Archive for January, 2008

When it comes to the art of the public apology, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick may have set a new gold standard in his public apology for his alleged affair with chief of staff Christine Beatty. The view link is below. He used an actual church as a backdrop and his wife as something of a prop for the occasion. The problem is that, while such scenes may resonate with voters who tend to love a repentant sinner, it still does not create a defense to what appears a very compelling criminal case for perjury. (more…)

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In what could make for a fascinating torts case, an airplane full of passengers witnesses a co-pilot losing his mind in the cockpit and then having to be forcibly restrained by the other crew members as he demanded to speak to God. The Air Canada co-pilot was handcuffed to a seat for the rest of the flight. Ironically, air carriers have refused to show Snakes on a Plane as too scary for passengers. (more…)

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A former priest, Daniel Corogeanu, had been convicted of murder in the death of a nun during an exorcism gone bad. The court in Romania gave the monk seven years, though the case raises serious questions over the use of these extreme religious rites. (more…)

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Nurse Lee Cruceta in Philadelphia has admitted to cutting out body parts from corpses to sell on the illegal body part market — a crime that included harvesting material from the corpse of “Masterpiece Theatre” host Alistair Cooke, who died in 2004. The guilty plea includes a glimpse into the lucrative market for body looting. (more…)

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Perhaps the most basic requirement of a judge (beyond remaining full clothed during deliberations) is not to pronounced guilt until after the trial. It is a rule that Superior Court Judge Hilton Fuller allegedly forgot by telling a reporter that Brian Nichols, accused of killing four people in a 2005 shooting spree that began at the Fulton County Courthouse, was clearly guilty. While denying the comment, Fuller has removed himself from the case. (more…)

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There is a fascinating legal fight brewing in New York between sandwich chains Subway and Quiznos. At issue is the liability for companies using popular taste tests in commercials and the provocative question of whether it is possible to slander a sandwich. (more…)

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Maryland Delegate Nicholaus Kipke and Sen. Bryan Simonaire are pushing for passage of the Fallen Soldier Privacy Act of 2008 to criminalize the the commercial use of a deceased soldier’s name or image. It is a controversy triggered by tee-shirts produced by anti-war activist Dan R. Frazier of Flagstaff, Ariz., whose online business Carryabigsticker.com sells anti-war shirts and other items that use soldiers’ names. The law is, in my view, unconstitutional and could lead to an interesting court fight if Congress follows suit with its own legislation. (more…)

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As expected, Attorney General Michael Mukasey has informed Congress that he will refuse to answer the long-standing question on waterboarding in this week’s hearing. The decision is a further indictment of the decision of democratic leadership to allow Mukasey to be confirmed despite his unwillingness to acknowledge that waterboarding has long been defined as torture and constitutes a crime if ordered by the President. (more…)

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The police are seeking an imposter who pretended that he was the father of the dead actor Heath Ledger to secure hotel rooms, convince Tom Cruise to console him, and almost convince John Travolta to buy him free tickets to the United States. It is conduct that fits both criminal and tort theories of culpability. (more…)

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Wesley Snipes’ counsel rested his case without presenting a single defense witness or having Snipes himself testify. It is a move the minimizes risk on the stand but maximizes the likelihood of a conviction on the tax charges. (more…)

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The National Journal caught an interesting slip from John Negroponte, former director of national intelligence , who uttered The-Torture-Technique-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named”: waterboarding. While Attorney General Mukasey continues to say that he is still thinking about waterboarding months after his seemingly false testimony before Congress, Negroponte admitted in an interview that indeed it was used — but encourages people not to look back at such small things as a torture program. (more…)

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Where is the NGA — National Geiger Association — when you need them?

