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WASHINGTON (AP) — Every year Anna Graven dips into her modest teacher salary and spends her own money to buy bulletin boards, pencils, paper, highlighters and tissues for her high school students in Oklahoma City. So do almost all of her colleagues across the nation.

Nearly all public school teachers report digging into their pockets to pay for school supplies, spending nearly $480 a year, far more than the federal $250 tax deduction available to teachers, according to a study by the National Center of Education Statistics released Tuesday.

The findings come as teachers across the country are walking out of classrooms to protest low pay and demand pay raises. Helping teachers pay for classroom supplies was a key demand during the Arizona teachers’ strike.

Ninety-four percent of public school teachers say they spent their own money on notebooks, pens and other supplies in the 2014-15 school year without reimbursement, according to the study. The average amount spent was $479. About 44 percent spent $250 or less, while 36 percent spent $251 to $500.

Teachers who spend their personal money on children’s classroom needs are able to reduce their taxable income by $250. That amounts to roughly $30-to-$60 in savings for each teacher, according to the American Federation of Teachers, a relatively small sum that is still regarded as a token of appreciation by educators.

Teachers pushed back strongly last year when the tax bill passed by the House called for eliminating the deduction altogether. The Senate version of the bill, meanwhile, sought to raise the deduction to $500. In the end, the two chambers reached a compromise, and the deduction remained unchanged.

Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT, said Tuesday that the study demonstrates a lack of funding of public schools in America.

“Educators want to help children; that is why as long as their kids lack the essentials, educators will continue to dig deep, while fighting the defunding and underinvestment that created this crisis in the first place,” Weingarten said in a statement. “There is no other job I know where the workers subsidize what should be a cost borne by an employer as a necessary ingredient of the job.”

The study also found that teachers in high-poverty schools were more likely to spend personal money on school supplies. Eighty-six percent of teachers in schools that don’t participate in free or reduced lunch school program said they paid for classroom needs, while around 94 percent to 95 percent of teachers in schools that did participate in the programs said they paid for classroom needs.

Graven, who teachers American literature at an Oklahoma City high school, says the school provides very limited supplies and she and her colleagues are forced to pay out of pocket.

“We do what we need to do for our students and for us to be able to do our job,” Graven said. “It would be less of a burden if we were also paid a livable wage.”

Graven said a teacher like her, with a bachelor’s degree and 18 years of experience, is earning around $42,000 a year.

At times Graven has contemplated going into a new profession that pays better.

“It’s not an easy job, it’s very stressful and you think, ‘Is it all worth it?'” Graven said. “And then there will be that student that will make you realize that it is worth it.”

Some teachers have even gone online to launch crowdfunding campaigns. The web site Gofundme.com has thousands of pages where teachers or activists are raising money to help pay for classroom supplies. The company has even compiled a guidebook to help teachers build effective campaigns, according to Heidi Hagberg, a spokeswoman for Gofundme.

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President Donald Trump on Tuesday sent his “greetings and best wishes to all Muslims observing Ramadan in the United States and around the world,” part of a statement marking the holiday that was notably different from last year’s.

Trump last year became the first President in decades not to mark Ramadan with an Iftar meal or Eid Al-Fitr celebration at the White House. And his statement on the holiday was, several outlets noted at the time, fixated on terrorism.

After referencing two recent terrorism incidents last year — the suicide bomber who attacked an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, United Kingdom, four days earlier and the gunmen who ambushed a bus of Coptic Christians in Egypt earlier that morning — Trump wrote in his statement that “such acts only steel our resolve to defeat the terrorists and their perverted ideology” and “America will always stand with our partners against terrorism and the ideology that fuels it.”

By contrast, former President George W. Bush made no mention of terrorism in a statement marking Ramadan just weeks after the September 11th, 2001 attacks.

TPM asked the White House in an email Tuesday whether the Trump administration would hold a Ramadan celebration this year. The White House did not immediately respond.

Compare Trump’s two Ramadan messages below:

May 26, 2017:

On behalf of the American people, I would like to wish all Muslims a joyful Ramadan.

