U.S. government executes woman for first time in nearly seven decades

By Bhargav Acharya and Jonathan Allen

(Reuters) – The United States executed Lisa Montgomery, a convicted murderer and the only woman on federal death row, early on Wednesday, making her the first female prisoner to be executed by the federal government since 1953.

Montgomery was convicted in 2007 in Missouri of kidnapping and strangling Bobbie Jo Stinnett, then eight months pregnant. Montgomery cut Stinnett’s fetus from the womb and tried to pass off the child as her own.

After Montgomery was strapped to a gurney in the government’s death chamber, a female executioner asked if she had any last words. Montgomery responded in a quiet, muffled voice, “No,” according to a reporter who served as a media witness.

Federal judges in multiple courts had delayed her execution to allow for hearings on whether she was too mentally ill to understand her punishment and whether the government had given insufficient notice of her execution date under law.

But around midnight the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority summarily dismissed the final obstacles, and Montgomery was pronounced dead at 1:31 a.m. EST (0631 GMT) at the Department of Justice’s execution chamber at a prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. Some of Stinnett’s relatives attended as witnesses but declined to speak with the media, the Justice Department said.

Montgomery’s execution was opposed by United Nations human rights experts, several dozen former prosecutors, and multiple groups against violence to women, prompting debate over the role past trauma can play in some of the most horrific crimes prosecuted by the justice system.

Montgomery was the 11th person executed on federal death row since the practice was resumed last year under President Donald Trump, a Republican and an outspoken proponent of capital punishment. Before Trump, there had been only three federal executions since 1963.

Kelley Henry, Montgomery’s lawyer, called the execution “vicious, unlawful, and unnecessary exercise of authoritarian power.” Some doctors who examined Montgomery testified that her brain was structurally damaged and she suffered from psychosis, auditory hallucinations and other mental illness, exacerbated by the abuse and rapes she suffered at the hands of her mother and stepfather.

“No one can credibly dispute Mrs. Montgomery’s longstanding debilitating mental disease — diagnosed and treated for the first time by the Bureau of Prisons’ own doctors,” Henry said in a statement. “Our Constitution forbids the execution of a person who is unable to rationally understand her execution.”

Until this week, she had been held for many years at FMC Carswell in Texas, a federal hospital prison for female inmates with mental illness.

It was one of three executions the U.S. Department of Justice had scheduled for the final full week of Trump’s administration. Two other executions scheduled for Thursday and Friday have been delayed, for now at least, by a federal judge in Washington, to allow the condemned murderers to recover from COVID-19.

(Reporting by Bhargav Acharya and Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru and Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Howard Goller)

Texas men charged with trying to sell 50 million bogus N95 masks to foreign government

(Reuters) – Two Houston-area men have been criminally charged with trying to fraudulently sell 50 million N95 respirator masks they did not actually possess to a foreign government at an inflated $317.6 million price, the U.S. Department of Justice said on Tuesday.

Paschal Eleanya, 46, and Arael Doolittle, 55, were accused of negotiating to sell the masks at five times the list prices set by the manufacturer, 3M Co.

According to a Nov. 19 indictment, the defendants expected to personally collect as much as $275 million from the transaction, with the remaining money going to their “broker” and the government’s own representatives.

The U.S. Secret Service broke up the transaction before it was completed, according to the indictment, which includes text messages from both defendants.

Eleanya and Doolittle were charged with two counts of wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum 20-year prison term, and conspiracy.

The Justice Department did not identify the foreign government. It said Eleanya turned himself in to authorities, while Doolittle is scheduled to be arraigned on Wednesday.

A lawyer for Doolittle did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Eleanya’s lawyer could not immediately be identified. The Justice Department had no immediate additional comment.

Doolittle was separately charged last month with trying to defraud 21 investors out of $1.2 million in oil and gas transactions. He has pleaded not guilty in that case.

3M, the world’s largest maker of N95 masks, has filed at least 19 civil lawsuits to stop price-gouging, counterfeiting and other improper sales practices for its masks.

