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Father testifies in Australian court cardinal abused son
Legal Watch | 2018/03/16 04:29
A father testified in an Australian court Thursday that his son said he was sexually abused by Vatican Cardinal George Pell during a waterskiing outing years ago. When a defense lawyer accused him of lying, the father told the court it was an insult.

The testimony in the Melbourne Magistrate Court came at a hearing to determine whether prosecutors have sufficient evidence to put Pell on trial.

Pope Francis' former finance minister was charged in June with sexually abusing multiple people in his Australian home state of Victoria. The details of the allegations have yet to be released to the public, though police have described the charges as "historical," meaning they allegedly occurred decades ago.

Pell, 76, has said he will plead not guilty if the magistrate rules a jury trial is warranted.

The father of one of the alleged victims, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, testified via a video link that he first learned of the alleged abuse in 2015 and that his son struggled to talk about it.

Defense lawyer Robert Richter said the father did not name Pell in a statement he made to police then. "Do you have any explanation as to how it is there is no mention of Pell there, as having done anything wrong at the lake?" Richter asked.

The lawyer said the father had only recently named Pell as the alleged offender. "That's an invention of yours since July 2015 when you made your statement," Richter told the father.

Facing death penalty, school shooting suspect in court
Headline News | 2018/03/15 11:29
Now formally facing the death penalty, the suspect in the Valentine’s Day school shooting that killed 17 people in Florida is headed for a court appearance Wednesday on a 34-count indictment.

An arraignment hearing is set for 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, whose attorneys say he will plead guilty to all charges if the death penalty is not pursued in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre. But Broward County State Attorney Michael Satz on Tuesday filed formal notice that prosecutors will indeed seek capital punishment.

Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein, whose office is representing Cruz, has said there were so many warning signs that Cruz was mentally unstable and potentially violent, and that the death penalty might be going too far.

In an email Tuesday, Finkelstein said Cruz is “immediately ready” to plead guilty in return for 34 consecutive life sentences.

“We are not saying he is not guilty but we can’t plead guilty while death is still on the table,” Finkelstein said.

If Cruz does not enter a plea himself — known as standing mute before the court — a not guilty plea will likely be entered on his behalf by Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer to keep the legal process moving along, his attorneys have said.

In every case, there is always the possibility of a plea deal. The only other penalty option for Cruz, if convicted, is life in prison with no possibility of parole.

Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jamie Guttenberg died in the shooting, was angry the state decided to pursue the death penalty, noting how tortuously long capital punishment cases last.

Czech top court delays alleged Russian hacker extradition
Lawyer Blogs | 2018/03/14 11:30
The Czech Republic's top court said Tuesday it has delayed the extradition of an alleged Russian hacker until it deals with a last-ditch complaint filed by him.

It means that the justice minister can't finalize Yevgeniy Nikulin's extradition until the Constitutional Court rules on the matter.

Nikulin has exhausted all appeals, but his lawyers presented a final complaint to the court in a bid to postpone his extradition to either the U.S. or Russia. The contents of the complaint weren't made public, but Nikulin's defense has previously said that appeals court judges were biased.

Czech authorities arrested Nikulin in Prague in cooperation with the FBI in October 2016. He is accused by U.S. prosecutors of hacking computers at Silicon Valley firms including LinkedIn and Dropbox in 2012 and the U.S. wanted him extradited to face a trial there.

Moscow also wants him extradited on a separate charge of internet theft in 2009.

Both countries submitted their extradition requests on the same date.

Nikulin denies he's a hacker. His defense attorney claimed his case was politically motivated in the U.S.

Czech courts ruled that both extradition requests meet the necessary legal conditions, leaving the final decision to Justice Minister Robert Pelikan.

Greek court rejects Turkish extradition request
Attorneys News | 2018/03/13 11:30
A Greek court on Wednesday rejected a Turkish extradition request for a young woman who was among nine suspected Turkish militants arrested in Athens ahead of an official visit by Turkey's president late last year.

A panel of three judges ruled 21-year-old Halaz Secer may be tried for issues other than what the extradition request sought her for and that her life could be in danger if returned to Turkey. The judges also ruled that some offences she was being sought for, such as participating in protests and making banners, were not crimes.

The nine, Turkish citizens of Kurdish origin, were arrested for alleged links to the left-wing Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front, which Turkey, the United States and the European Union consider a terrorist organization.

