June 18, 2009

Wow!

And I don't mean that lightly.

Obviously, they'll appeal, because that's what lawyers do to make more money from their client. But for those who've watched this ridiculous egocircus play out, and for those who were damaged by it, it's still refreshing to see this result.

I bet someone's kicking himself now that they didn't request a jury trial so they could parade around with pancakes and preachers and stuff.

A nice turn of phrase from the judge's opinion: The innocent, continuing shareholders of HealthSough do not have unclean hands, and Scrushy, who does, cannot use them to strum the harp of equity.

Heh.

(Although, I do sort of wish he'd have said 'guitar,' given the defendant's stellar country music career.)

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 10:52 AM | Comments (9)

June 15, 2007

Give that man the Understatement of All Time Award.

Duke prosecutor: Maybe got carried away

By AARON BEARD, Associated Press Writer
2 minutes ago

RALEIGH, N.C. - District Attorney Mike Nifong acknowledged Friday that he "maybe got carried away a little bit" in talking about the three Duke University lacrosse players who were once charged with raping a stripper, and he said he expected to be punished.

"I think clearly some of the statements I made were improper," Nifong testified Friday at his ethics trial. [...]

No, sir. Getting 'a little bit carried away' is using the really good 25 pound paper to print out an e-mail.

Hard to believe that there's someone out there who could have given attorneys an even worse reputation for cravenness, but I think we've found him. (Well, him and the Deeply Disturbed and Unsatisfied Pants Judge.)

UPDATE: 3:25 p.m. CAPTAIN OBVIOUS TO THE RESCUE! Duke DA Mike Nifong says he'll resign

By AARON BEARD, Associated Press Writer
5 minutes ago
>
RALEIGH, N.C. - Facing the loss of his law license, a tearful Mike Nifong said Friday he will resign as district attorney, more than a year after he obtained rape indictments against three Duke University lacrosse players who were later declared innocent by state prosecutors. [...]

"It has become increasingly apparent, during the course of this week, in some ways that it might not have been before, that my presence as the district attorney in Durham is not furthering the cause of justice," Nifong said.

Wow--that's some startlingly deep self-assessment there, Sparky.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 12:20 PM | Comments (0)

March 14, 2007

I believe the saying is something like...

..."a prosecutor can get a ham sandwich indicted," but on this one, I'm willing to bet there's something to the charges: AP NewsBreak: Former Secretary of State Worley indicted

By PHILLIP RAWLS
The Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) Former Secretary of State Nancy Worley has been indicted by a grand jury on charges stemming from her unsuccessful campaign for re-election last year, her attorney told The Associated Press Wednesday.

Montgomery attorney James Anderson said he received a call from the attorney general's staff informing him that Worley had been indicted on five felony counts and five misdemeanor counts accusing her of soliciting campaign funds from employees in the secretary of state's office. [...]

During Worley's re-election campaign last year, one of her employees, Ed Packard, ran against her in the Democratic primary and filed a complaint with the attorney general's office. The complaint involved Worley sending an envelope to her employees that had a place on the outside for them to mark whether they would like to volunteer in her campaign, post a bumper sticker on their vehicles, or make a contribution.

Anderson said the envelope was accompanied by a letter explaining there would be no retaliation against any employees who didn't support her. "As far as she knows, nobody who worked for her gave to her," he said. [...]

Well, nice try, dude, but the law doesn't seem to give elected officials an out if they say they won't retaliate, or if none of the employees participate--

[...] State law prohibits state officials from soliciting their employees for help in a campaign. Violations can be either a felony or a misdemeanor, with the felony punishable by up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine and a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine. [...]

I imagine she'll find a way to settle, since it seems even from her own attorney the solicitation was made, and the defense against the charge seems to be that it's nothing but a politically-motivated charade.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 01:01 PM | Comments (2)

February 22, 2007

Am I the only one who thinks...

...this guy's been hit with the gavel one too many times?

Judge: Baby's guardian gets Smith's body

By MATT SEDENSKY, Associated Press Writer

5 minutes ago

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Blubbering ["blubbering" is a bit loaded, isn't it? ed.] as he announced his decision, a judge said Thursday that the guardian of Anna Nicole Smith's baby daughter can decide where the model should be buried.

Circuit Judge Larry Seidlin steered a surprise middle course in the dispute. Smith's estranged mother wanted her buried in her native Texas, while Smith's boyfriend wanted her laid to rest in the Bahamas.