Most of 3M’s N95 masks cost less than $2, and the St. Paul, Minnesota-based company has pledged not to raise prices because of the coronavirus pandemic.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Alleged Islamic State militants known as ‘Beatles’ headed to U.S. to face charges

By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two alleged Islamic State militants known as the ‘Beatles’ will arrive in the United States on Wednesday to face trial on U.S. charges for their alleged involvement in beheadings of American hostages in Syria, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

The alleged militants, Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, have been in U.S. military custody abroad since they were captured in 2019. They grew up in Britain and were UK citizens, but the British government withdrew their citizenship.

The pair are suspected of membership in a four-strong Islamic State cell known as the ‘Beatles’ because of their British accents. The group is alleged to have detained or killed Western hostages in Syria, including U.S. journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid workers Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassig.

“These charges are the product of many years of hard work in pursuit of justice for our citizens slain by ISIS. Although we cannot bring them back, we can and will seek justice for them, their families, and for all Americans,” Attorney General William P. Barr said in a statement.

In order to secure British help in obtaining evidence on the pair, Barr agreed that U.S. prosecutors would not seek the death penalty in any cases against them and would not carry out executions if they were imposed.

The pair were held in Iraq by the U.S. military for around a year and are now in FBI custody, Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers told a news conference.

“As for their ringleader, Mohamed Emwazi (infamously known as Jihadi John), he faced a different type of American resolve – the mighty reach of our military, which successfully targeted him in an airstrike several years ago,” Demers said.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said Islamic State is still trying to radicalize people in the United States and elsewhere.

“Their goal is to motivate people to launch attacks against Western targets wherever they are, using any means available,” Wray said.

Wray and Demers said the support of the British government was critical to moving the investigation and prosecution forward.

The families of Foley, Kassig, Mueller and Sotloff welcomed the news.

“James, Peter, Kayla and Steven were kidnapped, tortured, beaten, starved, and murdered by members of the Islamic State in Syria,” they said in a joint statement.

“Now our families can pursue accountability for these crimes against our children in a U.S. court.”

If convicted, Kotey and Elsheikh could face up to life in prison. The two are expected to appear in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, on Wednesday afternoon, officials said.

(Reporting by Mark Hosenball and Idrees Ali; Editing by Mary Milliken and Rosalba O’Brien)

Whistleblower Edward Snowden’s book earnings should go to U.S. government, court rules

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is entitled to more than $5.2 million from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden’s book royalties, a federal court ruled this week, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

In a statement, the department said the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on Tuesday also ruled in favor of setting up a trust for the government for any future earnings from Snowden’s book, which had been the subject of a federal lawsuit.

A lawyer for Snowden did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In September 2019, the U.S. government sued Snowden, who resides in Russia, over his publication of “Permanent Record”, a book which the United States says violated non-disclosure agreements he signed when working for both NSA and the Central Intelligence Agency.

The United States alleges that Snowden published the book without first submitting it to U.S. agencies for pre-publication review, in violation of agreements he signed when working for the agencies. U.S. authorities did not seek to block publication of Snowden’s book but rather to seize all proceeds.

Last December, a federal court in Virginia found that Snowden did breach his obligations to the CIA and NSA but reserved judgment on possible remedies. In an order issued on Tuesday, the court entered a judgment in the U.S. government’s favor for more than $5.2 million.

The civil litigation over the book is separate from criminal charges prosecutors filed against Snowden under a 1917 U.S. espionage law.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Mark Hosenball, Editing by Franklin Paul and Lisa Shumaker)

U.S. government plans to end week with third execution after 17-year hiatus

By Jonathan Allen

(Reuters) – A week that marked the return of capital punishment by the U.S. government after a 17-year hiatus was due to end on Friday with a third planned execution of a federal prisoner.