Secer is the third of the nine to see an extradition request from Turkey rejected. Two others - Naci Ozpolat, 48 and Mehmet Dogan, 60 - have also had the extradition request for them rejected in recent weeks.

After the hearing she returned to jail, where she is being held on Greek charges related to the possession of explosives. She denies being part of a terrorist organization.

Proesecutor Ourania Stathea had recommended the judges reject the extradition request, noting that charges for which Turkey was seeking Secer included "forming and running an armed terrorist organization since 2007," when she would have been 10 years old. Stathea noted Turkey has been under a state of emergency since July 2016, after a failed military coup there, which has led to the imprisonment of thousands of people, including civil servants, journalists, judges and military personnel.

Testifying in court, Secer insisted she was not a member of any terrorist organization, and said she had been protesting in Turkey to call for free education. The young woman said she has been arrested three times from the age of 17 for her activism, and held several months each time. She told the court she suffered injuries during each of the arrests.

Appeals court weighs resuming pipeline project in Louisiana
Top Legal News | 2018/03/11 11:30
A company building a crude oil pipeline in Louisiana is asking a federal appeals court to allow it to resume construction work in an environmentally fragile swamp.

A three-judge panel from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear arguments Tuesday on Bayou Bridge Pipeline LLC's request. The company is seeking an "emergency stay" that would lift a court-ordered halt in pipeline construction in the Atchafalaya Basin.

On Feb. 23, U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick sided with environmental groups and issued a preliminary injunction that suspended work in the basin until the groups' lawsuit is resolved. The judge concluded the project's irreversible environmental damage outweighs the economic harm that a delay brings to the company. And on Thursday, she refused to suspend her own ruling while the company appeals it.

In court filings, company attorneys claim Dick's ruling "fails the basic requirements" for issuing such an order. The basin accounts for approximately 23 miles (37 kilometers) of the pipeline's 162-mile-long (261-kilometer) path from Lake Charles to St. James Parish.

Dick's order only applies to the basin and doesn't prevent the company from working elsewhere along the route. The company said the work stoppage is costing it up to $500,000 per day in labor expenses and $6 million per month in lost revenue. The judge said the company's estimated losses aren't supported by the "underlying data."

Sierra Club and other environmental groups sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in January, saying it violated the Clean Water Act and other environmental laws when it approved a permit for the project.

TransCanada doesn't have to pay landowner attorneys
Headline News | 2018/03/10 12:31
The developer of the Keystone XL pipeline doesn't have to reimburse attorneys who defended Nebraska landowners against the company's efforts to gain access to their land, the state Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The high court's ruling resolves a dispute that was triggered when TransCanada Inc. filed eminent domain lawsuits against 71 Nebraska landowners in 2015, only to drop them later amid uncertainty over whether the process it used was constitutional.

"We conclude that none of the landowners established that they were entitled to attorney fees," Chief Justice Michael Heavican wrote in the opinion.

Omaha attorney Dave Domina argued that TransCanada owes his clients about $350,000 to cover their attorney fees. Domina said the landowners clearly asked for representation in the eminent domain cases, and TransCanada should pay their attorney fees because the company effectively lost those cases.

A TransCanada attorney, James Powers, argued that the landowners failed to prove that they actually paid or were legally indebted to Domina or his law partner, Brian Jorde.

"We're pleased the Nebraska Supreme Court agreed with our legal position," Powers said Friday. Domina said he respected the decision but was disappointed for his clients.

Former Trump campaign aide Nunberg at court for grand jury
Top Legal News | 2018/03/10 12:31
A former Trump campaign aide appeared for hours before a federal grand jury Friday, after he defiantly insisted in a series of news interviews just days earlier that he intended to defy a subpoena in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.

Sam Nunberg spent more than six hours inside the federal courthouse in Washington. He declined to speak with journalists on the way in or out of the building, and it was not immediately clear what testimony he offered to the grand jury or what documents he provided.

His appearance marked a turnabout from extraordinary public statements Monday when Nunberg, in multiple interviews, balked at complying with a subpoena that sought his appearance before the grand jury as well as correspondence with other campaign officials. In doing so, he became the first witness in the Mueller probe to openly threaten to defy a subpoena.

Nunberg said he worked for hours to produce the thousands of emails and other communications requested by Mueller, who is investigating whether Donald Trump's campaign improperly coordinated with Russia during the 2016 presidential election.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing. His lawyers are currently negotiating the terms and scope of a possible interview with Mueller's office.

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