Financially 'struggling' gov had big legal bills
Legal Topics | 2008/12/12 17:25
Rod Blagojevich is the third-highest-paid governor in the country, but you wouldn't know it from conversations recorded by federal authorities.

He is heard on six weeks of recordings saying he is "struggling" financially, even though he makes $177,412 a year and his household income has averaged $344,000 annually for the past five years. He allegedly says he feels he is "stuck" as governor and imagines making as much as $300,000 as the head of a group pushing organized labor's agenda or a not-for-profit organization.

If he could land his wife a seat on one or more corporate boards and she "picks up another $150 grand or whatever," according to the recordings, it would help him "get through" his remaining two years as governor.

Federal authorities arrested Blagojevich on Tuesday on charges that include allegedly scheming to sell an appointment to the U.S. Senate for anything from an ambassadorship to a corporate-board post for his wife.

"I want to make money," Blagojevich is quoted by authorities as saying on a federal wiretap recording, discussing whether President-elect Barack Obama would name him to a Cabinet post in exchange for who he thought was Obama's choice to take his Senate seat.



Ambulance attendants accused of molesting patients
Areas of Focus | 2008/12/11 18:24
They answer the call 24-7, often risking their own safety to rescue the sick and injured and rush them to the hospital. But some paramedics have been more predator than hero.

Over the past 18 months, at least 129 ambulance attendants across the U.S. have been accused of sex-related crimes on duty or off, an investigation by The Associated Press found. Some of them molested patients in the back of an ambulance.

"It's a dream job for a sexual predator," said Greg Kafoury, a Portland, Ore., lawyer who represents three women who were groped by a paramedic. "Everything is there: Women who are incapacitated, so they're hugely distracted. Medical cover to put your hands in places where, in any other context, a predator would be immediately recognized as such."

Across the U.S., emergency medical technicians have been accused in recent months of such crimes as rape, soliciting minors over the Internet and possession of child porn, according to an AP survey of the state agencies that oversee those professions.



Foe of 10 Commandments judge loses license
Court Watch | 2008/12/09 18:23
A key figure in the case that ousted Alabama's Ten Commandments judge has had his law license suspended over a complaint filed by a client.

Stephen Glassroth's license was suspended by the Alabama Bar Association after he did not respond to a complaint that he failed to represent lawyer Dana Jill Simpson, who had hired him to defend her in a tax case.

Glassroth drew the ire of many in Alabama when he filed a lawsuit in 2001 to force Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore to remove his Ten Commandments monument from the state Judicial Building. Moore ignored a court order to remove the monument, and Glassroth succeeded in getting him expelled from office in 2003.

Simpson, who has said she worked on Moore's judicial campaign, did not return messages from The Associated Press seeking comment. Glassroth did not return a call to his Georgia home seeking comment.

Simpson made the news in the summer of 2007 when she testified before the House Judiciary Committee, claiming that GOP operatives pushed for the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, a Democrat. Simpson told the committee she learned of the effort when she worked on the 2002 campaign of Alabama's current Republican governor, Bob Riley, who beat Siegelman in his bid for re-election that year.

Siegelman was convicted of federal charges of taking a bribe from former HealthSouth Corp. CEO Richard Scrushy in exchange for a seat on a state medical regulatory board. Siegelman's appeal of the conviction is scheduled to be heard Tuesday in Atlanta.



Obama legal team meets with anti-torture generals
Legal Topics | 2008/12/03 23:12
A dozen retired generals met with President-elect Barack Obama's top legal advisers Wednesday, pressing their case to overturn seven years of Bush administration policies on detention, interrogation and rendition in the war on terror.

"President-elect Obama has said that Americans do not engage in torture, that we must send a message to the world that America is a nation of laws, and that we as a nation should stand against torture. He believes that banning torture will actually save American lives and help restore America's moral stature in the world," said an official close to the transition who asked not to be named to discuss internal matters. "This meeting is timely and very helpful to advancing this work."

Among those who met with Eric Holder, Obama's pick to be attorney general, and Greg Craig, tapped to be White House counsel, were Gen. Charles Krulak, a former Marine Corps commandant, and retired Marine Gen. Joseph Hoar, former chief of the Central Command.

Hoar called the meeting "productive."

"It's important that the dialogue is going," Hoar said. "Part of the challenge here is big and philosophical. Part is nuts and bolts. How do you translate the rhetoric of the campaign and the transition period into action?"

