Killer of American Sniper Found Not Insane, Sentenced to Life In Prison
A Texas jury found Eddie Ray Routh guilty of murder on Tuesday evening, rejecting his insanity defense after barely two hours of deliberation. A judge quickly sentenced Routh to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Routh shot and killed Chris Kyle, author of American Sniper, and his friend Chad Littlefield on a shooting range in February 2013. Routh’s attorneys had argued that Routh’s severe psychosis prevented him from distinguishing between right and wrong at the time of the shooting. But jurors rejected that argument, telling reporters they believed Routh was faking his mental problem.
Given Kyle’s immense fame—recently heightened by the blockbuster film adaptation of his American Sniper—ensuring a fair trial for Routh was never going to be easy. But by trying Routh in Stephenville, Texas, prosecutors probably secured a conviction before the trial even started. As post-trial interviews illustrate, jurors were exceedingly skeptical of Routh’s insanity defense, and many were likely fans of Kyle—a favorite son of Stephenville, who attended a college there which has since named him an “outstanding young alumnus.” One juror claimed that “every time something bad happened, [Routh] pulled that card,” referring to Routh’s insistence that he suffered from profound mental problems. Yet the New Yorker’s Nicholas Schmidle paints a very different picture of Routh’s mental health:
Routh’s depression and weariness remained, and he began to exhibit symptoms more commonly associated with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. “He would get into these moods where you could understand what he was saying, but you had no idea where it was coming from,” Laura said. “We were talking, and he was, like, ‘Man, I’m ready to hit those ski slopes.’ And I was like, ‘What?’ And he’s like, ‘You know, that would be great. Catch some powder?’ I’ve never been skiing in my life. And we had just been talking about fishing. He would just make absolutely no sense.” Some of the things he said had a conspiratorial tone. He once told Laura, “There’s gonna be a conviction. I’m gonna tell everything, and it’s not going to be what you think.”
Jen was also worried about Routh. “He was going through a big bout of depression,” she said. “He would go hours without speaking. He was obviously off.”
Routh could no longer manage the anxiety of driving a car, and he moved back home. Jodi recalled, “I was so afraid I’d come home from work sometime and find him dead.”
Routh was also hospitalized in mental institutions four times in the seven months before he killed Kyle and Littlefield. While hospitalized, Routh was given anti-psychotic drugs to combat his paranoid delusions. His last hospitalization occurred days before he killed Kyle and Littlefield. After the shooting, he went to Taco Bell and ordered two burritos. In his confession to the police, Routh explained that “pigs were taking over the earth.” He will now be sent to prison for the rest of his life.
Rahm Emanuel Faces Historic Chicago Mayoral Runoff
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s re-election bid hit a snag Tuesday when he was forced into an April runoff with Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia after failing to win a majority of the vote.
As the Chicago Tribune notes, it is the first time the city has seen a mayoral race go to a runoff.
Though Emanuel finished more than 10 points ahead of the nearest challenger, it’s difficult not to interpret the historic runoff as a defeat of sorts for the notoriously profane former Obama chief of staff, who had a much higher profile and much more money than his lesser-known challengers. More from the Tribune:
With 98 percent of the city’s precincts counted, unofficial results showed Emanuel with 45.4 percent and Cook County commissioner Garcia at 33.9 percent. Businessman Willie Wilson had 10.6 percent, 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti had 7.4 percent and frequent candidate William “Dock” Walls was at 2.8 percent.
Emanuel, who spent millions on TV ads to try to repair his image with voters following a difficult four years, attempted to portray optimism and patience despite the results.
“We have come a long way and we have a little bit further to go. This is the first step in a real important journey in our city,” Emanuel told supporters. “For those who voted for someone else, I hope to earn your confidence and your support in the weeks to come.”
The paper cited the main reasons for Emanuel’s inability to win re-election cleanly as “voter dissatisfaction with Emanuel’s decision to close 50 schools, his standoff with teachers during their 2012 strike and his struggles to tamp down violent crime, which spiked at times the last four years.”
