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ST. LOUIS (AP) — A St. Louis judge said Thursday that he’ll decide by the end of next week whether to allow the special prosecutor to withdraw from the perjury and evidence tampering case against William Don Tisaby, a former FBI agent hired by St. Louis’ top prosecutor to investigate former Gov. Eric Greitens.

Judge Bryan Hettenbach also will decide no later than July 2 on a motion from attorneys for Tisaby that seeks a sanction of Special Prosecutor Gerard Carmody. Tisaby’s attorneys accused Carmody of failing to turn over evidence, which Carmody denied.

Tisaby, 68, is accused of lying in a March 2018 deposition just before Greitens’ criminal trial. Greitens, a Republican, was governor at the time.

Carmody filed a motion in May to exit the case. He told Hettenbach during a hearing Thursday that because of other issues with his law firm, “I can no longer serve as special prosecutor in this case.”

Tisaby’s attorney, Daniel Dailey, urged the judge to toss out the case. If a new special prosecutor is appointed, it will take that person time to get up to speed, further delaying Tisaby’s trial, he said.

“How much longer will he have to wait for his day in court?” Dailey asked.

Greitens was indicted on felony invasion of privacy in February 2018 for allegedly taking a compromising photo of a woman during a 2015 extramarital affair, before he was governor, and threatening to use it as blackmail if she ever spoke of their relationship. The charge was dropped in the midst of jury selection, but Greitens resigned in June 2018.

Greitens admitted to the affair but denied criminal wrongdoing. Democratic St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner hired Tisaby to investigate Greitens. Her handling of the case and Tisaby’s investigation drew condemnation from the former governor’s attorneys and prompted the investigation.

The seven-count indictment accused Tisaby of lying during a deposition. It alleged that Tisaby denied taking notes during his interview of the woman who was involved with Greitens, although a recording of the interview showed him doing so. The indictment also said that while Tisaby claimed he didn’t receive notes from the prosecutor’s office before interviewing the woman, a document uncovered during grand jury proceedings shows Gardner provided Tisaby her notes.

The indictment also raised concerns about whether Gardner was complicit in his alleged crimes, saying she failed to correct Tisaby’s inaccuracies or report them, and that she made incorrect statements to defense lawyers and a judge.

Greitens also faced a second criminal charge in April 2018, accusing him of using a donor list from the charity he founded, The Mission Continues, to raise money for his 2016 gubernatorial campaign. During the hearing Thursday, Dailey said it was Tisaby who uncovered the donor list. Dailey said, without naming names in court, that the list includes clients of Carmody’s law firm.

“Mr. Tisaby will prove that’s the reason he was indicted,” Dailey said.

That claim drew an angry response from Carmody.

“I don’t even have any idea what donor list he’s talking about,” Carmody told the judge. “The fact of the matter is, there’s not a scintilla of truth.”

Gardner’s role in the Greitens investigation also is under scrutiny from the Missouri office in charge of overseeing lawyers’ professional conduct.

Alan Pratzel, Missouri’s chief disciplinary counsel, said in a court filing in May that a review indicated Gardner concealed evidence that could have helped Greitens. A hearing to determine if Gardner should be disciplined is planned but no date has been set.

Earlier Thursday, about three dozen supporters of Gardner rallied outside the courthouse. Many speakers said Gardner, the city’s first Black female circuit attorney, was targeted because of her race.

“What is happening is another form of lynching — legal lynching,” activist Zaki Baruti said.

Greitens, meanwhile, is back in politics. He announced in March that he’s running for the U.S. Senate in 2022.


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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Britney Spears told a judge at a dramatic hearing Wednesday she wants an end to the conservatorship that has controlled her life and money for 13 years.

Here’s a look at how conservatorships operate, what’s unusual about hers, and why she and so many fans want to #FreeBritney.

HOW DO CONSERVATORSHIPS WORK?

When a person is considered to have a severely diminished mental capacity, a court can step in and grant someone the power to make financial decisions and major life choices for them.

California law says a conservatorship, called a guardianship in some states, is justified for a “person who is unable to provide properly for his or her personal needs for physical health, food, clothing, or shelter,” or for someone who is “substantially unable to manage his or her own financial resources or resist fraud or undue influence.”

The conservator, as the appointee put in charge is called, may be a family member, a close friend or a court-appointed professional.

HOW DOES SPEARS’ WORK?

With a fortune of more than $50 million comes secrecy, and the court closely guards the inner workings of Spears’ conservatorship.

Some aspects have been revealed in documents. The conservatorship has the power to restrict her visitors. It arranges and oversees visits with her sons, ages 14 and 15; father Kevin Federline has full custody. It has the power to take out restraining orders in her name, which it has used more than once to keep away interlopers deemed shady. It has the power to make her medical decisions and her business deals. She said at Wednesday’s hearing that she has been compelled to take drugs against her will, forced to have an intrauterine device implanted for birth control and required to undertake performances when she didn’t want to.

