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Dani Alves found guilty of rape, sentenced to four and a half years in prison
Breaking Legal News | 2024/02/23 15:39
Dani Alves, one of the most successful soccer players of his generation, was found guilty of raping a woman in a Barcelona nightclub and sentenced to four years and six months in prison on Thursday.

The former Brazil and Barcelona right back was convicted in Spain under a new sexual liberty law that emphasizes the lack of consent of the victim as key to determining sex crimes.

A three-judge panel at the Barcelona Provincial Court convicted the 40-year-old Alves of sexual assault for the incident on Dec. 31, 2022.

The court ordered Alves to pay 150,000 euros ($162,000) in compensation to the victim, banned him from approaching the victim’s home or place of work, and from communicating with her by any means for nine years.

“I still believe in the innocence of Mr. Alves,” Inés Guardiola, Alves’ lawyer, said. “I need to study the ruling, but I can tell you that of course we will appeal.”

Guardiola said Alves was “calm and collected” when he heard the verdict in court.

“We are satisfied,” David Sáenz, a member of the victim’s legal team, said, “because this verdict recognizes what we have always known, that the victim told the truth and that she has suffered.”
The victim’s lawyer, Ester García, said on Wednesday she and her client would not be present for the verdict.

The victim said Alves raped her in the bathroom of a Barcelona nightclub on the morning of Dec. 31, 2022. The court considered it proven that the victim did not consent to sex and there was evidence, in addition to the defendant’s testimony, that she was raped.

Alves denied during the three-day trial this month that he raped the woman, testifying to the court “I am not that kind of man.”

State prosecutors had sought a nine-year prison sentence for Alves while the lawyers representing his accuser wanted 12 years. His defense asked for his acquittal, or if found guilty a one-year sentence plus 50,000 euros compensation for the victim.

The sentence of four years and six months is near the lowest sentence for a rape conviction, which when the rape took place was penalized by four to 12 years under Spanish law. That has since been modified to six to 12 years. The court in its sentence said it considered favorably for Alves that he had “before the trial paid the court 150,000 euros to be given to the victim without any conditions attached.”

Sáenz said his legal team did not agree with the application of the extenuating circumstance, saying the money did not compensate the harm done to their client. During the trial, medical experts testified she was suffering from post-traumatic stress.


Ken Paxton petitions to stop Dallas woman from getting an abortion
Court Watch | 2024/02/20 10:30
A judge on Friday rejected Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton ’s attempts to throw out felony securities fraud charges that have shadowed the Republican for nearly a decade.

The decision by state District Judge Andrea Beall, an elected Democrat, keeps Paxton on track for an April 15 trial on charges that he duped investors in a tech startup.

If convicted, Paxton faces up to 99 years in prison. Paxton, who has pleaded not guilty, appeared in the Houston courtroom for the hearing, sitting at the defense table with his attorneys.

“He’s ready for trial … This thing has been pending for eight years. (The special prosecutors) want to dance. Put on your shoes. It’s time to go. Let’s dance,” Dan Cogdell, one of Paxton’s attorneys, told reporters after Friday’s court hearing.

Brian Wice, one of the special prosecutors handling the case, said it was important that Paxton’s case go to trial because “no one is above the law. And that includes Ken Paxton. And that’s why this case matters.”

During Friday’s hearing, the other special prosecutor in the case, Kent Schaffer, announced he was withdrawing ahead of the trial.

After the hearing, Wice said the two prosecutors parted ways after disagreeing over Schaffer’s push to avoid a trial and instead settle the case through pre-trial intervention.

Wice said Schaffer had recently reached out to Cogdell with the offer for pretrial intervention, which is like probation and would ultimately lead to the dismissal of charges if a defendant stays out of legal trouble.

Wice said he doesn’t believe pretrial intervention would have been appropriate because there would be no admission of guilt and no jail time.

“And without an acknowledgment of guilt, to me, that was worse than a slap on the wrist. That was, gee, let’s get you a cocktail, a hot meal, and breath mint. And that wasn’t going to happen on my watch,” Wice said.

Cogdell said Schaffer had reached out to him about the proposal and he would have been happy to resolve the case without a trial and a dismissal of the charges.


Attorney Jenna Ellis pleads guilty in Georgia election interference case
Health Care | 2024/02/15 16:15
Attorney and prominent conservative media figure Jenna Ellis pleaded guilty Tuesday to a felony charge over efforts to overturn Donald Trump’s 2020 election loss in Georgia, tearfully telling the judge she looks back on that time with “deep remorse.”

