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Overriding of gun-bill veto kills local laws
Court Feed News | 2006/12/13 17:25

The Ohio Senate voted Tuesday to override outgoing Gov. Bob Taft's veto of a bill that will wipe out local gun laws, marking the first time in 29 years the legislature has rejected a gubernatorial veto.

Members of the Ohio Senate voted 21-12 Tuesday to override outgoing Ohio Governor Robert Taft's veto of a revised concealed-carry gun law that Taft claimed would preempt local gun-related legislation in some 80 Ohio communities. The House approved an override last week, making this the first time since 1977 that the Ohio legislature has successfully overcome a veto by the state's chief executive.

In his veto message last week, Taft noted that the new legislation would effectively replace several stricter local legal regimes, including assault weapons bans in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Toledo, and emphasized the importance of allowing local communities to make laws appropriate to their own challenges and circumstances. Supporters of the new legislation have emphasized the importance of statewide legal uniformity.

A majority of respondents to an Ohio survey said overriding local gun laws was a bad idea, according to a poll released Tuesday by the Hamden, Conn.-Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

The vote was the first override by the legislature since lawmakers rejected a veto by Gov. James Rhodes of an election revision bill in 1977.

"The governor strongly believes his veto was the right thing to do and that our cities should have the ability to protect their citizens through reasonable firearms regulation," said Taft spokesman Mark Rickel.

The Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, which opposes concealed carry, accused lawmakers of giving in to the powerful and politically generous National Rifle Association.

"The passage of HB 347 and the override of Gov. Taft's veto is an appalling arrogance against the will of and respect for the people of Ohio to govern themselves," coalition Executive Director Toby Hoover said in a statement.



Judge rules US currency discriminates against blind
Court Feed News | 2006/12/13 16:49

The US Department of Justice filed an appeal Tuesday against a November 28 ruling  by US District Judge James Robertson declaring that "the Treasury Department’s failure to design and issue paper currency that is readily distinguishable to blind and visually impaired individuals violates section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act." Section 504 provides that no disabled person shall be "subjected to discrimination . . . under any program or activity conducted by any Executive agency."

Government lawyers argued in court papers that printing readily distinguishable bill denominations at the urging of the American Council of the Blind would put undue burdens on the vending machine industry and would impose significant costs on the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which produces American paper money. The government also argued that blind persons could already use personal readers to distinguish bills or opt to make payments by credit card instead.

The United States is the only nation of some 180 using paper currency that produces undifferentiated same-size same-color bills in all denominations. Approximately 1.3 million Americans are legally blind.



Portland archdiocese settles clergy abuse claims
Court Feed News | 2006/12/12 23:19

The US Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Portland has settled child sex abuse lawsuits with about 150 people, court-appointed mediators US District Judge Michael Hogan and Oregon Circuit Judge Lyle Velure announced. They reported that "the vast majority of the known tort claims were settled... the Archdiocese has agreed to pay...the few remaining unresolved known tort claims...and future tort claims." The amount of the settlement was not disclosed, but Hogan said the diocese had more than $50 million in assets of its own in which to cover the settlements. AP has more. The Seattle Times has additional coverage.

The Portland archdiocese, which filed for Chapter 11 in 2004, was the first one to file for bankruptcy in the face of civil litigation over sex abuse claims. Since then, the dioceses of Tuscon, Spokane, and Davenport have also filed for Chapter 11 protection in the wake of hundreds of sexual abuse lawsuits filed against the clergy. In June, a federal judge allowed a sexual abuse lawsuit against the Portland archdiocese to continue, rejecting the Vatican's bid to dismiss the suit for lack of jurisdiction. The lawsuit, filed in 2002 in the US District Court for the District of Oregon, alleged that the Vatican, the Archdiocese of Portland and the archbishop of Chicago conspired to protect a priest by transferring him from city to city, even though the church knew he had a history of committing sexual abuse. Earlier this month, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles settled 45 sexual abuse lawsuits for $60 million.



Grand Jury Indicts Alaska Republican For Extortion
Court Feed News | 2006/12/09 17:16

WASHINGTON – A federal grand jury in Anchorage, Alaska, has indicted Thomas T. Anderson, a current elected member of the Alaska State House of Representatives, on charges of extortion, conspiracy, bribery, and money laundering, Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division announced today.

The seven-count indictment returned on Dec. 6, 2006, charges Anderson with two counts of extortion, one count of bribery, one count of conspiracy, and three counts of money laundering in connection with the use of a sham corporation to hide the identity of the bribery payments. The indictment further alleges that Anderson solicited and received money from an FBI confidential source in exchange for Anderson’s agreement to perform official acts to further a business interest represented by the confidential source.

The indictment also alleges that from July 2004 to March 2005, Representative Anderson, along with an individual identified as “Lobbyist A,” solicited and received $26,000 in payments from an FBI confidential source, in exchange for Anderson’s agreement to take official acts as a member of the Alaska State Legislature. According to the indictment, Anderson and Lobbyist A participated in the creation of a sham corporation to conceal the existence and true origin of the payments, and used the sham corporation to funnel a portion of the $26,000 to Anderson.

