New Canadian Law will have pastors in Prison for preaching Gods design on marriage

The front gate is pictured at the Taconic Correctional Facility in Bedford Hills, New York April 8, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/ File Photo

Luke 21:12 “But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name.

Important Takeaways:

  • Pastors Face Up to 5 Years in Prison Under New Canadian Law Against Biblical Sexuality
  • Bill C-4, which bans conversion therapy, is so broad that it defines biblical marriage and sexuality as a “myth” and can be used against pastors, parents, and counselors
  • “This means as of January 8, 2022, it will be against the law to preach, teach, or counsel regarding God’s design for marriage and sexuality,”
  • The controversial bill, which was passed without opposition from either party, threatens imprisonment of up to five years

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U.S. Justice Dept says inmates sent home due to COVID-19 will not be returned to prison

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday announced it would not force federal inmates who were sent home due to the coronavirus pandemic to return to prison once the emergency is lifted.

The decision represents a major reversal for the department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which previously had issued an opinion which said the Bureau of Prisons had no legal authority to keep inmates at home once the pandemic emergency had subsided.

It also marks a victory for criminal justice advocacy groups who have fiercely lobbied the department and the White House to take steps to ensure that law-abiding, low-level inmates would not be forced back into prison.

“Thousands of people on home confinement have reconnected with their families, have found gainful employment, and have followed the rules,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

In 2020, Congress passed the CARES Act, which broadened the Justice Department’s authority to release low-level inmates into home confinement during the pandemic to ease crowding and reduce the spread of COVID-19.

But in January of this year, the department’s Office of Legal Counsel issued a controversial opinion which found that once the emergency is lifted, the federal Bureau of Prisons “must recall prisoners in home confinement to correctional facilities” if they do not otherwise qualify to remain at home.

Dozens of advocacy groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Justice Action Network and FAMM – a group that opposes mandatory minimum sentences – have urged the Justice Department to overturn that opinion.

They have also pressed the White House to use its clemency powers to commute the sentences of those who were sent home.

Garland said on Tuesday that he is also planning to direct the BOP to launch a rulemaking process that will ensure that inmates in home confinement will “be given an opportunity to continue transitioning back to society” and will not be “unnecessarily returned to prison.”

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

Britain tightens travel restrictions with hotel quarantine and prison threat

By Sarah Young

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain will require passengers arriving from countries where worrying coronavirus variants are spreading to pay for 10 days of quarantine in hotels, while rule-breakers will face heavy fines or jail terms, under tighter restrictions from next week.

The new travel rules add to restrictions that already ban travel abroad for holidays. The government said the stronger measures were needed to prevent new variants of the virus from thwarting Britain’s rapid vaccination program.

Airlines and travel companies called for more government aid, saying the new rules would deepen a crisis that has seen them lose nearly all their revenue.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said people could be sent to prison and fined up to 10,000 pounds ($14,000) if they break the rules which come into force on Feb. 15.

“Anyone who lies on the passenger locator form and tries to conceal that they’ve been in a country on the ‘red list’ in the 10 days before arrival here, will face a prison sentence of up to 10 years,” Hancock told parliament.

British and Irish nationals arriving in England who have been in high risk countries in the last 10 days would be required to pay 1,750 pounds ($2,400) to cover the cost of a minimum 10-day quarantine in a designated hotel, Hancock said.

All arrivals into the UK will also have to take further COVID-19 tests on day 2 and day 8 of their quarantines, he said, on top of a pre-departure test already required.

Britain has rolled out the fastest vaccination program of any large country. But there has been alarm in recent days after reports that the vaccines it is using may be less effective against some new variants of the virus, such as one that has spread rapidly in South Africa.

NO END IN SIGHT

The government, criticized in recent weeks for being slow to bring in tougher border measures, said the stricter rules could stay in place until it is sure vaccines work against new variants, or booster shots become available.

“Strong protections at the border are part of defending and safely allowing the domestic opening up,” Hancock said.

