Sheela · Weinstein · Gaslit

Plus: The perfect bird?

A New York jury ruled Monday that Harvey Weinstein is guilty of two separate sexual assault incidents. The Washington Post reports that jurors found Weinstein “not guilty” of the more serious charge of predatory sexual assault, but faces a sentence of five to 25 years for a 2006 assault, and a four-year sentence for a 2013 rape.

Following the verdict, Weinstein was cuffed and taken to jail, the AP reports. His sentencing has been set for March 11, and his lawyer, Donna Rotunno, says that his team is already planning an appeal. Speaking with the New York Times, Chanel Miller (whose sexual assailant, Brock Turner, served only three months in jail) said:

Today we locked one man in one cell. We made progress because survivors keep speaking. Still, this was a case where many others looked away for decades. It was not just power that made him untouchable, people did. We cannot be afforded the neatness of closure. We should confront the question on our collective conscience: The next time you are aware of violence, will you be silent or speak?

— EB


Priyanka Chopra will play convicted bioterrorist Ma Anand Sheela. Deadline reports that Chopra will play the title role in Sheela, a Barry Levinson-directed movie about the 1984 Rajneesh bioterror attack, in which Sheela attempted to spread salmonella through restaurants in Wasco County, Oregon in an effort to sway a local election to support Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.

If this all sounds familiar, you either read about it in Time magazine at the time (that’s my excuse! Everything I know from the 1980s came from TV I watched while babysitting or my parents’ subscription to Time), because you watched Wild Wild Country, or because you caught “Batshit Valley” on Documentary Now! (that’s it, above).

Production is still a long way away on Sheela, but it’ll reportedly be a product of Amazon Studios, which, given its food-poisoning subplot, makes it a great fit with Amazon-owned Whole Foods. jk jk I’m sure that soup you got at the WF hot bar is just fine. — EB


There’s a new book about international bird smuggling, which, don’t laugh, is big big business. It’s called The Falcon Thief: A True Tale of Adventure, Treachery, and the Hunt for the Perfect Bird, and if you’re a reader of Best Evidence comments (which, unlike most comment sections, will not leave you feeling like you just ate a rotten green pepper), you know that BE contrib Susan Howard just checked it out at the library.

I’m still waiting for my SFPL ebook number to come up, but per its description the book is “a tale almost too bizarre to believe, following the parallel lives of a globe-trotting smuggler who spent two decades capturing endangered raptors worth millions of dollars as race champions—and Detective Andy McWilliam of the United Kingdom’s National Wildlife Crime Unit, who’s hell bent on protecting the world’s birds of prey.”

While the rest of us non-Susan folks wait for our copy, we can entertain ourselves with this KCRW interview with journalist Joshua Hammer, the author of the book. Look, it’s that or watch Ladyhawke again. — EB


A&E has a new on-demand true crime service. It’s called Crime Central and it’ll cost you $4.99 a month, which seems like they are trying to undercut Best Evidence’s $5/monthly deal! (Oh, BTW:

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Realscreen reports that for that $4.99, you’ll gain access to content from A&E, History, Lifetime, and LMN, including Dog the Bounty Hunter — so, their definition of “true crime” is preeeeetty loose. You can get the channel via Roku, Amazon Prime Channels, and Apple TV, and see more of what it has to offer here. — EB


Slow Burn’s Watergate season isn’t just a podcast and a docuseries. It’s also the basis for a dramatic adaptation called Gaslit, which will star Armie Hammer as John Dean, Primetimer reports, and Julia Roberts as Martha Mitchell, the wife of Nixon administration AG John Mitchell. Joel Edgerton and his brother Nash will direct, and Joel will also play G. Gordon Liddy.

Speaking of the process of gaslighting (which, by definition, is a psychological manipulation tool in which people are made to question what they believed to be true), Sean Penn, who filed a $10 million lawsuit against Lee Daniels after the filmmaker referenced his history of arrests for alleged physical violence, will play John Mitchell in the film. — EB


So, here’s a weird one. In 2007, I moderated a panel at the San Francisco International Film Festival that included Kevin Epps, a promising independent filmmaker who’d made a local stir with his movie Straight Outta Hunter’s Point, a documentary about the dangers of life on SF’s streets. Nine years later, I was writing about Epps again, this time because he had been accused of shooting a 45-year-old man named Marcus Polk, who Epps said had broken into his home.

At the time, San Francisco’s District Attorney declined to press charges, but, saying it had new evidence in the case, the DA’s office had Epps picked up for the same crime again last May. The city’s DA has changed twice since then: George Gascon, who had the position during Epps’ first and second arrests, decamped to run for the District Attorney of Los Angeles. His interim replacement, appointed by SF’s mayor, lost when the election was held to Chesa Boudin, a former public defender and son of incarcerated Weather Underground members Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert. (So weird that President Trump hates us! So weird!)

But despite the musical chairs in the DA’s office, Epps’s trial is moving forward. It’s a strange enough case that the San Francisco Chronicle took note, last week penning a fascinating longread on the twists and turns of the case. It’s odd, thinking about a man who documented crime to such acclaim, and who for years has had this crime hanging over his head. The Chron’s story on the Epps case, by reporter Evan Sernoffsky, is worth a read. — EB


Wednesday on Best Evidence: It’s The Blotter Presents, Episode 133! Sarah is joined by Jessica Liese to discuss Reelz’s Unabomber: In His Own Words and podcast Strictly Stalking. Some show notes for your delectation:


What is this thing? This should help. Follow The Blotter @blotterpresents on Twitter and Instagram, and subscribe to The Blotter Presents via the podcast app of your choice. You can also call or text us any time at 919-75-CRIME.