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Manafort, Gates indicted in first charges from Russia probe
Manafort, Gates indicted in first charges from Russia probe

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and a former business associate, Rick Gates, were indicted Monday on charges of conspiracy against the United States, money laundering and several other financial charges.

The charges were the first stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into possible ties between Trump's presidential campaign and Russia. The indictment filed in federal court in Washington accused both men of funneling tens of millions of dollars in payments through foreign companies and bank accounts.

Manafort and Gates surrendered to federal authorities, and were expected in court later Monday to face charges brought by Mueller's team.

The indictment lays out 12 counts including conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, acting as an unregistered foreign agent and several charges related to failing to report foreign bank and financial accounts. The indictment alleges that they moved money through hidden bank accounts in Cyprus, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the Seychelles. In total, more than $75 million flowed through the offshore accounts. Manafort is accused of laundering more than $18 million, according to the indictment.

Manafort, 68, was fired as Trump's campaign chairman in August after word surfaced that he had orchestrated a covert lobbying operation on behalf of pro-Russian interests in Ukraine. The Associated Press reported that Manafort also represented a Russian billionaire a decade ago with the goal of advancing the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The White House declined to comment. A spokesman for Manafort did not immediately return calls or text messages requesting comment.

Mueller was appointed as special counsel in May to lead the Justice Department's investigation into whether the Kremlin worked with associates of the Trump campaign to tip the 2016 presidential election.

The appointment came one week after the firing James Comey, who as FBI director led the investigation, and also followed the recusal months earlier of Attorney General Jeff Sessions from the probe.

Investigators have focused on associates including Manafort, whose home was raided in July by agents searching for tax and international banking records, and ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was forced to resign in February after White House officials said he had misled them about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

Manafort joined Trump's campaign in March 2016 and oversaw the convention delegate strategy. Trump pushed him out in August amid a steady stream of negative headlines about Manafort's foreign consulting work.

Trump's middle son, Eric Trump, said in an interview at the time that his father was concerned that questions about Manafort's past were taking attention away from the billionaire's presidential bid.

Manafort has been a subject of a longstanding FBI investigation into his dealings in Ukraine and work for the country's former president, Viktor Yanukovych. That investigation was incorporated into Mueller's broader probe.

Previously, he denied any wrongdoing related to his Ukrainian work, saying through a spokesman that it "was totally open and appropriate."

Manafort also recently registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent for parts of Ukrainian work that occurred in Washington. The filing under the Foreign Agents Registration Act came retroactively, a tacit acknowledgment that he operated in Washington in violation of the federal transparency law.

Mueller's investigation has also reached into the White House, as he examines the circumstances of Comey's firing. Investigators have requested extensive documents from the White House about key actions since Trump took office and have interviewed multiple current and former officials.

Mueller's grand jury has also heard testimony about a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower attended by a Russian lawyer as well as Manafort, Donald Trump Jr., and the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

In Gates, Mueller brings in not just Manafort's chief deputy, but a key player from Trump's campaign who survived past Manafort's ouster last summer. As of two weeks ago, Gates was still working for Tom Barrack, a Trump confidant, helping with the closeout of the inauguration committee's campaign account.


Local
Ghost tour tells haunting history of Coos Bay

COOS BAY — On Saturday, patrons of the paranormal gathered at 7 Devils Brewery to go on the second annual Ghost and Graveyards Tour.

The tour is supported by the ghost hunting club DI: Ghosties at South Western Oregon Community College. Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit SWOCC Talent Search and Upward Bound programs. These are outreach programs run by SWOCC that help keep kids interested in school and informed about different career opportunities.

There are actually two tours that paranormal club host, one of which is focused around downtown Coos Bay and the other around North Bend. 

The tour’s coordinator Sharilyn Brown said “You never know what motivates people to come on the ghost walk. Many people share their stories with the group.”

The group of 30 or so people did add to stories told by volunteers, sharing rumors that they’ve heard about Coos Bay’s history.

The tour’s first stop was at Marshfield cemetery, where tour guides talked in detail about the only known lynching in the state of Oregon, which happened in Coos Bay back in 1906.

