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U.S. Federal Courts

Court: Employer provided insurance can exclude coverage of PrEP

Representing the company in both cases was Jonathan Mitchell, former solicitor general of Texas, a vocal opponent of LGBTQ+ rights

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The Eldon B. Mahon United States Courthouse, Ft. Worth (Photo Credit: U.S. Courts/GSA)

FORT WORTH, Tx – A U.S. District Court on Wednesday ruled against a federal mandate requiring employer provided health plans to cover PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis), a drug used for the prevention of HIV. 

The mandate, a provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), violates tenets of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, according to Judge Reed O’Connor of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. 

Insurance plans were required to cover PrEP following a 2019 recommendation from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for the drug to be prescribed for high-risk patients for the prevention of HIV infection. 

Braidwood Management challenged the ACA’s provision the grounds that covering PrEP would conflict with its religious convictions as the medication “facilitates and encourages homosexual behavior, intravenous drug use, and sexual activity outside of marriage between one man and one woman.” 

Judge O’Connor ruled in favor of Braidwood Management in a separate case last year challenging the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s anti-bias protections for sexual orientation and gender identity, deciding Braidwood had the right to discriminate under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment. 

Representing the company in both cases was Jonathan Mitchell, former solicitor general of Texas, a vocal opponent of LGBTQ+ rights who is credited as the architect of S.B. 8, which provides a right of action allowing private citizens to sue those who obtain an abortion. 

One of the more conservative judges in one of the most conservative federal district courts, O’Connor ruled in 2018 that the entire ACA was unconstitutional, which the U.S. Supreme Court subsequently overturned in 2021. 

Carl Schmid, executive director of the HIV+Hepatitis Policy Institute, told Roll Call he expects Wednesday’s ruling will be appealed. “Preventive services covered by private insurance plans without cost-sharing, such as HIV testing, hepatitis B and C testing, and PrEP, are all critical and well-established public health preventive services that must continue,” he said. 

PrEP reduces by roughly 99% the risk of contracting HIV. It has been labeled an “essential medicine” by the World Health Organization. 

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U.S. Federal Courts

Guilty pleas in Planned Parenthood arson attack

The men also discussed and researched how to attack the Dodger Stadium’s electrical room on a night celebrating LGBTQ+ pride

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Planned Parenthood clinic Costa Mesa (Photo Credit: Costa Mesa Health Center of Costa Mesa)

SANTA ANA, Calif. – An Orange County man pleaded guilty Thursday to a firebombing attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic in Costa Mesa in March 2022 and planning to attack an electrical substation in Orange County, and further admitted to plotting an attack on Dodger Stadium last June on the Dodger’s annual Pride night game.

Tibet Ergul, 22, of Irvine, pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to damage an energy facility and one misdemeanor count of intentional damage to a reproductive health services facility. He is scheduled to be sentenced on May 30 and faces a maximum penalty of 21 years in prison.

According to his plea agreement, in February and March 2022, Ergul and Chance Brannon, 24, of San Juan Capistrano, California, agreed to use a Molotov cocktail to damage a Planned Parenthood clinic in Orange County.

Ergul and Brannon, who at the time was an active-duty U.S. Marine, targeted the clinic because it provided reproductive health services and they wanted to encourage others to engage in similar violent acts. Ergul and Brannon also wanted to make a statement about abortion; scare pregnant women away from obtaining abortions; deter doctors, staff and employees at the clinic from providing abortions; and intimidate the clinic’s patients.

On March 12, 2022, in Ergul’s garage, Ergul and Brannon knowingly assembled a Molotov cocktail. During the early morning hours of March 13, 2022, Ergul and Brannon – disguised in dark clothing, masks, hoods and gloves – drove to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Costa Mesa, ignited the Molotov cocktail and threw it at the clinic’s entrance, intentionally starting a fire. Due to the fire and the damage it caused, the clinic was forced to temporarily close and reschedule approximately 30 patient appointments.

