Florida man impersonated state prosecutors in order to drop charges against himself

Yesterday, Christian Mosco of Volusia County, Florida was sentenced to ten years in prison after impersonating two assistant state prosecutors and attempting to use a fake court document to drop charges against himself. Mosco had previously been busted for extortion. According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, the new charges include "two counts of falsely impersonating an officer, practicing law without authority, two counts of fraudulent use of personal identification and criminal process under color of law and uttering a forgery." From ClickOrlando:

The Volusia County Clerk of Court’s office thought the document seemed suspicious and contacted the state attorney. After an investigation, the two offices determined the document was fraudulent.

“The defendant employed threats, scams and theft in an attempt to further his criminal plans," State Attorney R.J. Larizza said in a news release. "Had he used his talents for positive and law-abiding activities, he would not be on his way to the State Prison System.”

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Gentleman in court on marijuana charge lit up a joint before the judge

Yesterday, in Wilson County, Tennessee, Spencer Alan Boston, 20, was in court on a marijuana possession charge. Facing the judge, Boston made a comment supporting marijuana legalization, pulled a joint from his pocket, lit it, and took a puff. From News Channel 5:

“One of the craziest things I’ve seen,” says (Wilson County sheriff Robert) Bryan.

The sheriff said Boston was led out of the courtroom through a small cloud of smoke. He was booked on a second charge of simple possession and received ten days for contempt of court.

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Judge says Facebook users entitled to better security but not $ damages

In a decision released late Tuesday night, a federal judge ruled that up to 29 million Facebook users whose personal info was stolen in a September 2018 data breach are not entitled to sue Facebook as a group for damages -- but the users may be entitled to demand better personal data security at Facebook. Read the rest

Kentucky atheist can get ‘IM GOD’ license plate, US court rules

A federal court ruled today that an atheist gentleman from Kentucky should be permitted to get a personalized license plate from the state with the phrase “IM GOD” on it. The man is committed to his cause -- this only took three years of legal fighting. Read the rest

Convict who died and was resuscitated argues that his life sentence has been served

In 1996, Benjamin Schreiber, 66, was sentenced to life in prison for killing a man with an axe handle. A few years later in the Iowa State Penitentiary, Schreiber suffered from septic poisoning, briefly died, and was resuscitated. So he argued to an Iowa appeals court that he has served his sentence and should be set free. The court ruled with what might be called the "Schrödinger's convict" respsonse. From the New York Times:

“Schreiber is either still alive, in which case he must remain in prison, or he is actually dead, in which case this appeal is moot,” Judge Amanda Potterfield wrote for the court....

Judge Potterfield wrote in the ruling this week that because “life” is not defined by the state’s code, the judges had given the term “its plain meaning,” which they took to prescribe that Mr. Schreiber must spend the rest of his natural life incarcerated, regardless of whether he had been revived. “We do not find his argument persuasive,” Judge Potterfield wrote, adding that the judges found it unlikely the Legislature would have wanted “to set criminal defendants free whenever medical procedures during their incarceration lead to their resuscitation by medical professionals.”

Image: TheCatalyst31 (CC0 1.0) Read the rest

Judge orders man's mouth taped shut in court, then orders video of it destroyed

A man so vexed District Court Judge Marilyn Castle in Lafayette that she ordered his mouth taped shut. The Advocate reports that Michael C. Duhon, already found guilty of theft, repeatedly interrupted his sentencing hearing. Katie Gagliano reports how Castle lost control of her courtroom:

According to court minutes, Duhon objected when the judge asked him to stop submitting motions on his own behalf in the case instead of through his attorney. He objected again when evidence was submitted. He attempted to offer arguments against the inclusion of the evidence and was told to speak through his attorney. After requesting at least twice for Duhon to remain quiet, Castle ordered the bailiff to tape Duhon’s mouth shut during witness testimony. The tape was removed after an objection from Duhon’s public defense attorney, Aaron Adams. He requested the judge remove his client from the courtroom instead of putting duct tape on his client's mouth.