Facing an apparent shortfall of new permits to impose on citizens, the New York city council (with Mayor Bloomberg’s reported support) is moving to require that any citizens who want to own devices that detect biological, chemical, and radiological dangers must first register and secure a permit from the city. If Bloomberg wants to run for President, this would not be the way to do it. There is a strong suspicion that the problem with these devices is that they will reveal a much greater level of such dangers and require officials to address countless false — and true — readings. (more…)

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After the loss of many American lives and billions in American dollars, the justice system in Afghanistan seems to be de-evolving back into the Taliban-style Islamic extremism. Journalist Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, 23, has been sentenced to death for merely downloading material deemed blasphemous to Islam relating to the role of women in Islamic societies. Not only has the U.S.-backed government sentenced him to death, one of its top “justice” officials has threatened to severely punish any reporter even expressing support for Kambakhsh. (more…)

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Today, I have the honor of being the commencement speaker for the John Marshall Law School graduation. (more…)

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In his confirmation hearing, Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey was rescued by Sens. Chuck Schumer and Diane Feinstein from having to admit that waterboarding has long been defined as torture by U.S. and international courts. At the time, he first denied (under oath) knowing what waterboarding is and then, when told, insisted that he needed more time to think about it. Now, after months, he has suggested that it is not a matter of time or knowledge — he may simply refuse to answer the question that would implicated President Bush in a war crime. (more…)

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In a positively mind-blowing decision, the South Carolina Supreme Court decided to allow 20 people who flunked the bar to become lawyers rather than inform one individual that he had been incorrectly told that he had passed. Worse still, the current and immediate past presidents of the state bar have dismissed the controversy as resolved. (more…)

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The New Jersey Supreme Court has upheld a lower court decision against a father who claimed that he should not have to pay child support to his ex-wife after discovering that the child was not his own. It is only the latest in a string of such cases. (more…)

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Pilots are charging that the Bush Administration doled out $5 million as an award to flight instructor Clarence Prevost in the Moussaoui case without seriously inquiring into who was actually responsible for bringing the terrorist-wannabe to the attention of the government. Members of Congress are asking for explanations on why other instructors credited with the disclosure were ignored. Another question should be the size of this payout. (more…)

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In light of the $5 million given to a witness in the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, this column may be of interest. (more…)

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Texas Supreme Court Justice David Medina has been accused of ethics violations in the misuse of campaign funds. The charges come at a time that Medina is dealing with a recent indictment for arson — an indictment quashed by a local prosecutor. Now Medina and Texas Supreme Court Justices Paul Green and Nathan Hecht are facing serious ethics charges. With a federal judge facing possible criminal charges for sexual assault and another facing demands to step down, it has been a particularly bad year for the Texas bench. (more…)

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As leaders in both parties in Congress and the Justice Department seek to scuttle any real investigation into America’s torture program, a federal judge may have thrown a wrench into the works. This week, U.S. District Judge Richard W. Roberts not only found the tapes to be evidence but demanded that the government file a full explanation on their destruction in 2005. (more…)

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After pushing the country into the disastrous Iraq war and then being forced out as head of the World Bank in scandal, Paul Wolfowitz has been given yet another chance to serve his country in his signature fashion as the head a high-level advisory panel on arms control and disarmament. At the same time, another made man Steven G. Bradbury has also been renominated for his position despite (or because of) his endorsement of torture (more…)

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For those interested in why Wolfowitz could possibly secure gainful employment in government after his disasters in Iraq and the World Bank, this prior column may be of interest on how to succeed in the Bush Administration: (more…)

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The criminal trial of Wesley Snipes for tax evasion was already something of a curiosity with its focus on Section 861 tax movement described by experts as a virtual “cult.” Now, the government has revealed unhinged letters where Snipes claims nonresident alien status and appears to threaten the government with “collateral damage” if they pursue his case. (more…)

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In the latest shocker for civil libertarians, the Senate appears set to grant immunity to telecommunication companies after they participated in the unlawful domestic surveillance program. The Democrats faced intense criticism last year and hoped that the attention and ire of voters would subside with the distraction of elections. The fix was in, however, months ago when Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) picked the Senate Intelligence Committee’s proposal (favoring immunity) to be the legislation to go first to the floor. (more…)

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Just as the media is looking back at the ten-year anniversary of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his chief of staff are facing accusations of lying under oath in a very similar case. The evidence under uncovered by the Free Press appears quite credible and damning for both Kwame Kilpatrick and his chief of staff Christine Beatty. (more…)