Garcia, a former alderman and state senator who fought to win the backing of Chicago’s progressive liberals, was already out and campaigning again Wednesday morning after four hours of sleep, the Tribune reported, greeting voters outside of an El train stop in the Near North Side of Chicago.
“We were up against huge amounts of money and people with power who lined up to protect the status quo,” said Garcia. “Voters rejected that. They want a deeper debate, and we intend on giving them that. We’re very enthused that the voice of ordinary Chicagoans is being heard and that, as we move forward, it bodes well for Chicago’s democracy.”
Emanuel also campaigned at an El stop Wednesday morning, but the campaign would not notify Tribune reporters in advance where.
Supreme Court Fish Case: Alito Saves the Day, Kagan Cites Dr. Seuss
On Wednesday morning the Supreme Court handed down an opinion in Yates v. United States, a closely watched, fiercely joked-about case filled with drama, cover-ups, and fish. Yates involved a Florida fisherman who was caught illegally reeling in undersized grouper. Officials ordered the fisherman, Yates, to preserve the evidence of his crime, the shrimpy grouper themselves. Instead, Yates ordered his crew to toss them overboard. In response, the feds charged him under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, which forbids the destruction of “any record, document, or tangible object” with the intent to obstruct a federal investigation.
Yates fought back, insisting that undersized grouper didn’t qualify as a “tangible object” under the Sarbanes-Oxley, which was enacted following the Enron scandal to stop financial firms from shredding incriminating documents. In a closely divided ruling, the Supreme Court sided with Yates, with a plurality of the justices reading the statute to cover “only objects one can use to record or preserve information, not all objects in the physical world.” Justice Samuel Alito concurred in the judgment, providing a key fifth vote for Yates, noting that “the statute’s list of nouns, its list of verbs, and its title” all apply to “filekeeping,” not fish. This, Alito held, “tip[s] the case in favor of Yates.”
In a strange instance of ideological gallimaufry, Justice Elena Kagan dissented, joined by the more conservative justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Anthony Kennedy. Kagan—whose breezy yet stinging dissents are quickly becoming legendary—advocates for a more “conventional” reading of the law, writing that “a ‘tangible object’ is an object that’s tangible.” She then drops what must be one of the more amazing citations ever issued by a Supreme Court justice:
As the plurality must acknowledge, the ordinary meaning of “tangible object” is “a discrete thing that possesses physical form.” A fish is, of course, a discrete thing that possesses physical form. See generally Dr. Seuss, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish (1960).
So, it was all wit and sallies at the Supreme Court on Wednesday morning—except for John Yates, who came one vote away from facing up to 20 years in prison, and for grouper, which could soon go extinct due to overfishing. In the end, Yates turned out to be a startlingly close call for a case destined to become better known for fish jokes than for statutory interpretation. Court-watchers, brace yourselves: The next four months are going to be rough, rough sledding.
Reddit Has Banned Revenge Porn. Sort Of.
Last August, private nude photos of dozens of female celebrities were hacked, stolen, and published online. The Fappening, as it came to be called, was a collaborative effort between lecherous anonymous users from across the Web. But the event soon became closely associated with Reddit, the largest online platform on which Fappening hackers and supporters spread the photos. Reddit’s administrators seemed unperturbed that their community had been converted, almost overnight, into the world’s highest-profile stolen-porn platform. But after some of the famous women captured in the photos filed takedown requests under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, arguing that Reddit posters had no ownership over the content they were publishing—most were selfies, snapped and owned by the celebs themselves—Reddit admins publicly denounced the theft of the images and dutifully removed them, reducing the platform’s legal liability. Meanwhile, the many non-famous people who have been exposed on the site without their consent—the ones who don’t hold the rights to pictures of themselves, or who lack the lawyers to make a stink—were out of luck.
Now, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian is calling Reddit’s response to that event “a missed chance to be a leader” on the revenge porn issue. Starting March 10, nude or sexual images shared without the consent of the subject will be banned from the platform, no DMCA takedown requests required. “No matter who you are, if a photograph, video, or digital image of you in a state of nudity, sexual excitement, or engaged in any act of sexual conduct, is posted or linked to on reddit without your permission, it is prohibited on reddit,” he announced in a post on the site Tuesday. “We also recognize that violent personalized images are a form of harassment that we do not tolerate and we will remove them when notified.”
