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

'Charlie Brown Christmas' song owners sue Dollywood: Reports

The owners of the copyright for the theme song to the “Charlie Brown Christmas” TV special are suing Dolly Parton's 'Dollywood' in federal court for copyright infringement. Read the rest

New Tekashi69 sentencing date announced

Not ashamed to admit I'm obsessed with this crime story. Read the rest

Michael Avenatti sued over claims he pilfered paraplegic's $4 million

Attorney and disgraced anti-Trump media gadfly Michael Avenatti has been sued again, this time over allegations he siphoned off a paraplegic client's $4 million settlement. 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?

Read the rest

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.

Read the rest

I’m suing the U.S. government for causing the climate change crisis #YouthVGov

My name is Kelsey Juliana and I’m suing the United States government for causing and accelerating the climate change crisis. I’m 22 years old and I’ve been a climate advocate for more than half of my life. Read the rest

Ohio judge: transgender teen lacks "maturity, knowledge and stability" to get a name change

The slow eroding of autonomy for trans youth continues apace in Ohio, where a judge denied a legal name change to a trans teen who has taken all available social and medical steps required to do so. Read the rest

Canadian border authorities hold citizen without charge for eight months

Look, we’re not all maple syrup lollipops and free healthcare up here. According to the CBC, a naturalized Canadian citizen was held against his will, without charge, for 10 months while immigration officials attempted to verify his identity.

47-year old Nigerian-born Olajide Ogunye moved to Canada with his family in the 1990s and, in 1996, he became a Canadian Citizen. But that didn’t matter to the Canadian Border Services Agency. During a sweep of his neighborhood (which, I have to admit, I had no idea that the CBSA did), Ogunye was told to produce evidence of his citizenship. So he did: His Ontario Health card and Canadian Citizenship card.

But here’s the thing: despite his producing two pieces of government identification – the gold standard for get-out-of-my-face-I’m-a-citizen, the CBSA refused to believe that Ogunye was who he claimed to be. So, without charge, they took him into custody so that he could be properly identified.

From the CBC:

According to Ogunye's statement of claim, the officers ran his fingerprints, which they said matched the identity of a man named Oluwafemi Kayode Johnson, a failed refugee claimant who had been deported from Canada to Nigeria in the 1990s.

Ogunye says he was told the CBSA believed he was actually Johnson, who had returned to Canada illegally and assumed Ogunye's identity. Those fingerprints, according to court documents, were never produced by the CBSA to Ogunye.

This shit went on for EIGHT MONTHS. Despite having not committed any crime, Ogunye was remanded to two different mixed medium/maximum security prisons. Read the rest

Everyone's rescinding honors paid to Bill Cosby faster than shit through a goose

One of the great things about the past few years has been having it come to pass that, if you build a long, respected career in the public eye, yet simultaneously act like a lecherous scumbag behind closed doors, you're going to pay for it. Hard.

Days after Bill Cosby was convicted on three counts of aggravated indecent assault for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand 14 years ago, the hits to his legacy keep coming.

Almost as soon as the verdict in Cosby's case was announced, universities and colleges that had given the comedian honorary degrees over the years began to take them back. Five days ago, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, less than thrilled with the optics of having a convicted sex criminal among its members, kicked Cosby's puddin' pop loving ass to the curb. But the best was yet to come: yesterday, The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts followed suit by revoking Honors that its board had bestowed on the tranquilizer-and-rape-happy celebrity over the years. Cosby is the first honoree in the Kennedy Center's history to have his awards rescinded.

That should look real nice on Cosby's Wikipedia page.

From the Washington Post:

In a statement released Monday, the arts center said that Cosby’s conviction eclipsed his decades-long performance career.

“The Honors and Mark Twain Prize are given to artists who, through their lifetime of work, have left an indelible impact on American culture. As a result of Mr. Cosby’s recent criminal conviction, the Board concluded that his actions have overshadowed the very career accomplishments these distinctions from the Kennedy Center intend to recognize.”

That quote, in my mind, is the literary equivalent of a throat punch. Read the rest

Tackle shitty working conditions with this free human resources service

Unless you're self employed, like I am, sooner or later you're going to need to talk to someone about a Human Resources issue. There might be someone harassing you in your workplace. Maybe your douche of a boss is stealing your tip money. It might be that your workplace is filled with bigots giving you a hard time for your sexual orientation, the color of your skin or beliefs.

Whatever your reasons for doing it, approaching management can suck: while the people in your human resources department are there to address workplace issues that mess with the safety and satisfaction of employees, when it comes down to it, they work for the same company as you do. If it comes down to protecting the company they work for or doing you a good turn, they might not side with you. As such, it's a very good idea to get some professional, unbiased advice on a workplace issue before broaching it with management.