She also held public defender Michael Gregory —not representing Duhon, but in the gallery—with contempt of court for video-recording the incident, and ordered that the video be destroyed. Gregory apparently obviated the command by submitting the video as evidence in his own contempt hearing; Castle placed it under seal.

Lafayette Judge Marilyn Castle ordered public defender Michael Gregory to pay a $100 fine and said he cannot bring his cellphone, nor use someone else's, to the Lafayette Parish courthouse for six months. ...

Gregory said he felt there was “a compelling necessity to record the proceeding,” but Castle said the focus was on the inappropriate filming itself, not what the recording captured.

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Assange "too ill" for court hearing, says lawyer

Julian Assange, imprisoned at Belmarsh on a 50-week sentence for jumping bail, was said by his lawyer to be too ill to appear by video link at a court hearing Thursday. The WikiLeaks founder is fighting extradition to the United States over the site's publication of classified U.S. government information.

According to WikiLeaks, Assange has been moved to the medical ward in jail.

A spokesman for the whistleblowing website said it had "grave concerns" about Assange's health. "During the seven weeks in Belmarsh his health has continued to deteriorate and he has dramatically lost weight," the spokesman said.

"Defence lawyer for Assange, Per Samuelson, said that Julian Assange's health state last Friday was such 'that it was not possible to conduct a normal conversation with him'."

Has anyone ever conducted a normal conversation with him? Read the rest

This talented courtroom artist has drawn the trials of John Gotti, Martha Stewart, and Donald Trump

Starting in 1974, illustrator Marilyn Church has spent her workdays in court. Church is a courtroom artist who masterfully captures the intensity, drama, and strangeness of high profile proceedings involving John Gotti, Martha Stewart, OJ Simpson, David "Son of Sam" Berkowitz, and even Donald Trump. From an interview with Church in Topic:

How and when did you begin working as a courtroom artist?

It was 1974. I had been doing fashion illustration, which is really based on drawing gestures and being very quick to get everything down.

I had a lawyer friend who was covering a big case, and he told me that there were these artists, hired by television channels, sitting there drawing in court. I was not really a television watcher, so this was a revelation to me. So I turned on a news program and it was the first time I saw a courtroom drawing on television. I was so thrilled to see it, because I can remember seeing drawings in Life magazine when I was young, courtroom drawings, and thinking, God, how exciting. An artist can sit in court, draw some life, and watch these amazing cases happen.

So, right away I just thought, I can do that. I know I can do that. I showed up in court the next day.

You were in the courtroom with Donald Trump a couple of times—for the 1986 USFL v. NFL case, and also his 1992 divorce from Ivana. Can you tell me a little bit about the experience of drawing Trump?

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Judge tells jury to acquit accused sex trafficker because God said she's innocent

In Comal County, Texas, judge Jack Robison, presiding over the trial of accused sex trafficker Gloria Romero Perez, walked into the jury room after the jurors landed on a guilty verdict and urged them to reverse their decision because God says she's innocent. Unswayed, the jurors stuck to their guilty verdict. Another judge later ruled the case a mistrial while the Texas Judicial Commission let Robison off with a public warning. From My San Antonio:

"The judge later apologized to the jury, and said something to the effect of, 'When God tells me I gotta do something, I gotta do it,'" officials wrote in the report...

In his self-report, Robison told the committee he was experiencing memory lapses at the time and was under extreme stress due to treatment for a medical condition and the death of a close friend.

Robison provided letters from two medical professionals that Robison's outburst was caused by a "temporary, episodic medical condition referred to as a 'delirum.'" The professionals said that the issue appears to be resolved and that Robison is not currently experiencing the same impairment.

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Juror's concern that man on trial didn't swear on the bible results in the verdict getting tossed

On Friday, an appeals court judge in Camden County, New Jersey tossed out a verdict against Dr. Abbas Husain who in 2011 a jury found guilty of having sexually harassed an office employee. It came out later that one of the jurors was "very passionate" and concerned that Husain, who is Hindu, hadn't put his hand on the bible when taking the oath to testify. The juror had raised her concern with other jurors. From NJ.com:

“The juror's comment regarding the Bible raises the specter of religious bigotry,” the court’s ruling said.

