American Couple Sentenced For Five Murders In Panama City

Two U.S. citizens have been sentenced in the murders of five people by a Panama City court, after having been found guilty of crimes related to the deaths. William Dathan Holbert and ex-wife Laura Reese face long prison terms as a result of a guilty verdict recently handed down in the case.
Holbert is facing 47 years in prison for robbing and killing five other American tourists, while in the Caribbean destination spot. Ms. Reese was sentenced to 26 years for the part she played in the crimes.
William Holbert Admitted To A Long-Running Scheme
In speaking with authorities, Holbert acknowledged killing five people between 2007 and 2010 for the purposes of stealing their property in the Bocas del Toro area. The confession came after William and Laura Reese were detained, while trying to cross the border from Costa Rica to Nicaragua in 2010.
Claudia Alvarado, an attorney working on behalf of Holbert, says they will likely appeal the sentencing.
In 2010, an investigation discovered five bodies (four adults and one child) buried on property owned by Mr. Holbert.
Mike Brown, his wife, and young son were the first victims, having been murdered by Holbert in 2007. Upon investigating, police found reason to suspect Brown, himself, had been living under an alias, making it difficult to uncover his true identity or determine where he was from.
In 2010, William Holbert again claimed more lives. He murdered Cheryl Lynn Hughes of St. Louis Missouri, who was living in Panama and operating a small hotel. William also killed Bo Icelar, the former owner of a Santa Fe, New Mexico art gallery.
William Holbert Has A Troubled Past
Even before he killed Mike Brown, Holbert was often in trouble with the law, expressing a propensity for criminal behavior. His problems began when he divorced a previous wife in North Carolina, which led him to filing for bankruptcy and forced him to sell his landscaping business.
While still living in the state, he met and later married Laura Reese. William sold a piece of real estate that he didn’t legally own for $200,000. When the buyers notified police, Holbert and Reese were forced to leave the state. A high-speed chase ensued with authorities pursuing the couple across multiple state lines from North Carolina to Wyoming.
Holbert and Reese had fled to Panama, but a new investigation initiated by Panama police forced the couple to again hit the road. William Holbert and Laura Reese were trying to escape, when they were arrested at the Nicaraguan border.

 

 

 

 

Martin Shkreli May Actually Go To Prison

Martin Shkreli had faced a long trial and he may go to prison. Even though he is well known by jacking up medication prices, his prison term will be for something completely unrelated. The courts were more interested at looking back on his history of managing hedge funds

After review of the jury, they court had found Martin Shkreli guilty of securities fraud. This crime can potentially have a 20-year prison sentence, but it is still up in the air on how long he will serve (if he serves any time at all).

Although it was one of the lesser charges, he was caught stealing money from one of his companies in order to reimburse damages for investors. Basically, the jury did see that his intentions were good by making things right for his investors but it was still technically illegal.

What Martin’s legal team had mostly focused on during the trial was by showing how there was no malicious intent with his actions. He also explained how Martin put in a lot of hours and sacrificed from his own personal life in order to make his customers happy. In the end, there were no losses and there were only a few white lies behind it. In the end, a crime was still committed in order for him to turn things around.

An Unbiased Jury?
Considering his reputation as a greedy mastermind that is raising the cost of medications, you would think that the jury would throw the book at him. In fact, the jury was asked if they knew about his involvement in the pharmaceutical industry. If jurors had said yes, they were automatically excluded from the trial. This means that it was unlikely that previous bad press had influenced the outcome.

Shkreli’s Infamous Online Persona
Most of the people following the drama behind Shkreli are likely younger social media users. He constantly acts cocky through Twitter and Facebook. He had even mocked the jurors, the trial and the press with the confidence that he will win the trial. He called it a witch hunt by people who don’t know anything about his industry.

He even has a tight-knit group of followers that watch him live streaming through Youtube throughout the trial. When he was sentenced, he still live streamed from his apartment while drinking beer and cracking jokes about his future prison life.

It still remains to be seen if a jail sentence will be made and for how long.

