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National
Lori Loughlin, Felicity Huffman appear in court in college admissions bribery case
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Lori Loughlin, Felicity Huffman appear in court in college admissions bribery case

Dozens Indicted in College Admissions Bribery Case

Lori Loughlin, Felicity Huffman appear in court in college admissions bribery case

Actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman appeared Wednesday in a federal courthouse in Boston to face charges that they participated in a college admissions bribery scheme.

>> Read more trending news

Loughlin, her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli, Huffman and several others were arrested and charged last month on suspicion of paying an admissions consultant to bribe college coaches and rig test scores to get their children into elite universities. Court records show several of the accused parents, including Giannulli and the actresses, are scheduled Wednesday to make initial appearances in court.

>> Operation Varsity Blues: 5 things to know about the college cheating scandal

Update 3:20 p.m. EDT April 3: Huffman, Loughlin and Giannulli appeared Wednesday in court.

Huffman, Loughlin and Giannulli agreed to waive their preliminary hearings, CNN reported.

Update 2 p.m. EDT April 3: Loughlin waved at fans and supporters after appearing Wednesday afternoon at a federal courthouse in Boston ahead of her initial appearance in court, WFXT reported.

Update 11:20 a.m. EDT April 3: Huffman appeared Wednesday morning at a federal courthouse in Boston ahead of her first scheduled appearance, WFXT reported.

She declined to comment as she walked into the courthouse.

Original report: Prosecutors said that from 2011 through February 2019, parents paid an admissions consultant to bribe coaches to label their children as recruited athletes, to alter test scores and to have others take online classes to boost their children’s chances of getting into schools.

Parents spent anywhere from $200,000 to $6.5 million to guarantee the admission of their children, officials said. 

>> College admissions scandal proves 'the whole system's pay-to-play,' expert says

Prosecutors said Giannulli and Loughlin, who is best known for her portrayal of Aunt Becky on the sitcom “Full House” and its sequel “Fuller House,” agreed to pay $500,000 in bribes to have their daughters labeled as recruits to the University of Southern California crew team, though neither participated in the sport.

>> Lori Loughlin: 3 things to know about actress charged in cheating scandal

After the allegations surfaced, Hallmark announced it was dropping Loughlin, who had been a longtime star of Hallmark Channel movies and series. Cosmetics retailer Sephora and hair products company TRESemme also ended partnerships with Loughlin’s and Giannulli’s daughter, social media influencer Olivia Jade Giannulli.

Huffman, the Emmy-winning star of "Desperate Housewives," is accused of paying $15,000 that she disguised as a charitable donation to cheat on her daughter's college entrance exam.

>> Felicity Huffman: 3 things to know about actress charged in cheating scandal

At least nine college athletic coaches were also charged as part of the investigation, dubbed Operation Varsity Blues, authorities said.

The consultant at the center of the scheme, Rick Singer, has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with investigators. Former Yale women's soccer coach Rudy Meredith has also pleaded guilty.

Several coaches have pleaded not guilty, including tennis coach Gordon Ernst, who is accused of accepting $2.7 million in bribes to designate at least 12 applicants as recruits to Georgetown University.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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The Latest News Headlines