British airlines and airports issued a new cry for help, the latest of many, urging the government to provide more support to make sure the sector makes it through the year, and to issue a roadmap on how it will ease restrictions.

“Airports and airlines are battling to survive with almost zero revenue and a huge cost base, and practically every week a further blow lands,” aviation trade bodies said.

Hancock said the measures could not be in place permanently and would be replaced “over time with a system of safe and free international travel”.

The government said it had contracted 16 hotels for an initial 4,600 rooms for hotel quarantine and would secure more as needed, with further details due to be published on Thursday.

Quarantines in hotels have been used by Australia and New Zealand as a strategy to sharply limit the spread of the coronavirus.

($1 = 0.7259 pounds)

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton, additional reporting by Andrew MacAskill, Editing by Paul Sandle, Michael Holden, Giles Elgood, Peter Graff)

In first for Europe, Iran envoy sentenced to 20-year prison term over bomb plot

By Clement Rossignol and Robin Emmott

ANTWERP, Belgium (Reuters) – An Iranian diplomat accused of planning to bomb a meeting of an exiled opposition group was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Thursday in the first trial of an Iranian official for suspected terrorism in Europe since Iran’s 1979 revolution.

Assadolah Assadi was found guilty of attempted terrorism after a foiled plot to bomb a rally of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) near Paris in June 2018, Belgian prosecution lawyers and civil parties to the prosecution said.

The third counsellor at Iran’s embassy in Vienna, he was arrested in Germany before being transferred to Belgium for trial. French officials said he was running an Iranian state intelligence network and was acting on orders from Tehran.

Assadi did not attend his hearings, which were held behind closed doors under high security, and neither he nor his lawyer have commented.

In March, Assadi warned authorities of possible retaliation by unidentified groups if he was found guilty, according to a police document obtained by Reuters. The courtroom was heavily guarded, with armored vehicles outside and police helicopters overhead.

In a statement carried by Iranian state television, Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said: “Unfortunately, Belgium and some European countries, under the influence of the hostile atmosphere of a terrorist group, have taken such an illegal and unjustifiable action.

“Therefore,” he said, “they must be held accountable for the gross violation of the rights of our country’s diplomats.”

Prosecution lawyer Georges-Henri Beauthier said outside the court in Antwerp: “The ruling shows two things: A diplomat doesn’t have immunity for criminal acts…and the responsibility of the Iranian state in what could have been carnage.”

COMMERCIAL FLIGHT

Investigators assessed that Assadi brought the explosives for the plot with him on a commercial flight to Austria from Iran, according to Belgium’s federal prosecutor.

Then-U.S. President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani gave the keynote address at the rally, which was attended by diplomats from many countries.

The ruling came at a sensitive time for Western relations with Iran. New U.S. President Joe Biden is considering whether to lift economic sanctions on Iran re-imposed by Trump and rejoin fellow world powers in the historic 2015 accord with the Islamic Republic aimed at containing its nuclear program.

While the European Union has imposed human rights sanctions on Iranian individuals, Brussels has sought closer diplomatic and business ties with Tehran.

But it says it cannot turn a blind eye to terrorism, including the two killings in the Netherlands and a failed assassination attempt in Denmark, blamed on Iran.

“This case is not an aberration but rather is part of a pattern of the Islamic Republic’s terrorism in Europe and around the world,” said Toby Dershowitz at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a nonpartisan think-tank in Washington D.C.

Three other Iranians were sentenced in the trial for their role as accomplices, with 15-, 17- and 18-year sentences handed down respectively by three judges who did not comment on Thursday. One of their lawyers said he would recommend an appeal, although it was not clear if Assadi would do so.

In an interview with Reuters, NCRI chief Maryam Rajavi called the ruling a turning point as it proved Iran was carrying out state-sponsored terrorism. She said the EU could not stand by without reacting even if some in the 27-nation bloc were pushing for more dialogue with Tehran.