“He was a prize fighter, his name was Alonso Tucker. He was accused of raping a woman who was on her way out to Libby, which was just a wagon road back then. There was a lynch mob that came after him … . He escaped and hid under the docks, and apparently spent the night there,” tour guide Cary Pugh said.

Eventually he was shot and killed by the mob, who decided it was still necessary to hang his dead body.

From there, the tour headed to the old McAuley Hospital, where from the outside tour guides told stories of unethical experimentations. The building appears to be a favorite of trespassers looking for a good scare, with many windows broken, and boarded up doors.

The next big stop was the third floor of the Tioga building. The building is the tallest on the Oregon coast and used to function as a hotel. The dilapidated third floor had a spooky ballroom with many dark rooms and corridors which some tour goers got to explore with ghost hunting equipment.

“We have about a five percent success rate when we look for ghosts, it’s really all about patience,” Brown said.

At this time Brown took some time to explain some of the ghost hunting equipment. Things like dowsing rods and thermal detectors are used to find spirits. Brown then spoke about the two types of haunts that ghost hunters usually find.

“There are intelligent haunts, and residual haunts. Intelligent haunts are sprits that can communicate, if you ask them to knock on a wall they knock on the wall. Residual haunts are the spirit replaying a past event over and over,” Brown said

Brown shared recordings from her previous ghost hunts where ghosts have responded to the hunters in the building. The responses can only be herd on electronic frequency’s picked up on a recorder. The voices of ghosts on recordings is known as electronic voice phenomena.

The tour then moved all over downtown, stopping at local businesses like The Threads That Bind, the Egyptian Theater, Shark Bites Café and Coney Station. Tales of business owners hearing footsteps when no one was there, and finding strange dolls inside of the walls kept the tour entertaining at every stop.


Local
Judge Bechtold retires after 23 years

COQUILLE — Circuit Court Judge Paula M. Bechtold, Coos County’s first female judge, will have her last day on the bench Nov. 30.

Bechtold has been serving the county as a judge since she was elected to the position in 1994, and after 23 years has decided to retire.

Before Bechtold got into law she worked as a high school teacher in Portland. Inspiring and helping young people proved to be much more of a challenge than she had anticipated, specifically because of what was happening at the time. She was teaching high school during the Vietnam War which caused widespread apathy among students.

“I thought I wanted to be a high school teacher and inspire kids to get involved, unfortunately they were not really interested. Part of the reason was the Vietnam War. I was teaching High School seniors, and a lot of the boys were saying that they were just going to get drafted and killed, so what’s the point,” Bechtold said.

A student in some legal trouble came to Bechtold with some questions about the law she was unable to answer. It was at this time Bechtold decided she wanted to go to law school.

“He needed some advice about how the legal system worked, and I didn’t have a clue. At the same time I had started dating a guy who had just graduated law school, and was working as a clerk to one of the federal judges. It all just seemed to point me and I thought that maybe I should be a lawyer,” Bechtold said.

Bechtold began attending law school at what used to be known as Northwestern University, but has since changed its name to Lewis and Clark University. For four years, she worked at the Portland public defender’s office as an office manager during the day and attended school at night.

After graduating law school Bechtold had some trouble finding a job in Portland, primarily because she was a woman.

“Unfortunately I was a little ahead of my time, and after a while I found out that it was going to be virtually impossible for me to find a job as an attorney in Portland. The Law firms where not interested in having a woman lawyer,”

Bechtold found it shocking that law firms were rejecting her because she was a woman. According to her, one firm told her that they wouldn’t have a problem with her, but their clients might not accept her and think she was a secretary.

“My favorite one was this really big law firm in Portland that told me in an interview, ‘We already have one woman, I don’t know what we’d do with another one.’ Employers couldn’t possibly say that today,” Bechtold said.

She found her way to Coos County through friends from law school who told her and her husband that there was an old lawyer out in Coos Bay getting ready to retire and looking to sell his practice.

“We met with this lawyer who was trying to retire, he was out in Empire. We told him that we didn’t have any money and he said ‘Well, you can pay me over time. You don’t have to give me anything down, and I’ll even work with you a while just to teach you the ropes.’ So, that’s what happened. We ended up moving here in the summer of 1976, and we never left,”Bechtold said.

