Nation and world news briefs

©Tribune News Service

Rudy Giuliani claims ‘no reason to believe’ his Ukraine contact is a Russian spy despite sanctions

NEW YORK — Rudy Giuliani claimed Friday he has seen “nothing” to back up the Trump administration’s conclusion that he worked alongside a seasoned Russian spy as part of his Ukraine-obsessed smear campaign against Joe Biden.

President Donald Trump’s own Treasury Department sanctioned ex-Ukrainian politician Andrii Derkach on Thursday for being “an active Russian agent” pushing “false and unsubstantiated” corruption claims about Biden in a bid to influence November’s election — but Giuliani begged to differ.

“No reason to believe that,” Giuliani said as part of lengthy text message exchange with the Daily News. “I know nothing that would support that conclusion.”

Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, has met at least three times with Derkach and boasted earlier this year about receiving information from the pro-Kremlin politician that he claimed proved Biden used the power of his vice presidency to help his son, Hunter, evade prosecution in Ukraine.

But Derkach’s entire scheme — including the release of a manipulated recording of a phone call between Biden and Ukraine’s former president — is part of Russia’s broader election interference plot to disparage the Democratic candidate and help Trump win reelection, according to the Treasury Department.

— New York Daily News


2 former child welfare workers in AJ Freund case arrested, charged with child endangerment

CHICAGO — Two former state child welfare officials who were involved in an abuse investigation four months before 5-year-old AJ Freund’s tragic death were arrested Thursday, both facing felony charges.

Carlos Acosta, an elected McHenry County board member, and his former supervisor, Andrew Polovin, are charged with endangering the life of a child and reckless conduct, records show.

Bail was set at $20,000 for each, according to the McHenry County sheriff’s office. Acosta, 54, of Woodstock, posted bond hours after his arrest. Polovin, 48, of Island Lake, had also bonded out by Friday morning, a sheriff’s office official said.

The men left the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services in December following a lengthy internal disciplinary process. DCFS officials have declined to say whether they were fired or voluntarily quit.

The employees, who both had about 25 years of agency experience, were reassigned to paid desk duty shortly after AJ was reported missing in April 2019. His body was found six days later in a shallow grave about 7 miles from his suburban Crystal Lake home.

His parents, Andrew Freund and JoAnn Cunningham, had a long history with DCFS and had temporarily lost custody of AJ after he was born with heroin in his body. Cunningham, 37, pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to 35 years in prison earlier this summer. Freund, 61, still awaits trial.

— Chicago Tribune


St. Louis police cite 9 for trespassing in June protest outside couple’s mansion

ST. LOUIS, Mo. — City police have issued trespassing summonses to nine protesters who on June 28 marched onto Portland Place, a private and gated street where a St. Louis couple brandished guns as demonstrators walked past their mansion.

The police department confirmed it issued citations to nine people but declined to identify them, citing provisions of the state Sunshine Law that seals arrest reports and other records during an active investigation.

Deputy City Counselor Mike Garvin said Friday that “police have presented materials to us and we are considering whether to issue charges on the citations.” Garvin said the office wants to examine video from the protest “to see where the accused trespassers were at the time.”

Mark and Patricia McCloskey, who are each charged with one felony count of unlawful use of a weapon, made their first court appearance Aug. 31 and have another hearing set for Oct. 6 unless a grand jury issues an indictment before then. Charges said Mark McCloskey, 63, pointed an AR-15 rifle at protesters and Patricia McCloskey, 61, wielded a semiautomatic handgun, placing protesters in fear of injury.

Dozens had marched past the McCloskey home that evening, and it wasn’t clear what determinations police used to cite just the nine demonstrators.

— St. Louis Post-Dispatch


Federal court rules felons cannot vote in Florida if they owe fines or fees

ORLANDO, Fla. — As many as 775,000 former felons in Florida will not be able to vote if they haven’t paid back all fines, fees and restitution, a federal appeals court ruled Friday, overturning a lower court’s decision that they could go to the polls this year.

In a 6-4 decision, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta determined that the fines and fees placed on felons are not a “poll tax” as described by federal Judge Robert Hinkle in his May 26 decision. The case could have an effect on the outcome of the Nov. 3 presidential election in swing-state Florida.

“Democracy took a blow today,” said Desmond Meade, of Orlando, who spearheaded the Amendment 4 campaign in 2018 that prompted 65% of Florida voters to back the restoration of voting rights to felons.

Hinkle made his ruling in a lawsuit challenging the 2019 law designed to carry out Amendment 4. He agreed with the ACLU, Campaign Legal Center and other voting rights groups that the requirement to pay those costs before being allowed to vote was unconstitutional.

But in his written decision Friday, Chief Judge William Pryor ruled that “the fees and costs in this appeal are penalties, not taxes.”

“Because court costs and fees are legitimate parts of a criminal sentence — that is, part of the debt to society that felons must pay for their crimes — there is no basis to regard them as a tax,” Pryor wrote.

— Orlando Sentinel