The judge compromised and gave custody to attorney Richard Milstein, the guardian for Smith's 5-month-old daughter, Dannielynn.

It wasn't immediately clear what Milstein would do.

The judge choked up frequently and wept as he explained his decision. "I want her to be buried with her son in the Bahamas. I want them to be together."

Emphases mine.

Okay, aside from the reportorial editorialization, from all that I've heard from this judge throughout the proceedings seems to point either to his incompetence or his incapacity. Personally, the guy sounds like a loon to me, or he wants a TV show of his own. "Surprise middle course"!? Surprising in the sense that it made absolutely no sense at all. If he can't make a decision, leaving that choice to one of the other attorneys who's knee-deep in the case seems beyond stupid. His inability to render a properly dispassionate decision makes him seem like a good candidate for recall or impeachment.

Way to go, Florida!

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 03:36 PM | Comments (4)

February 14, 2007

If it please the Court, Your Honor...

...a nifty bit from Orin Kerr on properly answering a question.

I sure wish I could get a degree from ILS.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 01:01 PM | Comments (2)

December 01, 2006

Oh, come on now.

Suit: Lead ammo in carrion kills condors

By TERENCE CHEA
The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Advocates for the California condor sued state wildlife regulators for allowing lead hunting ammunition despite concerns that the rare birds can die after eating carcasses contaminated with the pellets.

The environmentalists, who filed the federal suit Thursday in Los Angeles, claim the state is violating the Endangered Species Act. They want the state to require hunters to use ammunition made of copper or other materials.

One plaintiff, the San Francisco-based Center for Biological Diversity, said 46 of the giant vultures have died or disappeared after being released in California from 1992 through July 2006, and that lead poisoning may have factored into many of those deaths. [...]

Okay, let's try to look at this logically, which I know is a stretch given that you're dealing with a bunch of emotion-driven advocates here--but it seems these folks are saying hunters are leaving shot game in the woods.

Not likely--if you hunt, you take the animal with you. There may be very rare cases where a small animal is wounded and runs away and dies elsewhere, but this doesn't happen that often. There is the possibility that hunters who field dress their prey and leave the scraps for scavengers are leaving behind some lead in the carcass that might be ingested. Maybe.

But here's the thing--there aren't a lot of condors, but there are sure an awful lot of OTHER scavengers out there who will get to that dead animal or gut pile a lot quicker. To have a sufficient number of wounded animals who later die or piles of leftover scraps to have an effect on condor populations would require a HUGE amount of game escaping and dying off elsewhere or animals being field dressed.

Second, it's not clear from the report, but this doesn't seem to be an issue of lead shotgun pellets, but of center-fire rifle ammunition. Waterfowl really DO have a lead poisoning issue, where lead shot or lead fishing weights can be picked up by fish then ingested by the birds, or the birds can pick it up out of bottom silt. So there is some sense in keeping lead shotgun pellets out of bodies of water. But to extrapolate that to a different set of circumstances--which even the plaintiffs seem to be saying is nothing more than a conjectural possibility of harm--is an over-reach.

Again, is there really that big of a problem of people losing wounded game that is later eaten by a scavenger or predator? Are there that many piles of meat scraps left behind after a hunt? Probably not, again for the reason that there are simply not enough hunters wounding or killing enough animals to make it that large a component of lead in the food chain. If it were, it would seem that you would see the effects of it in the more numerous species of predators and scavengers, not just in one species of animal.

Which goes back to the idea presented in the story that this whole thing is fear over something that MIGHT be happening, not that it is something happening now. The article did not list any instances where it was proven that any of the birds died from lead poisoning. They mention that 46 birds died or disappeared since 1992. How are we to know what killed the disappeared birds without a carcass to test!? Of the ones that died and have been recovered, it would seem to be relatively simple to determine their proximate cause of death, yet the article still quotes that plaintiff as saying only that lead poisoning "may" have been a factor in "many" of the deaths. Look, it either killed the bird or it didn't, and if there's not evidence of it (in the birds that were actually found), then this is really looks like nothing more than a crass stunt.

Although you might find it difficult to believe, it might have nothing at all to do with bird safety.

Yes, I know--it's simply inconceivable!

But do consider that one of the parties in the suit, Physicians for Social Responsibility, considers as part of its mission to create a world free of gun violence. Their chosen method of reducing gun violence does not involve punishing people who commit crimes with guns, but eliminating all guns, including by forced confiscation if they can manage it. Except for those guns owned by the government. Failing that, they've shown quite an interest in limiting the types of ammunition people can buy. Again, except for the authorities.