Legally, Spears can get married, but the conservatorship must approve it as with other major life decisions. Spears said Wednesday that she wants to get married and have another child, but has been denied the chance to do either.

Like all California conservatorships, it’s subject to annual accountings and reviews from a court investigator.

WHO HAS POWER OVER SPEARS?

Her father has largely been in charge through the years, and the stereotypical image of a parent preying on a famous child’s fortune fuels the enmity against James Spears and the conservatorship, though his every move is scrutinized by the court.

From 2008 until 2019, he had power over her life choices, and he and attorney Andrew Wallet controlled her money. Now, he has financial control only, and must share that role with the Bessemer Trust, an estate-management firm. Jodi Montgomery, a court-appointed professional, now acts as conservator over her personal matters.

WHY ARE SO MANY CALLING TO #FREEBRITNEY?

Fans who dote on Britney Spears’ social media posts and public statements, trying to decipher her every utterance, dance move or shared meme, have increasingly coalesced into a movement after becoming convinced she was being controlled unfairly. Key were two women who in 2017 turned their hobby of picking apart Spears’ Instagram posts into a podcast, “ Britney’s ‘Gram.” It would help birth the hashtag #FreeBritney.

Hearings can bring dozens of protesters to the courthouse, carrying signs like “CONSERVATORSHIP IS SLAVERY” and “THIS IS TOXIC.”

James Spears has called the group conspiracy theorists, and says those who shout #FreeBritney don’t understand the totality of the situation.

Fans said after the most recent hearing that they felt vindicated by Britney Spears confirming much of what they have said.

WHY WAS IT IMPOSED IN THE FIRST PLACE?

In 2007 and 2008, shortly after she became a mother, she began to have very public mental struggles, with media outlets obsessed over each moment. Hordes of paparazzi aggressively followed her every time she left her house, and she no longer seemed able to handle it.

She attacked one cameraman’s car with an umbrella. She shaved her head at a salon. She lost custody of her children. When she refused to turn over her boys after a visit, she was hospitalized and put on a psychiatric hold. The conservatorship was put in place within days.

WHY HAS IT GONE ON SO LONG?

A conservatorship can always be dissolved by the court, though it’s rare that a person successfully asks to be released. The burden is on them to prove their competence. Spears told the judge Wednesday that she would like to be released without further evaluation, but there is virtually no chance of that happening.

They can last decades because the circumstances that lead to them, like traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer’s, or dementia, are not things people just bounce back from. The mandatory secrecy of medical records has kept murky the reasons why Britney Spears must remain in hers, but it’s clear that it involves psychiatric issues. A recent filing said that she wasn’t capable of giving consent for medical treatment.

Spears’ father and his attorneys have emphasized that she is especially susceptible to people who seek to take advantage of her money and fame.

HOW DOES SPEARS FEEL ABOUT ALL OF THIS?

Before Wednesday, it was largely a mystery. But she revealed more in her 20 minute address to the judge than she has in the 13 previous years. She called the conservatorship “abusive” and “stupid.” She said it does “me way more harm than good.”

She said she wanted control of her own money and to do simple everyday things like ride in a car with her boyfriend. She said she wanted power over her psychotherapy. And that she wants her life back. “It’s been 13 years and it’s enough,” she said.

She did acknowledge in a court filing last year that it did have some value when it was first established, saying it “rescued her from a collapse, exploitation by predatory individuals and financial ruin” and made her “able to regain her position as a world class entertainer.”

___

Follow AP Entertainment Writer Andrew Dalton on Twitter: twitter.com/andyjamesdalton


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SURFSIDE, Fla. (AP) — A wing of a 12-story beachfront condo building collapsed with a roar in a town outside Miami early Thursday, killing at least one person and trapping residents in rubble and twisted metal. Rescuers pulled out dozens of survivors and continued to look for more.

Nearly 100 people were still unaccounted for at midday, authorities said, raising fears that the death toll could climb sharply. But officials did not know how many were in the tower when it fell around 1:30 a.m.

“The building is literally pancaked,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said. “That is heartbreaking because it doesn’t mean, to me, that we are going to be as successful as we wanted to be in finding people alive.”

Hours after the collapse, searchers were trying to reach a trapped child whose parents were believed to be dead. In another case, rescuers saved a mother and child, but the woman’s leg had to be amputated to remove her from the rubble, Frank Rollason, director of Miami-Dade Emergency Management, told the Miami Herald.

Video showed fire crews removing a boy from the wreckage, but it was not clear whether he was the same person mentioned by Rollason.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, who toured the scene, said television did not capture the scale of what happened.