“Silence and inaction would be the worst policy and embolden the regime in its behavior,” she said, speaking through an interpreter, calling for EU sanctions on key officials, including Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who heads up nuclear diplomacy with the major powers.

“The European Union and governments must hold the regime accountable,” Rajavi said.

The EU declined to comment. French officials did not immediately respond to request for comment.

The Islamic Republic has repeatedly dismissed the charges, calling the attack allegations a “false flag” stunt by the NCRI, which it considers a terrorist group.

(Reporting by Clement Rossignol in Antwerp and Robin Emmott in Brussels with additional reporting by John Irish in Paris and Parisa Hafezi in Dubai; Editing by Marine Strauss, Philippa Fletcher and Mark Heinrich)

California’s notorious ‘Golden State Killer’ faces sentencing

SACRAMENTO (Reuters) – A former California police officer dubbed the “Golden State Killer” who confessed to 13 murders and dozens of rapes during the 1970’s and 80’s faces a life prison term when he is sentenced in Sacramento on Friday.

Joseph James DeAngelo, 74, will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole following three days of emotional hearings in which victims or their family members confronted him in open court.

“What a gut punch it was that I had been brutally raped by a full-time police officer,” victim Gay Hardwick said, according to the Sacramento Bee newspaper. She was attacked in her San Stockton home in 1978 by an intruder who forced her to tie up her then-boyfriend first.

“To learn that DeAngelo, who was sworn to serve and protect, used his skill set to terrorize and rape. Yes, that was staggering,” Hardwick said.

The Golden State Killer remained a mystery, his crimes unsolved for decades until DeAngelo’s arrest in Sacramento County on April 24, 2018.

Investigators tied DeAngelo to the crimes using a then-novel technique of tracing him using family DNA from commercial genealogy websites.

In June, DeAngelo admitted to 13 murders and 13 related rape charges between 1975 and 1986 as part of a plea deal with prosecutors sparing him from a potential death sentence.

Prosecutors said the deal ensured that aging survivors and victims’ relatives lived to see the case resolved, sparing them further legal proceedings likely to have dragged on for a decade.

Besides the 13 murders, and 13 rape-related charges DeAngelo publicly admitted to dozens more rape cases for which the statute of limitations had expired. Prosecutors said he invaded 120 homes across 11 counties during his crime spree.

The serial killer, also known as the “East Area Rapist” and the “Original Night Stalker,” typically crept into his victims’ bedrooms at night, tying them up, raping them, and stealing valuables.

(Writing and additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb; editing by Bill Tarrant and Alistair Bell)

Russia jails former U.S. Marine for nine years on police assault charge

By Tom Balmforth and Gennady Novik

MOSCOW (Reuters) – A Russian court sentenced a former U.S. Marine to nine years in jail on Thursday after convicting him of endangering the lives of two police officers in a trial the United States criticised as “theater of the absurd” and lacking serious evidence.

Trevor Reed, a student at the University of North Texas, said he could not remember the events of last summer because he was drunk when he was detained after leaving a party in Moscow.

But he denied the charge in court after hearing what he said was the flimsy evidence presented during the trial and the investigation’s failure to obtain video evidence that could prove his innocence.

“It’s clearly political,” he told reporters in court.

The conviction is likely to spur media speculation that Reed could become part of a possible prisoner swap reportedly being negotiated by Moscow and Washington. Neither side has confirmed such talks are taking place.

Russia convicted U.S. citizen Paul Whelan, also a former Marine, last month of espionage and sentenced him to 16 years in jail. Whelan denied wrongdoing. U.S. investor Michael Calvey is being held under house arrest on fraud charges he denies.

Whelan’s lawyer has said he believes Moscow wants to exchange Whelan for an arms dealer, Viktor Bout, and another Russian held in U.S. prisons.

Prosecutors accused Reed of grabbing a police officer who was behind the wheel of a car after the American was detained on Aug. 15. That, they said, caused the vehicle to swerve dangerously. He was also accused of elbowing a second officer.

