they get sick?; And where could they have been exposed to the illness? They then try to learn who else could have been exposed, and figure out if these people have been vaccinated.
Reactions to Plans
The city’s plan to prevent the spread of measles had been met with mixed opinions. Donna Lieberman, the Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, questioned whether or not this was withing Mayor De Blasio’s power.
“The city’s order provides that people will be vaccinated without their consent, an extreme measure which is not provided for in the law and raises civil liberties concerns about forced medical treatment,” she said in a statement.
“In addressing this public health crisis, the government is required to pursue the least restrictive means possible to balance individual autonomy with the public health risk. In this case, measures such as a quarantine or penalties for non-vaccination may be permissible, but forced vaccination is not.”
A spokeswoman for City Hall, Marcy Miranda, countered this idea and told the New York Times that they will not be physically forcing anyone to get the MMR vaccine.
“We will not be forcibly vaccinating individuals,” she said. “(Officials) will work with people to educate them about the safety and importance of vaccines and will issue necessary fines as needed.”
De Blasio also maintained his right to mandate vaccinations during his press conference, saying, “We are absolutely certain we have the power to do this.”
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (ABC 7) (The Hill)
Lori Loughlin, Felicity Huffman, and Others Could Face Prison Time for College Admissions Scam
- Fourteen people involved in the massive college admissions scandal have agreed to enter guilty pleas for their role in the scam.
- Actress Lori Loughlin and her designer husband Mossimo Giannulli are not part of that group.
- According to TMZ, all 37 remaining defendants including Loughlin and Giannulli, have been offered pleas, but prosecutors will only accept ones that include prison time.
Huffman Pleads Guilty
Last month, 50 people, including wealthy parents, celebrities, tech executives, college coaches, and test proctors from across the county, were indicted as part of the Justice Department’s massive investigation dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues.”
The admissions scheme centered on William “Rick” Singer, owner of a for-profit Newport Beach college admissions company. Parents are accused of paying Singer and his firm to help their children cheat on college entrance exams and falsify athletic records. The bribes and falsified records allowed their children to secure admission to elite schools like UCLA, USC, Stanford, and Yale.
Huffman is accused of paying $15,000 in bribes so that her daughters SATs could be corrected by a Harvard graduate, giving her a 400 point boost. She agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, according to federal prosecutors.
The maximum sentence for those charges is 20 years in prison and three years of supervised release and fines. However, in exchange for a plea, prosecutors are recommending incarceration at the “low end” of the sentencing range. This means she will likely face anywhere from four to 10 months in prison.
Along with that recommendation, prosecutors will also recommend a $20,000 fine and 12 months of supervised release.
In a statement Monday, Huffman said, “I am in full acceptance of my guilt, and with deep regret and shame over what I have done, I accept full responsibility for my actions and will accept the consequences that stem from those actions,”
“I am ashamed of the pain I have caused my daughter, my family, my friends, my colleagues and the educational community. I want to apologize to them and, especially, I want to apologize to the students who work hard every day to get into college, and to their parents who make tremendous sacrifices to support their children and do so honestly.”
Huffman went on to apologize for betraying her daughter, who she said knew “absolutely nothing about my actions.”
Over a dozen other individuals also agreed to enter guilty pleas to charges of fraud and conspiracy, including Los Angeles marketing guru Jane Buckingham, Bay Area real estate developer Bruce Isackson, and former men’s tennis coach at the University of Texas Michael Center.
Loughlin and Giannulli Could Face At Least 2 Years in Prison
Actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, were not part of the group accepting pleas.
However, according to TMZ, they still likely to face prison time. TMZ reported that the remaining 37 people charged in the case, including Loughlin and Giannulli, have all been offered plea deals. but prosecutors will only accept deals with prison time attached.
Each deal includes varying recommendations for prison sentences, which are determined by the amount they paid in bribes, among other factors.
While Huffman’s plea may reportedly allow her to serve as little as four months in prison, Loughlin and Guilianni, who allegedly paid $500,000 in bribes, could face a minimum of two to two and a half years.
According to TMZ, “Our sources say prosecutors have given all defendants an ultimatum … reach a plea deal QUICKLY or else they will go to a Federal Grand Jury and add charges, including money laundering, which significantly raises the low end of prison time.”