According to the indictment, the FBI confidential source was a consultant for a private corrections company located outside the state of Alaska, and Anderson and Lobbyist A initiated contact with the FBI confidential source in order to solicit bribery payments. The FBI confidential source, however, never communicated those solicitations or any other information to the corrections company due to the undercover nature of the operation. The corrections company was not implicated in the corrupt activities that are alleged in the indictment.

If convicted, Anderson faces a maximum penalty of 20 years and a $250,000 fine on the extortion counts; a maximum penalty of 20 years and a $500,000 fine on each of the money laundering counts; a maximum penalty of 10 years and a $250,000 fine on the bribery count; and a maximum penalty of five years and a $250,000 fine on the conspiracy count.

An indictment is merely an accusation and defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty at trial beyond a reasonable doubt.

This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Nicholas A. Marsh and Edward P. Sullivan of the Public Integrity Section, which is headed by Acting Chief Edward C. Nucci, as well as Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph W. Bottini and James A. Goeke from the District of Alaska. The case is being investigated by Special Agents of the FBI.



Judge rules in favor of single-member districts for Osceola
Court Feed News | 2006/12/09 10:24
The following is a statement by Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, on order of a remedial voting plan in U.S. v. Osceola County:

“We are extremely pleased with today’s court ruling, which orders a five single-member district remedial plan to replace Osceola County’s unlawful at large election system,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Moving forward with elections next spring under a lawful plan is an important victory for all the residents of Osceola County, Fla. and particularly for its Hispanic citizens who have been denied the right guaranteed by the Voting Rights Act to full and equal participation in the democratic process in county government.”


Roy Belfast Jr. Indicted on Torture Charges
Court Feed News | 2006/12/07 17:46

WASHINGTON – A federal Grand Jury in Miami charged Roy Belfast Jr. with various crimes related to the alleged 2002 torture of a person in Liberia, Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta of the Southern District of Florida, Assistant Secretary Julie L. Myers for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Assistant Director Joseph Billy Jr. for the Counterterrorism Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced today.

           Roy M. Belfast Jr., 29, aka Chuckie Taylor, aka Charles Taylor, Jr., aka Charles Taylor II, aka Charles McArther Emmanuel, was charged in an indictment returned today by a federal grand jury in Miami with one count of torture, one count of conspiracy to torture, and one count of using a firearm during the commission of a violent crime. The indictment charges Taylor, son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, with participating in the torture of an individual on or about July 24, 2002, in and around Monrovia, Liberia. The defendant, who was born in the United States, is alleged to have been serving in his father’s government in Liberia at the time of the incident.

According to the indictment, on or about July 24, 2002, the victim was abducted from his home and transported to various locations, finally arriving at the residence of then-Liberian President Taylor.  The defendant observed questioning of the victim at this location.  The victim was then transported for continued interrogation to the residence of a co-conspirator, who was a member of the Liberian Special Security Service.

           According to the indictment, while at this residence, the defendant and others tortured the victim. The torture included repeatedly burning the victim's flesh with a hot iron, burning various parts of his body with scalding water, including forcing the victim to hold scalding water in his hands at gunpoint, repeatedly electrically shocking the victim's genitalia and other body parts, and rubbing salt into the victim's wounds.

“This marks the first time the Justice Department has charged a defendant with the crime of torture,” said Assistant Attorney General Fisher. “Crimes such as these will not go unanswered.”

“The allegations in this case include acts of torture, such as burning flesh with a hot iron, burning flesh with scalding water, and applying electric shocks,” U.S. Attorney Acosta stated. “Such conduct is criminal and constitutes torture and must be prosecuted.”

“Today’s indictment against Charles "Chuckie" Taylor marks a key milestone in ICE’s longstanding efforts to bring human rights violators to justice,” said Assistant Secretary Myers.  “This is a clear message that the United States will not be a safe haven for human rights violators.”              

“This case is a demonstration of our tireless efforts to ensure that justice is served,” said Assistant Director Joseph Billy, Jr. of the FBI.    

         This defendant is currently in federal custody in connection with a criminal charge of passport fraud, to which he pleaded guilty on Sept. 15, 2006.  His sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 7, 2006. This defendant is being prosecuted under a statute that criminalizes torture and provides U.S. courts jurisdiction to hear cases involving acts of torture committed outside the United States if the offender is a U.S. national or is present in the United States, regardless of nationality.

           The statutory maximum penalty for conviction on all offenses is life imprisonment.

           An indictment is merely an accusation.  All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty at trial beyond a reasonable doubt.

           The joint investigation is being conducted by ICE and the FBI.  The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney John Cox of the Criminal Division, Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Rochlin of the Southern District of Florida, and Trial Attorney Brenda Sue Thornton of the National Security Division.



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