Day: May 10, 2017

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Aaron Hernandez received dozens of violations during time in Massachusetts prison, records show – Hernandez's fiancee thought suicide was a 'hoax'


Former NFL star Aaron Hernandez spent nearly two years in a Massachusetts prison involved in fights and receiving dozens of infractions before he hanged himself in his cell last month, disciplinary records revealed. 

Hernandez, whose conviction in a 2013 murder was erased on Tuesday, received 78 disciplinary offenses in 12 incidents while he was at Souza-Baranowski Correction Center, USA Today reported. Most of them took place within the first three months he was there. 

In May 2015, he allegedly received 25 of the violations within eight days, shortly after he was found guilty of murdering semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd. 

AARON HERNANDEZ’S MURDER CONVICTION ERASED

The former New England Patriots star was involved in three fights and served as a lookout at the prison for a period of time. In his first fight, Hernandez reportedly told officers that prison wasn’t for him. 

“This place ain’t [expletive] to me,” Hernandez told officers. “I’ll run this place and keep running [expletive]. Prison ain’t [expletive] to me.” 

In another incident, Hernandez attacked an inmate for trying to shake his hand, according to USA Today.  

“Hernandez struck [name redacted] with a closed fist to the face and both men engage [sic] in a physical altercation,” according to the incident report. “The combatants ignored several direct orders to cease their actions and chemical agent was utilized to separate the inmates.”

Hernandez and the inmate were placed in segregation after the incident. 

On Dec. 3, 2015, corrections officers found a knife-shaped piece of metal that was wrapped with a cloth at one end and attached to a tether. It was his ninth incident of the year. 

INSIDE THE MIND OF AARON HERNANDEZ

The last few months of Hernandez’s time in prison, he continued to commit offenses. He was involved in three more incidents before he hanged himself using a bedsheet.

Corrections officers found Hernandez in the his jail cell shortly after 3 a.m. on April 19. He was rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The words “John 3:16” were written on his forehead and wall, Fox 25 Boston reported. A Bible was also left open to the verse that read: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Three notes were later discovered in the cell, two of which were addressed to his fiancee Shayanna Jenkins and their 4-year-old daughter. 

His suicide came five days after a jury acquitted him in the 2012 shooting deaths of two men. On Tuesday, a judge erased his conviction in the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd because Hernandez died before the repeal was heard. 

Hernandez’s appellate attorneys made their request under a long-standing legal principle holding that when defendants die before their direct appeal is decided, their convictions are vacated. Prosecutors argued that dismissing Hernandez’s murder conviction would reward his decision to take his own life.

“Despite the tragic ending to Aaron Hernandez’s life, he should not reap the legal benefits of an antiquated rule,” Bristol County District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III said in a statement. 

The district attorney plans to file an appeal. 



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MEET DESO DOGG The devious rapper who joined ISIS, cheated death


A B-list German rapper who found stardom when he joined ISIS, cheated death and embarrassed the Pentagon topped himself when he got the girl – an FBI translator who set out to catch him and became his wife.

Germany’s fascination with Denis Cuspert, who found modest fame a decade ago as “Deso Dogg,” a rapper who once toured with American rapper DMX, spiked when he resurfaced in Syria as a high-visibility leader of ISIS. He was dubbed the black-clad terror army’s top recruiter, trading on his credibility with a generation of young, disaffected loners and appearing in numerous propaganda videos.

Then the Pentagon announced in October 2015 that the man now known as Abu Talha al-Almani had been killed by an airstrike near the Islamic State-controlled city of Raqqa, Syria.

“Cuspert was a foreign terrorist fighter and operative for ISIL [Islamic State] who used social media to take advantage of disaffected youth and potential Western recruits,” Defense Department spokeswoman Elissa Smith said at the time.

It was not the end of Deso Dogg.

Germany’s domestic intelligence agency Verfassungsschutz — the rough equivalent of the FBI — publicly disputed the Pentagon’s account.

“Information about the death of Cuspert has circulated a number of times and up until now cannot be confirmed,” wrote the German intelligence officials in their annual intelligence report in 2015.

The Germans knew that prior reports of Cuspert’s demise had been greatly exaggerated. German media had reported him dead in 2014, only to see him reappear in a propaganda video, triumphantly hoisting the severed head of an infidel.

“Cuspert is the most well-known of Islamic State German fighters,” said a German terrorism expert who has tracked Cuspert. “If he is not killed, he will remain a long time [as a member of] the Islamic State.

The Pentagon reversed itself in August 2016, stating Cuspert survived the airstrike. What the U.S. government did not acknowledge, until last week, was that Cuspert’s biggest humiliation of the West had been going on all along. That report corroborated one published on FoxNews.com more than two years ago.

