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Florida pardons wrongly accused ‘Groveland Four’ after 70 years

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Four black men wrongly accused of raping a white teenager 70 years ago were pardoned by top Florida officials on Friday, a long-sought step in a case seen as a historic racial injustice.

While none of the men known as the “Groveland Four” remain alive, family members and supporters appealed their innocence to the Florida Clemency Board, composed of the state’s governor, attorney general, chief financial officer and agriculture commissioner.

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The board, meeting at the state capitol in Tallahassee, voted unanimously to pardon Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin and Samuel Shepherd and Ernest Thomas.

Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, elected to the office in November and sworn in earlier this week, called the case a “miscarriage of justice” in which the nation’s judicial ideals were “perverted time and time again.”

The men were accused of abducting and sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl in 1949 near Groveland, Florida.

The alleged victim maintained on Friday that she was not a liar and opposed the pardons before they were granted.

Thomas was hunted down by a posse of over 1,000 men and killed as he was shot 400 times days later. The three others were beaten in custody and convicted. Of those, one was shot dead on the way to a retrial.

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Renewed interest in the Groveland Four was sparked by the book, “Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys and the Dawn of a New America” by Gilbert King that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2013.

Florida legislators passed resolutions in 2017 apologizing to the families of the four men and recommended their posthumous pardons.

Reporting by Letitia Stein; editing by Colleen Jenkins and Tom Brown

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Melania Trump statue torched near her Slovenian hometown: report

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On Wednesday, The Daily Beast reported that a wooden statue of First Lady Melania Trump carved from a tree outside her hometown in Slovenia last year has been burned to the ground.

"The artist who had commissioned the sculpture, Brad Downey, had the statue removed on July 5," reported Madeline Charbonneau. "Downey, who is American but works out of Berlin, had hoped his statue of the first lady would create dialogue about American politics, given that Melania Trump is an immigrant married to a president who seeks to stem immigration. Though the investigation is still pending, Downey said he hopes to interview the perpetrators for an upcoming exhibition."

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FBI investigating Chinese businessman who bankrolled media company linked to Steve Bannon

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A Wall Street Journal expose revealed that a Chinese businessman is under investigation by the FBI after he used funds to bankroll a media company with ties to a former aide to President Donald Trump, Steve Bannon.

"Federal Bureau of Investigation national security agents in recent months have asked people who know both men for information on Mr. Guo’s activities, including the source of funds of a media company linked to him that hired Mr. Bannon in 2018 as a consultant, the people said," according to the Journal. "As recently as last week, the FBI met with one person familiar with the companies tied to Mr. Guo, the people said. The probe has been underway for more than six months, and prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s offices in Manhattan and Brooklyn have been involved.

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Mike Pompeo asks Egypt to stop harassing US citizens

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday welcomed Egypt's release of a US citizen but urged the ally to stop harassment of others.

Mohamed Amashah, 24, was freed Monday, nearly 16 months after he was arrested in Cairo's Tahrir Square for holding up a sign seeking the release of prisoners, according to human rights campaigners.

A dual US-Egyptian citizen who lives in New Jersey, he had gone on a hunger strike this year to protest his conditions.

"We thank Egypt for securing his release and his repatriation," Pompeo told a news conference.

"But at the same time, we urge Egyptian officials to stop unwarranted harassment of US citizens and their families who remain there," he said.

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