Two women said Thursday that singer R. Kelly picked them out of a crowd at a Baltimore after-party in the mid-1990s when they were underage and had sex with one of the teens although she was under the influence of marijuana and alcohol and could not consent.
The women, Latresa Scaff and Rochelle Washington, joined lawyer Gloria Allred at a New York City news conference to tell their story publicly for the first time.
Their accusations come six weeks after a Lifetime documentary series, "Surviving R. Kelly," took another look at old sexual misconduct allegations against the R&B star.
Scaff said she was 16 and Washington was 15 when the pair attended a concert and after-party featuring Kelly and LL Cool J in Baltimore.
Scaff said Kelly singled the girls out at the after-party, had a member of his entourage ply them with drugs and alcohol and told them to meet him at his hotel suite.
"We both went to the hotel, thinking there was going to be another party there," Scaff said.
Scaff said the two girls were in Kelly's hotel room when Kelly entered with his penis already outside of his jeans. She said he wanted a threesome with the two teens but Washington said no and escaped to the bathroom.
With Washington in the bathroom, Kelly asked Scaff for oral sex and then had intercourse with her although she was under the influence of marijuana and alcohol and "did not have the capacity to consent," she said.
"When I first met R. Kelly that night, I was very happy and excited because I was young and starstruck," Scaff said. "However now that I am an adult, I feel hurt by what he did to me when I was only 16 years old and under the influence of alcohol and marijuana which had been provided to me at his after-party."
Washington said that now she's a mother, she feels she was taken advantage of by Kelly. "I just want justice for anyone that was hurt or violated," she said. "I want victims to know it's not their fault."
Allred, who said she has several clients who allege that they were sexually abused by R. Kelly, not all of whom have spoken out publicly, said Scaff and Washington were brave to come forward.
"For years they were embarrassed about what happened that night and they were not sure if they should blame themselves for what happened when they were teenagers," she said.
Allred said the two women planned to meet with officials from the U.S. attorney's office for the Eastern District of New York. She did not say why she had chosen that jurisdiction for alleged crimes in Maryland.
Kelly's lawyer, Steve Greenberg, has said his client never knowingly had sex with an underage woman. An email was left with Greenberg seeking comment about Scaff's and Washington's allegations.
Kelly, whose legal name is Robert Kelly, has faced allegations of sexual misconduct with underage girls for decades and has denied them.
The now 52-year-old was acquitted in 2008 of child pornography charges stemming from a sex tape he allegedly made with an underage girl.
Sasha Sagan, daughter of the late Carl Sagan, is working on a book her publisher is calling "part memoir, part guidebook and part social history."
G.P. Putnam's Sons announced Thursday that Sagan's "For Small Creatures Such As We: Finding Wonder and Meaning in Our Unlikely World," is coming out in October.
She will share memories of her father, the famed astronomer, and explore her beliefs in the prevalence of science and the natural world. She will also write about how she and her husband created "new, secular rituals" when they became parents.
Sasha Sagan is a writer, filmmaker and producer. Her book is drawn from a widely read essay, "Lessons of Immortality and Mortality From My Father, Carl Sagan," that she wrote for New York Magazine in 2014.
"All the Stars" are not performing at the Academy Awards, including Kendrick Lamar and SZA.
A person familiar with the decision, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren't allowed to publicly discuss it, told The Associated Press on Thursday that the duo behind "All the Stars" will no longer perform at Sunday's show because of "logistics and timing."
Lamar and SZA will still attend the Oscars, where Lady Gaga will perform.
"All the Stars," from the "Black Panther" soundtrack, is nominated for best original song.
The other four songs competing for the award will be performed Sunday. The nominees are "Shallow" from "A Star Is Born"; "I'll Fight" from the Ruth Bader Ginsburg documentary "RBG"; "The Place Where Lost Things Go" from "Mary Poppins Returns"; and "When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings" from "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs."
The estate of Michael Jackson on Thursday sued HBO over a documentary about two men who accuse the late pop superstar of molesting them when they were boys, saying the film violates a 1992 contract to air a Jackson concert.
The lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court alleges that by co-producing and airing "Leaving Neverland," as HBO intends to do next month, the cable channel is breaching a deal to not disparage the singer. The decades-old contract allowed the cable network to air "Michael Jackson in Concert in Bucharest: The Dangerous Tour" and included language that HBO would not disparage Jackson at any future point.
According to the suit, the film implies Jackson molested children on the very tour that the concert footage came from.