  • OneBlood, a local blood donation center, is asking donors to help replenish its supply after rushing blood to Pensacola to help meet the needs of the victims of a mass shooting at NAS Pensacola. In a press release, OneBlood said its quick response to the tragedy helped Pensacola hospitals treat the wounded and met the immediate needs of the victims.  The area does need to replenish its supply of blood and platelets, however.  OneBlood is asking all eligible donors to make a donation by visiting a donor center, Big Red Bus blood drive, or making an appointment online at oneblood.org.  Donors should be 16 years or older and weight at least 110 pounds.
  • Victor W. Gonzalez is a U.S. Army veteran who spent 24 years serving his country.  Gonzalez was born in the mountains of Cayey, Puerto Rico.  As general manager for Crowley Solutions, he was honored to hear his company would team up with Wreaths Across America so wreaths can be placed on the headstones of fallen soldiers in Puerto Rico.  “What a great way to commemorate that and, you know, actually validate their service by having an event like this,” Gonzalez said.  Every December Wreaths Across America delivers wreaths to the graves of fallen soldiers at national cemeteries across the country, but in the past they’ve always had difficulties sending wreaths to the island.  That’s why Crowley Maritime Corporation is stepping in to provide a service that would typically cost them $17,000 at no cost.  “They mentioned that Puerto Rico was the biggest challenge to get the wreaths there because they were using air freight, which is a lot more expensive, and we thought we could completely help with that, absolutely,” Parker Harrison, the senior vice president of Crowley said.  The wreaths will leave Friday in temperature controlled containers and be loaded up on the ship El Coqui bound for San Juan.  'Basically what the eagle represents in the United States, a coqui represents to Puerto Rico. Once you land and it's sunset, there's no doubt you're in Puerto Rico because you will hear the coqui all over,' Gonzalez said.  Crowley is helping to ship a total of 6,500 wreaths that will make their to the island by Monday.  Once there, they’ll be placed on graves at the Puerto Rico National Cemetery on Dec. 14 as part of Wreaths Across America’s Mission.  'It’s the meaning that they’re not forgotten,' Gonzalez said.  In addition, Crowley is also donating $30,000 to help the organization bring wreaths to fallen heroes buried at national cemeteries across the U.S. and overseas.
  • The mother of a 5-year-old Illinois boy beaten and forced into a cold shower for soiling himself in April has admitted to her role in his murder, a case that garnered national attention and has led to a federal lawsuit against two social workers tasked with protecting him. JoAnn Cunningham, 36, of Crystal Lake, pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of murder in the death of Andrew “AJ” Freund Jr., according to a statement from the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office. She faces between 20 and 60 years in prison. “Pursuant to truth-in-sentencing guidelines, defendant Cunningham will not be eligible for parole and must serve 100% of her sentence,” State’s Attorney Patrick D. Kenneally said in the statement. >> Read more trending news  A status conference in Cunningham’s sentencing is set for Jan. 30, court records show. As part of her plea deal, the remaining 19 charges against her have been dismissed. AJ’s father, attorney Andrew Freund Sr., 60, faces 21 charges, including multiple counts of first-degree murder. Freund, who has pleaded not guilty, is being held in the McHenry County Jail in lieu of $5 million. >> Related story: AJ Freund’s parents killed him for soiling himself, hiding it, court documents allege Cunningham and Freund were arrested April 25, a week after Freund called 911 and told dispatchers his son had vanished from their home overnight. Cunningham was pregnant at the time with the couple’s third child. She gave birth in June to a daughter, who CBS Chicago reported she named Gracie Faith. Cunningham spent two days in the hospital with the newborn before the child was placed in state custody, the news station said. Authorities looking for AJ following the April 18 missing persons report soon focused their attention on the Freund-Cunningham home at 94 Dole Ave. in Crystal Lake, a city of 40,000 people about 45 miles northwest of Chicago. According to court records, K-9 units found no sign of the boy’s scent outside of the home. No Amber Alert was issued because there was no evidence AJ had been abducted, police officials said. Listen to the 911 call placed by Andrew Freund Sr. below, courtesy of the Chicago Tribune. A criminal complaint in the case indicates AJ died April 15, three days before his parents reported him missing. Cunningham and Freund “forced (AJ) to remain in a cold shower for an extended period of time and/or struck him on or about his body” multiple times, causing his death, the complaint against Cunningham states. >> Related story: AJ Freund’s parents indicted in 5-year-old’s beating, cold shower death An affidavit for a search warrant filed April 29, and later