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

To avoid honoring FOIA requests, some governments are suing requesters

Freedom of information requests for public records are getting harder to complete, especially now that some governments are suing requesters. Read the rest

Psychology professor who researchers "vampires" reportedly caught licking student's blood in class

Psychology professor Dr. Emyr Williams of Glyndwr University in Wales, UK researchers "real vampires" and often appears on television to discuss their blood-drinking lifestyle.

“We are talking about a group of individuals who believe they have a psychological need to consume blood," Williams has said.

Now an employment tribunal has revealed that after a female student somehow got a cut while in class, Williams allegedly wiped up the blood with his fingers and then licked them. The young woman reported the unusual behavior to one of Williams's PhD student, Helen Coleman, who reported it to school officials. Coleman alleges that the school didn't reprimand Williams but instead punished her, kicking her out of the PhD program.

“This is an extraordinary case," said Coleman's attorney. "We have never dealt with anything like this before.”

"'Extraordinary' claims Glyndwr University student 'turned vampire'" (Daily Post via Mysterious Universe) Read the rest

One design firm's jargon-free contract: 'Time is money. More time is more money'

Chicago-based design firm Segura has streamlined their contract. The result is a simple, but effective, agreement that leaves out all pretentious jargon.

Here are their terms and conditions:

You give me money, I’ll give you creative. I’ll start when the check clears. Time is money. More time is more money. I’ll listen to you. You listen to me. You tell me what you want, I’ll tell you what you need. You want me to be on time, I want you to be on time. What you use is yours, what you don’t is mine. I can’t give you stuff I don’t own. I’ll try not to be an ass, you should do the same. If you want something that’s been done before, use that.

PRO BONO If you want your way, you have to pay. If you don’t pay, I have final say.

Let’s create something great together."

In case you're wondering about the legality of this, Basecamp's Founder and CEO Jason Fried remarks:
For those who will be quick to point out legal holes or missing protections, there are many ways to do business. One way is working with clients you trust — people who appreciate this approach to work. And if you guessed wrong, and someone fucks you, rather than pursuing legal remedies which cost even more time, money, and hassle, there’s an alternative: Take your losses, wash your hands, and don’t work with them again.

(RED) Read the rest

Attorney's pants catch on fire while defending arsonist in court

Miami lawyer Stephen Gutierrez was in court defending an alleged arsonist when his pants literally caught on fire. However, please don't assume that Gutierrez is a liar, liar. Apparently he had been playing with an e-cigarette in his pocket. From the Miami Herald:

Stephen Gutierrez, who was arguing that his client’s car spontaneously combusted and was not intentionally set on fire, had been fiddling in his pocket as he was about to address jurors when smoke began billowing out his right pocket, witnesses told the Miami Herald.

He rushed out of the Miami courtroom, leaving spectators stunned. After jurors were ushered out, Gutierrez returned unharmed, with a singed pocket, and insisted it wasn’t a staged defense demonstration gone wrong, observers said.

Read the rest

Moby Dick's Restaurant lease blocked due in part to its "offensive name"

A building council in Vancouver, BC commercial building are reportedly refusing to allow one of the building owners to lease to Moby Dick's Restaurant, a fish-and-chips franchise, in part because of its name. According to a lawsuit, the building council claims that “that the word ‘Dick’ in Moby Dick was an offensive term" and "also claimed a Moby Dick sign would hurt the value of neighboring properties, and that the restaurant would bring increased litter and violate city laws on odor." From Courthouse News Service:

“It was clear by the end of August 2016 that the Strata intended to refuse any signage proposals belonging to Moby Dick which resembled its traditional trademark and brand,” the complaint states. “Instead, the Strata demanded that Moby Dick adopt a signage that was ‘minimalist’ both in color and design. As such, the Strata wrongfully denied Moby Dick’s use of its logo, brand name, and goodwill recognition at the commercial property.”

Mengfa seeks declaratory judgment and damages for interference with business relations.

Read the rest

Jury rules that Led Zeppelin did not steal "Stairway to Heaven"

A federal jury in Los Angeles has just ruled that Led Zeppelin did not swipe the opening to "Stairway to Heaven" from the Spirit song "Taurus." From the New York Times:

Mr. Plant and Mr. Page both testified that “Stairway to Heaven” had been composed independently, and that while both bands had played on the same bill a handful of times, they did not recall ever seeing Spirit perform and had no familiarity with “Taurus” until the lawsuit was brought.

“I didn’t remember it then, and I don’t remember it now,” Mr. Plant said.

The jury found that, although Mr. Page and Mr. Plant had access to “Taurus” before the release of “Stairway to Heaven,” the two songs’ original elements did not contain enough similarities. Before reaching the verdict on Thursday, the jury asked to listen to audio recordings of the introductions to both songs twice.

Read the rest

Man sues Satan for ruining his life

Weird Universe alerts us to the curious case of Gerald Mayo, who in 1971 filed a class action lawsuit in the Western District of Pennsylvania against Satan "and his staff."

Read the rest

Brazil judge orders WhatsApp blocked for 72 hours, affecting 100 million people

A state judge in the Brazilian state of Sergipe has ordered all mobile phone operators in the country to block Facebook-owned WhatsApp for 72 hours, nationwide. Those five telecom providers put the ban into effect today, and it affects about 100 million people. In Brazil, WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app.

Read the rest

Man fired for farting too much?

Louann Clem of Trenton, New Jersey, is suing her and her husband Rich's former employee, Case Pork Roll Co., claiming that he was fired for farting too much. Both the Clems complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), but her case was dismissed so she decided to sue while her husband's EEOC complaint is pending. According to the suit, Rich Clem had gastric bypass surgery that led to “extreme gas and uncontrollable diarrhea.” That was when the owner of the company, Thomas Dolan, began harassing them, she says. Some of Dolan's alleged comments that Louiann Clem references in the lawsuit:

“We have to do something about Rich. This can’t go on.”