During this month of fasting from dawn to dusk, many Muslims in America and around the world will find meaning and inspiration in acts of charity and meditation that strengthen our communities.  At its core, the spirit of Ramadan strengthens awareness of our shared obligation to reject violence, to pursue peace, and to give to those in need who are suffering from poverty or conflict.

This year, the holiday begins as the world mourns the innocent victims of barbaric terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom and Egypt, acts of depravity that are directly contrary to the spirit of Ramadan.  Such acts only steel our resolve to defeat the terrorists and their perverted ideology.

On my recent visit to Saudi Arabia, I had the honor of meeting with the leaders of more than 50 Muslim nations.  There, in the land of the two holiest sites in the Muslim world, we gathered to deliver together an emphatic message of partnership for the sake of peace, security, and prosperity for our countries and for the world.

I reiterate my message delivered in Riyadh:  America will always stand with our partners against terrorism and the ideology that fuels it.  During this month of Ramadan, let us be resolved to spare no measure so that we may ensure that future generations will be free of this scourge and able to worship and commune in peace.

I extend my best wishes to Muslims everywhere for a blessed month as you observe the Ramadan traditions of charity, fasting, and prayer.  May God bless you and your families.

May 15, 2018:

With the rising of tonight’s moon, I send my greetings and best wishes to all Muslims observing Ramadan in the United States and around the world.

During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims commemorate the revelation of the Quran to the prophet Muhammad through fellowship and prayer.  Many observe this holy time by fasting, performing acts of charity, reciting prayers, and reading the Quran.

Ramadan is a time of self-reflection intended to deepen one’s spiritual growth and renew a sense of appreciation for the many blessings God provides.  In this spirit of thanksgiving and reflection, those observing Ramadan can strengthen our communities, help those in need, and serve as good examples for how to live a holy life.

Ramadan reminds us of the richness Muslims add to the religious tapestry of American life.  In the United States, we are all blessed to live under a Constitution that fosters religious liberty and respects religious practice.  Our Constitution ensures Muslims can observe Ramadan in accordance with the dictates of conscience and unimpeded by government.  By doing so, the Constitution also furnishes varied opportunities for all Americans to deepen their understanding of the human soul.

As so many people unite to celebrate Ramadan, Melania and I join in the hope for a blessed month.  Ramadan Mubarak.

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Disgraced former Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) has landed on his feet after resigning his office in early April—and he has no intention to pay back the $84,000 of taxpayer money he used to settle his sexual harassment case, according to a Tuesday ABC report.

Though Farenthold’s new gig with the Calhoun Port Authority pays a reported six-figure salary, he has no plans to use that income to reimburse his constituents. “I will say this on the record: I have been advised by my attorneys not to repay that,” Farenthold told ABC. “That’s why it hasn’t been repaid.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and the House Ethics Committee have all urged Farenthold to pay back the money he used for a 2015 settlement with a former congressional aide who accused him of sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Stormy Daniels has raised nearly a half-million dollars to fund her lawsuit against President Donald Trump, relying on contributions from a crowdfunding site. Her lawyer has repeatedly pointed to the public site as evidence that he and his client aren’t bankrolled by Trump’s political foes.

But the truth is, no one knows precisely who is funding the effort.

The more than 14,000 donations have been made mostly anonymously in amounts ranging from $10 to $5,000. Through Monday, Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, and her attorney, Michael Avenatti, raised more than $490,000 on CrowdJustice.com, a crowdfunding site dedicated to helping people raise money for legal fees. About $100,000 arrived in the last week after Avenatti released documents about payments Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, received from private companies seeking information about the president’s beliefs on various issues.

The target for donations is $850,000, which Avenatti called a “realistic and reasonable target based on what we know right now.”

Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School, said it’s unusual but “not totally unheard of” for a lawyer to seek online donations to cover legal costs.

“It does bring up some ethical concerns in terms of who is actually giving this money and whether they will try to exert influence,” said Levinson, who also is president of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission.