"It is hard to imagine a more direct violation of the non-disparagement clause," says the suit, which asks the court to order arbitration and says damages could exceed $100 million.
The film premiered in January at the Sundance Film Festival, where its subjects Wade Robson and James Safechuck received a standing ovation and took questions afterward along with director Dan Reed. The first installment of the four-hour documentary will first air on HBO on March 3, with the second half airing the following night. Britain's Channel 4 will air it around the same time.
HBO did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit, but the channel has consistently defended the documentary in the face of complaints from the estate.
The lawsuit states in its opening sentence that "Michael Jackson is innocent. Period," and goes on to recount the criminal investigation and 2005 trial in which Jackson was acquitted, highlighting the conflicting statements through the years of Robson and Safechuck, who are described as "admitted perjurers" in the suit. Both men told authorities that Jackson did not molest them, later claiming they were abused in lawsuits filed after the singer's death and in graphic detail in "Leaving Neverland."
It also reiterates the estate's position that it was irresponsible for the film not to include any defense of Jackson from those who knew him or further fact checks of the men.
HBO responded with a statement saying its plans to air "Leaving Neverland" remain unchanged.
"Dan Reed is an award-winning filmmaker who has carefully documented these survivors' accounts," the network's statement said. "People should reserve judgment until they see the film."
Reed is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
"Michael is an easy target because he is not here to defend himself, and the law does not protect the deceased from defamation, no matter how extreme the lies are," the lawsuit states. "Michael may not have lived his life according to society's norms, but genius and eccentricity are not crimes."
Follow Andrew Dalton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/andyjamesdalton .
Omaha police used justifiable force when firing dozens of bullets at an armed robbery suspect in a fast-food restaurant and had no duty to protect a law enforcement reality television show crew member who was inadvertently shot and killed, the police chief said.
Bryce Dion, 38, who was a sound technician on "Cops," was on a ride-along with Omaha police officers in August 2014 when he was killed, The Omaha World-Herald reported.
His family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the City of Omaha, accusing the police of negligence and using excessive deadly force.
In court Wednesday, Christian Williams, a lawyer for Dion's family, said the suspect, Cortez Washington, was clearly a threat to officers when they fired on him as many as 39 times.
But, he said, officers fired around two dozen additional shots even as Washington was running from the restaurant, and that one of those bullets inadvertently hit Dion, who was standing in the entrance to the restaurant.
The bullet slipped through a gap in the armpit of the bulletproof vest Dion was wearing, and he died.
Washington was also shot and killed.
Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer testified that the police response was justified and that Washington "never stopped" being a danger to responding officers, even when he was running away.
Officers later learned that Washington's weapon was a pellet gun.
The police department's internal affairs unit and a Douglas County grand jury cleared the three officers who fired their weapons of any wrongdoing.
Douglas County District Judge Jim Masteller is expected to take the case under advisement after the trial ends this week.
Dion was the first crew member to be killed in more than 30 seasons of "Cops."
Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com
Peter Tork, a talented singer-songwriter and instrumentalist whose musical skills were often overshadowed by his role as the goofy, lovable bass guitarist in the made-for-television rock band The Monkees, has died at age 77.
Tork's son Ivan Iannoli told The Associated Press his father died Thursday morning at the family home in Connecticut of complications from adinoid cystic carcinoma, a rare cancer of the salivary glands. He had battled the disease since 2009.
"Peter's energy, intelligence, silliness, and curiosity were traits that for decades brought laughter and enjoyment to millions, including those of us closest to him," his son said in a statement. "Those traits also equipped him well to take on cancer, a condition he met like everything else in his life, with unwavering humor and courage."
Tork, who was often hailed by the other Monkees as the band's best musician, had studied music since childhood. He was accomplished on guitar, bass guitar, keyboards, banjo and other instruments. Michael Nesmith, the Monkees' lead guitarist, said Tork was the better of the two. Tork said he played bass because none of the others wanted to.
He had been playing in small clubs in Los Angeles when a friend and fellow musician, Steven Stills, told him TV casting directors were looking for "four insane boys" to play members of a struggling rock band.
Stills, a member of the legendary rock bands Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, reportedly told Tork he'd auditioned and was rejected because his teeth were ugly. He thought the handsome Tork might fare better.
When the show debuted in September 1966 Tork and fellow band members Nesmith, Micky Dolenz and David Jones became overnight teen idols.
Nesmith was the serious Monkee, Jones was the cute one and Dolenz the zany one.
