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Belgian court rules out extradition for Spanish rapper
U.S. Legal News | 2018/09/14 05:19
A Belgian court on Monday ruled that Spanish rapper Valtonyc should not be sent back to Spain, where he was sentenced to prison accused of writing lyrics that praise terror groups and insult the royal family.

The rapper, whose real name is Jose Miguel Arenas Beltran, was supposed to turn himself in voluntarily in May to authorities in Spain, where he faces prison sentences totaling three and a half years, but instead fled to Belgium.

"The judge has decided there will be no extradition and discarded all three charges," his lawyer, Simon Bekaert, told reporters near the court in the city of Ghent.

Bekaert said the judge ruled "there is no terrorism involved, there is no incitement of terrorism, so there is no question of a crime according to Belgian law." He said the judge also found that there is no crime to answer to over insulting the Spanish king and that no threat was made that could warrant extradition.

"I feel good, I am happy. But I am sad for the people in Spain, who unlucky, they don't have justice like me here," Arenas told reporters, in English."

The ruling could re-ignite tensions between Belgium and Spain over extradition demands.

Late last year, Spain dropped a European arrest warrant against former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont after it became clear that Belgian justice authorities were unlikely to recognize some of the Spanish charges against him.


The Latest: Authorities: Officer arrested for manslaughter
U.S. Legal News | 2018/09/10 21:53
The Texas Department of Public Safety says a white Dallas police officer has been arrested on a manslaughter warrant in the shooting of a black man at his apartment.

The department said in a news release Sunday night that Officer Amber Guyger was booked into the Kaufman County Jail and that the investigation is ongoing. It said no additional information is available at this time. The 30-year-old Guyger killed 26-year-old Botham Jean on Thursday.

Police say Guyger shot and killed Jean after returning in uniform to the South Side Flats, where they both had apartments, following her shift. She reported the shooting to dispatchers and she told officers who responded that she had mistaken Jean's apartment for her own.

The lawyer for the family of a 26-year-old man who was shot and killed by a Dallas police officer who said she mistook his apartment for hers is calling for her to be charged.

S. Lee Merritt, who is representing the family of 26-year-old Botham Jean, said Saturday that the family isn't calling on the authorities to jump to conclusions or to deny Officer Amber Guyger her right to due process.

But he says they want Guyger "to be treated like every other citizen, and where there is evidence that they've committed a crime, that there's a warrant to be issued and an arrest to be made."

Online records show that Guyger hadn't been charged as of Sunday morning.


Pipeline company found guilty in 2015 California oil spill
U.S. Legal News | 2018/09/08 08:54
A pipeline company was convicted of nine criminal charges Friday for causing the worst California coastal spill in 25 years, a disaster that blackened popular beaches for miles, killed wildlife and hurt tourism and fishing.

A Santa Barbara County jury found Houston-based Plains All American Pipeline guilty of a felony count of failing to properly maintain its pipeline and eight misdemeanor charges, including killing marine mammals and protected sea birds.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement that Plains’ actions were not only reckless and irresponsible but also criminal.

“Today’s verdict should send a message: if you endanger our environment and wildlife, we will hold you accountable,” he said.

Plains said in a statement that the jury didn’t find any knowing misconduct by the company and “accepts full responsibility for the impact of the accident.”

“We are committed to doing the right thing,” the company said.

The company said its operation of the pipeline met or exceeded legal and industry standards, and believes the jury erred in its verdict on one count where California law allowed a conviction under a standard of negligence.

“We intend to fully evaluate and consider all of our legal options with respect to the trial and resulting jury decision,” Plains said.

The company is set to be sentenced on Dec. 13. Because it’s a company, and not a person, Plains only faces fines, though it’s unclear how steep the penalties could be.

Plains had faced a total of 15 charges for the rupture of a corroded pipeline that sent at least 123,000 gallons (465,000 liters)


Rancorous, partisan start for Kavanaugh high court hearing
U.S. Legal News | 2018/09/05 12:54
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh declared fervently at his Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday the court "must never, never be viewed as a partisan institution." But that was at the end of a marathon day marked by rancorous exchanges between Democrats and Republicans, including dire Democratic fears that he would be President Donald Trump's advocate on the high court.

The week of hearings on Kavanaugh's nomination began with a sense of inevitability that the 53-year-old appellate judge eventually will be confirmed, perhaps in time for the first day of the new term, Oct. 1, and little more than a month before congressional elections.

However, the first of at least four days of hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee began with partisan quarreling over the nomination and persistent protests from members of the audience, followed by their arrests.

Strong Democratic opposition to Trump's nominee reflects the political stakes for both parties in advance of the November elections, Robert Mueller's investigation of Trump's 2016 campaign and the potentially pivotal role Kavanaugh could play in moving the court to the right.