published by the Northwest Herald, details AJ’s horrific death. Editor’s note: The following description of AJ Freund’s life and death are graphic and may be difficult for some readers. ‘Maybe Mommy didn’t mean to hurt me’ The affidavit, written by Detective Edwin Maldonado of the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office, details the investigation that began when Crystal Lake police officers went to the Freund-Cunningham home, which Maldonado described as being in a “hoarder-like condition.” Bags of refuse filled the basement, as well as other portions of the house and the detached garage. Photos from around the time of AJ’s birth in 2013, obtained by ABC7 in Chicago, show the dirty and cluttered condition of the home. AJ spent almost the first two years of his life in foster care because he was born with opiates in his system, police said. Read the criminal complaint against JoAnn Cunningham below. Cunningham Criminal Complaint by National Content Desk on Scribd The news station also obtained reports of 17 visits to the house by social workers over the five years of AJ’s life. The reports document horrid living conditions, concerns over the welfare of AJ and his then-4-year-old brother, Parker, and alleged drug use by the parents. Caseworkers from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services were last called to the family’s home in December 2018, after police were called about a possible burglary there. The responding officer noted deplorable living conditions inside the home, including dog feces and urine all over the house, broken and jagged flooring in the kitchen, a ceiling peeling from water damage and several broken windows. She also noted a suspicious bruise on AJ’s hip and temporarily removed him and Parker from the home. Police reports said AJ and his mother both said the bruise was caused by the family’s dog, Lucy, but a DCFS timeline of its involvement in AJ’s life indicates that AJ told a different story to an emergency room doctor when his mother was not around. “Maybe someone hit me with a belt,” AJ told the doctor, according to the DCFS report. “Maybe Mommy didn’t mean to hurt me.” The doctor could not definitively determine the cause of the bruise, despite AJ’s statements, and the case was closed a month later. Read the DCFS timeline of AJ Freund’s life and death below. AJ Freund DCFS Timeline by National Content Desk on Scribd Maldonado wrote in the affidavit that a check of the Crystal Lake Police Department’s database showed numerous previous calls to the family’s home, mainly for welfare checks and domestic violence complaints. Both Freund and Cunningham are admitted former drug abusers. DCFS workers came under fire after AJ’s death for their handling of his case. Acting DCFS Director Marc Smith told legislators in the aftermath of the boy’s slaying that two caseworkers were suspended as the agency conducted an internal investigation. Sources told CBS Chicago in October that the agency was planning to fire the two caseworkers, as well as their supervisor. The estate of AJ Freund filed a federal lawsuit on the boy’s behalf Oct. 16 against one of the caseworkers, Carlos Acosta, and the supervisor, Andrew R. Polovin. The suit alleges the DCFS caseworkers “conducted sham investigations and filed reports which included falsified findings intended to justify their determinations that the allegations of abuse were ‘unfounded.’” It accuses Polovin of failing to act as a fail-safe, instead ignoring the “patent deficiencies and obvious prevarications” in the investigators’ reports and blessing their findings that AJ and his brother were in no danger. Read the federal lawsuit filed in October by the estate of 5-year-old AJ Freund below. Federal Lawsuit in AJ Freun... by National Content Desk on Scribd ‘AJ fell down the stairs and had a lot of owies’ Multiple law enforcement agencies began searching for AJ after he was reported missing, but his parents became the focus of the investigation after it was determined AJ likely did not leave the house on foot, authorities said. A forensic search of Freund’s cellphone, conducted with his permission, found that someone had Googled “child CPR” on April 15, the night AJ was slain, the affidavit said. Freund’s cellphone also held a photo of a shopping list, which included duct tape, plastic gloves, bleach and air freshener. Investigators found inside the house a pair of men’s Nike shoes with “dripping wet mud” on the soles. They also found a bag of laundry that smelled strongly of bleach and four empty bleach bottles in garbage bags and cans around the property. A laptop and a roll of duct tape were found in an upstairs closet, the affidavit said. During interviews with investigators on April 18, Freund told them he discovered his son was missing when he returned home around 8:30 a.m. from an early morning doctor’s appointment in Elgin, about 15 miles south of Crystal Lake. Police confirmed Freund’s appointment, but the receptionist who checked him out shared an odd comment he allegedly made. “The lawyer in me thinks I need a paper trail,” she quoted Freund as saying when she offered him a receipt of his payment, Maldonado wrote. When he was initially asked about the