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First five jurors chosen for Cosby’s sexual assault trial

The jury that will decide whether Bill Cosby is guilty of sexually assaulting a woman at his Philadelphia-area home 13 years ago began taking shape Monday as five jurors were seated during a lengthy opening day of the famed entertainer s trial. The dueling over jurors, which is set to continue Tuesday, offered some hints at what each side is hoping the panel of 12 jurors and six alternates will look like. Defense attorneys angled to block young white women from the jury, and the prosecution kept an African American woman from being seated. Cosby watched attentively as Judge Steven O Neill individually questioned a parade of potential jurors who took seats at the same table where Cosby sat just a few feet away. Still, at one point Cosby raised his hand and asked court officials to instruct jurors to speak up.

The 79-year-old comedian and actor is accused of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, a former Temple University women s basketball team staffer, in 2004. Three white men and two white women were eventually seated on the jury. The jurors, whose names were not disclosed, range from an elderly man who entered the courtroom leaning on a cane to a woman who said she is a mother and appeared to be in her 30s or early 40s. Each side can block seven jurors from being empaneled, and the process quickly began to resemble a chess match as attorneys tried to decide which potential jurors to strike. The emotions of the mostly tense day peaked late in the afternoon when prosecutors huddled to try to decide whether to use one of their seven strikes to block the seating of a middle-aged African American woman who said she d formed some opinions about the case from watching media coverage. While the prosecutors spoke in hushed tones, Cosby laughed so hard that he had to hold his hand over his mouth.

When prosecutors announced their decision to keep the black candidate off the jury, Cosby defense attorney Brian McMonagle frowned in an animated fashion and shook his head, staring out to the audience of reporters gathered in the cramped courtroom with its wheezy air conditioner. Legal experts have speculated that Cosby who has said racism played a role in his prosecution might benefit from having blacks on the jury. Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, prosecutor Kevin Steele seemed surprised at the fast pace, saying to a court security guard at a break: We ve got five jurors. Didn t think we d get this far. Pretrial publicity is one of the biggest challenges facing the defense as they size up potential jurors gathered in this large downtown courthouse, which resembles a medieval castle. One-third of the 100 potential jurors said Monday that they ve already formed an opinion about the comedian s guilt or innocence.

Earlier in the day, Cosby sat in a larger courtroom before the entire jury pool, mostly staring impassively at the ceiling. But Cosby s hands clenched ever so slightly and he closed his eyes when O Neill asked about preconceived notions. The relentless media coverage of Cosby s alleged sexual misdeeds was a recurring theme in the questioning, harking to news reports about 60 women who have said Cosby raped, sexually assaulted or sexually harassed them in the past five decades. (He has denied all such claims.) Only about 14 potential jurors said they hadn t heard anything about the allegations against Cosby. Cosby s defense team persuaded the judge to select a jury from Pittsburgh, some 300 miles west of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, where the prosecutors lodged the charges, by arguing that potential jurors in Montgomery County, in suburban Philadelphia, were tainted by intense pretrial publicity.

O Neill told jurors they will be bused to Montgomery County to hear testimony in a trial that is scheduled to begin June 5 and expected to last two to three weeks. He said they would be sequestered in a very nice hotel.

Cosby arrived at the courthouse in a tan jacket and a tie spotted with large orange and yellow polka dots. Cosby, who says he s legally blind, leaned heavily on the arm of his public-relations representative and carried a slender wooden cane. When he entered the courtroom he cupped a box of facial tissues in his hand, then slid it around the wooden defense table until it was positioned just within his reach.

Weekend police: Men charged with accosting women, stalking

Two North Platte men were charged with crimes against women over the weekend, one of them at the Platte River Mall, leading to a series of charges, including assault and shoplifting.

The other man is charged with stalking, and his held on a corresponding high bond.

In the first arrest, police spokesman John Deal said officers went to the Platte River Mall at 4:54 p.m. Sunday to check out a reported disturbance. By the time police arrived, the man had left on foot, but a description was obtained. A patrol officer soon found a man near SunMart on Francis St. who fit the description — Michael E. Cook, 33. According to the police report, a mall security guard said he was called to one of the stores about Cook harassing customers. The guard told Cook to leave, but Cook allegedly shoved and threatened the guard, earning Cook a charge of third-degree assault.

Several juveniles said Cook had approached them and told him he was the owner of one of the stores and could get them discounts. Deal said Cook allegedly grabbed one of them by the arm and his general behavior was disturbing to the juveniles, leading to a charge of disturbing the peace. A woman who works at Claire s said Cook entered the store and told her that he was a secret shopper. Police believe Cook removed a Justin Bieber backpack as well as other merchandise totaling about $100 from the store. He also approached the woman, made contact with her breasts and told her she was good looking, leading to a charge of third-degree sexual assault. Then he left without paying for the merchandise, earning him a shoplifting charge.

When police tried to take Cook into custody, he pulled away and said he wasn’t going anywhere with them. Deal said he resisted handcuffs and police made an effort to get him into the patrol car, so he was also charged with resisting arrest. Deal said Cook is apparently from Colorado and arrived in town in the last couple days, but has no permanent residence here. Cook was given temporary residence at the jail. Bond was set Monday afternoon at $25,000.