Ellis, the fourth defendant in the case to enter into a plea deal with prosecutors, was a vocal part of Trump’s reelection campaign in the last presidential cycle and was charged alongside the Republican former president and 17 others with violating the state’s anti-racketeering law.

Ellis pleaded guilty to one felony count of aiding and abetting false statements and writings. She had been facing charges of violating Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO, and soliciting the violation of oath by a public officer, both felonies.

She rose to speak after pleading guilty, fighting back tears as she said she would not have represented Trump after the 2020 election if she knew then what she knows now, claiming that she relied on lawyers with much more experience than her and failed to verify the things they told her.

“What I did not do but should have done, Your Honor, was to make sure that the facts the other lawyers alleged to be true were in fact true,” the 38-year-old Ellis said.

The guilty plea from Ellis comes just days after two other defendants, fellow attorneys Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro, entered guilty pleas. That means three high-profile people responsible for pushing baseless legal challenges to Democrat Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory have agreed to accept responsibility for their roles rather than take their chances before a jury. A lower-profile defendant pleaded guilty last month.

Responding to a reporter’s shouted question in the hallway of a New York City courthouse, where a civil case accusing him of inflating the value of his assets is being held, Trump said he didn’t know anything about Ellis’ plea deal but called it “too bad” and said he wasn’t worried by it.

“Don’t know anything, we’re totally innocent of everything, that’s political persecution is all it is,” he said.

Steve Sadow, Trump’s lead attorney in the Georgia case, used Ellis’ plea to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the racketeering charges Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis brought against all 19 defendants.


Trump arrives in federal court in Florida for classified docs case
Bankruptcy | 2024/02/13 14:57
Former President Donald Trump arrived Monday morning at a federal courthouse in Florida for a closed hearing in his criminal case charging him with mishandling classified documents.

The hearing was scheduled to discuss the procedures for the handling of classified evidence in the case, which is currently set for trial on May 20. Trump faces dozens of felony counts accusing him of hoarding highly classified records at his Mar-a-Lago estate and obstructing FBI efforts to get them back.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon expects to hear arguments in the morning from defense lawyers and in the afternoon from prosecutors, each outside of the other’s presence.

“Defense counsel shall be prepared to discuss their defense theories of the case, in detail, and how any classified information might be relevant or helpful to the defense,” Cannon wrote in scheduling the hearing.

Trump’s motorcade arrived at the courthouse in Fort Pierce shortly after 9 a.m.

The hearing is one of several voluntary court appearances that Trump has made in recent weeks — he was present, for instance, at appeals court arguments last month in Washington — as he looks to demonstrate to supporters that he intends to fight the four criminal prosecutions he faces while also seeking to reclaim the White House this November.


Why Trump's bid for president is in the hands of the Supreme Court
Criminal Law | 2024/02/08 10:23
The fate of former President Donald Trump’s attempt to return to the White House is in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court.

On Thursday, the justices will hear arguments in Trump’s appeal of a Colorado Supreme Court ruling that he is not eligible to run again for president because he violated a provision in the 14th Amendment preventing those who “engaged in insurrection” from holding office.

Many legal observers expect the nation’s highest court will reverse the Colorado ruling rather than remove the leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination from the ballot. But it’s always tricky to try to predict a Supreme Court ruling, and the case against Trump has already broken new legal ground.

“No Person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two thirds of each House, remove such disability.”

Trump’s lawyers say this part of the Constitution wasn’t meant to apply to the president. Notice how it specifically mentions electors, senators and representatives, but not the presidency.

It also says those who take an oath to “support” the United States, but the presidential oath doesn’t use that word. Instead, the Constitution requires presidents to say they will “preserve, protect and defend” the Constitution. And finally, Section 3 talks about any other “officer” of the United States, but Trump’s lawyers argue that language is meant to apply to presidential appointees, not the president.

That was enough to convince the Colorado district court judge who initially heard the case. She found that Trump had engaged in insurrection, but also agreed that it wasn’t clear that Section 3 applied to the president. That part of her decision was reversed by the Colorado Supreme Court.

The majority of the state’s highest court wrote: “President Trump asks us to hold that Section 3 disqualifies every oath-breaking insurrectionist except the most powerful one and that it bars oath-breakers from virtually every office, both state and federal, except the highest one in the land.”

