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Bizarre episodes surround FIFA trial in Brooklyn

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NEW YORK (AP) A juror dismissed for sleeping during hearings. A defendant allegedly making a throat-slitting gesture to intimidate a witness. A judge admonishing a defendant for taking a paper clip and a pen from her clerk’s desk.

The trial of South American soccer officials charged in the FIFA bribery scandal is not only about corruption. It also has drawn some attention because of a series of bizarre episodes that have happened over three weeks of witnesses giving testimony and journalists going in and out of a Brooklyn courtroom to report on an investigation that has shaken the soccer world.

[READ: As it happened: The 2018 World Cup draw]

On Thursday, for example, U.S. District Judge Pamela K. Chen admonished defendant Manuel Burga, former president of the Peruvian soccer federation, for allegedly taking a paper clip and a pen from her clerk’s desk.

“No one, no party, nobody should be touching anything in this bench area,” Chen told him.

The federal judge actually tightened Burga’s bail conditions a couple of weeks ago when Burga allegedly sought to intimidate a witness by staring at him in the courtroom and making a slashing gesture across his throat. The defense said Burga was merely scratching a rash on his neck. The witness, Alejandro Burzaco, a former marketing executive from Argentina who testified about paying millions of dollars in bribes, was shaken by the gesture and the trial was delayed at least an hour.

Burzaco and others have testified how they brokered the bribes paid to soccer officials in exchange for their influence in awarding lucrative broadcasting and hosting rights for the World Cup and other major soccer tournaments. More than 40 defendants have been charged in the corruption case, with many, including Burzaco, pleading guilty in hopes of getting reduced sentences.

Besides Burga, the trial has other two defendants: Jose Maria Marin, former president of the Brazilian soccer federation, and Juan Angel Napout, former president of the Paraguayan soccer federation and former president of CONMEBOL, South America’s soccer governing body.

In another bizarre event, Chen this week dismissed a juror who slept during testimony. A couple of hours before lawyers and Chen had discussed how to dismiss the juror without embarrassing him, it was decided to do take the action in the courtroom without any other jurors present.

“We need the full attention of any juror. So I apologize but we’re going to have to let you go,” Chen told him. He was then escorted after his belongings were brought to him by U.S. Marshals.

Besides journalists, Chen’s courtroom has been filled with relatives of the defendants and lawyers from companies who have an interest in the case and who take notes continuously. Defendants sometimes eat sandwiches and salads in the court’s cafeteria alongside lawyers, journalists and court staff.

Testimony has generated headlines around the world. A former Argentine government official, Jorge Delhon, killed himself hours after the court was told he took millions of dollars in bribes in exchange for handing out television rights. On Thursday his name came up again when a witness gave more details about how he paid money.

Eladio Rodriguez, an Argentinian who worked for Burzaco, said that in 2013 he registered a $2.6 million payment to an entity he named “the government”.

“Everything that says government was Delhon,” he said.

Delhon dealt with the now-defunct government program Futbol para Todos (Football for All), which broadcast local soccer matches on public TV.

NYCFC shut down Rooney, DCU for first win (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): New York City remedied their rocky start to the 2019 season with a Sunday stroll through Audi Field and three points. D.C. United, on the other hand, looked a sad shell of their former selves, the side hotly picked to represent the Eastern Conference in MLS Cup 2019. Alexandru Mitrita and Heber bagged the goals for Domenec Torrent’s side, which has lost just once in seven games to start the season and suddenly sits a point outside the East’s seven playoff places. Heber stole the spotlight in his first MLS start, bagging NYCFC’s second goal and notching a secondary assist on their first. Wayne Rooney and Luciano Acosta were mostly held in check, outside of set-piece opportunities, in large part to a formational switch by Torrent: he opted for three center backs including 18-year-old academy product James Sands.

[ MORE: Everton pummels Manchester United (video) ]

Three moments that mattered

35′ — Mitrita scores through a sea of legs — Mitrita gets a bit lucky when his shot deflects off the leg of Frederic Brilliant, but United’s defending as a whole is far too lax to begin the sequence.