Advocates for victims of online harassment are impressed. “This announcement is very significant,” says Mary Anne Franks, a law professor at the University of Miami.* “For such an influential and popular social platform to validate what victims and victims advocates have been saying—privacy is about consent, and consent is contextual—is really heartening.” Reddit’s decision also has the potential to influence norms across the Web. By announcing itself as a leader on the issue, Reddit is “throwing down the gauntlet to other platforms” to follow suit, Franks says.
Danielle Citron, a law professor at the University of Maryland and the author of Hate Crimes in Cyberspace, adds that Reddit’s rule sets a remarkably fair standard for revenge porn victims seeking to clear the Web of damaging images of themselves. Platforms could easily force victims to “file a police report to verify that the photo is theirs and that it was posted in violation of their trust and without consent in states that ban such invasions of sexual privacy,” Citron says. Instead, Reddit has signaled an openness to taking victims at their word. “The approach arguably strikes the right balance,” says Citron: It respects the fact that “pornography and amateur porn is fully protected speech” while recognizing that “nude images posted without the subjects' consent is a violation of sexual privacy and won't be tolerated.”
Still, Reddit’s rule is far from a final solution to the revenge porn problem. Franks cautions that Reddit’s announcement also functions as “a reminder of the industry's likely hostility to government intervention on these kinds of issues.” It’s perhaps no coincidence that Reddit has finally altered its policies just as Rep. Jackie Speier plans to introduce federal legislation aimed at cracking down on revenge porn—a move that has potentially deleterious implications for platform owners and operators. “Reddit’s move may have in fact been prompted in part by a desire to demonstrate that private companies can handle this problem themselves,” Franks says. And even Reddit, which Franks says is now “leaps and bounds beyond what most platforms are doing,” has room to improve. Franks proposes a “victim-protective” consent form system, wherein “users must submit a signed consent form from the person depicted before they can post private explicit images” on a given website. And Citron imagines that platforms like Reddit could better protect revenge porn victims by compiling private databases of nonconsensual porn—just like ones that already exist for child pornography—that are capable of recognizing offending images and removing them from view automatically.
Civil libertarians are also monitoring the situation, concerned that the anti-revenge-porn rule might be so broad that it ends up censoring lewd speech that doesn’t pose a serious privacy violation. “Creating a takedown regime is often fraught, for reasons unrelated to the content,” says Lee Rowland, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. It remains unclear how Reddit will authenticate requests from victims (after all, anyone who objects to nudity or just wants to troll the site could file a complaint), and how it will deal with nude photos that are snapped outside of private moments—like when a drunk guy streaks at a public football game, sobers up, then wants all evidence of his jaunt erased. Protecting user privacy is “a laudable goal,” Rowland says, and Reddit is within its rights to make decisions about the types of content it hosts on its platform. Still, “anytime a company creates the potential for censorship, it should be very clear about the ground rules in order to avoid making its users frustrated and confused.” She suggests that Reddit send notices to users when their content is removed, and give them the opportunity to challenge the decision with evidence that it did not violate the site’s guidelines.
*Correction, Feb. 25, 2015: This post originally misspelled Mary Anne Franks' name.
Is Obama Trying to Get Payback on Netanyahu With Rice’s “Destructive” Remarks?
The Obama administration took its sharpest jab at Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned Congressional speech next week, as National Security Adviser Susan Rice called the visit “destructive” on Tuesday.
“On both sides there has now been injected a degree of partisanship, which is not only unfortunate, I think it’s destructive of the fabric of the relationship,” Rice told Charlie Rose.
After specifically referencing the timing of Netanyahu’s visit as coming shortly in advance of Israel’s election in less than three weeks, Rice declined to say that he was visiting in order to boost his electoral prospects.
“I’m not going to ascribe motives to the prime minister,” she said. “The point is, we want the relationship between the United States and Israel to be unquestionably strong, immutable, regardless of political seasons in either country, regardless of which party may be in charge in either country.”
