Hollywood Cynicism Finds a New Low in College Bribery Scandal

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

People from outside Hollywood keep asking me about the college bribery scandal. I live here, after all, and I have a bunch of college- and postcollege-age kids.

They want to know, of course, how common it is for people to bribe their way into elite universities. Even my kids want to know who else was doing it.

How do I know?

The fact that I had never heard the slightest suggestion that there was a bribery ring implicating a fake charity, a professional SAT test-taker, college sports administrators and desperate celebrity parents looking for the kind of guarantees life is not supposed to give you — none of that matters.

Also Read: Lori Loughlin’s YouTuber Daughter Olivia Jade Is Dropped by Sephora as College Admissions Bribe Case Unfolds

To everybody else, that’s what Hollywood represents. Two actresses and an owner of CAA (TPG’s Bill McGlashan, who exited the firm last week) may as well be the entire industry. A culture of privileged cheaters. (And of course Lori Loughlin’s daughter Olivia was on the yacht of USC chairman Rich Caruso in the Bahamas when the indictments came through).

Coming on the heels of an endless stream of disclosures of alleged sexual assault by famous actors and powerful executives, of sexual harassment, rape, casting couch extortion and — thank you, Michael Jackson — pedophilia, it’s pretty damn ugly.

My cynicism calculator has gone off the charts. It’s hard to fathom that Emmy and Golden Globe winner Felicity Huffman might face jail time after being charged with a felony she’s accused of committing on behalf of her daughter.

Meanwhile the international media is still feeding on the carcass of “Everybody in Hollywood knew about Harvey Weinstein.” (I just gave another interview on the matter last week to a major French TV network.)

And the Michael Jackson documentary “Leaving Neverland” is raising questions about the late pop star’s circle: Who knew what and when and why and how and what do we do now?

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Bennett Raglin for Own Network

I’m getting tired of making excuses for our crowd.

When I moved to Los Angeles just over 20 years ago, my biggest fear was raising my children in this culture. At the time, documentarian Lauren Greenfield had just published “Fast Forward: Growing Up in the Shadow of Hollywood,” a photography book chronicling the absurdly lavish lifestyles that wealthy and privileged children in L.A. enjoyed. I wrote an article about the book and emerged further terrified that my kids’ friends would have birthday parties in the penthouse suite of the Four Seasons Beverly Hills, that every bar mitzvah would be on the Sony lot and that by the end of high school they’d all end up in rehab.

That turned out to be an oversimplification. Not false necessarily, but not the whole story. And by comparison, I can’t say that our political leadership and the titans of tech measure up any better than Hollywood parents. (Full disclosure: two of my children went to or still attend USC — one of the universities implicated in the worst abuses — and one of them knows Olivia Loughlin, though not well.)

Like most of the readers of this post, I know that the Hollywood community is mainly made up of hard-working men and women with solid values, who chose to become the world’s storytellers because of their passion to share and communicate. And yeah, maybe to get rich and famous too.

But it seems that we live in a time that all our assumptions will be challenged, when our sacred idols will be left in ruins, and that the values we believed in as a democratic society — equal opportunity, social justice — will need to be restated and reaffirmed in a way that does not lead to hilarious parody Lori Loughlin clips on Twitter.

But for now, prepare for a not-short period of a caricature of Hollywood and what we are all about.

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Disney And Lantern Near Settlement For Weinstein Co. Film And TV Projects

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As Lantern Entertainment looks to fully exploit the assets it acquired as part of its $289 million acquisition of Weinstein Co. assets, it is close to reaching a significant settlement with Disney, a stakeholder in some of the company’s film and …

Time’s Up President Lisa Borders to Resign

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Time’s Up President Lisa Borders is resigning “to address family concerns,” she announced on Monday.

“As Time’s Up continues to grow, I am proud of the work I have done to shepherd its continued development,” Borders said in a statement. “Unfortunately, it is with deep regret that I must resign from Time’s Up to address family concerns that require my singular focus. I appreciate the opportunity to support this mission and I hope my efforts will continue to resonate.”

The organization’s COO Rebecca Goldman will serve as interim CEO, Time’s Up announced in a statement on Twitter.

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“With gratitude for her work, TIME’S UP accepts and supports Lisa Borders’ decision to resign as President and CEO,” reads the statement. “We know that it is the right decision for Lisa as well as the organization. Our COO, Rebecca Goldman, will serve as interim CEO while we conduct an executive search. We remain steadfast in our mission to create safe, fair, and dignified work for women of all kinds.”

