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#FreeBritney Protests Break Out in West Hollywood

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  • Protestors in West Hollywood are fighting to get Britney Spears out of her decades-long conservatorship with her father.
  • Earlier in the month, reports claimed that the singer checked herself into a mental health facility, but fans believe she might be there against her will.
  • Many also believe her father made her go there months before we knew she was checked in.

#FreeBritney Protest in West Hollywood

Britney Spears fans gathered for a #FreeBritney protest in West Hollywood on Monday to fight the singer’s conservatorship with her father.

This protest follows Britney’s recent admission to a mental health facility at the beginning of April. Reports say the singer was experiencing emotional distress because her father, Jamie Spears, has been struggling with severe health issues. However, some fans believe that Britney did not enter the facility on her own, and is being forced to be there.

Since 2008, Jamie has been Britney’s conservator. This gives him control over her finances, assets, estate, and personal life. He shared estate control with attorney Andrew Wallet until Wallet resigned in March.

Conservatorships are court-ordered and are mainly used when someone is in a coma, suffering from dementia, or has another very serious illness that makes them incapable of making judgments. Fans started #FreeBritney to remove her from the conservatorship, as they think it gives Jamie too much power in the pop star’s life and gives him the ability to abuse her finances.

“We just kind of believe that through the proof of her work, that through the past X number of years, that she’s proven herself that she’s capable of being her own person,” said co-host of the Britney’s Gram podcast, Barbara Gray, who attended the protest. “We can’t speak exactly to her mental health, but we can speak to what we’ve seen as fans and as the public, and what she’s able to do. And it’s obvious that she shouldn’t be under that control.”

How #FreeBritney Started

While Britney has been a conservatee of Jamie’s for over a decade, theories on how he might be using this power started when she canceled her second Vegas residency in January. Soon after announcing the show, she said needed to spend time with her father and help him recover from surgery.

“A couple of months ago, my father was hospitalized and almost died,” she wrote on Instagram. “We’re all so grateful that he came out of it alive, but he still has a long road ahead of him. I had to make the difficult decision to put my full focus and energy on my family at this time.”

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I don’t even know where to start with this, because this is so tough for me to say. I will not be performing my new show Domination. I’ve been looking forward to this show and seeing all of you this year, so doing this breaks my heart. However, it’s important to always put your family first… and that’s the decision I had to make. A couple of months ago, my father was hospitalized and almost died. We’re all so grateful that he came out of it alive, but he still has a long road ahead of him. I had to make the difficult decision to put my full focus and energy on my family at this time. I hope you all can understand. More information on ticket refunds is available on britneyspears.com. I appreciate your prayers and support for my family during this time. Thank you, and love you all… always.

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Fans were suspicious and found her decision to be abrupt. Their suspicions were only furthered after the hitmaker went off the grid. For several months, there were no public sightings of the well-documented star, and her Instagram remained vacant of new content.

News that Wallet would be leaving his role as an attorney, handing sole conservatorship off to Jamie, broke during this time. However, there was still no sign of Britney.

The early-April, reports of Britney checking into a mental health facility hit the internet. On April 3, she posted a quote to Instagram and captioned it, “We all need to take time for a little “me time.” :)” Fans found the post to be off-brand for the star, leading them to believe she was not there on her own admission, and that her dad pulled the strings to enter her to the center.

Tip on Britney’s Gram Podcast

The theories only grew from there. On an April 18 episode of Britney’s Gram, the hosts reveal they received a tip on Britney’s status. While the source was anonymous, Gram and co-host Tess Barker said they verified his credibility. The call came from a man who claimed to be a paralegal in the office working on Britney’s conservatorship case.

In his tip, he backed up many of the fan theories that were circulating on social media. He said that while Britney was rehearsing for her second Vegas residency, Jamie learned she was not taking her medications as prescribed. He told her she could take her medication, meet with a doctor to find a new medicine program, or cancel the show. When she refused the first two options, Jamie did the latter and chose to blame it on his health.

The source also said that while the public only learned about her treatment in April, she actually had been in the facility since January, when the tour was canceled.

“She did not want to go,” he added. “From what I understand, this is not a decision she made, at all.”

One the same day, however, an article from the Blast cites a source who claims the songstress “would be dead” if she had not been checked in.

Where Are We Now?

Since Britney has been checked into the mental health facility, there have been two sightings of her in public. The most recent, for an Easter outing, left fans worried.

They think the singer looks out of sorts, and like her health is on the decline, based on the paparazzi photos.

