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Samsung Korean Executive Agrees to Plead Guilty
Headline News | 2006/12/22 18:59

WASHINGTON — An executive from Samsung Electronics Company Ltd..– the world’s largest manufacturer of a common computer component called dynamic random access memory (DRAM) – has agreed to plead guilty, serve jail time in the United States, and pay a fine for participating in a global conspiracy to fix DRAM prices, the Department of Justice announced.

In total, four companies and 18 individuals have been charged in the Department’s DRAM investigation and criminal fines totaling more than $730 million have resulted. This total reflects the second-largest total amount of fines ever imposed in a U.S. criminal antitrust investigation from a single price-fixing conspiracy. The Korean executive, Young Hwan Park, participated in the price-fixing conspiracy while in his capacity as Vice President of Sales at Korean memory maker Samsung Electronics Company Ltd. Park is currently President of Samsung Semiconductor Inc., Samsung’s U.S.-based subsidiary. Park is charged with participating in a conspiracy in the U.S. and elsewhere to suppress and eliminate competition by fixing the prices of DRAM to be sold to certain original equipment manufacturers of personal computers and servers (OEMs), in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

“This latest plea underscores our resolve to hold responsible those who target U.S. businesses and consumers with price-fixing schemes,” said Thomas O. Barnett, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department’s Antitrust Division. “Individuals who choose to engage in price fixing are on notice of the consequences of their illegal actions – criminal fines and prison time.”

Under the plea agreement, which must be approved by the court, Park has agreed to serve 10 months in prison and to pay a criminal fine of $250,000. In addition, Park has agreed to assist the government in its ongoing investigation.

DRAM is the most commonly used semiconductor memory product, providing high-speed storage and retrieval of electronic information for a wide variety of computer, telecommunication, and consumer electronic products. DRAM is used in personal computers, laptops, workstations, servers, printers, hard disk drives, personal digital assistants, modems, mobile phones, telecommunication hubs and routers, digital cameras, video recorders and TVs, digital set top boxes, game consoles, and digital music players. There were approximately $7.7 billion in DRAM sales in the U.S. in 2004.

According to the one-count felony charge filed today in federal court in San Francisco, Park conspired with unnamed employees from other memory makers to fix the prices of DRAM sold to certain OEMs from on or about April 1, 2001, to on or about June 15, 2002. The violation directly affected sales to U.S. computer makers Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Company, Compaq Computer Corporation, International Business Machines Corporation, Apple Computer Inc., and Gateway Inc., the Department said.

Park is charged with carrying out the price-fixing conspiracy by:

∙ Participating in meetings, conversations, and communications with competitors to discuss the prices of DRAM to be sold to certain customers;

∙ Agreeing with competitors to charge prices of DRAM at certain levels to be sold to certain customers;

∙ Issuing price quotations in accordance with the agreements reached; ∙ Exchanging information on sales of DRAM to certain customers, for the purpose of monitoring and enforcing adherence to agreed-upon prices; and

∙ Directing subordinates to contact competitors to obtain DRAM pricing information for the purpose of fixing prices.

This is the fifth Samsung executive to agree to a prison sentence in the DRAM investigation. Three foreign-based Samsung executives and one U.S. executive have already pleaded guilty and agreed to serve prison terms ranging from seven to eight months and to each pay a $250,000 fine. In April 2006, Sun Woo Lee and Yeongho Kang pleaded guilty to participating in the price-fixing conspiracy while they worked for Samsung or its subsidiaries in the U.S. In August 2006, Young Woo Lee pleaded guilty to participating in the price-fixing conspiracy while he worked for Samsung or its subsidiaries in Europe. Then, in November 2006, Thomas Quinn, a San Jose, Calif. executive, pleaded guilty to participating in the price-fixing conspiracy in his capacity as vice president of marketing for memory products at Samsung Semiconductor Inc.

In December 2006, a former Elpida executive, D. James Sogas, pleaded guilty for his participation in the DRAM conspiracy and was sentenced to serve seven months in jail and to pay a $250,000 fine. In addition, four Hynix Semiconductor Inc., executives, Dae Soo Kim, Chae Kyun Chung, Kun Chul Suh, and Choon Yub Choi, were charged with participating in the DRAM price-fixing conspiracy and agreed to plead guilty and serve jail terms ranging from five to eight months and to each pay a $250,000 fine. In December 2004, four Infineon executives, T. Rudd Corwin, Peter Schaefer, Gunter Hefner, and Heinrich Florian, pleaded guilty to the DRAM price-fixing conspiracy. The Infineon employees served jail terms ranging from four to six months and each paid a $250,000 fine.

