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Vice News featured Dyson Professor Leora Trub in "Why Do I Keep Texting People Who I Know Aren't That Into Me?"

08/12/2020

Vice News featured Dyson Professor Leora Trub in "Why Do I Keep Texting People Who I Know Aren't That Into Me?"

When people feel isolated, lonely, or bored, they tend to reach for their phones in the hopes their texting partner sends a timely, thoughtful response (or, in pre-pandemic days, initiated a hangout or date) to uplift their mood, said Leora Trub, an associate professor of psychology at Pace University who studies the intersection of psychology and technology.

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"Vice News" featured Elisabeth Haub School of Law's Distinguished Criminal Justice Fellow Mimi Rocah in "Bill Barr’s DOJ Is Fighting the Release of Trump’s Tax Returns"

10/04/2019

"Vice News" featured Elisabeth Haub School of Law's Distinguished Criminal Justice Fellow Mimi Rocah in "Bill Barr’s DOJ Is Fighting the Release of Trump’s Tax Returns"

“I’ve heard from several SDNY alums who have said this is a sad day for the office and its reputation for independence from politics and Main Justice,” said Mimi Rocah, a former SDNY prosecutor. “As one put it: RIP ‘The Sovereign District of New York.’”

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"Vice News" featured Elisabeth Haub School of Law's Distinguished Criminal Justice Fellow Mimi Rocah in "Here are the 7 crimes Trump may have committed in this Ukraine scandal"

10/01/2019

"Vice News" featured Elisabeth Haub School of Law's Distinguished Criminal Justice Fellow Mimi Rocah in "Here are the 7 crimes Trump may have committed in this Ukraine scandal"

...This is beyond probable cause, in my view,” said Mimi Rocah, a former federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York. “Based on what we know so far, would you dive into an investigation? Hell yeah. We’ve done investigations on a lot less than this.”

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"VICE" featured Richard Shadick, a professor of psychology and director of the counseling center at Pace University in "Is '13 Reasons Why' Really as Dangerous as People Say? It's Complicated"

05/06/2019

"VICE" featured Richard Shadick, a professor of psychology and director of the counseling center at Pace University in "Is '13 Reasons Why' Really as Dangerous as People Say? It's Complicated"

...So what’s going on here—is one of these studies wildly off-base? Nope. Both studies are accurate (though each has its limitations), and both bring up important points about 13 Reasons Why and television’s portrayal of suicide, said Richard Shadick, a professor of psychology and director of the counseling center at Pace University. Shadick wasn’t involved with either study. 

The important distinction, he said, is the season each team studied. The content and framing is pretty different in seasons one and two—and the latter ends on a more upbeat note than season one did. In the final episode of season one, we watch Hannah take her life. In the final episode of season two, Hannah’s parents hold a memorial service for their daughter and Clay, who’d been haunted by Hannah’s “ghost” all season, moves on. “I love you and I let you go,” he tells her.

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"Vice News" featured Haub Law professor Bennett L. Gershman in "No one knows why prosecutors dropped the Jussie Smollet case"

04/02/2019

"Vice News" featured Haub Law professor Bennett L. Gershman in "No one knows why prosecutors dropped the Jussie Smollet case"

Tuesday was a bewildering day in what used to be the criminal case against Jussie Smollett.

The black and gay “Empire” actor was facing up to five years in prison for allegedly staging a hate crime against him. Smollett told police that two masked men approached him on a Chicago street one night in late January, screamed “MAGA Country” and other racial and homophobic slurs, beat him, poured bleach on him, and put a noose around his neck. But Chicago police later said he’d paid his alleged assailants, and they arrested the actor on charges of staging the whole attack.

Less than five weeks later, and seemingly out of nowhere, state prosecutors dropped all 16 charges against Smollett on Tuesday, without offering any legal explanation.

Afterward, Smollett gave a heartfelt press conference in which he maintained his innocence. Hours later, Chicago officials seethed, in their own press conference, about the lack of transparency surrounding the decision to drop his charges.