In 2014, Cuspert seduced a turncoat translator who had been part of a Detroit-based FBI team that set out to track him down. Daniela Greene fell in love with her quarry online and left for the small northern Syrian city of al-Rai armed with an AK-47. She eventually left, returned to the U.S. and served two years in prison before her story got out.

Now, fresh details about her time with the man who went from forgettable rapper to jihadi rock star have emerged in the German publication BILD.

Greene flew to Istanbul and made her way to Gazientep in Southeastern Turkey where she crossed the border into Syria. Cuspert personally picked up Greene once she crossed into Islamic State territory in late June of 2014, BILD reported.

According to a BILD interview with a German ISIS fighter, Greene said she hailed from Canada and the Germans at the Islamic State’s former stronghold did not know she spoke fluent German.

“Cuspert said that he still had to take care of something and needed to borrow a sport utility vehicle from a German fighter,” said the German Islamic State member.

Greene quickly drew attention to her behavior.

“When the Germans left the room for a short period of time and returned, she had rummaged through the closet and searched for things,” the source told BILD.

Still, she received special treatment due to a combination of her beauty and her marriage to a terrorist VIP.

“It was talked about how beautiful she [Greene] looked and that she could have participated in Germany’s ‘Next Top Model” show,’“ said BILD’s source, who lived in al-Rai, a town of a little over 4,000 people, while Greene was there.

Greene wore a black abaya — a robe-style dress — and hijab to cover her hair, choosing not to veil her face like other women in Islamic State-controlled territory in Iraq and Syria. Her role was to stay within the German Jihadi colony in Syria, where she received extra attention.

“Melons, cold water and Pepsi were brought to her,” the source said.

Long before Cuspert became an ISIS leader, he was a petty criminal whose rap lyrics revealed a dark and twisted mind. The son of a Ghanian father who left Cuspert’s German mother, he recorded three albums for a Berlin-based gangsta rap label and scored a minor hit with “Willkommen in meiner Welt” (Welcome to my World) in 2010.

“Welcome to my world full of hate and blood,” went part of the song. “Children’s souls weep softly when the black angels sing.”

According to a report in Vice.com, he converted to Islam in 2010 following a near-fatal car accident. In 2012, Cuspert left Germany for Egypt, before eventually making his way to Syria where he joined Al Qaeda. When Islamic State broke away from the terror group behind 9/11, Cuspert pledged his loyalty to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

In 2016, the Turkish Army, along with Syrian rebels, evicted the Islamic State from al-Rai. The whereabouts of Cuspert, who named a son after Al Qaeda founder Usama bin Laden and once threatened to slit former President Obama’s throat, are unknown. Until his distinctively tattooed body turns up, he is presumed very much alive.

Benjamin Weinthal reports on human rights in the Middle East and is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @BenWeinthal



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EXPLOSIVE CHARGE White House says Comey threw ‘stick of dynamite’ into Justice Department


The White House on Wednesday defended President Trump’s decision to fire James Comey, saying the former FBI director threw a “stick of dynamite” into the Department of Justice, and committed “atrocities” in his handling of the Clinton email saga.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked at the daily press briefing why Trump had soured on Comey, despite recent statements by Press Secretary Sean Spicer that Trump had confidence in the FBI director.

Sanders denied reports that Trump had put Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein up to recommending the firing, which caught Washington by surprise Tuesday evening. Instead, Sanders said, Rosenstein himself recommended the firing in a Monday meeting with Trump over Comey’s handling of the Clinton email scandal. The White House says that Trump then asked Rosenstein to put that recommendation into writing, which he did.

“I cannot defend the director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails,” Rosenstein wrote in his subsequent letter to Trump, “and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken. Almost everyone agrees that the director made serious mistakes; it is one of the few issues that unites people of diverse perspectives.”

Trump told reporters Wednesday the decision came because Comey “was not doing a good job.” Some Democrats have expressed concern that the firing is related to the FBI’s investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

Sanders said Trump had been considering letting Comey go from his role since the election, and that there had been “an erosion of confidence,” but indicated that the final straw for Rosenstein and Trump was Comey’s testimony last week before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. At that hearing, Comey answered wide-ranging questions about his controversial handling of the probe into Hillary Clinton’s private email server last year.

Sanders said Comey’s testimony showed that he had committed “atrocities in circumventing the chain of command” at the Department of Justice and said he had thrown a “stick of dynamite” by going around then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch in calling a press conference in July 2016 to announce his recommendation not to press charges against Clinton.

“When you…throw a stick of dynamite into the Department of Justice, that cannot be ignored,” Sanders said.