Ergul further admitted that in June 2022, following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, he and Brannon planned to use a second Molotov cocktail to attack another Planned Parenthood clinic. Ergul and Brannon abandoned this plan after seeing law enforcement near the targeted clinic.

Ergul also conspired with others, including Brannon, to damage a Southern California Edison electrical substation to debilitate Orange County’s power grid. Ergul and his accomplices planned to attack the substation by using firearms or a Molotov cocktail that Ergul possessed in his garage. Ergul and Brannon consulted with an associate about surveillance, drone operations and firearms.

In March 2023, Ergul messaged an associate to say he had found a substation in Orange to target. Ergul sent the associate aerial photographs of the substation and suggested doing a “drive-thru” at 3 a.m. Ergul also sent Brannon a letter in which he wrote: “The rifle is in a box in my room waiting to be used in the upcoming race war,” and he discussed a desire to murder politicians and journalists. Ergul and Brannon did not carry out this attack prior to their arrest in this case.

During the early summer of 2023, Ergul and Brannon also discussed and researched how to attack the Dodger Stadium parking lot or the stadium’s electrical room on a night celebrating LGBTQ+ pride, including by using a device that could be detonated remotely, Ergul admitted in his plea agreement. Brannon and Ergul exchanged sabotage manuals and discussed doing “dry runs” to “case” the stadium. Law enforcement arrested Ergul and Brannon two days before Dodger Stadium’s scheduled “Pride Night.”

Ergul, who has been in federal custody since June 2023, is the third and final defendant to plead guilty in this case.

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Brannon, who also has been in federal custody since June 2023, pleaded guilty in November to four crimes: conspiracy, malicious destruction of property by fire and explosives, possession of an unregistered destructive device and intentional damage to a reproductive health services facility – a violation of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. Brannon’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 15.

Xavier Batten, 21, of Brooksville, Florida, who has been in federal custody since July 2023, pleaded guilty on Jan. 19 to one count of possession of an unregistered destructive device and one count of intentional damage to a reproductive health services facility. Batten’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 15.

The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigated this matter. The Costa Mesa Police Department and the Costa Mesa Fire Department provided substantial assistance.

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N.Y. AG joins multi-state brief in Colo. anti-trans discrimination case

“Denying service to someone simply because of who they are is illegal discrimination, plain and simple,” James said

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New York Attorney General Letitia James. (Photo Credit: State of New York)

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Attorney General Letitia James on Wednesday joined a brief by 18 other Democratic state attorneys general urging the Colorado Supreme Court to uphold a lower court ruling against Masterpiece Cakeshop for anti-trans discrimination.

A customer, Autumn Scardina, sued the business over claims that it refused to provide her a cake upon learning that it was for a celebration of her transition. The case is not the first in which owner Jack Smith has faced claims of anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

In 2012, Masterpiece Cakeshop refused to fulfill an order for a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, which led to the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court case Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission — and a narrow ruling that did not address core legal questions weighing the constitutionality of First Amendment claims vis-a-vis the government’s enforcement of LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination laws.

“Denying service to someone simply because of who they are is illegal discrimination, plain and simple,” James said in a press release. “Allowing this kind of behavior would undermine our nation’s fundamental values of freedom and equality and set a dangerous precedent.”

She added, “I am proud to stand with my fellow attorneys general against this blatant transphobic discrimination.”

The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Scardina, noting that Smith objected to fulfilling her cake order only after learning about her intended use for it “and that Phillips did not believe the cake itself expressed any inherent message.”

The fact pattern in both cases against Masterpiece Cakeshop resembles that of another case that originated in Colorado and was ultimately decided by the Supreme Court last year, 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis.

This time, the justices did not sidestep the question of whether the state’s anti-discrimination law can be enforced against a business owner, Lorie Smith, a website designer who claimed religious protections for her refusal to provide services to a same-sex couple for their nuptials.