Trump’s lawyers contend that the question of who is covered by a rarely used, once obscure clause should be decided by Congress, not unelected judges. They contend that the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol wasn’t an insurrection. They say the attack wasn’t widespread, didn’t involve large amounts of firearms or include other markers of sedition. They say Trump didn’t “engage” in anything that day other than in exercising his protected free speech rights.

Others who have been skeptical of applying Section 3 to Trump have made an argument that the dissenting Colorado Supreme Court justices also found persuasive: The way the court went about finding that Trump violated Section 3 violated the former president’s due process rights. They contend he was entitled to a structured legal process rather than a court in Colorado trying to figure out if the Constitution applied to him.

That gets at the unprecedented nature of the cases. Section 3 has rarely been used after an 1872 congressional amnesty excluded most former Confederates from it. The U.S. Supreme Court has never heard such a case.


UN court rejects most of Ukraine’s terror financing case against Russia
Breaking Legal News | 2024/02/02 10:48
The United Nations’ top court on Wednesday rejected large parts of a case filed by Ukraine alleging that Russia bankrolled separatist rebels in the country’s east a decade ago and has discriminated against Crimea’s multiethnic community since its annexation of the peninsula.

The International Court of Justice ruled Moscow violated articles of two treaties — one on terrorism financing and another on eradicating racial discrimination — but it rejected far more of Kyiv’s claims under the treaties.

It rejected Ukraine’s request for Moscow to pay reparations for attacks in eastern Ukraine blamed on pro-Russia Ukrainian rebels, including the July 17, 2014, downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 that killed all 298 passengers and crew.

Russia has denied any involvement in the downing of the jetliner. A Dutch domestic court convicted two Russians and a pro-Moscow Ukrainian in November 2022 for their roles in the attack and sentenced them in their absence to life imprisonment. The Netherlands and Ukraine also have sued Russia at the European Court of Human Rights over MH17.

In another rebuke for Moscow, the world court ruled that Russia had violated one of the court’s orders by launching its full-scale invasion in Ukraine nearly two years ago.

The leader of Ukraine’s legal team, Anton Korynevych, called the ruling “a really important day because this is a judgment which says that the Russian Federation violated international law, in particular both conventions under which we made our application.”

The legally binding final ruling was the first of two expected decisions from the International Court of Justice linked to the decade-long conflict between Russia and Ukraine that exploded into all-out war almost two years ago.

At hearings last year, a lawyer for Ukraine, David Zionts, said the pro-Russia forces in eastern Ukraine “attacked civilians as part of a campaign of intimidation and terror. Russian money and weapons fueled this campaign.”


Hong Kong court orders China's Evergrande, which owes $300 billion, to liquidate
Breaking Legal News | 2024/01/30 10:00
A Hong Kong court ordered China Evergrande, the world’s most heavily indebted real estate developer, to undergo liquidation following a failed effort to restructure $300 billion owed to banks and bondholders that fueled fears about China’s rising debt burden.

“It would be a situation where the court says enough is enough,” Judge Linda Chan said Monday. She said it was appropriate for the court to order Evergrande to wind up its business given a “lack of progress on the part of the company putting forward a viable restructuring proposal” as well as Evergrande’s insolvency.

China Evergrande Group is among dozens of Chinese developers that have collapsed since 2020 under official pressure to rein in surging debt the ruling Communist Party views as a threat to China’s slowing economic growth. But the crackdown on excess borrowing tipped the property industry into crisis, dragging on the economy and rattling financial systems in and outside China.

Chinese regulators have said the risks of global shockwaves from Evergrande’s failure can be contained. The court documents seen Monday showed Evergrande owes about $25.4 billion to foreign creditors. Its total assets of about $240 billion are dwarfed by its total liabilities.

“It is indisputable that the company is grossly insolvent and is unable to pay its debts,” the documents say.

About 90% of Evergrande’s business is in mainland China. Its chairman, Hui Ka Yan, who is also known as Xu Jiayin, was detained by authorities for suspected “illegal crimes” in late September, further complicating the company’s efforts to recover.

It’s unclear how the liquidation order will affect China’s financial system or Evergrande’s operations as it struggles to deliver housing that has been paid for but not yet handed over to families that put their life savings into such investments.

Evergrande’s Hong Kong-traded shares plunged nearly 21% early Monday before they were suspended from trading. But Hong Kong’s benchmark Hang Seng index was up 0.9% and some property developers saw gains in their share prices.


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