shopping list found on his phone, Freund listed the items he bought, but left off the gloves and duct tape. He ultimately admitted he bought those items, but claimed the gloves were for cleaning and his wife used duct tape to hang photos, the affidavit said. When the topic of the “child CPR” search came up, Freund said his wife -- who was, at the time, seven months pregnant -- may have Googled the topic because of the impending arrival of the baby. When detectives asked why she would need that information after already raising two young sons, Freund had no answer, the affidavit said. The topic of the interview then turned to discipline. “During the interview, Drew explained that AJ’s mother believed AJ had oppositional defiant disorder, ODD,” the document stated. “Drew explained AJ thinks of himself as the leader of the home and therefore, he is defiant to his parents, lies, disobeys and thinks things should go his way.” Freund admitted that he and Cunningham sometimes locked AJ in his room at night. Detectives asked Freund about a time when AJ had to be punished in that way. Freund told them about a time AJ was locked in his room for five hours after doing a poor job washing dishes and stacking them improperly. He claimed AJ lied about who stacked the dishes and needed to be punished, the affidavit said. Investigators interviewed Parker Freund on April 19, Maldonado wrote. Parker had been placed in DCFS custody after AJ was reported missing. The little boy told interviewers that his mother told him AJ “fell down the stairs and had a lot of owies” while Parker was asleep. According to the affidavit, Parker also told authorities he was told by his parents not to talk about AJ. A chilling video, a tragic end The next day, Freund was again brought in for questioning, the affidavit said. The topic of the duct tape again was brought up, and Freund said duct tape could be used for a lot of things. One thing he mentioned was taping a Rubbermaid tote shut. Maldonado wrote that he had seen several Rubbermaid totes in the family’s basement, including at least two big enough to hold the body of a 5-year-old child. Neither contained a body, however, and neither had duct tape on them, the investigator wrote. Further forensic analysis of both Freund’s cellphone and Cunningham’s phone found text messages and other items that had been deleted. Included in those deleted texts were messages Cunningham sent to a friend complaining about AJ’s behavior, which she attributed to the oppositional defiant disorder she believed he had, Maldonado wrote. The entirety of the exchanges was found on the friend’s phone, the court document said. Investigators also obtained from Apple a chilling two-minute video that had been deleted from Cunningham’s phone. The timestamp on the video was March 4, more than a month before AJ died. “AJ is seen laying on a bare mattress in a crib in a room I recognized to be his bedroom from 94 Dole Ave.,” Maldonado wrote in the affidavit. “In the video, a female with a voice consistent with JoAnn’s is holding the phone and videotaping. She is berating AJ for urinating on his bed. “AJ is seen to (be) naked except for some small bandages around both wrists and circling his hips. AJ is seen to be holding an ice pack to his face and when he removes it, he is seen to have deep red bruising around his eyes, and yellowish-greenish bruising around his neck and upper chest.” Maldonado wrote that it did not appear that AJ received medical treatment for the beating he seemed to have suffered. It was when he was confronted with the video from Cunningham’s cellphone that Freund admitted their son was dead, the detective wrote. According to the affidavit, Freund told detectives the injuries seen in the video were caused by his wife. He also told them he believed his son died April 15 after being forced into a cold shower for a prolonged period of time. “Drew explained he wanted JoAnn to stop with the hard physical beatings and do some less violent form of punishment,” Maldonado wrote. “Drew said cold showers was decided (upon).” Freund then told investigators AJ had soiled his underwear the night of April 15 and lied about it, so he was forced into a cold shower for about 20 minutes. He said he helped his son out of the shower afterward and put him to bed. AJ was “cold, wet and naked” when he was put to bed, the affidavit said. “Drew said JoAnn got up and checked on AJ and that was when she got Drew and she used Drew’s phone to search for child CPR,” the document said. Freund said he realized at that time that his son had died. He took AJ’s body down to the basement, where he stored it in a Rubbermaid tote for the next two days, the affidavit read. On the night of April 17 -- the night the couple initially claimed they’d put AJ to bed after “brushing teeth, washing hands and saying prayers” -- Freund wrapped his son’s body in several trash bags, placed him in the trunk of his car and drove him to a wooded area near Woodstock, about 8 miles from home. There, he dug a shallow grave, placed AJ’s body in it, covered him with straw and left, the affidavit said. Freund led investigators to where he buried his son, Maldonado wrote. The boy’s body was recovered April 24. Freund is awaiting trial, which is slated to take place sometime next year, CNN reported. Kenneally, the prosecutor, told the network it was not yet clear if Cunningham would testify in her husband’s case. Illinois state records show Freund, who was admitted to the state bar in 1984, was suspended from practicing in July, following his arrest and indictment in his son’s death.