 

 

 

Sheriff Joe Arpaio could go to Jail

A federal judge ruled that former Sheriff Joe Arpaio was guilty of criminal contempt earlier this week. Arpaio had once referred to himself as America’s toughest sheriff and was known for his over-the-edge tactics. He served as the Sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona for several years. Arpaio was accused of contempt of continuing to do racial profiling by targeting immigrants in patrols. Judge Susan Bolton of the US District Court passed the verdict in court papers that were signed at the start of the week. Bolton noted that Arpaio was aware of the court order and the policy that detained immigrants should be turned over to federal immigration. The evidence that was presented showed that Arpaio had acted in utter disregard of the order. She wrote that he even went as far as making it public that he would continue to target immigrants racially. He had also abdicated his responsibility by refusing to follow the law.

Arpaio is now 85 years-old. Arpaio mounted a defense saying that the order was not clear enough for him and that it was not his intention to violate it. His defense attorney blamed the lawman’s former attorney for failing to represent him adequately. The attorney had failed to seek clarification from the judge or explain the order to the client. The federal prosecutors in the case argued that the defiance was done intentionally. They believed he did this because he felt that he could get away with it. He could be looking at six months in jail if he is found guilty. The sentencing is scheduled to be done in the first week of October.

Jack and Dennis Wilenchik are Arpaio’s attorneys. They said that their client would appeal the verdict in favor of a jury trial. They said that Bolton had violated the Constitution by failing to read the verdict to Arpaio in court. They also believe that the verdict did not reflect the statements that were made by witnesses in the case. They added that a jury would have ruled in his favor, and that is why they are pushing for a jury trial. The former sheriff became involved in court cases when a class action law suit was filed against him for racial discrimination ten years ago. The group of Latinos that filed the lawsuit made allegations that the sheriff’s policies were unconstitutional. Arpaio believes that the investigations by the Justice Department are a witch hunt and hold no value.

http://edition.cnn.com/2017/07/31/us/arpaio-found-guilty/index.html

 

 

Ohio Carries Out Their First Execution In Three Years, But It May Not Be The Last

In 2014, a controversial incident forced Ohio state officials to reconsider the death penalty. Although lethal injection has been carried out in a number of states without concern, the execution of Dennis McGuire didn’t go as planned. McGuire was seen gasping to breath and snorting, as though choking, for 15 minutes. Eventually, the inmate died, but the incident forced lawmakers to reconsider the death penalty and Ohio hasn’t performed a single execution since that incident.
Ohio Resumes Capital Punishment
Ronald Phillips holds the dubious honor of having been the first inmate to be put to death in the three years, since the execution of McGuire. At 10:43 a.m. on Wednesday, Phillips was executed via lethal injection. Carrying out Phillips’ death sentence seems to have been a test run for the state with reports surfacing that Ohio will now begin resuming executions.
In fact, the state has 138 inmates awaiting execution, which makes Ohio among the highest in terms of death row occupants. There are currently plans to continue the executions through 2020.
State executions have declined in recent years, as governments have researched drugs that would commit the act in a more humane fashion. Concerns are that the current method of lethal injection is cruel and painful, making it a contradiction to the U.S. constitution.

Who Was Ronald Phillips?
The fact that Phillips was the first man to be executed in three years raises curiosity about his crimes. In fact, Ronald was convicted in 1993 for raping and murdering 3-year-old Sheila Marie Evans, his girlfriend’s daughter.
Phillips was just 19, when he was brought to trial, and his lawyer used that fact to try to obtain leniency in sentencing. The court wasn’t sympathetic to the defense and sentenced Mr. Phillips to death.
Since that sentence, Ronald launched an appeal himself, asking to be granted a stay from execution. He told the Supreme Court that he has changed, since committing crimes against Sheila Evans, and that he had become a new person. His request was denied.
Timothy F. Sweeney and Lisa M. Lagos, attorneys for Ron Phillips, had released a statement expressing their belief that Ronald had been changed by his years in prison. They said he resigned himself to his fate and had learned remorse, compassion, and respect for others.
At the time of his execution, Ronald Phillips expressed his remorse and guilt to his victim’s family.
“To the Evans family, I’m sorry you had to live so long with my evil actions,” he said. “All those years I prayed you’d forgive me and find it in your heart to forgive and have mercy on me.”

The Details of O.J. Simpson’s Recent Parole Hearing

Orenthal James Simpson, often shortened to O.J. Simpson, was recently granted parole at his hearing on Thursday, July 20th. Simpson has requested to be released in the state of Florida to fulfill his upcoming parole agreements’ requirements of living near a support system consisting of close friends and family to help him stay out of trouble. The state of Nevada has submitted documentation to Florida’s Department of Corrections, of which the Sunshine State has 45 days to reply. He is expected to be released as soon as October 1st, although the date isn’t set in stone.

