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Catholic Church Received Up to $3.5 Billion in COVID Aid as Clergy Sex Abuse Costs Pile Up

The U.S. Roman Catholic Church used its clout to amass anywhere between $1.4 billion and $3.5 billion in taxpayer-funded virus aid for small churches as clergy sex abuse costs mount.

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(TMU) – The U.S. Roman Catholic Church used its lobbying clout to amass anywhere between $1.4 billion and $3.5 billion in taxpayer-funded coronavirus aid for small churches, with millions being funneled toward dioceses that have paid massive settlements and filed for bankruptcy due to clergy sexual abuse cover-ups.

On Monday, the U.S. Small Business Administration released the names of the hundreds of thousands of companies that were bailed out under the $659 billion Paycheck Protection Program, the emergency loan program established to keep small businesses afloat amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to an analysis of the agency’s data, The Associated Press (AP) found that at least 3,500 forgivable loans were granted to Catholic dioceses, parishes, school, nonprofits, and other ministries – making the Catholic Church one of the major winners of the pandemic relief program.

At a minimum, the church received $1.4 billion in aid, but the church could have received as much as $3.5 billion. The true figure, however, could be far higher due to the amount of loans that were not accounted for in the list released Monday.

Among those receiving aid was the Archdiocese of New York, which received 15 loans totaling at least $28 million for its top executive offices alone.

In Orange County, California, diocesan officials received four loans worth at least $3 million. The diocese recently opened a lavish glass cathedral believed to have cost over $70 million.

Another loan of at least $20 million was given to a West Virginia diocese where the church found last year that then-Bishop Michael Bransfield had been embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars in church funds and sexually harassing young priests.

While the pandemic and accompanying social distancing and stay-at-home orders impacted the revenue of religious institutions across the United States, scores of dioceses have also suffered financially following the exposure of patterns of sexual abuse by clergy in the Catholic Church.

Following the tidal wave of scandal that struck the church in 2018, the church faced a tripling of sexual abuse reports in the year ending June 2019 that totaled 4,500 across the U.S. In the meantime, Catholic entities paid out $282 million, mostly in settlements, legal fees, and support for clergy who engaged in the sexual crimes.

Recipients of the coronavirus aid include roughly 40 dioceses that have been spilling out hundreds of millions in payments to victims through compensation funds or bankruptcy proceedings. AP found that these dioceses received at least $200 million, although the true number is believed to be higher.

However, the church’s Diocesan Fiscal Management Conference (DFMC) said in May that 9,000 Catholic entities have received loans. According to the DFMC, some 13,000 out of the total 17,000 churches applied for the small business loans.

The Catholic Church was certainly not the only major religious group or entity to receive taxpayer-funded pandemic aid under program, which also went toward evangelical mega-churches and televangelists. Evangelical advisers to President Donald Trump like White House spiritual czar Paula White-Cain were also rewarded loans.

While religious organizations are typically exempt from Small Business Administration loans, the Trump administration has been especially close to the Religious Right and allowed groups to exploit a new loophole following heavy lobbying.

“The government grants special dispensation, and that creates a kind of structural favoritism,” said University of Virginia law professor Micah Schwartzman, who specializes in constitutional issues surrounding religion. “And that favoritism was worth billions of dollars.”

The Paycheck Protection Program has generated controversy over the past weeks as it has been revealed that large companies like McDonald’s and Wendy’s, among others, have received aid through the program. Controversially, aid has also gone toward companies backed by lawmakers and celebrities like Dr. Phil, and groups described as hate groups including anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and anti-LGBTQ organizations.

However, the new revelations about the scale of money handed to the Catholic Church raises fresh questions about the extent to which the wall separating church and state under the First Amendment has eroded under the Trump administration, especially as religious groups that don’t pay taxes are allowed to dip into public funds.

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Corruption

Man Who Spent Decades in Prison Gets $6 Million After Cop Found to Have Faked Evidence

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A North Carolina man who spent decades in prison was awarded $6 million in damages by a federal jury after it was found that he was wrongfully convicted thanks to evidence fabricated by a detective.

Darryl Howard languished in prison for over 20 years on double murder and arson charges in 1995 for killing a woman and her teen daughter in 1991. Last Wednesday, a jury in Winston-Salem found that former Durham police detective Darryl Dowdy simply faked the evidence that resulted in his conviction.

In 2016, Howard’s 80-year sentence was stricken down by a Durham County judge who cited the misconduct of police and prosecutors. The $6 million award was the result of a 2017 federal civil rights lawsuit filed by Howard, reports the News & Observer.

Dowdy, 65, denied the accusations in the lawsuit. The former detective was a 36-year veteran of the Durham Police Department before he retired in 2007.

Howard and his legal team have expressed satisfaction that the jury recognized the grave injustice he faced, but are disappointed that the $6 million is a mere fraction of the $48 million in damages they requested.

Attorney Nick Brustin, who represented Howard, said that Dowdy’s defense attacked Howard for his past gunshot wounds and history of selling and using drugs.

“I think to some extent the racist defense that they have been implementing since the beginning of the ligation has in some ways succeeded,” Brustin said. “I think the verdict doesn’t value the suffering that Darryl went through.”

Howard himself noted that the heavy damage dealt by his long incarceration have completely altered his life.

“I am happy about the verdict, but I am kind of upset about the damages,” Howard told the News & Reporter.

“Just imagine, 23 years I stayed in prison,” he added.

Brustin also highlighted the systemic nature of the injustice his client suffered as a result of Dowdy’s police work.

“The kinds of misconduct are pattern misconduct,” he noted, adding that Durham police need to review other cases handled by the crooked cop.

