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Mike Sorrentino's New "Situation": Tax Fraud Indictment

Jersey Shore's Mike "the Situation" Sorrentino and his brother have been indicted for tax fraud. They pleaded not guilty today. The Indictment is here.

The U.S. Attorney's office in New Jersey must not like reality TV. Teresa Giudice (Real Housewives of New Jersey) and her husband Joe are scheduled to be sentenced on October 2. The 41 original charges related to bankruptcy fraud and obstruction were pared down in a plea deal. Her guidelines are 21 to 27 months, but her lawyer is requesting probation. Her husband is likely to get more, but still under 5 years. And they owe creditors $13.5 million. [More....]

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Oscar Pistorius: Final Verdict

Judge Masipa has finished reading her verdict in the Oscar Pistorius trial. He is not guilty of murder but guilty of culpable homicide. She found him guilty of one count of negligent handling of a firearm (the one that went off in the restaurant) and not guilty of another firearm charge (shooting through his sunroof.) She found him not guilty of illegal possession of ammunition.

I think she was very thorough and her ruling on the homicide charge was correct. Recap of her ruling below. (For yesterday's verdict reading, see here.) [More...]

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Oscar Pistorius Verdict Reading

4:15 am: Glad I stayed up for one more segment. The Judge has just rejected premeditated murder. The state failed to prove its case. She spent some time saying Oscar was a poor witness and not candid with the court, but said that isn't enough to conclude he's guilty. His testimony must be viewed in conjunction with all the evidence presented. Again, it's going to be not guilty of premeditated murder, but she's leaning towards guilt on culpable homicide. She has discretion in sentencing at that charge. Big loss for the arrogant, bellicose prosecutor. Huge win for the defense, blocking a life sentence.

2:55 am MT: Judge takes a half hour break. I'm done for the night, fairly confident that the Judge will find him not guilty of premeditated murder, having rejected most of the state's case. After finishing the issue of premeditation, she recounted Oscar's testimony and his conflicting statements which included that he did not shoot intentionally, he shot accidentally, and he shot unconsciously, without thinking. She doesn't buy his version, and cites him having released the safety mechanism and that he also said he fired because he thought someone was in the bathroom and might come out and attack him. It sounds like she will find him not guilty of the more serious premeditated murder charge and is moving onto his intent in shooting and the "culpable homicide" charge. It's not looking good for Oscar on the culpable murder charge -- it sounds like she thinks he could have foreseen that someone would be shot and killed even if that was not his intent, but she's not done yet. [More...]

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Verdict Day Tomorrow for Oscar Pistorius

Judge Thokozile Masipa will deliver her verdict tomorrow on Oscar Pistorius. Time Magazine has this rundown of how the verdict will be delivered and the possible outcomes.

[I]f there are any convictions on the four charges Pistorius faces — murder and three unrelated firearm charges — sentences will only be decided later at a separate hearing.

The Guardian has this summary of the charges and each sides' arguments.

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Potential New Audio of Michael Brown Shooting

Driving this afternoon and listening to CNN on Sirius, the main story was not ISIS or Syria, it was a new audio of the Michael Brown shooting that a passer-by captured on his cell phone while video-chatting with a woman. As he tells her how fine she looks, there are gunshots in the background. Either 10 or 11, depending on the guest they were interviewing. But all could clearly hear about a three second pause between the first round of five or six, and the final ones. They then replayed four interviews of eye witnesses, all of whom said there was a pause in the shooting as Brown turned around and put his hands up.

The significance? Unclear, since it's not been confirmed the tape is authentic or reliable, and obviously, the network doesn't have the original recording. The FBI has also been given a copy.

Here's a thread for all topics related to the Brown shooting.

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Michael Brown: Latest Police Version

Ferguson police have changed their story again about whether officer Darren Wilson stopped Michael Brown after suspecting him on robbing cigars from a convenience store. At a press conference today, the police chief said Wilson did not stop Brown because he was a robbery suspect but because he was blocking the streets.

The Ferguson police officer who shot Michael Brown didn’t stop him because he was suspected in a recent robbery, but because he was “walking down the middle of the street blocking traffic,” the city’s police chief said Friday.

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson told reporters the alleged “robbery does not relate to the initial contact between the officer and Michael Brown.”

After the conference, he told the St Louis Dispatch the officer might have stopped Brown because he saw cigars in his hand and knew there was a robbery.

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Oscar Pistorius: Closing Arguments End, Ruling 9/11

Closing arguments have ended in the Oscar Pistorius trial. The judge will issue her ruling on September 11.

You can listen to the arguments on Soundcloud here.

The defense said it comes down the 20 seconds where he was standing at the entrance to the bathroom. He was standing there without legs, facing the door. He hears the sounds and fires the shot - was that reasonable? If the judge finds that was reasonable, she must acquit him.

