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Man who escaped from Rhode Island prison to appear in court
Opinions | 2017/01/02 12:32
A man who escaped from a Rhode Island prison and was on the run for five days before being captured in Massachusetts is scheduled to make an initial appearance before a federal magistrate judge.

James Morales escaped from the Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls last Saturday and was captured Thursday in Somerville. Authorities believe he may have tried to rob two banks before he was caught.

Morales is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Providence on an escape charge.

Authorities say Morales escaped New Year's Eve by climbing a basketball hoop, cutting through a fence and climbing th brough razor wire. It took hours for correctional officers to notice.

The 35-year-old former Army reservist was being held on charges he stole 16 guns from a U.S. Army Reserve Center in Worcester.



Suspected people smuggler charged in Australian court
Opinions | 2016/10/02 20:11
An Iranian citizen extradited from Indonesia was charged in a Sydney court on Thursday with attempting to smuggle 73 asylum seekers by boat to Australia.

Mohammad Naghi Karimi Azar, 56, on Wednesday became the eighth suspected people smuggler to be extradited from Indonesia to Australia since 2008, a government statement said.

Azar was charged in Sydney Central Local Court with 43 counts of people smuggling, an offense that carries a minimum five-year sentence and a maximum of 20 years.

He appeared by video from a Sydney police station.

Court documents allege Azar facilitated the passage of 73 men, women and children between 2011 and 2013. His lawyer, Archie Hallas, told the court that Azar had spent the last two and a half years in an Indonesian jail.

Azar did not apply for bail. Hallas told the court his client needed time to read the 100-page prosecution case against him. Azar is to appear in court next on Oct. 5.

Outside the court, another lawyer for Azar, Sayar Dehsabzi, told reporters his client intended to plead not guilty.

Dehsabzi said Azar told him he was a refugee registered with the United Nations and had fled Iran in fear of persecution because he was a member of an ethnic minority.



California Supreme Court to consider suit over Yelp review
Opinions | 2016/09/24 06:01
The California Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to consider a lawsuit that Yelp.com warns could lead to the removal of negative reviews on the popular website.

The seven-member court voted unanimously Wednesday to take up an appeal by Yelp of a lower court ruling upholding an order requiring Yelp to remove posts against a San Francisco law firm.

Yelp wants the Supreme Court to overturn the ruling, saying that if it's allowed to stand, it will open the door for businesses to force the company to remove critical reviews.

Dawn Hassell, the law firm's managing attorney, says the business review website is exaggerating the stakes of her legal effort. She says it aims only to remove from Yelp lies by a former client that a judge determined were defamatory, not just negative.

Hassell referred comment Wednesday to her attorney, Monique Olivier, who said in a statement she was not surprised the Supreme Court has taken up the case given the "amount of attention" it has received.

"This case is not one of a 'bad review' " she said. "It is a case where a court adjudicated statements to be defamatory after receiving and reviewing evidence about the falsity of those statements."

Aaron Schur, Yelp's senior director of litigation, said the company looked forward to explaining to the court "how the lower court's decision is ripe for abuse, contradicts longstanding legal principles, and restricts the ability of websites to provide a balanced spectrum of views online."


Stepmom of scalded boy who died pleads guilty to murder
Opinions | 2016/09/12 06:58
A woman accused of holding her 4-year-old stepson in a scalding bath, covering his burns and not getting him medical care before he died was sentenced to at least 18 years in prison after pleading guilty to murder and other charges on Thursday.

A Warren County judge sentenced Anna Ritchie to 18 years to life in prison after she changed her plea from not guilty.

Ritchie was arrested after the March death of Austin Cooper. A detective said Ritchie told police that she put Austin's legs in extra-hot water as punishment because he didn't like baths and that she tried to hide his burns.

Her attorneys had tried unsuccessfully to have evidence from her interview with Franklin police detectives excluded from the case.

County Prosecutor David Fornshell alleged that Ritchie held Austin in extra-hot water for 20 to 25 minutes as he struggled, then put him to bed wearing pajamas and socks to cover his bleeding feet and burned skin, his arms cut where her fingernails had grasped him. His father found him dead in his crib more than 16 hours later, Fornshell said.



Spanish court seeks arrest of Putin-linked Russians
Opinions | 2016/05/12 18:25
A Spanish judge wants two senior Russian officials with links to the Kremlin arrested so they can be questioned in court about suspected money laundering and criminal association.

