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The Man Charged in an Illinois Attack That Left 4 Dead Is Due Back in Court
Corporate Governance | 2024/04/02 16:26
A northern Illinois man charged with killing four people and injuring seven others by stabbing, beating and driving over them is expected back in court on Tuesday.

A judge in the city of Rockford is expected to consider prosecutors' request that Christian Soto remain jailed pending trial. The 22-year-old appeared briefly in court on Thursday, a day after the attacks in Rockford and his arrest. His defense asked for more time to prepare for the hearing.

The Winnebago County Public Defender's office, listed as Soto's representative in court documents, has not returned messages from The Associated Press seeking comment on his behalf.

The Winnebago County coroner on Thursday identified those killed as 63-year-old Romona Schupbach; 23-year-old Jacob Schupbach; 49-year-old Jay Larson; and 15-year-old Jenna Newcomb.

Authorities last week described a series of frenzied attacks within minutes at multiple addresses in a Rockford neighborhood, but said they had not determined a motive.

Winnebago County State’s Attorney J. Hanley said Soto told police after his arrest that he had smoked marijuana with Jacob Schupbach and believed the drugs “were laced with an unknown narcotic" that made him paranoid.

Authorities have said Soto first stabbed Schupbach and his mother then violently attacked other people in the area and inside other homes. They said he beat, stabbed and used a truck to run over Larson, who was working as a mail carrier; wounded three people inside one home; and beat Newcomb, her sister and a friend with a baseball bat inside another home.

Authorities said Winnebago County sheriff deputies arrested Soto as he fled from another home where he had stabbed a woman and had been slowed down by a man driving by who stopped to intervene.


Texas’ migrant arrest law will remain on hold under new court ruling
Business | 2024/03/28 12:33
Texas’ plans to arrest migrants suspected of illegally entering the U.S. will remain on hold under a federal appeals court order that likely prevents enforcement of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s new immigration law until a broader decision on whether it is legal.

The 2-1 ruling late Tuesday is the second time a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has put a temporary hold on the the Texas law. It follows a confusing few hours last week the Supreme Court allowed the law to take effect, setting off anger and anticipation along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The same panel of appeals judges will hear arguments on the law next week.

“I think what we can draw from this, from the chaos that this has been are several conclusions,” said Lisa Graybill, vice president of law and policy at the National Immigration Law Center. “One is that this is clearly a controversial law. Two is that the politics of the justices on the bench are very clearly playing out in their rulings.”

Texas authorities announced no arrests made under the law during that short window on March 19 before the appellate panel stepped in and blocked it.

In Tuesday’s order, Chief Judge Priscilla Richman cited a 2012 Supreme Court decision that struck down portions of a strict Arizona immigration law, including arrest power. The Texas law is considered by opponents to be the most dramatic attempt by a state to police immigration since that Arizona law.

“For nearly 150 years, the Supreme Court has held that the power to control immigration — the entry, admission, and removal of noncitizens — is exclusively a federal power,” wrote Richman, an appointee of Republican President George W. Bush.

The Justice Department has argued that Texas’ law is a clear violation of federal authority and would create chaos at the border. Texas has argued that President Joe Biden’s administration isn’t doing enough to control the border and that the state has a right to take action.

The Texas law, Richman wrote, “creates separate, distinct state criminal offenses and related procedures regarding unauthorized entry of noncitizens into Texas from outside the country and their removal.”

She was joined in the opinion by Judge Irma Carrillo Ramirez, a Biden appointee.

Judge Andrew Oldham, an appointee of former President Donald Trump and a former aide to Abbott, dissented from the majority decision.


Former Georgia insurance commissioner John Oxendine pleads guilty
Breaking Legal News | 2024/03/25 11:27
A former Georgia insurance commissioner who made a failed Republican run for governor has pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit health care fraud.

John W. Oxendine of Johns Creek entered the guilty plea Friday in federal court in Atlanta. The 61-year-old had been indicted in May 2022 on charges of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

The crime is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, but Oxendine is likely to be sentenced to less. Federal sentencing guidelines discussed in the plea agreement suggest prosecutors will recommend Oxendine be imprisoned between 4 years, 3 months, and 5 years, 3 months, depending on what U.S. District Judge Steve Jones decides at a sentencing hearing set for July 12. Jones could also fine Oxendine and order him to serve supervised release.

Oxendine also agreed to pay nearly $700,000 in restitution to health insurers who lost money in the scheme, the plea document states. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss the money laundering charge as part of the plea.