If President Donald Trump’s administration faces no legal obstacle in putting Dustin Lee Honken, a convicted murderer, to death by lethal injection at 4 p.m. EDT (2000 GMT), it will have completed as many executions in a few days as happened in the preceding 57 years.

Lawyers for the condemned men have amassed legal challenges, which include arguments that the U.S. Department of Justice’s new one-drug lethal-injection protocol breaches a constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishments.

These arguments have been rejected twice this week in overnight rulings by a 5-4 majority in the Supreme Court.

Dustin Honken was a dealer in illegal methamphetamine when he and his girlfriend murdered five people in Iowa in 1993, including two girls aged 10 and 6. He was convicted in 2004.

He is one of several inmates on federal death row in Terre Haute, Indiana, who have said the new one-drug protocol, which replaces a three-drug protocol the government last used in 2003, would cause an unnecessarily painful death.

The litigation will continue in the U.S. District Court in Washington with the surviving inmates. Since last year, Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is overseeing the cases, has ordered injunctions on three occasions delaying the scheduled executions to allow the legal challenges to play out. All three were overruled by the Supreme Court.

Two other men convicted of murdering children were executed in Terre Haute earlier this week: Daniel Lee on Tuesday, and Wesley Purkey on Thursday.

Families of the killers’ victims have been divided, reflecting broader public disagreement over capital punishment, which has been abolished by most other countries. Relatives of Lee’s victims pleaded for Trump to scrap Lee’s execution. The father of the 16-year-old girl murdered by Purkey told reporters that Purkey’s death brought some resolution to his grief.

Cassandra Stubbs, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Capital Punishment Project, called it “a truly dark period for our country.” She joined the condemned men’s lawyers in criticizing higher courts in what they called a rush to short-circuit their legal rights.

While the Supreme Court’s conservative majority wrote that it had established that lethal injection was a constitutional method, some of the liberal justices complained new problems raised by the changed protocol were being dismissed too hastily.

“I remain convinced of the importance of reconsidering the constitutionality of the death penalty itself,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in a dissenting opinion on Thursday.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

U.S. executes Wesley Purkey, second federal execution in 17 years

(Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Justice executed convicted murderer Wesley Purkey on Thursday, a Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman said, in the second federal execution in a week after a 17-year pause, over objections by his lawyers that he had dementia and no longer understood his punishment.

The execution had been blocked by a federal court, but the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday overruled it, just as it had done in another case on Tuesday, once again putting the federal government back in the business of executing prisoners.

Purkey, 68, was convicted in 2003 in Missouri of raping and murdering a 16-year-old girl before dumping her dismembered and burned remains in a septic pond.

Purkey was pronounced dead at 8:19 a.m. EDT (1219 GMT) at the Justice Department’s execution chamber at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, the spokeswoman, Kristie Breshears said by phone.

His lawyers had argued he has brain damage and dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease. They said that although he had accepted responsibility for his crime, he no longer understood the reason for his execution and that killing him would breach the U.S. Constitution.

Before Tuesday, when the Justice Department executed convicted killer Daniel Lee in Terre Haute, the federal government had only executed three people since 1963, all from 2001 to 2003.

Lee had joined Purkey and other death row inmates in lawsuits challenging the legality of the government’s new one-drug lethal-injection protocol using pentobarbital, a barbiturate, which the Justice Department announced a year ago, replacing its three-drug protocol.

A federal judge agreed with a medical expert cited by the condemned men’s lawyers that the drug was likely to breach a constitutional ban on “cruel and unusual punishments” by causing a painful drowning sensation as bloody fluid filled their lungs before they lost consciousness.

(Reporting by Peter Szekely and Jonathan Allen in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

U.S. judge delays first federal executions in 17 years

By Jonathan Allen

(Reuters) – A U.S. federal judge issued an injunction on Monday stopping what would have been the first federal execution in 17 years, scheduled for later in the day, to allow the continuation of legal challenges against the government’s lethal-injection protocol.

Judge Tanya Chutkan of the U.S. district court in Washington ordered the U.S. Department of Justice to delay four executions the department had scheduled for July and August until further order of the court.