Also, in December 2003 the Department charged Alfred Censullo, a Regional Sales Manager for Micron Technology Inc., with obstruction of justice. Censullo pleaded guilty and admitted to having withheld and altered documents responsive to a grand jury subpoena served on Micron. Censullo was sentenced to serve six months of home detention.

Samsung pleaded guilty to the price-fixing conspiracy and was sentenced to pay a $300 million criminal fine in November 2005. Hynix, the world’s second-largest DRAM manufacturer, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a $185 million criminal fine in May 2005. In January 2006, Japanese manufacturer Elpida Memory agreed to plead guilty and pay an $84 million fine. In October 2004, German manufacturer Infineon pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a $160 million criminal fine.

In October 2006, a federal grand jury in San Francisco returned a single-count indictment against two executives from Samsung, Il Ung Kim and Young Bae Rha, and one executive from Hynix, Gary Swanson, for violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1.

Today’s charge is the result of an ongoing investigation being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in San Francisco.



Alaska man charged with sex trafficking
Court Feed News | 2006/12/22 18:56

WASHINGTON – An Anchorage, Alaska, man has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of allegedly forcing underage and adult women to have sex with men in exchange for money, Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Nelson P. Cohen for the District of Alaska announced today.

The 28-count superseding indicted returned by a federal grand jury in Alaska on Dec. 15, 2006, charges Don Arthur Webster Jr., aka “Jerry Starr,” 49, with four counts of sex trafficking of a child using force, fraud or coercion, two counts of attempted sex trafficking of a minor using force, fraud or coercion, and five counts of sex trafficking of an adult using force, fraud or coercion. The superseding indictment was unsealed following a hearing in Anchorage today.

In addition, Webster was charged with various drug-related offenses, including three counts of distribution of cocaine base – commonly known as “crack” cocaine – to a pregnant woman, four counts of distribution of cocaine base to a child, and five counts of distribution of cocaine base. The charges are in addition to charges in the original indictment returned Nov. 14, 2006 – one count each of manufacturing, possessing with intent to distribute and maintaining a place to manufacture, distribute and use cocaine. The indictment includes two forfeiture counts, involving property located at 3411 Oregon Drive in Anchorage – one count based on property derived from proceeds of the crimes charged in the sex trafficking counts of the indictment and one count based on the drug trafficking charges.

“This indictment alleges a shocking pattern of sexual exploitation, threats of violence and drug trafficking by the defendant, all for his own financial gain,” said Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division. “The Department of Justice is deeply committed to the vigorous prosecution of predators who force young women into lives of prostitution and despair.”

According to the indictment, Webster operated a number of businesses named Foxy Roxies, Sunshine Girls, American Beauties, Kotton Kandy, Tiffani’s, Tickle Your Fancy, and Lickety Split in Anchorage. While these businesses purport to be “escort services” in which an individual would pay for another person’s “time and company,” the indictment charges that they were in fact fronts for Webster’s illegal prostitution business.

Webster allegedly provided adult women and underage girls to engage in sex acts in exchange for money with men who called the escort service phone lines. The indictment describes Webster’s prostitution business as operating on an “out call” basis, meaning that the females would meet the caller at his residence or at a hotel paid for by the caller. According to the indictment, the caller would pay a fixed hourly rate plus a transportation fee to have sex with the female who would meet him. Certain regular callers could request that the female meeting him provide him with illegal drugs, known as an “issue,” for an additional fee. The female allegedly obtained the illegal drugs to give to the caller from Webster or someone acting at his direction.

As described in the indictment, when a female met a caller for sex, it was called “going on a date.” The females allegedly were not allowed to keep any part of the money they collected in payment for the sex acts. Webster required them to turn over all of the money to him or to a designated representative, who would give him the money. After a female turned over her money, he or a designated representative allegedly would distribute an “issue” to the female, typically a gram of “crack” cocaine.