The visit, during which Netanyahu is anticipated to argue against a nuclear deal with Iran, was orchestrated by House Speaker John Boehner without the knowledge of the Obama administration and has been criticized as a break in diplomatic protocol
“[The relationship between Israel and the United States has] always been bipartisan,” Rice said. “We need to keep it that way. We want it that way. I think Israel wants it that way. The American people want it that way. And when it becomes injected or infused with politics, that’s a problem.”
The idea that the relationship has always been bipartisan was actually tested three years ago when Netanyahu was seen as having attempted to influence the 2012 election in favor of Obama’s opponent Mitt Romney.
Romney and the Israeli prime minister were friends for over three decades and during the campaign he and campaign booster Sheldon Adelson visited Israel together as Netanyahu’s guest. They also took part in a fundraiser for Romney in Jerusalem, and Netanyahu was featured in a pro-Romney campaign ad.
Though the Israeli ambassador denied after the fact that any meddling had occurred, the moves were reportedly viewed in both Israel and the United States as blatant politicking by Netanyahu.
“A very senior Israeli figure who is in close touch with members of the U.S. administration relates in private conversations that in the eyes of the Democratic administration, Netanyahu is perceived as campaigning on behalf of Mitt Romney,” wrote Haaretz’s Yossi Verter.
After the election, former prime minister and Netanyahu rival Ehud Olmert accused him of attempting to interfere in the U.S. elections against diplomatic protocol.
"What took place this time was a breaking of all the rules, when our prime minister intervened in the U.S. elections in the name of an American billionaire with a clear interest in the vote," Olmert said at the time.
With all of this history, it seems worth asking: Was Rice’s rebuke the Obama administration’s way of getting payback on Netanyahu for 2012?
If Rice’s rebuke is Obama’s version of turnabout, then it seems doubtful anyone in the administration will say so. Even while criticizing Netanyahu’s speech plans, Rice took pains to say that the administration wanted a continued strong bipartisan relationship with Israel.
“The relationship between Israel as a country and the United States as a country has always been bipartisan. And we’ve been fortunate that politics have not been injected into that relationship,” Rice said. “We’ve worked very hard to have that and we will work very hard to maintain that.”
Further compounding the view that partisan politics have already begun to fray the relationship, Netanyahu rejected on Tuesday an invitation to visit with Senate Democrats because “I believe doing so at this time could compound the misperception of partisanship regarding my upcoming visit.”
This Week Has Been an Unexpectedly Great One for Democrats
Harry Reid arrived at work on Tuesday morning sporting a pair of dark sunglasses, a noted departure from the eye patch he’s been wearing since suffering a rather gruesome eye injury during a New Year’s Day workout. “It hasn’t healed,” the Senate’s top Democrat told reporters after being asked whether the change was a sign he was on the mend. “I have to be patient.”
On Tuesday, patience began paying off for Reid’s battered party as Democrats notched several political victories. First came the strongest sign yet that congressional Republicans have badly misplayed their hand in the fight over President Obama’s immigration reforms; then a presidential veto of the GOP’s Keystone bill; and, in the late afternoon, the news that Republicans have effectively given up on fighting net neutrality, paving the way for the FCC, later this week, to approve regulations that would treat the Internet as a public good. All in all, that’s a pretty great day for a man who is still regaining vision in his right eye and for a party that controls neither chamber of Congress.
Egyptian Journalist Faces Libel and Slander Charges Over Role in Gay Bathhouse Raid
Mona Iraqi, an Egyptian journalist who drew international attention last year for allegedly instigating a raid on a gay bathhouse in Cairo in order to generate a story about AIDS, will stand trial on libel and slander charges for her role in the vice squad operation, reports Daily News Egypt. The owner of the television station that aired the program has reportedly also been charged.
Twenty-six men were arrested when police entered the bathhouse in December, bringing the establishment’s patrons into the street in various states of undress before booking them on charges ranging from “debauchery” to “organizing same-sex orgies.” The overt role of the media in leading the raid brought renewed debate over ties between the Egyptian government and the press.