Well, there's the gun control angle, then there's the irrational fear of the unknown angle that must be played upon, which brings us to The Natural Resources Defense Council. Remember the Alar-on-apples scare? Nothing like a little junk science thrown in the mix.

If this really is a problem, it can be fixed. But it would be nice to have actual data to examine rather than rely upon the doom-and-destruction fearmongering that seems to be such a big part of stuff like this.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 10:49 AM | Comments (9)

September 22, 2006

We've determined what you are, madame--

--now we're only negotiating the price.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 11:00 AM | Comments (4)

August 17, 2006

The Road to Hell...

...apparently has painted dots spaced 80 feet apart. In yet another one of those 'law of unintended consequences' moments, we have this from the great state of Washington: Washington: Attempt to Stop Tailgating Causes Massive Traffic Jam

An attempt by Washington state transportation officials to stop tailgating failed an important reality test over the weekend when it caused massive traffic jams on a two-mile stretch of northbound Interstate 5. Officials had just unveiled the "2 dots 2 safety" program that urged motorists to keep no less than two of the specially painted freeway pavement dots -- 160 feet -- distance from the car in front. Each dot is spaced eighty feet apart on the freeway between Lacey and Nisqually.

Awwww--good intentions! My only surprise is that no attempt seemed to have been made to say the program was For The Childrentm. Anyway, back to good intentions...

The hope was to expand the program statewide and use the dots eventually to help police issue $101 citations to drivers for following too closely.

Yep, nothing like setting up a nice little revenue enhancement scheme to make everyone feel good about themselves. IT'S FOR THE SAFETY!

During heavy Saturday traffic, however, motorists maintained the 160-foot distance as required by the posted signs, even though such distances were unnecessary at the crawling pace. This further reduced the freeway's capacity causing a chain-reaction slow-down.

"The idea was not to impede traffic, but to increase safety," state Traffic Engineer Ted Trepanier said in a statement provided to The Olympian newspaper. "We apologize for delays drivers faced as a result of this program."

To their credit, they recognized the boneheadedness pretty quickly. However, statistics and a credulous press enter the picture, and you can pretty much guess how that turns out:

The state maintains tailgating is a problem because it leads to rear-enders. "Twenty-one people died in rear-end crashes in Washington during 2005," the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) website asserts.

Okay, following too closely is inherently a bad idea, and it can lead to rear end collisions if the following vehicle can't stop in time. But the raw number of fatal rear-end collisions cited does not necessarily mean that tailgating is necessarily the cause, nor that dot painting was the way to solve the problem.

First, where did the fatal rear end collisions occur? I don't have any idea, but it would be nice to know how many occurred on Interstates versus surface streets or rural roads, because in general Interstates are much safer than any other type of roadway, and although it may seem counter-intuitive (you know, since "urban" = "scary") urban Interstates are safer than rural ones. And what about such things as the day of the week, the time of day, and the weather? It's much less safe in the dark, or in the rain or snow, and in the dark rain and snow is even more scary. Especially on a rainy snowy dark Saturday night! So, it would be nice to know a bit about that as well.

Second, of the collisions that occurred on Interstates, how many were actually the result of following too closely, versus those caused by inattention to stopped traffic ahead? Because if you think about it, if you're following too closely behind another moving vehicle, the net difference in speed between your two vehicles isn't nearly so great (and potentially fatal) as it would be if you're off wool-gathering at 70 mph and decide it might be a good idea to see where you're going, only to find that you have sped up onto a line of traffic at a dead stop. I'm willing to wager that a goodly portion of those fatalities probably involved something other than simply following too closely.

Third, of all the rear-end collisions, exactly how many occurred due to impairment on the part of the following driver? Seeing as how about 40% of all traffic fatalities are the result of someone driving while under the influence of something, could it be that 8 of those 21 deaths were by someone so hammered that painted dots on the roadway would have been meaningless? Maybe.

Fourth, 21 compared to what? Is this an increase, or a decrease in the number of deaths? And more importantly for the way in which statistics are kept, is this an increase or decrease in the rate of fatalities? That is, the amount of fatalities for a given amount of miles traveled. Because just about every set of statistics released by the Feds has shown a decline in Interstate traffic deaths per 100,000,000 miles traveled for almost every year of the past forty. Despite everything, it's actually safer to travel by Interstate now than it every has been.

