Court Vacates $1.8M Ventura Award in 'American Sniper' Case

Lawyer Blog Post 2016/06/13 12:47   Bookmark and Share
A federal appeals court on Monday threw out a $1.8 million judgment awarded to former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, who says he was defamed in the late author Chris Kyle's bestselling book "American Sniper."

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the jury's 2014 award of $500,000 for defamation and $1.3 million for unjust enrichment against Kyle's estate. Kyle, a former SEAL who was the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history with 160 confirmed kills, died in 2013.

The majority of the three-judge panel reversed the unjust-enrichment award, saying it fails as a matter of law. The majority also vacated the defamation award, but sent that portion of the case back to court for a new trial.

Messages left with Ventura's publicist and attorney were not immediately returned Monday. A message left with an attorney for Kyle's estate also did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Kyle claimed in a subchapter called "Punching Out Scruff Face," to have decked a man, whom he later identified as Ventura, during a fallen SEAL's wake at a California bar in 2006. He wrote that "Scruff Face" had made offensive comments about the elite force, including a remark that the SEALs "deserve to lose a few" in Iraq.

Ventura, a former Underwater Demolition Teams/SEAL member and ex-pro wrestler, testified at trial that Kyle's story was a fabrication. Ventura said he never made the comments and that the altercation never happened. He said the book ruined his reputation in the tight-knit SEAL community.

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Tribunal: India, Italy should agree on Italian marine's bail

Lawyer Blog Post 2016/05/04 10:48   Bookmark and Share
India and Italy should work toward an agreement to allow an Italian marine to return home while an arbitration process continues in the fatally shootings of two Indian fishermen in 2012, a tribunal said Tuesday.

The two countries should present their arguments over relaxing the marine's bail conditions to India's Supreme Court, the tribunal in The Hague said.

The case against Salvatore Girone and another Italian marine, Massimiliano Latorre, has strained relations between the two countries, which disagree on the facts of the case and who has jurisdiction. Italy has also complained bitterly about the fact that, in four years, India has never formally charged the two with a crime.

An arbitration tribunal is hearing the dispute over jurisdiction, and in the ruling announced Tuesday said the two countries should approach India's Supreme Court about changing Girone's bail terms to allow him to return to Italy. Latorre has been in his home country since September 2014 on medical treatment after suffering a stroke in India.

Both India and Italy welcomed the tribunal's ruling, which had been shared with officials from the two countries on Monday. India was happy that the ruling confirmed its jurisdiction to decide bail, while Italy found relief in the possibility of Girone's return.

"We see the tribunal's order not just as a recognition of India's consistent positions and key arguments but also as an affirmation of the authority of the Supreme Court of India," Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, speaking Tuesday in Parliament on behalf of the foreign affairs minister.

In Rome, the defense minister expressed confidence that Italy would be proven right through the arbitration process.

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Court sides with Argentina, speeding along bond settlements

Lawyer Blog Post 2016/04/16 01:19   Bookmark and Share
A federal appeals court cleared the way Wednesday for Argentina to settle its debts and strengthen its ability to maneuver in worldwide markets.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals turned away creditors who wanted to keep in place court-ordered protections, though Circuit Judge Christopher Droney said a lower-court judge should take steps to determine whether Argentina has met conditions he required be fulfilled before court orders against the republic are permanently lifted. The conditions include completing settlement payments.

A three-judge panel announced its decision after hearing oral arguments for more than an hour. It found a judge was within his rights to conclude that circumstances surrounding the decadelong court battle changed dramatically when Argentina's new president, Mauricio Macri, decided to let the nation negotiate deals with bondholders after he took office Dec. 10.

Since January, Argentina has reached agreements to pay more than $8 billion to creditors, mainly U.S. hedge funds.

Argentine Economy Minister Alfonso Prat-Gay, who is in New York ahead of Argentina's first international bond sale in more than a decade, said, "This is a step toward achieving normality and the kind of development that Argentina deserves."

His country is expected to sell up to $15 billion in bonds, and he said the holdout funds will be paid on April 22.
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Supreme Court rejects states' challenge to Colorado pot law

Lawyer Blog Post 2016/03/19 16:56   Bookmark and Share
The Supreme Court has rejected an effort by Nebraska and Oklahoma to have Colorado's pot legalization declared unconstitutional.
 
The justices are not commenting Monday in dismissing the lawsuit the states filed directly at the Supreme Court against their neighbor.
   
They argued that Colorado's law allowing recreational marijuana use by adults runs afoul of federal anti-drug laws. The states also said that legalized pot in Colorado is spilling across the borders into Nebraska and Oklahoma, complicating their anti-drug efforts and draining state resources.

The Obama administration had sided with Colorado, despite the administration's opposition to making marijuana use legal.

Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito would have heard the states' lawsuit.

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Teen changes plea to guilty in deaths of mother, stepfather

Lawyer Blog Post 2016/03/12 16:55   Bookmark and Share
A northern Wisconsin woman changed her plea to guilty Friday in the slaying of her mother and stepfather in a deal that has prosecutors recommending a 40-year prison sentence.

Ashlee Martinson, who was 17 at the time of the March 2015 killings, faces two counts of second-degree homicide, USA Today Network-Wisconsin reported. She had earlier pleaded innocent by reason of insanity in the killings at the family's home near Three Lakes.

According to court records filed Friday, Martinson told police she shot her stepfather, 37-year-old Thomas Ayers, in the neck and head. She then went to her mother, 40-year-old Jennifer Ayers, for solace, but her mother first tried to aid her husband, then armed herself with a knife to confront Martinson.

Martinson wrestled the knife from her mother and stabbed her more than 30 times. She then went downstairs and turned the family TV to show cartoons to her three sisters, ages 2 to 9. After showering, Martinson confined the younger girls in a room before fleeing to Indiana with her boyfriend, documents show.

Court documents say the Ayerses were killed the same day they warned Martinson's 22-year-old boyfriend to stay away from her because she was a minor.

Martinson told authorities she had been mentally and verbally abused by her stepfather and had seen him physically abuse her mother and siblings, according to court records.

The assessment also said Martinson had suffered from depression on and off since age 8, gaining in intensity at age 15. Martinson's sentencing is set for June 17.

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Thai court sentences migrants to death in murder of British backpackers

Lawyer Blog Post 2015/12/23 16:45   Bookmark and Share
A Thai court on Thursday sentenced two Myanmar migrants to death for the murder of two British backpackers on a resort island last year, in a case that raised questions about police competence and the treatment of migrant workers in Thailand.

Human Rights Watch called the verdict "profoundly disturbing," citing the defendants' accusations of police torture that were never investigated and questionable DNA evidence linking them to the crime.

Win Zaw Htun and Zaw Lin, both 22, have denied killing David Miller, 24, and raping then murdering Hannah Witheridge, 23, last year on the island of Koh Tao. Their defense attorney said they planned to appeal.

Miller and Witheridge's battered bodies were found Sept. 15, 2014, on the rocky shores of Koh Tao, an island in the Gulf of Thailand known for its white sand beaches and scuba diving. Autopsies showed that the young backpackers, who met on the island while staying at the same hotel, suffered severe head wounds and that Witheridge had been raped.

The killings tarnished the image of Thailand's tourism industry, which was already struggling to recover after the army staged a coup just months earlier in May 2014 and then imposed martial law.

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