  • A suspect died Friday morning after opening fire at Florida’s Naval Air Station Pensacola, killing at least three people and injuring seven others. >> Read more trending news  Authorities said the shooting was reported just before 7 a.m. local time in a classroom building at NAS Pensacola. Responding deputies with the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office exchanged gunfire with the suspected shooter, killing him, officials said. Update 2:25 p.m. EST Dec. 6: Authorities declined to confirm the identity of the person who shot several people Friday morning at Naval Air Station Pensacola, killing three people before being shot and killed by deputies. “I think there’s obviously going to be a lot of questions about this indivdual being a foreign national, being a part of the Saudi Air Force and then to be here training on our soil and to do this,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday morning at a news conference. “The FBI is working with (the Department of Defense), they’re working with (the Florida Department of Law Enforcement), they’re working with Escambia County sheriff’s to answer those questions.” DeSantis said he spoke earlier Friday with President Donald Trump. “One of the things that I talked to the president about is given that this was a foreign national in the employ of a foreign service ... obviously the government of Saudi Arabia needs to make things better for the victims,' DeSantis said. 'I think that they, they are going to owe a debt here, given that this was one of their individuals.” Authorities confirmed at a news conference that the suspect used a handgun in Friday’s shooting. Capt. Tim Kinsella, commanding officer of NAS Pensacola, said the suspect was at NAS Pensacola for aviation training. Earlier in the day, deputies said the suspect opened fire just before 7 a.m. local time in a classroom building at NAS Pensacola. Authorities continue to investigate. Update 1:45 p.m. EST Dec. 6: Authorities in Pensacola are expected to provide an update Friday afternoon on the investigation into the deadly shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola that left four people dead. Update 1:20 p.m. EST Dec. 6: President Donald Trump said Friday afternoon that he’s spoken to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and received a full briefing on the deadly shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola. “My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families during this difficult time,” Trump said. “We are continuing to monitor the situation as the investigation is ongoing.” Update 12:50 p.m. EST Dec. 6: An official told The Associated Press that the person who opened fire Friday at Naval Air Station Pensacola, killing three people and wounding several others before being shot and killed by authorities, was an aviation student from Saudi Arabia. Authorities are investigating to determine whether the shooting was terrorism-related, according to the AP. Military from around the globe attend the Naval Air Station in Pensacola. Authorities are expected to hold a news conference at 12:30 p.m. local time Friday to update the public on the investigation. Update 11:50 a.m. EST Dec. 6: Authorities expect to hold a news conference at 12 p.m. local time Friday to provide more updates on the shooting that left four people dead at Naval Air Station Pensacola.  Update 11:05 a.m. EST Dec. 6: Authorities said a total of 11 people were injured or killed in Friday morning’s shooting, including the suspected shooter. The injured included two responding deputies with the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff David Morgan said Friday at a news conference. One deputy was shot in the arm and the other was shot in the knee, Morgan said. They were both expected to survive. Morgan described walking through the scene left by Friday’s attack as being similar to “being in a movie.” “You just don’t expect this to happen here at home,” he said. Authorities continue to investigate. Update 10:45 a.m. EST Dec. 6: Officials are holding a news conference to update the public on Friday morning’s deadly shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola. Update 10:25 a.m. EST Dec. 6: Vice President Mike Pence said he’s monitoring the situation in Florida after a shooting left two victims and a suspect dead at Naval Air Station Pensacola. “Praying for the victims & their families,” Pence wrote Friday morning in a Twitter post. “We commend the first responders for their swift action in taking down the shooter & getting those on base to safety.”  Update 10:20 a.m. EST Dec. 6: White House officials said President Donald Trump has been briefed on the deadly shooting reported Friday morning at Naval Air Station Pensacola.  