Tork said he adopted his "dummy" persona from the way he'd get audiences at Greenwich Village folk clubs to engage with him in the early 1960s.
He knew only one member of the Monkees before the show's debut, Nesmith who had been running "Hoot Nights" at the Troubadour nightclub in Los Angeles where Tork would occasionally perform.
"As I write this my tears are awash, and my heart is broken," Nesmith posted on his Facebook page Thursday. "I have said this before -- and now it seems even more apt -- the reason we called it a band is because it was where we all went to play."
During its two-year run the show would win an Emmy for outstanding comedy series and the group itself would land seven songs in Billboard's Top 10. Three, "I'm a Believer," ''Daydream Believer" and "Last Train to Clarksville," would reach No. 1.
Initially, the Monkees was a band whose members didn't play their instruments or write many of their songs. That was something that infuriated both Tork and Nesmith.
In later years, Tork would tell of going to an early recording session, only to be told dismissively that he wasn't needed, that session musicians were laying down the musical tracks and all the Monkees were needed for was the vocals.
"I was a hired hand, and I didn't quite know that, and I didn't quite get it," he told The Associated Press in 2000. "I had fantasies of being more important than it turns out I was."
Eventually he and Nesmith wrested control of the band's musical fate from Don Kirshner, who had been brought in as the show's music producer. By the group's third album, "Headquarters," the Monkees were playing their instruments and had even performed live in Hawaii.
After the show concluded in 1968 the band went on a lengthy concert tour that at one point included Jimi Hendrix as the opening act.
Creative differences led Tork to leave soon after the group's 1968 movie and album "Head."
For several years he struggled financially and creatively, working for a time as a waiter and a schoolteacher.
By the mid-1980s, thanks to TV reruns and album reissues, the Monkees gained a new, younger following, and Tork rejoined the others for reunion tours. All four produced a new album, "Justus," in 1996 featuring them on all of the instrumentals and including songs they had written.
In the 1990s Tork also formed the group Shoe Suede Blues and toured and recorded frequently.
Later albums included the solo work "Stranger Things Have Happened" and the Shoe Suede Blues albums "Cambria Hotel," ''Step By Step" and Relax Your Mind."
Tork begged off a Monkees reunion tour with Nesmith and Dolenz just last year to finish "Relax Your Mind." Jones died in 2012.
Associated Press Writer Pat Eaton-Robb in Hartford, Connecticut contributed to this story.
Nashville producer Fred Foster, who produced some of Roy Orbison's most popular records and was the first to produce records from Kris Kristofferson and Dolly Parton, has died. He was 87.
His publicist, Martha Moore, said Foster died Wednesday in Nashville, and that a memorial service will be held later.
Born in 1931 in North Carolina, Foster helped launch the careers of many hit country artists and was a major supporter of some of Nashville's biggest songwriters. He also worked with artists like Tony Joe White, Willie Nelson, Charlie McCoy and Jeannie Seely.
In the 1960s, he moved his record label, Monument Records, from Washington, D.C., to Nashville.
Foster was the first to see the potential in a young singer-songwriter from East Tennessee named Dolly and got her songs cut by other artists, as well as recording and releasing her own material. But it wasn't until she started appearing on Porter Wagoner's TV show that she became popular.
"I am heartbroken that my friend Fred Foster has passed on," Parton said in a statement on Thursday. "Fred was one of the very first people to believe in me and gave me chances no one else would or could. We've stayed friends through the years and I will miss him. I will always love him."
"It's a gift, being able to sense something unique in somebody, and that's what I aimed for, always," said Foster in 2007. "Anybody that dropped a needle on a groove of a Monument record, I wanted them to immediately know, 'Oh, that's Dolly Parton,' or 'That's Roy Orbison.' It had to be unique."
Foster also owned a publishing company, Combine Music, and Kristofferson was one of his hires, a Texas-born athlete and Army veteran who loved William Blake. He had been trying to break through as a songwriter, even working as a janitor in a Music Row recording studio. After hearing some of his songs, Foster said he would only hire Kristofferson as a songwriter if he also signed a record deal.
"He was so intelligent, so gifted, so talented and he didn't sound like anybody I had ever heard," Foster told The Associated Press in 2016, the same year Foster was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Foster is credited as co-writer on Kristofferson's hit song, "Me and Bobby McGee." Foster came up with the idea to name a song after a female secretary in his building, whose name was Bobbie McKee. Kristofferson told the magazine "Performing Songwriter" that he was inspired to write the lyrics about a man and woman on the road together after watching the Frederico Fellini film, "La Strada."