Rescue crews are “doing everything they can to save lives. That is ongoing, and they’re not going to rest,” he said.

Teams of 10 to 12 rescuers were entering the rubble at a time with dogs and other equipment, working until they tire from the heavy lifting, then making way for a new team, said Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, the state’s fire marshal.

“They’re not going to stop just because of nightfall,” Patronis told Miami television station WPLG. “They just may have a different path they pursue.”

Patronis said he was deeply moved by the image of a bunk bed near the now-exposed top of the building.

“Somebody was probably sleeping in it,” he said. “There’s all those what-ifs.”

Authorities did not say what may have caused the collapse. On video footage captured from nearby, the center of the building appeared to fall first, with a section nearest the ocean teetering and coming down seconds later as a huge dust cloud swallowed the neighborhood.

Work was being done on the building’s roof, but Burkett said he did not see how that could have been the cause.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said she got a call from President Joe Biden, who promised to provide any federal aid that was requested.

“We’ll be there,” he said at the White House.

Hotels already had opened to some displaced residents, the mayor said, and deliveries of food, medicine and more were being hastily arranged. Rescue officials tried to determine how many people might be missing and asked residents to check in with them.

About half of the building’s roughly 130 units were affected, the mayor told a news conference. Rescuers pulled at least 35 people from the wreckage by mid-morning, and heavy equipment was being brought in to help stabilize the structure to give them more access, Raide Jadallah of Miami-Dade Fire and Rescue said.

The tower has a mix of seasonal and year-round residents, and while the building keeps a log of guests, it does not keep track of when owners are in residence, Burkett said.

Nicholas Fernandez spent hours after the collapse trying to call two friends who were staying in the building with their young daughter. The family had come to the United States to avoid the COVID-19 outbreak in their home country of Argentina, said Fernandez, of Miami.

“The hope is that, perhaps, someone hears the call. I know there are dogs inside,” he said. “I know it may sound ridiculous what I’m saying but there’s always hope until we hear different.”

A total of 22 South Americans were missing in the collapse — nine from Argentina, six from Paraguay, four from Venezuela and three from Uruguay, according to officials in those countries.

The collapse, which appeared to affect one leg of the L-shaped tower, tore away walls and left some homes in the still-standing part of the building exposed in what looked like a giant dollhouse. Television footage showed beds, tables and chairs inside. Air conditioners hung from some parts of the building, where wires dangled, and part of the parking area beneath the structure appeared collapsed in aerial photos.

Piles of rubble and debris surrounded the area, and cars up to two blocks away were coated with with a light layer of dust from the debris. As crews went through the rubble around midday, smoke wafted through the area. The source was not clear.

Barry Cohen, 63, said he and his wife were asleep in the building when he first heard what he thought was a crack of thunder. The couple went onto their balcony, then opened the door to the building’s hallway to find “a pile of rubble and dust and smoke billowing around.”

“I couldn’t walk out past my doorway,” said Cohen, the former vice mayor of Surfside. “A gaping hole of rubble.”

Eventually rescued with his wife by firefighters, Cohen said he raised concerns years ago about whether nearby construction might be causing damage to the building after seeing cracked pavers on the pool deck.

Surfside City Commissioner Eliana Salzhauer told WPLG that the building’s county-mandated 40-year recertification process was ongoing. Salzhauer said the process was believed to be proceeding without difficulty. A building inspector was on-site Wednesday.

“I want to know why this happened,” Salzhauer said. “That’s really the only question. … And can it happen again? Are any other of our buildings in town in jeopardy?”

At an evacuation site set up in a nearby community center, people who live in buildings neighboring the collapse gathered after being told to flee. Some wept. Some were still dressed in pajamas. Some children tried to sleep on mats spread on the floor.

Jennifer Carr was asleep in a neighboring building when she was awakened by a loud boom and her room shook. She thought it was a thunderstorm but checked the weather app on her phone and saw none. The building’s fire alarms went off, and she and her family went outside and saw the collapse.

“It was devastation,” Carr said. “People were running and screaming.”

The seaside condo development was built in 1981 in the southeast corner of Surfside. It had a few two-bedroom units currently on the market, with asking prices of $600,000 to $700,000 in an area with a neighborhood feel that provides a stark contrast to the glitz and bustle of nearby South Beach.

The area has a mix of new and old apartments, houses, condominiums and hotels, with restaurants and stores serving an international combination of residents and tourists. The main oceanside drag is lined with glass-sided, luxury condominium buildings, but more modest houses are on the inland side. Among the neighborhood’s residents are snowbirds, Russian immigrants and Orthodox Jewish families.

Patricia Avilez considered spending the night in her brother-in-law’s vacant condo on Wednesday but didn’t, only to awake to news of the collapse.

“And then I came here, and it’s gone,” she said. “Everything is disaster.”


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