Love Fraud · Kim Kardashian · Oxygen

Plus: A couple of (unrelated) Bay Area tales

If you liked Who The Hell Is Hamish?, the fourth season of Unravel might be right up your alley. I’m not just saying that because Unravel is a product of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Hamish (a podcast Sarah and I discussed in May) is from the folks at The Australian newspaper (though that certainly doesn’t hurt). But also like Hamish, it’s on the topic of love fraud.

ABC spokesperson Andrew Davies tells Best Evidence that the podcast, which will drop all seven of its season 4 episodes on Tuesday, September 3, covers the case of Lezlie Manukian, who the show claims is “a charismatic Californian con woman” who allegedly swindled one of her paramour’s families out of over a million bucks. and whose alleged deception was revealed following an investigation that ranges from “sleepy suburban New Zealand” to “an international investigation spanning Hawaii, the UK and the US.” You can listen to a trailer for the season, which they’re calling “Snowball,” here. -- EB

Update: OK, I didn’t manage to go for a run yesterday, but -- as promised -- I did dip into Court TV’s new podcast. And, you guys, I kind of like it! The packaging is very cheesy (but on brand, when I think about the channel’s broadcast ethos), with an ominously-voiced announcer and music so urgent I was expecting a Muppet News Flash. But hosts Vinnie Politan and Seema Iyer are well-informed and loose, have nice banter, and don’t get cute about the nuts and bolts of courtroom politics -- for example, they don’t walk on eggs shells when talking about the optics and racial dynamics of jury selection for the Michael Drejka case. It’s only weekly and it’s pretty concise, so I might keep this one on my subscription list for now. Here’s the first episode, if you want to listen and tell me I’m wrong (will also accept “right”), I’m here for it. -- EB

A new documentary is investigating a death in a notorious Bay Area jail. If you get arrested in California’s Alameda County (a region that covers Berkeley, Oakland, and several other cities) you’ll likely be booked into Santa Rita Jail, which is well-known for its reportedly “horrific” conditions and for having a disturbingly high death rate among its inmates. Filmmaker Lucas Guilkey is examining one of those deaths, the June 23, 2018 suffocation of Dujuan Armstrong while he was placed in a full-body restraint and spit mask.

The case made headlines locally, as the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department made contradictory claims about his cause of death, initially claiming it was a drug overdose. Guilkey has followed Armstrong’s mom, Barbara Doss, in the year since her son’s death, saying she was “fighting with every ounce of her being while continually being denied the truth about her about own son’s death.”

The doc premieres tonight in Oakland, then will start to make the film fest rounds. If you’re interested in arranging a screening near you, you can contact Guilkey here. -- EB

As long as we’re talking about the Bay Area, does anyone else here remember the slaying of Chauncey Bailey? I could talk about the Your Black Muslim Bakery case all day, but it’s the Friday before a long holiday weekend so I’ll spare you, instead sending you to Killing the Messenger: A Story of Radical Faith, Racism's Backlash, and the Assassination of a Journalist, an extremely solid recounting of the case. The wild case, which involved cult activity, stockpiled weapons, sexual coercion and assault, and the assassination of a local journalist (that’s Bailey), also resulted in the disbarring of prominent defense attorney Lorna Brown, who admitted to smuggling documents including the “hit list” that ordered the deaths of witnesses in the Bailey case.

That was 2014, and Brown is now saying that she’s been rehabilitated and would like to return to practice. The 73-year-old Berkeley resident continues to maintain that she thought she was smuggling out a love letter, not orders that evidence be destroyed. In response to Brown’s eight-page petition, State Bar prosecutors filed nearly 800 pages of legal documents in opposition, the East Bay Tines reports. A State Bar judge will hear the case in October. -- EB

Will the subjects of Kim Kardashian’s upcoming Oxygen doc end up modeling her underwear? As previously discussed, the entrepreneur and aspiring lawyer has been at work on Kim Kardashian: The Justice Project, a two-hour film on her efforts to enact criminal justice reform. As noted by Jezebel, one of Kardashian’s earliest triumphs -- Alice Marie Johnson, whose sentence was commuted after Kardashian met with President Trump -- now appears in an ad for SKIMS (its second name, following claims of cultural appropriation), Kardashian’s new line of shapewear.

In the ad, Johnson sings Kardashian’s praises, then says “I was set free on June the 6th 2018. So now every moment in life is precious to me. This shapewear makes me feel that I can walk into the store, I can pick up something that I normally wouldn’t think about wearing and I can put it on, and it’s going to look great on me.”

It’s an odd thing. Part of me wants to applaud the mainstreaming of prison reform, and I certainly don’t mind having the efforts to free someone like Johnson reach new audiences. But still, I feel uncomfortable. Is it because I think shapewear (both in practice and in theory) kind of sucks? Am I being precious about the intersection of social justice and commerce? There are comments on this thing, if you click through, so if you have a second, please do tell me what you think of the effort. -- EB

Can you believe that it’s been two years since Oxygen rebranded into a platform for true crime? The network has had many iterations since its Oprah-powered debut, and last pivoted in 2014 when it became a channel for “‘authentic, proudly imperfect and diverse characters’ with stories that are culturally relevant for young, modern women,” the Hollywood Reporter wrote at the time. That format didn’t stick, however, and in 2017 it flipped again, this time to crime.

Writing for Fortune, Jessica Klein has a really interesting look at how the latest format has played out for Oxygen, writing that the current craze for true crime has helped it become “the only ad-supported cable entertainment network currently pacing to post a third consecutive year of growth.” It seems like the big question is that when this trend faces its inevitable decline, will Oxygen stay on the crime beat, or move on to the next episode? -- EB

Monday on Best Evidence: It’s a holiday, so we’re talking it off -- but watch for a long weekend reading and viewing open thread. Otherwise, have fun, and we’ll see you on Tuesday.

What is this thing? This should help.

Follow The Blotter @blotterpresents on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and subscribe to The Blotter Presents via the podcast app of your choice. You can also call us any time at 919-75-CRIME.