Film Editor Says He Was Cheated
Areas of Focus | 2008/04/24 16:14
Damien Leveck, a film editor, claims Paulist Productions and Forgiveness LLC defrauded him of wages and wrongfully fired him while he worked on a film called "Forgiveness."

In his Superior Court claim, Leveck says he worked as a creative adviser for Apple until he "was courted by Frank Desiderio of Paulist and Forgiveness to be an in-house editor for film projects."

He claims Desiderio offered him $60 an hour, but the paychecks were hinky from day one - first, without deductions and without overtime; then his pay rate was cut to $50 an hour - then to $30 an hour. Then, he says, the defendants denied him two months wages completely, "claiming Plaintiff was working on a pro-bono basis."

Leveck claims Desiderio told him the pay cuts were necessary because Desiderio had lost $2 million on a previous film, called "The Jesus Experience."
Leveck claims that while all this was happening, he was working 12 to 20 hours a day on the film, "Forgiveness."

During this time, Leveck says, Desiderio was soliciting members of his church to invest in the film project on which Leveck was being cheated.

"Mr. Desiderio was selling stock in the film at a minimum investment of $30,000," the complaint states. "Mr. Desiderio was fraudulently inducing members of the church to invest in the project by claiming that the church would benefit from the donations. Mr. Desiderio received investments from the parishioners ranging from $30,000 to $60,000. Mr. Desiderio made it clear that Father Liam Kidney was in no way to know about the investments."

Represented by Todd Harrison, Leveck demands punitive damages for wrongful termination, fraud, conversion, breach of contract, interference, and Labor Code violations.


Police Maliciously Set Him Up, Doctor Says
Areas of Focus | 2008/04/23 15:54
The Melbourne Police Department trained people to pose as patients seeking medical treatment for nonexistent illnesses, provided them with false medical records, trained them to give false medical histories, then sent them to walk-in clinics and arrested a doctor on false felony charges of distributing controlled substances, Dr. Nima Heshmati claims in Federal Court.

Heshmati claims the bogus operation caused him to be thrown into jail and his medical license to be suspended.

He claims the defendants knowingly provided false testimony about their office visits. "Each and every prescription issued by Dr. Heshmati was medically necessary and followed the medical standards for the prescribing of these controlled substances," the complaint states.
Heshmati demands punitive damages for conspiracy, false imprisonment, and civil rights violations. He also sues several Melbourne police officers as individuals, and the Florida Department of Health and other state agencies.


Supreme Court To Hear Uranium Trade Case
Areas of Focus | 2008/04/22 16:07
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider whether uranium enriched in France and imported to the United States for use in nuclear power plants is subject to U.S. trade laws.

Eurodif SA, a French uranium-enrichment company, and U.S. utility companies argued that the imported uranium constitutes a "service" - and not a "good" subject to punitive tariffs - because the utilities provide the raw uranium and simply pay Eurodif to enrich it.

Concluding that uranium enrichment is a "manufacturing process" and not a service, the Commerce Department in 2002 imposed a 20 percent antidumping duty on Eurodif imports.

The Federal Circuit overturned that ruling in March 2005, a decision the high court agreed to review. The case could make it more difficult for U.S. companies to obtain protective tariffs on cheaper imports.


Jurors' Complaints Bring Mistrial
Areas of Focus | 2008/04/18 16:06

In an extraordinary case of a jury room dispute spilling into public view, a Suffolk Superior Court jury was dismissed yesterday after a male juror was accused of sexually harassing several women on the panel during lengthy deliberations in a 2004 murder case.

The judge, while expressing skepticism over the harassment allegations, said he nonetheless had no choice but to declare a mistrial.

The jury foreman sent a note to Superior Court Judge Patrick Brady on Wednesday saying that 11 of the 12 jurors were ready to convict Quincy Butler and William Wood for torturing and killing Betsy Tripp in her Dorchester home.

The five-page note, which was acted on yesterday, said the lone holdout was adamant in his view that prosecutors failed to prove their case. The note added that the holdout was also making women jurors - eight were deliber ating - uncomfortable.

"The women jurors feel sexually harassed (multiple times) by this juror," wrote foreman Thomas G. Kelly of Boston. "And at least one feels unsafe, afraid."

In a telephone interview last night, the juror accused of sexual harassment insisted the allegation surfaced only because he was resolutely opposed to convicting the two men.

He said he did show a woman juror a suggestive cartoon he had on his cellphone, but said the woman did not object at the time.

"I never harassed anyone. We were fine up to the point where I would not give them what they wanted. I needed a little bit more than what the prosecution gave me," he said.

"I probably think they [the defendants] are guilty, but I'm going on the instruction on what the judge said: The benefit of the doubt goes to the defendant."

Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Patrick M. Haggan urged Brady to question jurors individually about the harassment allegations - an idea defense attorneys Larry Tipton and Michael Bourbeau strongly opposed.

Brady rejected the suggestion and instead reached out to a ranking state judge for advice.

"I am afraid it's part of the jury system," Brady said from the bench, addressing the accusation of inappropriate behavior. "Occasionally we will get idiosyncratic, unusual, odd, and maybe irrational jurors."

But in a written ruling, Brady disclosed his belief that the complaints of sexual harassment were fabricated.