The Britney’s Gram podcast has reported that Britney has filed a motion in court this year, potentially regarding her conservatorship. However, the court records on this are sealed, so this is not verified.

As of now, no one on Britney’s team has commented on the protests or the #FreeBritney movement.

See what others are saying: (The Hollywood Reporter) (Entertainment Tonight) (Forbes)

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John Legend Says “No One” Will Benefit From Felicity Huffman’s Sentence

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  • Many people thought Felicity Huffman was handed a light sentence after she was given just 14 days in prison for her role in the college admissions scandal.
  • This prompted many to bring up cases where women of color were sentenced to more jail time for similar or arguably smaller crimes, like lying about their address to get their children into a better school district.
  • John Legend responded by saying that both Huffman and the women in the other cases should receive no jail time for what they did. He believes that prison is not the answer for every crime, but said the criminal justice system still turns to it too frequently.

Reactions to Huffman’s Sentence

Musician John Legend responded to criticisms of Felicity Huffman’s sentencing for her role in the sweeping college admissions scandal, arguing that “no one in our nation will benefit” from her serving prison time. 

On Friday, Huffman was sentenced to 14 days in prison along with one year supervised release, 250 hours community service, and a fine of $30,000. Huffman paid $15,000 to have her daughter’s SAT score boosted and pled guilty to guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.

Many thought that just 14 days behind bars was lenient and compared Huffman’s case to those of black women who were given more time for crimes they considered similar or even less severe. 

One case many turned to was that of Tanya McDowell, a Connecticut woman who was sentenced to five years in prison for lying about her address to get her son into a better school district. At the time, she was homeless and living out of her van, shelters, and an apartment she only had access to at night. 

Others pointed to a similar case with Kelley Williams-Bolar in Ohio. She used her father’s address to get her children into a better school district and was handed two concurrent five-year sentences that she was later able to reduce to 10 days. Williams-Bolar’s case was cited in Huffman’s sentencing. Prosecutors argued that if someone in her situation served time, there’s no reason that Huffman, who comes from a more privileged background, should not do the same.

Critics of Huffman’s sentence argued that there were similarities between what Huffman did and what these two mothers did, as they all had the goal of getting their child a better education.

Another case people compared it to was that of Crystal Mason. Mason was handed a five-year sentence after unknowingly voting illegally. She tried to fill out a provisional ballot in 2016, and at the time she was on supervised release for a federal felony. Mason was unaware that she could not vote until her release was over and was convicted of illegal voting. 

She is currently repealing her sentence and gave a statement to the Huffington Post regarding Huffman’s time. 

“I don’t wish this for anyone, but a sentence to 14 days for actual serious fraud just shows how unfair my sentence is,” she told them. “I’m hopeful the Justices will see that under the law, I shouldn’t have been convicted in the first place.”

John Legend Responds

Musician and criminal justice reform advocate John Legend responded to these varied reactions without ever mentioning Huffman’s name. Instead of arguing that Huffman’s sentence was too light, he said people like her and the others mentioned should serve no time at all. 

He mentioned cases like McDowell and Mason and called them “insane” and “unconscionable.”

“We don’t need to lock people up for any of this stuff,” Legend concluded in his thread. 

On Sunday, he furthered his argument by suggesting that there are other ways people can be held accountable for their actions. 

Legend was not alone in believing prison time was not the answer. The executive director of the Ohio Justice and Policy Center, David Singleton, who represented Williams-Bolar told the New York Times that putting the actress behind bars is not productive.

“When you are rich — and particularly if you’re rich and white in this country — there’s a different justice system,” he said. “Sending Felicity Huffman to jail is not going to solve that problem.”

Twitter users began to share what they found to be more productive ways for people like Huffman to right their wrongs. Some suggested she pay for the tuitions of McDowell’s children or contribute to scholarships.

See what others are saying: (Huffington Post) (USA Today) (The Atlantic)

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Felicity Huffman Sentenced to 14 Days in Prison

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  • Actress Felicity Huffman was given a sentence of 14 days in prison for paying a college admissions consultant $15,000 to doctor her daughter’s SAT scores. 
  • Huffman will also be required to serve a year of supervised release, complete 250 hours of community service, and pay a fine of $30,000.
  • Huffman is the first of the 34 parents charged in the expansive college admissions scam. Many had viewed her verdict as a test case for future sentences of others involved in the scandal.

