Man charged in bike path killings speaks in court of 'Allah'
Court News | 2018/06/23 04:32
The man charged with murdering eight people on a New York City bike path and injuring many more spoke out in court Friday over a prosecutor's objection, invoking "Allah" and defending the Islamic State.

Sayfullo Saipov, 30, raised his hand to speak immediately after U.S. District Judge Vernon S. Broderick set an Oct. 7, 2019 date for the Uzbek immigrant's trial.

Earlier, he had pleaded not guilty through his lawyer to the latest indictment in the Oct. 31 truck attack near the World Trade Center. A prosecutor said the Justice Department will decide by the end of the summer whether to seek the death penalty against Saipov, who lived in Paterson, New Jersey, before the attack.

Speaking through an interpreter for about 10 minutes, Saipov said the decisions of a U.S. court were unimportant to him. He said he cared about "Allah" and the holy war being waged by the Islamic State.

At the prompting of Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Houle, Broderick interrupted Saipov to read him his rights, including that anything he said in court could be used against him.

"I understand you, but I' m not worried about that at all," Saipov said.

"So the Islamic State is not fighting for land, like some say, or like some say, for oil. They have one purpose, and they're fighting to impose Sharia (Islamic law) on earth," he said.

After Saipov spoke more, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Beaty interrupted him to object that the judge was letting Saipov make the kind of statement publicly that special restrictions placed on him in prison would otherwise prevent, including discussing "terrorist propaganda."

The judge said he believed Saipov was nearing the end of his remarks and let him finish before warning him that he was unlikely to let him speak out in court again in a similar manner. Saipov, though, would be given a chance to testify if his case proceeds to trial and, if convicted, could speak at sentencing.

Saipov thanked the judge for letting him speak but added at one point: "I don't accept this as my judge."

Prosecutors had been seeking an April 2019 trial date. Houle said the families of the dead and the dozens who were injured deserve a "prompt and firm trial date."

"The victims here are anxious now when that trial is going to be," she said. "The public deserves a speedy trial, and the surviving victims deserve to know when that trial is going to be."

Defense lawyers have said the government should accept a guilty plea and a sentence of life in prison without parole to provide victims' families and the public with closure.



Indonesia court sentences cleric behind attacks to death
Court News | 2018/06/22 04:32
Radical cleric Aman Abdurrahman was sentenced to death by an Indonesian court Friday for ordering Islamic State group-affiliated militants to carry out attacks including the January 2016 suicide bombing at a Starbucks in Jakarta.

Abdurrahman, who police and prosecutors say is a key ideologue for IS militants in the world's largest Muslim nation, kneeled and kissed the floor as the panel of five judges announced the sentence while counterterrorism officers guarding him uttered "praise be to God."

Several hundred paramilitary and counterterrorism police secured the Jakarta court where the trial took place. Fears of attacks have been elevated in Indonesia after suicide bombings in the country's second-largest city, Surabaya, last month that were carried out by families including their young children. Police say the leader of those bombers was part of the network of militants inspired by Abdurrahman.

During the trial, prosecutors said Abdurrahman's instructions from prison, where he was serving a terrorism-related sentence, resulted in several attacks in Indonesia in 2016 and 2017.

They included the Starbucks attack in the capital that killed four civilians and four militants, an attack on a bus terminal in Jakarta that killed three police officers and an attack on a church in Kalimantan that killed a 2-year-old girl. Several other children suffered serious burns from the Kalimantan attack.

The defendant's "speeches, teachings and instructions have inspired his group and followers to commit criminal acts of terrorism in Indonesia," said presiding Judge Ahmad Zaini.

The court said there was no reason for leniency. It gave defense lawyers seven days to consider lodging an appeal.

Abdurrahman has refused to recognize the authority of the court, part of his rejection of secular government in Indonesia and desire to replace it with Shariah law.


High Court: Online shoppers can be forced to pay sales tax
Opinions | 2018/06/20 04:33
The Supreme Court says states can force online shoppers to pay sales tax. The 5-4 ruling Thursday is a win for states, who said they were losing out on billions of dollars annually under two decades-old Supreme Court decisions that impacted online sales tax collection.

The high court ruled Thursday to overturn those decisions. They had resulted in some companies not collecting sales tax on every online purchase. The cases the court overturned said that if a business was shipping a product to a state where it didn't have a physical presence such as a warehouse or office, the business didn't have to collect the state's sales tax. Customers were generally supposed to pay the tax to the state themselves if they don't get charged it, but the vast majority didn't. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that the previous decisions were flawed.

"Each year the physical presence rule becomes further removed from economic reality and results in significant revenue losses to the States. These critiques underscore that the physical presence rule, both as first formulated and as applied today, is an incorrect interpretation of the Commerce Clause," he wrote.

In addition to being a win for states, the ruling is also a win for large retailers, who argued the physical presence rule was unfair. Retailers including Apple, Macy's, Target and Walmart, which have brick-and-mortar stores nationwide, generally collect sales tax from their customers who buy online. That's because they typically have a physical store in whatever state the purchase is being shipped to. Amazon.com, with its network of warehouses, also collects sales tax in every state that charges it, though third party sellers who use the site to sell goods don't have to.