When a reporter at the briefing argued that there was little in Comey’s testimony that was not already widely known, Sanders said it was the first time Comey had “publicly and openly” made clear how he handled the probe.

Sanders also took a shot at Democrats complaining about Comey’s firing, saying it was the “purest form of hypocrisy” considering their frequent past criticisms of the former FBI director. She said it was “startling” that Democrats aren’t celebrating the move,

“I think it’s startling that Democrats aren’t celebrating this since they’ve been calling it for so long,” she said.

Adam Shaw is a Politics Reporter and occasional Opinion writer for FoxNews.com. He can be reached here or on Twitter: @AdamShawNY.



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UNFRIENDLY RECEPTION Betsy DeVos booed during Fla. graduation address


Boos, catcalls and the turning of backs welcomed the commencement speaker at Wednesday’s Bethune-Cookman University graduation ceremony.

For 20 minutes, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s most opposed cabinet secretary nominee during confirmation hearings, endured jeers from the graduates and interruptions from the university president to calm down the crowd.

At one point, President Edison Jackson even threatened to “send your diplomas in the mail” if the noise didn’t stop.

DEVOS DELIVERING COMMENCEMENT SPEED DESPITE UNREST

For most of her speech, and during her receipt of an honorary degree in Human Letters, the students continued the past 10 days of contention that, of all people, she won the invite for the keynote address.

In her speech, DeVos directly addressed the controversy.

“As I said, I’m grateful to be with you today,” said DeVos. “While we will undoubtedly disagree, let us do so respectfully, and let us here each other out.”

When the historically black university announced May 1 that DeVos would be the speaker, the local NAACP, National Federation of Teachers and Florida Education Association immediately voiced outrage, arguing she’s an enemy of public education, a champion of school choice, favors using tax dollars to pay for kids to attend religious, private schools and is ignorant about the origins of historically black colleges and universities.

MONEY TO PREP POOR KIDS FOR COLLEGE? SORRY, WRONG SIZE TYPE

That opinion comes from a statement DeVos released in February, referring to historically black colleges and universities:

“HBCUs are real pioneers when it comes to school choice. They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality.”  

Many historically black school leaders expressed shock and dismay that DeVos didn’t also mention how segregation, racism and Jim Crow forced the creation of black colleges in the first place, i.e., there was no “choice.”

Students, alumni and the NAACP organized an online petition drive calling on DeVos to be disinvited and for Jackson and Board Chairman Joe Petcock to resign.  

On Wednesday, President Jackson defended the DeVos invitation, saying “It’s important to understand that people will disagree, but that does not mean that you roll over and play dead because you disagree.  This is a good day for us. Can you imagine how many institutions would love to have the secretary of education, the highest educational officer in the land, to be their commencement speaker and hopefully open new doors for this institution?”

Jackson added that the Department of Education controls 87 percent of Title IV funding and money is needed at historically black colleges and universities to help students graduate with degrees and impact their communities.

 Caylin Mason,  one of Bethune-Cookman’s 300-plus 2017 graduates, said he was excited about graduation: “Four years..it all paid off.” But when asked about the controversy over DeVos, Mason had two words.

“No comment.”

Phil Keating joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in March 2004 and currently serves as FNC’s Miami-based correspondent.



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US Marines drink reindeer blood in arctic training


About 200 U.S. Marines qualified for a rare Navy Arctic Service Ribbon this week after training in the first deployment to Norway since World War II.

In Norway on Tuesday, Lt. Gen. John Wissler, commander of Marine Corps Forces Command, congratulated the Marines from Camp Lejeune, N.C., on earning the rare decoration, after their somewhat “Cold War-era” six-month deployment–this is the first time foreign troops have been allowed to be stationed in Norway since the 1940s.

“There’s a lot of ribbons you don’t have to do s— to get; this isn’t one of them,” Wissler said. “As a Marine Corps, we’ve been very used to operating in sort of jungle and desert environments, but we’re not as good at operating in Arctic environments as we need to be.”

According to Military.com, Marines who were part of the training said they learned how to dry sweat-dampened clothes using their own body heat, slaughter reindeer and drink their blood and practice melting and boiling snow to prepare freeze-dried food.  

“This company of Marines, and those Marines that accompanied you in your training, are capable of engaging and locating, closing with and destroying by fire and maneuver any enemy that we would encounter in an Arctic environment,” Wissler said. “So my heartiest congratulations to you.”

U.S. officials downplayed any link between the operation and NATO’s concerns over Russia, but the deployment came at the same time as thousands of troops were sent to Poland to strengthen Eastern European allies concerned over Russia’s aggression.