Democrats, including several senators poised for 2020 presidential bids, tried to block the proceedings in a dispute over Kavanaugh records withheld by the White House. Republicans in turn accused the Democrats of turning the hearing into a circus.

Trump jumped into the fray late in the day, saying on Twitter that Democrats were "looking to inflict pain and embarrassment" on Kavanaugh.

The president's comment followed the statements of Democratic senators who warned that Trump was, in the words of Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, "selecting a justice on the Supreme Court who potentially will cast a decisive vote in his own case."

In Kavanaugh's own statement at the end of more than seven hours of arguing, the federal appeals judge spoke repeatedly about the importance of an independent judiciary and the need to keep the court above partisan politics, common refrains among Supreme Court nominees that had added salience in the fraught political atmosphere of the moment.



Chaos marks start of Kavanaugh confirmation hearing
U.S. Legal News | 2018/09/03 12:54
Quarreling and confusion marked the start of the Senate's confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Tuesday, with Democrats trying to block the proceedings because of documents being withheld by the White House. Protesters also disrupted the proceedings.

In his opening remarks released ahead of delivery, Kavanaugh sought to tamp down the controversy over his nomination, which would likely shift the closely divided court to the right. He promised to be a "team player" if confirmed, declaring that he would be a "pro-law judge" who would not decide cases based on his personal views.

But Democrats raised objections from the moment Chairman Chuck Grassley gaveled the committee to order. They want to review 100,000 documents about Kavanaugh's record being withheld by the White House as well as some 42,000 documents released to the committee on a confidential basis on the eve of the hearing, along with others not sought by Republicans on the committee.

"We have not been given an opportunity to have a meaningful hearing on this nominee," said Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., made a motion to adjourn.

Grassley denied his request, but the arguments persisted.

More than a dozen protesters, shouting one by one, disrupted the hearing at several points and were removed by police. "This is a mockery and a travesty of justice," shouted one woman. "Cancel Brett Kavanaugh!"

Grassley defended the document production as the most open in history, saying there was "no reason to delay the hearing. He asked Kavanaugh, who sat before the committee with White House officials behind him, to introduce his parents, wife and children.

"I'm very honored to be here," Kavanaugh said.

With majority Republicans appearing united, it's doubtful the hearings will affect the eventual confirmation of President Donald Trump's nominee. But they will likely become a rallying cry for both parties just two months before the midterm elections.


High court pick Kavanaugh and his carefully constructed life
U.S. Legal News | 2018/09/01 12:55
Judge Brett Kavanaugh's life seems as carefully constructed as the Supreme Court arguments he will hear if he is confirmed to the high court. He checks all the boxes of the ways of Washington, or at least the way Washington used to be.

He's a team player — the conservative team — stepping up to make a play at key moments in politics, government and the law dating to the Bill Clinton era and the salacious dramas of that time.

Yet in a capital and a country where politics has become poisonously tribal, Kavanaugh has tried to cover his bases, as Washington insiders have long done. He's got liberal friends, associates and role models. He was a complicated figure in the scandal-ridden 1990s, by turns zealous and restrained as an investigator.

If he wins confirmation, he'll be seated with Justice Elena Kagan, the Obama-era solicitor general who hired him to teach at Harvard when she was law school dean, as well as with his prep school mate, Justice Neil Gorsuch. Kavanaugh's law clerks have gone on to work for liberal justices. He's served with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in mock trials of characters in Shakespeare plays, a night out from the real-life dramas.

Amateur athlete, doer of Catholic good works, basketball-coaching dad, Yale degrees, progression from lawyer to White House aide to judge — it's all there in a rarefied life of talent and privilege, though strikingly not one of great personal wealth.

The only skeleton in Kavanaugh's closet that the White House has owned up to is as American as apple pie.

Spending on baseball games helped drive him into debt one year, the White House said. He's also been ribbed for hoarding gummy bears when he worked as an aide to President George W. Bush. Because Republicans are not releasing critical documents for the hearings, it remains to be seen if anything else is rattling around.

With some ideological mashup, Kavanaugh's judicial record has been conservative in the main, reflecting views that could swing the court right on abortion, gay rights, executive power and more for decades to come.

Kavanaugh heads into the confirmation hearings, which begin Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, representing the hopes of President Donald Trump and the right that he will do just that.

Kavanaugh, who's 53, has seen a steady career progression: law clerk for federal appeals judges, fellowship with then-Solicitor General Starr, law clerk for Justice Anthony Kennedy (with Gorsuch), associate counsel in the Starr investigation, law-firm partner, Bush White House associate counsel, White House staff secretary, judge. He first dated Ashley Estes, then Bush's personal secretary, Sept. 10, 2001; they married in 2004 and have two daughters.



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