But sellers that only have a physical presence in a single state or a few states could avoid charging customers sales tax when they're shipping to addresses outside those states. Online sellers that don't charge sales tax on goods shipped to every state range from jewelry website Blue Nile to pet products site Chewy.com to clothing retailer L.L. Bean. Sellers who use eBay and Etsy, which provide platforms for smaller sellers, also aren't required to collect sales tax nationwide.


Court makes no ruling in resolving partisan redistricting cases
Headline Legal News | 2018/06/18 16:53
The Supreme Court will consider whether the purchasers of iPhone apps can sue Apple over allegations it has an illegal monopoly on the sale of the apps.

The court said Monday that it will take a case from the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which ruled in January that the purchasers of iPhone apps could sue Apple. Their lawsuit says that when a customer buys an app the price includes a 30 percent markup that goes to Apple.

Apple had argued that it did not sell apps, but instead acted as an intermediary used by the app developers. Apple won initially in a lower court which dismissed the lawsuit.

In Wisconsin, the Democrats prevailed after a trial in which the court ruled that partisan redistricting could go too far and indeed, did in Wisconsin, where Republicans hold a huge edge in the legislature even though the state otherwise is closely divided between Democrats and Republicans.

The Supreme Court said that the plaintiffs in Wisconsin had failed to prove that they have the right to sue on a statewide basis, rather than challenge individual districts.

The Democrats will have a chance to prove their case district by district.

Waiting in the wings is a case from North Carolina that seemingly addresses some of the high court's concerns. The lawsuit filed by North Carolina Democrats has plaintiffs in each of the state's 13 congressional districts. Like Wisconsin, North Carolina is generally closely divided in politics, but Republicans hold a 10-3 edge in congressional seats.

The majority opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts in the Wisconsin case cast doubt on the broadest theory about the redistricting issue known as partisan gerrymandering.

Roberts wrote that the Supreme Court's role "is to vindicate the individual rights of the people appearing before it," not generalized partisan preferences.


State appeals court reinstates California's right-to-die law
Court News | 2018/06/17 23:54
A state appeals court has reinstated — at least for now — California's law allowing terminally ill people to end their lives.

The Fourth District Court of Appeals in Riverside issued an immediate stay Friday putting the End of Life Option back into effect. The court also gave opponents of its decision until July 2 to file objections.

The law allows adults to obtain a prescription for life-ending drugs if a doctor has determined that they have six months or less to live.

Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia declared the law unconstitutional last month, stating that it had been adopted illegally because lawmakers passed it during a special Legislative session called to address other matters.

Ottolia didn't address the issue of whether it's proper for people to end their lives. Right-to-die advocates hailed Friday's action.

"This stay is a huge win for many terminally ill Californians with six months or less to live because it could take years for the courts to resolve this case," Kevin Díaz, national director of legal advocacy for Compassion & Choices, said in a statement.

"Thankfully, this ruling settles the issue for the time being, but we know we have a long fight ahead before we prevail."

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who had asked the appeals court to stay Ottolia's ruling, also praised the decision.

"This ruling provides some relief to California patients, their families, and doctors who have been living in uncertainty while facing difficult health decisions," Becerra said. "Today's court ruling is an important step to protect and defend the End of Life Option Act for our families across the state."


Kentucky high court: Death penalty IQ law unconstitutional
Legal Topics | 2018/06/17 23:53
The Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled that the state's practice for determining if someone is intellectually disabled and not eligible to receive the death penalty is "unconstitutional."

News outlets report that the court on Thursday deemed Kentucky's use of an IQ test to determine if defendants have the mental competence to be sentenced to death outdated. Trial courts required defendants show an IQ of 70 or below before a hearing to determine intellectual disability.

The court's opinion came in the case of a man convicted of murdering a Muhlenberg County girl 20 years ago. Robert Keith Woodall was sentenced to death after pleading guilty in the killing of 16-year-old Sarah Hansen.

Woodall's attorneys, assistant public advocates Mike O'Hara and Dennis Burke, say the court's decision to abandon Kentucky's statute is modern and appropriate.



NY high court nixes Trump's bid to delay defamation suit
Legal Topics | 2018/06/15 16:09
New York's highest court on Thursday turned down President Donald Trump's latest bid to delay a defamation suit filed by a former "Apprentice" contestant who accused him of unwanted groping and kissing.

The ruling by the state Court of Appeals didn't address either side's central arguments. But it means evidence-gathering in Summer Zervos' lawsuit can proceed, at least for now.

Zervos' lawyer, Mariann Wang, said she looks forward to continuing with the case "and exposing the truth."

Trump, who denies Zervos' allegations, is trying to get the case dismissed or postponed until after his presidency. A mid-level appellate court is due to consider that request in the fall.

Trump's lawyers at Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP noted that Thursday's ruling didn't speak to their argument for tossing out the case: That a sitting president can't be sued in a state court.

Instead, the Court of Appeals said the case was simply in too early a stage for its consideration.

Zervos, a California restaurateur, appeared in 2006 on the Republican president's former reality show, "The Apprentice."

She says he made unwanted advances when she sought career advice in 2007, then defamed her by calling her a liar after she came forward late in his 2016 presidential race. She is seeking a retraction, an apology and compensatory and punitive damages.


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