“I’ve never seen a case like this,” said Bennett L. Gershman, a former prosecutor at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and a national expert in prosecutorial misconduct. “Where the prosecutor throws in the towel and says, ‘Forget about it,’ without explaining why.”

In a statement Tuesday, the Cook County state’s attorney’s office said that its prosecutors had reviewed “all of the facts and circumstances of the case,” including Smollett’s record of community service and his agreement to forfeit his $10,000 bond payment. “We believe this is a just and appropriate resolution to the case,” the office said of dropping the charges.

Assistant State Attorney Joe Magats, who took over the case after State Attorney Kimberly Foxx recused herself, told news outlets that his office had no problems with the police investigation or with the evidence that led a grand jury to indict Smollett. “We didn’t exonerate him,” Magats said. “Here’s the thing: We work to prioritize violent crime and the drivers of violent crime. Public safety is our number one priority. I don’t see Jussie Smollett as a threat to public safety.”

But the state attorney’s office apparently hadn’t shared those sentiments with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson. The two officials said the news caught them completely off guard. Richard A. Devine, who served as the state’s attorney in Cook County from 1996 to 2008, told Time that it was “unusual” for the mayor and cops to be kept in the dark.

Smollett’s continued assertion of his innocence particularly distressed Emanuel. “There’s no sense of ownership of what he’s done,” the mayor said Tuesday. “No sense of moral responsibility, besmirching the name of the city.”

Prosecutors could have, for example, tried to secure a plea deal with Smollett and his lawyers, according to Gershman. “You plead guilty. You admit guilt, and show remorse. Say, ‘I’m so sorry, I shouldn’t have done it, it was improper,” he said. “But he’s still claiming his innocence. And prosecutors aren’t demanding any kind of admission. At all. That’s pretty weird to me.” 

The brutal nature of Smollett’s alleged attack comes against a backdrop of rising hate crimes across the country, which catapulted the case to a national flashpoint for conversations about race and the Trump administration. In the days immediately following the alleged attack, Chicago police said they were struggling to locate video evidence to help them identify Smollett’s assailants, which fueled speculation, mostly on the right, that the whole story was a hoax. Weeks later, police said that Smollett paid two brothers, Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, who he knew through his work on “Empire”, $3,500 to stage his attack.

Police reports, obtained via FOIA by CWB Chicago, a local network reporting on public safety, and released Wednesday, shed a little more light on the investigation: For example, one of the Osundairo brothers told police that he’d put bleach into a bottle of El Yucateco hot sauce, and poured it on Smollett. (A reporter from the New York Post located that same bottle at the scene of the alleged crime.) Chicago Police also received a warrant to search Smollett's iCloud account, which they shared with the FBI.

On Tuesday, Smollett’s lawyers said that the Osundairo brothers were Smollett’s trainers and did not deny that they had attacked him. But they said the $3,500 payment was for “nutrition and training.” In the police report, one of the brothers told detectives that he generally charges between $20 to $50 an hour and only had two clients, including Smollett. The other brother told detectives that he was training 11 people on a trial basis, for free. 

The lingering confusion from Tuesday’s announcement has only exacerbated existing conspiracies that have swirled around the Smollett case from the get-go. Some right-wing pundits have argued that Smollett belongs to a vast, liberal, elitist conspiracy to malign the GOP through “hate hoaxes” and that the state’s attorney’s office acted on behalf of a long list of conservative boogeymen, including billionaire philanthropist George Soros, presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, and the Obamas.

Meanwhile, leftists have asked why anyone should trust Chicago officials or police, given the city’s history of corruption and brutality (including the cover-up of the death of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager who was shot dead by Chicago police in 2014).

“This is a very unusual case which raised all sorts of clamor, and questions about the conduct of people in Chicago and whether the streets are filled with racist hate crimes: dramatic, serious issues of race and policing,” Gershman said. “I”m not saying they did the wrong thing, but I’d like to know the reasons why he [Assistant State Attorney Joe Magats] did what he did. And without that, we can speculate, and the kind of speculation here can be very damning. You want the public to understand and trust the prosecutor.”