The decision reversed a Camden County Superior Court judge’s denial of a new trial for Husain in 2016. A jury in 2011 found Husain created a hostile work environment, sexually harassed and retaliated against a then-part time office employee, who was awarded $12,500 in the civil case...

“The Law Division judge said the juror who made the observation was only concerned with Husain's credibility, i.e. that a person who refused to place his hand on the Bible was incapable of taking the oath seriously and was therefore incredible,” the decision said. “He contrasted this with out-and-out religious bigotry. But if he was correct, that too is simply impermissible. The exercise of a person's religion should not make him or her per se incredible.”

“Only a new trial would ensure that the outcome was untainted,” the decision continued. “The possibility that the verdict was a miscarriage of justice is too great for us to decide otherwise.”

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Man who yelled "guilty!" to get out of jury duty was promptly arrested

I guess it's kind of like yelling fire in a crowded theater: Jacob Maldonado of Honolulu, Hawaii had been called as a possible juror in a misdemeanor assault trial but really didn't want to serve on the jury. So just before the selection process began, Maldonado yelled “He is guilty! He is guilty!” outside the courtroom. From TheGardenIsland.com:

(Judge Edward) Kubo declared a mistrial, finding the man’s disturbance had affected the 44 other potential jurors, according to the judge’s order.

The judge ordered Maldonado’s arrest on a contempt charge and set a $10,000 cash bail. Maldonado spent the night in jail and appeared before Kubo on Wednesday morning...

(Attorney Jason) Burks told the judge that Maldonado’s father was recently diagnosed with cancer and his wife was also dealing with medical issues...

Maldonado was released without being charged or fined.

image: "An empty jury box at an American courtroom in Pershing County, Nevada" by Ken Lund Read the rest

New documentary about Adnan Syed from the "Serial" podcast

This spring, HBO will air a new documentary about Adnan Syed, the subject of the first season of the Serial podcast. The four-part series is directed by Amy Berg ("Deliver Us from Evil"). From the Baltimore Sun:

Syed, the subject of the wildly popular “Serial” podcast, was convicted in 2000 of killing his former girlfriend and Woodlawn High School classmate. But “Serial” raised questions about why his attorney, M. Cristina Gutierrez, did not call a potential alibi witness. The attorney died in 2004.

Syed’s conviction was vacated in June 2016 by a Baltimore circuit judge, and the Court of Special Appeals upheld the decision, prompting the state to bring its case for reinstating the conviction before Maryland’s highest court in November.

The HBO trailer prominently features Syed’s family friend, Rabia Chaudry, who brought the case to “Serial” host and former Baltimore Sun reporter Sarah Koenig. The documentary, directed by Academy Award nominee Amy Berg, promises “a piece of evidence that nobody even realized existed for all these years.”

It’s unclear when the Court of Appeals, Maryland’s highest court, will make a decision. Chaudry said in November that Syed’s family expects a ruling by August.

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NY's 1974 ban on nunchaku just deemed unconstitutional

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cqzOo6B0Ic

In 1974, the State of New York banned nunchuku, the Okinawan martial arts weapon popularized in the US by the classic Bruce Lee film Enter the Dragon. On Friday, 44 years later, Brooklyn federal court judge Pamela Chen ruled that the ban is unconstitutional under the Second Amendment. The plaintiff in the case is a fellow named James Maloney who had been busted nearly 20 years ago for possessing nunchaku in this home. From the Associated Press:

The ruling went over the history of the ban, and said it “arose out of a concern that, as a result of the rising popularity ‘of ‘Kung Fu’ movies and shows,′ ‘various circles of the state’s youth’ — including ‘muggers and street gangs’ — were ‘widely’ using nunchaku to cause ‘many serious injuries.’”..

Maloney, a professor at the State University of New York’s Maritime College, said some of his motivation was outrage. “How could a state simply ban any and all possession of a weapon that had a long and proud history as a martial-arts weapon, with recreational, therapeutic and self-defense utility,” he said.

Maloney also wanted to teach a form of martial art using nunchucks that he created, which he calls “Shafan Ha Lavan” to his sons, the ruling said.