“John Oxendine, as the former statewide insurance commissioner, knew the importance of honest dealings between doctors and insurance companies,” U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan said in a statement. “But for personal profit he willfully conspired with a physician to order hundreds of unnecessary lab tests, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Prosecutors say Oxendine conspired with Dr. Jeffrey Gallups to pressure other physicians who practiced with Gallups to order unnecessary medical tests from Next Health, a lab in Texas. Prosecutors said Oxendine pushed the plan in a September 2015 presentation to doctors who worked for Gallups’ practice.

The lab company, Oxendine and Gallups agreed the company would pay Gallups a kickback of 50% of the profit on the tests, Oxendine’s indictment said. Next Health paid $260,000 in kickbacks through Oxendine’s insurance consulting company, prosecutors said. Oxendine paid a $150,000 charitable contribution and $70,000 in attorney’s fees on Gallups,’ behalf, prosecutors said, keeping $40,000 for himself. Some patients were also charged, getting bills of up to $18,000 for the tests, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Oxendine told Gallups to lie and say the payments from Oxendine were loans when a compliance officer at Gallups’ company asked about them. Oxendine told Gallups to repeat the same lie when questioned by federal agents, prosecutors said. And they said Oxendine falsely said he didn’t work with the lab company or get money from Next Health when interviewed by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.


Alabama woman who faked kidnapping pleads guilty to false reporting
Biotech | 2024/03/22 10:54
An Alabama woman who claimed she was abducted after stopping her car to check on a wandering toddler pleaded guilty on Thursday to charges of giving false information to law enforcement.

News outlets reported that Carlee Russell pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of false reporting to law enforcement and falsely reporting an incident. She was given a suspended six-month sentence which will allow her to avoid jail. She was ordered to pay more than $17,000 restitution.

Her two-day disappearance, and her story of being abducted alongside an interstate highway, captivated the nation before police called her story a hoax.

Russell, accompanied to court by her family and defense lawyers, apologized for her actions.

“I want to genuinely apologize for my actions. I made a grave mistake while trying to fight through various emotional issues and stress. I’m extremely remorseful for the panic, fear and various range of negative emotions that were experienced across the nation,” Russell said according to WBRC.

Russell disappeared July 13 after calling 911 to report a toddler beside a stretch of Interstate 459 in the Birmingham suburb of Hoover. She returned home two days later and told police she had been abducted and forced into a vehicle.

Police quickly cast doubt on Russell’s story. Her attorney issued a statement through police acknowledging there was no kidnapping and that she never saw a toddler. In the statement, Russell apologized to law enforcement and the volunteers who searched for her.

The Alabama attorney general’s office had argued that Russell should spend time in jail because of the time and energy that law enforcement spent in looking for her.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge David Carpenter told Russell that while her actions caused panic and disruption in the community that it would be a “waste of resources” to put her in jail for misdemeanors, news outlets reported.

Katherine Robertson, Chief Counsel in the Alabama attorney general’s office, said Thursday that they “are disappointed, but not surprised” that Russell did not get the requested jail time.


A Supreme Court ruling in a social media case could set standards
Breaking Legal News | 2024/03/18 17:11
In a busy term that could set standards for free speech in the digital age, the Supreme Court on Monday is taking up a dispute between Republican-led states and the Biden administration over how far the federal government can go to combat controversial social media posts on topics including COVID-19 and election security.

The justices are hearing arguments in a lawsuit filed by Louisiana, Missouri and other parties accusing officials in the Democratic administration of leaning on the social media platforms to unconstitutionally squelch conservative points of view. Lower courts have sided with the states, but the Supreme Court blocked those rulings while it considers the issue.

The high court is in the midst of a term heavy with social media issues. On Friday, the court laid out standards for when public officials can block their social media followers. Less than a month ago, the court heard arguments over Republican-passed laws in Florida and Texas that prohibit large social media companies from taking down posts because of the views they express.

The cases over state laws and the one being argued Monday are variations on the same theme, complaints that the platforms are censoring conservative viewpoints. The states argue that White House communications staffers, the surgeon general, the FBI and the U.S. cybersecurity agency are among those who coerced changes in online content on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter) and other media platforms.

“It’s a very, very threatening thing when the federal government uses the power and authority of the government to block people from exercising their freedom of speech,” Louisiana Attorney General Liz Murrill said in a video her office posted online.

The administration responds that none of the actions the states complain about come close to problematic coercion. The states “still have not identified any instance in which any government official sought to coerce a platform’s editorial decisions with a threat of adverse government action,” wrote Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, the administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer. Prelogar wrote that states also can’t “point to any evidence that the government ever imposed any sanction when the platforms declined to moderate content the government had flagged — as routinely occurred.”

