Ex-Alaska Governor's top aide to plead guilty

Legal Business 2008/03/04 21:26   Bookmark and Share
A top aide to former Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski admitted on Monday to fraud as part of a wide-ranging corruption conspiracy that has ensnared several state politicians and implicated many of Alaska's top political figures.

Jim Clark, who was the former governor's chief of staff, agreed to plead guilty to a single count of conspiracy fraud in a filing in U.S. District Court in Anchorage. He was scheduled to enter his plea at an arraignment hearing on Tuesday.

Clark admitted to taking $68,550 in illegal contributions from the state's largest oil-services company, VECO Corp, for Murkowski's failed 2006 reelection bid in exchange for working on VECO's behalf to secure an industry-friendly version of tax legislation, according to the plea agreement.

He is the first official from the Murkowski administration to be charged in a federal criminal investigation that has so far resulted in convictions of three former state lawmakers, the indictment of a fourth and guilty pleas from two top VECO executives and one former lobbyist.

Murkowski, who was also a former U.S. senator, was soundly defeated in the 2006 Republican primary by Sarah Palin, Alaska's current governor who ran as an anti-corruption reformer.

Clark and VECO conspired to hide the illegal contributions "in a manner so that the public would be deceived and the payments would not be disclosed, as required by law," according to charging documents.

The federal investigation centers around a revision of an oil-tax law that passed the state legislature in 2006 at Murkowski's urging. Bill Allen and Rick Smith, two former VECO executives, pleaded guilty to bribing state lawmakers for a pro-industry version of the bill and other favorable actions.

Former state Senate President Ben Stevens, son of powerful U.S. Senator Ted Stevens, received much of that bribe money, Allen and Smith testified in court last year.

top

Judge accepts plea deal in Cody Warren's death

Court Watch 2008/03/04 14:21   Bookmark and Share
A military judge has accepted the guilty plea from the Marine accused of killing Lance Cpl. Kristopher Cody Warren in Iraq in 2006.

Cpl. Douglas Michael Sullivan, 23, pleaded guilty Tuesday to involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death of the 19-year-old Gordon County native who had been deployed to Iraq with his Marine Reserve unit.

Robin Patterson, Warren’s mother, told the Calhoun Times earlier that she was “absolutely appalled” when she learned of the plea agreement last month.

Patterson planned to go to California for Sullivan’s court martial and is expected to testify during the sentencing phase.

Warren graduated from Gordon Central High School in 2005 and joined the Marine Reserves.

Sullivan said that he accidently shot Warren while improperly handling a weapon at Forward Operating base Trebil, near Fallujah, Iraq.

top

Lawsuit Dropped in Pain Doctor Case

Topics in Legal News 2008/03/04 14:21   Bookmark and Share
A patient-advocacy group is dropping its lawsuit over the prosecution of a doctor accused of running a "pill mill" linked to 56 overdose deaths, just days after a stinging rebuke from a federal judge.

The Pain Relief Network had attempted to intervene to keep Dr. Stephen Schneider's clinic open. It claimed the clinic's 1,000 patients have been unable to find adequate care since Schneider's license was suspended in January.

But a judge refused Friday to grant a request by the advocacy group for a temporary restraining order preventing the Justice Department from taking action against Schneider's clinic.

On Tuesday, the group filed a voluntary motion for dismissal without prejudice of its civil lawsuit against the Department of Justice and the state of Kansas.

If U.S. District Judge Wesley Brown agrees to dismiss the action without prejudice, it could be refiled later.

The Pain Relief Network said in its motion it was seeking the dismissal "after reviewing the current posture of the case."

Schneider, who is jailed without bond, faces 34 federal charges, including four counts of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance resulting in death. He has vehemently proclaimed his innocence.

The Pain Relief Network filed the civil suit on behalf of Schneider's patients.

At the earlier hearing, Brown told a room crowded with about 40 of Schneider's patients, some of them on crutches, that if they needed care they should go to the emergency room, not the court.

In its lawsuit, the Pain Relief Network challenged the constitutionality of the Controlled Substances Act, arguing that it allows the federal government to improperly intrude in the physician-patient relationship.

top

Judge won't dismiss charges against Haditha commander

Court News 2008/03/04 14:19   Bookmark and Share
A military judge has refused to dismiss charges against the highest ranking officer accused of wrongdoing following the killing of two dozen Iraqi civilians in the city of Haditha two years ago.

The judge, Col. Stephen Folsom, rejected attempts by attorneys for Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani to throw out the case or order that a new pretrial investigative hearing take place to determine if the charges against him should stand.

Chessani was the battalion commander at Haditha when a squad of Camp Pendleton Marines killed the civilians following a roadside bombing and small arms attack on Nov. 19, 2005.

