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Ted Cruz: All Hat, No Cattle, Again

Ted Cruz is hardly the first to propose using forfeited assets from Mexican drug traffickers to pay for a border wall. In February, Rep. James Sensebrenner introduced H.R. 1067: Build up Illegal Line Defenses with Assets Lawfully Lifted Act of 2017, aka the "Build Act." You can read it here. (It's gone nowhere, and Sensenbrenner seems to have pulled his news release on it from his website.)

Despite being unoriginal, Ted Cruz' "El Chapo Act" will not get a border wall built, even in the unlikely event it passes Congress.

First, El Chapo is facing a criminal, not civil forfeiture. Before anything can be criminally forfeited, a criminal conviction is required. Unless El Chapo pleads guilty (and why would he since he's likely to get the same life sentence handed down last month to Alfredo Beltran-Leyva who also pleaded guilty) a conviction will take a year or two or more. If he loses and appeals, the conviction and judgment aren't final until the appeals are over. No money could be distributed or spent before then.

Second, there isn't any evidence El Chapo has money or property in the U.S. If his assets are in Mexico, the U.S. can't get its hands on it without Mexico's agreement. There's a treaty on the topic.

Why would Mexico agree to let the U.S. have El Chapo's assets to be used for a border wall when it doesn't want a wall? [More...]

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Hector Beltran-Levya: Protection Against Extradition (For Now)

The Beltran-Leyvas have been at war with El Chapo and the Sinaloa Cartel since 2008 when Alfredo Beltran-Leyva was arrested and his brother Arturo (the leader of their group) blamed El Chapo. Arturo was gunned down by police in 2009. Another brother Carlos was arrested in 2010. Alfredo was extradited to the District of Columbia in 2014, where in 2016, he pleaded guilty without a plea agreement. Last week, he was sentenced to life in prison.

The last remaining brother is Hector Beltran-Leyva. He was arrested at a restaurant in San Miguel Allende in 2014. Although he has many cases opened against him in Mexico (29 according to some reports), a court favorably ruled on a U.S. request for his extradition in August, 2016. He is charged in the District of Colombia (separately from his brother) and the Eastern District of New York. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE) approved the extradition on September 26, 2016. Not surprisingly, Hector appealed.

Yesterday, an appeals court in Mexico granted Hector protection against the extradition order and sent the case back to the trial court. Why? [More...]

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"Mike the Situation" Charged With New Federal Tax Crimes

Mike Sorrentino, aka "Mike the Situation", who played himself on the MTV reality show Jersey Shore, and his brother Marc were indicted for tax crimes in 2014 in New Jersey. Today, a Superseding Indictment was returned charging him and his brother with additional crimes.

From the DOJ Press Release which notes that an Indictment is just an accusation: [More...]

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Convicted Bridgegate Defendants Sentenced to Prison

As New Jersey Governor Chris Christie re-emerged on the national stage yesterday as part of Trump's new heroin task force, his former aide, Bridget Kelley, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for her part in Bridgegate.

A former top official of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and a former member of Gov. Christopher J. Christie’s senior staff were sentenced today to prison terms for their roles in a scheme to punish the mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, by misusing Port Authority resources to cause traffic problems in the borough, Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced.

William E. Baroni Jr., 45, former deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was sentenced to 24 months in prison and Bridget Anne Kelly, 44, former deputy chief of staff to Gov. Christie, to 18 months. On Nov. 4, 2016, Baroni and Kelly were each convicted following a six-week trial before U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton on all seven counts with which they had been charged in an indictment returned May 1, 2015, by a federal grand jury. Judge Wigenton imposed the sentences today in Newark federal court.

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Samsung CEO Jailed in South Korea Corruption Probe

Jay Y. Lee, is the CEO of Samsung. His family is the wealthiest in South Korea. He has a net worth of $6.2 billion and ordinarily lives in a $4 million Seoul mansion. Yesterday he was arrested for "questioning" in a big corruption scandal in South Korea that already resulted in the impeachment of President, Park Geun-Hye. According to Reuters:

[He has been put in a ]71 square foot detention cell with a toilet in the corner behind a partition. He has no shower, only a wash-stand. Bed is a mattress on the floor.

....Meals will be served on plastic trays slid through a small square window in the cell door. Lee is required to wash his own tray. Inside the cell, he can watch TV between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., but only a single channel with recorded programs broadcast by the justice ministry.