The court’s conservative supermajority ruled in favor of Smith, which was widely seen as a blow to LGBTQ rights.

Joining James in her brief are the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai’i, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and D.C.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Florida gay man found guilty of threatening a member of Congress

Lawyers for Stanzione noted that he told federal agents that “he feels offended by Santos and does not want him in his (gay) community”

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USCG Station Eatons Neck Officer-in-Charge BMCS Erich White, disgraced former U.S. Rep. George Santos, and Capt. Eva J. Van Camp, former Commanding Officer U.S. Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound, April 2023. (Photo Credit: USCG Public Affairs)

MIAMI, Fla. – On Feb. 22, following a two-day trial, a federal jury in Ft. Lauderdale convicted a man for calling the office of former U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) in Washington D.C. and threatening to kill Santos and another person. 

On Jan. 29, 2023, Frank Stanzione, 53, of Boynton Beach, Florida, made a telephone call from his residence in Boynton Beach to the office of a member of the United States House of Representatives. Stanzione left a voice message for the member that stated the following:

[Victim 1 former Rep. Santos] you fat fucking piece of shit fucker. You better watch your mother fucking back because I’m gonna bash your mother fucking fucker head in with a bat until your brains are splattered across the fucking wall. You lying, disgusting, disgraceful, mother fucking fucker. You mother fucking piece of shit. You’re gonna get fucking murdered you goddamn lying piece of garbage. Watch your back you fat, ugly, piece of shit. You and [Victim 2 Redacted] are dead.

The Congress member’s chief of staff reported the message to the United States Capitol Police (USCP) the next morning. The USCP began investigating the voice message as a threat and determined that it was made from a telephone number assigned to Stanzione. 

On Jan. 31, 2023, USCP special agents went to the address associated with the telephone number and interviewed Stanzione. USCP confirmed that Stanzione had left the voice message for the Congress member. Stanzione found the telephone number on an online search engine. 

In a motion to dismiss, lawyers for Stanzione noted in the interview he told federal agents that “he feels offended by Santos and does not want him in his (gay) community.” He said he left the message to make Santos “feel like a piece of shit.”

The court filing described Stanzione as “a long-standing, active advocate for gay rights.”

In the motion to dismiss, Stanzione claimed his prosecution was “retaliatory and vindictive” and “based upon his exercise of political speech related to gay rights.”

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“Others who have allegedly committed similar acts,” his attorneys stated in the motion, “have not been prosecuted.”

U.S. Attorney Markenzy Lapointe for the Southern District of Florida and Chief J. Thomas Manger of USCP announced the guilty verdict. The USCP – Threat Assessment Section investigated the case.

Stanzione will be sentenced in May and faces penalties including up to five years in federal prison, a fine of up to $250,000, or both.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Appeals court allows Indiana’s ban on gender care for Trans youth

“This ruling is beyond disappointing and a heartbreaking development for thousands of transgender youth, their doctors, & their families”

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Main courtroom, for the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Indianapolis, Ind. (Photo Credit: U.S. Courts/GSA)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals today issued a stay that will lift a lower court’s injunction blocking Indiana’s gender-affirming care ban. The law, originally set to take effect on July 1, 2023, will now take effect immediately.

In June 2023, Judge Patrick Hanlon, a Trump-appointed federal judge, issued a temporary restraining order halting Indiana’s ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth. The request for a preliminary injunction against SB 480 came in a lawsuit brought by four transgender youth and their families, as well as a doctor and health care clinic,

The law prohibits medical providers from providing gender-affirming health care to transgender youth, effective immediately.