A spokesman for the Norwegian Home Guards who hosted the Marines told Reuters that U.S. troops would learn about “winter warfare” and that it “has nothing to do with Russia or the current situation.”

The deployment was part of a bilateral agreement between Oslo and Washington. 

Brooke Singman is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @brookefoxnews.



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Christopher 'Big Black' Boykin, star of MTV's 'Rob & Big,' dies at 45


Rob & Big star Christopher “Big Black” Boykin has died.

ET can confirm that the 45-year-old entertainer and musician passed away on Tuesday morning. There is no news yet on cause of death, however, TMZ reported that “multiple people connected to Chris… believe it was a heart attack.”

Boykin and his best friend, skateboarder Rob Dyrdek, starred in their eponymous MTV reality show from 2006 to 2008.

The Mississippi native was also Dyrdek’s bodyguard, and the series followed their adventures, from holding an exorcism to breaking Guinness world records, including eating the most powdered doughnuts eaten in less than 3 minutes.

Boykin also appeared on Dyrdek’s other MTV shows, including Ridiculousness and Rob Deryk’s Fantasy Factory.

On Tuesday, Boykin’s Fantasy Factory co-star, Chanel West Coast, tweeted her condolences, writing, “RIP @BigBlack. My heart is crushed. I’ll remember all the times you made me laugh and my prayers go out to your family.”

The former U.S Navy serviceman is survived by a 9-year-old daughter, Isis

Click for more from Entertainment Tonight.



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Minnesota students hold walk-out protest over city’s plan to disband police department


Minnesota students walked out of class on Tuesday to protest a city council’s decision to disband the town’s police department.

Police believe about 1,300 students from the Forest Lake High School, Century and Southwest junior high schools walked out of class in a show of support for the police after the Forest Lake City Council voted 3 to 2 on Monday to disband the Forest Lake Police Department, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Twenty-three police officers will lose their jobs, according to CBS Minnesota. Law enforcement services for the area will be contracted with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. 

STUDENT PROTESTERS TAKE OVER UC SANTA CRUZ ADMINISTRATION BUILDING

The Forest Lake City Council said the choice will save roughly $387,000 per year and expand police service positions from 25 to 27, but many residents opposed the decision, according to Fox 9.

Hundreds of the town’s citizens crowded into the council’s office during Monday’s vote in support of keeping the local police force.

“This is a community who loves its relationship with the police department,” Forest Lake City Council member Mara Bain, who voted against the plan, told “Fox and Friends.”

Mayor Ben Winnick of Forest Lake who favored the move, broke the city council’s tie vote.

The decision is not finalized until the contract is approved by the Washington County Board of Commissioners on May 16.

REPUBLICAN STUDENTS PROTEST AT BOARD MEETING, DEMAND TRUSTEES PROTECT POLITICAL DIVERSITY ON CAMPUS

“Our teachers have always told us ‘you have voices, so use them, and make yourselves heard,’” said 17-year-old Forest Lakes High School junior Clara Olson, who helped arrange the walkout, in an email to Fox News.

“If the city council was truly doing their job, this would never have progressed this far. They haven’t been listening to the people,” Olson said.

Olson hopes the county commissioner will see how the community came together and peacefully protested.



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How Johnny Depp Made and Spent $650M…


What happened to $650 million? An explosive legal battle between one of Hollywood’s best-paid actors and the business managers he fired has laid bare tumultuous finances, outrageous spending and troubling behavior on Disney’s new ‘Pirates’ movie in a case that could even change how the industry does business.

Early one afternoon in October 2012, Jake Bloom and Joel Mandel left their respective Beverly Hills offices, slipped into their luxury cars and embarked on the roughly 30-minute journey to the Hollywood Hills compound of their client, Johnny Depp. Bloom was a rumpled and graying lawyer whose disheveled style camouflaged an intellect exercised on behalf of such luminaries as Martin Scorsese and Sylvester Stallone. Mandel, then in his early 50s, was a tall, rather amiable accountant who favored loose-fitting jeans and looser-fitting shirts, sartorial code designed to assure his clients he was just another boy in their band as well as a top-flight business manager steeped in the arcana of arbitrage and amortization.

Both men had been close to Depp for years. Bloom, indeed, was such a confidant to the actor that he had even joined him for an induction ceremony into the Comanche nation when he played Tonto in The Lone Ranger; as for Mandel, he had accompanied Depp to his three-island property in the Bahamas, atolls Mandel had helped his client buy for a total of $5.35 million.