Felicity Huffman Sentenced

Actress Felicity Huffman was sentenced to 14 days in prison on Friday for her role in the infamous college admissions scandal Operation Varsity Blues, making her the first of nearly three dozen parents charged in the scheme.

Huffman had previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud in May after she admitted she had paid admissions consultant Rick Singer $15,000 to have her oldest daughter’s SAT answers corrected by a proctor.

In addition to the brief prison time, the actress’s sentence also includes a year of supervised release, 250 hours of community service, and the payment of a $30,000 fine.

Prosecutors had asked that the actress be sentenced to one month in prison, 12 years of supervised release, and pay a $20,000 fine.

Huffman’s lawyers, however, have said that she should not serve any prison time and had asked for one year of probation, 250 hours of community service, and a $20,000 fine.

Experts have argued that Huffman’s guilty plea and her numerous apologies encouraged Judge Indira Talwani, who oversaw her case, to lighten her sentence for the conspiracy charge, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. 

During the sentencing Friday, Huffman choked up while reading a prepared statement in court before her sentence was handed down.

“I am deeply ashamed of what I have done,” Huffman said to the judge. “At the end of the day I had a choice to make. I could have said ‘no.’”

Announcing her decision, Talwani said she believes Huffman’s punishment is “the right sentence here.” 

“I think you take your sentence and you move forward,” she told the actress. “You can rebuild your life after this. You’ve paid your dues.”

Huffman also responded to the sentence in a statement.

“I broke the law,” she wrote. “I have admitted that and I pleaded guilty to this crime. There are no excuses or justifications for my actions. Period.”

“I would like to apologize again to my daughter, my husband, my family and the educational community for my actions,” she continued. “And I especially want to apologize to the students who work hard every day to get into college, and to their parents who make tremendous sacrifices supporting their children.”

Test Case for Operation Varsity Blues

Many have viewed Huffman’s sentencing as a test case for the other parents who have been indicted in the sweeping Operation Varsity Blues scandal.

Prosecutors have filed charged against 51 parents, coaches, and employees of Singer.

So far 15 of the 34 parents who have been charged have pleaded guilty. The majority of those parents are scheduled to be sentenced in the next few weeks, and most of their cases are set to be overseen by Judge Talwani.

As a result, Talwani’s response to Huffman’s case could be very telling for the other parents. 

However, at the same time, prosecutors in Huffman’s trial asked for a comparatively lighter sentence, citing the fact that she paid less than many other parents and also because she did not include her younger daughter in the admissions fraud.

By contrast, actress Lori Loughlin and her designer husband Mossimo Giannulli have been accused of paying Singer $500,000 to get both of their daughters into the University of Southern California by falsely claiming they were athletes on the university’s crew team.

Both Loughlin and Giannulli plead not guilty in April and were hit with new charges. They now both face up to 40 years in prison.

For some of the other parents who have already pleaded guilty, prosecutors are asking for as much as 15 months of prison time.

Racial Disparities

Huffman’s sentence is also being seen as a litmus test for how wealthy white families are treated in the justice system compared to lower-income, nonwhite individuals convicted of similar crimes.

Like in Huffman’s case, prosecutors have argued that the parents should serve some time in prison to show that wealthy people will be held accountable for cheating the college admissions system.

In court papers, prosecutors referenced a case where public school teachers, principals, and other administrators in Atlanta were convicted of conspiring to cheat on state tests. All of the defendants were black, and some were sentenced to up three years in prison.

In another case, prosecutors cited, a black mother in Ohio named Kelley Williams-Bolar was sentenced to five years of prison for using her father’s address so her children could go to a suburban school district near where she lived.

Her sentence was later suspended to just 10 days in jail, three years of probation, and community service.

The prosecutors used the cases to argue that light sentences for parents involved in the Operation Varsity Blues scandal would prompt accusations of preferential treatment and racial bias.

“Frequently, those cases involved defendants who are members of racial and ethnic minorities and/or from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds,” prosecutors wrote. “A different result in this case, particularly given the history and characteristics of these defendants, would not be appropriate.”

However, some of the lawyers in both the cases cited by the prosecutors told The New York Times that their cases should not be used to argue that Huffman should serve prison time.

David Singleton, the executive director of the Ohio Justice and Policy Center, who represented Ms. Williams-Bolar in successfully seeking clemency in her case, said that there were indeed disparities in the justice system.

“Our educators in our cheating scandal in Atlanta were way over-prosecuted and way over-punished,” said Bob Rubin, who represented a former principal involved in the Atlanta case. “My answer is not to give Felicity Huffman more, but to give our clients less.”