The former football standout made headlines in 1994 for his alleged involvement in the double murder of his former wife Nicole Brown and suspected romantic partner Ron Goldman. Shortly after the murder occurred, the Los Angeles Police Department requested that Simpson turn himself in to authorities. His failure to do so resulted in one of television’s most-watched live news stories, millions of Americans watching as it unfolded. Simpson drove his infamous white Ford Bronco across California, followed by a wealth of police cruisers and helicopters. He drove until he nearly ran out of gas, finally parking at his place of residence in Brentwood, California.

Although Juice Simpson gained notorious fame from that incident, his recent parole grant was unrelated, instead linked to a 2007 incident at a Las Vegas hotel. Simpson was supposed to purchase sports memorabilia that he formerly owned from an established dealer. He brought along several associates, helping the USC Trojans, 49ers, and Bills standout forcefully take hundreds of items he used to own. O.J. Simpson was convicted of an astounding thirteen charges, the most serious of which were kidnapping, assault with a deadly weapon, and conspiracy.

Simpson was sentenced to 33 years of incarceration at Lovelace Correctional Center in the desert hills of Nevada for that 2007 incident. In Thursday’s parole hearing, O.J. appeared over a live video stream to a Nevada parole board consisting of four members. They inquired about what Simpson learned from his actions, why he stole the items, and what he plans to do upon release.

O.J. Simpson showed absolutely zero remorse for his actions in the hearing. However, remorse isn’t considered in Nevada for granting parole, instead looking at other criteria like past behavior during incarceration. The former athletic star exhibited a range of behaviors in his testimony, ranging from defensive to comedic, before being granted parole.

He shouted “Oh, God, oh!” as he left the hearing, excited to soon be a free man.

Federal Court Affirms Citizens’ Right To Film Police

A U.S. federal court recently confirmed that all U.S. residents have the right to film the police in the course of their duties. Although quite a few legal scholars already held this opinion, this is the first appeals court ruling affirming the right to film for the Third Circuit. After this significant ruling, half of all U.S. states have judicially protected police filming rights. The most recent ruling elucidates that this right is an integral part of First Amendment freedoms. This is a major victory for policing reform advocates. According to the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, police officers must accept filming because they are public officials doing their duties in the public realm.

This ruling is particular relevant during a time when relations between local communities and U.S. police departments remain fraught. This Third Circuit ruling may well inspire many departments to conduct their operations with greater transparency. The rise of handheld devices with cameras has made it increasingly common for videos of police actions to make their way online.

In its unanimous decision, the Third Circuit affirmed the positive value of filming the police. The court argued that as long as those filming do not directly interfere with the police, such filming helps ensure that the local government is held accountable for its actions and policies. The court also argued that this ruling does not create winners and losers. On the contrary, the ruling stated, the filming of police fuels a dialogue that can ultimately benefit police officers themselves. After this historic ruling, as many as 60 percent of U.S. residents live in states where the right to film police is judicially protected. Though no federal court has contradicted this right in any state, the question of filming remains unaddressed in half of the states.

The Supreme Court has not had yet its say on this specific legal issue. However, a number of legal scholars have noted that in the past decade, the Supreme Court has adopted a fairly expansive view of the First Amendment. Indeed, the Roberts Court has consistently defended the First Amendment vigorously. It remains to be seen if the Supreme Court specifically address the recording of police officers. If this does happen, legal scholars believe it could be one of the most momentous judgments in the recent history of the nation’s highest court. For now, people across the nation have been emboldened to record the police in a variety of different settings.

Failing Mental Health in Alabama’s Prisons

Mental health services in the United States are not as readily available to all Americans as they should be. Low-income people with mental health issues are less likely to visit mental health treatment centers; similarly, people in rural areas are less likely to visit them, too.

It goes without saying, but incarcerated inmates in prison are incredibly underrepresented in both mental and physical health treatment. Most prisons do not allow a number of effective medications to help inmates live better, symptom-free lives, as they are at inflated risks for abuse. The state of Alabama’s prisons have recently been criticized for lacking proper mental health treatment services.

Prisons in the state of Alabama have been accused by a federal court for violating the Eighth Amendment, which states that “. . . cruel and unusual punishments [shall not be] inflicted.” The court case in reference, titled Braggs v. Dunn, composes 302 pages of evidence detailing the lack of sufficient mental health treatments.

