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Conviction Overturned: Oklahoma Man Granted New Trial Due to Judge-Prosecutor Sexual Relationship

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In a significant turn of events, a man convicted of murder in Oklahoma is set to receive a new trial after it was discovered that the judge who sentenced him had engaged in a sexual relationship with one of the prosecutors involved in the case.

Robert Leon Hashagen III was convicted in February 2021 for the murder of 94-year-old Evelyn Goodall in 2013. However, after the revelation of the undisclosed sexual relationship between Judge Timothy Henderson and a prosecutor, Hashagen’s defense team appealed the conviction.

In a 3-2 decision, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruled on Thursday in favor of a new trial for Hashagen, citing that the undisclosed relationship violated his due process rights. The court recognized that the sexual involvement between the judge and prosecutor had a significant impact on the entire trial and could not be disregarded.

Judge William Musseman stated, “The failure of the judge and prosecutor to scrupulously avoid the potential for an error of this kind is indeed a betrayal of the high ethical standards to which all legal professions should aspire.”

Judge Henderson, who is married, resigned in March 2021 following allegations of sexual misconduct made by three female attorneys. Despite admitting to the consensual nature of the relationship, he maintained that he had acted impartially as a judicial officer throughout the Hashagen case.

A special prosecutor’s investigation into the allegations against Judge Henderson did not find evidence of nonconsensual sexual contact. However, the revelation of the undisclosed relationship raised concerns about the integrity and fairness of the trial, leading to the decision to grant a new trial for Hashagen.

The case highlights the importance of maintaining ethical standards within the legal profession and ensuring the impartiality of judges and prosecutors. The upcoming retrial will provide an opportunity to reexamine the evidence and ensure that justice is served in a manner that upholds the principles of due process and fairness.

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Israel

Military was prepared to deploy to Gaza to rescue U.S. hostages

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The Washington Post released an in-depth report on the intelligence support the United States has provided Israel during its war with Hamas. The assistance has not only helped to find and rescue hostages, but the Post writes it has “also raised concerns about the use of sensitive information.”

The United States provided some of the intelligence used to locate and eventually rescue four Israeli hostages last week, The Post has reported. The information, which included overhead imagery, appears to have been secondary to what Israel collected on its own ahead of the operation, which resulted in the deaths of more than 270 Palestinians, according to Gaza health officials, making it one of the deadliest single events in the eight-month-old war.

Sullivan, the White House national security adviser, stressed that U.S. forces did not participate in the mission to rescue the four hostages. “There were no U.S. forces, no U.S. boots on the ground involved in this operation. We did not participate militarily in this operation,” Sullivan told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. He noted that “we have generally provided support to the [Israel Defense Forces] so that we can try to get all of the hostages home, including the American hostages who are still being held.”

One critical piece of information from The Post involves a “canceled” U.S. mission to rescue eight Americans:

In October, JSOC forces in the region were prepared to deploy in Gaza to rescue U.S. citizens that Hamas was holding, said current and former U.S. officials familiar with planning for what would have been an exceptionally dangerous mission.

“If we managed to unilaterally get information that we could act on, and we thought we could actually get U.S. people out alive, we could act, but there was genuinely very little information specifically about U.S. hostages,” one official said.

However, the intelligence-sharing relationship between the United States and Israel is not without scrutiny and concern. The Post reports:

In interviews, Israeli officials said they were grateful for the U.S. assistance, which in some cases has given the Israelis unique capabilities they lacked before Hamas’s surprise cross-border attacks. But they also were defensive about their own spying prowess, insisting that the United States was, for the most part, not giving them anything they couldn’t obtain themselves. That position can be hard to square with the obvious failures of the Israeli intelligence apparatus to detect and respond to the warning signs of Hamas’s planning.

The U.S.-Israel partnership is, at times, tense. Some U.S. officials have been frustrated by Israel’s demand for more intelligence, which they said is insatiable and occasionally relies on flawed assumptions that the United States might be holding back some information.

In a briefing with reporters at the White House last month, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Washington “has provided an intense range of assets and capabilities and expertise.” Responding to a May 11 Washington Post report, Sullivan said that the intelligence is “not tied or conditioned on anything else. It is not limited. We are not holding anything back. We are providing every asset, every tool, every capability,” Sullivan said.

Other officials, including lawmakers on Capitol Hill, worry that intelligence the United States provides could be making its way into the repositories of data that Israeli military forces use to conduct airstrikes or other military operations, and that Washington has no effective means of monitoring how Israel uses the U.S. information.

The Biden administration has forbidden Israel from using any U.S.-supplied intelligence to target regular Hamas fighters in military operations. The intelligence is only to be used for locating the hostages, eight of whom have U.S. citizenship, as well as the top leadership of Hamas — including Yehiya Sinwar, the alleged architect of the Oct. 7 attacks, and Mohammed Deif, the commander of Hamas’s military wing. The State Department in 2015 designated both men as terrorists. Three of the eight U.S. hostages have been confirmed dead, and their bodies are still being held in Gaza, according to Israeli officials.

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