What is the Logan Act and what does it have to do with Michael Flynn and President Trump?

Published: Monday, December 04, 2017 @ 2:22 PM

WATCH: Michael Flynn Charged with Lying to FBI

Michael Flynn, former national security adviser for President Donald Trump, acknowledge in court last week that he had conversations with Russian officials during the transition period between the election and Trump’s swearing-in, then lied to the FBI about doing so. 

According to charging documents, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about actions that took place after the election, during the transition.

While many have speculated that Flynn is a subject of the investigation of possible Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, the documents do not allege collusion or conspiracy with Russian officials prior to the election. The documents instead refer to two discussions Flynn had with Russian officials in the months after the November 2016 election.

The first conversation involved Russia’s reaction to a United Nations resolution on Israeli settlements. The other conversation concerned President Barack Obama’s executive order on Russian sanctions. According to Flynn, each time, “senior officials” on the Trump transition team directed him to convey certain information.

While Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, was charged with lying to the FBI, what he lied about – conversations with foreign governments during the transition – is covered by a two-century-old law called the Logan Act.

Here’s a look at the Logan Act and what Flynn’s legal jeopardy would be if he were indicted on suspicion of violating the act.

What is the Logan Act?

The Logan Act, (18 U.S.C. § 953) is a 218-year-old law that prohibits people outside of the US executive branch from interfering in U.S. foreign policy.

The law reads:

Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

This section shall not abridge the right of a citizen to apply, himself or his agent, to any foreign government or the agents thereof for redress of any injury which he may have sustained from such government or any of its agents or subjects.

Has anyone ever been prosecuted under the Logan Act?

No one has ever been prosecuted under the Logan Act, though at least two people appear to have been indicted under the act. 

Why isn’t someone who breaks the law prosecuted?

Most refer to the Logan Act as “dead letter,” or a law that remains on the books but is essentially not prosecuted. Some believe the law is unconstitutional – restricting free speech – and vague.

What have the courts said about the Logan Act?

Not much, since there have been no prosecutions under the act. Courts have commented on the Logan Act, and in 1964, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York said of the Logan Act that there exists a “doubtful question with regard to the constitutionality of that statute under the Sixth Amendment. That doubt is engendered by the statute's use of the vague and indefinite terms, "defeat" and "measures." Neither of these words is an abstraction of common certainty or possesses a definite statutory or judicial definition.”

Should Flynn be worried about prosecution under the Logan Act?

Probably not, given that in more than 200 years, no one has been prosecuted for violating it. The more pressing legal trouble would involve lying to the FBI, something Flynn admitted doing.

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Police: Hidden camera filmed Starbucks customers in bathroom

Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2018 @ 10:41 PM

Hidden Camera Reportedly Found in Starbucks Bathroom

Police in an Atlanta suburb are investigating after a woman discovered a hidden camera in a bathroom stall at a Starbucks in North Fulton County .

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Officers with the Alpharetta Department of Public Safety confiscated the camera and detectives are now looking into the case.

According to the police report, the camera had about 25 videos stored on it, and “several” of those videos showed people using the restroom.

25-year-old woman discovered the camera around 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, police said. The camera was taped under the baby changing station in the women’s bathroom.

>> Related: Starbucks closing over 8,000 stores for racial-bias training after controversial arrest

“We were quite concerned to learn this and are grateful to our customers and partners who took action to involve local authorities,” a spokesperson for Starbucks wrote in an email. “We will continue to support them in any way we can.”

Police said the woman removed the camera and notified the manager on-duty. According to the police report, the woman gave the camera to the manager who said he would notify Starbucks’ corporate office, but she pushed him to call 911.

Police arrived after the manager filed a report with the corporate office. The manager gave police the camera, its battery pack and a USB cord. Police then reviewed the camera and found the videos.

No suspects have yet been identified, but the person responsible for the camera would at least face the charge of eavesdropping, which is a felony, police said.

>> Related: Starbucks CEO meets with 2 black men arrested in Philadelphia store

This incident comes as the company is facing backlash after two black men were arrested at one of its locations in Philadelphia last week. The company plans to close 8,000  stores for a day next month for company-wide racial bias training.