Mr. Jefferson Dunn, the face of Alabama’s prisons, formally holding the title of Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Corrections, agreed with plaintiffs that current mental health treatments are lacking. Suicide rates have risen increasingly in the past two calendar years, along with more cases of self-harm and mental health symptoms overall getting worse.

Room in Alabama prisons are also considered inadequate, with 23,328 prisoners housed in September 2016, compared to a maximum holding capacity of 13,318 prisoners. This equates to an approximate occupancy rate of 175%, grossly exceeding the allowable limit. Staffing is also not doing as well as required, with too few counseling staff being available to deal with every prisoner’s mental health issues. Alabama prisons don’t even have enough room to segregate those who have harmed themselves or threatened to do so, resulting in more self-harm incidents than necessary.

Prisoners who threaten self-harm or suicide have been placed in unsafe areas, resulting in more danger to prisoners than necessary. This fact combined with others mentioned herein have collectively contributed to the failing state of Alabama’s prison system.

In order to meet the needs of Alabama’s currently lacking prisons, about $25 million dollars must be expended towards the system to meet legally-mandated requirements, according to Alabama senator Cam Ward.

Drug Laws Changing

One of the biggest political issues today involving the legal field is around drug laws in the United States. Many people feel like the drug laws in this country are too strict. Millions of people are in jail across the country for buying or selling drugs. However, there are other people who are able to do things much more damaging to society and get out earlier.

Over time, it is vital that this area is looked at by those in the legal field. However, the legal profession as a whole is faced with some big issues. Some states are starting to take matters into their own hands by legalizing certain types of drugs.

Legal Implications

For many states, one of the largest costs in operating their budget is the cost of housing inmates. Many people believe that with less strict drug laws, more money within the state could be devoted to things like education. However, there are other people who believe that this is a great source of spending for the state to keep drug dealers off of the streets.

In certain states, some drugs are only legal in specific situations. These states are seeing a major decrease in crime related to drug offenses and it is saving them money. It will be interesting to see if other people follow suit.

Legalizing Drugs?

There are many people who have concerns about legalizing drugs for a variety of reasons. Drugs have a lot of damaging properties in them. The people who are not in favor of drugs tend to think that people cannot make decisions for themselves. This is a debate that is going to continue in the years ahead across the country.

Unhealthy Lifestyles

One of the biggest issues for many people today is living a lifestyle that is not healthy. Over time, people need to realize that the choices they make are not healthy with the foods they eat. A huge percentage of the population is obese, and it takes immediate action to mitigate any risk in this area to your health.

This is why so many people think it is crazy that drugs are illegal. People are allowed to be overweight, but they are not allowed to do drugs that make them feel better. This is a debate that will not be settled for many years, and the legal profession has a lot of work to do with these changes.

Read More: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/05/sessions-sentencing-memo/526029/

Grand Jury Indicts Chicago Policy Officers in Laquan McDonald Case

The shooting of Laquan McDonald captured headlines when it was caught on tape. A grand jury is now indicting three Chicago policy officers. Felony charges are being brought against the three officers who are alleged to have engaged in a cover-up after the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald in October of 2014.

Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was the shooter highlighted in the video. Van Dyke is seen shooting the 17-year-old Laquan McDonald over a dozen times in a video that drew national attention and outrage. It wasn’t for another year after the shooting, however, that a court demanded the infamous dashcam video by unveiled to the public.

Officer Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder in the wake of the on-tape fatal shooting of the young Chicago teenager. The public and legal authorities were nonetheless troubled when the Chicago Police Department seemed to tell a radically different version of events than what the video apparently showed.

The very recent Cook County grand jury indictment alleges that three officers on the scene of the fatal shooting that October night in 2014 actively concealed evidence and misdirected attention in the subsequent police report on the fatal shooting. The grand jury’s indictment picked these three officers because they supposedly went far beyond simply subscribing to the code of silence that prevails among some police departments in the aftermath of a complicated case.

Police officers David March, Thomas Gaffney, and Joseph Walsh is each alleged to have misdirecting evidence and thwarting an independent criminal investigation from taking place. The grand jury asserts that the three officers knew that public scrutiny of the dashcam video would be problematic for the Chicago Police Department. The three officers are further being accused of conspiring with each other and preventing other law enforcement authorities from taking a hard look at the evidence for and against Officer Van Dyke’s conduct.