Janis Joplin, who had a close relationship with Kristofferson, changed the lyrics to make Bobby McGee a man and cut her version just days before she died in 1970 from a drug overdose. The recording became a posthumous No. 1 hit for Joplin.
In the early 1960s, Foster helped Roy Orbison become an international star with his recordings on Monument. Orbison was an unlikely rock 'n' roller with his falsetto and penchant for wearing dark sunglasses and black suits. His singles on Monument were dark and emotional, backed by soaring strings and doo-wop backing vocals. Some of the classic Orbison songs released by Monument include "Only the Lonely," ''Oh, Pretty Woman," and "Crying."
"Oh, Pretty Woman" sold more than 7 million copies in 1964 and earned Orbison his first Grammy nomination for best rock & roll recording.
Foster continued to work as a producer throughout his life, never really slowing down. He produced "Last of the Breed," a 2007 collaborative album between Ray Price, Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson that resulted in a Grammy win for Price and Nelson for best country collaboration with vocals. At 85, he worked on a Price tribute album for Nelson, called "For the Good Times," that was released in 2016.
"If I don't know more at 85 than I did at 75, I am not learning very fast, am I?" Foster said then. "I think I'm probably a better producer today than I have ever been."
The Latest on a documentary featuring two men who accuse Michael Jackson of molesting them as boys (all times local):
The estate of Michael Jackson is suing HBO over a documentary about two men who accuse the late pop superstar of molesting them when they were boys.
The lawsuit filed Thursday in Los Angeles County Superior Court alleges that by co-producing and airing "Leaving Neverland," as HBO intends to do next month, the cable channel is violating a 1992 contract for showing a Jackson concert in which it agreed not to disparage the singer.
The suit states that the contract covered future disparagement of Jackson, and that the film alleges Jackson molested children on the "Dangerous" tour that the concert footage came from. It asks the court to order arbitration, and says damages could exceed $100 million.
HBO did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit, but the channel has consistently defended the documentary in the face of complaints from the estate.
Michael Jackson accusers Wade Robson and James Safechuck say that the Sundance Film Festival is first time they've ever felt public support for their allegations the King of Pop molested them.
The documentary "Leaving Neverland," which premiered at the festival last month and will air on HBO in two parts on March 3 and 4, chronicles how their lives intersected with Jackson's. The film was met with a standing ovation at Sundance , but has been treated with disbelief and even threats from Jackson's fans.
The singer's estate has condemned the documentary and called the men's credibility into question.
Both accusers came forward with allegations of sexual abuse after Jackson's death in 2009 and after they had told officials otherwise.
The Kentucky teen at the heart of an encounter last month with a Native American activist at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington is suing The Washington Post for $250 million, alleging the newspaper falsely labeled him a racist. His attorneys are threatening numerous other news organizations, including The Associated Press.
President Donald Trump cheered the lawsuit, tweeting Wednesday that "Covington student suing WAPO. Go get them Nick. Fake News!" The legal action, and possible future ones, comes at a time of intense scrutiny of Trump's relationship with the press, which he has repeatedly labeled the "enemy of the people." Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas this week suggested revisiting a cornerstone of modern press freedom, the 1964 New York Times Co. v. Sullivan case, which established knowing or reckless disregard of falsity as a pre-requisite for libel actions by public officials, a standard later extended to libel actions by public figures as well.
In papers filed Tuesday in federal court in Kentucky, Nicholas Sandmann and his parents alleged that the Post had engaged in "targeting and bullying" and modern "McCarthyism."
"The Post ignored basic journalist standards because it wanted to advance its well-known and easily documented, biased agenda against President Donald J. Trump ... by impugning individuals perceived to be supporters," according to the complaint.
In a statement Wednesday, the Post said it was "reviewing a copy of the lawsuit" and planned "to mount a vigorous defense."
Sandmann's attorneys also are threatening legal action against The Associated Press and other news organizations. In a letter to the AP, dated Feb. 15, Atlanta-based attorney L. Lin Wood called on the news cooperative to "retract and correct" what his letter asserts are "defamatory statements." Sandmann also provided his version of the events.
The Associated Press took great care to ensure its stories were measured and fair, reporting the facts of what transpired and adding details as they emerged, said spokeswoman Lauren Easton, adding that AP stands by its stories.
