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10 Nazi SS members convicted in Italy
Legal World News | 2007/01/13 18:48

An Italian military court Saturday convicted 10 former SS soldiers and acquitted 7 others in the 1944 killing of more than 700 people in Marzabotto, a small town in nothern Iraly. The slaughter, which took place south of Bologna, is considered the worst killing of civilians in Italy during World War II. All of the men on trial were tried in absentia and are believed by many to be living in Germany. Each of the convicted men received life sentences for murder.

The massacre was committed by retreating German troops from September 29, 1944 to October 5, 1944. During that time, the SS soldiers killed mainly women, children and elderly in a supposed hunt for resistance fighters.

Justice Department Hit With Hiring Freeze
Legal Career News | 2007/01/13 18:10

Three US Justice Department agencies - the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the FBI - are freezing or slowing recruitment efforts largely as a result of a lack of increased funding from Congress' failure to approve requested 2007 budget increases for the Justice Department. The DEA and ATF have said they are freezing the hiring of new employees, even though both agencies anticipate large numbers of unfilled positions this year. The FBI has slowed its hiring but will continue to hire for positions deemed essential. As the agencies await a decision by lawmakers if, and whether, to increase funding, they will continue to operate based on their 2006 budgets. But increased costs across the board, including an imminent increase of the federal minimum wage, make working with last year's budget unreasonable.

The 2006 budget shows that last year the FBI received $5.7 billion in federal funding while the DEA received $2.4 billion. The DEA said it would be unable to sustain employment at its current level if Congress does not allot an additional $95 million, and ATF officials say they need $71 million more in order to maintain its 4,900 employees. Observers say that the failure to approve 2007 budgets for the DOJ agencies could impede efforts to counter both violent crime and terrorism. While other agencies are feeling the burden of the lack of budget approval, Congress has already approved budgets for the military and for homeland security.

Bush signs legislation to protect phone records
Law & Politics | 2007/01/13 08:48

President Bush Friday signed into law new federal legislation seeking to protect traditional, wireless, and internet phone calling consumers by preventing phone companies from selling their private phone records without customer authorization and criminalizing attempts to obtain those fraudulently. The Telephone Records and Privacy Protection Act of 2006 passed the Senate in December in response to the Hewlett-Packard corporate spying scandal that broke this past summer.

The Act prohibits "making false or fraudulent statements" to phone company employees in an effort to obtain confidential phone records. It also forbids "accessing customer accounts through the Internet" without authorization. Those who contravene the Act can face up to 10 years in prison.

Supreme Court to review light cigarette dispute
Headline News | 2007/01/13 03:31

The US Supreme Court Friday granted certiorari in four cases, including one that will determine if tobacco companies are protected from judgments in state courts on the grounds that cigarettes are federally regulated. The appeal, Watson v. Philip Morris, Cos. (05-1284), was filed by two Arkansas women who found their state court case against Phillip Morris for advertising claims of low tar and nicotine in “light” cigarettes, being removed to federal jurisdiction. Phillip Morris argued that the “unprecedented, detailed, and direct control” exerted by the Federal Trade Commission over cigarette advertising made the company a “person acting under” a federal officer, and convinced the US Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals that removal on those grounds were justified.

Spain arrests Argentine ex-president Isabel Peron
Legal World News | 2007/01/13 03:30

Spanish police arrested former Argentine President Isabel Peron on Friday for her alleged involvement in the disappearance of political opponent Hector Aldo Fagetti Gallego in 1976. Argentine Federal Judge Raul Acosta issued the order for her arrest on Thursday. An anonymous source within the judge's chambers told that Peron, who has lived in Spain in exile since 1981, is also wanted for questioning related to decrees she issued ordering police to eliminate "subversive elements."

In November, Argentine officials announced that the investigation into abuses committed during Argentina's "Dirty War" from 1976-83 would be expanded to include the tenure of Peron, who succeeded her husband Juan Peron when he died in office in 1974. After the announcement a lawyer for Isabel Peron told a local television station that accusations shouldn't be made against her 30 years after she left office. Peron was ousted from office in a bloodless coup in March 1976 and held under house arrest for five years before being exiled to Spain.

Investigator in HP spy probe pleads guilty
Court Feed News | 2007/01/13 00:28

Bryan Wagner, the private investigator involved in the Hewlett-Packard corporate spying scandal pleaded guilty Friday to federal charges of conspiracy and aggravated identity theft. Wagner was accused of using used the social security number of a targeted reporter to obtain the reporter's telephone records, which Wagner provided to other co-conspirators. The charges carry a possible five-year sentence for conspiracy and a mandatory minimum of two years imprisonment for the aggravated identity theft charge. Under Wagner's plea agreement, he will cooperate with prosecutors in future investigations in exchange for a lighter sentence.

In November, Wagner pleaded not guilty to state charges of using false or fraudulent pretenses to obtain confidential information from a public utility, unauthorized access to computer data, identity theft, and conspiracy to commit those crimes stemming from his role in the corporate spying scandal. The scandal prompted Congress to pass anti-pretexting legislation in 2006, criminalizing obtaining phone records through fraud or lying.

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