The civilian deaths occurred as troops searched for their attackers. Those killings and the actions of commanders in the aftermath have led to the largest criminal case against Marines since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

One of Chessani's attorneys, Brian Rooney, said Wednesday that Folsom has refused to allow a deposition be taken from U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., as part of the defense's motion to have the case dismissed on the basis the charges resulted from "undue command influence."

The judge refused the defense access to computer hard drives of commanders above Chessani containing e-mail messages about the incident. Chessani's attorneys contend those messages show that their client had fully reported what he knew and that commanders far above him, including at least two generals, had concluded no formal investigation into the civilian deaths was required.

"That was the most stunning part of the ruling," Rooney said. "We intend to file a motion asking the judge to reconsider that because the essence of the case is all about the reporting."

Chessani, who commanded Camp Pendleton's 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment at Haditha in November 2005, is charged with dereliction of duty and failing to accurately report and thoroughly investigate a possible war crime. His scheduled to go on trial by military court-martial on April 28.

Two Marines under his command, Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich and Lance Cpl. Stephen Tatum, face court-martials this spring on manslaughter charges in the civilian deaths.

Richard Thompson, chief counsel of the Christian-based Thomas More Law Center of Ann Arbor, Mich., that is representing Chessani, said the pretrial rulings against Chessani and the prosecution itself "stink to high heaven."

"Denying us the right to take Murtha's deposition so that we could show undue command influence, as well as denial of our request for production of documents in the possession of Lt. Col. Chessani's superiors, makes it impossible for us to render this loyal Marine officer the effective assistance of counsel he deserves," Thompson said in a written statement. "They are attempting to throw him under the bus."

A second officer also accused of wrongdoing at Haditha, 1st Lt. Andrew Grayson, has been in a Camp Pendleton courtroom this week for a motion hearing in advance of his trial.
top

Ciolli Sues Yale Law Students in AutoAdmit Scandal

Topics in Legal News 2008/03/04 14:06   Bookmark and Share
Penn Law grad Anthony Ciolli — the former administrator of AutoAdmit who was named in a lawsuit filed in June by two Yale Law students against anonymous posters on the law-school discussion board and then subsequently dropped from the suit — is now returning fire. For backstory, click here, here and here.

In this complaint, which was filed today in state court in Philadelphia, Ciolli is suing the two Yale students as well as their lawyers, on eight counts, including abuse of process, libel, publicity placing plaintiff in a false light and tortious interference with contract. This fall, after being named in the original suit by the Yale women and accused of running a website called T14 Talent (now shuttered), which ranked women at the top 14 law schools based on their looks, Ciolli subsequently lost an offer for a full-time associate job at Boston firm Edwards, Angell, Palmer & Dodge.

In defending the action filed against him, Ciolli was represented by Marc Randazza. But this complaint is signed by Mark Jakubik.

We’ve reached out to Mark Lemley, a named defendant and the lawyer for the two women, as well as the other individuals named in the suit. We’ll let you know if we hear back.

top

Louisiana's new AG probes Foti's last-stand lawsuits

Legal Business 2008/03/04 13:50   Bookmark and Share

FCC General Counsel Feder Leaves for Law Firm
Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell could be ready to ditch some of the more "curious" cases he inherited from his predecessor.

Former attorney general Charles Foti, unseated by Caldwell last November, issued a flurry of lawsuits in his final days on the job, LNL reported last month. In two cases he teamed up with campaign-donor lawyers to file big class-action suits.

"There has been documented curious official behavior on the part of the previous AG's office that has not gone unnoticed," Caldwell stated in a report.

Another case left for Caldwell was against Foti, accusing the former AG of illegally contracting the same lawyers to represent Louisiana in another big lawsuit. Four law firms working on two of Foti's suits donated $13,500 to his unsuccessful re-election campaign last year, that report notes.

Attorneys from New Orleans firms Dugan Law Firm and Murray Law Firm - both of which gave Foti's campaign $5,000 - are listed as plaintiffs in two of the suits.

On the flip side, Foti has also been accused of violating state law by not gaining official approval to contract with private lawyers in a lawsuit against re-constructor Road Home. The case was filed by major insurers including State Farm.

top









Disclaimer: Nothing posted on this blog is intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice. Blog postings and hosted comments are available for general educational purposes only and should not be used to assess a specific legal situation. Nothing submitted as a comment is confidential. Nor does any comment on a blog post create an attorney-client relationship. The presence of hyperlinks to other third-party websites does not imply that the firm endorses those websites.

Law Firm Website Design by Best Lawyer Website Design- Attorney Web Design That Works