Update 10:15 a.m. EST Dec. 6: Officials with Naval Air Station Pensacola said the base will closed for the day Friday after a shooting left three people dead earlier in the day. Authorities said at least three people, including the suspected shooter, were killed in the incident. Reports indicated at least eight other people were wounded in the shooting. The incident happened two days after authorities said a U.S. sailor shot and killed two civilian employees before turning the gun on himself at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard. One other person was injured in that shooting. Naval Air Station Pensacola employs more than 16,000 military and 7,400 civilian personnel, according to officials. Update 10:10 a.m. EST Dec. 6: Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, said his office has been in “close contact with all the relevant officials & closely monitoring events” after a shooter opened fire at Naval Air Station Pensacola on Friday morning, killing two people. Authorities said the shooter also died. “Please pray for everyone impacted by this horrible situation,” Rubio said in a Twitter post. Update 10 a.m. EST Dec. 6: A spokesman at Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital told CNN that hospital officials expected to get three patients who had been injured in Friday morning’s shooting, down from the six expected earlier in the day. Hospital spokesman Mike Burke told the news network most victims were taken to Baptist Hospital because of its proximity to the base. Kathy Bowers, a spokeswoman for Baptist Hospital, earlier told the Pensacola News Journal that the hospital had received five patients wounded in Friday’s shooting. Update 9:45 a.m. EST Dec. 6: Officials with the U.S. Navy have confirmed that a second person has died after a shooter opened fire Friday morning at Naval Air Station Pensacola.  Update 9:35 a.m. EST Dec. 6: Officials told the Pensacola News Journal two people were confirmed dead after Friday morning’s shooting, in addition to the shooter. Naval officials previously said at least one person had been killed. Update 9:20 a.m. EST Dec. 6: At least 11 people were hospitalized in the immediate aftermath of Friday’s deadly shooting, according to The Associated Press. Ascension Sacred Heart spokesman Mike Burke told the AP six people were taken to the hospital after a shooter opened fire at Naval Air Station Pensacola early Friday. The Pensacola News Journal previously reported five other people were taken to Baptist Hospital with injuries. Naval officials said at least one victim was killed in Friday’s shooting. Authorities continue to investigate. Update 9:10 a.m. EST Dec. 6: Officials with the U.S. Navy said at least one person died Friday morning in a shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida. Authorities said the suspected shooter was also dead Friday morning. Update 9 a.m. EST Dec. 6: An official with Baptist Hospital told the Pensacola News Journal five patients were taken to the hospital after Friday morning’s reported shooting. Authorities continue to investigate. Update 8:55 a.m. EST Dec. 6: Authorities with the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office said a suspected shooter was dead Friday morning at Naval Air Station Pensacola. Original report: Authorities are responding Friday morning to reports of shots fired at Naval Air Station Pensacola, according to base officials. Authorities at NAS Pensacola said both gates to the base were closed Friday morning as authorities investigated. Officials with the U.S. Navy said the base was on lockdown around 7:45 a.m. local time. A spokeswoman for ECSO told the Pensacola News Journal deputies were working to “take down” what was described as an active shooter around 7:30 a.m. local time. Officials with the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office told WEAR-TV injuries were reported. Details on the number of people wounded and the extent of their injuries was not immediately available. The Associated Press contributed to this report. Check back for updates to this developing story.
  • Nearly a year to the day after a DUI crash killed a bailiff with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and seriously injured a JSO officer, the woman behind the wheel has been sentenced. A judge sentenced Kim Johnston to 15 years in state prison for driving under the influence causing death and five years for driving under the influence causing seriously bodily injury, though the sentences will run concurrently. Restitution was also ordered, though the exact amount will be determined at a later hearing.  WOKV first told you back in December 2018 about the crash that killed JSO bailiff Cathy Adams and seriously injured her husband, William 'Jack' Adams (pictured below). Police say Johnston was driving under the influence on I-95 when she hit the Adams' SUV, causing it to hit a guardrail and flip over. Johnston's blood alcohol level was 0.127, according to investigators. The Adams’ two kids were in the vehicle, but survived with only minor injuries. Johnston pleaded no contest back in October 2019 and was adjudicated guilty. Before the plea agreement, Johnston had been facing a maximum of 20 years and a minimum of 4 years.

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