Ronaldo tells judge he has 'never tried to avoid taxes'
Court Watch | 2017/07/31 17:41
Cristiano Ronaldo told a Spanish judge Monday that he has "never tried to avoid taxes."

The Real Madrid forward, who is from Portugal, was questioned to determine whether he committed tax fraud worth almost 15 million euros ($17.5 million). Ronaldo spent more than 90 minutes answering the questions of investigating judge Monica Gomez.

According to a statement released by his public relations firm, the 32-year-old Ronaldo told the judge: "I have never hidden anything, and never tried to avoid taxes."

Judge Gomez took Ronaldo's testimony as part of an investigation to determine if there are grounds to charge him. The session at Pozuelo de Alarcon Court No. 1 on the outskirts of Madrid was closed to the public because it is part of an ongoing investigation.

In June, a state prosecutor accused Ronaldo of four counts of tax fraud from 2011-14 worth 14.7 million euros ($16.5 million). The prosecutor accused the Portugal forward of having used shell companies outside Spain to hide income made from image rights. The accusation does not involve his salary from Real Madrid. Ronaldo denies any wrongdoing.

"Spain's Tax Office knows all the details about my sources of income because we have reported them," Ronaldo told the judge, according to his statement. "I always file my tax returns because I think that we should all file and pay our taxes.

"Those who know me know that I tell my consultants that they must have everything in order and paid up to date because I don't want trouble."

Both before and after his court appearance, Ronaldo used an alternative entrance to avoid a large swarm of more than a hundred journalists from Spain and aboard gathered near the main door to the court.

Court officials had said that either Ronaldo or his lawyer would speak to the media after he saw the judge, but instead the player's spokesman, Inaki Torres, stepped up to the temporary podium in front of the courthouse to announce that Ronaldo "was on his way home."

The prosecutor said in June that Ronaldo used what was deemed a shell company in the Virgin Islands to "create a screen in order to hide his total income from Spain's Tax Office."

The prosecutor accused Ronaldo of declaring 11.5 million euros ($12.8 million) earned from 2011-14 in a tax return filed in 2014, when the prosecutor said Ronaldo's real income during that period was almost 43 million euros ($48 million). It added that Ronaldo falsely claimed the income as coming from real estate, which "greatly" reduced his tax rate.


D.C. on edge: rumors of new Supreme Court vacancy swirl
Court Watch | 2017/06/24 13:15
White House sources think Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Supreme Court's ideological fulcrum, may announce his retirement today, as the justices gather on the bench for the last time this term.

If that happens, Day 158 instantly becomes President Trump's biggest moment.

Trump's first Court appointment, of Justice Neil Gorsuch, was a one-for-one ideological swap for the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
Replacing Kennedy would be even more historic and consequential: a momentous chance to edge the Court right, since Kennedy is the center of the Court — the one most willing to listen to both sides. On a controversial case, both sides pitch to him. It's been called "Kennedy's Court."

No one's predicting: Court watchers say no one knows, and Kennedy has said nothing publicly. He could well wait one more year: The Court buzz is that it'll be this year or next.

Be smart: Few domestic developments could more instantly and decisively change the national conversation — blotting out almost everything else, and vastly reducing the sting for conservatives is healthcare tanks.

A Washington wise man emails: "With two court appointments and maybe one more, Trump's presidency will be consequential even if he has few legislative achievements. This week may well demonstrate both."



Top court to hear case that could reshape US political map
Court Watch | 2017/06/20 16:43
The Supreme Court will take up a momentous fight over parties manipulating electoral districts to gain partisan advantage in a case that could affect the balance of power between Democrats and Republicans across the United States.

At issue is whether Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin drew legislative districts that favored their party and were so out of whack with the state's political breakdown that they violated the constitutional rights of Democratic voters.

It will be the high court's first case in more than a decade on what's known as partisan gerrymandering. A lower court struck down the districts as unconstitutional last year.

The justices won't hear the arguments until the fall, but the case has already taken on a distinctly ideological, if not partisan, tone. Just 90 minutes after justices announced Monday that they would hear the case, the five more conservative justices voted to halt a lower court's order to redraw the state's legislative districts by November, in time for next year's elections.

The four more liberal justices, named to the court by Democrats, would have let the new line-drawing proceed even as the court considers the issue.

That divide could be significant. One factor the court weighs in making such decisions is which side seems to have a better chance of winning.

Republicans who control the state legislature assured the court that they could draw new maps in time for the 2018 elections, if the court strikes down the districts. If the state wins, there'll be no need for new districts.