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Night owls have 10 percent higher mortality risk, study suggests

Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2018 @ 5:14 PM

A new study finds night owls are at a slightly higher risk for premature death because they might not get enough sleep. Night owls in the study were also more likely to have neurological disorders, psychological disorders, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders and respiratory disorders.
Pixabay
A new study finds night owls are at a slightly higher risk for premature death because they might not get enough sleep. Night owls in the study were also more likely to have neurological disorders, psychological disorders, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders and respiratory disorders.(Pixabay)

Some people are easily in bed by 10 p.m. each night. Others struggle to fall asleep before 2 or 3 a.m. Sleep researchers refer to this as an individual's chronotype. And while we generally attribute this to preference or genetics, new research suggests there may be serious health implications involved for those late sleepers.

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The research, conducted by scientists at Northwestern University and the University of Surrey, tracked 433,268 men and women in the United Kingdom over a six and a half year period of time. Analysis of the data revealed that participants who identified as "definite evening types" at the start of the study had a 10 percent increased risk of mortality from all causes when compared to "definite morning types. The findings were published in the journal Chronobiology International this month.

>> Related: This is why your brain feels all foggy when you’re sleep deprived

"What we think might be happening is, there's a problem for the night owl who's trying to live in the morning lark world," Dr. Kristen Knutson, associate professor of neurology at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine and a lead author of the study, told CNN. "This mismatch between their internal clock and their external world could lead to problems for their health over the long run, especially if their schedule is irregular."

>> Related: Want better sleep? Write a to-do list, study says

In addition to a slightly higher risk of premature death, night owls in the study were also more likely to have neurological disorders, psychological disorders, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders and respiratory disorders, Knutson said.

But other sleep experts suggest the data shouldn't cause late sleepers to panic just yet.

"The results are provocative, but they can tell us very little about why the mortality rate is higher in night owls. The study is not experimental and does not show what benefits, if any, might occur by changing one's schedule," Dr. Donald L. Bliwise, director of the program in sleep, aging and chronobiology at Emory University School of Medicine, told the AJC.

>> Related: Have trouble sleeping? Research says that may be an early sign of Alzheimer’s

Bliwise also suggested that knowing the participants’ actual bedtimes, instead of a simple self-definition, would help researchers understand the data better. 

"One person's concept of a late bedtime or early wake-up time may not be identical to another's," Bliwise said. "About 10 percent of the study population could not even answer the question, and the proportion with the highest mortality risk (those endorsing a definite evening type) was even smaller than this."

It's also unclear whether the participants' sleep patterns changed throughout the duration of the study.

"I am not sure that there is anything that night owls should do to change their sleep patterns on this basis of these observational data," Bliwise said.

 >> Related: Trying to beat those sugar cravings? Go to sleep, says a new study

Substantial scientific evidence suggests that the times when an individual goes to sleep and wakes up are strongly influenced by genetics, he added. Environmental factors, such as a job or school, affect these decisions, but people can't simply change their genetic predisposition to fit a particular schedule.

"Speaking solely on the basis of this evidence, it would be premature to force change on what may otherwise be an innate tendency to go to bed late and sleep late," Bliwise said. "If that schedule leads to chronically and sustained short sleep durations, then that might be worthy of attention."

While the study looked at a very large sample, and attempted to control for other risk factors, it merely showed a small correlation between sleeping late and a higher mortality rate. The fact that a participant's chronotype was determined by self-reporting is one of the biggest weaknesses of the study, according to the researchers. 

>> Related: 5 easy ways to improve your sleep 

At the same time, Knutson believes the results are enough to suggest that night owls should focus more on their health. 

"An important message here is for night owls to realize that they have these potential health problems and therefore need to be more vigilant about maintaining a healthy lifestyle," she said, adding that exercising, eating right and getting adequate sleep may be particularly important to night owls.

