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HP agrees to settle California pretexting suit
Legal Career News | 2006/12/09 14:06

Hewlett-Packard reached a $14.5 million settlement agreement with California Attorney General Bill Lockyer on Thursday in an unfair business practices suit stemming from HP's allegedly fraudulent attempts to obtain certain phone records, a practice known as "pretexting." Lockyer "commended the firm for cooperating instead of stonewalling" and announced that $13.5 million of the settlement would be used for privacy rights investigations in state and local cases. The remainder will pay for civil penalties, investigations, and other costs.

Since September, HP has been embroiled in an elaborate corporate spying scandal. In order to discover the source of boardroom leaks, the company allegedly hired outside detectives to call phone companies, posing as executives and reporters in attempt to obtain phone records. In November, former chairwoman Patricia Dunn, former ethics officer Kevin Hunsaker, and outside private investigators Ronald DeLia, Matthew DePante and Bryan Wagner pleaded not guilty in Santa Clara County Superior Court to felony charges stemming from their roles in the corporate spying scandal. Dunn resigned in September before testifying at a hearing before the US House Energy and Commerce Committee, during which she admitted that she was aware of the plan, but was also told the actions were legal by corporate attorneys.



Fight Against Child Sexual Exploitation
Legal Career News | 2006/12/05 20:40

WASHINGTON – Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales today delivered remarks at the Justice Department’s Project Safe Childhood conference on Department efforts to prosecute sex predators and protect children from sexual exploitation through Project Safe Childhood. He called upon Americans to report suspicious behavior and signs of abuse, and upon federal and state prosecutors to aggressively pursue sex predators. Project Safe Childhood, announced by the Attorney General in February 2006, creates a coordinated national response to the growing threat posed to America’s youth by online sexual exploitation. It brings federal, state and local law enforcement communities together in order to maximize resources and obtain the strictest penalties available against sex predators under federal and state law.

As technology advances and as the Internet becomes more accessible, the number of computer-facilitated sexual exploitation crimes committed against children — including child pornography offenses and “traveler” or enticement crimes — continues to grow.

“The sexual abuse and exploitation of children is one of the most disturbing crimes known to humankind,” said Attorney General Gonzales. “Much has been done to protect and defend them, but more must be done. Through Project Safe Childhood, the Department of Justice and our law enforcement partners are able to work together to pursue and prosecute sex predators with greater coordination and determination than ever before.”

In addition to its emphasis on increasing the prosecutions of sex predators, Project Safe Childhood works to increase public awareness about the presence of pedophiles on the Internet. Project Safe Childhood has partnered with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and The Ad Council on a public education campaign targeted to children and their parents. The campaign, including print, broadcast and web content, will debut in early 2007. Project Safe Childhood includes five key components:

*INTEGRATED FEDERAL, STATE AND LOCAL EFFORTS TO INVESTIGATE AND PROSECUTE CHILD EXPLOITATION CASES:

The U.S. Attorneys have partnered with ICAC Task Forces that exist within their districts and other federal, state and local law enforcement partners working in their districts to implement Project Safe Childhood. Working with these partners, the U.S. Attorneys have developed district-specific strategic plans to coordinate the investigation and prosecution of child exploitation crimes; to identify and rescue victims; and to coordinate local training, educational and awareness programs.

*MAJOR CASE COORDINATION BY THE CRIMINAL DIVISION:

The Department’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), in conjunction with the FBI’s Innocent Images Unit, has integrated the Project Safe Childhood Task Forces into pursuing local leads generated from CEOS major national operations.

*INCREASED FEDERAL INVOLVEMENT IN CHILD PORNOGRAPHY AND ENTICEMENT CASES: Given the beneficial investigative tools and stiffer punishments available under federal law, U.S. Attorneys and the federal investigative agencies have increased the number of sexual exploitation investigations and prosecutions. The goal is to ensure the worst offenders get the maximum amount of jail time possible.

*TRAINING OF FEDERAL, STATE AND LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT:

Members of the Project Safe Childhood Task Forces have attended training programs facilitated by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the ICAC program and other ongoing programs, in order to be taught to investigate and prosecute computer-facilitated crimes against children, as well as to pursue leads from national operations and from NCMEC’s CyberTipline and Child Victim-Identification programs.