“Why is Rich having these side effects?”

“Is Rich following his doctor’s recommendations?”

“We can’t run an office and have visitors with the odor in the office.”

“Tell Rich that we are getting complaints from visitors who have problems with the odors.”

The company's owner claims the Clems weren't fired but rather quit after refusing to take a pay cut when the company fell on hard times.

(MyCentralJersey.com) Read the rest

Hulk Hogan allowed "one plain bandana" in Gawker sex tape trial

According to The Tampa Bay Times, Circuit Judge Pamela Campbell said on Monday that she will permit Hulk Hogan one "plain bandana" during his trial against Gawker for posting excerpts from a secretly-taped sex video. "This is not going to be a carnival," she said several times. Read the rest

Judge: no pajamas, no money from underwear in court

Signage at York County, Pennsylvania District Judge Ronald J. Haskell's court. (York Daily Record, via Weird Universe) Read the rest

More in US die from prescription narcotics than car crashes, guns, suicide

More than 100 Americans die each day from prescription drug overdoses, mostly painkillers. That's more daily deaths than from car accidents, gunshot wounds, or suicides. In California, two county District Attorneys are suing five of the biggest drug companies in the world, and the lawsuits include the same kind of arguments once used against big tobacco industry, demanding "public protection."

Warren Olney's "To the Point" radio show has a segment on the topic today:

The companies are accused of a "campaign of deception" to persuade doctors that narcotic painkillers are safer than they really are. But the narcotic painkillers involved have been approved by the FDA. Is a government agency helping create a "population of addicts?" What's the role of physicians who write the prescriptions? Are they ill-informed, poorly trained or trying to make money?
More on the case at advocacy group harmreduction.org, and there's a Los Angeles Times writeup here. Read the rest

Attorney fined for using shock pen on witness

A Utah judge fined an attorney $3,000 after he zapped a witness with a trick shock pen during a trial. The case is about about whether emissions from a power plant are harming nearby dairy cows.

From the Salt Lake Tribune:

In an order released this week, 4th District Judge James Brady wrote that electricity expert Athanasios Meliopoulos was testifying against dairy farmers who claim that "stray" currents from Intermountain Power Plant in Delta were harming cattle.

As part of his testimony, Meliopoulos claimed that 1.5 volts, the equivalent of a AAA battery, could not be felt by a person. Los Angeles-based attorney Don Howarth, who represented the dairy farmers, gave a child’s gag pen to Meliopoulos. According to the package label, the retractable pen zaps the user with "a harmless powerful shock," Brady wrote.

Howarth told Meliopoulos that the pen contained a 1.5-volt AAA battery and challenged Meliopoulos to "go ahead and push the back of the pen and tell the jury whether you feel it or not," Brady wrote.

Meliopoulos, a Georgia Tech professor, pushed the pen and "received a strong electric shock, which caused his body to jerk and to drop the pen," Brady wrote.

Attorney fined for zapping witness with trick pen at dairy cow trial Read the rest

Ugotarrested: Man charged with operating revenge porn site Ugotposted.com

California State Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the arrest of a man said to have owned and operated a so-called revenge porn website. According to the arrest warrant (PDF), the site operated by Kevin Christopher Bollaert published over 10,000 sexually explicit photos. The young women who appeared in these images, some of whom were minors at the time they were taken, were charged up to $350 each to be removed from the site.

California Department of Justice agents arrested Bollaert, 27, in San Diego where he lived. He is in San Diego County jail on $50,000 bail, and has been charged with 31 felony counts of conspiracy, identity theft and extortion. If he is convicted, penalties may include jail time and fines.

The arrest warrant is well worth a read. It includes the stories of a number of young women who ended up physically exposed and personally identified on the internet against their will. In some cases, private photos made their way online after their accounts were hacked or phones snatched. The women speak about how that violation damaged their lives and destroyed their sense of privacy.

During an in-person interview with two special agents, Bollaert bemoaned the burden of all those emails he was receiving from young women and teens, asking for images to be removed -- a service he charged hundreds of bucks for.

"At the beginning this was like fun and entertaining," he said to the agents, "But now it's ruining my life." At the end of the meeting, the agents served him with search warrants. Read the rest

Mark Dery on Trayvon Martin

Mark Dery on his essay about the death of Trayvon Martin: "It’s a polemic, it’s cultural criticism, it’s Southern Gothic in the greasy faced, lynching-postcard mode, it’s the muck that came up when I dredged the deepest, darkest places in the river bottom of the American psyche." Of course it is. From the essay, titled "Skin in the Game," over at Thought Catalog:
Americans hate history lessons because Americans hate history.

It’s the dead weight of centuries, jettisoned (we thought) when we left Europe, a drag coefficient on forward movement. And who doesn’t want to move forward in this land of boundless opportunity, bullish investors, consumer confidence, housing starts, Achieving Your Personal Best, and if all else fails, Reinventing Yourself?

But history, especially the night terrors of slavery and Reconstruction and the century after, refuse to stay buried. There are so many rooms in this old house, some of them bricked up, others perfectly preserved, visions of antique elegance and gentility except for those unsettling spatter patterns, not quite faded, on the cabbage-rose wallpaper.

I’m old enough to remember driving through Mississippi in 1965, the year of the Bloody Sunday march on Selma, two years after Medgar Evers’s murder, one year after the slaying of the CORE field workers by the Klan. I was five, a white middle-class kid nose-deep in his comic books, oblivious to current events, but I’ve never forgotten a non-event that was somehow eventful…

"Skin in the Game: An American Gothic, in Black and White" Read the rest

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