Legal and immigration experts are responding to Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis‘ decision to send two private planes filled with undocumented immigrants to the tiny island of Martha’s Vineyard (pop.17,000), in what some are calling an inhumane political stunt, as well as a possibly illegal act, including “kidnapping.” One attorney says that would make them not only victims of a crime, but eligible for U.S. government issued visas.
California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom Thursday afternoon sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland urging the Dept. of Justice to investigate what he said may be “criminal” acts including “kidnapping” and violations of “RICO” statutes.
Jules Bernstein, founder of Louis D. Brandeis Legacy Fund for Social Justice, and a longtime attorney who has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, says DeSantis’ actions may “have constituted a federal crime.”
“Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s reckless decision to deceive 50 poor and homeless migrants from Latin America into traveling, at Florida’s citizen’s expense, to Martha’s Vineyard, by misleading them into thinking that jobs and housing awaited them, was not merely an outrageous and villainous deed. It may also have constituted a federal crime,” Bernstein writes in a letter published by The Martha’s Vineyard Times.
Civil Rights Attorney Andrew C Laufer on social media says it “could be kidnapping.”
“They usually have immigrants sign consent/waivers when they transport them.Don’t believe they’re enforceable.If they Feds get involved, since they crossed state borders, could be kidnapping. It’s not human trafficking bc DeSantis, et al didn’t exploit them for labor or sex act.”
Elizabeth de la Vega, a former federal prosecutor of organized crime case and served as Chief of the San Jose Branch of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California says, “I hope DOJ will act asap against DeSantis & this crime, which is kidnapping in violation of 18 USC § 1201. The law doesn’t require forcible taking; it applies to ‘inveigling.’ It also forbids doing so for ransom, reward or ‘otherwise,’ a term that’s interpreted broadly.”
Immigration attorney Rachel Self, of Martha’s Vineyard, agrees the immigrants were “kidnapped.”
“The response to this crisis among the legal and humanitarian communities, and the Martha’s Vineyard community at large, has been nothing short of incredible,” Self wrote, according to The Times. “The people who arrived last night are not alone, and we will make sure they know it – this is what our community is all about. We welcome them, and we are deeply grateful for the opportunity to help them in any way we can.”
Self is preparing to take legal action.
“We believe they are victims of kidnapping, and the perpetrators of this breathtakingly cruel political stunt should know that it may well result in every individual who was induced onto those planes by fraud becoming eligible for a U visa,” she writes.
“A U visa is a nonimmigrant visa granted to victims who cooperate with law enforcement, prosecutors, or other authorities in the investigation of a crime, and in the First Circuit (the Federal jurisdiction which includes Massachusetts), people with pending U visas are protected from deportation,” Self adds.
“We call on federal, state, and local authorities to collect and preserve evidence, beginning with the tail numbers of the aircraft used in the commission of this offense. Using human beings – families and children – as political pawns says far more about Governor DeSantis’s callousness and disregard for human life than it does about the people of Martha’s Vineyard.”
She continued to blast the Florida governor who is facing a tough re-election battle against Democrat Charlie Crist.
DeSantis, she adds, “sent those planes here hoping to expose hypocrisy; he does not believe anyone when they say they care about people like migrants fleeing an oppressive socialist regime in Venezuela, because he himself cannot conceive of caring about them. He’s made it perfectly clear he views them as subhuman. He has revealed nothing but his own heartlessness – and the truth that the people of Martha’s Vineyard are as good as it gets and better embody the moral values he purports to have.”
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‘Next Chapter?’ Manhattan DA Signals Trump Himself Might Finally Land Under Indictment
Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg may finally have changed his mind about indicting former president Donald Trump.
The recent conviction of the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg gave a glimpse of evidence that could tie the ex-president directly to the tax fraud scheme, such as a memo he signed approving chief operating officer Matthew Calamari’s illegal request to reduce his taxed salary to cover the cost of his untaxed corporate apartment, reported The Daily Beast.
“We now move on to the next chapter,” Bragg said last week after the company was ordered to pay $1.6 million in penalties for tax fraud.