45’+4 — Moralez’s penalty smashes off the post, keeps DCU alive — When it happened, Maxi Moralez’s missed penalty kick appeared to be the second chance United needed to get back into the game. Alas…

56′ — Heber rifles inside the far post to make it 2-0 — United’s lifeline lasted all of 11 game-minutes, as they were slow to react to a simple ball over the top. Heber made the most of his first real look at goal, from a tight angle.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: _______

Goalscorers: Mitrita (35′), Heber (56′)

Dortmund hammer Freiburg but gain no ground on Bayern

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Borussia Dortmund moved back within one point of Bundesliga leader Bayern Munich with a 4-0 win against Freiburg on Sunday.

[ LA LIGA: Real Madrid win to stay within striking distance of 2nd ]

Dortmund went ahead in the 11th minute when 19-year-old Jadon Sancho scored from the six-yard box after a run by Marco Reus. It was Sancho’s 11th Bundesliga goal this season.

Dortmund added three after the interval with goals from Reus, Mario Gotze and Paco Alcacer with a penalty.

[ MORE: PSG crowned Ligue 1 champions with five games left ]

In the day’s other game, Hertha Berlin was held 0-0 at home by bottom side Hannover, which ended an eight-game losing streak.

On Saturday, Bayern beat Werder Bremen 1-0.

With four rounds left, Bayern leads with 70 points, Dortmund has 69 and Leipzig is third with 61.

La Liga: Real Madrid win to stay within striking distance of 2nd

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: PSG crowned Ligue 1 champions with five games left ]

Real Madrid 3-0 Athletic Bilbao

Karim Benzema bagged a hat trick (WATCH HERE) — his 19th, 20th and 21st goals of the league season (second-most, 12 behind Lionel Messi) — to send Real Madrid to a comfortable victory over Athletic Bilbao at the Santiago Bernabeu. The result also keeps Los Blancos within four points of capital rivals Atletico Madrid in something of a battle for second place behind runaway leaders Barcelona.

Benzema has scored 10 goals in his last seven La Liga appearances, a run in which Madrid have complied a 5W-1D-1L record. Benzema failed to score in Zinedine Zidane’s re-debut as Madrid manager, but has scored eight goals in five games since.

Sunday’s game marked the 300th league appearance for midfielder and 2018 Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric in a Real Madrid shirt.

Getafe 3-0 SevillaWATCH HIGHLIGHTS

Sevilla’s hopes of returning to the UEFA Champions League following a one-year hiatus took a serious hit on Sunday, as Pablo Machin’s side was hammered by Getafe, the side which now occupies fourth place, two points ahead of them. Getafe continue to enjoy their meteoric rise through the Spanish ranks, as they were competing in the second division this time two years ago.

Two of the three goals the scored on Sunday came from the penalty spot, as Jaime Mata and Jorge Molina converted in the 35th and 45th+4′, respectively. Molina completed the scoring eight minutes into the second half.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Real Betis 1-2 Valencia
Levante 2-2 Espanyol
Villarreal 2-1 Leganes

PSG wins French league after 2nd-place Lille fails to win

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PARIS (AP) Paris Saint-Germain clinched the French league title without kicking a ball as second-place Lille could only draw 0-0 at Toulouse on Sunday.

Lille had to win to have any chance of catching PSG, but PSG is now 16 points ahead of its only rival with five matches left after this weekend.

After failing to clinch the title in the past three matches, drawing one and losing two, PSG can celebrate the eighth title in its history ahead of its home game against Monaco later Sunday.

It is PSG’s sixth title in the last seven seasons, with only Monaco in 2017 breaking PSG’s dominance.

Although the title was long expected from a side scoring 92 goals in 32 games so far, it took longer than it should have.

PSG could have won it three games ago, but drew 2-2 at home to Strasbourg when a win would have clinched it.

Then PSG needed a draw at Lille last Sunday, only to lose 5-1 in the club’s heaviest defeat since Qatari investors QSI took charge of the club in June 2011.

A win away to Nantes would have sufficed, too, on Wednesday night only for PSG to lose 3-2 .

The 10 goals conceded in those three games made for PSG’s worst defensive record during a three-game spell since 1985.

Also Sunday, striker Kalifa Coulibaly scored twice as 13th-place Nantes beat 17th-place Amiens 3-2.

Later, Saint-Etienne needed a draw at Reims to move above Marseille and into fourth place.

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