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A sixth Superseding Indictment in the Illinois case charging Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman and Ismael Zambada-Garcia has been unsealed. Two new defendants are named, Edgar Manuel Valencia Ortega and Heriberto Zazueto Godoy.
Valencia Ortega was arrested in Nevada in September, 2013. According to a ruling by Judge Matthew Kennelly in case no. 13-cr-720 (document no. 24), the government had received information he would be traveling to Nevada from Mexico, so they quickly put together an indictment charging a single count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine from April, 2013 to November, 2013. The Government hoped that by arresting him on this indictment, he'd agree to cooperate. After his arrest, they told him and his lawyers that if he diddn't cooperate, he'd be added as a defendant in El Chapo's case. This would also conflict out his lawyers, who represent Tomas Arevalo-Renteria in that case.
He declined to cooperate, and the Government followed through on its threat. His lawyers objected, claiming adding him to the Guzman/Zambada-Garcia indictment was unfair retaliation for his refusal to cooperate. [More...]
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Oscar Pistorius has completed his testimony. The prosecutor picked apart every little detail hoping to show his version of events was not possible. The state is pushing an alternate theory, however, it sounds like it's nothing more than "it might have happened this way." He didn't get Oscar to admit that any of the elements of his theory were correct. The state's theory is predicated on an argument between the couple, and given Oscar's denial and the lack of any other witnesses present, I don't see how the theory can be considered proved in any way, let alone by proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
Here is the state's version, succinctly put on Twitter by reporter Barry Bateman, who has been in the courtroom every day:
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Murillo Karam, Attorney General for Mexico, gave an interview today to Radio Fórmula during which he expressed displeasure with DOJ's recent plea deal with Jesus Vicente Zambada-Niebla, son of Sinaloa co-leader Ismael Zambada-Garcia. (The details of Zambada-Niebla's plea agreement are here.)
He also said Mexico presently has no intention of extraditing Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman to the U.S. ("no tenemos ninguna intensión de mandarlo a Estados Unidos.") He added that Mexico still hasn't received a formal extradition request for Chapo's extradition. [More...]
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Military District of Washington commander Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan has rejected Chelsea Manning's request for clemency and reversal of his conviction. The press release is here. Chelsea's case will now go to the the Army Court of Criminal Appeals (ACCA) for appellate review. She has excellent new civilian lawyers for the appeals, Nancy Hollander and Vincent Ward.
Nancy and Vicent gave a presentation last night at the Georgetown Law Center to Chelsea's supporters. Firedoglake has the details.[More...]
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The Government today released the plea agreement of Jesus Vicente Zambada-Niebla, son of Sinaloa cartel leader Ismael Zambada-Garcia, in his Illinois case. The agreement was signed a year ago. The press release is here.
The plea agreement is here. He's cooperating, so what would otherwise be a life sentence will be less than that. He's also agreeing to a forfeiture of more than $1 billion.
His guidelines are so high -- offense level 51 (the sentencing table only goes up to level 43) -- that even with a Criminal History Category of I (meaning no significant priors), his guidelines are life in prison (not even 30 to life, or any range at all - just life.)
Since he's been cooperating and will continue to cooperate as requested, the Government anticipates moving for a reduction to a lesser sentence. It also sounds like he's in or will be in the witness protection program, since the agreement says the Government will recommend he and his family be allowed to stay in the U.S. at the end of his sentence. [More...]
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The press seems to be fawning over prosecutor Gerrie Nel and his "bully-ish" cross-examination of Oscar Pistorius. I was not impressed. I was glad the Judge called him out over his inappropriate sarcasm and laughter and claims Oscar's emotional outbursts were manufactured.
“You possibly think this is entertainment. It is not,” she told Nel. “Please restrain yourself.”
I don't think he proved Pistorius is lying about his account. Nel is trying to get Pistorius to admit to Nel's interpretation of the facts, and when he won't, because he doesn't agree with Nel's interpretation, he blasts him as a liar and murderer and tells him to accept responsibility.
It's not the prosecutor's job to tell a defendant to accept responsibility for the crime for which he's on trial and denies committing. It's his job to ask questions and test his version of the facts.
Unless a defendant's story is so rehearsed it never changes, there are obviously going to be minor discrepancies. It's not surprising that Oscar's memory is better on what led up to the shooting than during the moments of trauma afterwards when he realized Reeva was dead. [More...]
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After a week of recess due to the illness of of one of the judge's fact-finders, the Oscar Pistorius trial resumed today, with the defense calling Dr. Botha The topics ranged from the angle of the bullets to when Reeva last ate and emptied her bladder. When he was done, Oscar took the stand.From the reporters in the courtroom I follow via Twitter: [More...]
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Jailhouse snitches are notoriously unreliable. In this country, they are a major contributor to wrongful convictions.