Crowdjustice.com donors can choose whether to share their names with the person seeking funds. The site displays donations with either a first name or as anonymous donor.

Kathleen Clark, a professor of ethics law at Washington University, echoed Levinson’s concern.

The anonymous donations can be “fodder for public debate on who is actually backing this lawsuit,” Clark said.

“Of course when the third party is actually 14,000 different people it seems actually less of a danger than it would be in an ordinary case where a single third party would be paying,” she said.

Levinson said as long as Avenatti doesn’t change his legal strategy because of the payments, there isn’t an inherent ethical issue.

“People can have partisan affiliations and I don’t think anyone thought Michael Avenatti was a Trump supporter,” Levinson said.

Avenatti has bristled at claims from some Trump supporters that his pay for work on the case comes from an organized an effort to oust Trump.

“We have no ethical concerns whatsoever,” Avenatti told The Associated Press. “I find this fascination with who is paying my client’s legal bills to have passed the line of absurdity at this point. We have been very, very clear when answering these questions. Who is paying Mr. Trump’s and Mr. Cohen’s legal bills? Do we know?”

Among those raising questions: Fox News Channel host Laura Ingraham, who dedicated a segment to the issue last week, and the Daily Caller, a conservative website that Avenatti has threatened to sue. A column in The Hill that questioned who is financing the lawsuit prompted Avenatti to release a statement last week that “ALL fees and expenses of this case have either been funded by our client, Ms. Stephanie Clifford, or by donations from our crowdjustice.com page.”

While federal election law limits the amount of money individuals can donate to campaigns, political action committees and national political party committees, no such rules apply for donations for legal cases, like the Daniels case. In theory, someone could donate as much money as they wanted as many times and they want, which can’t be done with political donations.

CrowdJustice said the average donation for Daniels’ case was $34, which is “consistent with average donation amounts across the platform.” Only 24 of the donations have been over $1,000, Avenatti said.

Avenatti said he has “never looked at who the individual donors are to this website” and has not asked for it. He added that he has not taken any strategy advice from donors.

“Because somebody is contributing to the effort, doesn’t mean they get to provide strategy advice. The only person I take direction from is my client period.”

Daniels has said she had an affair with Trump in 2006 and is suing to invalidate a confidentiality agreement she signed days before the 2016 presidential election in order to discuss it. She is also suing Trump and his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, alleging defamation.

Avenatti has repeatedly said the case is about allowing Daniels to speak freely, bringing the truth to light and allowing the American public to know about the president’s dealings. He’s released financial information and emails about Trump and Cohen, unveiling that Cohen was selling his experience and views at a hefty price to companies that sought “insight” into the new president.

Avenatti has denied that Daniels’ case has anything to do with politics and has said he supports some things Trump has done as president, including deregulation and tax cuts.

But Trump’s followers have tried to establish Avenatti as a Democratic operative, pointing to his work for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel before Emanuel worked for the Clinton and Obama administrations.

Avenatti has said he was an investigator of Republican and Democratic political campaigns and corporations around the mid-1990s and hasn’t communicated with Emanuel since 2007.

Federal records showed Avenatti has not made individual political donations since then. From 2003 to 2007 he gave $5,750 to an assortment of California and national Democratic Party candidates, including the presidential campaigns of John Kerry, John Edwards and Dick Gephardt.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump paid emotional tribute Tuesday to fallen law enforcement officers and the loved ones who carry on without them, saying those who wore the uniform “were among the bravest Americans to ever live.”

“They made the ultimate sacrifice so that we could live in safety and in peace,” Trump said.

Trump made a rare showing of public empathy near the end of his speech by bringing onstage the elderly mother and other loved ones of a slain police officer from his native New York City. Officer Miosotis Familia died in July 2017 after being shot in the head by a man who authorities say fired into a parked police vehicle in the Bronx. The alleged killer of the mother of three was later fatally shot by police.

Trump joked that he had promised not to reveal Adrianna Valoy’s age, but she climbed the stairs better than he did. Trump turns 72 next month.