Efforts to resume capital punishment at the federal level were underway within a few months of President Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017, ending a de facto moratorium that began under his predecessor, Barack Obama, while long-running legal challenges to lethal injections played out in federal courts.

Judge Chutkan has been overseeing cases brought by inmates on death row who argue that the Justice Department’s new one-drug protocol breaks various administrative and drug-control laws and is unconstitutional.

The Justice Department had planned to execute Daniel Lewis Lee on Monday in Terre Haute, Indiana, using lethal injection of pentobarbital, a powerful barbiturate, for his role in the murders of three members of an Arkansas family, including an 8-year-old child, in 1996.

Some relatives of Lee’s victims opposed him receiving the death sentence while his accomplice in the murders, Chevie Kehoe, was sentenced to life in prison.

The department had scheduled two more executions for later in the week and a fourth in August, of Wesley Purkey, Dustin Honken and Keith Nelson, all convicted of murdering children.

The coronavirus pandemic has prevented some of the lawyers of inmates on death row from visiting their clients. At least one employee involved in the executions tested positive for COVID-19, the Justice Department said over the weekend.

On Sunday, an appeals court rejected an argument by some relatives of Lee’s victims, who sued for a delay saying they feared that attending his execution could expose them to the coronavirus.

FEDERAL EXECUTIONS RARE

While Texas, Missouri and other states execute multiple condemned inmates each year, federal executions are rare: only three have occurred since 1963, all from 2001 to 2003, including the 2001 execution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

There are currently 62 people on federal death row in Terre Haute.

Opposition to the death penalty has grown in the United States, although 54 percent of Americans said they supported it for people convicted of murder, according to a 2018 survey by the Pew Research Center.

In announcing the planned resumption of executions, Attorney General William Barr said last year: “We owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system.”

A European Union ban on selling drugs for use in executions or torture has led to pharmaceutical companies refusing to sell such drugs to U.S. prison systems.

The Justice Department spent much of 2018 and 2019 building a secret supply chain of private companies to make and test its drug of choice, pentobarbital, which replaces the three-drug protocol used in previous executions. Some of the companies involved said they were not aware they were testing execution drugs, a Reuters investigation found last week.

As with Texas and other states, the Justice Department has commissioned a private pharmacy to make the drug.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Peter Cooney and Dan Grebler)

 

U.S. authorities seek to question UK’s Prince Andrew over Epstein

WASHINGTON/LONDON (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Justice is seeking to question Britain’s Prince Andrew as part of its investigation into possible co-conspirators of deceased financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, a U.S. law enforcement official said.

U.S. investigators want to interview Andrew, Queen Elizabeth’s second son, about his friendship with Epstein, who was found dead in prison last year while awaiting charges of trafficking minors, the official, who has direct knowledge of the investigation, said on condition of anonymity.

Britain’s Sun newspaper reported earlier on Monday that the DOJ had sent British authorities a mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) request, used in criminal investigations to gather material from other states which cannot readily be obtained on a police cooperation basis.

A spokeswoman for the Justice Department declined to comment. Buckingham Palace declined to comment. Britain’s Home Office (interior ministry) said it did not comment on the existence of any MLAT requests.

Andrew, 60, who has not been accused of any wrongdoing, said in a public statement in November that he was stepping down from public duties because of the furor over his links to Epstein and would be willing to help “any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations if required”.

In March, Manhattan-based U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said that despite the British royal publicly stating he would cooperate with the inquiry, the prince had “shut the door on voluntary cooperation and our office is considering its options”.

“Legal discussions with the DOJ are subject to strict confidentiality rules, as set out in their own guidelines,” a source close to the prince’s legal team said in response to the Sun report.

“We have chosen to abide by both the letter and the spirit of these rules, which is why we have made no comment about anything related to the DOJ during the course of this year. We believe in playing straight bat.”