“This ruling is beyond disappointing and a heartbreaking development for thousands of transgender youth, their doctors, and their families. As we and our clients consider our next steps, we want all the transgender youth of Indiana to know this fight is far from over and we will continue to challenge this law until it is permanently defeated and Indiana is made a safer place to raise every family,” said Ariella Sult, a spokesperson for the ACLU of Indiana in a joint statement issued with the American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Guilty verdict in first federal trial of murder based on gender identity

After a four-day trial a jury found a South Carolina man, Daqua Lameek Ritter, guilty of all charges in the indictment

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Dime Doe (Family photo)

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A federal jury handed down a guilty verdict of a man accused of murdering a Black transgender female in what is classified as the first in the nation federal trial over a hate crime based on gender identity.

After a four-day trial in a federal hate crime case, a jury found a South Carolina man, Daqua Lameek Ritter, guilty of all charges in the indictment, which included one hate crime count, one federal firearms count, and one obstruction count, all arising out of the murder of Dime Doe, a transgender woman.

“Acts of violence against LGBTQI+ people, including transgender women of color like Dime Doe, are on the rise and have no place in our society,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer. “The Justice Department takes seriously all bias-motivated acts of violence and will not hesitate to hold accountable those who commit them. No one should have to live in fear of deadly violence because of who they are.”

According to court documents and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, evidence presented at trial showed that Ritter was upset that rumors about his sexual relationship with Dime Doe were out in the community. On Aug. 4, 2019, the defendant lured Doe to a remote area in Allendale, South Carolina, and shot her three times in the head. At trial, the government proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Ritter murdered Doe because of her gender identity. Ritter then burned the clothes he was wearing during the crime, disposed of the murder weapon, and repeatedly lied to law enforcement. 

This was the first trial under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act for violence against a transgender person. The Shepard-Byrd Act is a landmark federal statute passed in 2009 which allows federal criminal prosecution of hate crimes motivated by the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

“A unanimous jury has found the defendant guilty for the heinous and tragic murder of Dime Doe, a Black transgender woman,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The jury’s verdict sends a clear message: Black trans lives matter, bias-motivated violence will not be tolerated, and perpetrators of hate crimes will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. This case is historic; this defendant is the first to be found guilty by trial verdict for a hate crime motivated by gender identify under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. We want the Black trans community to know that you are seen and heard, that we stand with the LGBTQI+ community, and that we will use every tool available to seek justice for victims and their families.”

Ritter faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled at a later date. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Pair of lawsuits filed against Virginia guidelines for trans students

Equality Virginia and other advocacy groups claim the guidelines, among other things, would forcibly out trans and nonbinary students

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

RICHMOND, Va. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and a private law firm on Thursday filed two lawsuits against the state’s guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students.

One of the plaintiffs, a high school student in York County to whom the press release refers as “Jane Doe,” claims “at least one teacher refused to address by her correct first name.” The second plaintiff, “Lily Loe,” a middle school student in Hanover County, “is not allowed to participate in a girls’ sports team.”

“When you look at the ways that VDOE’s (Virginia Department of Education) model policies are hurting transgender and nonbinary students like our clients, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that their authors were purposefully trying to erase gender non-conforming students from the classroom,” said Andrew Ewalt, co-counsel and partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, which has an office in D.C. “That flouts both existing nondiscrimination law and the Virginia law that directed VDOE to develop model policies in the first place.”

The Virginia Department of Education last July announced the new guidelines for which Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin asked. 

Equality Virginia and other advocacy groups claim the guidelines, among other things, would forcibly out trans and nonbinary students. Arlington County Public Schools, Fairfax County Public Schools and Prince William County Schools are among the school districts that have refused to implement them. 

“It was clear since the day that he took office that Gov. Youngkin and his Department of Education would target LGBTQ+ Virginians and single out transgender and nonbinary students for discrimination, and now that some school boards are implementing and enforcing their model policies for public schools, it’s even more clear that the harm is real,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director Narissa Rahaman on Thursday in a statement. 

“We applaud the ACLU of Virginia for taking on these harmful policies and for fighting for the health and well-being of students,” added Rahaman. “We’re proud to work toward those goals, together.” 

