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Cyprus police frees 5 Israelis, 7 held in hotel rape probe
Legal Interview | 2019/07/28 00:26
A Cyprus court on Friday extended the detention of seven of the 12 Israeli teenagers initially arrested as suspects in the rape of a 19-year-old British woman.

The court ordered the suspects to remain in police custody for another six days to give investigators time to finish looking into the woman’s reported rape at a hotel in the resort town of Ayia Napa.

Defense lawyer Nir Yaslovitzh says five other suspects were released from custody on Thursday and have returned to Israel.

Lawyer Yiannis Habaris told The Associated Press that police investigators confirmed that the five released Israelis had no connection with the case. Habaris represents four suspects, two of whom were among those who were released.

Habaris said investigators connected the seven remaining suspects to the case through witness statements as well as DNA evidence which link three of the seven to the alleged victim.

The Cypriot lawyer said the suspects offered investigators certain “explanations” into their whereabouts at the time of the alleged crime.

The court heard that the alleged victim was involved in a relationship with one of the seven suspects and had sexual contact with several of the remaining six over the course of a few days, Habaris said.

Habaris said investigators may decide to take the case to trial before a criminal court if any of the seven suspects aren’t released in the coming days.

Yaslovitzh, an Israeli lawyer who represents three of the 12 Israelis, alleged the release of the five damaged the accuser’s credibility because she told police a dozen individuals sexually assaulted her.

Yaslovitzh also urged Cypriot investigators to look into the woman’s actions at the hotel where the alleged crime occurred and where she was also working.

The seven suspects again covered their faces with their shirts as they entered and exited the courthouse. They face charges of rape and conspiracy to commit rape.

Yaslovitzh had said after the initial custody hearing that all 12 Israelis had come on holidays to Cyprus in three separate groups and didn’t know each other. Some had gone on vacation prior to being inducted into the Israeli army.


Meek Mill’s conviction thrown out, granted new trial
Law Firm Business | 2019/07/25 00:30
A Pennsylvania appeals court on Wednesday overturned rapper Meek Mill’s conviction in a drug and gun case that has kept the rapper on probation for a decade and made him a celebrity crusader for criminal justice reform.

The unanimous three-judge panel said that new evidence that undermines the credibility of the officer who testified against the rapper at his trial made it likely he would be acquitted if the case were retried.

City prosecutors have backed the defense bid for a new trial and confirmed they do not trust the officer, who has since left the force and was the only prosecution witness at the 2008 nonjury trial. Still, District Attorney Larry Krasner said Wednesday his office needs time to decide whether to drop the case.

The 32-year-old performer, born Robert Rihmeek Williams, is now free of the court supervision he’s been under most of his adult life. Williams has said he had trouble notifying probation officers about his travels as required because of the erratic nature of the music industry. A little more than a year ago, he spent five months in prison over technical violations of his parole.

“The past 11 years have been mentally and emotionally challenging, but I’m ecstatic that justice prevailed,” Williams said in a statement. “Unfortunately, millions of people are dealing with similar issues in our country and don’t have the resources to fight back like I did. We need to continue supporting them.”

Reginald Graham, the officer who wrote the search warrant in Williams’ case and testified at his trial, left the Philadelphia Police department a few years ago after an internal probe found he had stolen money and then lied about it.

Graham testified at trial that Williams pointed a gun at him during his 2007 arrest outside his southwest Philadelphia home. Williams, who was 19 at the time, has denied pointing a gun at police.



Stevens' colleagues pay respects in Supreme Court ceremony
Law Firm Business | 2019/07/22 01:17
Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has been remembered as a "brilliant man" with a "deep devotion to the rule of law" during a ceremony at the court where he served for nearly 35 years.

Stevens died last week in Florida at age 99 after suffering a stroke, and his body is in repose in the court's Great Hall.

At a ceremony Monday morning, Justice Elena Kagan called Stevens modest and humble. Kagan replaced Stevens on the court when he retired in 2010.

Six of Stevens' former colleagues were at the court to pay their respects. Besides Kagan, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor attended the ceremony along with retired Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Stevens will be buried Tuesday in a private ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.



Kosovo prime minister who resigned heads to war crimes court
Legal Interview | 2019/07/22 01:16
The former prime minister of Kosovo left Tuesday for The Hague to be questioned by a special court investigating alleged war crimes by members of the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army two decades ago.

