The Department of Justice has announced federal criminal charges against four former and current Louisville police officers over their roles in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor. Her death in a hail of police gunfire in 2020 sparked protests across the United States and around the world under the banner Black Lives Matter. Former Louisville Metro Police detective Joshua Jaynes was taken into FBI custody Thursday morning and charged with obstruction and civil rights violations. Also charged were Louisville Police Sergeant Kyle Meany, officer Kelly Hanna Goodlett and former Louisville police detective Brett Hankison. This is the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke.
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke: “Breonna Taylor should have awakened in her home, as usual, on the morning of March 13th, 2020. Tragically, she did not. She was just 26 years old. As Attorney General Garland just stated, today’s indictments allege that Louisville Police Detective Joshua Jaynes and Sergeant Kyle Meany drafted and approved what they knew was a false affidavit to support a search warrant for Ms. Taylor’s home. That false affidavit set in motion events that led to Ms. Taylor’s death.”
After headlines, we’ll go to Louisville, Kentucky, for the latest on the charges against four officers involved in Breonna Taylor’s killing.
Ukrainian officials are urging residents to evacuate the eastern Donetsk region and head west, under a mandatory evacuation order for thousands of people. The order came as Russian troops intensified their assault on Ukraine’s east, where President Volodymyr Zelensky said his troops are facing “hell” on the battlefield.
A new report from Amnesty International finds Ukrainian forces are endangering the lives of civilians by establishing bases and operating weapons systems in populated residential areas, including in schools and hospitals. Amnesty says such fighting tactics violate international humanitarian law. The report drew an angry response from President Zelensky.
President Volodymyr Zelensky: “Aggression against our state is unprovoked, invasive and, frankly, terroristic. And if someone prepares a report in which the victim and the aggressor are allegedly the same in some way, if some data about the victim is analyzed while something that the aggressor was doing at that time is ignored, then this cannot be tolerated.”
In a statement, Amnesty International said, “Being in a defensive position does not exempt the Ukrainian military from respecting international humanitarian law.”
A court in Russia has found WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner guilty of drug smuggling and sentenced her to nine years in a penal colony. During closing arguments Thursday, Griner took responsibility for bringing vape cartridges containing a small amount of cannabis oil with her through the Moscow airport, where she was arrested by customs authorities in February. She said the cannabis was prescribed for medical reasons.
Brittney Griner: “I understand everything that’s being said against me, the charges that are against me, and that is why I pled guilty. But I had no intent to break any Russian laws. … I made an honest mistake, and I hope that in your ruling, that it doesn’t end my life here.”
President Biden called Griner’s nine-year prison sentence “unacceptable” and promised to work to bring her home. Earlier today, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the Kremlin remains ready to discuss a prisoner swap involving Griner and former U.S. marine Paul Whelan, who’s been jailed in Russia on espionage charges since 2018.
China says it will sanction U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her immediate family over her visit this week to Taiwan’s capital Taipei. On Wednesday, Pelosi became the most senior U.S. official to visit Taiwan in a quarter-century. Her trip prompted China to launch large-scale military exercises in waters around Taiwan that effectively blockaded the island. Pelosi spoke to reporters earlier today as she wrapped up her tour of Asia in Tokyo, Japan, and after China’s Foreign Ministry called her actions “vicious” and “provocative.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “They will not isolate Taiwan by preventing us to travel there. We’ve had high-level visits, senators in the spring, a bipartisan way, continuing visits, and we will not allow them to isolate Taiwan.”
On Thursday, Pelosi led a delegation of U.S. lawmakers who traveled to South Korea and toured the Demilitarized Zone that divides the Korean Peninsula. Her trip came as the United Nations said in a new report that North Korea has made preparations for a new nuclear weapons test this year, which would be the first such test since it exploded a hydrogen bomb in 2017.
Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema said Thursday she will support a budget reconciliation bill containing some of the Democrats’ legislative priorities on healthcare and the climate crisis. As a condition of her support, Sinema demanded Democratic leaders agree to abandon a provision that would close the “carried interest loophole” — a tax break exploited by hedge fund and private equity managers to pay lower tax rates than middle-income workers. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said a revised version of the bill would be released on Saturday.
In Arizona, former TV news anchor and Trump supporter Kari Lake has won the Republican gubernatorial primary. Lake narrowly defeated lawyer and businesswoman Karrin Taylor Robson, who had the support of former Vice President Mike Pence and other prominent Republicans. Kari Lake put false claims about a stolen 2020 election at the center of her campaign and has said she would not have certified President Biden’s victory. Her victory follows other Arizona election deniers who won Republican nominations in Tuesday’s primary, including candidates for Congress, Senate and secretary of state.
The Biden administration has declared monkeypox a public health emergency. Thursday’s declaration by Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra comes two weeks after the World Health Organization declared the disease a global emergency. The official U.S. case count rose to more than 7,100 by Friday morning, though the true toll is likely far higher due to severe shortages of testing.
New York public health officials have discovered poliovirus in samples of sewage taken from outside of New York City, suggesting the virus is spreading in the community and that “hundreds” of people may have already been infected. Officials have tied the polio lineage discovered in Rockland County to recent samples taken in Israel and the United Kingdom. Polio mainly affects children and can sometimes cause paralysis or death. The United States declared the disease eradicated in 1979, but officials warn that unvaccinated people remain vulnerable. Only 60% of Rockland County’s 2-year-old children have been vaccinated against polio.
In Florida, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is facing backlash after he suspended Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren over Warren’s promise not to prosecute people who seek or provide abortions in Florida. Warren, who is a Democrat and has been elected twice, condemned DeSantis’s move as “an illegal overreach” and said his suspension “spits in the face of the voters.” Warren spoke at a press conference Thursday.
Andrew Warren: “I was shocked at the blatant violation of one of the most fundamental principles of our democracy, that the people, the voters, get to elect elected officials. I’ve been elected twice to serve as state attorney, and I’ve served as state attorney, and I’ve done it well. Crime is down. We’re protecting people’s rights. We have fought so hard for public safety and fairness and justice. If the governor thinks he can do a better job, then he should run for state attorney, not president.”
That was Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren. Governor DeSantis signed a bill into law in April that bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The measure is facing several legal challenges.
The FBI has arrested former Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vázquez over her alleged involvement in a bribery scheme to finance her 2020 gubernatorial campaign. Vázquez is accused of accepting bribes in 2019 and 2020, while she was governor, from several people, including Julio Martín Herrera Velutini, a banker who was under investigation by the agency that oversees Puerto Rico’s financial institutions. In exchange for the donations, Vázquez reportedly demanded the resignation of the agency’s director and later appointed a new one — a former consultant of Herrera’s bank. Vázquez, Herrera and a former FBI agent also face wire fraud and conspiracy charges, and up to 20 years in prison if convicted on all counts.
In Austin, Texas, a jury has ordered far-right conspiracy theorist and InfoWars host Alex Jones to pay $4.1 million in compensatory damages to the parents of Jesse Lewis, a 6-year-old boy killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. For years Alex Jones spread conspiracy theories that the Newtown shooting was a government hoax and the victims’ families were paid actors, resulting in online harassment and death threats for Sandy Hook families. The jury is expected to reconvene today to decide how much Jones should pay the parents in punitive damages.
Albert Woodfox, who was held in solitary confinement longer than any prisoner in U.S. history, has died at the age of 75 from COVID. The former Black Panther and political prisoner won his freedom six years ago after surviving nearly 44 years in solitary confinement. Woodfox and two fellow former Black Panthers became known as the Angola 3 after they were wrongfully convicted of murder in retaliation for their political and racial justice activism inside Louisiana’s notorious Angola prison. We’ll have more on Albert Woodfox’s life and legacy later in the broadcast.