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Former ‘Jerry Springer’ producer charged with killing deaf, blind sister in 2015

Published: Monday, April 16, 2018 @ 12:28 PM

Former 'Jerry Springer' Producer Charged With Killing Her Disabled Sister

A former producer for television shows including “Divorce Court” and “The Jerry Springer Show” was arrested last week and charged with killing her disabled sister in a 2015 garage fire. 

The Los Angeles Police Department reported Thursday that Jill Blackstone was arrested in Baltimore on murder and animal cruelty charges. Blackstone is accused of drugging her sister, Wendy Blackstone, on March 14, 2015, and putting her and the siblings’ three dogs in the garage of their North Hollywood home and setting it on fire. 

Wendy Blackstone, 49, and two of the dogs perished in the blaze.

ABC7 in Los Angeles reported that the fire was started by a charcoal barbecue pit left burning in the garage, which filled with carbon monoxide. Wendy Blackstone was found unresponsive next to one of the dogs.

The Baltimore Sun reported that paramedics tried to revive her, but she was pronounced dead at the scene. 

Wendy Blackstone was deaf and legally blind, the newspaper reported. 

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“Homicide detectives believe the motive was Jill’s frustration of being forced to provide Wendy long-term care, as well as the associated financial hardship,” a news release from the LAPD said

Wendy Blackstone died of the combined effects of Xanax and inhaling the gas that built up in the garage, the Los Angeles County Coroner’s website states. The manner of death was still listed online as undetermined Monday morning. 

The Los Angeles Times reported that Wendy Blackstone’s autopsy report indicated that her death was “very suspicious” and “possibly staged.” When she was found, an alleged suicide note was in her hand.

Investigators believed that Jill Blackstone wrote the note. 

Near Wendy Blackstone’s feet was a Weber grill and an ash-filled trash can, both of which were considered to be sources of the carbon monoxide, the Times reported. A nearly empty vodka bottle was found nearby, though the autopsy showed no alcohol in Wendy’s system. 

Detectives found several other notes near her body with end-of-life instructions, including a “do not resuscitate” order, but none of the notes had been signed by Wendy Blackstone. 

Jill Blackstone later told detectives that a friend called her home and she “just ‘came to’ and did not remember what happened,” the Times reported. She also told investigators that the grill was used in the garage to keep it warm.

She also said the charcoal was used to roast marshmallows, the newspaper reported. 

ABC7 reported that Jill Blackstone was believed to have set the scene up to look like a suicide or accident. The notes and Blackstone’s inconsistent statements led detectives to suspect her of killing her sister. 

She was arrested shortly after the fire on suspicion of murder, but the Los Angeles County district attorney ultimately decided against filing charges, the news station reported. 

The district attorney ordered further investigation into the case just days later, the Times reported

Homicide detectives and arson investigators from the Los Angeles Fire Department conducted separate probes in the case, the LAPD news release said

“The investigative follow-up required for a successful prosecution included significant travel, research, numerous interviews and additional forensic evidence processing, which added time to this extremely complex and sensitive investigation,” the news release said. 

The district attorney filed murder and animal cruelty charges against Blackstone last month. Homicide detectives tracked her last week to a relative’s home in Hoboken, New Jersey.

When they spoke to her lawyer, the attorney told authorities that Blackstone was hospitalized in Baltimore for treatment of a medical condition, LAPD officials said.

She was taken into custody Wednesday at Johns Hopkins Hospital. As of last week, she remained in Baltimore Police Department custody, awaiting extradition to California. 

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Burglary suspect tries to disguise face with plastic water-bottle case wrapper

Published: Thursday, April 19, 2018 @ 12:05 AM

(ActionNewsJax.com)
(ActionNewsJax.com)

Police in Georgia have identified the suspect who burglarized a game store using an unusual disguise. 

The St. Marys Police Department said they have obtained an arrest warrant for 22-year-old Kerry Dean Hammond, Jr.

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According to police, surveillance video shows him running around the store with the plastic wrapper from a package of bottled water over his head. 

The break-in happened on April 13 around 1:30 a.m. 

The St. Marys Police Department shared the video to its Facebook page and said the “craftily disguised gent decided to burglarize GameStop.” 

The video has been viewed more than 17,000 times. 

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