Prosecutors ask court to imprison Samsung heir for 12 years

Legal Interview 2017/08/02 08:45   Bookmark and Share
South Korean prosecutors have recommended a 12-year jail term for Lee Jae-yong, 49-year-old billionaire heir of the Samsung business empire, urging a court to convict him of bribery and other crimes.

Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, became emotional Monday as he denied ever trying to seek political favors in his final remarks in the four-month-long trial. Lee was arrested in February amid a tumultuous corruption scandal that triggered months of massive public protests and culminated with the ouster of South Korea's president.

A panel of three judges at the Seoul Central District Court said they will hand down their verdict on Aug. 25.

Lee, princeling of South Korea's richest family and its biggest company, choked up during his final remarks, saying his ordeal was unjust but he had reflected during his six months in jail and realized that the bigger Samsung became, "the stricter and higher the expectations from the public and the society," a pool report from Monday's hearing said.

"Whether it was for my personal profit or for myself, I have never asked the president for any favors," he told the court.

In his remarks wrapping up the trial, Special Prosecutor Park Young Soo said Samsung's alleged bribery was typical of the corrupt and cozy ties between the South Korea's government and big businesses. Such dealings once helped fuel the country's rapid industrialization but now increasingly are viewed as illegal and unfair.

Park also accused Samsung officials of lying in their testimonies to protect Lee.

In past cases, South Korean courts have often given suspended prison terms to members of the founding families of the chaebol, the big, family-controlled businesses that dominate South Korea's economy. In some cases, presidents have pardoned them, citing their contributions to the national economy. But recent rulings on white collar crimes have shown less leniency. If convicted, Lee may be the first in his family to serve a prison term.

Lee was indicted in February on charges that included offering $38 million in bribes to four entities controlled by a friend of then-President Park Geun-hye, including a company in Germany set up to support equestrian training for the daughter of one of Park's friends, Choi Soon-sil.

Prosecutors alleged the bribes were offered in exchange for government help with a merger that strengthened Lee's control over Samsung at a crucial time for organizing a smooth leadership transition after his father fell ill.

Park was removed from office in March and is being tried separately. Her friend Choi also is on trial.

Lee has denied all charges. He has said he did not know of Choi or her daughter before the scandal grabbed national headlines and said Samsung's succession situation was not discussed during three meetings he held with the former president.

Samsung's lawyers do not contest having donated a large sum of money to the entities controlled by Choi. They disagreed with the prosecutors about the nature of the funds and insisted that at the time the donations were made Samsung was unaware that Choi controlled them.
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Supreme Court limits ability to strip citizenship

Legal Interview 2017/06/25 09:46   Bookmark and Share
The Supreme Court on Thursday limited the government's ability to strip U.S. citizenship from immigrants for lying during the naturalization process.

The justices ruled unanimously in favor of an ethnic Serb from Bosnia who lied about her husband's military service.

Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the court that false statements can lead to the revocation of citizenship only if they "played some role in her naturalization."

The court rejected the position taken by the Trump administration that even minor lies can lead to loss of citizenship.

The woman, Divna Maslenjak, and her family were granted refugee status in 1999 and settled near Akron, Ohio, in 2000. She became a citizen in 2007.

She initially told immigration officials her husband had not served in the Bosnian Serb military. That was a lie, she later conceded, and lower courts upheld a criminal conviction against her. The conviction automatically revoked her citizenship, and she and her husband were deported in October.

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Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch: Rule of law 'a blessing'

Legal Interview 2017/06/03 10:37   Bookmark and Share
Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch acknowledged Friday that there is "a lot of skepticism about the rule of law" in the country but defended the United States judicial system as "a blessing" and "a remarkable gift" during a talk at Harvard University.

The court's newest justice marveled that in America "nine old people in polyester black robes" and other judges can safely decide cases according to their conscience and that the government can lose cases without resorting to the use of armed force to impose its will.

"That is a heritage that is very, very special," he said. "It's a remarkable gift. Travel elsewhere. See how judges live. See whether they feel free to express themselves."

Gorsuch, made the comments during his first public appearance since joining the high court in a conversation with fellow Justice Stephen Breyer at Harvard University.