Visits are limited to 30 minutes a day, through glass. (His lawyers may visit longer.) The reason for holding him in solitary was to keep him from discussing the case with other detainees. Prosecutors had 10 days to charge him, although they could have asked for an extension.

Last month a judge said there was no reason to detain him pending the investigation (before he was charged.) Prosecutors were very disappointed. They say they now have more evidence, and yesterday, a judge agreed, approving his arrest warrant.

The prison sounds awful (and not much different from those with special housing units in the U.S. holding high profile suspected criminals (like El Chapo).

He has not yet been charged with a crime. [More...]

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Gun Buyer in San Bernardino Shooting Pleads Guilty

Enrique Marquez, Jr., 25, the one time next door neighbor of San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook, has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his straw purchase of two rifles he bought for Farook in 2012, which Farook then used during the 2015 San Bernardino shootings.

He also pleaded guilty to providing material support for terrorists, which carries a possible sentence of up to 25 years. But the charge wasn't about the San Bernardino shootings -- it was related to two unconsummated attacks he planned with "Rizwan" in 2012. It sounds like but for him agreeing to multiple FBI interviews, the FBI would never learned of them.

According to the plea agreement, available here, see pages 16 to 23, Marquez was not involved in the San Bernardino shootings, didn't know they were going to happen and was at work when they did happen. He had no contact with Farook after the shooting attack and before the police shootout.

In 2011 and 2012 he conspired with "Rizwan" (as the government now calls him) Farook to attack their school, Riverside City College (RCC) and commuter traffic on the 91 Freeway. While he and "Rizwan" prepped for the attacks in various ways, the attacks never happened and he disassociated from "Rizwan" and the plot in 2012.

So three years later, "Rizwan" uses the rifles to kill people, and Marquez pleads guilty to providing material support to terrorists in a planned attack years earlier that he abandoned and which never occurred. [More...]

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"El Chapo" Press Conference in Brooklyn

Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is quite the rock star -- to the female inmates at MCC New York who repeatedly chanted out his name as he arrived in their midst.

The press conference this morning began with typical government hyperbole:

“In short, he is a man who has known no other life than one of crime, violence, death and destruction.”

The truth is that he is also a husband, father, and son who is loved by his mother, wife and children. He is someone who is respected, not just feared, in his part of Mexico.

Did the prosecutor mention when discussing that his "associates dug a tunnel from a home a mile away directly into his shower" that it would not have been possible but for corrupt jail and political officials, many of whom are now locked up? Without the corruption among Mexico's police, politicians and army, there would no cartels as vast as those that exist in Mexico. The drug lords are but a part of the equation.

The Government filed a 56 page brief in support of detention pending trial (no bail.) It's filled with photos of boats that big loads of drugs were seized from. [More...]

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Obama Commutes Chelsea Manning Sentence (And 200 Plus More)

President Obama has commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning. Manning will only have to serve four more months --She will be freed May 17.

Manning was one of 273 people granted clemency or pardons today, according to the White House.

His totals: 1,385 grants of clemency and 212 pardons.

With today’s 209 grants of commutation, the President has now commuted the sentences of 1,385 individuals – the most grants of commutation issued by any President in this nation’s history. President Obama’s 1,385 commutation grants – which includes 504 life sentences – is also more than the total number of commutations issued by the past 12 presidents combined. And with today’s 64 pardons, the President has now granted a total of 212 pardons.

That's what you call change. Thank you, President Obama. [More...]

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Charles Manson Hospitalized

Charles Manson, now 82, was taken to the hospital today from prison for undisclosed reasons. There are unconfirmed reports he suffers from some kind of gastro-intestinal issue. The prison says he is alive.

Manson's prison, Corcoran, has previously been found to have inadequate health care. The report is here. According to the spokeswoman for the Receiver for California Correctional Health Care Services:

The California State Prison, Corcoran, has medical facilities to treat inmates requiring urgent or emergency care as well as in-patient hospital stays.

“In general, inmates are sent to outside hospitals if they need surgical services, emergency care, or diagnostic services of an acute nature,” said Joyce Hayhoe, a spokeswoman for the federal receiver who controls prison medical care. “These services are not provided in state prison facilities.”

California's medical rules for prisons are here.

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CT Supreme Court Reinstate's Michael Skakel's Conviction

The Supreme Court of Connecticut has reinstated Michael Skakel's murder conviction. The conviction had been overturned on a habeas petition, with the lower court finding Skakel's attorney rendered ineffective assistance of counsel. The Supreme Court disagreed:

Because we conclude that the petitioner’s trial counsel rendered constitutionally adequate representation, we reverse the judgment of the habeas court and remand the case to that court with direction to render judgment denying the petition.