Democrats hope a favorable decision will help them cut into Republican electoral majorities. Election law experts say the case is the best chance yet for the high court to put limits on what lawmakers may do to gain a partisan advantage in creating political district maps.

Both parties have tried to get the largest partisan edge when they control redistricting. Yet Democrats are more supportive of having courts rein in extreme districting plans, mainly because Republicans control more legislatures and drew districts after the 2010 census that enhanced their advantage in those states and in the House of Representatives.


Court: 'JudgeCutie' nickname doesn't ruffle judicial dignity
Court Watch | 2017/06/19 23:43
A Mississippi jurist can call herself "JudgeCutie" without ruffling the dignity of the legal profession.

That's what the Mississippi Supreme Court says in one of its speediest decisions in years.

Only two days after hearing arguments, the court — which often takes months for decisions — dismissed a complaint filed against Gay Polk-Payton. The justice court judge has gone by "JudgeCutie" on social media.

The state Commission on Judicial Performance sought to reprimand her, saying she had used her job on the bench and the online persona to promote herself as a motivational speaker and musical entertainer.

During arguments to the Supreme Court, her attorney Oliver Diaz pointed out that other Mississippi judges have used names that some might consider less than dignified. One was Noah "Soggy" Sweat, a circuit judge from 1966 to 1974.

Court papers say "Judge Cutie" is a play on the name of TV's "Judge Judy."


High court limits seizure of assets from drug conspiracies
Court Watch | 2017/06/06 22:49
The Supreme Court is limiting the government's ability to seize assets from people who are convicted of drug crimes but receive little of the illegal proceeds.

The justices ruled Monday that a Tennessee man convicted for his role selling iodine water purification filters to methamphetamine makers does not have to forfeit nearly $70,000 in profits.

Terry Honeycutt helped sell more than 20,000 filters at his brother's hardware store. Prosecutors said the brothers knew the iodine was used by local meth cooks.

Honeycutt's brother pleaded guilty and forfeited $200,000 of the $270,000 in profits. But Honeycutt argued he wasn't responsible for the rest since he didn't personally see any profits.

A federal appeals court ruled against Honeycutt, saying everyone who joins a drug conspiracy can be required to give up profits.


In one state, abused animals get a legal voice in court
Court Watch | 2017/06/03 18:07
Many states have victim's advocates or child advocates, people in the judicial system who represent those affected by crime or abuse. Now, one state has created legal advocates for abused animals, an experiment being watched across the nation for signs of success.

There are eight approved volunteer advocates across Connecticut — seven lawyers and a UConn law professor, working with her students. It's up to a judge to decide whether to appoint one, but they can be requested by prosecutors or defense attorneys. In the first six months of the law, advocates have been appointed in five cases.

"Every state has the problem of overburdened courts that understandably prioritize human cases over animal cases in allocating resources," said University of Connecticut professor Jessica Rubin, a specialist in animal law. "Here's a way to help."

The American Kennel Club, though, opposed the legislation, saying it could result in confusion over who is responsible for an animal and limit the rights of animal owners, including in cases in which someone else is charged with the abuse.



Playboy model who shot nude of unwitting woman due in court
Court Watch | 2017/05/23 22:50
A Playboy centerfold who ignited a backlash of criticism when she secretly snapped a photo of a naked 71-year-old woman in a locker room and posted it online mocking the woman's body is expected to appear in court Wednesday to resolve a criminal charge.

Dani Mathers is planning to show up at a hearing in Los Angeles County Superior Court on a misdemeanor charge of invasion of privacy, her lawyer said.

Mathers, 30, has apologized for taking the photo at an LA Fitness club in July and posting it on Snapchat with the caption: "If I can't unsee this then you can't either."

The posting was accompanied by a selfie of Mathers in a tank top with her hand over her mouth as if she's gasping in horror.

The 2015 Playmate of the Year was roundly criticized for the so-called body shaming incident. Mathers said she intended to send the photo privately to a friend and accidentally posted it publicly.

Defense lawyer Dana Cole argued unsuccessfully that the charge should be dismissed because the woman in the photo can't easily be identified.

The victim, who has not been named, is expected to testify if the case goes to trial, said Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for the Los Angeles city attorney.

Cole said he's hoping to work out a settlement Wednesday. He said prosecutors want a guilty plea and community service on a highway crew. Wilcox said no plea deal has been offered.

Deputy City Attorney Chadd Kim did not return phone and email messages seeking comment, but in court papers said Mathers had shown no remorse and needed to face consequences for her "cruel and criminal act."

The defense has argued for a more lenient outcome, saying in court papers that Mathers has already lost modeling work and a job as a radio host. They have recommended she use her notoriety to bring attention to the issue of body shaming.



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