Gorsuch said that particularly in tumultuous times it's important to convince the next generation "that the project (of justice) is worth it because many of them have grave doubts."

"I think there is a lot of skepticism about the rule of law, but I see it day in and day out in the trenches — the adversarial process of lawyers coming to court and shaking hands before and after, the judges shaking hands as we do, before we ascend to the bench," he said. "That's how we resolve our differences in this society."

Gorsuch, who was nominated to the high court earlier this year by Republican President Donald Trump, said he believes there is still confidence in the judicial system. He said that 95 percent of all cases are decided in the trial court, while only 5 percent are appealed, and the Supreme Court hears about 80 cases in a good year.
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East Timor court drops premier's libel case against media

Legal Interview 2017/06/01 10:37   Bookmark and Share
An East Timor court on Thursday dismissed a criminal defamation case brought by the country's prime minister against two journalists due to lack of evidence.

Rights groups and press advocates had urged that the case be dropped, fearing it would further undermine press freedom in one of the world's youngest democracies.

Accused journalist Raimundo Oki said there was "big applause" when Dili District Court judge Patrocino Antonino Goncalves issued his ruling. The trial was observed by the International Federation of Journalists, USAID and other groups.

"I am happy with the final decision because since the beginning I have always believed that the judge will do his job freely and independently," Oki said.

Oki and his former editor at the Timor Post, Lourenco Vicente Martins, would have faced up to three years in prison if found guilty of slanderous denunciation.

The defamation accusation stemmed from an error in a story published two years ago about Prime Minister Rui Aria de Araujo's involvement in a state contract for information technology services when he was an adviser to East Timor's finance minister in 2014.

The story, which said Araujo had recommended a particular company for the contract before bids opened, misidentified that company as the eventual winner of the contract.

The newspaper apologized for that error, published a front-page story on Araujo's denial and Martins resigned. But Araujo has insisted on prosecuting. East Timor's fragile press freedom has come under attack with the passing of a restrictive media law in 2014 that can be used to stifle investigative journalism.
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Ohio high court will review full autopsies from 8 slayings

Legal Interview 2017/04/17 11:13   Bookmark and Share
The Ohio Supreme Court wants to see unredacted autopsy reports from eight slayings in one family as justices consider media lawsuits seeking access to those full reports from the year-old, unsolved case.

The court on Wednesday ordered the Pike County coroner in southern Ohio to submit the reports within two weeks for justices to review outside of public view.

The case involves seven adults and a teenage boy from the Rhoden family who were found shot to death at four homes near Piketon last April.

The Columbus Dispatch and The Cincinnati Enquirer separately sued for access to the full autopsies.

Authorities want to shield information, arguing that its release could compromise the investigation. The coroner also says victims' relatives raised concerns about sharing details of how their loved ones died.
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Bollywood filmmaker challenges censoring of drug-abuse film

Legal Interview 2016/06/10 12:47   Bookmark and Share
A Bollywood film producer took his row with India's censor board to a court Wednesday, challenging dozens of cuts and changes to a film that depicts the menace of drug abuse in the northern state of Punjab.

Censor Board chief Pahlaj Nihalini said in a newspaper interview that the movie wrongly depicts 70 percent of people of the state consuming drugs and defaming them. He told reporters that the censor board has approved the movie for screening in theaters with the cuts ordered.

He accused producer Anurag Kashyap of whipping up a controversy to create interest in his film. Compared to Hollywood, movie norms in India are extremely strict. Censorship authorities often order filmmakers ? both Indian and foreign ? to chop scenes deemed offensive. Films with graphic content can be barred completely.

Last year, India's censor authorities ordered that kissing scenes in the James Bond movie, "Spectre," be shortened before it was released in the country.

Kashyap asked the Mumbai High Court to overrule the cuts ordered by the censor board. The court is expected to take up the petition later Wednesday. It could reject the matter or order reconsideration.

Kashyap said the censor board chief Nihalini demanded 89 cuts to the film and even asked him to drop the name of the state from the title, "Udta Punjab," or "Flying Punjab."

Bollywood producers and directors rallied behind Kashyap in his fight with the censor board. "The job of the censor board is to certify films and not suggest cuts."

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