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When two emotionally disturbed teenagers at the the Judge Rotenberg Education Center in Boston were given extreme shock treatments after a prank call, seven staff members were fired. It now appears that that was too small of a purge. This week, it was revealed at officials at the Center ordered the destruction of the videotapes of the two boys being abused — despite direct demands that they preserve the tapes. The Center’s defense is virtually identical to that of the Bush Administration in destroying the CIA torture tapes: it was necessary to avoid the inadvertent release of the image to the public and the harm such release would produce. In doing so, the Center may have committed crimes by destroying evidence of its own potential guilt. (more…)

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There is another interesting turn of events in the ongoing scandal over the alleged arson by Texas Supreme Court Justice David Medina and his wife. While state Judge Jim Wallace agreed to the prosecutor’s demand to toss out the indictments, he strongly criticized both the decision and the competence of the prosecutors — voicing obvious questions over why prosecutors would seek an indictment over months only to quash those indictments when they are handed down by a grand jury. (more…)

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It seems that many Texas judges are spending more time in court or before investigators these days — as either defendants or targets. From sexual assault to arson to corruption to abuse, Texas jurists are facing a bumper crop of allegations with additional judicial scandals brewing in neighbor states of Louisiana and Mississippi. For the Fifth Circuit covering all three states, 2008 could be a black year. (more…)

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In the latest indication of how serious the current investigation of U.S. District Judge Samuel B. Kent may be, it was revealed this week that the FBI is investigating possible crimes beyond his alleged sexual misconduct with a court employee. (more…)

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The scandal over alleged arson by Texas Supreme Court Justice David Medina has gotten even more controversial. First, Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal refused to prosecute Medina after a grand jury issued indictments. Now, two of the grand jurors who voted to indict are having a public fight with Medina counsel, Terry Yates. Yates in turn has called for their punishment in allegedly violating grand jury secrecy. For many, it raises the same images of the ongoing Rocky Flats grand jury controversy. (more…)

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Today, Dr. Phil (as expected) redefined his role in the Britany Spears controversy, insisting that he visited the pop star as a pop friend, not a pop psychologist. It is a critical distinction that could determine whether Dr. Phil McGraw is charged with a felony. (more…)

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Texas Mayor Grace Saenz-Lopez and her twin sister have been indicted in bizarre alleged crimes. At the center of the legal storm is a Shih Tzu named Puddles — a canine vixen who places humans under an apparent Voldemort-like trance. (more…)

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It has taken by Virginia attorney Leslie P. Smith has finally got something off his chest. Smith was counsel a decade ago for a cooperating witness, William Jones, who wanted to avoid the death penalty for a murder by fingering his co-defendant, Daryl R. Atkins. Atkins got tagged for the murder and the death penalty. However, Smith remained silent about a major problem: he allegedly watched prosecutors coach and conform Jones’ testimony, which was fatally flawed. Now there is a major ethical battle running concurrently with the ongoing battle over putting Atkins to death. (more…)

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Historically, executioners were hooded or masked to prevent retaliation for their service or to convey the image of non-personal justice. Now, five death row inmates are suing to learn the identities of their executioners. With recent disclosures of executioners with criminal records, the lawsuits could create some interesting precedent. (more…)

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Low tar will finally go to the high court. The Supreme Court has added a case, Altria Group Inc. v. Good, that will finally result in a review of the recent cases brought around the country against low tar cigarette companies. It represents one of the most significant areas of liability for the tobacco industry after weathering the multistate settlement and various class action lawsuits seeking hundreds of billions of dollars. (more…)

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In the last few years, the Supreme Court and lower courts have been considering claims of virtual child pornography — where the images look real but are actually computer generated. It creates a difficult legal question. However, Marshal Zidel presented an equally difficult question for the New Hampshire Supreme Court: Is it child pornography when the camp photographer took the faces of children at the camp and superimposed them on the bodies of adults? The state supreme court ruled that it is not. What is most disturbing is not Zibel’s perverse conduct is not unique. (more…)

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It appears that the Fourth Circuit may remain with five vacancies until the next president. Richmond lawyer E. Duncan Getchell Jr. has withdrawn his name from consideration after a long controversy and objections from key senators. (more…)

