Court throws out Chiquita terror payment claims

Topics in Legal News 2014/07/28 13:34   Bookmark and Share
A divided federal appeals court on Thursday threw out claims potentially worth billions of dollars against produce giant Chiquita Brands International made by relatives of thousands of Colombians killed during years of bloody civil war.

A panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that federal courts have no jurisdiction over the Colombian claims. The lawsuits accused Chiquita of assisting in the killings by paying $1.7 million to a violent right-wing paramilitary group known as the AUC, the Spanish acronym for United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia.

Chiquita, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, formerly operated large banana plantations in Colombia through its Banadex subsidiary. Chiquita insists it was the victim of extortion and was forced to pay the AUC or face violence directed at its employees and assets in Colombia.

The majority cited a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling known as Kiobel vs. Royal Dutch Petroleum that imposed limits on attempts by foreigners to use U.S. courts to seek damages against corporations for human rights abuses abroad. Chiquita had insisted that ruling meant the Colombians' lawsuit had to be tossed out.

"We are gratified that the U.S. Court of Appeals has now agreed with us and the claims have been dismissed," said Chiquita spokesman Ed Loyd in an email statement. "The decision reinforces what Chiquita has maintained from the beginning — that Chiquita is not responsible for the tragic violence that has plagued Colombia."
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Court considers whistleblower free speech rights

Topics in Legal News 2014/04/29 16:04   Bookmark and Share
When Edward Lane testified about corruption at a community college program he headed in Alabama, he was fired.

The Supreme Court on Monday considered whether the First Amendment protects Lane and millions of other public employees from job retaliation when they offer testimony about government misconduct in court.

The high court has previously ruled that the constitutional right to free speech protects public workers only when they speak out as citizens, not when they act in their official roles.

Most justices appeared to side with Lane's view that court testimony revealing official misconduct should be constitutionally protected even if it covers facts a government employee learned at work.

But the justices struggled over whether that protection should automatically cover all public workers, even police officials or criminal investigators whose job duties require them to testify in court about specific cases.
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Lawyer: Evaluate stabbing suspect's mental health

Topics in Legal News 2014/04/15 13:52   Bookmark and Share
The attorney for a 16-year-old accused of stabbing 21 other students and a security guard at their high school said Thursday he wants to have a mental health expert evaluate the boy and hopes to have the case moved to juvenile court.

For now, Alex Hribal is charged as an adult with four counts of attempted homicide, 21 counts of aggravated assault and a weapons charge, and is being held without bond in the Westmoreland County juvenile detention center.

In an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America," attorney Patrick Thomassey acknowledged that his client stabbed the victims, and said any defense he offers will likely be based on the boy's psychological state, which he hopes to have an expert evaluate soon.

"I would assume so, yes, depending on what the mental health experts tell me," Thomassey said.

He said that, under Pennsylvania law, he will have to convince a judge that Hribal can be rehabilitated in juvenile court, which would have jurisdiction over him until he's 21. If convicted as an adult, Hribal faces likely decades in prison.

The attorney told several media outlets that Hribal was remorseful, though he acknowledged his client did not appear to appreciate the gravity of his actions. Thomassey said he is still getting to know his client, saying he spoke with Hribal only for about 20 minutes before his arraignment late Wednesday.
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Lawmaker Yee due back in court for arraignment

Topics in Legal News 2014/04/08 10:47   Bookmark and Share
Suspended state Sen. Leland Yee is due back in federal court for his alleged role in a San Francisco political corruption and organized crime case.

Yee could enter pleas Tuesday to one count of conspiracy to traffic in firearms without a license and to illegally import firearms, and to six counts of engaging in a scheme to defraud citizens of honest services.

The San Francisco Democrat is accused of conspiring to connect an undercover FBI agent with a Philippine arms dealer in exchange for campaign contributions, and of trading political influence for cash.

Yee and 19 others were formally indicted last week after being arrested on March 26.

Other defendants, including Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, whose charges include money laundering and trafficking, are scheduled for arraignment Tuesday.
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Inmate pleads guilty in prison guard's stabbing

Topics in Legal News 2014/03/14 14:47   Bookmark and Share
An inmate has pleaded guilty to murder in the stabbing death of a guard at a federal prison in Central California.

The U.S Attorney's Office says 48-year-old James Ninete Leon Guerrero, of Guam, entered the plea on Tuesday.

Prosecutors say Guerrero held Officer Jose Rivera down at the U.S. Penitentiary in Atwater in 2008 as another inmate, Jose Cabrera Sablan, stabbed him more than 20 times with an eight-inch shank. The 22-year-old Rivera - a U.S. Navy veteran - was doing a daily headcount when he was attacked.

Guerrero was serving a life prison sentence at the time in connection with an armed bank robbery. Prosecutors say under a plea agreement, he will receive another life term. Sablan is scheduled to go on trial in April.
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Coast Guardsman guilty in sexual misconduct case

Topics in Legal News 2014/03/10 13:51   Bookmark and Share
Coast Guard officials in New Orleans say a petty officer has been convicted and sentenced on charges involving sexual assault and possession of child pornography.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher C. Bush's court martial was held in Norfolk, Va.

A Coast Guard news release said the 28-year-old Bush was convicted Friday on four violations of a Uniform Code of Military Justice article dealing with rape and sexual assault and one involving child pornography.

The crimes involved a junior Coast Guard woman and a civilian woman. They happened between January 2010 and May 2013 while Bush was stationed at a unit in New Orleans. The Coast Guard said it was not releasing the name of the unit to protect the privacy of the victims.
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