Category: Criminal law

Barr Is Wrong On FISA Reforms

Attorney General Bill Barr appears on a collision course with President Donald Trump over reforming the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court. Civil libertarians like Sen Rand Paul (R., Tenn.) are pushing for reforms in light of the abuses uncovered from the Russian investigation. Despite my respect and friendship for Barr, he is wrong in my view and the President should push forward with the reforms. When President Trump declared “Now is our chance to fix it,” he is absolutely correct.

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Feminist Groups Call For Ban On Rough Sex Defense In The United Kingdom

Women’s Rights groups are moving in the United Kingdom to ban the use of the rough sex defense in criminal cases. Recently, the defense was used in the murder trial of Grace Millane, 22, who was killed on a backpacking trip to New Zealand. The banning of a defense raises troubling questions as criminal defendants, who may face life imprisonment or death in some countries, being denied the ability to present their own account to jurors — an account that they maintain is true.

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Roger Stone Should Be Given A New Trial, Not A Pardon

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Below is my column in the Hill newspaper on the calls for either a new trial or a presidential pardon for Roger Stone. I believe that he has a far greater claim to the former than the latter.

While I believe that the sentence of 40 months was longer than was warranted in this case, Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentenced Stone where some of us had predicted on the guidelines range. It was less than half of what the prosecutors originally asked for. Yet, the decision to go forward with the sentencing seemed odd given the substantial claim of juror bias raised by the defense in a pending motion. The other pending motion for disqualification is quite weak, but the motion for a new trial in my view should be granted. Although the odds are against Jackson ordering a new trial, it is clear that the foreperson has no business being on this jury and that her past comments raised significant and legitimate questions over whether Stone was given an impartial jury.

Here is the column:

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Judge Jackson Slams Stone Defense Over Disqualification Motion

I previously wrote that I thought that the motion to disqualify Judge Amy Berman Jackson filed by the Roger Stone defense team was exceedingly weak and should not have been filed. Jackson has now rejected the motion, but the final line of the opinion is a real stinger. The judge effectively accuses the team of filing a frivolous motion to pander to the public. It was ill-conceived and poorly executed motion that only further alienated the court.

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“America Is Not Great”: Trump Supporters Allegedly Forced Off Road In Indiana

We have been discussing how the media coverage on political-related violence often downplays attacks on conservatives. I have repeatedly criticized Trump for his rhetoric, but I also see dangerous rhetoric coming from his critics. That is not covered as much and certainly not treated as a pattern is violence against conservatives and Republicans or motivated by the politics from the left. Another such example can be found in Indiana where Kyren Gregory Perry-Jones, 23, and Cailyn Marie Smith, 18, are accused of using their car to force two twin brothers off a road after they were spotted bicycling with flags supporting Trump.

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Stone Moves To Remove Jackson From Case [Updated]

Roger Stone’s defense team moved to force the recusal of Judge Amy Berman Jackson from the case for bias. These motions have a very low success rate and this particular motion likely has an even lower likelihood of success. Jackson is a respected and experience judge. I actually was taken aback by a couple of her comments about the case but courts of appeal are extremely reluctant to force such recusals. Moreover, the main thrust of the motion is a statement about the jury which would be viewed as virtually standardized language for courts. Update: the Defense motion is available below.

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Roger Stone Convicted and Bill Barr Vindicated With 40 Month Sentence [Updated]

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Roger Stone has been sentenced to 40 months by U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson. I previously stated that the likely sentence would be half of what the prosecutors originally sought and that is precisely what the court did. The sentence not only completed the conviction of Roger Stone but completely vindicated Attorney Bill Barr on the appropriate length of the sentence. Barr has been unfairly accused of political influence in modifying the original sentence even though many of us denounced the original recommendation as wildly offbase. Not only did over a thousand former prosecutors demand his resignation without knowing the full facts, but one former colleague declared Barr to be “unAmerican.” If these individuals have a modicum of decency, they will acknowledge that Barr was right on the merits of this sentencing recommendation as demonstrated by the court itself.

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New York Man Arrested Three Times In One Day Under New Bail Reform Law

Scott Nolan was arrested and released three times in several hours under New York's new bail reform law.

Just a week after a New York man with 139 arrests was released under New York’s new bail-reform law thanked Democrats, the police union protested another case where a man, Scott Nolan, was arrested three times in one day but released each time under the new law. Nolan’s criminal record is 50 pages long.

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Admission Against Interest? Crime Pays . . . Until It Doesn’t

Donald Murray is not quite as good as his advertising. The Indiana man with a “Crime Pays” tattoo across his forehead has been arrested again after a police chase. He is now facing a windfall of charges for resisting law enforcement, reckless driving, possession of methamphetamine, maintaining a common nuisance and auto theft.

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Juror 1261: Was Justice Undone In The Trial Of Roger Stone

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Below is my column in the Hill newspaper on the controversy surrounding the foreperson on the Stone trial and the discovery of biased public comments made before she was called as a juror. The comments raise very serious questions about not just the inclusion of Tomeka Hart on the jury but the legitimacy of the conviction in light of her participation. Courts are extremely reluctant to set aside verdicts and often deny motions for new trials like the two filed by Stone. However, such disclosures make a mockery of the process — and ultimately the court — if undisclosed bias does not have a remedy for a defendant. No defendant can prove conclusively that such bias made the difference, but no prosecutor can prove that it did not. What remains is a dangerous element of doubt in a criminal trial.

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Suspect Charged In The “Murder” Of His Accomplice By A Homeowner

There is a controversial criminal case out of Danville, Illinois this month where Reggie Haywood, 30, has been charged with first-degree murder stemming from a house invasion. The charge is not strange but the underlying facts are. The person “murdered” was the alleged accomplice of Haywood and he was shot not be Haywood but the homeowner.

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Meet Sidney Kelly: The Style of the Criminal Element

As many on this blog know, I have a certain (perhaps curious) affinity for old mugshots. The latest is from the New South Wales police department of a wonderfully sinister-looking fellow named Sidney Kelly from June 1, 1924. The police caption reads, “Illicit drug trader. Drives his own motor car, and dresses well. Associates with criminals and prostitutes.”

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Bull Meets China Shop: Why The President Tweets Fail Another Causality Test By The Media

Below is my column in The Hill newspaper on the Stone controversy. The column suggested that the Trump tweet before the change in the sentencing memorandum in the Stone case may not have been related, but simply another example of Trump triggering a controversy with an irresponsible and ill-timed tweet. After the column, Trump made the situation even worse by publicly complimenting Attorney General Bill Barr. As I mentioned at the time, the “atta boy” was more damaging than the original criticism. Barr responded correctly by criticizing the President’s continued public comments on pending cases and attacks on federal judges. While the President is clearly undeterred, both the change in the sentencing recommendation and the criticism of the President were well warranted.

Here is the column:

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Avenatti Found Guilty In New York Fraud Trial

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Michael Avenatti was convicted this afternoon by a jury of all three charges in the extortion trial related to demands for up to $25 million from Nike. I post this news with a great sense of personal sadness. Michael was one of my students and research assistants. He was an outstanding student and one of the most talented trial attorneys in the country. He now faces two other federal trials and significant jail time.

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“I Have Been Traduced”: Trump’s Moves Against Impeachment Witnesses Are Neither Unlawful Nor Unprecedented

Below is my column in the Washington Post on the continuing controversy over the actions taken against impeachment witnesses by President Donald Trump. I recently explained that these actions are not, as claiming on CNN, clear criminal acts of witness retaliation. While I was critical of the moves, this column addresses why they are neither unlawful nor unprecedented.

Here is the column:

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