That isn't stopping 10 News in Australia. It's about to air a paid interview with Bali 9 inmate Renae Lawrence, doing 20 years (after narrowly avoiding the death penalty) for smuggling heroin into Bali with 8 other people. She had 2.5 kilos strapped to her body. Two of the nine are waiting for the executioner, and six are doing life.
Reportedly, Renae will claim that during a period when she and Schapelle shared a cell (with several other women), Schapelle confessed to her that she knew the drugs were in her boogie-bag. I don't buy that for a second. [More....]
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It was a dramatic day 8 at the Oscar Pistorius trial. The investigator who took over the case from the Hilton Botha, Colonel Vermulon, testified about the physical evidence. There are some serious problems.
Both sides now agree Oscar was on his stumps when he shot through the door, and after that, he used a cricket bat to bash in the door. Here's the rub: The state, which claimed at the bail hearing Oscar had his prostheses on when he shot at the door, now says he didn't have them on at either time: when he shot through the door or used the cricket bat. The defense says Oscar put them after shooting at the door and had them on when he used the bat.
In Oscar's bail affidavit, he says he shot through the door while on his stumps, then "I put on my prosthetic legs, ran back to the bathroom and tried to kick the toilet door open."[More...]
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Last week, Oscar Pistorius' defense team spent a lot of time trying to get witnesses to acknowledge that they might have confused the sound of gunshots with the sound of Oscar bashing in the door to to the toilet with a cricket bat. Here's an interesting You Tube video of an experiment comparing the two sounds. Conclusion: If you weren't able to listen to both sounds for comparison purposes, you could easily mistake the sound of the cricket bat for the sound of a gunshot.
Here's a recap of yesterday's testimony. In a nutshell, Reeva was shot three times, in the hip, the arm and the head. She would have died within a few breaths of the gunshot to the head.
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The New Yorker has an in-depth interview with Peter Lanza, the father of Newtown shooter Adam Lanza. It's remarkably candid.
Lanza, who hadn't seen Adam in two years because Adam refused to see him, says Adam was pure evil and he wishes he had never been born. He says he has no doubt that had Adam had the chance, he would have killed him too.
“It was crystal clear something was wrong,” Peter said. “The social awkwardness, the uncomfortable anxiety, unable to sleep, stress, unable to concentrate, having a hard time learning, the awkward walk, reduced eye contact. You could see the changes occurring.”
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On Feb. 26, Alfredo Vasquez-Hernandez announced in court he would plead guilty without a plea agreement in the Chicago case in which Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman and Jesus Vicente Zambada-Garcia are co-defendants. In court yesterday, his lawyer announced he had changed his mind and wants to go to trial in May after all.
Why? A local ABC News affiliate reporter named Chuck Goudie had erroneously reported on TV that Vasquez-Hernandez had turned against Chapo. The inmates at the jail saw it and word spread to Mexico, where VH's wife and children live. Vasquez Herandez would rather go to trial than potentially put their lives in jeopardy.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Shakeshaft called Goudie’s error, “an unfortunate piece of journalism.”
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I've been watching the Oscar Pistorius trial live on the internet since it began Monday. They are still on the first witness.
The format of the trial is different than in the U.S. In South Africa, the defendant has the right to make a statement addressing the charges at the beginning, before the state gives an opening argument. Oscar's lawyer read a detailed statement, in the first person as if Oscar was speaking, refuting the charges paragraph by paragraph. He went through the facts of what happened, and it was much like what the affidavit from the bail hearing. (The only difference I could discern was that he said Oscar went to the balcony to bring two fans back. In the bail application, they said there was one fan.) [More...]
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There's an interesting article in the New York Review of Books on the arrest of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman. In one portion, it explores alternative theories of his arrest:
Many now believe that Chapo voluntarily turned himself in, that the commandos who went through the building at four in the morning, according to witnesses, were there simply to guarantee the operation’s safety while all the appropriate contracts and agreements were signed, that Emma Coronel was there to say good-bye.
This version does not attempt to explain why Guzmán would feel like ending his life at large, with the prospect of a lifetime of solitary confinement in a US prison before him, but there are many other views about how and why Guzmán was snared.
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Congrats to Jerry Lefcourt and Bill Aronwald, defense lawyers for Kerry Kennedy, for the acquittal today on charges of drugged driving. The jury deliberated for one hour.
On July 13, 2012, she drove her Lexus S.U.V. erratically after swallowing Zolpidem, a generic form of the sleep medication Ambien. She sideswiped a tractor-trailer on a highway in Westchester County before she was found, slumped over her steering wheel, her car stalled on a local road.
Ms. Kennedy has maintained that she took the pill accidentally, mistaking it for medication she took for a thyroid condition. She testified on Wednesday that she did not realize her mistake until well after the accident.
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