Fifth, if we take Washington's rate and compare it to that of other states, is it higher or lower? Although there's nothing inherently wrong with trying to make travel safer, if it's already ahead of the average, it might be worth considering another avenue (so to speak) where funds could be more efficiently allocated. According to this table, the U.S. rate of fatalities is 1.4 per 100,000,000 miles traveled. Washingtons seems to be doing something right already, as their rate is only 1.0. Us po' slobs down here in Alabama are offing ourselves at a rate of 2.0 per 100M. (And as always, we say thank heavens for Mississippi, who come in at 2.3 per.)

If you take all that into consideration, it is possible that the good citizens of Washington might be being squeezed by some overzealous--although well intentioned--folks who just want to do what's right. Or not.

In the context of red light cameras, however, Washington state dismisses the importance and severity of potentially fatal rear end collisions and encourages cities to install the automated ticketing systems.

Well, there IS that whole revenue thing again, isn't there? As my good friend Fritz Schranck notes, there are some valid reasons for a municipality using these cameras as an aid to law enforcement, and they don't necessarily lead to higher numbers of rear enders (especially if the yellow light interval is lengthened enough to give ample warning of change to red).

However, in practice, there IS a lure out there and there ARE jurisdictions who see things such as red-light cameras as well as all these other sorts of putative safety programs (which are invariably run by private contractors who take a cut of the money and give a bit back to the public coffers)--as nothing more than a way to pay lip service to safety, while tapping a previously unplumbed source of cash. It also doesn't help when the politicos take advantage of the fun offered by the lobbyists representing the companies who install and maintain traffic cameras and issue the tickets.

Although it might be difficult to believe, it's almost as if some lawmakers are being somewhat misleading about their true intentions!!

Yes, I know! Shocking!

Anyway, at least we can again applaud the folks up in Washington for seeing this was a bad idea and stopping it. Right? Well, maybe not.

WSDOT will now remove the dots from I-5 and try them on another freeway.

Imagine that.

Now then, if you want to REALLY do some good, do something for me. Learn to drive.

Be aware of your surroundings and alert to potential danger from other drivers.

Be confident in your abilities and the capabilities of the vehicle you're driving.

Understand the effects of such things as weather or your own physical condition can have on your reaction time.

Rather than trying to gauge a particular number of feet, try to maintain an adequate cushion based on your time interval between you and the car ahead of you. The old "two second (and more as conditions dictate) rule" serves well, and has for many years--if you use it.

Update--I note that the "time of day and road condition" table gives the percentage of accidents, not a rate. Obviously, more accidents occur when it's light, because most travel occurs when it's light. I have not been able to find a table showing the rate per mile driven at specific times or conditions is higher at night or in foul weather, but if there's a stat to be gathered by the Feds, I feel certain it's out there somewhere. If you run across it, let me know.

It does serve as a point of discussion, though, about reading statistics--some might see the large percentage and suggest that if so many fatal collisions occur during the day, wouldn't it make sense to outlaw daytime driving? It's a bit like the old joke about the guy who found out most fatal accidents occur within five miles of home, so he moved to a new home ten miles away from his old one.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 11:57 AM | Comments (7)

August 15, 2006

Steevil says...

...that Little Alex seems to be a bit unclear on the whole concept, but I kinda think he figured he was going to go there anyway, so it didn't matter if it was for one thing or two.

Might as well get both of them out of the way at the same time, eh wot?

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 10:20 AM | Comments (0)

August 08, 2006

I OBSHECK, YER HONNER!

Judge: Lawyer is too drunk to argue case

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A judge ordered a blood-alcohol test for a defense lawyer whom she said smelled of alcohol, then declared a mistrial after declaring him too tipsy to argue a kidnapping case.

"I don't think you can tell a straight story because you are intoxicated," Clark County District Judge Michelle Leavitt told defense lawyer Joseph Caramango as she declared a mistrial for Caramango's client, Dale Jakuchunas.

Caramango told the Las Vegas Review-Journal for a Tuesday report that he was not drunk, and had been ready to go forward with witness testimony. Jakuchunas, 32, faces life in prison if convicted.

"I've always considered myself the consummate professional," Caramango said. "I take all my cases very personally."

He said he received a head injury in a rear-end car crash while driving to court on Thursday, but that police were not called. Caramango did not immediately respond Tuesday to a message seeking comment.

In an exchange recorded by courtroom video, Caramango arrived about 90 minutes late for trial, and can be heard slurring his words.

The judge asked if something was wrong, and said she became suspicious when details of Caramango's accident account varied.