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Judge to EPA: you are legally required to turn over Pruitt's documentary evidence for climate denial

Embattled EPA Director Scott Pruitt went on national TV to announce on behalf of the US government that "I would not agree [CO2 is] a primary contributor to the global warming that we see... There’s a tremendous disagreement about the degree of the impact [of] human activity on the climate." Read the rest

Toronto cops eat drugs, freak out, and charged with Attempting to Obstruct Justice

If you’re a cop who calls for backup to save you from drug-induced hallucinations, you’re going to have a bad year.

This past January, Toronto Police Service Constable Vittorio Dominelli and his partner, whose name has yet to be released, were on duty when, allegedly, they decided to chow down on some marijuana-laced edibles. Apparently, they snatched up the Scooby snacks during a raid on a pot dispensary.

It is here that Toronto radio station News Talk 1010 reported that shit began to get weird:

… after carrying out a warrant at a local dispensary Saturday night, two officers, still on the clock, ingested marijuana-infused goodies meant to be taken from the scene as evidence. When they didn't feel the effects of the drugs right away, the pair ate more. Then more.

And then the drugs kicked in.

Oh, and kick in they did: while sitting in their cruiser, the pair of police began tripping balls. Their high was so rough that they called an ambulance and, in a panic, their station house, saying that they needed assistance. For the uninitiated, an officer assistance call is taken very seriously. Any cop in the area that’s not on call, and sometimes, even if they are on a call, will drop what they’re doing and come a-running, full speed, as if the officer who made that call’s life depended on it – because it often does. When backup arrived, one of the dope-addled cops burst from his cruiser and took off running, with responding officers in tow. Read the rest

Canada struggle to end solitary confinement is "justice deferred"

Until recently, under Canadian law, prison administrators could confine their charges to an indefinite period in solitary confinement. Thanks to a pair of high profile court rulings, this could change in a big way, provided the Federal government can get its shit together.

Last month, the Supreme Court in the Canadian province of British Columbia struck down a law that allowed prisoners to be kept indefinitely in solitary confinement. It was a huge win for prison inmates and society: long-term solitary confinement does nothing to rehabilitate or condition an individual to become a more productive member of society. Worse, as humans are social animals, being locked away from our peers for long periods of time can cause psychological trauma--that's not something you want to do to someone who'll eventually be released back into society. Human rights activists in BC applauded the court's decision. Unfortunately, a similar case, heard in a different region of Canada, is keeping the verdict from changing the country's confinement laws.

This past December, a Superior Court Judge in the province of Ontario handed down a verdict that found that solitary confinement lasting any longer than five days is absolute bullshit, according to the Canadian constitution. But, as the CBC details, the practice of doing so does not violate the constitutional rights of the individual being thrown into solitary.

Both verdicts have merit, but which has more weight?

It's a question that the Canadian government has decided can only be answered by another run through the legal system. Read the rest

God told judge to tell jury that defendant should not be convicted, so he did

In New Braunfels, Texas, State District Judge Jack Robison walked into the jury room, twice, during deliberation in a teen sex trafficking case and told the jurors that the defendant shouldn't be convicted. Why? Because God told him to.

"He said he had thought it over and prayed on it and that God told him that he had to say this," said Mark A. House, jury foreman in the weeklong trial of Gloria Romero Perez that concluded Jan. 12.

Robison, a veteran jurist who presides in the 207th district that covers Comal and Hays counties, quickly informed the state and defense counsel of his conduct and recused himself from the punishment phase of the trial.

"It's probably the most unusual thing I've experienced in 20 years as an attorney," said Sylvia A. Cavazos, who represented Perez. "Judge Robison apologized in open court to the jury, saying something to the effect that 'I apologize but, if God tells me to do something, I have to do it...'"

Cavazos contends Perez should receive a new trial because of Robison's actions, but she noted, "The DA's position was (no retrial should occur because) he encouraged them to find her not guilty, and the jury had already reached their verdict, and he didn't change their minds."

House has filed a complaint against Robison with the state judicial authorities.

"Judge facing complaints over trying to sway jury" (San Antonio Express-News) Read the rest

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