These men were part of Depp’s inner circle, at least as far as any lawyer or accountant could belong to the inner circle of an artist this mercurial, one with a skull-and-crossbones tattoo on his leg and “Death is certain” scrawled beneath it, whose soul mates were such creative titans as Marlon Brando, Keith Richards and Hunter S. Thompson — the journalist whose ashes Depp fired from a cannon hauled to the top of a 153-foot tower, a tribute for which the actor says he paid $5 million.

Leaving their cars that day, the advisers approached one of Depp’s five houses on a dead-end stretch of North Sweetzer Avenue. A modernist affair that was simply referred to as 1480, the building had been converted into a recording studio and was an appendage to an eight-bedroom, castle-like mansion once owned by music producer Berry Gordy. One of the star’s two omnipresent assistants led the men in, past a painting that British artist Banksy had created for Depp, and into a den, where the actor was leaning back in a slightly battered chair, surrounded by dozens upon dozens of classic guitars.

After the obligatory small talk, the visitors got to the point: Depp’s cash flow had reached a crisis point, they declared. Even though the star had become wildly wealthy (later, Mandel would claim Depp earned more than $650 million in the 13-plus years he had been represented by The Management Group, the company Mandel had started in 1987 with his brother Robert), there just wasn’t enough liquid money to cover Depp’s $2 million in monthly bills.

Without a fire sale, Depp — then arguably the biggest star in Hollywood and certainly one of the best paid, thanks to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise — would never be able to meet his obligations. Not the payments on his portfolio of real estate around the world. Not the impulse purchases such as the three Leonor Fini paintings he had bought from a Manhattan gallery (the first two for $320,000, the third as a $245,000 gift for then-girlfriend Amber Heard). Not the $3.6 million he paid annually for his 40-person staff. Not the $350,000 he laid out each month to maintain his 156-foot yacht. And not the hundreds of thousands of dollars he paid to sustain his ex-partner, Vanessa Paradis, and their children, Lily-Rose and Jack.

Mandel dug into his briefcase for a one-page summary he had prepared, but Depp waved it away. Still, after three hours, the actor agreed to a compromise: He would sell his beloved Amphitrite, the yacht he had bought for $10 million and spent $8 million renovating, where he’d hosted such friends as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

With his consent in place, Bloom and Mandel said their goodbyes, stepped out of the house and breathed a sigh of relief. The city stretched before them. The bright light that had bathed it when they arrived was fading and would soon give way to night.

That exchange, the start of an increasingly fraught relationship between the star and his team, would culminate in the 2016 firing of Mandel and Depp’s longtime agent, United Talent Agency’s Tracey Jacobs, along with a $25 million lawsuit filed Jan. 13 by Depp against the Mandels’ TMG, accusing them of fraud and mismanagement, among other things.

TMG has since countersued, alleging that Depp, now 53, failed to pay its commission on his income from the upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and painting a portrait of an out-of-control movie star, reeling from a nasty split from Heard and used to spending freely, including $30,000 a month on wine. The Mandels seek a court declaration that “Depp is responsible for his own financial waste”; Depp’s side wants them to pay him millions, claiming they served as lawyers as well as accountants and therefore — if Depp’s interpretation of a California statute is correct — had no right to a percentage of his earnings without a proper contract.

The lawsuits, along with multiple interviews conducted by THR, indicate that Depp’s capricious behavior and poor decision-making placed him in a serious financial bind, which paved the way for the rupture with his closest advisers. (All declined to comment; while Bloom has not been fired, he has had no contact with Depp for months.)

It is unclear how the actor’s problems have impacted his relationship with his sister, Christi Dembrowski, a longtime conduit to her brother and head of his production company who selected Mandel in the late 1990s as one of three potential business managers for Depp to interview. Dembrowski allegedly received $7 million in “loans” as TMG managed Depp’s estate. She, like Depp, did not respond to requests for comment.

The unfolding legal battle could shake some of Hollywood’s most established business traditions. Depp’s new attorney is challenging the common practice of lawyers taking a percentage of their clients’ earnings without a written contract. If the suit is successful, it could open the door to a host of similar challenges.

All this comes as Walt Disney Studios prepares for the May 26 release of its latest Pirates movie, the fifth in the series. Studio execs worry that Depp’s personal peccadilloes could impact the marketing of their $230 million-budget tentpole and future of a $3.7 billion box-office franchise. Six years have passed since the last Pirates installment earned more than $1 billion globally, and Depp’s most recent big-budget vehicle, Alice Through the Looking Glass, lost hundreds of millions of dollars for Disney; now it’s betting that the star’s private struggles won’t sink this movie, too.

Depp’s demons — which seemed to surface in November 2014, when he appeared to be inebriated while presenting at the Hollywood Film Awards — became public when he was living in Australia for Pirates 5. Filming ran from February until July 2015, a span during which allegations of conflict between him and Heard spilled into the Australian tabloids.