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Federal appeals court upholds block on Idaho trans care ban

The law bans puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and certain surgeries if they are used to affirm the gender of trans people under 18

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James R. Browning U.S. Court of Appeals, Federal Courthouse San Francisco (Photo Credit: US Courts/GSA)

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – The Ninth U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld a lower court’s ruling blocking enforcement of an Idaho law banning gender-affirming medical care for transgender people under 18.

HB 71 bans puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and certain surgeries if they are used to affirm the gender of transgender people under 18, and threatens medical providers who provide this widely accepted care with a felony conviction and up to 10 years in prison.

Chief United States District Judge for the District of Idaho, B. Lynn Winmill, in December ruled that HB 71, a ban on gender-affirming care in the state violates the equal protection and due process rights of parents and their transgender children.

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The state of Idaho asked the Ninth Circuit to stay that injunction pending the appeal and allow the law to go into effect immediately, and today’s order refuses to do so.

“This ruling should be celebrated by everyone who decries discrimination,” said Paul Carlos Southwick, ACLU of Idaho Legal Director. “We celebrate alongside transgender youth and their families throughout Idaho who will continue to have access to the health care they need and deserve.”

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18 Years in Federal prison for firebombing LGBTQ friendly church

“Penny is being held accountable for trying to burn down a house of worship because he disagreed with the church hosting certain events”

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Aimenn D. Penny (center) of Alliance, Ohio is shown here with fellow extremists and neo-Nazis at anti-drag protest rally. (Photo Credit: FBI)

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The neo-Nazi who attempted to burn a church to the ground after learning the church was holding multiple drag show events was sentenced yesterday to 18 years in prison followed by three years of supervised release for attempting to burn down a church because of its support for the LGBTQ+ community.

Aimenn D. Penny, 20, of Alliance, Ohio, was arrested and charged last year with one count of violating the Church Arson Prevention Act, one count of using fire to commit a federal felony, one count of malicious use of explosive materials, and one count of possessing a destructive device.  On Oct. 23, 2023, Penny pleaded guilty to the church arson hate crime and using fire and explosives to commit a felony. 

“Aimenn Penny will spend the next 18 years in prison because he committed crimes fueled by hate, attempting to burn down a church because its members supported the LGBTQI+ community,” said U.S. Attorney Rebecca C. Lutzko for the Northern District of Ohio. “Hate crimes like Penny’s hurt not only the individual target, but the entire community, causing people to fear attack based on who they love and undermining the sense of safety within places of worship. Violent, bias-motivated extremism has no place in our country, and our office will aggressively prosecute those who commit such crimes.” 

According to court documents, Penny attempted to burn the church to the ground after learning the Community Church of Chesterland, in Chesterland, Ohio, was holding multiple drag show events the following weekend. He was initially arrested and charged with federal offenses on March 31, 2023.

The FBI Cleveland Field Office, which is investigating the case, finding a Nazi flag, a White Lives Matter of Ohio T-shirt, and other hateful memorabilia in Penny’s home. During the interviews with the FBI, he told FBI agents his only regret was that the church didn’t burn to the ground.

“We hope this significant sentence sends a clear and resounding message that this type of hate-fueled attack against a church will not be tolerated in our country,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This defendant tried to burn down a church simply because its members created space for and provided support to the LGBTQ+ community. The Justice Department will vigorously investigate and prosecute such senseless, bias-motivated violence against people exercising their constitutionally protected right to practice their religion and express their beliefs.”

The FBI Cleveland Field Office investigated the case.

“Aimenn Penny is being held accountable for trying to burn down a house of worship because he disagreed with the church hosting certain events,” said Executive Assistant Director Larissa L. Knapp of the FBI’s National Security Branch. “Individuals who commit acts of violence, destroy property, and interfere with the free exercise of religion will face justice for those crimes. As in this case, the FBI, together with our law enforcement partners, will use our lawful authorities to protect our communities from such violence, and ensure those responsible pay the price.”