Borders joined Time’s Up in October as the organization’s first ever CEO and president. Borders joined Time’s Up from the WNBA, where she’s been the president since 2016. The longtime executive has also been a vice president at Coca-Cola and was the vice mayor of Atlanta.

Also Read: Time’s Up Entertainment Unveils New Initiative to Promote Minorities in Hollywood

Launched last year behind some of the most high-profile names in Hollywood, Time’s Up has been calling out workplace misconduct in the wake of several accusations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and many other hitmakers.

TV producer Shonda Rhimes, actress Kerry Washington, actress Katie McGrath, National Women’s Law Center head Fatima Goss Graves and ad agency head Wendy Clark spearheaded the selection of Borders to lead the organization.

See the two statements below.

Statement from Lisa Borders and TIME’S UP pic.twitter.com/Uo7MlDb8Op

— TIME’S UP (@TIMESUPNOW) February 18, 2019

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Harvey Weinstein’s New Defense Team Wants Rape Trial Delayed

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EXCLUSIVE: The newly minted defense team for Harvey Weinstein are poised to ask for a postponement of the looming rape trial that could see the disgraced producer behind bars for the rest of his life.
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Monica Potter Claims Resisting Harvey Weinstein Seduction Barred Her From ‘Cider House Rules’ Role

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Actress Monica Potter claims that she lost a chance to appear in the 1999 film The Cider House Rules because she rejected Harvey Weinstein’s advances.
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Jeff Bezos vs The National Enquirer: A Tale of Journalism and Blackmail

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

To those expressing shock at Jeff Bezos’ extraordinary accusation of extortion by the National Enquirer’s owner American Media Inc., I can only say — get a clue.

What’s shocking is that the Amazon billionaire had the guts to expose a well-worn practice of journalistic blackmail by a publication untethered by ethics.

And what’s even more shocking is that AMI would have the chutzpah to put all this in writing and stamp it with the imprimatur of editor Dylan Howard on one document and AMI lawyer Jon Fine on another while the company is under a binding agreement with federal authorities to keep their noses clean as cooperating witnesses in the Michael Cohen case.

Also Read: Read the Blackmail Email Jeff Bezos Says He Received From AMI

The fact that they did so anyway gives you some sense of how accustomed The National Enquirer is to this kind of “negotiation” — leveraging secrets to help allies, catch-and-killing salacious stories, paying for information and mixing business with journalism, a term I use in this case ironically.

These practices have been well documented as AMI’s stock in trade in its past dealings with Donald Trump, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Harvey Weinstein to name a few:

• AMI has admitted to federal prosecutors in New York that it participated in a “catch and kill” scheme with Trump’s alleged former mistress Karen McDougal, who (as Ronan Farrow detailed in the New Yorker last year) was paid to tell her story to the tabloid and instead given a spurious promotional deal to keep her from speaking out during the 2016 presidential election. (This is seen as a campaign finance violation, not a First Amendment issue.)

• In Schwarzenegger’s case, as deeply reported by Anne Louise Bardach, the secret deal to kill evidence of the then-gubernatorial candidate’s past sexual exploits resulted in the “Terminator” star appearing on the cover of an AMI-owned health magazine. Arnold won the election, you may recall.

• Harvey Weinstein exchanged emails with editor Howard in which the disgraced mogul asked for help to punish his enemies, a story of mutual back-scratching detailed in the New York Times. Weinstein struck business deals with AMI to develop television and movies as an inducement for the publication to be on his team.

Also Read: Federal Prosecutors Open Investigation Into National Enquirer Owner Over Jeff Bezos’ Accusations

An uncooperative billionaire, a power-drunk tabloid, the president and the independent counsel’s investigation — this is a complexification that Hollywood couldn’t make up.

Now the feds are investigating whether this violates AMI’s plea deal in the Cohen case — ratcheting up the pressure as another potential headache for the White House.

Two big questions linger:

• Why was AMI so intent on getting Bezos to assert that their reporting on his affair had no political agenda?

• Why is AMI chief David Pecker still protecting Donald Trump even though he’s in political jeopardy himself over the apparent McDougal cover-up?

Also Read: Jeff Bezos Would Still Be World’s 4th Richest Man Even If Divorce Claims Half His Net Worth

This does not even get into the speculative mess involving The Washington Post’s persistent reporting on the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which Bezos referenced in his Medium post on Thursday, and why AMI would want to help Saudi Arabia by embarrassing the Post’s owner.