From the Guardian's coverage at the time of the arrests:
The men were dragged half-naked into police trucks in the late night raid, which was filmed by a private television crew headed by presenter Mona Iraqi.
Iraqi and her colleagues later claimed on Facebook and in a YouTube video that they had led the police to the bathhouse on the unsubstantiated suspicion that its customers were a potential source of AIDS.
“Watch the bold Mona Iraqi reveal in a series of investigative episodes the secret behind the spreading of AIDS in Egypt,” stated a trailer for their program, which was presented as a journalistic scoop and a tie-in with World AIDS Day.
The defendants were acquitted of all charges by the Azbekeya Misdemeanor Court, but some have claimed to face intimidation and shame after being revealed as visitors to the bathhouse. One man swept up in the raid reportedly tried to commit suicide by setting himself on fire. He later told an Egyptian newspaper that he had been “harassed constantly in my workplace” and was “suffering neglect and ill-treatment” at the hospital where he was taken after his suicide attempt, according to a report in the Washington Blade.
While homosexuality is not specifically outlawed in Egypt, authorities sometimes use a provision of an anti-prostitution law to arrest men suspected of homosexual acts on charges of “inciting debauchery and immorality.”
Keith Olbermann Is a Smug Elitist. But He Wasn’t Entirely Wrong About Penn State.
What kind of jerk criticizes students who raise money for kids with cancer?
Keith Olbermann makes no secret of the disgust he harbors for Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal; in January, he declared the NCAA and PSU “the worst in sports.” His well-documented disdain for the institution is probably what inspired a Penn Stater to mention him Sunday in a proud tweet about the 2015 Penn State Dance Marathon, an annual fundraiser (known on campus as THON) that raises money for children with cancer.
“We Are!” refers to the Nittany Lion chant “We are … Penn State.” And Four Diamonds—an organization that helps families pay for cancer treatment, funds research, and more—is the recipient of the THON money.
Olbermann responded to the “We are” tweet with one word: “…Pitiful.”
Soon Penn State students and others were attacking him, and he was hitting right back.
.@dave_seidel Again - get your $ back - you didn't learn how to read. PSU students are pitiful because they're PSU students - period.— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) February 23, 2015
The pompous, elitist tirade earned him a suspension from ESPN. (Olbermann, if you’re wondering, went to Cornell—ever heard of it?) As a Penn State alumna who knows the difference between your and you’re, I’m pleased to see him get spanked on this one. But I also think that he wasn’t entirely wrong to roll his eyes at attempts to use THON to deflect criticism about the university.
THON is billed as “the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.” Groups and organizers spend the fall semester and first month of the spring semester preparing for it. On designated “canning” weekends, clubs, Greek organizations, and other clusters of students fan out from State College, Pa., to stand at street corners and collect money. At the main event, held this past weekend, more than 700 students serve as “dancers” who go 46 hours without sitting or sleeping. The idea, as I understand it, is to give the dancers a taste of the pain that kids with cancer endure.
It’s a noble goal. But when I was on campus, as THON got closer each year, the scent of self-congratulations grew stronger. The THON slogan is FTK—“for the kids.” In my more cynical moments, I sometimes thought that it should be “FTT”—“for the T-shirt.”
In the Deadspin comments, another alum put it nicely:
THON had great results, but to me it always seemed to serve as a vessel for fraternities, sororities, and those that crave attention to pat themselves on the back. There are a lot of people who participate selflessly, but the most vocal element are those that want the attention for “doing a great thing.” To boot, most of the fundraising doubles as a social/ pledge event for a lot of the greeks. TL; DR - great results, questionable means.
The results are great, and many of the participants are entirely sincere. But still, some students, especially Greeks, use it to excuse a lot of things: You can’t criticize fraternities—we raise money for kids with cancer!