“So I promised that I wouldn’t tell you that she’s 90 years old but, you know what, she is really something, right?” he told the audience. “You look like 55 maybe, 55. Boy, I’ll tell you what. You got up those stairs better than I did.”

The president, who made law and order a centerpiece of his presidential campaign, used the yearly tribute at an outdoor memorial near the Capitol to press Congress to prioritize border security. He said that includes ending policies that allow individuals he described as “violent criminals” back onto the streets.

Trump issued the plea after speaking about Border Patrol agent Rogelio Martinez, who died last year from injuries suffered while he and his partner were responding to reports of unknown activity near a border town southeast of El Paso, Texas.

Trump said government’s first duty is to protect its people and that the Department of Homeland Security, which includes the Border Patrol agency, is “on the front lines of this incredible, heroic fight.”

“That is why we are calling on Congress to secure our borders, support our border agents, stop sanctuary cities and shut down policies that release violent criminals back into our communities,” he said. “We don’t want it any longer. We’ve had it. Enough is enough.”

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NEW YORK (AP) — The Associated Press said Tuesday that it will begin conducting an elaborate election voter survey designed to replace the traditional in-person exit poll, which has been criticized in recent years for inaccuracy and failing to keep up with changes in how Americans vote.

AP is convinced that science is on its side. Still, it’s a bold and potentially risky move for the news cooperative, which counts political coverage as a strong suit and which has, until recently, pooled resources with ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and Fox News to conduct exit polling in major elections.

AP has been concerned about the accuracy of in-person exit polls for the past several years, said Sally Buzbee, the news agency’s executive editor. On election night in 2016, when she was then serving as AP’s Washington bureau chief, she directed that only actual results be used to declare winners after exit poll results varied widely from actual vote returns. The exit poll that year was far more favorable to Hillary Clinton in many states than to eventual winner Donald Trump.

“If you don’t trust it enough to use it, it doesn’t have much value,” Buzbee said.

The new AP VoteCast service, developed with NORC at the University of Chicago, uses a combination of online and telephone surveys conducted four days before Election Day and through the close of polls. In all, AP expects to conduct more than 85,000 interviews with voters for this year’s midterm election survey, said David Scott, the AP’s deputy managing editor for operations. That’s far more than the roughly 19,400 conducted by the exit poll in 2014, Scott said, allowing for a deeper and more accurate understanding of the electorate.

The poll’s methodology allows for results from every state holding a statewide election, Scott said, as well as details about the opinions of registered voters who elect not to cast a ballot. AP’s approach will deliver to customers more reliable information on what drives the choices of different segments of the electorate than is available from traditional exit polls, Scott said.

Unlike the exit poll, VoteCast won’t use people with clipboards seeking to buttonhole voters after they leave polling places, an approach AP argues is no longer appropriate in an era when 40 percent of the electorate votes early, absentee or by mail. That percentage is growing in every election, Buzbee said.

There’s also concern that in-person exit polls, in a polarized political climate, fail to capture the opinion of all voters. In the roughest years for the accuracy of exit polls, 2004 and 2016, the surveys showed a stronger vote for the Democratic presidential candidates than actually took place.

AP said it successfully tested the approach that would become AP VoteCast in three statewide elections last year. Among them, a special election for U.S. Senator in Alabama in which the poll predicted Democrat Doug Jones would beat Republican Roy Moore 50 to 47 percent. The actual tally was 50 to 48 percent.

AP spent “millions” of dollars to develop the new system, said Gary Pruitt, AP president and CEO, although he would not be more specific. AP considers it a long-term investment that will pay off if the new system becomes the industry standard.

“We certainly consider it a bold move but we do think it will pay off because we think it will prove to be an accurate reflection of voter sentiment and what was driving elections,” Pruitt said.

AP has conducted research aimed at improving the exit poll for the past decade, funded in part by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Its 2017 experiments were conducted in partnership with Fox News, which like AP quit the National Election Pool of media organizations last year.