“You’ve got to understand the kind of pressure Johnny was under in Australia,” says producer Jerry Bruckheimer. “At times helicopters would follow him home. There would be so many media outside his gates that trucks were feeding them. There was so much stuff made up about him: that Johnny had a fight on set and had gone back to the States, which we both read about while we were in his trailer.”

Still, sources close to the production report tales of excessive drinking, physical fights with Heard and constant lateness on set, which often left hundreds of extras waiting for hours at a time. Time and again, Bruckheimer, an assistant director and a flotilla of Disney executives led by production chief Sean Bailey were forced to huddle and debate how to handle their star’s tardiness. “He’s not a morning person,” quips one member of that group.

“There were certainly days when our plans were challenged,” says Bailey. “But no one should underestimate Johnny’s passion and commitment to this character and franchise.”

Several times, the production staff raised the matter of Depp’s tardiness with him, both on set and in his trailer, in a largely fruitless attempt to have him toe the line.

Often, sources say, a production staffer was stationed in an unmarked car outside the Coomera, Queensland, compound that Depp had rented from Grand Prix champion Mick Doohan so that the sentinel could alert everyone the second a light was switched on in the morning (or afternoon).

“When he got up, he’d turn on the light, and the moment the light went on they’d call the line producer, who would then call the directors [Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg]: ‘He’s up! He’s getting ready!’ ” says an on-set source. “They even had a special code term, like ‘The eagle has landed.’ Johnny had no idea this was going on.”

Depp’s lateness and alleged heavy drinking caused enough concern that Jacobs, his then-agent, got into an argument with Bruckheimer when they were waiting on a set in the Gold Coast suburb of Helensvale. “She went over to Jerry and said, ‘You’ve got to do something! You’re the producer,’ ” recalls the production source. “He said, ‘You do something. You’re the agent.’ ” (Bruckheimer denies the spat took place.) “Everyone was an innocent bystander watching this train wreck,” the source continues. “But when Johnny came on set, he was charming, nice. He’s yin and yang.”

Filming shut down at one point when Depp injured himself, slicing open his finger. “That was pretty serious,” says Bruckheimer. Though many outlets reported the wound was the result of a booze-fueled marital dispute, Bruckheimer suggests otherwise. “We don’t really know. He got it caught in a car door, or he got it caught in a sliding door. I’ve heard a couple of versions.”

Asked whether Depp has put his troubles behind him since then, at least one ally insists that he has. “I just saw him [on May 3]; he’s never looked better,” says litigator Martin Singer, who has worked with him for two decades, though not on the current lawsuits. “The guy was as fit as a fiddle.”

By the time he had begun shooting Pirates, Depp already was withdrawing from his closest reps. Jacobs, who had signed him after seeing the late-1980s Fox series 21 Jump Street, was ostracized and eventually fired in a short phone call. Colleagues say she was devastated. Mandel got his walking papers on March 14, 2016, in the form of a letter that insiders say stunned the business manager, who had seen Depp weeks earlier. That meeting had ended with a hug and a kiss.

By all objective measures, Depp’s representatives seem to have served their client well. Following 2003’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, the actor routinely earned $20 million upfront against 20 percent of the backend per picture and had a perk package worth approximately $3 million. According to one source, he reaped more than $40 million apiece from his share of the backend of the Pirates movies and made some $55 million from his profit participation on 2010’s Alice in Wonderland, which earned $1.03 billion worldwide.

It is unclear how much Depp understood that these large numbers were not the amounts he could spend. UTA took 10 percent off the top; Bloom and Mandel each took another 5 percent; taxes and business expenses further reduced the income to far less than half the gross number. And after a tri­fecta of big-budget flops — 2014’s Transcendence, 2015’s Mortdecai and the Alice sequel in 2016 — it became clear the spigot was tightening.

Depp’s current lawyer, hired in October, insists the actor was not properly advised and that Depp’s interest lay in his artistry, rather than his finances. But reps for TMG say Depp repeatedly was told to tighten the reins. The Mandel countersuit alleges that he ladled out $75 million on buying and updating 14 residences; owned more than 200 artworks, including some by Klimt, Warhol and Modigliani; kept a memorabilia collection in 12 storage facilities; and spent another $1 million archiving it.

After he connected with Heard, on one occasion “he walked into a [high-end jewelry] store, sat for a couple of hours,” says an insider. “They showed him a lot of stuff, gave him champagne, and he walked out with a $400,000 diamond cuff. It was a classic sort of moment because it wasn’t worth $400,000.”

