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Arizonan sentenced for Vegas-based scheme targeting migrants
Headline News | 2022/09/23 14:00
An Arizona man who convinced recent immigrants from mainly Asian countries to pay him thousands of dollars each to help them gain U.S. citizenship has been sentenced to nearly six years in prison by a federal judge in Las Vegas, authorities announced.

Court documents show Douglas Lee Thayer, 70, of Mohave Valley collected payments of between $7,000 and $20,000 from at least 160 recent immigrants by promising them the company he ran would find a family to adopt them as adults. He told the victims he would then get them new birth certificates and other documents that would let them gain U.S. citizenship.

A federal jury in Las Vegas convicted Thayer of two criminal counts of mail fraud on April. 18, and he was sentenced on Friday. He is set to surrender to start his sentence next month.

According to the indictment and a sentencing memorandum from federal prosecutors, Thayer ran a Las Vegas-based business called U.S. Adult Adoption Services. After the Justice Department announced in 2016 that it had shut down a similar scheme in Sacramento, California, Thayer offered refunds to the Asian and Hispanic immigrants.

He had charged more than $1 million in fees, but the refunds were only a fraction of what he collected, and prosecutors said he netted more than $850,000.

The owner of the Sacramento business was later sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors said Thayer’s victims were particularly vulnerable because they mostly were recent immigrants who spoke little English and knew little if anything about immigration law. The government does not provide an easier path to citizenship for immigrants who are adopted as adults by Americans.

“This prison sentence should serve as a warning that taking advantage of vulnerable victims, regardless of citizenship status, will be investigated and prosecuted,” U.S. Attorney for Nevada Jason Frierson said in a statement.

In pushing for a harsh sentence, Assistant U.S. Attorney Simon Kung said in his sentencing memo to U.S. District Judge Gloria M. Navarro that Thayer “has spent his entire life committing crimes,” included armed robbery, attempted murder and rape, narcotics and the latest, fraud.

“Despite spending more than 20 years in prison prior to the instant offense, he has not been deterred from crime,” Kung wrote.


Lobster fishing union drops lawsuit about new whale closure
Headline News | 2022/08/26 19:28
A lobster fishing union in Maine has decided to drop part of its lawsuit against the federal government over new restrictions meant to protect rare whales.

The Maine Lobstering Union sued the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration after the government instated a seasonal ban on lobster fishing gear in a nearly 1,000-square-mile area off New England to try to protect North Atlantic right whales. The whales are vulnerable to entanglement in the gear.

Lawyers for the lobster fishing union told WCSH-TV the union wants instead to focus on other ongoing litigation about new rules intended to protect whales. New fishing rules meant to protect the whales are the subject of other lawsuits that are still under consideration by federal court.

A federal court ruling last month came down in favor of stronger protections for the animals. U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ruled in July that the federal government hasn’t done enough to protect the whales, and must craft new rules. The lobstering union and other fishing groups have pledged to follow that process closely with an eye to protecting the industry.


Court puts on hold Graham’s testimony in Ga. election probe
Headline News | 2022/08/19 05:23
A federal appeals court on Sunday agreed to temporarily put on hold a lower court’s order requiring that U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham testify before a special grand jury that’s investigating possible illegal efforts to overturn then-President Donald Trump’s 2020 election loss in Georgia.

A subpoena had instructed the South Carolina Republican to appear before the special grand jury on Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May last Monday denied Graham’s request to quash his subpoena and on Friday rejected his effort to put her decision on hold while he appealed. Graham’s lawyers then appealed to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

On Sunday, a three-judge panel of the appeals court issued the order temporarily pausing May’s order declining to quash the subpoena. The panel sent the case back to May to decide whether the subpoena should be partially quashed or modified because of protections granted to members of Congress by the U.S. Constitution.

Once May decides that issue, the case will return to the 11th Circuit for further consideration, according to the appeals court order.

Graham’s representatives did not immediately respond Sunday to messages seeking comment on the appellate ruling. A spokesperson for Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis declined to comment.

Willis opened the investigation early last year, prompted by a Jan. 2, 2021, phone call between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. During that conversation, Trump suggested Raffensperger could “find” the votes needed to overturn his narrow loss in the state.



Court reinstates ban on lobster gear to protect right whales
Headline News | 2022/07/13 19:14
A federal circuit court has reinstated a ban on lobster fishing gear in a nearly 1,000-square-mile area off New England to try to protect endangered whales.