Let’s get clear on a few things. Trading on information is a timeworn tool in reporting. And publications have the absolute right under the First Amendment to publish true information that is of interest to the public. (The limits when it comes to individual privacy were recently challenged by the Peter Thiel-funded Hulk Hogan case against Gawker, which bankrupted that digital tabloid.)

Here’s how this feels like extortion: I threaten to publish a damaging fact about you unless you tell me damaging facts about another person. Or, as that ethical line slips, other demands are made.

Today Bezos’ refusal to play the game — and to go public about it — has triggered a federal investigation, all because we have a president who dances with the tabloid devil.

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Berlin Jury President Juliette Binoche Praises Harvey Weinstein As A Producer; Says, “Let Justice Do What It Needs To”

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Oscar winner Juliette Binoche made her first appearance as jury president at the Berlin Film Festival today, fielding questions at a press conference that began with her thoughts on women’s representation, segued to politics and Netflix, and then close…

John Malkovich to Play Harvey Weinstein-Like ‘Depraved’ Mogul in New David Mamet Play in London (Video)

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Pulitzer-winning playwright David Mamet has a new play titled “Bitter Wheat,” and he’s enlisted John Malkovich to portray a “depraved” Harvey Weinstein-like Hollywood mogul.

“Bitter Wheat” will be staged at the Garrick Theater in London’s West End from June 7 and Sept. 14, with the official opening night on June 19.

Mamet’s play is a response to the #MeToo movement and the accusations of sexual assault made against Weinstein. Malkovich will play Barney Fein, who falls from power to shame in a journey that mimics that of the epic “The Odyssey.”

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“Hollywood is a hell hole, where bloated monsters devour the young,” a teaser trailer for the play reads. “Money, sex, power. You only need one of them to see ‘Bitter Wheat.’”

Malkovich is returning to the West End stage for the first time in over 30 years. He most recently starred in the Netflix film “Bird Box.”

“Bitter Wheat” also stars Doon Mackichan and Ioanna Kimbrook, who makes her West End debut.

Also Read: David Mamet Tackles Harvey Weinstein and ‘Ungovernable Genie of Sexuality’ in New Play

Mamet first revealed he was writing a play about Weinstein back in February 2018. “I have a bunch of daughters, a young son,” he said in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. “Every society has to confront the ungovernable genie of sexuality and tries various ways to deal with it and none of them work very well. There is great difficulty when you are switching modes, which we seem to be doing now. People go crazy. They start tearing each other to bits.”

Mamet also previously wrote the play “Oleanna” about sexual assault and power dynamics in the wake of Anita Hill’s accusations against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Mamet will also direct “Bitter Wheat” with a design by Christopher Oram and lighting by Neil Austin.

Watch a brief teaser for the production above.

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Sundance So Far: Hollywood’s Own State of the Union Address, From ‘Late Night’ to ‘Native Son’

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

The Sundance Film Festival is always a barometer of the times to some degree, with often-topical indie films alternating with documentaries about the hot-button issues of the day. But there’s something particularly timely about this year’s Sundance, which has made a point of embracing diversity and in its first four days has showcased a slate of films that constitute its own (non-delayed) State of the Union address.

Screening at a festival that gave 63 percent of its press credentials to underrepresented groups and booked nearly half its slate with female directors, the films that have gotten the most buzz at this year’s festival almost all have a significant amount of contemporary resonance.

The biggest sale, by far, was for “Late Night,” a comedy written by Mindy Kaling and directed by Nisha Ganatra that beneath the laughs tackled the underrepresentation of women in television writers’ rooms. The most acclaimed films include Scott Z. Burns’ “The Report,” which deals with the Senate investigation into the CIA’s torture policy after 9/11 — and celebrates investigative journalism and congressional oversight at a time when both are under fire from the Trump White House.

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Other highlights over the first weekend include “Native Son,” a searing and timely adaptation of Richard Wright’s acclaimed novel, and “The Last Man in San Francisco,” Joe Talbot’s very different take on race and class.

And the landscape of this year’s films is one of dramatic inclusion, with stories ranging from a Chinese-American woman in conflict with her family’s culture (“The Farewell”) to a story about a Pakistani teen in Britain who finds his voice by listening to Bruce Springsteen (“Blinded by the Light”). (And those aren’t even in the World Cinema sections of the festival.)

There’s also a coming-of-age story with a transgender twist in “Adam,” taking one of the classic Sundance styles in a new direction, a feminist twist on dystopian science fiction in “I Am Mother,” and a revenge story that detours into a searing examination of the subjugation of women and indigenous peoples in “The Nightingale.”