Bechtold spent the next 18 years as an attorney in the area. Eventually, she became the city attorney for Coos Bay.

As City Attorney Bechtold remembers, one of her favorite cases involved the railroad that runs along the Coos Bay Boardwalk.

“When I was city attorney was when they first started to talking about developing that area for pedestrians. Well, the railroad didn’t want anyone crossing the railroad tracks. They insisted that the railroad tracks were private property and if any pedestrians tried to cross they would have them arrested. They were threatening to fence off the tracks so that you could only cross where a gate was. We took it to hearing and we won, and now people use the boardwalk every day,” Bechtold said.

In 1994, the judge in North Bend decided to retire at the end of his term, so it wasn’t a governor’s appointment, it was an open seat for election.

“A lot of people had encouraged me to consider being a judge. I was still motivated to try and help people, so it sounded like good thing for me to do.

As a circuit court judge she has helped many people in the community. One of her big successes in the 23 years she’s spent on the bench was helping created a mediation program known originally as Bay Area Mediation, but is currently called Common Ground, that allows members of the public to become trained mediators.

“The mediation program exists separate from the court. People can go to Common Ground and schedule a mediation with their next door neighbor, their co-worker, anyone who’s willing to sit down and talk through their situation,” Bechtold said.

Another project of Bechtold’s that she’s proud of is the Mental Health Court. Once a month people who have committed crimes, often as a result of mental illness, are helped by the court to organize their lives in a way that allows them to be productive and law abiding. Coos Health and Wellness does an evaluation of these people to see if they can be helped. If so they enter the 18-month program that, upon completion, the District Attorney will often drop their criminal charges.

She may be retiring, but Bechtold isn’t going anywhere. After stepping down Bechtold will stay in the community that she’s given 41 years of her life to.

“I’ve been involved in the community for a long time and I plan to continue to be involved. Maybe I’ll be able to volunteer at some of my favorite place like the history museum, the art museum, or the Marine Life Center out in Charleston. Maybe I’ll even make popcorn at the Egyptian,”  


Local
ODFW looks at reclassifying marbled murrelet

SALEM — Marbled murrelets could be re-listed as endangered under Oregon’s Endangered Species Act.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) released a draft status review on the marbled murrelet after a petition from several environmental groups to reclassify the bird.

Marbled murrelets are small seabirds that nest in old-growth forests and forage in the ocean. They are found along the Pacific Coast, from Alaska to California.

The seabird, which is considered endangered in both California and Washington, is currently listed as threatened in Oregon. Murrelets were federally listed as threatened in 1992 in the three states.

Murrelets have an 80 percent chance of going extinct in the Siskiyou Coast Range by 2060, according to ODFW’s report.

There has never been a petition to change the listing of a currently-listed species under the Oregon Endangered Species Act, according to Martin Nugent with ODFW.

Over the years, species have been added or removed under the state act, but no species has been uplisted.

Nugent said under the endangered species act, there aren’t many differences between the endangered and threatened designations.

Ultimately, he said the federal Endangered Species Act trumps any state regulations.

If the marbled murrelet is uplisted, ODFW would need to create a species management plan within 18 months.

Nugent said the management plan could be anything from take avoidance to a full-blown recovery effort. Take is the harming or killing of an endangered species.

But right now Nugent said it's too far out to guess what the plan would look like.

Nick Cady, with Cascadia Wildlands, said the increased pressure to relist the bird is because of the prevalence of state land in Oregon’s Coast Range.

“We’re hoping for a base plan from Oregon state landowning agencies for the species’ recovery and survival,” Cady said.

He said the decline of marbled murrelet populations can easily be attributed to the elimination of breeding habitat and that state’s lands are going to be critical for the bird’s future.

“The state’s going to have to step into some important shoes to bolster this species’ survival,” Cady said.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission must first determine whether the bird’s status meets legal criteria for reclassification.

ODFW will create a final report following the public comment and peer review process.

The agency expects to present the final status review and reclassification analysis to the Commission in February 2018.

Public comments on the draft status review are being accepted through Nov. 9. Written comments can be submitted by email to odfw.marbledmurrelet@state.or.us or by mail to ODFW, Marbled Murrelet, 4034 Fairview Industrial Drive SE, Salem, OR 97302