The Supreme Court said Skakel's attorney's representation was not deficient. Skakel served a decade in prison before being freed pending a new trial three years ago.

One justice dissented, and one justice partially agreed with the dissenting justice but in the end agreed with the majority that the conviction should stand.

The majority opinion is here. The dissenting opinion is here and the concurring opinion is here.

I'm sorry that Skakel's conviction will be reinstated, as I have never believed he is guilty of murdering Martha Moxley, but I also believe Mickey Sherman's representation was not ineffective. [More...]

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"El Mochomito" (Beltran-Guzman) Arrested in Jalisco

The Beltran-Leyva cartel took another big hit Friday with the arrest of "Mochomito" -- Alfredito Beltran-Guzman, son of Alfredo Beltran-Leyva, who is in custody in Washington, D.C. awaiting the imposition of sentence -- in Zapopan, Jalisco. He was reportedly arrested at a barber shop.

The Government alleges "El Mochomito" was behind the attacks on El Chapo's mother's house in June, and the kidnapping of El Chapo's sons at a restaurant in Puerta Vallarta in August. El Chapo is his uncle.

According the the Government's press release, he moved operations from Culiacan in Sinaloa to Guadalajara, where through intelligence work of the Drug Enforcement Division of the Federal Police, they determined where he was and arrested him and four others with no shots being fired. The statement was jointly issued by the Federal Police, the Ministry of the Navy, the Secretariat of National Defense, the Center for Investigation and National Security,and the Attorney General.[More...]

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Poland's Supreme Court Rejects Roman Polanski Extradition Request

Poland's Supreme Court has definitively rejected the U.S. request for extradition of Director Roman Polanski, now 83, for a crime that occurred in 1977.

Poland joins France and Switzerland as countries where Polanski can live and work, free from the shadow of extradition. France has no extradition treaty with the US and Switzerland has already rebuffed US attempts to have him extradited.

A lower court in Poland ruled in 2015 that "the time Polanski had spent in jail, under house arrest or in custody exceeded his original sentence, and that he may not get a fair trial in the US." [More...]

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Ohio State Stabbings

Earlier news reports of a shooter at Ohio State have been corrected. The assailant drove over the curb, intentionally hitting people with his car, and then got out and started stabbing people with a butcher knife. 8 or 9 people are hospitalized. The only gun used was the gun a police officer used to kill the suspect.

The dead suspect is a Somali-born student at Ohio State named Abdul Razak Ali Artan. He is a legal permanent resident who came to the U.S. in 2014 after living in Pakistan since 2007. In an interview in August, he said he was afraid for Muslims. [More...]

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John Hinckley Goes Home for Good After 35 Years

In 1981, at age 25, John Hinckley shot and wounded former President Ronald Reagan, his press secretary James Brady, a police officer and a member of the secret service. In 1982, after an 8 week trial, a jury found Hinckley not guilty by reason of insanity. He was placed in a mental hospital.

In 2003, after 19 years in the mental hospital, the Judge granted him unsupervised visits with his parents. He was then 48 years old.

In 2005, at age 50, he was allowed overnight visits at his parents' home .

In July, 2016, after 35 years at the mental hospital, the Court ordered him released on full-time convalescent leave (outpatient placement.) (The 103 page opinion is here.)

Today, John Hinckley went home for good to live with his now 90 year old mother in Williamsburg, VA. Hopefully, someone will give him a job, and someone will offer to be his friend. [More...]

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Kim Dotcom Extradition Appeal To Be Live-Streamed

Update: 8/30/16, 9:15 pm MT: Live stream started 1/2 hour ago here.

A New Zealand appeals court today began hearing the appeal of Kim Dotcom against extradition to the U.S. The hearing is expected to take six to eight weeks. Kim Dotcom has been requesting the hearing be live-streamed. Today, the court granted his request and live streaming begins tomorrow.

Justice Murray Gilbert granted the application, subject to agreement from Mr Dotcom and the other men that the case would only be livestreamed and any footage would be removed as soon as the six-week hearing was over. The footage would also be streamed with a 20 minute delay, to allow the court to prevent any suppressed material from being published.

Check Kim Dotcom's twitter feed, @kimdotcom, for the live stream link. Also check out Torrent Freak, which has been doing a good job of following the case all these years. [More...]

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