Hootsworth is an online service that provides anyone who needs it with free advice from employment lawyers and Human Resources experts. According to TechCrunch, all you need do is hit them up online, ask a question and, within 24 hours, you'll receive a personalized response. In order to help others that may be in the same boat as you, Hootsworth will then anonymize your question so that other users of the service can browse the expert answer to your problem that was given.

While it won't help you to muster up the courage to put in a complaint about your working conditions, the service could go along way towards your heading into your next HR meeting armed with the knowledge you need to ensure the outcome that you're looking for. Read the rest

Daily Stormer may soon have to reveal who funds its hate-fueled bullshit

Thanks to a recent court filing, we may soon see who's responsible for funding the bigoted neo-nazi bullshit machine we all loathe and know as The Daily Stormer. Read the rest

House passes motion that lets members buy bulletproof vests with your tax dollars

Oh, this is fun: No one in the government seems to be doing much of anything to help curb gun violence, but they're totally willing to use your tax dollars on bulletproof vests to keep their corpulent asses from getting zipped.

According to The Hill, The Committee on House Administration, by voice vote, passed a measure to make bulletproof vests a reimbursable expense. The motion also makes it cool for members to hire security to cover their six during public appearances, when they're at their office or taking a whizz at an Olive Garden during a working lunch. The Hill's Avery Anapol points out that the motion to keep House members safe from bullets that regular folks have to deal with on their own comes on the heels of Steve Scalise (R-La.) returning to Washington after getting shot last summer during a ball game. So, yeah, I can see why they're a little jumpy, but c'mon.

Given that members were already granted an additional $25,000 to implement greater security measures last year in the wake of Scalise's shooting, their being able to put risk management add-ons on the tab of taxpayers has a rotten smell to it – especially in light of the discussion surrounding school shootings and gun ownership these past few weeks/month/years.

Image: National Photo Company/Wikimedia Commons Read the rest

Rancher takes feds to court over camera they placed on his property without permission

Ricardo Palacios, a 74-year old rancher, had gotten used to Customs and Border Protection officials tromping across his south Texas ranch lands without permission over the years. But finding a wireless surveillance camera set up in one of his trees? Not OK. Upon discovering the device, Palacios removed it immediately. It wasn't long after that he started receiving calls from CBP and the Texas Rangers demanding that he turn the camera over to them or face charges.

Having taken enough of their shit, instead of turning the camera over, Palacios gave the feds something else instead: a lawsuit.

According to Ars Technica, Palacios, who's been a lawyer for 50 years,  named the two agencies and a CBP agent in a lawsuit that accuses them of violating his constitutional rights, by trespassing on his land, and setting up cameras where ever they damn well please. It's an important case: CBP claims it has a right, within a 100-mile radius of the American border, to stop people (including U.S. citizens, which flies in the face of the Fourth Amendment,) search cars and personal belongings in the name of border security, without a warrant. But this doesn't allow them to go traipsing on to private property in the name of their duties without permission. They're only allowed to  do that within 25 miles of the border.

Palacios' ranch? It's 35 miles away from the edge of the U.S./Mexican border. This alone would be enough to warrant a suit against the government. But there's more:

As Palacios alleges in the civil complaint, his interactions with CBP began in April 2010 when his two sons were stopped at a checkpoint along I-35.

Read the rest

ICE lawyer used his position to steal personal information from immigrants

The men and women of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) never seem to miss a chance to make themselves look like a shower of bastards. They've gone after a 10-year-old girl as she came out of surgery, separated children from their parents, and have created an environment where calling on the police for help can be a terrifying experience for undocumented immigrants.

One could argue that these things all happen as a result of current American legislation, morality be damned. ICE agents are doing exactly what they were empowered to do. As so much of what ICE does makes many people want to take a bath after reading about it, it's heartening to find that not all of the bullshit ICE employees pull is hunky dory under the rule of law. According to the Washington Post, a lawyer in the employ of ICE has been charged with stealing the identities of seven people under investigation by ICE, using their credentials for financial gain.

Charged with one count of aggravated identity theft and identity fraud, Raphael A. Sanchez, ICE’s chief legal counsel in Seattle, is up Shit Creek with nary a paddle in sight. According to the charging documents filed against Sanchez, the lawyer allegedly attempted to defraud several financial institutions using the identity information of individuals under investigation by ICE between October 2016- October 2017. There's not a lot of information out there on the extent of Sanchez's alleged crimes, yet. But we could learn more about what he was getting up to soon, as a plea hearing for his case is scheduled for later this week. 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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