Reed said he travelled to Moscow in May last year to learn Russian and see his Russian girlfriend. She burst into tears in court and was escorted outside after swearing loudly during the verdict.

“This conviction, and a sentence of nine years, for an alleged crime that so obviously did not occur, is ridiculous,” said John Sullivan, the U.S. ambassador to Moscow. “This was theater of the absurd.”

Reed’s father, Joey, said he planned to appeal publicly to President Vladimir Putin to intervene in the case.

“We believe (this case) happened for one reason – he stumbled him into police custody because he was intoxicated, and once they saw they had a former U.S. Marine they said ‘We’re gonna keep this guy’,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Maxim Rodionov and Dmitriy Turlyun; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Andrew Osborn and Timothy Heritage)

Russia seeks 18-year jail term for ex-U.S. Marine accused of spying

(Reuters) – Russian prosecutors asked a court on Monday to sentence former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who is on trial accused of spying for the United States, to 18 years in a maximum-security prison, his lawyer said.

Whelan, a U.S. national who also holds British, Canadian and Irish passports, was detained in December 2018. He says he was set up in a sting and has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

His trial, which began on March 23, has been closed to the public as its content broaches classified information.

The court will announce its verdict on June 15, Whelan’s lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov said after Monday’s hearing.

U.S. authorities have called the charges against Whelan spurious have called on Russia to release him, describing the case as a “significant obstacle” to improving bilateral ties.

Whelan, who turned 50 in custody this year, has used his appearances at hearings to allege he has been ill-treated by prison guards and been denied medical attention.

Russian authorities have accused him of faking health problems to draw attention to his case.

(Reporting by Polina Ivanova; Writing by Alexander Marrow and Tom Balmforth; editing by John Stonestreet)

U.S. Supreme Court wrestles over ‘D.C. Sniper’ life sentence appeal

U.S. Supreme Court wrestles over ‘D.C. Sniper’ life sentence appeal
By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Supreme Court justices on Wednesday questioned whether a lower court sufficiently considered that a man convicted in the deadly 2002 “D.C. Sniper” shooting spree in the Washington area was a minor at the time of the crimes when he was sentenced to life in prison.

The nine justices heard arguments in an appeal by the state of Virginia objecting to the lower court’s decision ordering that Lee Boyd Malvo’s sentence of life in prison without parole be thrown out.

Malvo, now 34, was 17 during the shootings in which 10 people were killed. He participated with an older accomplice, John Allen Muhammad, who was given the death penalty.

If Malvo prevails, he and other prison inmates in similar cases involving certain crimes committed by minors could receive new sentencing hearings to allow judges to consider whether their youth at the time of the offense merits leniency.

Malvo’s best chance of victory appears to be an alliance of the court’s four liberal justices and at least one conservative justice. The most likely contender based on questions he asked during the argument would be Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

The shootings occurred over three weeks in Washington, Maryland and Virginia, causing panic in the U.S. capital region. Muhammad also was convicted and was executed in 2009 at age 48 in a Virginia state prison.

Virginia appealed after the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2018 that Malvo should be resentenced. The 4th Circuit cited Supreme Court decisions issued since the shooting spree finding that mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles were unconstitutional, and that this rule applied retroactively.

Malvo received four life sentences in Virginia, where he was convicted of two murders and later entered a separate guilty plea to avoid the death penalty. He also received a sentence of life in prison without parole in Maryland.

Virginia’s appeal concerns the scope of a 2012 decision in which the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that mandatory life sentences without parole in homicide cases involving juvenile killers violated the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. In 2016, the court decided that the 2012 ruling applied retroactively, enabling people imprisoned years ago to argue for their release.

Liberal Justice Elena Kagan appeared convinced that the 2012 ruling, which she authored, dictates the outcome.

“It can be summarized in two words, which is that youth matters,” Kagan said.

Fellow liberal Justice Stephen Breyer said the “odds are greater than 50-50” that the judge did not consider Malvo’s youth during sentencing.