But, Gershman added, it’s also prosecutors prerogative to offer an explanation for their decision to charge or not charge someone.

“A prosecutor doesn’t have to give an explanation. That’s part of their discretion. They can decide to charge, drop charges. And they never really have to give a reason,” Gershman said. “But when prosecutors make decisions like this, I think the public demands a clear, fuller explanation.”

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"Vice" featured Pace University's Haub Law School Professor Bridget Crawford in "Trump's America Is a Great Place to Cheat on Taxes"

10/08/2018

"Vice" featured Pace University's Haub Law School Professor Bridget Crawford in "Trump's America Is a Great Place to Cheat on Taxes"

Last week, the New York Times released the most comprehensive look into Donald Trump's financial history ever compiled. Not only did it debunk the president's oft-repeated etiological myth about having only received a $1 million loan from his dad, Fred, which he later had to pay back with interest—it showed how the father-son team systematically cheated on taxes.

Though the Times published a couple of TL;DRs of its own 13,000-word article, here is an even more condensed version: Trump was a millionaire by the time he was eight, in part because his father made him a banker or a landlord on various building projects. His family also used grantor-retained annuity trusts (GRATS) and a fake company called All County Building Supply & Maintenance to ultimately transfer more than $1 billion in wealth to their kids. All of this should have led to a tax bill of about $550 million, but they only paid $52.2 million. (The Trumps also had a tendency to devalue or inflate the value of properties based on their needs, chipping away even more at what little they paid the government.)

The extent to which elites play by their own rules is an old story, one perhaps most glaringly revealed back in 2016, when the so-called Panama Papers leaked. That trove of documents showed how seemingly every 1 percenter in the world was stashing wealth in shell companies created by a now-notorious law firm called Mossack Fonseca, leaving it up to the other 99 percent to pay a disproportionate amount in taxes. The following year, a sort of sequel came in the form of the Paradise Papers scoop implicating more than 120 politicians from around the world in similar schemes of quasi-legal tax avoidance.

But the new Times piece, and the massive amount of documents it relied upon, suggested the best way to grift the government might not be by offshoring (or often legal tax avoidance) at all, but rather by engaging in a series of bald-faced crimes (a.k.a. tax evasion) and hoping the government didn't catch you. Conversations with tax lawyers and experts suggested offshoring remains a huge and sprawling problem that governments need to rein in, and it's worth remembering that Trump's name was sprinkled throughout the Panama Papers. But straight-up tax evasion that doesn't involve tropical locales is an incredible drag on the system in its own right.

"As to which problem is 'bigger,' it is difficult to say without further research, but in terms of sheer number of people involved, I think one would find more non-compliant taxpayers right under the nose of Uncle Sam than basking in a tax haven like the Cayman Islands," Bridget Crawford, a scholar of taxation at Pace University Law School, told me.

Crawford, who described herself as a "classic lefty liberal lawyer" with 25 years of experience giving advice to wealthy families, said that—despite being loathe to admit it—a lot of what was outlined in the Times's expose has tended to be relatively common for the country's elites.

"The notion of creating a partnership with your children, for example, rich families do that all the time to transfer wealth from one another," she said. "That's kind of plain vanilla estate planning for the ultra wealthy."

More galling, she said, was the systematic underreporting of gifts and the invention of the All County company, perhaps the wildest revelation in the Trump expose. Crawford suggested the Trumps got away with all of this in no small part because the IRS simply hasn't been equipped to catch every bad actor. The wealthy know this, and often gamble on it.

"Rich people often call that playing the audit lottery," she said.

This is not likely to get better any time soon. With the rise of the Tea Party, the IRS became an even more politicized entity with mainstream Republicans like Ted Cruz calling to abolish it. And in February, Trump appointed tax lawyer Charles Rettig as head of the agency—a move nonprofit news service DCReport called tantamount to "making El Chapo head of the DEA" because his claim to fame was defending people in court accused of doing some of the very same things Trump's family did.

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