The National Marine Fisheries Service issued new regulations last year that prohibited lobster fishing with vertical buoy lines in part of the fall and winter in the area, which is in federal waters off Maine’s coast. The ruling was intended to prevent North Atlantic right whales, which number less than 340, from becoming entangled in the lines.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Maine issued a preliminary injunction to halt enforcement of the rules. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston vacated that ruling Tuesday.

The circuit court sent the case back to the district court level, but noted in its ruling that it does not think the lobster fishing groups that sued to stop the regulations are likely to succeed because Congress has clearly instructed the fisheries service to protect the whales.

“Although this does not mean the balance will always come out on the side of an endangered marine mammal, it does leave plaintiffs beating against the tide, with no more success than they had before,” the court ruled.

The ruling was the second by a federal court in favor of right whale protection in the past week. A U.S. District judge ruled last week that the federal government hasn’t done enough to protect the whales from entanglement in lobster fishing gear, which can be lethal, and new rules are needed to protect the species from extinction.


Pakistani court orders probe into ex-minister’s arrest
Headline News | 2022/05/23 16:51
A court in Pakistan’s capital has ordered an investigation into the controversial arrest of a former human rights minister over a decades old land dispute.

Chief Justice Ather Minallah of the Islamabad High Court late Saturday ordered the probe in response to a petition from the daughter of former minister Shireen Mazari.

Minallah questioned the decision by officials in Islamabad to allow police from a Punjab provincial district to make the arrest in the capital.

Mazari, who served in the Cabinet-level position under former Prime Minister Imran Khan, had been detained by police near her Islamabad home earlier in the day.

Fawad Chaudhry, former information minister in Khan’s administration, alleged that Mazari — the senior leader in Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party — had been politically targeted by the new administration of Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif under the guise of a land dispute dating back to 1972.

Hours after Mazari’s arrest, Chief Minister of Punjab province Hamza Shahbaz ordered her release and late Saturday she was brought to the Islamabad court for an urgent hearing. She was then released.

Mazari has been critical of Sharif’s government on Twitter since Khan’s government was toppled in a no-confidence vote in Parliament last month. Khan’s party lawmakers resigned from the body’s lower house in protest and Khan is mobilizing supporters through public rallies across the country to pressure the government into an early election.


Supreme Court Notebook: Roberts pays tribute to Breyer
Headline News | 2022/04/27 07:18
The fertile mind of Justice Stephen Breyer has conjured a stream of hypothetical questions through the years that have, in the words of a colleague, “befuddled” lawyers and justices alike.

Breyer, 83, seemed a bit subdued as he sat through the last of more than 2,000 arguments Wednesday in which he has taken part during 28 years on the high court. His wife, Joanna, also was in the courtroom.

But at the end of the case about Oklahoma’s authority to prosecute people accused of crimes on Native American lands, an emotional Chief Justice John Roberts paid tribute to Breyer for his prowess during arguments.

“For 28 years, this has been his arena for remarks profound and moving, questions challenging and insightful, and hypotheticals downright silly,” Roberts said.

A day earlier, Breyer provided only the most recent example, inventing a prison inmate named John the Tigerman in a case involving transporting an inmate for a medical test. Breyer called him “the most dangerous prisoner they have ever discovered.”

Just since Breyer announced in late January that he was retiring, he has asked lawyers to answer questions involving spiders, muskrats and “4-foot-long cigars smoked through hookahs” — none of which, it’s fair to say, had any actual links to the cases at hand.



Italy frees man convicted of 2007 murder of Meredith Kercher
Headline News | 2021/11/29 07:07
The only person convicted in the 2007 murder of British student Meredith Kercher was freed Tuesday after serving most of his 16-year prison sentence, his lawyer said.

Attorney Fabrizio Ballarini said Rudy Guede’s planned Jan. 4 release had been moved up a few weeks by a judge and he was freed on Tuesday. He will continue to work in the library at the Viterbo-based Center for Criminology Studies, Ballarini said in an email.

Guede had already been granted permission to leave prison during the day to work at the center while he served his sentence for the 2007 murder of 21-year-old Kercher.

The case in the university city of Perugia gained international notoriety after Kercher’s American roommate, Amanda Knox, and Knox’s then-boyfriend were placed under suspicion. Both were initially convicted, but Italy’s highest court threw out the convictions in 2015 after a series of flip-flop decisions.

Guede was originally convicted in a fast-track trial procedure. He has denied killing Kercher.


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