NY state Sen. Sampson found guilty of obstruction
Court News | 2015/07/24 22:58
A once-powerful New York politician was convicted Friday on charges he lied to the FBI in an attempt to obstruct a corruption investigation targeting him for embezzlement.

A federal jury in Brooklyn reached the verdict after deliberating for about a week at the trial of state Sen. John Sampson.

The Brooklyn Democrat was found guilty of one count of obstruction of justice and two counts of making false statements. He was acquitted on six other counts, including witness tampering.

Sampson, 50, who was re-elected last year, was at the center of the latest federal trial resulting from federal prosecutors' campaign against dirty dealing in Albany.

The verdict showed that the jury agreed that the defendant has an "utter disregard for the rule of law and criminal justice system," acting U.S. Attorney Kelly Currie said outside court.

Defense Attorney Nathaniel Akerman called the mixed verdict a partial victory, and told reporters he would pursue all his appeal options to appeal the convictions "until Mr. Sampson is vindicated."

Also speaking outside court, jury forewoman Kim O'Meally said that jurors decided to clear Sampson on the counts tied to a government cooperator, real estate developer Edul Ahmad. Asked what she thought of the witness, she replied: "He's dirty."

Prosecutors originally charged him with embezzling funds while acting as a court-appointed referee for home foreclosure proceedings in the mid-2000s. They also alleged he persuaded Ahmad to loan him nearly $200,000 to cover up the theft in exchange for political favors.


Ill. high court rejects intervention on state paychecks
Court News | 2015/07/19 16:09
The Illinois Supreme Court has denied a request by state officials to decide the issue of paying government workers during the budget crisis.

The high court made no comment Friday in rejecting the plea by Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

Madigan sought intervention because two separate courts ruled opposite ways last week on pay for 64,500 employees.

A Cook County judge ruled it would be illegal to pay most of them. But an appellate court reversed that decision Friday and sent it back for additional arguments.

A St. Clair County judge decreed it would violate the Constitution not to pay them.

State Comptroller Leslie Munger began paying workers this week.

A new fiscal year began July 1 but Gov. Bruce Rauner and legislative Democrats can't agree on a spending plan.



Pakistan court grants bail to top model arrested with cash
Court News | 2015/07/13 22:35
A Pakistan court granted bail Tuesday to a top model Ayaan Ali, who has been held since March after being caught trying to fly to Dubai with half a million dollars in cash stashed in her luggage, her lawyer said.

In a televised comment, defense lawyer Latif Khosa said the Lahore High Court granted bail to Ali after hearing arguments from both sides.

He said they had started the paperwork for the release of Ali, who has been the focus of Pakistani media's attention since authorities nabbed her at the VIP lounge of Islamabad's airport. Under Pakistani laws, no one can carry over $10,000 on a flight, but authorities found $506,800 tucked into her luggage.

It was unclear when the model would be freed. Ali is being held at a prison in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

Usually, lawyers take one to two days to complete paperwork to get their clients released.


Court revises test on determining Native American status
Court News | 2015/07/09 20:06
Attorneys in federal cases stemming from crimes on American Indian reservations have new guidance on what's needed to prove a defendant is Indian.

Federal authorities have jurisdiction over major crimes on tribal land when the victim, suspect or both are American Indian. A two-part test determines who is Indian.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals revised the first part of that test in an opinion Tuesday — no longer requiring that the degree of Indian blood be traced to a federally recognized tribe — and restored an Arizona man's 90-year sentence on assault and firearms charges.

The court said evidence at trial was enough to find Damien Zepeda is American Indian. Zepeda, an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Community, disagreed.

"That's why it was so important to clarify that the proof in this case was sufficient," said Arthur Hellman, a University of Pittsburgh law professor who monitors the 9th Circuit. "This will lay down the rule for future prosecutors."

In 2013, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit ruled prosecutors did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zepeda's bloodline of one-quarter Pima and one-quarter Tohono O'odham derived from an American Indian tribe recognized by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. It reversed all but one of nine convictions and ordered a lower court to resentence him.


Bryant tells court it should affirm same-sex marriage ruling
Court News | 2015/07/04 20:13
Gov. Phil Bryant remains opposed to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, but he’s stopping his court fight against it.

In a letter Wednesday, Bryant’s lawyer asks the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to return a Mississippi gay marriage lawsuit to U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves in Jackson. That would allow Reeves to enter a final ruling aligned with the Supreme Court decision.

Reeves overturned Mississippi’s gay marriage ban last year, but put his ruling on hold. The appeals court also put a hold on Reeves’ ruling.

Those procedural blocks need to be lifted, but most Mississippi counties are already issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Lawyers for plaintiffs want judges to act before July 4, to “celebrate the promise of liberty and freedom for all.”


Supreme Court will re-hear Texas affirmative action
Court News | 2015/06/29 15:56
The Supreme Court said Monday it will dive back into the fight over the use of race in admissions at the University of Texas, a decision that presages tighter limits on affirmative action in higher education.

The justices said they will hear for a second time the case of a white woman who was denied admission to the university's flagship Austin campus.

The conservative-leaning federal appeals court in New Orleans has twice upheld the university's admissions process, including in a ruling last year that followed a Supreme Court order to reconsider the woman's case.

The case began in 2008 when Abigail Fisher, who is white, was denied admission to the University of Texas's flagship Austin campus because she did not graduate in the top 10 percent of her high school class — the criterion for 75 percent of the school's admissions. The university also passed her over for a position among the remaining 25 percent, which is reserved for special scholarships and people who meet a formula for personal achievement that includes race as a factor.

The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2013. But rather than issue a landmark decision on affirmative action, it voted 7-1 to tell a lower appeals court to take another look at Fisher's lawsuit. That meant the university's admissions policies remained unchanged.

Last year, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals again upheld the university's admissions policy. Fisher is a graduate of Louisiana State University.

Justice Elena Kagan is not taking part in the case. She sat out the first round as well, presumably because of her work on the case when she served in the Justice Department before joining the court.



Illinois high court: Comcast must reveal anonymous commenter
Court News | 2015/06/20 18:31
The Illinois Supreme Court has affirmed a lower court opinion ordering Comcast Cable Communications to identify a subscriber who posted an anonymous message suggesting a political candidate molests children.

The court said Thursday that the internet service provider must identify the subscriber who commented on a 2011 article in the Freeport Journal Standard about Bill Hadley's candidacy for the Stephenson County board.

The commenter, who used the online name "Fuboy," wrote that "Hadley is a Sandusky waiting to be exposed" because he can see an elementary school from his home. The comment was an apparent reference to former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky who was convicted of child sex abuse in 2012.

Hadley filed a defamation lawsuit against the commenter and subpoenaed Comcast demanding that it identify the subscriber.



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