Kavanaugh questioned whether the Virginia sentencing process gave judges leeway not to impose sentences of life without parole, a finding that would favor Malvo. Kavanaugh described that question as the “tough part of the case.”

President Donald Trump’s administration backed Virginia in the case. Among those backing Malvo’s claim in the case are Paul LaRuffa, who was shot and injured outside the restaurant he ran in Clinton, Maryland during the 2002 spree, and two relatives of people killed in shootings.

Malvo’s Maryland sentence would not be directly affected by the outcome in the Virginia dispute.

A ruling is due by the end of June.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)

Actress Felicity Huffman gets 14 days behind bars in U.S. college scandal

By Valerie Vande Panne

BOSTON (Reuters) – Actress Felicity Huffman, the first parent sentenced in a wide-ranging U.S. college admissions cheating scandal, was given a 14-day prison term and apologized for her actions on Friday after pleading guilty to paying to rig her daughter’s entrance exam.

U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani sentenced Huffman, the 56-year-old former star of the popular television series “Desperate Housewives” and one-time Academy Award nominee, in federal court in Boston. The judge also ordered Huffman to pay a $30,000 fine and complete 250 hours of community service.

“My first apology is to you,” Huffman told the judge immediately before the sentence was issued.

“I realize now as a mother that love and truth must go hand in hand, and love at the expense of truth is not real love,” the actress said. “I will deserve whatever punishment you give me,” she added.

Huffman was released from court after the judge ordered her to report to prison on Oct. 25.

Prosecutors had recommended a sentence of one month behind bars after Huffman tearfully entered a guilty plea in May to conspiracy related to her payment of $15,000 to have someone secretly correct her daughter’s answers on the SAT standardized test used for college admissions.

U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling had also recommended a $20,000 fine and one year of probation.

Huffman’s attorneys, calling the actress “remorseful” and “deeply ashamed,” had urged the judge to allow her to remain free on one year’s probation, complete 250 hours of community service and pay a $20,000 fine.

Huffman and her husband, actor William H. Macy, looked somber when they arrived at the federal courthouse, holding hands, ahead of the sentencing.

Huffman is among 51 people charged in a vast scheme in which wealthy parents were accused of conspiring to use bribery and other forms of fraud to secure for their children admission to prominent U.S. universities. These schools included Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, the University of Southern California, the University of Texas and Wake Forest.

More than 30 parents were charged in the investigation dubbed Operation Varsity Blues, also including actress Lori Loughlin, who starred in the TV series “Full House,” and her designer husband Mossimo Giannulli, as well as a host of corporate executives, financiers and lawyers. Unlike Huffman, Loughlin and Giannulli pleaded not guilty.

The scandal cast a spotlight on the advantages of wealth in college admissions and the lengths to which some rich Americans have gone to get their children into top universities at the expense of other applicants.

Prosecutors said the accused parents acted with the help of William “Rick” Singer, a California college admissions consultant who pleaded guilty in March to helping bribe university sports coaches to present clients’ children as fake athletic recruits. Singer’s sentencing is set for later this month.

‘MY OWN INTEGRITY’

Huffman, who won an Emmy award for “Desperate Housewives” and was nominated for an Oscar as best actress for her role in the 2005 film “Transamerica,” said the cheating scheme was proposed by Singer.

Huffman said her daughter Sophia was unaware of the scheme until the actress was arrested on March 12. The actress said her daughter was 4 years old when Huffman first started trying to help her deal with learning disabilities.

“I find Motherhood bewildering,” Huffman said in a letter to the judge before sentencing.

“My daughter looked at me and asked with tears streaming down her face, ‘Why didn’t you believe in me? Why didn’t you think I could do it on my own?’ … I have compromised my daughter’s future, the wholeness of my family and my own integrity,” Huffman said in her letter.

Macy, 69, said their daughter “certainly paid the dearest price” when her desired school – which remained unnamed in court documents – rescinded its acceptance of her after Huffman’s arrest. Macy was not charged.