Fox News is AP’s first customer for its new polling service, which the network will use to power what it plans to call the Fox News Voter Analysis. AP said Tuesday that The Washington Post has also signed up to receive VoteCast results in several states.

ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC have opted to remain together as the National Election Pool, using an in-person exit poll administered by Edison Research. The four networks have also hired Edison to provide them with election returns, replacing a service NEP previously bought from AP. AP has conducted its nationwide tally of election results since 1848.

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On Monday morning, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens sat in a St. Louis courtroom watching potential jurors answer questions about allegations that he attempted to blackmail his one-time lover.

By late afternoon, the case had collapsed.

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner abruptly dropped the felony invasion of privacy charge she had brought against the governor in February, saying she would seek to hand the case over to a special prosecutor, who could choose to file new charges.

Greitens took to the courthouse steps to declare his “great victory.”

Calling himself a “changed man,” the governor reiterated that he was “innocent” of charges that he tied his former hairdresser up in his basement and took a photo of her semi-nude body to keep her silent about their 2015 affair, which ended shortly before his run for office.

In reality, the twice-indicted governor’s legal and political troubles are far from over. But he dodged this particular bullet thanks to a combination of prosecutorial errors, a difficult-to-prove charge, and one final, decisive ruling from Circuit Judge Rex Burlison, who oversaw the case.

The final blow came Monday, when Burlison agreed to let Greitens’ team call Gardner as a witness in the case she had spent months prosecuting. The defense argued that Gardner was aware that one of her investigators had committed perjury and mishandled key aspects of their investigation.

In a biting statement, Gardner’s office said that the judge’s ruling put her in an “impossible position” in which she would be subject to cross-examination by her own subordinates. Gardner was left with “no other legal option than to dismiss and refile this matter,” the statement continued.

Still, the collapse of the case may not revive Greitens’ political standing. The legislature is moving full steam ahead with a special session to debate Greitens’ possible impeachment, which begins Friday evening. A House committee investigating allegations against the governor is expected to release a report laying out its recommendations next month.

As House leaders pointed out, the abrupt cancellation of Greitens’ pending criminal trial leaves him with plenty of time to sit down and testify about “his side of the facts.”

As for the criminal case, the concerns at issue date back to the first deposition of the woman at the heart of the case on Jan. 29, soon after Gardner’s probe began.

William Tisaby, the investigator who conducted that interview alongside Gardner, later appeared to lie to the defense about key aspects of how it transpired. Tisaby said that he took no notes during the interview — a claim contradicted by a video of the conversation that was belatedly provided to defense lawyers.

Judge Burlison ultimately sanctioned prosecutors for failing to promptly turn over to the defense relevant evidence, like the video and 11 pages of notes Tisaby took while interviewing the woman’s friend.

These missteps helped Greitens’ team frame the investigation as tainted from the start, and Gardner’s office acknowledged that they made a mistake in relying on Tisaby.

Even without those unforced errors, prosecutors had a difficult path towards securing a guilty verdict. Under the relevant Missouri felony statute, they needed to prove that Greitens transmitted the nude photo in a way that would make it accessible via computer. But, crucially, they did not have access to the photo itself.

Searches of the governor’s smartphone and Apple cloud data found no evidence of the image, and no witness, including Greitens’ ex-lover, has ever seen it. The judge barred testimony from three expert witnesses for the prosecution, including two electrical engineers who could speak to the technical issues regarding the photo’s potential transmission, and a law professor slated to testify about revenge pornography.

That left prosecutors with only the woman’s testimony and corroborating accounts from her ex-husband and friend. According to the woman, she saw a camera flash through her blindfold, heard the distinctive click of an iPhone camera shutter, and then heard Greitens threaten that the photo would appear “everywhere” if she told anyone what had transpired.

Greitens’ team moved several times to dismiss the case due to the lack of hard evidence. On Monday, they also called on Gardner to drop an unrelated felony computer tampering charge she brought against Greitens for allegedly misusing a charity donor list to fundraise for his gubernatorial campaign.

“I think anything that this circuit attorney’s office has touched or its investigators should be dropped because it’s tainted. It’s biased,” attorney Scott Rosenblum told reporters outside the courthouse.

