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NY court: Case against ex-AIG execs can continue
Attorney News | 2016/06/02 23:59
New York's attorney general can continue his legal effort to bar two former American International Group Inc. executives from the securities industry and forfeit any improperly gained profits, the state's highest court ruled Thursday.

The Court of Appeals for the second time refused to dismiss the lawsuit originally filed in 2005 by then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, ruling it should go to trial.

The suit claims ex-AIG chief executive Maurice "Hank" Greenberg and ex-chief financial officer Howard Smith had engaged in fraudulent reinsurance transactions to conceal from investors a deteriorating financial condition.

AIG itself resolved state charges as part of a $1.64 billion agreement with regulators in 2006. The insurance giant was bailed out by the federal government in the 2008 financial crisis.

Greenberg and Smith settled related federal Securities and Exchange Commission complaints without admitting wrongdoing in 2009.

Their attorneys challenged the state lawsuit, arguing that New York's Martin Act against securities fraud authorizes neither a permanent industry ban nor disgorgement of profits, and that releases from other settlements barred further financial forfeit.

"As we have previously stated, in an appropriate case, disgorgement may be an available 'equitable remedy distinct from restitution' under the state's anti-fraud legislation," Judge Leslie Stein wrote. "Moreover, as with the attorney general's claim for an injunction, issues of fact exist which prevent us from concluding, as a matter of law that disgorgement is unwarranted."

The court rejected another dismissal motion two years ago, concluding there was sufficient fraud evidence for trial.



High court seems poised to overturn McDonnell conviction
Attorney News | 2016/05/05 00:19
The Supreme Court on Wednesday seemed poised to overturn the conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell on political corruption charges and place new limits on the reach of federal bribery laws.

Justices across the ideological spectrum expressed major concerns that the laws give prosecutors too much power to criminalize the everyday acts that politician perform to help constituents.

Chief Justice John Roberts said it was "extraordinary" that dozens of former White House attorneys from Democratic and Republican administrations submitted legal papers saying that upholding McDonnell's conviction would cripple the ability of elected officials to do their jobs.

"I think it's extraordinary that those people agree on anything," Roberts said.

Justice Breyer said the law presents "a real separation of powers problem" and "puts at risk behavior that is common."

"That's a recipe for giving the Department of Justice and prosecutors enormous power over elected officials," Breyer said.

McDonnell, who was in the courtroom with his wife Maureen to watch the arguments, was convicted in 2014 of accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from a wealthy businessman in exchange for promoting a dietary supplement.

At issue is a federal law that bars public officials from accepting money or gifts in exchange for "official acts." The court is expected to clarify what distinguishes bribery from the routine actions that politicians often perform as a courtesy to constituents.

But the justices struggled over how to draw that line. Both Roberts and Breyer suggested the bribery law could be considered unconstitutionally vague.


White S.C. trooper pleads guilty in shooting of unarmed black man
Attorney News | 2016/03/18 16:57
A white South Carolina trooper pleaded guilty Monday to assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature in the 2014 shooting an unarmed black driver seconds after a traffic stop.

Trooper Sean Groubert, 32, faces up to 20 years in prison. The shooting captured on dash-cam video from the trooper's patrol car shocked the country, coming during a wave of questionable police shootings.

Levar Jones was walking into a convenience store in September 2014 when Groubert got out of his patrol car and demanded Jones' driver's license.

Jones turned back to reach into his car and Groubert fired four shots. Jones' wallet is seen flying out of his hands.

Groubert's boss, state Public Safety Director Leroy Smith, fired Groubert after seeing the video.

Jones was shot in the hip and survived. He walked into the courtroom Monday with a noticeable limp and played with a Rubik's Cube before the hearing started.

Video of the encounter was played in the courtroom and showed Groubert pulling up to Jones without his siren on, and the trooper asking Jones for his license after he also was out of his car.

