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Lawyer: Incapacitated woman who gave birth not in coma
Legal Watch | 2019/01/20 15:08
A lawyer for the family of an incapacitated Arizona woman who gave birth in a long-term care facility said she is not in a coma as previously reported.

The Arizona Republic reported Friday that attorney John Micheaels said the 29-year-old woman has “significant intellectual disabilities” and does not speak but has some ability to move, responds to sounds and is able to make facial gestures.

Phoenix police have said the woman was the victim of a sexual assault and have disclosed little other information.

A Jan. 8 statement by San Carlos Apache Tribe officials said the woman, a tribal member, gave birth while in a coma.

News media outlets have reported that the woman, who has not been publicly identified, was in a vegetative state at the facility where she spent many years.

“The important thing here is that contrary to what’s been reported, she is a person, albeit with significant intellectual disabilities. She has feelings and is capable of responding to people she is familiar with, especially family,” Micheaels told the newspaper.




Model in Russian court apologizes for US election claim
Court Center | 2019/01/17 15:15
A Belarusian model and self-styled sex instructor who last year claimed to have evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election said Saturday that she apologizes to a Russian tycoon for the claim and won't say more about the matter.

Anastasia Vashukevich made the statement in a Moscow court that was considering whether to keep her in jail as she faces charges of inducement to prostitution. The court extended her detention for three more days.

Vashukevich's statement appears to head off any chance of her speaking to U.S. investigators looking into possible collusion between Russia and President Donald Trump's campaign.

Vashukevich, who goes by the name Nastya Rybka on social media, was arrested in Thailand last February on prostitution charges. She and several others were arrested in connection with a sex training seminar they were holding in Thailand.

After her arrest she claimed she had audio tapes of Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska, who is close to President Vladimir Putin, talking about interference in the U.S. election.

She had shot to world attention a few weeks earlier when a Russian opposition leader published an investigation based on her social media posts that suggested corrupt links between Deripaska and Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko. The report featured video from Deripaska's yacht in 2016, when Vashukevich says she was having an affair with him.

She was deported from Thailand on Thursday after pleading guilty and was detained when her flight arrived in Moscow, along with three other deportees including mentor Alexander Kirillov.

She told journalists in the Moscow court that she has apologized to Deripaska and says "I will no longer compromise him."

Deripaska is among the Russian tycoons and officials who have been sanctioned in recent years by the United States in connection with Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea. His business empire includes aluminum, energy and construction assets.

He also once was a client of Paul Manafort, the former campaign manager for Trump. Manafort was convicted last year in the United States of tax and bank fraud.


Connecticut Supreme Court issues fewer rulings in 2018
Court Center | 2019/01/17 15:10
Connecticut officials say state Supreme Court rulings declined sharply in 2018, possibly a result of a major shakeup of the court over the past two years that included the appointments of a new chief justice and four new associate justices.

The Connecticut Law Tribune reports the seven-member high court decided 86 cases in 2018, a 17 percent decrease from the 104 cases decided in 2017.

Paul Hartan is the chief administrative officer for state appeals courts. He says the learning curve of new justices likely contributed to the decline in rulings.

New justices appointed to fill vacancies since March 2017 include Gregory D'Auria, Raheem Mullins, Maria Araujo Kahn and Steven Ecker. Justice Richard Robinson became chief justice last May, succeeded Chase Rogers, who retired.



Congo court poised to rule on presidential vote challenge
Top Legal News | 2019/01/15 15:14
Congo's constitutional court is poised to rule on a challenge to the presidential election, with the government on Friday dismissing an unprecedented request by the African Union continental body to delay releasing the final results because of "serious doubts" about the vote.

Upholding the official results could spark new violence in a country hoping for its first peaceful, democratic transfer of power since independence in 1960. At least 34 people have been killed since provisional results were released on Jan. 10, the United Nations said.

The AU on Monday will send a high-level delegation to Congo to address the crisis in the vast Central African nation rich in the minerals key to smartphones and electric cars around the world. Its neighbors are concerned that unrest could spill across borders.

Congo government spokesman Lambert Mende called the matter one for the country's judicial bodies, and "the independence of our judiciary is no problem."

The declared runner-up in the Dec. 30 election, Martin Fayulu, has requested a recount, alleging fraud. He asserts that Congo's electoral commission published provisional results wildly different from those obtained at polling stations.

