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Man accused of killing tourist appears in New Zealand court
Criminal Law Updates | 2018/12/08 03:08
A man accused of killing 22-year-old British tourist Grace Millane made his first appearance in a New Zealand court Monday.

The 26-year-old man stared at the ground while a judge addressed him during the brief appearance at the Auckland District Court. The man has not yet entered a plea on murder charges and the court has temporarily blocked his name from being published.

Millane's father, David Millane, traveled to New Zealand last week after his daughter vanished, and Judge Evangelos Thomas addressed him and other family members.

"I don't know what to say to you at this time, but your grief must be desperate," he said, according to television station Three. "We all hope justice will be fair and swift and ultimately bring you some peace."

The case has riveted people both in Britain and New Zealand.

Described by her father as fun-loving and family-oriented, Millane had been traveling in New Zealand as part of a planned yearlong trip abroad that began in Peru. She went missing Dec. 1 and failed to get in touch with her family on her birthday the next day, or on the days that followed, which alarmed them.

Before she vanished, Millane had been staying at a backpacker hostel in Auckland and left some of her belongings there. Detective Inspector Scott Beard said she met a man for a couple of hours in the evening before surveillance cameras showed them entering the CityLife hotel at about 9:40 p.m.



High court seems to lean against West Virginia in tax case
Criminal Law Updates | 2018/12/04 17:41
The Supreme Court seemed inclined Monday to side with a retired U.S. marshal who argues West Virginia is discriminating against former federal law enforcement officers like him by giving a more generous tax break to former state law enforcement officers.

James Dawson says West Virginia currently exempts the vast majority of state law enforcement retirees — including police and firefighters — from paying income tax on their retirement benefits. But retired U.S. Marshals Service employees like him don't get that perk. Dawson has to pay income tax on his retirement benefits except for the first $2,000 annually, which is tax free.

Dawson says federal law prohibits West Virginia from taxing his retirement income more heavily than it taxes the retirement income of those who did a similar job working for the state.

During arguments before the Supreme Court on Monday, both conservative and liberal justices seemed more willing to side with Dawson. Justice Neil Gorsuch asked West Virginia's attorney Lindsay See why looking at the text of the federal law wasn't "game over," ending the case in Dawson's favor. And Justice Stephen Breyer listed a number of those getting better tax treatment than Dawson.

"It's not just the state police. It's also the local police. It's everybody in law enforcement almost. And they can get into it and the feds can't. Why isn't that just the end of it?" Breyer said.



Supreme Court to hear Virginia GOP's districting appeal
Criminal Law Updates | 2018/11/16 04:57
The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to hear an appeal by Virginia Republicans who are trying to preserve state legislative districts that have been struck down by a lower court as racially discriminatory.

The case involves 11 districts in the Virginia House of Delegates. Democratic voters accuse Republicans, who hold the majority, of packing black voters into certain districts to make surrounding districts whiter and more Republican.

A three-judge federal court in Virginia ruled 2-1 in June in favor of the Democratic voters and has appointed a redistricting expert to draw a new legislative map with a Dec. 7 deadline. Kirk Cox, the Republican speaker of the Virginia House, said he is weighing whether to ask the lower court to delay the issuance of a new map until after the Supreme Court rules.

Arguments probably will take place in late February, with a ruling likely by late June. The next round of elections for the state House is 2019, and candidates would normally have to register in the spring and run in primaries in the summer.

Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam's office and House Democratic leader David Toscano did not immediately return requests for comment. Marc Elias, a lawyer representing the voters, predicted on Twitter that the justices would rule in his clients' favor.


Bomb suspect set for Florida court appearance
Criminal Law Updates | 2018/10/27 12:39
Bomb squads were called to a post office in Atlanta on Monday about a suspicious parcel, just hours before a court hearing for a Florida man accused of sending packages containing explosive material to prominent Democrats.

The FBI did not identify to whom the most recent package was addressed, but CNN President Jeff Zucker announced that a suspicious package addressed to the cable television network was intercepted Monday at an Atlanta post office.

Zucker said there was no imminent danger to the CNN Center. Another package was delivered to the cable network's New York offices last week, causing an evacuation.

The latest suspicious package comes just hours before a federal court hearing was to begin for Cesar Sayoc, 56, who faces five federal charges.

He is accused of sending bubble-wrapped manila envelopes to Democrats such as Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. The packages were intercepted from Delaware to California. At least some listed a return address of U.S. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, former chair of the Democratic National Committee.


Manhattan DA drops part of Weinstein case
Criminal Law Updates | 2018/10/12 18:21
Manhattan’s district attorney dropped part of the criminal sexual assault case against Harvey Weinstein on Thursday after evidence emerged that cast doubt on the account one of his three accusers provided to the grand jury.

The development was announced in court Thursday with Weinstein looking on.

The tossed charge involves allegations made by one of the three accusers in the case, Lucia Evans, who was among the first women to publicly accuse Weinstein of sexual assault.

In an expose published in The New Yorker one year ago Wednesday, Evans accused Weinstein of forcing her to perform oral sex when they met alone in his office in 2004 to discuss her fledgling acting career. At the time, Evans was a 21-year-old college student.

Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon told the judge that prosecutors wouldn’t oppose dismissal of the count in the case involving Evans. She insisted the rest of the case, involving two other accusers, was strong.

“In short, your honor, we are moving full steam ahead,” she said.

Weinstein’s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, told the judge he believed Evans had lied both to the grand jury and to The New Yorker about her encounter with Weinstein. He also said he believed a police detective had corruptly attempted to influence the case by keeping a witness from testifying about her misstatements.


Bill Cosby's day of reckoning arrives in court
Criminal Law Updates | 2018/09/27 10:24
The woman Bill Cosby was convicted of drugging and sexually assaulting said in a statement released at the comedian's sentencing Tuesday that she has had to cope with years of anxiety and self-doubt that have left her "stuck in a holding pattern."

Andrea Constand, 45, said her training as a professional basketball player had led her to think she could handle anything, but "life as I knew it" ended on the night in 2004 that Cosby knocked her out with pills and violated her.

The statement was released as Judge Steven O'Neill weighed Cosby's punishment and whether to declare the 81-year-old TV star a "sexually violent predator," a legal scarlet letter that would subject the comedian to monthly counseling for the rest of his life and would require that neighbors, schools and day care center be notified of his whereabouts.

The comic once known as America's Dad faced anywhere from probation to 10 years in prison after being convicted in April in the first celebrity trial of the #MeToo era.

Prosecutors asked a judge to give Cosby five to 10 years behind bars, while his lawyers asked for house arrest, saying the former TV star is too old and helpless to do time in prison.

Constand said she now lives alone with her two dogs and has trouble trusting people.

"When the sexual assault happened, I was a young woman brimming with confidence and looking forward to a future bright with possibilities," she wrote in her five-page statement.


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