Daily News Roundup

March 13, 2019

WEDNESDAY, March 13

Cardinal George Pell has been sentenced to six years’ jail for sexually abusing two choirboys when he was Catholic archbishop of Melbourne in the 1990s.

Pell was found guilty by a jury last December of sexually abusing the choirboys after a Sunday mass in December 1996 and then assaulting one of them a second time two months later.

The man who was once Australia’s most powerful Catholic sat in the dock dressed in a black shirt and a grey blazer, without a clerical collar, as County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd delivered his sentence.

The chief judge described Pell’s abuse of two choirboys in the sacristy at St Patrick’s Cathedral as “a brazen and forcible sexual attack on the victims”.

“The acts were sexually graphic, both victims were visibly and audibly distressed during the offending,” he said.

“There is an added layer of degradation and humiliation that each of your victims must have felt in knowing that their abuse had been witnessed by the other.”

The chief judge gave permission for the hearing to be broadcast live by media outlets.

The court room was packed with abuse survivors, advocates and journalists.

Pell will serve a minimum of three years and eight months in jail before he will be eligible for parole.

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Two glamorous Hollywood actresses are among a legion of wealthy Americans arrested by Federal authorities for involvement in a $35 million college admissions fraud, the largest ever unearthed in US history.

They are Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman and Full House actress Lori Loughlin who are accused of cheating their children’s way into elite universities, such as Yale and Stanford.

The scam was run out of a small college preparation company in Newport Beach, California, that relied on bribes, phoney test takers and even doctored photos depicting non-athletic applicants as elite competitors to land college slots for the offspring of rich parents, prosecutors said.

“These parents are a catalogue of wealth and privilege,” US attorney Andrew Lelling said at a news conference.

“For every student admitted through fraud, an honest, genuinely talented student was rejected.”

Federal prosecutors in Boston charged William ‘Rick’ Singer, 58, with running the scheme through his Edge College & Career Network, which charged up to $2.5 million per child for the services, which were masked as contributions to a scam charity.

Test administrators allegedly took bribes to allow clients to cheat, including correcting wrong test answers

In some cases, the faces of children were Photoshopped onto images of athletes to exaggerate athletic credentials

Some 300 law enforcement agents pounced ¬†across the country on Tuesday to make arrests in what agents codenamed “Operation Varsity Blues”.

Prosecutors have named 33 parents, 13 coaches, and associates of Mr Singer’s business, but said the investigation continued and more parents and coaches could be charged.

Mr Singer is scheduled to plead guilty on Tuesday in Boston Federal Court to charges including racketeering, money laundering and obstruction of justice, according to court papers.

Ms Huffman and Ms Loughlin were due to appear in Federal Court in Los Angeles later on Tuesday, prosecutors said.

The alleged masterminds of the scam and parents who paid into it could all face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Ms Huffman, a former best actress Oscar nominee, who is married to fellow actor William H Macy, starred in the ABC TV series Desperate Housewives.

Court documents said Ms Huffman paid $15,000 that she disguised as a charitable donation so her daughter could take part in the college entrance exam cheating scam.

Court papers said a cooperating witness met with Ms Huffman and Macy at their Los Angeles home and explained to them that he “controlled” a testing centre and could have somebody secretly change her daughter’s answers.

The person told investigators the couple agreed to the plan. Macy was not charged, but authorities did not say why.

Ms Loughlin, best known for her role in the ABC sitcom Full House and the recent Netflix sequel Fuller House, is married to clothing company founder Mossimo Giannulli, who was also charged in the scheme.

Prosecutors alleged the couple gave $500,000 to have their two daughters labelled as recruits to the rowing team at USC (University of Southern California), even though neither participated in the sport.

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British Prime  Minister Theresa May latest attempt to sell a new Brexit deal to Parliament containing what she said were further EU concessions has collapsed.

The PM suffered a second crushing defeat of her maligned Brexit withdrawal deal, plunging the United Kingdom into further uncertainty over how it will leave the European Union.

The latest vote was lost 391 to 242, a margin of 149 and now Parliament will vote tomorrow on whether to leave the EU without a deal.The deadline for Brexit is March 29

The revised deal was lost after members of her own party and the Democratic Unionist Party, who keep her Government in power, voted against it.

Speaking immediately after the vote, Ms May said she profoundly regretted the decision the House had taken.

“I continue to believe that by far the best outcome is that the United Kingdom leaves the European Union in an orderly fashion with a deal,” she said.

“And that the deal we’ve negotiated is the best, and indeed the only deal available.”

Referring to a prepared statement, Ms May outlined the path now ahead.

“Two weeks ago, I made a series of commitments from this despatch box regarding the steps we would take in the event that this House rejected the deal on offer. I stand by those commitments in full,” she said.

“Therefore, tonight we will table a motion for debate tomorrow to test whether the House supports leaving the European Union without a deal on 29th March.

“This is an issue of grave importance for the future of our country. Just like the referendum, there are strongly held and equally legitimate views on both sides.

“For that reason, I can confirm that this will be a free vote on this side of the House.”

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