If the MLAT request was granted, U.S. prosecutors could ask for Andrew to voluntarily attend an interview to give a statement or potentially force him to attend a court to provide evidence under oath.

A U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation probe is focusing on British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, a longtime associate of Epstein’s, and others who facilitated the wealthy financier’s alleged trafficking of underage girls, law enforcement sources told Reuters in December.

Ghislaine, whose whereabouts are currently unknown, has denied the allegations against her.

(Reporting by Mark Hosenball in Washington and Michael Holden in London; editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Nick Tattersall)

Exclusive: While battling opioid crisis, U.S. government weighed using fentanyl for executions

By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Justice examined using fentanyl in lethal injections as it prepared last year to resume executing condemned prisoners, a then untested use of the powerful, addictive opioid that has helped fuel a national crisis of overdose deaths.

The department revealed it had contemplated using the drug in a court filing last month, which has not been previously reported.

In the end, it decided against adopting the drug for executions. Attorney General William Barr announced in July his department instead would use pentobarbital, a barbiturate, when it resumes federal executions later this year, ending a de facto moratorium on the punishment put in place by the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama.

But the special consideration given to the possibilities of fentanyl, even as federal agents were focused on seizing illegal imports of the synthetic opioid, show how much has changed since the federal government last carried out an execution nearly 20 years ago.

Many pharmaceutical companies have since put tight controls on their distribution channels to stop their drugs being used in executions.

As old supply chains vanished, many states, and the federal government in turn, have been forced to tinker with their lethal recipes. They have experimented with different drugs, in some cases leading to grisly “botched” executions in which the condemned prisoners have visibly suffered prolonged, excruciating deaths, viewed by some as a breach of the constitutional ban on “cruel and unusual” punishments.

In 2017, Nebraska and Nevada announced they would use fentanyl, which is 100 times more powerful than morphine, in new multi-drug execution protocols.

By 2018, the U.S. Justice Department was also examining the “use of fentanyl as part of a lethal injection protocol,” according to a three-page internal memorandum from March 2018 by the director of the department’s Bureau of Prisons.

The Justice Department revealed the memo’s existence in an August court filing after a federal judge ordered it to produce a complete “administrative record” showing how it arrived at the new pentobarbital execution protocol announced in July.

The full contents of the memo are not public. It is not known why the department decided to examine fentanyl, what supply channels were considered or why it ultimately rejected fentanyl as a protocol. The government’s court filing shows the only other named drug examined as the subject of a department memo was pentobarbital, the drug it now says it wants to use in December and January to kill five of the 61 prisoners awaiting execution on federal death row.

Wyn Hornbuckle, a department spokesman, declined to share a copy of the memo or to answer questions about the government’s execution protocol.

Mark Inch, who was the Bureau of Prisons’ director at the time, acknowledged in a brief telephone interview writing the memo. Inch, who abruptly resigned a couple months after writing the memo, declined to answer questions, in part because he said it would be in conflict with his current role running Florida’s Department of Corrections.

Doctors can prescribe fentanyl for treating severe pain. In recent years, illegal fentanyl has become a common additive in bootleg pain pills and other street drugs, contributing to the tens of thousands of opioid overdose deaths in the country each year. Even tiny quantities can slow or stop a person’s breathing.

Earlier this year, an Ohio lawmaker proposed using some of the illegal fentanyl seized from drug traffickers to execute condemned inmates.

‘FUNDAMENTALLY WRONG’

Death penalty researchers say that just because a drug is deadly does not mean it is always appropriate as an execution drug.

“I don’t think it’d be a surprise that the government would be looking at alternative methods of carrying out lethal injection, and fentanyl has been in the news,” Robert Dunham, the director of the Washington-based non-profit group the Death Penalty Information Center, said in an interview.

“But there is just something fundamentally wrong about using a drug implicated in illegal activities as your method of executing prisoners.”

In August 2018, Carey Dean Moore became the first person in the United States to be executed using a protocol that included fentanyl.