Webster is also accused of being physically violent with the females working for him, and allegedly would threaten them with harm if they disobeyed him or attempted to leave. The indictment further alleges that he would take possession of a female’s personal property and identification when she moved into one of his residences.

If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum sentence of up to life in prison.

This case is being investigated by Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Anchorage Police Department. The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Audrey J. Renschen of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska and Trial Attorney Alexandra Gelber of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.



California Court to Rule on Same Sex Marriage Dispute
Court Feed News | 2006/12/21 17:51

The California Supreme Court unanimously voted Wednesday to reexamine the constitutionality of the state's ban on same-sex marriage, projecting that the case could be heard in court as early as next summer. All seven justices of the court signed an order, filed in San Francisco, agreeing to review an October appeals court decision that upheld state laws requiring marriage to be between a man and a woman. Briefs in the case are due by this spring.

The court will consider a total of six consolidated cases: four filed by the city of San Francisco and 19 same-sex couples seeking the right to marry, and two filed by traditional values groups opposing such a right. Although the court grants review of only a small percentage of the cases appealed to it, its decision to take up the marriage cases was not a surprise. The review was sought not only by same-sex marriage supporters, but also, in an unusual move, by California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, who won the lower court decision. Lockyer, who has defended the state marriage laws, filed a brief earlier this month urging that a decision by the state's highest court was needed to provide "finality and certainty for the citizens of California.''

Lockyer spokesman Tom Dresslar said yesterday, "Californians need and deserve clarity on this issue as soon as possible. People of this state have rightly expected all along that clarity would be provided by the state Supreme Court.'' Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said, "We are delighted that the court ruled so quickly and unanimously to grant review. "We are very hopeful the court will stand up for basic fairness and bring an end to the current ban on marriage for an entire group of Californians,'' Minter said. The attorney represents 11 gay and lesbian couples who filed one of the lawsuits before the court. San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said, "Marriage equality is the major civil rights issue of our time, and the state's highest court clearly recognizes it should have the final word on the issue in California.'' But Glen Lavy, a lawyer for a group opposing same-sex marriage, said, "We hope the court will recognize that it is valid to define marriage as between a man and a woman. That is what marriage has always meant in California.''

Same-sex marriage supporters contend the California constitution's guarantees of equal protection, due process and privacy provide a right to marriage. In opposition, Lockyer has argued it is reasonable for the state to limit marriage to heterosexual couples while giving same-sex couples the same rights and protections through domestic partnerships. The Proposition 22 group and the Campaign for California Families take the opposing arguments a step farther and say that marriage between a man and a woman is better for children. The six cases stem from the legal battle over San Francisco's short-lived stint of granting same-sex marriage licenses in 2004.

The city issued about 4,000 licenses between Feb. 12 and March 11, 2004, when the state Supreme Court halted the practice on grounds of an administrative law issue. But the high court said at the same time that the broader constitutional question could be raised in Superior Court lawsuits, which were then filed by the city of San Francisco and gay and lesbian couples. In March 2005, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer ruled that there is a state constitutional right to same-sex marriage. But a Court of Appeal panel in San Francisco overturned that decision on Oct. 5 by a 2-1 vote.

The court majority said the Legislature and voters had a rational basis for restricting marriage to heterosexual couples while at the same time giving same-sex couples equal benefits through the state's domestic partnership system. Justice William McGuinness wrote in that ruling, "Courts simply do not have the authority to create new rights, especially when doing so involves changing the definition of so fundamental an institution as marriage.''



US Lawyers Urge Bush to Keep Saddam in Custody
U.S. Legal News | 2006/12/21 17:26

Former US Attorney General and Saddam Hussein defense lawyer Ramsey Clark on Wednesday urged President Bush to keep Hussein and his Dujail trial co-defendants in US custody, expressing concern that Iraqi officials will torture the convicted defendants. Hussein and two of his co-defendants, Awad Hamed al-Bandar and Barzan al-Tikriti, were all convicted and sentenced to death last month for crimes against humanity committed in the Iraqi town of Dujail in 1982. The deadline to file appellate papers for the Dujail trial is on Saturday, and many expect the appellate court to make a decision on the appeal in a matter of days. If Hussein and his co-defendants lose the appeal, their execution will likely occur within 15 days, unless the US refuses to hand them over to Iraqi custody. Clark claims that the US has the "highest moral and legal obligation" to keep them in US custody, arguing that Iraqi officials will torture the co-defendants before their execution. Last week, an Iraqi official said that Hussein and his co-defendants will face a quick execution  and possibly a secret burial if the appellate court upholds their conviction.

