July 02, 2020

Best of the States

AP scoops everyone on dramatic ouster of federal prosecutor

After a heads-up tip to Justice Department reporter Michael Balsamo, what unfolded on that Friday night was strange: The top Manhattan federal prosecutor – the one investigating President Donald Trump’s allies – was said to be resigning his job. 

The AP was out with the story for at least a half hour before the competition. But that was just the beginning, as U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman reported for work the next day, only to step down amid conflicting statements from the White House and Justice Department. Balsamo and Neumeister were out front again, making sense of the shifting story with well-sourced detail and context.

For work that put the AP way ahead with both the breaking news and the meaning of the maneuvering, Balsamo and Neumeister share this week’s Best of the States honors.

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Aug. 06, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP exclusive as fired anti-corruption prosecutor flees Guatemala

had spent years cultivating a rapport with Juan Francisco Sandoval, Guatemala’s special prosecutor against corruption, who had won praise from U.S. officials for work that rattled Guatemala’s most powerful citizens, including President Alejandro Giammattei.Her efforts paid off when Sandoval was abruptly fired, a move that would lead the U.S. to temporarily suspend cooperation with the office of Guatemala’s attorney general. After attending the post-firing news conference, Pérez was ushered into the office of the country’s human rights ombudsman and invited to be the sole journalist to accompany Sandoval in his small convoy of armored SUVs as he fled the country. Across the border in El Salvador, Pérez reported on his comments and took photos and video, agreeing for safety reasons to publish only once he had safely boarded a flight to the United States hours later.Pérez’s story moved early the next morning and was used by major national and international outlets; a competitive agency didn't report Sandoval's exit until later that day and did so citing the human rights ombudsman.https://aplink.news/z1ehttps://aplink.video/mt3

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March 05, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Documents expose misconduct by elite federal prosecutors

started digging after federal prosecutors in New York took the unusual step last spring of abruptly dismissing all charges against a banker convicted of evading U.S. sanctions by funneling $115 million to his family’s business in Iran. Goodman’s curiosity was rewarded with an exclusive.Goodman worked with AP assistant general counsel Brian Barrett to convince a court to release internal communications within the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York detailing how the elite unit tried to conceal their mishandling of evidence in the botched prosecution. A plethora of private correspondence between prosecutors showed a coordinated effort to mislead the court. In one exchange of text messages, supervising prosecutors admitted “we lied” to the defense during the trial. “This is going to be a bloodbath,” one wrote, anticipating the judge’s reaction to the disclosure. https://bit.ly/30bwLzEhttps://bit.ly/30aQmAf

June 03, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Governor saw Greene arrest video months before prosecutors

scored their latest in a string of exclusives on the deadly 2019 arrest of Black motorist Ronald Greene, finding that Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards watched a key video of Greene taking his final breaths — a full six months before prosecutors were aware the footage even existed.While the Democrat has distanced himself from allegations of a cover-up in the explosive case by contending evidence was promptly turned over to authorities, AP’s monthslong investigation involving dozens of interviews and hundreds of pages of documents found that wasn’t the case with the 30-minute video he privately viewed in the fall of 2020.Response to the story was swift. A bipartisan legislative committee investigating the case in response to AP’s previous reporting indicated that it would move quickly to call Edwards and key members of his staff to testify under oath.Read more

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May 24, 2019

Best of the States

APNewsBreak: Military prosecutors sent tracking software to defense team, reporter

Los Angeles courts reporter Brian Melley was enjoying a Sunday afternoon when a longtime legal source reached out with a remarkable tip in the case of Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL facing a court martial on charges he murdered a teenage Islamic State fighter in Iraq in 2017.

The source told Melley that military prosecutors, frustrated by leaks in the case, planted tracking software in emails sent to defense lawyers and a reporter. The unsophisticated software was quickly discovered by the recipients.

Melley worked up the story, including an interview with a military law expert who thought the tactic was ethically, legally and intellectually dubious. His story hit the wire the next morning, quickly gaining traction online. AP was widely credited everywhere it appeared and no major media outlet matched it.

For giving AP an exclusive on an important military justice story, Melley wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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March 09, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

​Ex-sect members tell AP that prosecutors obstructed abuse cases

It’s one of the most important lessons of investigative journalism: One good story can lead to another. Don’t give up after the first round. Keep digging.

That’s what Mitch Weiss of the national investigative team did after his explosive first story on the Word of Faith Fellowship. His follow-up story earns the Beat of the Week.

It took Weiss many months to persuade 43 former members of the Fellowship to open up – on the record and identified – with stories of adults and children being slapped, punched, choked and slammed to the floor in the name of the Lord. But getting so many of the reluctant ex-congregants to talk was only the start of his journalistic journey.

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Jan. 12, 2017

Best of the States

No family immune: A top US prosecutor talks exclusively to the AP about a heroin death: his son’s

In the course of source-building in early 2016, northeastern Pennsylvania correspondent Michael Rubinkam had lunch with a local lawyer. The lawyer mentioned that a member of the U.S. attorney's office had lost a son to heroin but had never spoken publicly about it.

Intrigued, Rubinkam asked the lawyer to approach the then-assistant prosecutor, Bruce Brandler, about an interview. Rubinkam had been looking for fresh ways to write about the scourge of heroin, and saw the prosecutor’s story as a powerful new example of how no family is immune.

But Brandler, he learned, was adamantly against going public with his family’s – and his son’s – story. It was too painful.