The three police officers indicted by the grand jury are being hit with three felony counts. Two have already been alluded to – conspiracy and obstruction of justice. The third charge is for official misconduct and indicts the officers for willfully obfuscating the evidence. In the meantime, the three officers are not being held in custody. That said, each is expected to appear at an arraignment in about two weeks.

Two of the three indicted Chicago police officers are no longer hired by the Chicago Police Department.

Bill Cosby’s Trial Ends in Mistrial

After 53 hours of deliberation, the judge in Bill Cosby’s trial says that the jury is hopelessly deadlocked. Judge Steven O’Neill  says that he hopes to schedule a new trial within 120 days in the case where Cosby is accused of drugging and assaulting Andrea Constand who is director of operations of Temple University’s women’s basketball team in 2004 when the alleged assault occurred. Bill Cosby plead not guilty, although he had paid Constand an undisclosed amount of money following her civil suit in 2006.

Why Cosby’s Mistrial?

The jury in their sixth day had already asked the judge 12 questions including the definition of reasonable doubt. Five of them were requests to review what Constand and Cosby said in court. In the end, however, the jury asked the judge for a definition of reasonable doubt shortly before the mistrial was declared.

Camille Cosby’s Statement

While Bill Cosby who is now 79 made no statement after the mistrial was declared, a spokesman for Cosby’s wife Camille read a statement which included calling the:

  • District attorney-heinously and exploitively ambitious
  • Judge- Overtly and arrogantly collaborating with the district attorney
  • Counsel for the accuser- Unethical
  • General media- Blatantly vicious entities

What did Bill Cosby Allegedly do in 2004?

Bill Cosby admits that he had sex with Constand in 2004. He, however, says that it was consensual. He also says that he gave Constand three half-pills of Benadryl. About a year later, Constand told her mother that Cosby raped her. She reported the incident to the police a few days later. At that time, the district attorney did not press charges because there was a lack of evidence.

Cosby’s Health

Cosby’s lead attorney says that he is very worried about his client’s health on the day after the mistrial was declared. Cosby who is 79 years old is legally blind. He uses a cane for mobility. Cosby was arrested in December 2016, and he appeared to stumble entering the building where his passport was revoked. At that time, bond was set at $1 million.

Possible Outcome

If the district attorney retires the case, then Cosby could be sentenced to 10 years in prison. He would also have to register as a sex offender if found guilty. While the district attorney has said that he will retry the expensive case, he has not filed the paperwork to start the process again.

 

Suicide by text – Guilty!

Michelle Carter faces 20 years in prison after a Massachusetts judge found her responsible for the suicide death of her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III. Conrad killed himself in 2014 by Carbon Monoxide poisoning.

In presenting his rationale for the manslaughter conviction Judge Lawrence Moniz called Ms. Carter’s actions “reckless” with a “wanton” disregard. Ms. Carter opted for a trial by judge and rejected her right to a jury trial.

The case stems from a situation where Mr. Roy, a severely depressed young man, had told his girlfriend and confidant, Ms. Carter, that he wanted to die. He told her he was going to kill himself but wasn’t sure how he should do it. After research by himself and Ms. Carter it was decided he would kill himself by placing a generator in his vehicle and seal off any fresh air from the carbon monoxide.

Some say the guilty verdict in this suicide by text message is a “slippery slope” against free speech, assisted suicide, and that it muddles the water regarding criminal liability versus personal responsibility. Little focus was placed on earlier text messages where Ms. Carter initially suggested Mr. Roy get help and possibly go into a “mental hospital”.

“But the mental hospital would help you. I know you don’t think it would but I’m telling you, if you give them a chance, they can save your life,” she texted on July 19. 2014.

Roy, 18, committed suicide in 2014. The Massachusetts District Attorney held fast that had Ms. Carter contacted someone who could actually help, Mr. Roy would not have been successful. Their claim was Ms. Carter helped to instigate the suicide when, among other things, sent a text to Mr. Roy “ordering” him to get back into the vehicle and go through with it. She went as far as to text that his parents would “get over it”.

Now, 20 years old, Ms. Carter’s defense team presented expert testimony from Dr. Peter Breggin wherein he stated she was “involuntarily intoxicated” because of the anti-depressant she was taking. The expert explained it is an SSRI pharmaceutical Celexa and caused her to have “erratic” behaviors. The DA countered with its own expert who simply said there is no such thing as “involuntary intoxication” cause by Celexa.