The actions of Sandmann and his Covington Catholic High School classmates have been intensely debated since video and photographs emerged of them wearing "Make America Great Again" hats and facing off against Omaha Nation elder Nathan Phillips.
Both Sandmann and Nathan Phillips say they were trying to defuse tensions that were rising among three groups on a day Washington hosted both the anti-abortion March for Life, attended by the Covington students, and the Indigenous Peoples March. But video of Sandmann and Phillips standing very close to each other , with Sandmann staring and at times smiling at Phillips as he sang and played a drum, gave some who watched it a different impression.
Interpretations changed over the days following the incident as witnesses released more cellphone video footage. Phillips had approached Sandmann, but well before that, both his group and Sandmann's were confronted by a third group that appeared to be affiliated with the Black Hebrew Israelite movement.
Videos show members of the religious group yelling disparaging and profane insults at the students, some of whom shouted back. Video also shows the Native Americans being insulted by the small religious group. Sandmann's legal team has released its own video , "Nick Sandmann: The Truth in 15 Minutes." It shows scenes from the confrontation, clips from news coverage and interviews, and examples of harsh Tweets and comments aimed at Sandmann and his high school.
Phillips did not immediately return efforts to reach him for comment.
First Amendment lawyers contacted by the AP were hesitant to comment without reading the full legal complaint. Floyd Abrams, who worked on the landmark Pentagon Papers case of 1971, wrote in an email that "the press does get a good deal of leeway in voicing opinions about matters they have seen and are commenting on."
One legal question might be whether Sandmann would be treated in court as a public or private figure. Abrams observed that "sometimes individuals involved in newsworthy events are treated as involuntary limited purpose public figures," meaning they would have to meet a higher legal standard than would a private citizen.
AP National Writer Hillel Italie contributed to this report.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson took it personally when detectives determined that "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett allegedly lied about being the victim of a racist and homophobic attack .
Speaking Thursday at a news conference, Johnson said he was angry and offended that another black man would exploit racial divisions for his own gain — and smear the reputation of a city Johnson has worked his entire career to protect.
"I know the racial divide that exists here. I know how hard it's been for our city and our nation to come together. And I also know the disparities and I know the history," Johnson said. "'Empire' actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career."
Johnson, a lifelong Chicagoan, grew up in some of the city's toughest and most segregated neighborhoods. He lived in Chicago's notorious Cabrini-Green housing project until he was 9, and then in the South Side neighborhood of Washington Heights.
After nearly 30 years as a police officer, Johnson was asked to lead the department in 2016 after former Superintendent Garry McCarthy was fired following the release of dashcam footage showing a white police officer fatally shooting an unarmed black teenager 16 times. Mayor Rahm Emanuel hoped to repair the trust between the police and residents, and Johnson promised to do his best.
His son, who gave Johnson a kidney in 2017 after the superintendent battled a potentially life-threatening condition, recently joined the police force.
Smollett's claims thrust the city back into an international spotlight it didn't want.
Smollett, who is black and gay, told police he was physically attacked by two men who shouted homophobic and racial slurs at him before beating him up and throwing some kind of chemical on him the early morning of Jan. 29. He also said his attackers shouted, "This is MAGA country," an apparent reference to President Donald Trump's campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again," and looped a rope around his neck.
But his story fell apart when brothers Abimbola "Abel" Osundairo and Olabinjo Osundairo — bodybuilders and aspiring actors who Smollett knew from the "Empire" set and the gym — told police that Smollett paid them $3,500 to stage the attack because he was unhappy about his salary and wanted to promote his career.
Smollett was arrested Thursday morning and was appeared in court later that day. A judge set his bond at $100,000.
"Why would anyone, especially an African-American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations?" Johnson said. "How could someone look at the hatred and suffering associated with that symbol and see an opportunity to manipulate that symbol to further his own public profile? How can an individual who's been embraced by the city of Chicago turn around and slap everyone in this city in the face by making these false claims?"
Johnson has led the police department as violence in some neighborhoods spiked. He recently pointed to double-digit decreases in gun violence over the past two years as proof of progress. On Thursday, he began his remarks by saying that the families of gun violence deserved more attention than Smollett.
He also noted that the city hosts one of the world's largest gay pride parades every year, and said police take all hate crimes seriously.
"I love the city of Chicago and the Chicago Police Department, warts and all," Johnson said. "But this publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn't earn and certainly didn't deserve."
Check out the AP's complete coverage of the Jussie Smollett case.
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