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Feb. 07, 2020

Best of the States

AP investigates a teen’s life sentence – and the role of Amy Klobuchar

On the campaign trail, presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar has often cited a case – a life sentence given to black teen for killing a young girl – as proof of her tough-on-crime bona fides as a former prosecutor. 

Over the course of a year, Minnesota-based investigative reporter Robin McDowell examined the case against Myon Burrell, who was 16 when he was sentenced to life in prison for the 2002 death of 11-year-old Tyesha Edwards. 

McDowell found major irregularities, including inconsistent evidence and questionable police tactics. The resulting package had impact, forcing new scrutiny of the case and Klobuchar’s handling of it. 

For dogged reported that shed new light and focused attention on the case against a man who has long said he was wrongfully convicted, McDowell wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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April 08, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Trooper gave recorded interview on Greene’s fatal arrest

obtained a never-before-released, internal affairs interview with the Louisiana state trooper considered the most violent in the deadly 2019 arrest of Black motorist Ronald Greene. This was the latest in a string of AP exclusives on Greene’s death — even federal prosecutors did not know the recording existed until AP published it.In the two-hour interview. Hollingsworth admits to holding Greene down and bashing him in the head with a flashlight. But Hollingsworth portrays himself as the victim, saying he feared for his life, even as video played over and over shows the white troopers stunning, punching and dragging Greene as he appeared to surrender.Read more

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July 09, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Reporter’s instincts, deep preparation break stunning news of Cosby case reversal and prison release

Comedian Bill Cosby had been in a Pennsylvania prison for more than two years last December when the state’s high court took on his appeal of his sexual assault conviction.

As seven months went by without a decision, Philadelphia-based legal affairs reporter Maryclaire Dale — who had been instrumental in breaking the original Cosby story — thought there might be something newsy in the works. Her instincts led to deep preparation that put AP ahead on one of the biggest news stories of the summer, one that almost no one but Dale had anticipated.

When the court tweeted out its opinion Wednesday, AP’s news alert moved within minutes, followed less than one minute later with a short breaking news story that Cosby's conviction was overturned, and that he would be released from prison. Both alerts beat all the competition; a full story moved less than two minutes later. Dale and colleagues followed up with full coverage throughout the day, with Cosby later appearing before cameras at his home, as the original news story drew heavy engagement online and maintained the top spot in Google’s news carousel.

For sharp anticipation and flawless execution that put AP ahead on a story that dominated the news cycle, Dale earns AP’s Best of the Week award.

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June 17, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP investigation of Louisiana State Police triggers federal probe

fittingly beat the competition with news of the biggest impact yet from their two-year investigation of beatings and cover-ups by the Louisiana State Police: The U.S. Justice Department is launching a sweeping civil rights probe of the agency to see if there is a pattern of excessive force and racial discrimination.Based on their deep sourcing, Mustian and Bleiberg were able to exclusively report the federal “pattern-or-practice” investigation as a news alert about an hour before the official announcement in Baton Rouge. It marked the first such action against a statewide law enforcement agency in more than two decades. All the examples cited by the assistant attorney general as justitification for the probe came from a string of AP scoops that exposed (often with video) beatings of mostly Black men and the Louisiana agency’s instinct to protect troopers rather than investigate them.Read more

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Aug. 13, 2021

Best of the States

AP: Louisiana police brass eyed for obstruction of justice in Black motorist’s deadly arrest

Law enforcement reporters Jim Mustian and Jake Bleiberg kept the AP out front on the fallout from the deadly 2019 arrest of Ronald Greene, exclusively reporting that federal prosecutors are investigating whether top Louisiana State Police brass obstructed justice to protect the troopers seen on body camera video punching, dragging and stunning the Black motorist.

It was just the latest in a string of AP scoops on the highly secretive in-custody death that troopers initially blamed on a car crash.

The pair also exclusively obtained the full confidential file on the Greene case, including evidence photos showing troopers with Greene’s blood on their hands, uniforms and badges. The story, accompanied by some of those photos and the body cam video, was one of the AP's most engaged offerings of the week.

For strong investigative work to keep exposing the details of a case that had long been shrouded in secrecy, Mustian and Bleiberg win this week’s Best of the States award.

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May 20, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Deep reporting tells of Black Kansas teen’s in-custody death

were the first to piece together video, records and interviews for an in-depth, multiformat story outlining how a Black teen in Kansas ended up in foster care and died at a juvenile intake center after being restrained on his stomach for 40 minutes.AP had written previously about the death of Cedric “C.J.” Lofton, but Kansas City reporter Hollingsworth sensed a backstory waiting to be told. Her exhaustive reporting and Sheridan’s revealing video tell the story of a troubled youth and the disturbing confluence of events and decisions leading to his death.Read more

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May 06, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Investigation reveals traumatic backlog of Mississippi autopsies

investigated Mississippi’s massive autopsy backlog for more than a year, gathering new data and personal stories revealing the terrible cost of the backlog which has traumatized families and jeopardized investigations.The state’s public officials had talked previously about understaffing in the medical examiner’s office, but Willingham’s reporting went much further, revealing a system long operating outside of accepted national standards for death investigations. She found that coroners were waiting years — and in some cases more than a decade — for autopsy reports. District attorneys and coroners who trusted Willingham told her about specific cases and connected her to families who told deeply personal accounts of waiting a year or more for results on loved ones.Read more

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