The companies themselves are not involved in the case.

Free speech advocates say the court should use the case to draw an appropriate line between the government’s acceptable use of the bully pulpit and coercive threats to free speech.


Court upholds mandatory prison terms for some low-level drug dealers
Biotech | 2024/03/15 15:09
The Supreme Court ruled Friday that thousands of low-level drug dealers are ineligible for shortened prison terms under a Trump-era bipartisan criminal justice overhaul.

The justices took the case of Mark Pulsifer, an Iowa man who was convicted of distributing at least 50 grams of methamphetamine, to settle a dispute among federal courts over the meaning of the word “and” in a muddy provision of the 2018 First Step Act.

The law’s so-called safety valve provision is meant to spare low-level, nonviolent drug dealers who agree to plead guilty and cooperate with prosecutors from having to face often longer mandatory sentences.

Some courts had concluded the use of the word indeed means “and,” but others decided that it means “or.” A defendant’s eligibility for a shorter sentence depended on the outcome.

“Today, we agree with the Government’s view of the criminal-history provision,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the majority in the 6-3 decision that did not split the justices along liberal-conservative lines.

In dissent, Justice Neil Gorsuch referred to the First Step Act as possibly “the most significant criminal-justice reform bill in a generation.” But under the court’s decision, “thousands more people in the federal criminal justice system will be denied a chance—just a chance at” a reduced sentence, Gorsuch wrote, joined by Justices Ketanji Brown Jackson and Sonia Sotomayor.

Nearly 6,000 people convicted of drug trafficking in the 2021 budget year alone are in the pool of those who might have been eligible for reduced sentences, according to data compiled by the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

The provision lists three criteria for allowing judges to forgo a mandatory minimum sentence that basically looks to the severity of prior crimes. Congress wrote the section in the negative so that a judge can exercise discretion in sentencing if a defendant “does not have” three sorts of criminal history.

Before reaching their decision, the justices puzzled over how to determine eligibility for the safety valve — whether any of the conditions is enough to disqualify someone or whether it takes all three to be ineligible.

Pulsifer’s lawyers argued that all three conditions must apply before the longer sentence can be imposed. The government said just one condition is enough to merit the mandatory minimum.


Trump wants N.Y. hush money trial to wait for Supreme Court immunity ruling
Corporate Governance | 2024/03/12 11:29
Donald Trump is seeking to delay his March 25 hush money trial until the Supreme Court rules on the presidential immunity claims he raised in another of his criminal cases.

The Republican former president’s lawyers on Monday asked Manhattan Judge Juan Manuel Merchan to adjourn the New York criminal trial indefinitely until Trump’s immunity claim in his Washington, D.C., election interference case is resolved. Merchan did not immediately rule.

Trump contends he is immune for prosecution for conduct alleged to involve official acts during his tenure in office. His lawyers argue some of the evidence and alleged acts in the hush money case overlap with his time in the White House and constitute official acts.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments April 25, a month after the scheduled start of jury selection in Trump’s hush money case. It is the first of his four criminal cases slated to go to trial as he closes in on the Republican presidential nomination in his quest to retake the White House.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office declined to comment. Prosecutors are expected to respond to Trump’s delay request in court papers later this week.

Trump first raised the immunity issue in his Washington, D.C., criminal case, which involves allegations that he worked to overturn the results of the 2020 election in the run-up to the violent riot by his supporters at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

The hush money case centers on allegations that Trump falsified his company’s internal records to hide the true nature of payments to his former lawyer Michael Cohen, who helped Trump bury negative stories during his 2016 presidential campaign. Among other things, Cohen paid porn actor Stormy Daniels $130,000 to suppress her claims of an extramarital sexual encounter with Trump years earlier.

Trump’s lawyers argue that some evidence Manhattan prosecutors plan to introduce at the hush money trial, including messages he posted on social media in 2018 about money paid to Cohen, were from his time as president and constituted official acts.

Trump pleaded not guilty last year to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. He has denied having a sexual encounter with Daniels, and his lawyers argue the payments to Cohen were legitimate legal expenses and not part of any cover-up.

A federal judge last year rejected Trump’s claim that allegations in the hush money indictment involved official duties, nixing his bid to move the case from state court to federal court. Had the case been moved to federal court, Trump’s lawyers could’ve tried to get the charges dismissed on the grounds that federal officials have immunity from prosecution over actions taken as part of their official duties.


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