It’s unfair for Olbermann to condemn the entire university because of the child sex abuse scandal (or because a few students on Twitter made grammatical mistakes that are widely accepted on the platform). Though the campus culture went too far in worshipping football, the ones to blame for the abuse are Jerry Sandusky and the handful of men who shielded him—including, yes, Joe Paterno. I railed about my alma mater’s moral hypocrisy after the scandal broke, and I remain furious about it. But it’s also illogical and disingenuous for Penn Staters to use THON as a shield against criticism. What did the original tweeter expect from Olbermann? I can’t imagine that she genuinely thought he would say, “You’re right. I’ve been unjust all along.”
Despite his presumably ESPN-mandated apologetic tweet, I doubt that Olbermann will emerge from his suspension with a greater respect for the school. And he’s right not to change his mind based on a fundraiser.
Penn State Alum at Center of Olbermann Suspension Hopes He Learns Something
The Penn State alumna who sent the tweet that provoked the tirade that got Keith Olbermann suspended from ESPN for the rest of the week says she was hoping to get Olbermann to “lighten up” on the university when she sent him a link to a story about the school’s pediatric cancer research fundraiser.
“I certainly didn't send my tweet to him in the hopes of getting him suspended,” Lisa Aiello Deleon told me over email. “I sent it to educate him in hopes he would recognize the good that Penn State does and has done, and in hope that he might lighten up on us a bit in the future.”
Aiello Deleon tweeted at the ESPN host the partial Penn State slogan “We are!” with a link to a story about the THON student body fundraiser, and Olbermann responded by “finish[ing] her sentence” and calling Penn State students “pitiful.” Olbermann apologized for the remark and ensuing back-and-forth on Tuesday.
“I hope that he reflects on the comments that he has made to and about the entire Penn State community,” Aiello Deleon said.
The Twitter beef between the 1982 Penn State graduate and Olbermann actually goes back to January, when Aiello Deleon sent him a link to a story that defended former Penn State coach Joe Paterno against charges that he covered up child abuse by defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.
Olbermann, a fierce critic of the NCAA’s January settlement with the school to restore the Paterno wins it had vacated after the Sandusky scandal, responded that he was not convinced.
@lisaadeleon You're quoting a penn state fanboy site. The only person who got nailed was that bastard Paterno.— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) January 24, 2015
@KeithOlbermann wow just wow. Truth in facts - not a fanboy site. You're living proof you can't argue w stupid! 😂😂— Lisa Aiello DeLeon (@lisaadeleon) January 24, 2015
“His response, I found appalling,” Aiello Deleon said of the original exchange.
She says she later decided to send him the article about the fundraiser because she wanted to show him what “true Penn State culture” was about.
Putin Says War With Ukraine is “Unlikely.” World Says: Huh?
In a new Russian TV interview, President Vladimir Putin was asked about the prospect of war between Russia and Ukraine. "I think that such an apocalyptic scenario is unlikely and I hope this will never happen," said the Russian leader. This will come as news to many Ukrainians who view Russia as already fighting a war with their country, In the Putinverse, war with Ukraine is “unlikely.” For everyone not watching Russian TV, it’s already happening.
Putin also said that if the Minsk Agreement reached earlier this month were fully implemented, the situation in Eastern Ukraine would “gradually stabilize.” Too bad he’s the one not implementing it, sending troops over the border and supporting the separatist rebels who continued to seize territory after the Minsk agreement was reached. As for the week-old ceasefire, the Ukrainian government said last Friday that it had already been violated at least 300 times.
This disconnect led Secretary of State John Kerry today to accuse Russia of lying about its involvement in the conflict and of engaging in “the most overt and extensive propaganda exercise that I've seen since the very height of the Cold War."
The U.S. is threatening more sanctions against Russia over what it’s calling a “land grab”—the seizure of the transportation hub of Debaltseve last week after the ceasefire had gone into effect. The U.S. is also dipping a pinky toe into providing Ukraine with military aid. Between 5 to 10 U.S. troops are heading to the country to provide medical training to Ukrainian forces. Prime Minister David Cameron also announced today that Britain is sending military personnel to provide training ranging from “tactical intelligence to logistics, to medical care."
This is a long way from the kind of military aid that Ukraine has requested and that the Obama administration claims to be considering, but if the ceasefire continues to collapse, it could inch toward more robust support.
Whatever happens, don’t expect Putin to call it a war.