When the couple decided to take the Orient Express and travel around Europe, a full security team accompanied them. “There were almost always two [security guards with Depp],” the source says. “He had a crew in L.A., a team of eight or 10 that traded off, with private security at the [Sweetzer] homes and the lofts downtown.”

Those lofts were a collection of penthouses in L.A.’s historic art deco Eastern Columbia Building; Depp has since sold two of the five units, which he bought for $7.2 million in 2007-08 and which were listed early last year at a combined price of $12.78 million.

As the financial strain grew more intense, sources say he pulled further away from Jacobs, Bloom, Mandel and his publicist, Robin Baum. At one point, the Depp lawsuit notes, “Depp’s talent agent [presumably Jacobs] wrote to Mandel: ‘Did you tell [J]ohnny … he needs to make $25 million by the end of the year????? What are you doing?????’ “

His key reps struggled to maintain access. “It became harder to find the right time to get him,” says a source. “In the old days, it was just [a question of] when he was free, but now it became [a matter of] finding a time when he was free and clear of mind and in the right mood. He got angry a lot. He’d scream at someone that worked at the house or his security.”

On May 30, 2015, three years after the Sweetzer tete-a-tete, Mandel met with Depp again, this time in the Eastern Columbia building, ready for another confrontation. He insisted Depp sell his French chateau, part of a hamlet outside Saint-Tropez that he’d purchased for an unknown sum, before adding $10 million in renovations. The actor agreed. “I am ready to face the music, in whatever way I must,” he texted Mandel, according to the TMG countersuit. “I know there’s a way to dig ourselves out of this hole and I am bound and determined to do it.”

The estate was put on the market for some $27 million, twice Sotheby’s valuation; then, sources say, Paradis and Lily-Rose urged Depp to change his mind. The actor had never been married to the French actress-singer but continued to help support her after their 2012 split, even buying her a $4.5 million home. Now, when three prospective buyers asked to see the property, he got cold feet. The chateau was taken off the market. (It has since been relisted for $39 million.)

That issue helped sour the Depp-Mandel relationship. Soon after, they spoke by telephone, with four-letter words peppering their talk. In March 2016, Mandel and TMG were fired.

The possible catalyst for the lawsuit was a multimillion-dollar bridge loan TMG made to Depp in 2012. The managers say they tossed their client a lifeline as he faced default on a $5 million loan. In the cross complaint, TMG attorney Michael Kump says the firm stepped in to help Depp avert a “devastating financial collapse.” When he defaulted on that loan, TMG alleges, the firm initiated foreclosure proceedings on two of the actor’s homes in the Hollywood Hills. TMG says Depp’s lawsuit arrived with the potential sale of those homes only weeks away.

The star’s perspective is different. According to Depp’s complaint, his new business manager (and forensic accountant) Edward White uncovered serious discrepancies related to that loan and other financial matters. In this narrative, the actor felt the only recourse was to sue.

It was shortly before Halloween 2016, and Adam Waldman, 48, a well-known and outgoing Washington lawyer, was visiting his law firm’s offices in Munich when his cellphone rang and a friend of Depp’s came on the line. “Something’s not right with his financial situation,” said the friend. “Would you look into this?”

The attorney’s clients included Cher, Jolie and Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska. In 2010, Waldman had filed paperwork with the Department of Justice, indicating that he would be working with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, “gathering information and providing advice and analysis as it relates to U.S. policy towards the visa status of Deripaska.” He knew how to handle chaos.

Days later, he flew to Los Angeles for a meeting with Depp. Sitting in White’s garden, overlooking the Bel Air golf course, the three men discussed the actor’s finances; after several hours, Waldman was sure he had a case. On Jan. 13, acting on Depp’s behalf, he filed the $25 million lawsuit against TMG and its principals, claiming negligence, fraud and breach of fiduciary duty.

Soon after, the Mandels shot back. Typical of Depp’s behavior, their suit claimed, was his response in 2008 when they cautioned him this was not the best time to buy another property, given his sputtering cash flow. “I will call tracey [Jacobs] and jake [Bloom],” Depp allegedly replied via email, “and prepare them to make some ludicrous deals to refill the glass and make it f—ing overflow!!! Whatever we have to acquire 1480, let’s do!!!! WE MUST BUY THIS HOUSE!!!”

In his own lawsuit, Depp says he was kept in the dark about his finances and it was his ex-managers who weren’t handling his money wisely. (Waldman maintains that it was Depp, not Mandel and Bloom, who called the October 2012 meeting.)