The generals would like to see authority rescinded for the CIA to use harsh interrogation methods that go beyond those approved for use by the military, an end to the secret transfer of prisoners to other governments that have a history of torture, and the closing of the U.S. jail at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.

President George W. Bush vetoed legislation championed by the retired officers that would have held the CIA to the military's interrogation methods in March.

Obama has criticized the use of torture in interrogating detainees and promised to close Guantanamo Bay's military prison. The transition team official said no decisions about the detainee policies will be made until after the inauguration and Obama's full national security and legal teams are in place.



Court upholds $156M Palestinian terror verdict
Legal Topics | 2008/12/03 23:03
A federal appeals court has upheld a $156 million judgment against three Palestinian charities accused of bankrolling terrorism, but dropped a Chicago man from the long-running civil suit.

The opinion was filed over the killing by Hamas terrorists of American-born student David Boim (BOYM). It says donors to charities are liable if those charities engage in terrorist acts.

But the court dropped Chicagoan Muhammad Salah (suh-LAH') from the case, saying he was in jail when the anti-terrorism law was passed, so he couldn't have violated it.

Boim was fatally shot in May 1996 while standing at a bus stop in a West Bank town near Jerusalem.

The case isn't over who pulled the trigger, but who must pay damages.



Bally Total Fitness again files for Chapter 11
Legal Topics | 2008/12/02 23:11
Bally Total Fitness Corp. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Wednesday for the second time in less than two years, hindered by debt and limited refinancing options amid the credit crunch.

The Chicago-based gym operator will use existing cash reserves to continue operating. Bally, which again filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, plans to sell itself or reorganize under Chapter 11.

Early last year, faced with more than $800 million in debt and just $45 million in cash, Bally defaulted on its debt. The company's shares were delisted from the New York Stock Exchange for failing to meet minimum price and market capitalization requirements. Bally also was delinquent in filing its 2006 annual report because of errors in historical member data.

Bally then filed for Chapter 11 under the control of Harbinger Capital Partners Master Fund I Ltd. and Harbinger Capital Partners Special Situations Fund LP, which invested about $233.6 million in exchange for Bally's common equity. It emerged in the fall of 2007 as a private company.

Chief Executive Michael Sheehan, who replaced former CEO Paul Toback this June, said Bally's long-term debt and lack of refinancing options left limited alternatives, despite ongoing efforts to cut expenses and streamline operations.

According to CapitalIQ, Bally's has total debt of $811.3 million and cash and short-term investments of just $70.8 million. Total assets are listed as $411.4 million.

"The burden of Bally's long-term indebtedness, coupled with the lack of refinancing options in today's constrained credit markets, have limited our ability to restructure using out-of-court vehicles, leaving Bally with no alternative other than the actions announced today," said Sheehan in a statement.

The company hopes to emerge from bankruptcy "as promptly as possible."

Bally has retained Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP as bankruptcy counsel and Houlihan Lokey Howard & Zukin as financial advisors.



Clintons' ex-NY neighbor gets 25 years for murder
Legal Topics | 2008/12/02 23:10
A man who lived a few doors down from Bill and Hillary Clinton was sentenced Tuesday to 25 years to life in prison for shooting and killing his wife.

Carlos Perez-Olivo, 60, listened impassively as Westchester County Judge Barbara Zambelli imposed the maximum sentence and said, "You are a master of deceit who contrived a diabolical plan to murder your wife for your own financial gain."

Perez-Olivo, a disbarred lawyer, was convicted two months ago of second-degree murder and weapon possession in the death of his 55-year-old wife, Peggy.

She was shot in the back of the head in November 2006 as they drove home to Chappaqua, the New York City suburb where the couple lived on the same cul-de-sac as the Clintons. Perez-Olivo also was wounded, but prosecutors said the gunshot wound he suffered was minor and self-inflicted.

Perez-Olivo declined the opportunity to speak before sentencing, saying "I have nothing to add."

His lawyer, Christopher McClure, had asked the judge for the minimum sentence, 15 years to life, after asserting that the jury came to the wrong decision about a case built entirely on circumstantial evidence. Outside court, he promised an appeal.

Prosecutors said Perez-Olivo killed his wife to get her life insurance, worth nearly $900,000.

Perez-Olivo, who had been disbarred for misconduct in his representation of criminal clients, blamed the attack on a carjacker, possibly a hit man hired by an angry client.



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