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The case of Tim Masters has long been viewed as one of the most disturbing murder convictions on record: a case where a man seemed convicted without direct evidence of guilt, treated abusively by police and painted as a deviate on the basis of childhood drawings. A special prosecutor has now found not only prosecutorial abuse in the case but DNA evidence that points to another man. (more…)

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The Bush Administration promised to re-define the country’s position in the post-9-11 world and it can now count our Canadian cousins as part of the transformation. The Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs has included the United States on the infamous list of countries which torture prisoners. In the meantime, Republican Tom Ridge has stated that there is no question about waterboarding being a form of torture. (more…)

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It appears that the tiger attack in the San Francisco Zoo may boil down to a case over plaintiffs’ conduct. New reports indicate that the two brothers mauled in the attack may have taunted the tiger, stood on the railings, and at least one may have been drunk at the time of the attack. (more…)

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Texas Supreme Court Justice David Medina and his wife Fran Medina have been indicted by a Houston grand jury in connection to the alleged arson in June at their home. Justice Medina is charged with the arson and his wife with tampering of evidence. What is remarkable is that, despite the indictments, Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal indicated that he may not prosecuted due to insufficiency of evidence – a claim that will likely raise concerns over special treatment by the jurist. (more…)

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In the latest Taser-related death, Mark C. Backlund died after officers hit him with a Taser for being “uncooperative” after a traffic accident in Minnesota. The death comes after a study showing the increased use and lethality of Tasers across the country. (more…)

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Much like our own embarrassment over faux television judges, it appears that psychologists are not happy with Dr. Phil’s conversion of their field into a form of entertainment. A complaint has been filed that Dr. Phillip C. McGraw’s (his real name) rush to interject himself into the Britney Spears controversy constitutes practicing without a license. It could present an interesting question for both medical and legal personalities on television. (more…)

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Scientology has long been criticized for using litigation to wear down anyone who challenges or investigates its church. Now, Gawker and other sites found themselves the recipients of threatening letters not to show the video, which contains a rather odd interview with Cruise in a frenzy over Scientology and its powers. The claim of copyright infringement and criminal violations appears a scare tactic given the newsworthy content of the video. While some sites immediately buckled under the pressure, Gawker has taken a public and defiant stance against Church. While Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard told his supporters that litigation is meant to harass enemies not win cases, this is one first amendment fight the Church may want to avoid. (more…)

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For weeks, there has been a concerted effort in both Congress and the White House to contain the scandal over the CIA torture tapes, while giving the impression of a serious effort to investigate. This week’s House Intelligence hearing seemed to confirm the worst suspicions along these lines as both Democrats and Republicans offered a rogue employee theory to explain the destruction — and in the process, relieve themselves and the Administration of serious blame. (more…)

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In the escalation of faith-based pitches by both Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, Mike Huckabee has thrown down a new challenge: amending the Constitution to conform to the word of God. In a recent statement, Huckabee stated: “[Some of my opponents] do not want to change the Constitution, but I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God . . . and that’s what we need to do, is to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards, rather than try to change God’s standards.” What is most remarkable is how little remarkable this statement proved to be with mainstream media. (more…)

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In a rare defamation action, a group of retired federal drug enforcement agents are suing NBC Universal, alleging that the movie “American Gangster” falsely portrayed them. In the film starring Denzel Washington, the agents are portrayed as the bad guys in the story of a Harlem heroin trafficker. The former agents are seeking $50 million in damages plus profits from the film, including punitive damages. NBC Universal seems to be making matters worse for themselves by alternatively claiming that the story is based of fact or completing fictional. (more…)

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The criminal trial of Wesley Snipes and two other men will focus on a little known movement based on Section 861 of the Internal Revenue Code. This group argues that citizens are only required to pay taxed on earnings made outside but not inside the country. Snipes could be looking at real jail time for his involvement with the group even after he signed a affidavit of incompetence in 2000 that he does not understand his basic tax obligations. (more…)

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Archbishop Earl Paulk’s problems just got a lot more serious. As reported earlier, he has been under criminal investigation in Georgia and now an arrest warrant has been issued for the 80-year-old leader of the Holy Spirit at Chapel Hill Harvester Church after a long investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. He is accused of felony perjury related to a civil lawsuit alleging that he coerced a church employee to have an affair with him. (more…)

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