“When you are rich — and particularly if you’re rich and white in this country — there’s a different justice system,” said David Singleton, who represented Williams-Bolar. “Sending Felicity Huffman to jail is not going to solve that problem.”

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNN) (NBC News)

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SNL’s New Regular Shane Gillis Apologizes After Use of Slurs Resurface

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  • Shortly after SNL announced Shane Gillis as a new show regular, the comedian faced backlash for several racist, homophobic, and sexist comments he made in old podcasts.
  • Gillis then deleted his entire library of podcasts from YouTube and issued an apology for his past jokes on Twitter, saying “I’m a comedian who pushes boundaries.”

Gillis Apologizes for Previous Comments

As Saturday Night Live adds its first gay Asian American series regular to its upcoming 45th season, another new cast member is coming under fire for using both racist and homophobic slurs.

Thursday afternoon, SNL announced it was adding Chloe Fineman, Bowen Yang, and Shane Gillis to its roster, the latter of which has now apologized for remarks he made in a series of podcasts posted to YouTube with fellow comedian Matt McCusker.

“Let the fucking ch***s live there,” Gillis said in a September 2018 podcast in reference to New York’s Chinatown.

In the same podcast, Gillis also refers to noodles as “nooders.”

“And the translation between you and the waiter,” Gillis said of Chinese restaurant staff, “it’s just such a fucking hassle. It’s like, can you, I’m pointing at it. Like this is the fucking nooder.”

Following the controversy, Gillis then deleted every video on his YouTube page, titled “Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast.” Gillis possibly deleted all videos to shield himself against further controversy; however, copies of his podcasts have circulated online. 

Later the same day of his announcement, Gillis apologized for his comments on Twitter.

“I’m a comedian who pushes boundaries,” he said in the post. “I sometimes miss. If you go through my 10 years of comedy, most of it bad, you’re going to find a lot of bad misses. I’m happy to apologize to anyone who’s actually offended by anything I’ve said. My intention is never to hurt anyone but I’m trying to be the best comedian I can be and sometimes that requires risks.”

Gillis’ Past Comments

A variety of media sites and people online have uncovered a plethora of now not-so-secret podcasts, where Gillis makes a wide range of racist comments about Asian, Latino, Middle Eastern, and Jewish people. Gillis can also be heard making further homophobic and sexist comments.

In one podcast, Gillis criticizes comedian Sarah Silverman for discussing women’s rights.

Later, in the same podcast, Gillis criticized comedians who talk about their depression in their stand up routines, calling them “gay.”

“Those guys are fucking gayer than Isis,” Gillis said, then breaking into a caricatured accent. “At least Isis is out there, ‘We need to get the pussy. After we blow ourselves up, we get a bunch of pussy. These white, faggot comics they’re like, ‘I’m just sad life is hard and I’m gay.’”

In the same podcast, Gillis continues to make homophobic comments, using “faggot” and other slurs several more times.

“Stop calling me fucking gay, dude,” Gillis said in the podcast. “I ain’t no queer.”

After McCusker said he was not impressed with a Latino stand-up comedian, Gillis said he should have told the comic to go back to the Spanish-language TV station Univision.

Because of those comments like those, Kate Banford, who co-owns the Good Good Comedy Theatre, told Vulture that the theatre broke ties with Gillis over his history with slurs. 

“Good Good Comedy Theatre stopped working with him within the past few years because of racist, homophobic, and sexist things he’s said on and offstage,” she said to Vulture.

Bowen Yang’s Addition

With Yang’s addition, many media outlets originally credited him as the show’s third openly gay cast member and first since John Milhiser’s exit in 2014; however, Yang joins Kate McKinnon, who is openly gay and has been on the show since 2012.

Many other outlets also originally described Yang as the first Asian American cast member, yet both Fred Armisen, who is half-Korean and appeared on the show from 2002-2013, and Rob Schneider, who is a quarter Filipino and starred on the show in the 1990s, are of Asian descent.

Yang began his time at SNL last year during its 44th season as a writer. Yang also portrayed North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un during an episode hosted by Sandra Oh. 

In recent years, SNL has come under fire for its lack of Asian cast members, with Vanity Fair reporting that the skit comedy show has featured so few Asian actors that it, at times, has used its production designer Akira Yoshimura to play Sulu from Star Trek. Yoshimura first appeared on the show in 1976 and has appeared as recently as 2017.

See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (NBC News) (Indie Wire)

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