Trump already asserted under oath in another case in 2021 that he personally oversaw Calimari’s compensation, and prosecutors have checks he signed to cover tuition at a private school for Weisselberg’s grandchildren, whose mother Jennifer Weisselberg has repeatedly told investigators she personally heard Trump discuss the scheme to artificially lower taxed salaries for his executives.
“This case has tentacles,” said Duncan Levin, a former prosecutor who now represents Jennifer Weisselberg and has been communicating with investigators.
The district attorney’s office declined to comment on what Bragg meant about another chapter, but former prosecutors from that office say their experience leads them to believe prosecutors will go after Trump.
“For people who want a certain outcome — to go after Trump — it gives hope,” said Catherine A. Christian, a former assistant district attorney who investigated financial fraud. “They’re going to be thorough. I’m doubtful he would have said ‘next chapter’ if they weren’t looking.”
“It happens all the time with large, complex investigations,” she added.
Prosecutors had hoped to flip Weisselberg or company controller Jeffrey McConney, who was nearly labeled a hostile witness during the Trump Organization trial, but ultimately were unable to get their full cooperation.
“They didn’t flip, and they failed,” said former Manhattan prosecutor Jeff Chabrowe. “They tried to do everything they could, and in the end, they got a truncated thing here where they went after the organization and Weisselberg, and there’s this fine that’s pretty weak.”
‘Final Nail in His Coffin’: Trump’s Taxes Contain ‘Powerful Evidence of Criminal Tax Evasion’
In a column for the Daily Beast, longtime investigative journalist and Donald Trump biographer David Cay Johnston made the case that there is enough evidence of financial fraud in the former president’s tax returns from 2015 to 2020 to indict and prosecute him.
At issue, he noted, are deductions taken for Trump companies — some of which may never have existed.
According to Johnston, the author of “The Big Cheat: How Donald Trump Fleeced America and Enriched Himself and His Family,” he found “powerful evidence of criminal tax evasion,” after reviewing the documents after they were released on Friday morning to the public after years of obstruction from Trump.
“Consider a rich business owner who fabricates deductions but who would still owe zero tax in the audited year even if those deductions were denied. That means an audit that will not generate any tax revenue. That’s also what Trump apparently did in 26 sole proprietor, or Schedule C, filings in the six years of released tax returns,” he wrote before adding, “Trump also turned a profit off a portion of the tax system, making $2.8 million profit off the Alternative Minimum Tax, or AMT.”
As for those 26 Trump businesses that may or may not exist, Johnston suggested that investigators dig deeper into how the former president used them to get out of paying taxes in the years involved.
“Most glaring in the tax returns is that they include 26 Trump businesses—or imaginary businesses—with zero revenue and hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax deductions for expenses,” he pointed out while noting they should be of interest to New York State Attorney General Letitia James, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and Attorney General Merrick Garland.
“Unless Trump can produce records showing the expenses are real and meet other standards to be deductible, that’s fraud. That Trump did it 26 times as a candidate and as president is powerful evidence that he qualifies for prosecution by the federal government and New York State for criminal tax fraud,” he wrote before adding the results could lead to a “slam dunk” prosecution.
You can read more here.
Image: Evan El Amin/Shutterstock
Watch: J6 Committee Votes to Send Four Criminal Referrals Against Donald Trump to DOJ
The U.S. House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack has voted to send four criminal referrals to the Dept. of Justice, even more than previously expected.
The Committee’s referral says Donald Trump is guilty of: Obstruction of an official proceeding; Conspiracy to defraud the United States; Conspiracy to make a false statement; Inciting, assisting or aiding/comforting an insurrection, as reported by CNN’s Jake Tapper.
Calling the move “a major escalation for a congressional investigation that is the most significant in a generation,” The New York Times reports this is “the first time in American history that Congress has referred a former president for criminal prosecution,” and “is the coda to the committee’s intense 18-month investigation into Mr. Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election that culminated in a violent mob of the former president’s supporters laying siege to the Capitol.”
Watch this historic moment below or at this link.
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