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And then there are the documentaries, with highlights in the first weekend including “Knock Down the House,” about insurgent political candidacies epitomized by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; “The Inventor,” about Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes and the “fake it till you make it” culture of Silicon Valley; “Untouchable,” about Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual misconduct and “Where’s My Roy Cohn?,” a doc so timely that one of its talking heads, Cohn protégé Roger Stone, was arrested the day of the premiere.

That’s the tip of the iceberg, and it’s hardly new to Sundance. But when you add up this year’s offerings, in many ways they amount to a portrait of a fractured country, and a prescription for change and healing.

In addition, the festival highlighted an unusually rich slate of music docs, including “David Crosby: Remember My Name,” “Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love” and “Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool,” along with “Ask Dr. Ruth” and “Halston,” and some films that have gotten lots of attention without fitting too snugly into this narrative (the Michael Jackson documentary “Leaving Neverland” and the Ted Bundy biopic “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile”).

On the whole, the docs have been stronger than the narrative films, but that’s par for the course at Sundance. And together, the docs and narratives add up to a comprehensive look not only at the state of independent film but the state of the union itself.

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Elizabeth Holmes Joins Alex Gibney’s Documentary Rogue Parade: Sundance

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Rosanna Arquette Says Harvey Weinstein Should Go to Jail: ‘Absolutely’ (Video)

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Rosanna Arquette, the actress-producer who became one of the first prominent individuals to publicly accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct, says that the disgraced mogul should “absolutely” go to jail.

“I’m triggered today,” the actress told TheWrap CEO Sharon Waxman in an interview after the Sundance premiere of the documentary “Untouchable” about the former indie film giant who’s awaiting trial in Manhattan on five felony charges. (He has denied all criminal wrongdoing.)

“I’m hearing from a lot of the women. … Will we ever be OK? Is it ever going to be OK? Maybe when he goes to jail — please, can he go to jail?” she said.

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Arquette also alluded to the lengths to which Weinstein went to protect himself from potential accusers like Arquette that are detailed in Urusula Macfarlane’s documentary. “But it’s like, ‘Wow, you spied on us, you spied on me, you spied on my life? Really?’”

Macfarlane, a British filmmaker who’s previous documentaries have explored gun violence and the Charlie Hebdo attacks, agreed that Weinstein needs to face legal consequences for his actions. “Justice needs to be done,” she said. “There are too many people suffering. Closure of some kind is needing.”

She also noted that Arquette and other Weinstein accusers have opened the #MeToo floodgates to address abusive behavior by other men in power elsewhere in Hollywood — and other industries.

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“The trauma that Rosanna is talking about it’s not just this story. It’s worldwide,” she said. “It’s Harvey Weinstein in every industry. And that’s why I feel very happy that maybe this film can say there’s such power in speaking out.”

The 66-year-old Weinstein is awaiting trail this spring on five felony counts, including rape and two counts of predatory sexual assault, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. The charges involve accusations by two women, neither of them Arquette.

Watch the video above.

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The world premiere tonight at the Sundance Film Festival of the Harvey Weinstein documentary Untouchable didn’t mention the Park City gathering itself where the now disgraced producer held court for years but some drama of its own.
Initially delayed by…

‘Untouchable’ Film Review: Documentary Revisits Harvey Weinstein Horrors – Too Soon?

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Had enough of Harvey Weinstein? Not just yet.

There’s not a lot of new information in “Untouchable,” a creditable documentary about the scandal that upended Hollywood and unleashed  a #MeToo movement across the world, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday night.

But for those eager to hear more about this conundrum of a man – a tastemaker who made culture-defining movies for two decades but was allegedly also a monstrous, serial rapist who damaged the lives of dozens of women – this movie is for you.

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The Hollywood crowd in attendance was certainly riveted. It included everyone from former Ticketmaster CEO Fred Rosen to TV legend Norman Lear and his wife Lyn Lear to former MGM CEO Chris McGurk, among others who packed the Marc Theatre.

That’s no surprise, since in some sense Hollywood is still processing the tectonic changes brought on by the investigative bombshells published by The New Yorker and The New York Times. Men and women in the industry are still figuring out what just happened and sorting through what is or is not permitted in the current culture. TimesUp has been created, and meanwhile a dozen other powerful men – including the head of CBS – have been driven from the industry.