Nebraska prison officials injected him with fentanyl and three other drugs. Moore took 23 minutes to die. Witnesses said that before succumbing, Moore breathed heavily and coughed and that his face turned red, then purple.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

In losing legal battles over census, Trump may win political war

T-shirts are displayed at a community activists and local government leaders event to mark the one-year-out launch of the 2020 Census efforts in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., April 1, 2019. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

By Tom Hals

(Reuters) – The Trump administration has few realistic options to get a citizenship question onto next year’s census, but by keeping the issue in the public eye it could still trigger an undercount of residents in Democratic-leaning areas, legal and political experts told Reuters.

Constant media coverage linking citizenship and census forms could scare undocumented immigrants away from responding and rally U.S. President Donald Trump’s base to participate, they said. That, in turn, would help redraw voting districts across the country in favor of his Republican party, encouraging the president to pursue a legal battle that he has little chance of winning.

The latest parlay came on Sunday evening, when the U.S. Department of Justice installed a new team of lawyers to handle the last iterations of litigation that has been going on for more than a year.

“Even if the question is (taken) off, if people are tweeting as if it may be a real possibility, it continues to raise fears and depress the count,” said Thomas Wolf, a lawyer who focuses on census issues at the Brennan Center for Justice.

The U.S. Constitution requires the government to count all residents – whatever their legal status – every 10 years. The information collected becomes the basis for voting maps and distributing some $800 billion in federal funds each year.

It is illegal for the Census Bureau to share information about individuals with law enforcement or immigration authorities. But the idea of asking residents about citizenship status has nonetheless stoked fears that the survey would become a tool for the Trump administration’s hardline immigration policies.

The president and his allies have said it is important to know about citizenship status, and characterized the question as something that should not draw controversy.

“So important for our Country that the very simple and basic ‘Are you a Citizen of the United States?’ question be allowed to be asked in the 2020 Census,” the president tweeted on July 4.

A Reuters poll earlier this year also showed 66% of Americans support its inclusion.

But demographers, advocacy groups, corporations and even the Census Bureau’s own staff have said the citizenship question threatens to undermine the survey.

Communities with high immigrant and Latino populations could have low response rates. Researchers have estimated that more than 4 million people out of a total U.S. population of some 330 million may not participate.

That would benefit non-Hispanic whites, a core part of Trump’s support, and help Republicans gain seats in Congress and state legislatures, critics have said.

The question seemed dead in June, when the Supreme Court blocked it, saying the administration had given a “contrived” rationale for its inclusion.

However, the high court left open the possibility that the administration could offer a plausible rationale. Department of Justice lawyers said on Friday that they were exploring other explanations. Trump also said he may try to force it into the survey through an executive order.

Legal experts immediately slapped down the ideas. It will be hard to convince justices that a new explanation is not also contrived, and an executive order would not override the Supreme Court decision or undo other court orders blocking the citizenship question, they said.

“There is nothing talismanic about an executive order,” said a statement from Thomas Saenz, the president and general counsel of MALDEF, a Latino rights group pursuing one of the cases against the administration. “Our government is not a dictatorship.”

Trump also said on Friday that although census forms are already being printed, the government could later produce “an addendum.”

It is not clear how that might work, but census experts said it would be an unprecedented disruption to a process that has been in motion for years.

“Any suggestion that on a moment’s notice the Census Bureau could add an extra piece of paper with an additional question to a census that it has been planning literally for a decade demonstrates a breathtaking ignorance of what it takes to pull off a census,” said Terri Ann Lowenthal, a census consultant.

An addendum would also likely be challenged in courts for running afoul of various administrative laws.

On Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a motion https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/motion-amend to prevent the citizenship question from being added.

In the meantime, attention surrounding the legal debacle may already be hurting the census and helping Trump achieve his goals, said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

“The longer he has this conversation, the worse it is for an accurate census count,” she said.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Additional reporting by Lawrence Hurley in Washington; Editing by Lauren Tara LaCapra and Rosalba O’Brien)