Among other charges, Depp alleges that TMG disbursed almost $10 million in “loans” to his sister and other parties close to the actor without his knowledge and took out loans for Depp, including $12.5 million from Tryon Management Services, secured by residuals from the first four Pirates movies, Alice and Into the Woods — also without his knowledge, according to the complaint. TMG says the loans were needed to keep Depp afloat and that the actor was fully aware of them. Waldman alleges, “The Mandels’ own written statement regarding the ‘loans’ constitute per se tax fraud that is sure to interest the IRS.”

In addition to the loans, two other matters are central to the lawsuits.

First, the Depp suit claims, TMG failed to pay Depp’s taxes on time, resulting in $8.3 million in interest and penalties over the years — a claim TMG also denies, arguing that it had no choice, because the funds to pay the taxes were never available in April.

Second, perhaps most incendiary, Waldman alleges the Mandels were acting as both lawyers and business managers. Because they offered legal assistance, he says, they were bound by a California law forbidding attorneys from taking a percentage of clients’ earnings unless they have a contract expressly allowing them to do so.

Waldman’s case hinges on the question of whether the Mandels did indeed serve as de facto lawyers. Both were trained as attorneys but say they never did anything for Depp that would constitute legal work. (The law does not apply to agents, Waldman notes, even those operating without a contract.)

Testimony in the matter has come from a former TMG employee and whistleblower who was fired, Waldman asserts, because she complained about red flags in Depp’s account. TMG says the woman was a low-level clerk who promised revenge when she was let go. Waldman counters that she was a “TMG employee who was day-to-day manager of the Depp account.” Her claims are currently under seal.

Waldman declines to address whether he will also sue Bloom or his firm, but if his argument proves valid, he could force the disgorgement of tens of millions of dollars in fees and open the floodgates to a series of lawsuits between clients and their former reps.

“I don’t think a commission agreement is enforceable without writing,” says Jay Dougherty, director of Loyola Law School’s Entertainment & Media Law Institute. “Without a written agreement, I think the client can back out of the deal.”

Adds Waldman, “I believe we are on to something that will change how Hollywood business is done in the future. If that is correct, the Depp case will have a larger meaning and effect beyond the personal interests of the parties.” That assertion will remain untested until a judge hears the case, scheduled to go to trial in January. Meanwhile, Pirates 5 is moving forward, shadowed by Depp’s problems.

How strapped for cash he is remains uncertain. While he has received $25.7 million over the past two years in profit participation from six movies (the first four Pirates, Alice and Into the Woods), all of that went to service debt, according to the litigation; his other income is unknown, though Waldman says he has earned money from finished movies including LAbyrinth, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Gnomeo & Juliet: Sherlock Gnomes.

Bruckheimer maintains that Depp has put his woes behind him, along with his tardiness: “He just finished Murder on the Orient Express and was on time every day,” says the producer.

Through all of this, the man behind Captain Jack Sparrow has remained largely silent, giving only one interview to The Wall Street Journal. “It’s my money,” he said on April 25. “If I want to buy 15,000 cotton balls a day, it’s my thing.” As for his former representatives: “I’ve worked very, very hard for a lot of years and trusted a lot of people, some who’ve clearly let me down.”

***

The Many, Many, Many Places Depp Calls Home

Unlike his collections of classic guitars, fine art and fancy cars, the value of Depp’s real estate holdings is not hard to ballpark. According to legal documents, Depp has purchased 14 residences, but a few have been sold. Today, he owns five houses in the Hollywood Hills; these homes are collectively worth about $19 million. He has sold two of his five penthouse lofts in the Eastern Columbia Building in DTLA for $5.6 million; the other three are worth roughly $6.5 million. He also owns an atoll in the Bahamas and a hamlet in France. All told, his properties are worth $50 million to $60 million.

This story first appeared in the May 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.



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Delaware officer saves suicidal man from bridge


A Rehoboth Beach police officer is being credited with saving the life of a suicidal man who was found hanging over the railing if the Lewes Canal Bridge.

Back on April 20th, officers were called to the scene for reports of a person hanging over the railing of the bridge on the northbound side of the bridge around 2:15 p.m.

Pfc. Josh Kosiorowski and Cpl. Curtis Sauve responded to the scene, and could see a male sitting on the railing of the bridge, and the man appeared to  be holding an alcoholic beverage,  while looking down at the roadway 30-feet below.

The officers approached the man, and realized that he did not see them coming. Officer Kosiorowski moved quickly and quietly to approach the man from behind, and grabbed him around the upper torso, and pulled him to safety, before the man realized what was happening.

Click here for more from Fox 29.

 

 



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LIVE BLOG Huckabee-Sanders : Trump 'lost confidence' in Comey


White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders held the daily press briefing Wednesday in which she addressed the firing of FBI director James Comey.

Follow FoxNews.com’s live blog below. Mobile users click here.



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