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Chris Cuomo “indefinitely” gone from CNN after his deep role in brother’s sex scandal is revealed

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CNN anchor Chris Cuomo was suspended indefinitely by CNN on Tuesday after it was revealed by the New York Attorney General’s Office that the star anchor, the most popular on the news network, was deeply involved in assisting his scandal-embroiled brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, amid a flurry of sexual harassment allegations that ultimately led to him resigning.

While Chris Cuomo had apologized in the past for advising his brother’s senior aides – effectively shattering the wall typically standing between policymakers and journalists – the thousands of pages released by Attorney General Letitia James show that the anchor played a deeply intimate role in damage control efforts stemming from the accusations.

The network and its top leadership, including president Jeff Zucker, had backed their star anchor to the hilt in recent months despite accumulating info showing Cuomo’s breach of basic journalistic standards. The anchor also had apologized for advising the governor while simultaneously downplaying or omitting the extent of his direct involvement in the scandal.

Late Tuesday, the network released a statement acknowledging that “the documents, which we were not privy to before their public release, raise serious questions.”

“When Chris admitted to us that he had offered advice to his brother’s staff, he broke our rules and we acknowledged that publicly,” the statement explained. “However, these documents point to a greater level of involvement in his brother’s efforts than we previously knew. As a result, we have suspended Chris indefinitely, pending further evaluation.”

Text messages show that Chris Cuomo clamored to play an increasingly direct role in the scandal, ranging from offers to draft statements for his brother to demands that he play a commanding role in strategic matters. Cuomo also looked into potential angles for news reports and researched the women who accused his brother of sexual misconduct.

“Please let me help with the prep,” Cuomo wrote at to his brother’s top aides as evidence damning the governor mounted.

The move to indefinitely suspend the argumentative and charismatic anchor came as a shock to some anchors, who were aware that he was dear to CNN management. CNN president Zucker also declined to discipline him as reports poured in about his misconduct, reports New York Times.

Chris Cuomo had long admitted that for him, the matter was about “family first, job second.”

“I can be objective about just about any topic, but not about my family,” he said on May 20. He also played down his fervent role in the scandal, claiming that he had been haplessly “looped into calls” with the governor’s inner circle, which he claims was a “mistake” that spilled over onto his work life and placed his CNN colleagues in a “bad spot.”

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Jeffrey Epstein’s pilot testifies: Clinton, Trump, Prince Andrew among “Lolita Express” passengers

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Jeffrey Epstein’s longtime pilot took the stand on Tuesday, the second day of Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial, and detailed the names of famous passengers who rode in the private jet of the disgraced financier who has been accused of a range of crimes, including sex trafficking minors.

Testifying at the trial of Maxwell, who was Epstein’s girlfriend and alleged co-conspirator, pilot Larry Visoski explained how he met a number of notable and powerful people. The names included Prince Andrew, Donald Trump (before he was president), former President Bill Clinton, Chris Tucker, Kevin Spacey, George Mitchell, violinist Itzhak Perlman, and astronaut John Glenn.

The pilot explained that he met the celebrities over the course of decades while flying Epstein’s Boeing 727 Gulfstream jet — often referred to in media as the “Lolita Express” — as well as helicopters.

“I certainly remember President Trump, but not many people associated with him,” the pilot said during cross-examination by Maxwell’s defense team, adding that the future head of state flew on the plane before he became president in 2016.

Clinton was mentioned as Visoski testified about a meeting with a female singer in the cockpit of the jet before flying off from an airport in Palm Beach, Florida. Visoski claims that he remembered the singer, identified as Jane Doe in the courtroom, by her “piercing blue eyes” and that she didn’t appear to be young at the time.

“You’ll forgive the question, Mr. Visoski, but I think you’ll remember that at the time you saw her, you also remembered she had large breasts. Isn’t that right?” asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Maureen Comey.

“Uh. She was a mature woman,” Visoski answered in response.

According to prosecutors, Jane was 14 years old when she was essentially “recruited” by Maxwell in 1994, not long before Visoski met her in the cockpit.

“I can’t visualize her sitting in the passenger compartment like I would, say, President Clinton. It was so long ago,” the pilot said.

“Jane Doe” also testified on Tuesday and explained how she was eating ice cream at a youth summer camp when Maxwell and Epstein approached her in a friendly manner.

Before long, however, Maxwell allegedly began training her on how to “massage” Epstein.

Eventually, she explained, she took part in orgies involving both Maxwell and Esptein at the late financier’s massive homes in Palm Beach, New York City, and New Mexico.

Prosecutors have depicted Maxwell as the mastermind of a sadistic sex trafficking gang that preyed on young women and underage girls. The U.S. government has alleged that over the span of at least 10 years, from 1994 to 2004, she “assisted, facilitated, and contributed to Jeffrey Epstein’s abuse of minor girls by, among other things, helping Epstein to recruit, groom, and ultimately abuse” the girls and young women.

The British media heiress has pleaded not guilty to the six felony counts.

Epstein, 66, died of apparent suicide during his incarceration at a federal prison in Manhattan while facing a likely prison sentence of up to 45 years on charges of pedophilia and sex trafficking.

According to Visoski, from 1991 until 2019, he regularly flew Epstein to his private island in the Caribbean, Little St. James – an island popularly referred to as “Pedophile Island.”

“Every week to every 10 days if we weren’t elsewhere in the world, but, you know, it was a regular destination,” Visoski said.

Visoski also noted that he remembered Maxwell, a one-time girlfriend of Epstein, as an employee of the late sex criminal – albeit one whose specific role was unclear.

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