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BBC: Ex-A&F CEO denies trafficking allegations- FBI investigates

The BBC reported the FBI has begun an investigation and that agents have been interviewing & issuing subpoenas to potential witnesses

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Former head of Abercrombie & Fitch facing sexual abuse allegations by former male models. (Screenshot/YouTube NBC News)

NEW YORK – Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F), the American lifestyle retailer based in New Albany, Ohio, along with its former CEO Mike Jeffries, and his partner Matthew Smith, have petitioned a federal court in New York to dismiss a class action lawsuit alleging the fashion brand company, Jeffries and Smith were complicit in a multi-decade-long sex trafficking scheme.

The class action suit was brought by a former model for Abercrombie & Fitch, actor David Bradberry, whose account of the abuse was documented by BBC journalist Rianna Croxford, in the BBC Select film documentary:  The Abercrombie Guys: The Dark Side of Cool

According to a BBC follow-up report this past week, Jeffries alleges the claims of the suit fall outside the statute of limitations, and are “meritless.” The company says the lawsuit failed to show it knew about the alleged exploitation, and cannot be held liable.

Jeffries transformed Abercrombie and Fitch from a failing retail chain to a multibillion-dollar empire and the epitome of cool. He built Abercrombie into a global brand during his tenure as CEO from 1992 until 2014 when he departed.

In the lawsuit’s court documents, it states that Jeffries allegedly had modeling scouts scouring the internet and elsewhere to identify attractive young men seeking to be the next face of Abercrombie and Fitch. Often these prospective models became sex-trafficking victims, sent to New York and abroad and abused by Jeffries and other men, all under the guise that they were being recruited to become the next Abercrombie model, the lawsuit contends.

“Jeffries was so important to the profitability of the brand that he was given complete autonomy to perform his role as CEO however he saw fit, including through the use of blatant international sex-trafficking and abuse of prospective Abercrombie models,” the suit contends.

Former model for Abercrombie & Fitch and actor, David Bradberry.
(Screenshot/YouTube BBC Select)

In the recent court filings the BBC reported that Jeffries’ lawyers state that he “vehemently denies every allegation made against him” in the civil lawsuit, and “asks the court to look beyond the sensationalized narrative presented by the plaintiff, and to address the glaring legal deficiencies in the complaint, which necessitate the dismissal of this action”.

A separate legal document filed on behalf of Smith also asks for the lawsuit to be dismissed because the allegations “concern events that allegedly occurred in 2010,” and claim they have been “time-barred since 2011.” That court document also states that the claim “does not detail any specific, factual occurrences” of an alleged sexual offence by Smith.

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The BBC noted that A&F filed a separate response, arguing that the retailer had no knowledge of the “supposed trafficking venture” or alleged sexual misconduct, and “up until the moment that the BBC’s reporting was released in October 2023, there was nothing public about the allegations against Jeffries.”

The BBC is also reporting that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has begun an investigation, and that FBI agents have been interviewing and issuing subpoenas to potential witnesses.

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Trans veterans sue the VA for coverage of surgeries

The lawsuit, filed by the Transgender American Veterans Association, aims to reduce the risk of adverse health outcomes

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U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough (Screen capture/YouTube)

WASHINGTON – A group of transgender veterans on Thursday sued the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to compel the agency to cover gender affirming surgeries, following verbal assurances that it would begin providing these services.

The lawsuit, filed by the Transgender American Veterans Association, aims to reduce the risk of adverse health outcomes that can result from lack of access to medically necessary healthcare interventions for people with gender dysphoria.

This includes suicides, depression and psychological distress.

In its complaint before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, the group argued gender affirming surgeries are often prohibitively expensive when administered by private doctors.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough in 2021 said the agency was engaged in a rule making process to provide these services to trans veterans such that they can “go through the full gender confirmation process with VA by their side.”

The process, he said, would take a few years to “develop capacity to meet the surgical needs.”

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