Shortly after TMZ’s report, the U.S. Attorney’s office announced a new wave of indictments. Loughlin, her husband, and 14 others were indicted on fraud and money laundering charges.
Netflix Shelves Huffman’s Film
Netflix responded to the news of a planned guilty plea by postponing the release of “Otherhood”, a romantic comedy that was due to be shown on the streaming service on April 26.
The movie, which features Huffman alongside Patricia Arquette and Angela Bassett, does not currently have a new release date scheduled, however, Deadline reported that it may stream in August.
The Central Park Five miniseries, “When They See Us,” in which Huffman stars as a prosecutor, is still set to be released May 31 on Netflix.
Bill Cosby Refutes Defamation Suit Settlement
- Seven women suing Bill Cosby reached a settlement in their defamation case against him.
- The details have not been disclosed, but Cosby and his team say the settlement was made by his insurance company, without his knowledge or consent.
- He still maintains his innocence and plans to pursue his countersuit against the women.
A settlement has been reached in a defamation case against Bill Cosby, but Cosby and his team say the agreement was made without his knowledge.
The original lawsuit was filed in 2014, by seven women who said they were defamed by Cosby when he publically denied their allegations of sexual misconduct. The women are Tamara Green, Therese Serignese, Linda Traitz, Louisa Moritz, Barbara Bowman, Joan Tarshis, and Angela Leslie.
Court documents filed on Friday in the western division of the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts showed that the lawsuit had been settled. Joseph Cammarata, who represents the seven women, did not release details about the agreement, but he did tell the Associated Press that each of his clients “is satisfied with the settlement.”
The deal still awaits a judge’s approval.
Cosby’s Team Responds
Cosby’s spokesperson Andrew Wyatt confirmed that a settlement was reached, but says that the insurance company, AIG, reached the settlement without Cosby’s knowledge or consent.
“Mr. Cosby did not settle any cases with anyone,” Wyatt said in a statement. “He is not paying anything to anyone…Mr. Cosby vehemently denies the allegations brought against him in these defamation suits and he maintains his innocence.”
Cosby also released a statement saying, “AIG showed that they’re a part of the corruption against me, by paying off these distractors, without my knowledge, without my permission and without my consent.”
“AIG’s egregious behavior will be frowned upon by their many customers,” he continued. “They have proven that they do not have the best interest of their clients in mind, which will cause them to lose an overwhelming amount of business.”
The comedian responded to the seven women with a countersuit in 2015, claiming defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and loss of business. In his recent statement, he said he would continue to pursue that claim.
“I, [Bill Cosby], will never settle any defamation claim, I will continue to pursue my counterclaims, and I will not relinquish AIG from its responsibility in defending my defamation claims. That’s why I paid my premiums on time and I never let my policy lapse. AIG’s settlement of these claims in Massachusetts makes them look corrupt and it exposes my innocence.”
The insurance company is involved in this case because it was obligated to pay for legal services in defamation cases for Cosby under the provisions of his homeowner’s policy.
A.I.G. tried to deny him coverage, arguing in court that it was not compelled to cover claims relating to sexual misconduct. However, judges in Massachusetts and California ultimately sided with Cosby.
An AIG spokesperson said the company could not comment on a specific case but said that they do not necessarily need a client’s permission to settle a case. “Certain insurance policies provide insurers with the authority to resolve claims when the insured has been informed.”
More Legal Battles
The settlement ends one of many legal battles involving Cosby. The comedian, who is now 81-years old, has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than 60 women over the span of decades.
In September 2018, Cosby was found guilty of thee counts of aggravated indecent assault for drugging and sexually assaulting former Temple University employee Andrea Constand in 2004.
He is currently serving a three to 10-year prison sentence and will also be required to register as a sexual predator for the rest of his life. However, he is appealing his conviction and maintains his innocence in all allegations of sexual assault.
His legal battles won’t end here. Chloe Goins, a model who says Cosby drugged and assaulted her at the Playboy Mansion in 2008, has filed a sexual battery complaint against him. Cosby also faces a possible trial related to assault claims made by a woman named Judy Huth, who says he sexually assaulted her when he was a minor.
On top of that, he faces another defamation lawsuit filed by former model Janice Dickinson. Dickinson appeared at Cosby’s trial last April, where she claimed that he drugged and sexually assaulted her at a Nevada hotel in 1982.