The full accounts of the texts conversations can be read here

Sources:
http://blogs.findlaw.com/blotter/2017/06/teen-guilty-of-manslaughter-for-encouraging-friends-suicide-with-texts.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4612636/Conrad-Roy-s-parents-speak-Michelle-Carters-trial.html

http://www.cosmopolitan.com/lifestyle/a10017083/michelle-carter-involuntarily-intoxicated-defense-claims/

Plaintiffs Continue to Join Larry Nassar Lawsuit

Plaintiffs continue to come out of the woodwork to join a lawsuit against former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University employee Larry Nassar. Four more Plaintiffs have requested to join the lawsuit that accuses Nassar of ongoing, systemic, sexual abuse over a period of decades. Plaintiff filed a request with the court to allow them to amend the complaint in order to add the new plaintiffs to the case.

Although Nassar headlines the lawsuit, there are many people and organizations on the defensive including Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics, and Twistars Gymnastics Club which produced 2012 Olympian Jordyn Wieber. Most of the plaintiffs identify themselves as Jane Doe. In addition to Nassar’s abuse, the lawsuit alleges that the other accused organizations failed to take steps to protect the abuse victims and failed to properly respond to allegations about the alleged abuse. The lawsuit calls MSU deliberately indifferent to the allegations against Nassar.

Nassar faces criminal charges in the State of Michigan addition to the civil suit against him. The criminal charges allege sexual abuse as well as possession of child pornography. A preliminary examination bound Nassar over to the Michigan Circuit Court for trial on the criminal allegations.

While Nassar defends the charges against him, witnesses are doing their best to run from participation in the case. One of those witnesses running is former USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny. He got the court to postpone his deposition in the matter so that he could attend the Indianapolis 500 and network for job hunting purposes. Attorneys for the plaintiffs shot back that a party isn’t a good reason to skip a court-ordered deposition. Penny resigned as president of USA Gymnastics amid growing pressure from the gymnastics community and threats from the U.S. Olympic Committee to withdraw funding from the sport’s national governing body. Penny collected a golden parachute of approximately $1 million from USA Gymnastics.

Famed Olympic gymnastics coach Don Peters also wants the court to quash his subpoena for deposition in the case. Attorneys for the plaintiffs in the case hope that the deposition will provide insight on the matters relating to the allegations against the defendants as well as information about USA Gymnastics’ financial practices. Attorneys for Peters say that the deposition in the Nassar case is an abuse of discovery and an improper attempt to gain discovery for another case.

Sources:

http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/deposition_delay_granted_in_sex_abuse_case_so_job_hunting_official_can_atte

http://statenews.com/article/2017/06/nassar-plaintiffs-to-file-amended-complaint

Attorney for banned gymnastics coach Don Peters seeks to quash subpoena

Eric C. Conn Disappears Before Disability Fraud Sentence

The locals called him Mr. Social Security. He drove a Rolls Royce and sat on the United States Social Security Advisory Board. His televisions commercials were almost legendary in Pikeville, Kentucky.

Today, he’s nowhere to be found. Law enforcement is looking for Eric C. Conn, the once-hailed Pikeville attorney. In March, he pleaded guilty to charges relating to a Social Security fraud scheme that cost taxpayers $500 million.

Conn awaited his upcoming sentence on bond but had to wear an electronic monitoring device. As of June 3, 2017, law enforcement has no idea where Conn is. He removed his electronic device and disappeared.

The charges against Conn include stealing from Social Security and bribing a judge to approve disability claims for his clients. He faces twelve years in prison if police ever catch up with him and possibly new charges for running from justice. As part of the plea he agreed to pay $5.7 million to the U.S. government and another $46 million directly to Social Security. He also owes another $12 million and $19 million in damages and penalties because of two Social Security employees who tried to blow the whistle.

Conn’s con used a doctor who agreed to create bad medical reports for his clients. Then, the judge signed off on the fraudulent applications for a cut of the action. The judge and doctor face charges, too. Suffice it to say that Conn’s legal practice, which he began in 1993, is over.

State’s attorney Ned Pillersdorf says it’s not surprising that Conn fled. He expressed surprise that the court allowed him bond in the first place. He even joked about a betting pool as to when Conn would depart.

A coworker of Conn’s reported that Conn said he would head to Cuba or Ecuador rather than go to prison. He had a history of world traveling that the state’s attorney believed made him a flight risk. Conn also moved money to offshore accounts before taking off. U.S. attorneys believe that Conn has the money to hide for a long time.