As Jones turns and reaches back into his car, Groubert shouts, "Get outta the car, get outta the car." He begins firing and unloads a third shot as Jones staggers away, backing up with his hands raised, and then a fourth.

From the first shot to the fourth, the video clicks off three seconds.


Lawyer: US citizen charged in UN case to plead guilty
Attorney News | 2016/03/17 16:57
A defense lawyer says a U.S. citizen charged in the United Nations bribery case will plead guilty Wednesday to charges.

Attorney Brian Bieber said Monday that Francis Lorenzo will plead guilty to three charges. Lorenzo is a suspended ambassador from the Dominican Republic who was arrested in the fall.

The plea comes in a case that resulted in the arrest of a former president of the U.N. General Assembly and a billionaire Chinese businessman.

Bieber says Lorenzo will plead guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit money laundering and filing a false tax return.

Bieber says his client decided to plead guilty after reviewing the government's evidence. He says it led him to "accept responsibility for his role in the criminal conspiracies committed by him and his co-defendants."



Court records: Apple's help sought in another iPhone case
Attorney News | 2016/02/28 11:04
A federal magistrate in Chicago last November ordered Apple to help federal prosecutors access data on an iPhone in a personal bankruptcy and passport fraud case, one of more than a dozen cases around the country similar to the legal battle over the telephone of one of the San Bernardino shooting suspects.

Court records show U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon filed a November 2015 motion saying law enforcement needed Apple's help to bypass the passcode to search, extract and copy data from an iPhone 5S owned by Pethinaidu and Parameswari Veluchamy, the Chicago Tribune reported.

An affidavit filed Nov. 13 said text messages, phone contacts and digital photos might help confirm wrongdoing. It also said data on the phone "may also provide relevant insight into the cellphone owner's state of mind as it relates to the offense under investigation."

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Rowland's order said Apple should provide authorities "reasonable technical assistance to enable law enforcement agents to obtain access to unencrypted data" She added Apple "may provide a copy of the encrypted data to law enforcement, but Apple is not required to attempt to decrypt, or otherwise enable law enforcement's attempts to access any encrypted data."



Texas court tosses criminal case against former Gov. Perry
Attorney News | 2016/02/22 11:04
The felony prosecution of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry ended Wednesday when the state's highest criminal court dismissed an abuse-of-power indictment that the Republican says hampered his short-lived 2016 presidential bid.

The 6-2 decision by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which is dominated by elected Republican judges, frees Perry from a long-running criminal case that blemished the exit of one of the most powerful Texas governors in history and hung over his second failed run for the White House.

A grand jury in liberal Austin had indicted Perry in 2014 for vetoing funding for a public corruption unit that Republicans have long accused of wielding a partisan ax. The unit worked under Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, an elected Democrat. Perry wanted her to resign after she was convicted of drunken driving.

Perry was accused of using his veto power to threaten a public official and overstepping his authority, but the judges ruled that courts can't undermine the veto power of a governor.

"Come at the king, you best not miss," Republican Judge David Newell wrote in his concurring opinion, quoting a popular line from the HBO series "The Wire."

Perry has been campaigning for Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz since becoming the first major GOP candidate to drop out of the race last year. He conceded to reporters in Austin on Wednesday that the indictments hurt his candidacy but didn't dwell on the impact, and said he would veto the same funding again if given the chance.

"I've always known the actions I took were not only lawful and legal, they were right," said Perry, who spoke at the headquarters of an influential Texas conservative think tank, which has previously christened its balcony overlooking downtown as the "Gov. Rick Perry Liberty Balcony."

The court said veto power can't be restricted by the courts and the prosecution of a veto "violates separations of powers." A lower appeals court had dismissed the other charge, coercion by a public servant, in July.

Perry had rebuked the charges as a partisan attack from the start, calling it a "political witch hunt," but the dismissal brought accusations of Republican judges doing a favor for a party stalwart. Texans for Public Justice, a left-leaning watchdog group that filed the original criminal complaint that led to the indictment, said Perry was handed a "gift" based on his stature.


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