Fayulu welcomed the AU's stance and urged Congolese to support it.

Congo faces the extraordinary accusation of an election allegedly rigged in favor of the opposition. Fayulu's supporters have asserted that outgoing President Joseph Kabila made a backroom deal with the declared winner, Felix Tshisekedi, when the ruling party's candidate did poorly.



Congo runner-up Fayulu asks court to order election recount
Legal Watch | 2019/01/13 01:58
Congo's presidential runner-up Martin Fayulu has asked the constitutional court to order a recount in the disputed election, declaring on Saturday that "you can't manufacture results behind closed doors."

He could be risking more than the court's refusal. Congo's electoral commission president Corneille Nangaa has said there are only two options: The official results are accepted or the vote is annulled — which would keep President Joseph Kabila in power until another election. The Dec. 30 one came after two years of delays.

"They call me the people's soldier ... and I will not let the people down," Fayulu said. Evidence from witnesses at polling stations across the country is being submitted to the court, which is full of Kabila appointees.

Rifle-carrying members of Kabila's Republican Guard deployed outside Fayulu's home and the court earlier Saturday. It was an attempt to stop him from filing, Fayulu said while posting a video of them on Twitter: "The fear remains in their camp."

Fayulu has accused the declared winner, opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi, of a backroom deal with Kabila to win power in the mineral-rich nation as the ruling party candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, did poorly.

The opposition coalition for Fayulu, a businessman vocal about cleaning up widespread corruption, has said he won 61 percent of the vote, citing figures compiled by the Catholic Church's 40,000 election observers across the vast Central African country.


Las Vegas police seeking soccer star's DNA in rape case
Court Center | 2019/01/12 23:40
Cristiano Ronaldo is being asked by police to provide a DNA sample in an investigation of a Nevada woman's allegation that he raped her in his Las Vegas hotel penthouse in 2009 and paid her to keep quiet, the soccer star's lawyer and Las Vegas police said Thursday.

Attorney Peter S. Christiansen downplayed the development, denied the rape allegation and called evidence collection common in any investigation.

Police said in a statement that an official request has been submitted to Italian authorities for a DNA sample from the superstar player. Officer Laura Meltzer, a department spokeswoman, said the request involved a warrant.

Ronaldo, 33, plays for the Turin-based soccer club Juventus.

"Mr. Ronaldo has always maintained, as he does today, that what occurred in Las Vegas in 2009 was consensual in nature," Christiansen said, "so it is not surprising that DNA would be present, nor that the police would make this very standard request as part of their investigation."

Former model and schoolteacher Kathryn Mayorga reported the alleged attack to police in June 2009 and underwent a medical exam to collect DNA evidence.

But the investigation ended a short time later because Las Vegas police say she only identified her attacker as a European soccer player - not by name - and did not say where the incident took place.


Court: State, governor can't be sued over public defenders
Legal Watch | 2019/01/12 09:50
Missouri and its governor cannot be sued over the state’s underfunded and understaffed public defender system, a federal appeals court has ruled.

A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday said the legal doctrine of sovereign immunity means the state can’t commit a legal wrong and cannot be sued unless the legislature makes exceptions in state law, KCUR reported.

American Civil Liberties Union-Missouri filed the class action lawsuit in 2017. The organization argued the governor and state have ignored their constitutional obligation to provide meaningful legal representation to indigent clients by not providing enough funds to address chronic underfunding and understaffing in the public defender system. ACLU-Missouri argues in the lawsuit that Mississippi is the only state to allocate less than the $355 per case that Missouri spends for its indigent defense budget.

The lawsuit will continue against the head of the public defender system, Michael Barrett, and the public defender commission.

The decision, written by Judge Duane Benton, does not address the merits of the lawsuit. But the ruling means the legislature can’t be forced to appropriate more money to the system.

“It would be easier if the state itself were a defendant,” said Tony Rothert, legal director of ACLU-Missouri.

Rothert said if the ACLU prevails against the other defendants, the court could order the state to reduce public defenders’ caseloads, or prosecutors could use their discretion to not bring charges for certain crimes. Or defendants who aren’t considered dangerous could be released on bail and put on a waiting list for public defenders rather than staying in jail while awaiting trial.


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