*COMMUNITY AWARENESS AND EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS:

Project Safe Childhood has partnered with NCMEC and the ICAC Task Force program to raise awareness about the threat of online sexual predators and to provide the tools and information parents and youngsters need in order to report suspicious activity on the Internet. The public education campaign, featuring print, broadcast and web content, will debut in the spring of 2007



Serbs Concerned Over Serbian Nationalist
Legal Career News | 2006/12/04 14:02

Some 30,000 Serbs gathered in front of the US embassy in Belgrade on Saturday insisting that the United States and the United Nations are trying to kill ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS) leader and war crimes defendant Vojislav Seselj. Seselj is currently on the twenty-second day of his hunger strike; he had been refusing medical attention but on Friday agreed to a medical exam by an "independent" team of doctors. The SRS, which denied the protest is a pre-election stunt, accused the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) of acting on American instructions and "jeopardizing Seselj's life". SRS Deputy Leader Tomislav Nikolic described the hunger strike as a "fight against injustice and humiliation."

Seselj was transferred to a Dutch prison hospital adjoining the tribunal's detention center at Scheveningen near The Hague Wednesday so that his medical condition could be more closely monitored. When Seselj went on hunger strike in early November, he demanded that the ICTY dismiss his court-appointed lawyers, who he calls "actors" and "spies," and allow him to conduct his defense to nine war crimes charges. The court later stripped Seselj of his right to defend himself after he failed to appear in court. Seselj is accused of establishing rogue paramilitary units affiliated with the SRS, which are believed to have massacred and otherwise persecuted Croats and other non-Serbs in the Balkan Wars of the 1990s. Seselj has pleaded not guilty to the charges.



New Hampshire GOP phone jamming case settles
Legal Career News | 2006/12/02 23:49
The lawsuit brought against the New Hampshire Republican State Committee for the jamming of Democratic phone lines in the 2002 Senate race has been settled, according to a statement Friday from GOP state Committee Chairman Wayne Semprini. The New Hampshire Democratic Party filed civil suit for compensation for the 800 hang-up phone calls that were placed to interfere with Democratic get-out-the-vote campaigns. The settlement comes just as trial was set to start Monday in Hillsborough County Superior Court on issues of phone system interference and compensation, after the trial judge dismissed 5 of the initial 8 counts in the complaint. Democrats sought $4 million compensation for the cost of the seven-month voter turnout campaign, while Republicans wanted damages to be limited to the $4,974 spent on phone rentals and use. A judge ruled Wednesday that damages above phone rentals could be sought, though not the full $4 million, and that the Democrats had the right to allege that the phone jamming thwarted their efforts to increase voter turnout. The settlement amount has not been disclosed. In a statement Saturday, the New Hampshire Democratic Party said that although the settlement "closes one chapter of the litigation stemming from the shameful and criminal Republican campaign to rob people of their fundamental right to vote, the federal criminal investigation will continue."


Terror suspect to be extradited to US
Legal Career News | 2006/12/01 16:34

The UK High Court ruled Thursday that two British citizens charged with terrorism offenses can be extradited to the US to face terrorism charges. Haroon Rashid Aswat, wanted in the US on suspicion of setting up a terrorist training camp, and Babar Ahmad, wanted for conspiring to kill Americans and running a website used to fund terrorists and recruit al Qaeda members, had argued that they should not be extradited to the US because they would be mistreated or tried as enemy combatants. The extraditions were approved only after the US offered assurances that it would not seek the death penalty, try the suspects before military tribunals or declare them enemy combatants. Lord Justice John Laws dismissed the appeal and held that possible mistreatment by the US "would require proof of a quality entirely lacking here" and that the US is a country" in which the United Kingdom has for many years reposed the confidence not only of general good relations, but also of successive bilateral treaties consistently honoured."

Aswat was arrested in August 2005 by Zambian police and returned to the UK in connection with the July 7 London bombing attacks. He was later arrested under a US warrant on the suspicion of setting up a terrorist training camp in Oregon five years ago. Ahmad was indicted in the US in October 2004. Both extradition cases were heard under a "fast track" extradition procedure under the UK Extradition Act 2003 that decreases the burden of proof on certain countries, including the United States.



FEMA told to resume Katrina housing payments
Legal Career News | 2006/11/30 20:35

US District Judge Richard J. Leon ruled in Washington, DC, Wednesday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) must reinstate certain housing payments for victims of Hurricane Katrina. Leon granted the plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction against the payments stoppage, maintaining that FEMA had failed to provide evacuees with adequate explanations for their denials of housing assistance and their means of appeal under the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN)  filed the lawsuit on behalf of displaced hurricane evacuees alleging violations of their due process rights.

FEMA responded Wednesday by defending its policies and saying it will consult with the US Department of Homeland Security and US Department of Justice to determine a formal response to the district court's ruling. FEMA still faces several other suits relating to its termination or withdrawal or housing benefits to Katrina victims.



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