It’s Monday, December 6th, and this is your Morning Wire. Listen to the full podcast:
1) Ghislaine Maxwell Trial Continues
The Topline: Today, the second week of the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell begins. Maxwell is the former girlfriend of billionaire and pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, who now faces charges of sex trafficking minors.
The trial has made headlines worldwide due to allegations that Epstein and Maxwell acted together to procure young victims for rich and famous friends, including Prince Andrew. Epstein’s extensive roster of friends and guests who allegedly travelled aboard his infamous “Lolita Express” jet includes dozens of Hollywood elites and at least two former U.S. presidents.
In the first week of the trial, one of the state’s key witnesses, a woman who has accused Maxwell of trafficking her for Epstein, and who has also claimed that Maxwell personally sexually abused her, testified. “Jane,” which is the pseudonym she is using in court, took the stand on Tuesday and described how she was recruited by Epstein and Maxwell when she was 13 or 14 years old at a performing arts summer camp in Michigan. Epstein and Maxwell started inviting her to Epstein’s house in Palm Beach, she said.
She said they groomed her, giving her impoverished family money, paying for her voice lessons, and taking her on shopping trips. They took her on Epstein’s private jet to his other houses, and Maxwell discussed sexual topics with her. Eventually, Epstein began sexually abusing her, she said, and soon afterwards, Maxwell and Epstein allegedly took her to Epstein’s bedroom and abused her together, still when she was just 14.
Maxwell is charged with eight counts related to the sex trafficking of minors between 1994 and 2004, including sex trafficking of a minor, enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, and transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. A separate, later trial will consider two perjury charges against her. If convicted, she could face up to 80 years in prison
The Defense: Maxwell’s lawyers are primarily arguing that the women accusing Maxwell are motivated by money and have “contaminated” memories of their abuse. The defense even went after “Jane” over her acting career, asking her on the stand whether she can “cry on command.”
2) ‘Zero-Bail’ Policies Precede California Crime Wave
The Topline: Last week, Los Angeles police announced they’d arrested 14 people in connection with a string of “smash and grab” robberies, but within hours of being caught, all 14 suspects had already been released, leaving many Californians outraged.
Quote Of The Day: “The pendulum has swung too far, and it’s our neighborhoods that endure the most crime that suffer as a result.” -Sam Liccardo, Mayor of San Jose
‘Smash And Grab’ Theft
California cities have been experiencing a spate of what officials call “smash and grab” robberies, where a large group of usually armed people rush into a store and overwhelm staff or security, smashing display cases and grabbing items before running to getaway cars. Sometimes these incidents turn fatal; one security guard was murdered last week during one such robbery. Across one ten day period at the end of November, stores in LA were struck 11 times, resulting in almost half a million dollars worth of property damage and stolen goods.
The LAPD announced they’d caught 14 people in connection with those crimes, but within hours of being detained, they were all released due in part to California’s new “zero-bail policy” which means those charged with non-violent felonies and misdemeanors are released while waiting for their trial, without having to pay any bail.
In March, amid nationwide Black Lives Matter protests, the California Supreme Court ruled that when setting bail rates, judges in the state must consider a suspect’s financial background and ability to pay the bail. Supporters of measures like this say it’s a way to bring equity to the criminal justice system and prevent the wealthy from being the only ones who can pay bail. Those who oppose them say this is no time to be lenient on criminals as cities nationwide are seeing record increases in violent crime and homicide. They also point to cases where offenders have been released on low or zero bail and committed the same crimes repeatedly.
Weeks before the Waukesha parade, the driver in the attack had been released on $1,000 bail after running a woman over with his car.
In a case in California, a man was let go without paying bail and arrested a month later for raping a woman. In another case, a man was arrested 13 times in 12 weeks. He stole over a dozen cars but was continually released. In another example, a man was released with zero bail after being charged with stealing a car, and he skipped his court date and murdered a 61-year-old woman and her dogs.
Pushback: Some on the Left are beginning to reject the policies. The Democratic mayor of San Jose was outraged after two murder suspects were released from jail in his city. He tweeted about the bail policies saying, “The pendulum has swung too far, and it’s our neighborhoods that endure the most crime that suffer as a result.”
3) NYC To Allow Non-Citizens Some Voting Rights
The Topline: New York City will soon allow non-citizen voting in local elections. The decision comes after decades of progressive activism and efforts to expand voting to new groups.
New York City will soon be the largest city in the country to allow non-citizens to register with a political party and vote in municipal elections. However, non-citizens will still be restricted from voting in state or federal elections, meaning they can vote for city council, but not for governor or president.
The measure hasn’t passed yet, but it’s expected to be approved by a veto-proof majority on December 9th.
The current language of the bill says non-citizens can vote if they are current green card holders or have the right to work in the U.S. According to The New York Times, this applies to around 800,000 non-citizen residents. In terms of identification requirements, currently New York doesn’t require ID to vote, but they do require I.D. for first-time voter registration.
Outgoing Mayor Bill De Blasio has opposed the measure and questioned whether the city council has the legal authority to make this move without state approval. He has indicated that allowing non-citizens to vote in municipal elections might undermine the “value of citizenship” and reduce the incentive for non-citizens to pursue full citizenship. Other progressives, however, say non-citizens pay taxes and utilize public services, so they should have a stake in how those services are run.
Newly elected mayor Eric Adams, who is seen as a more moderate democrat, is in favor of the idea.
The New York City GOP has fiercely opposed non-citizen voting, claiming it waters down the votes of legal citizens. They also warn how the trend toward non-citizen voting won’t stop with New York City, or with municipal elections, and point out how local issues should not be left up to short-term residents.
Areas of Maryland and Vermont have already allowed non-citizens some municipal voting rights, and in San Francisco, non-citizens are allowed to vote in school board elections. Communities in California, Maine, Illinois and Massachusetts are all looking at similar measures.
Some states are moving in the opposite direction, however, fortifying voting rights for citizens only. Last year, Alabama, Colorado and Florida passed ballot legislation saying only U.S. citizens could vote in their elections. Arizona and North Dakota already had similar laws.
Other Stories We’re Tracking
Senator Bob Dole Dies
Bob Dole, a former Republican Senator and 1996 presidential candidate, died on Sunday. His family said in a statement he passed away “early this morning in his sleep.” “At his death, at age 98, he had served the United States of America faithfully for 79 years,” the statement read.
The parents of the teen accused of going on a shooting rampage at Oxford High School were arrested in a Detroit warehouse Saturday morning, hours after they failed to appear at an arraignment. The two have been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, and both have pleaded not guilty. Their attorneys claim they “fully intended” to turn themselves in before police found them.
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