“She had been accepted into a few schools but her heart was set on one in particular which, ironically, doesn’t require SAT scores,” Macy said in a letter to the judge.

“She started as one of several thousand applicants and after making it through many auditions, she flew to the school two days after her mom’s arrest for the final selections. When she landed, the school emailed her withdrawing their invitation to audition,” Macy said.

Prosecutors had told the judge it was important that the sentence include time behind bars.

“Incarceration … would provide just punishment for the offense, make it clear that this was a real crime, causing real harm, and reinforce the vital principle that all are equally subject to the law regardless of wealth or position,” Lelling said in pre-sentencing documents.

(Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Will Dunham)

Russia jails Dane for six years in Jehovah’s Witnesses purge

By Andrew Osborn

MOSCOW (Reuters) – A Russian court on Wednesday found a Danish adherent of the Jehovah’s Witnesses guilty of organizing a banned extremist group and jailed him for six years in a case critics condemn as crushing religious freedom.

Armed police detained Dennis Christensen, a 46-year-old builder, in May 2017 at a prayer meeting in Oryol, some 200 miles (320 km) south of Moscow after a court in the region outlawed the local Jehovah’s Witnesses a year earlier.

Russia’s Supreme Court later ruled the group was “extremist” and ordered it to disband nationwide. Christiansen’s detention, Russia’s first extremism-related arrest of a Jehovah’s Witness, foreshadowed dozens more.

The court in the city of Oryol on Wednesday found Christiansen guilty after a long trial, his lawyer, his wife and a representative for the Jehovah’s Witnesses told Reuters.

Christiansen had pleaded innocent, saying he was exercising freedom of religion guaranteed in Russia’s constitution.

Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen called on Moscow to respect religious freedom and criticized it for classifying Jehovah’s Witnesses on a par with terrorist groups.

The U.S.-headquartered Jehovah’s Witnesses have been under pressure for years in Russia, where the dominant Orthodox Church is championed by President Vladimir Putin. Orthodox scholars have cast them as a dangerous foreign sect that erodes state institutions and traditional values, allegations they reject.

DOZENS MORE CAUGHT IN CRACKDOWN

But Russia’s latest falling-out with the West, triggered by Moscow’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, spurred a more determined drive to push out “the enemy within”.

With about 170,000 followers in Russia and 8 million worldwide, Jehovah’s Witnesses are a Christian denomination known for door-to-door preaching, close Bible study, and rejection of military service and blood transfusions.

They believe the end of the world as we know it is imminent, an event “the obedient” will survive to inhabit the Kingdom of God they believe will follow.

Christiansen moved to Murmansk in northern Russia in 2000 where the Jehovah’s Witnesses were already well established and met his wife Irina there. The couple later moved to Oryol because the climate is milder and housing cheaper.

He speaks Russian and says he is a fan of Russian culture.

Anton Bogdanov, Christiansen’s lawyer, said he planned to appeal Wednesday’s verdict, which he termed illegal and feared would set a dangerous precedent.

More than 100 criminal cases have been opened against Jehovah’s Witnesses, with another 24 people in prison awaiting or on trial and a similar number under house arrest. Some of their publications are on a list of banned literature.

Yaroslav Sivulsky, a representative of the European Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses, said the verdict evoked the atheist Soviet period when Moscow persecuted the group.

“In essence we have returned to Soviet times,” said Sivulsky, whose own father Pavel was jailed for seven years in 1959 for printing bible literature. “It’s sad that in the 21st century people are being jailed for holding what the authorities believe to be the wrong beliefs.”

Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, said there were clearly reasons for Christiansen’s arrest but he was unaware of details.

Irina, Christiansen’s wife, said she and her husband were calm despite what they saw as an injustice. Before the verdict, she said state TV had nurtured existing widespread prejudice in Russian society against Jehovah’s Witnesses, a strategy she said helped distract people from low living standards.

(Additonal reporting by Tom Balmforth in Moscow and by Andreas Mortensen and Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen in Copenhagen; Editing by Christian Lowe)