Gardner’s office said they would seek a special prosecutor to assume control of the invasion of privacy charge. The special prosecutor, who would most likely be based in another Missouri county, would have 27 days from Monday to re-file the charges before the statute of limitations expires, according to the Kansas City Star.

Gardner’s spokeswoman, Susan Ryan, noted that the charge could also be re-filed as a misdemeanor, which would not require providing that the photo was made available via computer.

Ryan did not immediately return TPM’s request for comment on whether the computer tampering case, which legal experts have argued is much stronger, will also be assigned to a special prosecutor.

 

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As Ecuador funded a multi-million dollar effort to protect Wikileaks founder Julian Assange during his stay in the country’s London embassy, Assange returned the favor by hacking into the embassy’s communications system, the Guardian reported Tuesday.

According to a new Guardian report outlining the details of the spy operation designed to protect Assange, the Wikileaks founder’s hack allowed him to intercept professional and personal communications of the embassy staff and set up his own satellite internet. The Ecuadorian embassy was warned of Assange’s behavior in 2014 by a surveillance company that was hired to film Assange’s interaction with visitors. 

Assange has been living at the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012 to avoid extradition by the Swedish government, where he was wanted for sexual assault. Those charges were dropped in May 2017, according to the Guardian. Assange is still living at the embassy because he is wanted for jumping bail in the United Kingdom, but longtime loyalist Rafael Correa, who was Ecuadorian president from 2007 to 2017, recently said Assange’s days of protection are “numbered.”

Assange is also hiding out to avoid the U.S. government extraditing and charging him with crimes related to his 2010 Wikileaks case, when he published a series of leaks of classified military information provided by Chelsea Manning. 

Read the Guardian’s full report here. 

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A white nationalist on probation for harassing a protester at a Donald Trump campaign rally in Kentucky in 2016 is going to jail after a domestic abuse incident in Indiana.

Matthew Heimbach, 27, was ordered to serve 38 days in jail for violating the terms of his two-year probation for the Trump rally incident.

Heimbach appeared Tuesday in misdemeanor court in Louisville and was led away in handcuffs.

“I really hope that I do not see you back here in this court,” Jefferson County District Judge Stephanie Burke said.

“Yes, your honor,” Heimbach replied before being led to the county jail.

Heimbach’s probation violation was for an arrest in Paoli, Indiana, in March on battery charges for allegedly assaulting his wife’s stepfather, David Matthew Parrott. A police report said Heimbach choked Parrott twice into unconsciousness. Heimbach was arrested at his home after police heard him arguing and scuffling with his wife, who was inside with him and their two children. Brooke Heimbach told police Heimbach had assaulted her.

Heimbach is chairman of the Traditionalist Worker Party, which has described itself on its website as “fighting to secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” He has been a leading figure in the white nationalist movement and was one of the scheduled speakers last year at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Heimbach was on probation for physically harassing an African-American woman who was protesting at a rally in Louisville for then-presidential candidate Trump in March 2016. He had a 90-day jail sentence suspended in that incident as long as he stayed out of trouble and took anger management classes.

Heimbach’s attorney, Jay Lambert, said Tuesday that the 38-day jail term was agreed upon after negotiations with prosecutors.

Lambert said Heimbach no longer lives in Indiana.

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BALTIMORE (AP) — Baltimore’s mayor has announced the city’s police commissioner has resigned after being charged with failing to pay his taxes.

Mayor Catherine Pugh said Tuesday she’s accepted the resignation of Darryl De Sousa.

The U.S. attorney’s office has alleged that De Sousa “willfully failed to file a federal return for tax years 2013, 2014 and 2015.” He was a salaried employee of the Baltimore Police Department in each of those years.

He faces up to one year in prison and a $25,000 fine for each of the three misdemeanor counts.

De Sousa’s attorney, Steven Silverman, has said federal prosecutors didn’t give his client a chance to offer an explanation or to file late tax returns before they brought criminal charges against him.

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