Hussein is currently on trial on separate genocide charges for allegedly killing 100,000 Kurds during the so-called "Anfal" campaigns in the late 1980s. The Anfal trial could continue posthumously should Hussein be executed before proceedings in the second trial conclude.



Georgia Schools Remove Anti-Evolution Stickers
Court Feed News | 2006/12/20 18:09

ATLANTA - The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia announced today that it has reached an agreement with the Cobb County School Board to keep controversial “Evolution Disclaimer” stickers out of biology textbooks in public schools, ending a legal challenge that began in 2002.

The anti-evolution stickers singled out the theory of evolution from all other scientific theories included in the textbooks. In 2005, the district court sided with the ACLU, stating that “the sticker sends a message to those who oppose evolution for religious reasons that they are favored members of the political community, while the sticker sends a message to those who believe in evolution that they are political outsiders.” 

ACLU of Georgia Executive Director Debbie Seagraves welcomed the settlement.

“I commend the brave parents in Cobb County who have fought for more than four years to ensure that their children receive proper science education in their public schools,” said Seagraves. “We are proud that we were able to represent them in their courageous struggle.”

In the agreement, Cobb County school officials state that they will not order the placement of “any stickers, labels, stamps, inscriptions, or other warnings or disclaimers bearing language substantially similar to that used on the sticker that is the subject of this action.” School officials also agreed not to take other actions that would undermine the teaching of evolution in biology classes.

After the Cobb County School Board passed the sticker policy in 2002, school district parents, represented by the ACLU of Georgia and attorney Michael Manely, sued the school board, arguing that the policy promoted a particular religious belief in science classrooms and therefore violated the religious freedom of students. In early 2005, U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper agreed and ordered the school district to remove the stickers from its 35,000 biology textbooks.

The controversial stickers read, "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered."

After Judge Cooper’s decision, school officials removed the stickers, but asked the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit to reverse the ruling. In late spring, the appeals court sent the case back to Judge Cooper requesting more information about the situation before ruling on the constitutionality of the sticker policy.

Jeffrey Selman, the Cobb County parent who led the charge against the anti-evolution disclaimer, said today’s settlement puts to rest a contentious struggle in the community.

“The settlement brings to an end a long battle to keep our science classes free of political or religious agendas,” Selman said. “I am very pleased that the Cobb school board has dropped its defense of the anti-evolution policy. The board should be commended for taking this action.”

Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Atlanta law firm Bondurant, Mixon & Elmore, and Pepper Hamilton, a Philadelphia law firm, joined the ACLU of Georgia in handling the case on remand to the district court.

In a landmark case last year, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, along with Americans United and Pepper Hamilton, successfully argued against promoting the non-scientific ideology of “intelligent design” in public school science courses. On December 20, 2005, a federal judge ruled that intelligent design is not science and that the Dover Area School Board’s policy violated the First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom.

Today’s case is Selman v. Cobb County School District.



Bush Has Not Decided on Troop Surge for Iraq
Law & Politics | 2006/12/20 17:55
President Bush says he has not yet made up his mind about whether to send more troops to Iraq.

At a year-end news conference from the White House complex Wednesday, the president said he is looking at all options, including ordering a short-term surge in U.S. forces. But he said he will only deploy more troops if there is a specific mission that can be accomplished with the addition.

The president acknowledged that 2006 was a difficult year for U.S. troops and for Iraqis. But he stressed that the enemy in Iraq needs to understand that it cannot intimidate American forces, and that his administration will not pull out of the country prematurely.

Mr. Bush also said he believes an increase in the size of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps is needed, and he has asked his new defense secretary, Robert Gates, to report to him on plans to enlarge the forces as quickly as possible.

On the economy, Mr. Bush said he supports a Democratic proposal to increase the U.S. minimum wage, but he said it should be coupled with tax and regulatory relief for small businesses. He said he will work with Democrats to keep the economy strong.

He said he would also seek common ground with Democrats to reform the country's immigration laws and its national pension system, Social Security.

The Democrats won control of both houses of Congress in the November general elections.



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