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Imprisoned Drug and Paramilitary Leader Claims His Brother Killed Pablo Escobar

Former cartel and AUC right-wing paramilitary honcho Don Berna, aka Diego Murillo, who is serving 31 years in a Florida prison, has written a book. In it, he says it was his brother Rodolfo Murillo Bejarano, alias “Semilla,”, not the Search Bloc cop Hugo Aguilar who fired the shot that killed Pablo Escobar.

Berna was one of the leaders of the Pepes (Persecuted by Pablo Escobar). Aguilar has since been sentenced to 9 years in prison for his ties to the AUC. [More...]

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Drug Mule's Cocaine Pellets Burst on Plane

Colmin Smith, age 48, was flying from Antigua to London with 239 grams of cocaine (about 1/2 pound) in pellets in his stomach. Shortly after the packed Virgin Atlantic flight took off, the pellets burst. He managed to tell a flight attendant right before he lost consciousness.

The plane made an emergency landing in Bermuda, where medics performed emergency surgery at the airport, and then took him to the hospital. He survived, and then had to face the judge.

The penalty: No jail, just a fine of 417 pounds (about $700.00). Why did he catch such a break? [More...]

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Silva, Silva and Tsarnaev: A Confusing Story

Yesterday the feds arrested Stephen Silva of Cambridge, MA for heroin dealing and possession of a firearm with a partially obliterated serial number. Leaks from law enforcement claimed the gun is the one used to kill a Cambridge police officer days after the Boston Marathon bombings.

In June, the Judge in Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's case said he was very concerned about leaks but declined to issue a gag order. He should be more concerned now. As should the judge in Silva's case, since Silva isn't charged with anything related to the bombing, the Tsarnaev's or the officer's shooting.

He was charged with unlawful possession of a gun that had an altered or obliterated serial number. That police say it's the same gun that killed the officer says nothing about how the Tsarnaev's got it. Silva could have given it to any number of people who might have given it to the Tsarnaevs. Or, maybe someone paid a drug debt to Silva with the gun, and not being into guns, he sold it the next day, and his buyer sold or gave it to Tsarnaev.

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Azamat Tazhayakov Convicted of Obstruction of Justice and Conspiracy in Boston

Azamat Tazhayakov has been found guilty of Obstruction of Justice and Conspiracy as to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's backpack, but not his laptop.

Juror Daniel Antonino told reporters the jury believed the laptop had been taken "because it was valuable, plain and simple," and not to influence the investigation.

The defense will appeal. Among other things, they say Azamat was prejudiced by the split verdict form.

Moral of the story: Don't talk to the Feds without a lawyer. Our prisons are filled with people who thought if they could only tell their side of the story, the cops would see it their way. It rarely happens. Ask for a lawyer immediately and don't talk until you've consulted one. [More...]

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Feds Indict Fedex on Drug Conspiracy Charges

The U.S. Attorney's office in San Francisco has indicted Fedex on drug conspiracy charges. Here is the Indictment.

The charges relate to its shipping of prescription drugs on behalf of internet pharmacies. The Indictment claims Fedex has been doing this since 1998 and was told to stop in 2004. The pharmacies are the Chhabra-Smoley organization and Superior Drugs.

The penalties: [More...]

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El Chapo Guzman and "La Barbie" Organize 1,000 Inmate Hunger Strike

Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, arrested in February, is in solitary confinement at Altiplano Maximum Security Prison. Édgar Valdez Villarreal, aka "La Barbie" is in the same prison. The two at one time worked together, but later became enemies when La Barbie jumped ship to Beltran-Leyva. But their joint interest in the conditions of their confinement apparently trump old feuds, as the two have engineered a hunger strike (article in spanish)among 1,000 of the prison's inmates, to protest the violation of their human rights. It began Wednesday, and will continue indefinitely. [More...]

Among their complaints: [More...]

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Sentencing Commission Makes Reduction in Drug Sentences Retroactive

Update: Here is Attorney General Eric Holder's press release endorsing the Sentencing Commission's action.

At my direction, the Bureau of Prisons will begin notifying federal inmates of the opportunity to apply for a reduction in sentence immediately. This is a milestone in the effort to make more efficient use of our law enforcement resources and to ease the burden on our overcrowded prison system.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission voted today to make the upcoming two level decrease in drug offense levels under the sentencing guidelines retroactive to cover those already serving sentences. Here is the press release.

The effective date for reductions for those already serving sentences will be delayed until November, 2015, so that courts can consider public safety risks. In other words, the retroactive application is not mandatory. Inmates can begin filing motions in November, 2014, but the reduction won't go into effect until November, 2015.

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NY Judge Rules Bitcoins Subject to Money Laundering Statutes

U.S. District Court Judge Katherine Forrest was not impressed with the legal arguments made by Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht in his bid to dismiss his drug and money laundering charges. In a 51 page ruling, available here, she denied the motion. Among her rulings: Bitcoins are close enough to currency to count as money for the purposes of the money laundering statute. [More...]

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