In a facebook post, one of the victim s mothers, Deanna Miller of Gothenburg, warned others Monday to be on their guard such things can happen near to home.

Thank goodness my daughter and her friends know not to go with strangers and to stand up to strange men, Miller wrote.

Stalking charge

Later Sunday at 9:31 p.m., an officer went to the Subway in the Love’s Truck Stop to check out an harassment complaint. The officer met a 17-year-old woman, who said she used to work with Anthony Navarrete-James at Subway. She said he has been sending her vulgar and threatening messages through Facebook, and will not stop. When she threatened to call the police, Navarrete-James, 25, made a threat about harming the police officer who showed up, according to the police report.

Deal said an officer went to the 1800 block of West 14th with probable cause to arrest Navarrete-James for stalking, because he repeatedly sent threatening messages to the young woman after being told to stop. Deal said Navarrete-James was uncooperative. He taunted the officer on the front porch and when the officer started to arrest him, he pulled away, tried to run inside and close the front door. The officer took Navarrete-James to the ground, at which time he began to claw the officer’s face and eyes, causing minor injury.

The officer was able to handcuff him and take him to jail, where Navarrete-James was formally charged with stalking and felony assault on an officer.

Bond was set Monday at $150,000.

Maritime Security: Dakuku debunks reports on piracy, says fast intervention vessels, helicopters will help

Maritime Security: Dakuku debunks reports on piracy, says fast intervention vessels, helicopters will help

The Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Dr. Dakuku Peterside has again assured Nigerians and the international maritime community that the Federal Government is leaving no stone unturned in tackling the menace of piracy and other illicit crimes on the nation s territorial waterways.

This he said was demonstrated by the Federal Government s recent approval for the procurement of three (3) helicopters and twelve (12) fast intervention vessels to ensure coastal and aerial surveillance and patrol of the Nigerian maritime environment by the Nigerian Navy and NIMASA.

Speaking in Lagos recently, Dr. Dakuku added that while acknowledging the fact that piracy is a global problem which is not peculiar to one continent or country, the need for a concerted and coordinated approach in tackling the menace cannot be overstated . He equally debunked recent reports that piracy was on the increase in the Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea, noting that it is sad that some section of the media are manipulating statistics to the contrary. The truth he pointed out is that the reverse is the case as piracy has been reduced to the barest minimum.

Accordingly, he noted that inter agency and regional cooperation through bilateral agreements among others, as well as effective maritime domain awareness and strong maritime legislation to criminalise and punish piracy is fundamental in addressing the challenges.

Speaking further, Dr. Dakuku said in recognition of the aforementioned, the governments of the West and Central African Countries including Nigeria at the regional level, subscribed to the Continental Maritime Charter on maritime security, safety and development in Africa, in Lome, Togo on the 15th of October, 2016, to strengthen inter-Agency and transnational coordination and cooperation among member countries in the area of maritime domain awareness, fight against all forms of maritime crimes, prevention and control of pollution of the seas and to promote economic growth of the continent of Africa.

In the area of inter-agency cooperation, it is expedient to mention that NIMASA recently renewed its Memorandum of Understanding with the Nigerian Navy to strengthen collaboration between NIMASA and the Navy to enhance the safety and security of navigation in our waters as, well as leverage on the use of the Federal Government s Falcon Eye Satellite systems domiciled with the Nigerian Navy including NIMASA s Global Maritime Distress and Safety Systems to respond to distress calls within Nigerian waters in order to prevent and adequately respond to threats within the Nigerian maritime environment , the DG stated.

In order to bolster the aforementioned efforts of the Agency to ensure a virile maritime sector through a robust legislative framework to criminalise and punish piracy and other maritime crimes committed in our waters to serve as a deterrent to offenders; Nigeria has prepared a draft Anti-Piracy Bill to give effect to the relevant provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982 and the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts at Sea, 1988 and it s Protocol of 2005 to punish and deter piracy and other maritime crimes.

The Director, Legal Services of NIMASA Mr. Abdulsalam Suleiman also speaking, noted that the Agency is presently working with the Federal Ministry of Justice to finalise the Bill and has the assurances of the National Assembly of the expeditious passage of the Bill into law within the shortest possible time to strengthen the Country s Anti-piracy crusade.

According to Suleiman It is pertinent to draw attention to the fact that some of the interventions highlighted above are already yielding positive results and have been duly noted by the international community. Worthy of mention, is the just concluded Legal Committee meeting (LEG 104) of the IMO held in London from the 26th to 28th April 2017, where the issue of piracy around the globe was discussed and the Gulf of Guinea and Nigeria were not mentioned as one of the high risk areas . This lends credence to the fact that Nigeria through its maritime law enforcement agencies are working assiduously in confronting maritime insecurity challenges in Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea.

Recall that as part of efforts by the Federal Government of Nigeria in demonstrating its commitment to fighting piracy and other maritime crimes, the sum of $186, 000, 000. 00 was recently approved for maritime security infrastructure

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