In a surprising turn of events during the Pussy Riot appeal trial today, one of the band members was set free, while the two-year sentences of the other two were upheld by the Moscow City Court.
The court reaffirmed the guilty verdict against all three women on charges of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred," but freed Yekaterina Samutsevich. The three-judge panel accepted the argument by her newly hired lawyer, Irina V. Khrunova, that her role in the church protest was not parallel to that of the other two women, because she was seized and taken out of the cathedral before she had time to sing or jump around, according to the New York Times.
As the Times reports, however, the court failed to address the procedural problems with the initial trial:
The judges did not address the numerous concerns that the women and their defense lawyers raised in August — what they called the arbitrary disqualification of defense witnesses, the testimony by so-called victims who were not in the cathedral for the Pussy Riot stunt, the bizarre conflation of alleged moral offenses and violations of the state penal code.
The other two band members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Maria Alyokhina, are headed to prison colonies, but their lawyers will continue to appeal, according to the Times, which also notes that the verdict is sure to "intensify, rather than quiet, any debate."
In a speech during the trial Tolokonnikova predicted the fallout from the Pussy Riot case in wider society: "What is happening now, what is happening during the third Putin presidential term — it unfortunately leads to growing instability," she said. "I will go away for one and a half years, and a civil war will erupt in the country, because Putin is doing everything to achieve it."
Pussy Riot's appeal trial, which was scheduled for today, has been postponed until October 10, after one of the women requested a new defense lawyer. The AP reports:
As the hearing began Monday, band member Yekaterina Samutsevich unexpectedly announced that she has fired her three lawyers over an unspecified disagreement. Samutsevich said she had found another lawyer but had not yet signed a contract. Her fellow band members said they supported Samutsevich's choice but would still retain the services of their lawyers.
Olga Mefodyeva, an analyst at the Center for Political Technologies, told the AP the decision may be a way to draw waning international attention to the trial again.
Pyotr Verzilov, the husband of band member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, downplayed the move. The defense team says the women are "under tremendous pressure, with the government threatening to take away their children," and Verzilov says Samutsevich's decision "was simply caused by a change of mood," according to the AP.
The riot grrrls who walked into Christ the Savior cathedral on February 21st, screamed, danced and asked the Virgin Mary to “put Putin away,” are now locked up in a medieval castle-style detention center in Moscow. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich were sentenced to two years in prison on August 17 on charges of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” for their performance protest. An appeals trial is scheduled for October 1st, but no one is holding their breath. Instead, the Pussy Riot team is turning to the international community to try and put pressure on Putin.
The whole world, including Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev and Russian Human Rights Commissioner Vladimir Lukin, has condemned the absurd sentence. But that doesn’t matter, says Mark Feygin, one of the Pussy Riot defense attorneys, since, as Mother Jones' Sydney Brownstone reported, the verdict was basically phoned in by Putin. In court on Monday, the lawyers will point to the breaches of law that occured in Pussy Riot's initial trial, including barring key witnesses and experts from testifying and preventing defense lawyers from having confidential discussions with the three band members. Alisa Obraztsova, a legal assistant for the defense team, says the court may reduce the sentence by a few months, "just to show that the appeal is working. But we cannot be sure even in this."
Mother Jonesreleased some more Romney video today. This time it's footage of Romney, circa 1985, laying out Bain Capital's business philosophy. The clip was included on a CD-ROM that was created to commemorate Bain & Co.'s 25th anniversary and which was provided to David Corn by a former Bain employee. Romney has repeatedly pointed to his business experience and role at Bain as proof he can rev up the US economy and create more jobs than Obama can, but the vintage video confirms what many have been saying all along: that job creation was not the point of Bain. Young Mitt says the goal of the company was to buy stakes in undervalued companies and then "harvest them at a significant profit" years later.
The Obama campaign responded today by sending out a statement from Randy Johnson, a former worker at Ampad, the office supply company Bain acquired in 1992, proceeding to fire hundred of workers.
Today’s video confirms what I and other workers fired by Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital already know: that Romney’s business experience was never about creating jobs. Romney’s own words prove that his focus was putting profits before people from the very beginning, ‘harvesting’ companies to make a ‘significant profit’ for himself and his investors – even if it meant investing in companies that shipped American jobs to China. Any other explanation Romney puts forth about this ‘private sector’ experience or understanding of the ‘real economy’ are just empty words from a man desperately trying to rewrite the past in order to win an election.
The Romney campaign responded by trotting out its standard line about the candidate's time at Bain. "In addition to starting new businesses, Mitt Romney helped build Bain Capital by turning around broken companies, creating and saving thousands of jobs," Romney campaign spokesperson Amanda Henneberg told the National Journal. "The problem today is that President Obama hasn't been able to turn around our economy in the same way." As David Corn pointed out today, 1985-era Mitt Romney said it could take up to eight years to turn around a company. Now the candidate is willing to give the president less than four years to turn around the entire US economy.
If you're overseas and voting by mail in Connecticut this November, grab an aspirin and a pen with lots of ink. The state's Supreme Court hadn't resolved a partisan scuffle over who gets to be listed first on the ballot this year before overseas absentee ballots were dropped in the mail, so those voters will have to write in all the candidates' names themselves, according to Deputy Secretary of State James Spallone.
The Connecticut Republican Party challenged (PDF) Secretary of State Denise Merrill's decision to list Democratic candidates first on the ballot this year, arguing that it violated a statute mandating that the party whose candidate for governor got the most votes in the last election gets to be listed first in all ballots. (The esoteric law dates back more a century, Spallone says—before suffrage was extended to women and most African-Americans in the state.)
Colbert notes that Republicans are jumping the Romney ship left and right, but that "there is a new video that strikes a crushing blow to the Obama campaign—and it is everywhere, from Fox News to Fox Business News."
The video of Obama, which is from 1998, reveals that he favors "redistribution" and thus is... a Democrat. "He dropped the R-bomb! Redistribution! Which is just fancy talk for a black guy is coming for your stuff."
On Comedy Central's Key & Peele Wednesday, Obama (Jordan Peele) and his "Anger Translator" Luther (Keegan-Michael Key) reacted to Mother Jones' release of the videos from a private Romney fundraiser.
Obama, in deadpan professorial mode, says Romney "raise[d] questions about the fairness of our tax code." Luther screams: "Did you say that half the country doesn't pay income taxes? What about you, Mitt? What about you though? Did you pay income taxes? I mean, I don't know because a brother ain't seen nothin yet! You know what I'm sayin'? Can you give us a little peak?"
Later, talking about the unrest in the Arab world, and the need for diplomacy and honest dialogue, Obama says, "In these tumultuous times, clear communication is our best ally." Translation? "Yeah, that and Mother Jones releasin' a video of your dumb ass, Mitt! Yeah, I ball so hard motherf*ckers wanna fine me!"