LOS ANGELES

36-count indictment

targets Michael Avenatti

Federal prosecutors painted a picture of attorney Michael Avenatti on Thursday as a scheming operator who stole millions of dollars from clients, cheated on his taxes, lied to investigators and tried to hide money from debtors in bankruptcy proceedings.

A 36-count indictment returned late Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, California, offered the most damning and detailed account to date of Avenatti's apparent fall from grace a year after he seized the spotlight while crusading for porn actress Stormy Daniels in her legal battles against President Donald Trump.

Avenatti denied the charges on Twitter, saying he had made powerful enemies and would plead not guilty and fight the case.

 

VATICAN CITY

Retired Pope Benedict

wades into abuse debate

Retired Pope Benedict XVI published Thursday an analysis on the Catholic Church's clergy sex abuse scandal, blaming it on the sexual revolution of the 1960s and church laws that protected priests.

The essay immediately raised eyebrows, seeming to interfere with or even contradict Pope Francis' own efforts to confront one of the most critical issues facing the church.

One church historian called Benedict's essay "catastrophically irresponsible," because it conflicted with Francis' own efforts to lead the church out of the sex abuse crisis.

 

 

WASHINGTON

Senators question

need for Space Force

The Trump administration's proposal for creating a Space Force as a new military service drew bipartisan skepticism in the Senate on Thursday, with several lawmakers questioning the need for expanding the military bureaucracy.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan pitched the proposal as vital to maintaining what he called America's "margin of dominance" in space as potential adversaries like Russia and China develop the capability to challenge U.S. use of space.

 

YEHUD, ISRAEL

Spacecraft crashes

into surface of moon

An Israeli spacecraft crashed into the moon Thursday just moments before touchdown, failing in an ambitious attempt to make history as the first privately funded lunar landing.

The spacecraft lost communication with ground control during its final descent. Moments later, the mission was declared a failure.

"We definitely crashed on the surface of the moon," said Opher Doron of Israel Aerospace Industries.

 

WASHINGTON

Senate vote confirms

new Interior secretary

The Senate on Thursday confirmed acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to lead the department on a permanent basis, despite complaints by Democrats that the former oil and gas lobbyist has used his federal position to benefit former industry clients.

Senators voted 56-41 to approve Bernhardt's nomination to oversee more than 500 million acres of public lands and other resources, including national parks, monuments and wildlife refuges. He succeeds Ryan Zinke, who resigned in January amid a series of ethics investigations.

 

PHILADELPHIA

Telegram announcing

Lincoln's death for sale

The handwritten notification of President Abraham Lincoln's death is being offered for sale by a Philadelphia documents dealer.

Nathan Raab, president of the Raab Collection, says the telegram was thought to be lost, and calls it "truly one of our great finds."

It was written inside the home where Lincoln was rushed after being shot at Ford's Theater on April 14, 1865. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and Thomas Eckert, the chief telegraph officer, stood watch over Lincoln, who died April 15.

The telegram reads: "Abraham Lincoln died this morning at 22 minutes after seven."

 

CHICAGO

City files lawsuit seeking

money from Smollett

Chicago filed a lawsuit against Jussie Smollett on Thursday in a bid to recoup the costs of investigating a racist, anti-gay attack that authorities say was orchestrated by the "Empire" actor as a publicity stunt.

The 12-page civil lawsuit , filed in Cook County court, is the latest volley in a legal battle that shows no signs of abating since Smollett reported that masked men beat him up on Jan. 29 in Chicago, shouting slurs and wrapping a rope around his neck.

 

Beacon Journal/Ohio.com wires