Conn’s attorneys successfully secured his bond by convincing the court that Conn would have fled when charges were first filed if he was going to flee at all. Conn bragged in his advertising he doesn’t back down from a fight. Today, he’s on the FBI’s Most Wanted list for white-collar crime.

Sources: http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/ghost-ship-warehouse-fire-defendant-near-mental-breakdown-lawyer-says-n770551

http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/lawyer_disappears_while_awaiting_sentencing_in_550m_disability_fraud_scheme/?utm_source=internal&utm_medium=navigation&utm_campaign=most_read

Federal Lawsuit Pending as Crude Oil Flows from Dakota Access Pipeline

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe is North Dakota has been protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline for months. The tribe has reservations and water sources lying downstream from the pipeline and fear that leakage could endanger their way of life.

The lawsuit that the Sioux Native American tribe filed in federal court is still pending. The tribe is asking for a federal judge to step in and shut down future extraction from the Dakota Access Pipeline, but so far the lawsuit is still pending.

The extraction of crude oil and transportation through the pipeline has been delayed over the last few months. The most contentious area of the Dakota Access Pipeline for the protesters has been the closing stretch of the pipeline that lied near the Missouri River. More than 700 total protesters have been arrested over the course of the many months that the protests raged.

Native Americans and environmentalist groups have squared off against a variety of oil partners looking to move the crude oil from Stanley, North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois. Energy Transfer Partners, Sunoco Logistics Partners, Enbridge, Phillips 66, and Marathon Petroleum are all partners in the Dakota Access Pipeline. Construction on the pipeline started in 2016, and extraction and transportation of the crude oil just started.

The Dakota Access Pipeline’s viability was helped along by President Trump. Overturning a call made by the Obama administration, President Trump decided to speed up the approval process for contentious sections of the pipeline in order to bring the Dakota Access Pipeline project to fulfillment.

Native Americans from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe still feel as though their water sources and sacred grounds could be endangered if the pipeline starts to leak. Although some leaks have already been reported, leaks just far have been minor and the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s water sources are not known to be imperiled.

The federal lawsuit calling for a shut down of extraction and transportation of the crude oil is still pending in federal court. In the meantime, a federal judge in March of this year denied a motion for preliminary injunction that would have delayed construction on the final stretch of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

One of the oil partners associated with the pipeline – Energy Transfer Partners – found that the pipeline is more environmentally conscious that sending the same crude oil by train or truck. The federal lawsuit is still pending.

Muslim Students Temporarily Barred from Entering Public Courtroom

A New York judge briefly barred a group of Muslim students from entering a public courtroom.

Judge Katherine Forrest of the US Southern District Court of New York stopped the trial upon the arrival of 16 students dressed in uniforms and hijabs (head coverings) from the Razi School, an Islamic private school in Queens. The judge called the student’s presence “gamesmanship” and held a conference with the trial lawyers while the students were forced to remain outside the court.

The unusual incident occurred last week at a civil trial of U.S. government against the Alavi Foundation. The U.S. government alleges that 650 Fifth Avenue, an office tower which is 60% owned by the Alavi Foundation, is clandestinely owned by the Iranian government.

Judge Forrest expressed concern that the presence of the Muslim students was a ploy by Alavi’s attorney, John Gleeson, to garner undue sympathy with the jury.

“The judge is out of line here,” said Sayyed Musawi, a social studies teacher at Razi who chaperoned the Muslim students. According to the Associated Press, Musawi said he convinced the school to approve the field trip in order to provide a venue for his students to better learn about the legal system. He denied knowing the lawyers in the case. He also said he was not trying to sway the jury in any way on behalf of the Alavi Foundation.

The students, including some who had participated in mock court sessions, were told that the judge was allowing them into the public courtroom.

“We were shocked,” said Eman Osman, the other social studies teacher. Osman said the students were very disappointed not to allowed into the courtroom.

Attorneys representing the U. S. government reminded the judge that it was a public courtroom and they were not opposed to having the students enter the courtroom.

After the lunch recess, the judge allowed the youngsters into court, all ten girls with white head scarves which are part of the private school’s uniform.

The U.S. Government is pressing for forfeiture of 650 Fifth Avenue and the trial has been contentious. Last week, Judge Forrest publicly scolded a former judge for making statements in court which she considered politically charged.