National court judge Jose de la Mata Amaya has issued international arrest warrants for Nikolai Aulov, deputy director of Russia's federal drug control agency, and Vladislav Reznik, who is a member of parliament's lower house for the main Kremlin party and deputy chairman of its financial markets committee. Both men are viewed as allies of President Vladimir Putin.

They are among 15 suspects in a years long investigation into alleged Russian mafia activities in Spain, according to court documents released this week. The court said their whereabouts are not known.

The judge handed down his ruling in January. A national court spokesman said the case was never placed under judicial secrecy after the arrest orders were issued on Jan. 22 but it only became publicly known after Spain's El Mundo on Tuesday published a story based on documents outlining the judge's order.

The spokesman said he did not know whether those named in the document had Spanish lawyers. He spoke on condition of anonymity, in keeping with court policy.

The Russian federal drug control agency said the Spanish judge's decision to seek Aulov's arrest was "legally unprofessional, a political hit job and perhaps connected with drug mafia revenge," the state RIA Novosti news agency reported.

A lawyer for Reznik, Alexander Gofshtein, also has described the case as being politically driven.



Ruling gives Sandusky back $4,900-a-month Penn State pension
Opinions | 2015/11/11 16:23
The state must restore the $4,900-a-month pension of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky that was taken away three years ago when he was sentenced to decades in prison on child molestation convictions, a court ordered Friday.

A Commonwealth Court panel ruled unanimously that the State Employees' Retirement Board wrongly concluded Sandusky was a Penn State employee when he committed the crimes that were the basis for the pension forfeiture.

"The board conflated the requirements that Mr. Sandusky engage in 'work relating to' PSU and that he engage in that work 'for' PSU," wrote Judge Dan Pellegrini. "Mr. Sandusky's performance of services that benefited PSU does not render him a PSU
employee."

Sandusky, 71, collected a $148,000 lump sum payment upon retirement in 1999 and began receiving monthly payments of $4,900.

The board stopped those payments in October 2012 on the day he was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison for sexually abusing 10 children. A jury found him guilty of 45 counts for offenses that ranged from grooming and fondling to violent sexual attacks. Some of the encounters happened inside university facilities.

The basis for the pension board's decision was a provision in the state Pension Forfeiture Act that applies to "crimes related to public office or public employment," and he was convicted of indecent assault and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.

The judges said the board's characterization of Sandusky as a Penn State employee at the time those offenses occurred was erroneous because he did not maintain an employer-employee relationship with the university after 1999.

The judges ordered the board to pay back interest and reinstated the pension retroactively, granting him about three years of makeup payments.



High court weighs 3 death sentences in Kansas cases
Opinions | 2015/09/28 21:59
The Supreme Court on Wednesday seemed likely to rule against three Kansas men who challenged their death sentences in what one justice called "some of the most horrendous murders" he's ever seen from the bench.

The justices were critical of the Kansas Supreme Court, which overturned the sentences of the men, including two brothers convicted in a murderous crime spree known as the "Wichita massacre."

It was the first high court hearing on death penalty cases since a bitter clash over lethal injection procedures exposed deep divisions among the justices last term.

The debate this time was over the sentencing process for Jonathan and Reginald Carr and for Sidney Gleason, who was convicted in a separate case of killing a couple to stop them from implicating him in a robbery.

The Kansas Supreme Court overturned death sentences in both cases, saying the juries should have been told that evidence of the men's troubled childhoods and other factors weighing against a death sentence did not have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

The state court also ruled that the Carr brothers should have had separate sentencing hearings instead of a joint one. It said Reginald Carr's sentence may have been unfairly tainted because Jonathan Carr blamed Reginald for being a bad influence during their childhoods.

While the attorneys on both sides focused on the legal technicalities, several of the justices couldn't help but dwell on the sordid facts of the Carr case during two hours of oral argument.

Justice Samuel Alito said it involves "some of the most horrendous murders that I have ever seen in my 10 years here. And we see practically every death penalty case that comes up anywhere in the country."

At one point, Justice Antonin Scalia recounted at length the brutal details. Authorities said the brothers broke into a Wichita, Kansas, home in December 2000, where they forced the three men and two women inside to have sex with each other while they watched, then repeatedly raped the women. The brothers then forced the victims to withdraw money from ATMs before taking them to a soccer field, forcing them to kneel, and shooting each one in the head.


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