What director Ursula Macfarlane’s film does best is place the Weinstein scandal in context, revisiting the early years of Bob and Harvey, two brothers set on challenging the staid parameters of Hollywood filmmaking by making bold choices and supporting daring writer-directors.

In interviews with some longtime Miramax executives, they remind the viewer that before Harvey Weinstein was a monster he was a master movie marketer who picked “Sex, Lies and Videotape,” “Pulp Fiction,” “Cinema Paradiso,” “Shakespeare in Love” and created the model for a successful independent film company.

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They were so successful, so uniquely talented that they sold their company to Disney in 1993 and were given a shocking amount of freedom (and money) to continue making movies. And, as it turns out, to continue assaulting women.

The film goes on to interview a series of women, many of whom the viewer will know from the avalanche of media coverage in the past 15 months: former London assistant Zelda Perkins, actresses Paz de la Huerta and Rosanna Arquette, aspiring actress Erika Rosenbaum.

They tell their stories anew. One new voice comes from Hope d’Amore, an early alleged victim of Weinstein who met him when he was still a concert promoter in Buffalo. Her shame at giving in to his advances in a New York hotel room is still close to the surface despite being decades old.

“It’s the collateral damage – what it does to your friends, your relationships – and they don’t know why,” she says. “It steals something.”

We still cannot take the measure of what Harvey Weinstein has stolen from all these women. That will take more time than a documentary can do while the wounds are still so fresh.

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‘Where’s My Roy Cohn?’ Film Review: Doc About NY Lawyer Is as Timely as Roger Stone’s Arrest

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

On a day at the Sundance Film Festival that began with a documentary accusing the late Michael Jackson of child molestation and will also include a look at Harvey Weinstein, it takes a lot to challenge for the title of the worst person to get a Sundance doc. But Roy Cohn was nothing if not a fighter, and Matt Tyrnauer’s “Where’s My Roy Cohn?” makes a pretty strong case that the New York lawyer and power broker was about as corrupt and mendacious as they come.

Cohn is in many ways the perfect villain: a master of amoral backroom dealing who served as chief aide to Senator Joseph McCarthy, rose to power through his connections and defended gangsters, helped Ronald Reagan come to power, befriended and mentored Donald Trump before being disbarred.

With his heavy-lidded eyes and bulbous nose, he cut an unprepossessing but sinister figure. “Roy Cohn’s contempt for people, his contempt for the law, was so evident in his face that if you were in his presence, you knew you were in the presence of evil,” says one acquaintance in the film.

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And Cohn’s timeliness is clear from the film’s examination of his relationship with Trump, but it got an added jolt early in the movie when another Cohn protegé, Roger Stone, appeared on the screen only a few hours after being arrested by the FBI in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. His appearance, of course, drew a round of knowing laughter from the capacity crowd at the Marc Theater.

In the Q&A after the screening, Tyrnauer said he decided to make the movie on the day Trump was elected; until that moment, he said, he thought Trump would fade from sight and Cohn’s legacy would fade.

The film makes a good case for that legacy being entirely negative, leading to today’s cutthroat, divisive and lie-packed politics. But it also, crucially, makes a case for Cohn being a fascinating subject, a bundle of contradictions in a slick and soulless package.

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Cohn was Jewish, but a cousin describes him as “the definition of a self-hating Jew.” His family was Democratic and so was he for a long time, but his political influence was almost always in the service of Republicans. He was a viciously hard-nosed litigator who kept a huge collection of stuffed animals and frog figurines at home.

And he was a deeply closeted gay man who waged anti-gay witch hunts and would never admit his sexual orientation even as he was dying of AIDS. (He insisted he had liver cancer, even as his friends the Reagans pulled strings to give him access to experimental AIDS treatments.)

While the depiction of Cohn’s career, littered with shady dealings and an utter lack of empathy, is effectively told, the real gems in Tyrnauer’s portrait are they n the surprising little touches, from the stuffed animals to the astounding and enlightening fact that Cohn owed his very life to a shady backroom deal.

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Cohn’s mother, one relative tells Tyrnauer, was “the ugliest girl in the Bronx,” with an unpleasant personality to boot. But her family had all kinds of high-powered business and political connections — so they promised a young lawyer, Al Cohn, that if he married her they’d make sure he was appointed a judge.

The film, which is looking for distribution, is a delectable look at a despicable person — and, as Roger Stone’s arrest showed, a cautionary tale that could scarcely be more timely.

Of course, by the time “Where’s My Roy Cohn?” began at Sundance, Stone had already been released pending further court appearances. As Roy Cohn would tell you, it’s all about who you know.

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