Ramush Haradinaj resigned as prime minister a week ago so as "not to be questioned as the country's leader" by the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, which is looking into crimes against ethnic Serbs allegedly committed during and after Kosovo's 1998-99 war.

"Today, as Ramush Haradinaj, as a citizen of Kosovo, I travel to the Hague for the third time, to prove that the Freedom Soldiers of Kosovo were always aligned with justice & the righteous cause!," Haradinaj tweeted.

At the time of the war, Kosovo was a Serbian province and Haradinaj was a top commander for the Kosovo Liberation Army. A former parliamentary speaker, a presidential adviser and other former KLA commanders also are expected to be questioned this week by the special tribunal.

The court, which is part of the Kosovo judicial system despite being based in the Netherlands, started questioning former Kosovo fighters this year.

Haradinaj was prosecuted for alleged war crimes and acquitted twice before. A United Nations tribunal first cleared him of war crimes and crimes against humanity charges in 2008. The appeals chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia concluded in 2010 that witnesses had been intimidated. It sent the case back for a partial retrial. Haradinaj and two other former KLA commanders were acquitted in November 2012.



Trump asks Supreme Court to unfreeze border wall money
Legal Watch | 2019/07/18 09:46
The Trump administration on Friday asked the Supreme Court to lift a freeze on Pentagon money it wants to use to build sections of a border wall with Mexico.

Two lower courts have ruled against the administration in a lawsuit over the funding. Last week, a divided three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco kept in place a lower court ruling preventing the government from tapping Defense Department counterdrug money to build high-priority sections of wall in Arizona, California and New Mexico.

At stake in the case is billions of dollars that would allow Trump to make progress on a major 2016 campaign promise heading into his race for a second term. Trump ended a 35-day government shutdown in February after Congress gave him approximately $1.4 billion in border wall funding, far less than the $5.7 billion he was seeking. Trump then declared a national emergency to take cash from other government accounts to use to construct sections of wall.

The money includes $3.6 billion from military construction funds, $2.5 billion from Defense Department counterdrug activities and $600 million from the Treasury Department's asset forfeiture fund. The Treasury Department funds have so far survived legal challenges, and the transfer of the military construction funds has not yet been approved.

At issue in the case before the Supreme Court is just the $2.5 billion in Defense Department funds, which the administration says will be used to construct more than 100 miles of fencing. The lawsuit challenging the use of those funds was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the Sierra Club and Southern Border Communities Coalition. Late Friday, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan gave the groups until the afternoon of July 19 to respond in writing to the Trump administration's filing.


High court rejects appeal of killer of 4 people in Omaha
Headline News | 2019/07/15 01:17
The Nebraska Supreme Court on Friday upheld the convictions and death sentence of a man who killed four people in Omaha, seemingly at random, shortly after his release from prison in 2013.

Nikko Jenkins pleaded no contest in 2014 to four counts of first-degree murder and multiple weapons counts for three separate, deadly attacks around Omaha. He was sentenced to death  in 2017 after years of delays over concerns regarding his mental health. The high court’s opinion addressed combined direct appeals on Jenkins’ behalf.

Among the arguments Jenkins’ attorneys made is that the trial court abused its discretion in accepting his no-contest pleas in a death penalty case. In a no-contest plea, a defendant does not admit guilt, but concedes there is enough evidence for a conviction. The plea has the same effect as a guilty plea.

The Douglas County Public Defender office also argued that the court was wrong to allow Jenkins to represent himself and that, because it believes Jenkins is mentally ill, sentencing him to death violated the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.




Public unions see only modest decline after court ruling
Legal Interview | 2019/07/13 19:45
Anticipating that the U.S. Supreme Court might end mandatory union fees for public employees, some labor-friendly states enacted laws last year to protect membership rolls while unions redoubled their recruitment efforts.

Those steps appear to have paid off, at least initially.

Union membership among public employees has fallen only slightly in the nation’s most unionized states since the Supreme Court ruled a year ago that government workers no longer could be required to pay union fees, according to an analysis of federal data conducted for The Associated Press.

The decline in union membership rates has been larger in states that had previously allowed mandatory fees to be deducted from the paychecks of public school teachers, police and other government workers than in states that had not. Yet the drop has been less than what some labor leaders had feared following the high court decision, which reversed a 41-year-old legal precedent.



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