He said the jury had sent him several notes during their deliberations, and it was only the last one that made any reference to sexual harassment.

"I treat the situation where 11 jurors for conviction would like to remove the stubborn holdout from deliberations," Brady wrote.

Prosecutors asked Supreme Judicial Court Justice Margot Botsford to overturn the ruling, but she sided with Brady, saying he was in the best position to interpret the jury's actions.

As a result, when jurors once again said they could not reach a unanimous verdict, Brady declared a mistrial and sent the jurors home.

The original jury deliberated for four days before one juror was dismissed for health reasons. An alternate joined the jury April 9 and deliberations resumed.

In telephone interviews, the foreman and two jurors declined to discuss the sexual harassment allegations. Kelly, the foreman, said an incident took place earlier this week, but would not provide any details.

"It was not a severe situation," he said of the alleged incident between the male juror and at least one woman panelist. "It was an incident that was brief."

A second juror, who asked that her name not be published, said she was heartbroken that relatives of Tripp will now have to wait months longer for a verdict and justice for the slain 49-year old victim.

Tripp was targeted after her boyfriend, Morris Thompson, was allegedly attacked by Butler and Wood, who were allegedly seeking money for drugs.

Thompson was shot in the eye and testified in the trial.

"Most of us all feel very badly that we weren't able to offer the verdict," said the second juror, who spent 10 days deliberating. "I hope they get the justice that they deserve."

Butler, 34, and Wood, 33, are both charged with first-degree murder among other charges and have pleaded not guilty. Brady plans to retry the case June 9.



Judge says Parmalat fraud suit can proceed
Areas of Focus | 2008/04/16 16:03

A New Jersey Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday that a $7 billion lawsuit filed by Italian dairy giant Parmalat SpA against Citigroup could go forward on a claim that Citigroup aided and abetted former Parmalat executives in misappropriating company money. Parmalat has alleged that Citigroup helped obscure the state of Parmalat's finances and helped to move the ill-gotten gains of former Parmalat executives through its bank accounts. Judge Jonathan N. Harris dismissed several of Parmalat's claims, including fraud claims brought under New Jersey's Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act and racketeering claims brought under the state's Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. The trial is scheduled for May 5.

Citigroup was among four banking giants indicted by an Italian judge in June 2007 for not revealing to the market that Parmalat was not financially healthy. Parmalat filed for insolvency in December 2003 after discovering accounting discrepancies totaling nearly $5 billion in debt.



Court Steps Into Utilities Case
Areas of Focus | 2008/04/15 15:43
The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear an environmental case in which utility companies want to revive an industry-friendly regulation put in place by the Bush administration.

The dispute with environmental groups revolves around the harm companies cause when they draw water from rivers and lakes to cool electric generating equipment, then return it to the waterway. The process kills aquatic life.

The Environmental Protection Agency allowed the industry to forgo the most expensive solution, installing closed-cycle cooling systems which would cost billions of dollars at 550 generating units around the country including 104 nuclear power plants. The units account for 40 percent of the country's energy production.

The EPA rule allowed the companies to decide how to comply with the Clean Water Act by conducting cost-benefit analyses of the available options.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City ruled against the companies, saying they must adopt the best technology available.

The appeals court called into question EPA's conclusion that closed-cycle cooling costs could not be reasonably borne by the industry.

Last month, the Bush administration said in a court filing that it would support the industry position were the case to come before the Supreme Court.

With a new administration taking office next January, an EPA run by different presidential appointees might choose to change positions on the issue.

Robert Goldstein, general counsel at Riverkeeper Inc., one of the environmental groups involved in the dispute, said "it's about time this law enacted in 1972 get some teeth."


Class Action Cites Zetia & Vytorin
Areas of Focus | 2008/04/11 15:53
In a shareholder's class action that neatly summarizes complaints about Schering-Plough Corp.'s sales of its cholesterol drugs Zetia and Vytorin, the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System claims: "Sixteen months after completion of a study showing that its two most profitable drugs had no greater health benefit than far cheaper generic competitors - and may even be harmful - Schering sold over $4 billion of its own securities to the investing without disclosing the results of the study. This lack of disclosure violated the securities laws."

    The complaint continues: "It took the Company another five months to disclose some of the study results and when it did, Schering's stock dropped precipitously and investors were harmed. Ten weeks after that initial disclosure, Schering disclosed the study results in their entirety, which caused the stock to drop even further.

    "Defendant Schering manufactures and markets two anti-cholesterol drugs called Zetia and Vytorin. Vytorin is a combination of Zetia and Zocor - in generic form, simvastatin - and is jointly manufactured and marketed with Merck & Co., Inc. Total sales of Zetia and Vytorin were $3.9 billion in 2006 and $5.2 billion in 2007. These drugs are Schering's most profitable, accounting for 70 percent of its profits, by one estimate."

    This is not the first such class action against Schering-Plough. Courthouse News reports it because its first six pages contain a clear and concise summary of the allegations, and the history of the medical trials that Schering allegedly failed to disclose.

    Plaintiffs are represented by James Cecchi with Carella, Byrne, Bain, Gilfillan, Cecchi, Stewart & Olstein of Roseland, N.J.


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