Caramango also identified a woman who accompanied him to court as his ex-girlfriend, and called her Christine. Questioned by the judge, the woman identified herself as Josephine and said she just met Caramango about 20 minutes earlier at a nearby bar and grill.

Leavitt summoned Caramango and prosecutors into her chambers and ordered Caramango to be examined by a courthouse nurse.

The nurse told the judge that Caramango said he had shots of tequila hours before court. Caramango acknowledged in court that he was drinking the previous night, but maintained he was not drunk. [...]

I am reminded of the heartwarming scene in of one of the early episodes of Happy Days, when Ritchie sneaks out to a fraternity party.

RITCHIE: 'I'm not drunk--we just had beer, in teeeeeny weeny little glasses.'

MR. CUNNINGHAM: 'How many teeny weeny little glasses did you have?'

RITCHIE: 'Seventy-two.'

There's probably a good Johnnie Cochranism wandering around here somewhere, too--something like, "If the lawyer's lit, you MUST acquit." (You know, it's hard to make up a rhyme for 'mistrial'.)

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 01:12 PM | Comments (3)

July 21, 2006

Well, because--

Siegelman proclaims his innocence on TV

--everyone KNOWS you can believe it if it's on TV!

I am reminded of a trip our senior class took in high school. We went to Mt. Meigs State Prison in Montgomery, and spent nearly all day there. Not really so much one of those "Scared Straight" programs, but just your general sort of informational field trip things, with murderers instead of museum docents.

Anyway, what was interesting to us all was that every single man there, all the way up to "Dynamite Bob" Chambliss, proclaimed his absolute, unwavering innocence. Not a single man there had ever done anything wrong, much less anything worthy of being in jail. They were all completely not guilty.

"What are you here for?"

"They say I robbed a convenience store and killed a man."

Yes, innocent people are sometimes mistakenly convicted. But not all convicts are innocent, no matter how much they proclaim to the contrary. Or how expensive their suit and shoes might be.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 09:37 AM | Comments (4)

July 12, 2006

Good.

Appeals court throws out 7-day sentence of former HealthSouth CFO

By JAY REEVES
The Associated Press

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A federal appeals court said the seven-day prison term given an architect of the $2.7 billion fraud at HealthSouth Corp. was "shockingly short" and ordered another sentencing before a new judge.

Ruling in a 32-page decision, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the sentence of former HealthSouth finance chief Mike Martin and sent the case back to district court for a second time.

U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon first sentenced Martin to probation and house arrest, but prosecutors won an appeal. Clemon then sentenced Martin to a week in prison, prompting another appeal and the 11th Circuit's ruling Tuesday overturning the sentence and removing Clemon from the case.

The 11th Circuit said Martin's case should be reassigned because it was likely Clemon "would have difficulty putting his previous views and findings aside." Prosecutors have also appealed other sentences handed down by Clemon in HealthSouth-related cases and viewed by the government as too light. [...]

Clemons' rulings over the years have strained belief, such as his dismissal of the previous federal charges of Medicaid bid rigging by Don Siegelman. I'm not sure what his deal is, but he seems to have quite a bit of antipathy for any sort of federal investigations of public officials accused of wrongdoing, probably stemming from his own time being the subject of a federal investigation that was ended in 1996.

"Would have difficulty..." would seem to be a more than slight understatement.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 02:37 PM | Comments (3)

July 10, 2006

Well, good.

Judge: FBI raid on lawmaker's office legal

[...] "Congress' capacity to function effectively is not threatened by permitting congressional offices to be searched pursuant to validly issued search warrants," said [Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas F.] Hogan, who had approved the FBI's request to conduct the overnight search of Jefferson's office. [...]

Imagine that.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 04:14 PM | Comments (0)

June 23, 2006

As I supposed yesterday...

...the Siegelman-Scrushy jury was given an Allen charge and told to go back to work. Mr. Scrushy noted yesterday evening that he'd been through this before, and (paraphrasing) he just knew it meant that in the end everyone would get to go home free and clear.

Only problem being that there was one juror who was replaced in his trial, and that juror turned out to be the lone strong holdout for conviction. In this case, I have a feeling there is probably more than one juror holding out either for acquittal or conviction, and that it it's going to be harder to reach a decision with more than a lone holdout.

As for what will happen--who knows? I've mentioned it enough before, but it seems that some people who have been seated on these types of juries of late are highly maleable when it comes to deciding things based strictly on the law, and seem to be rather more impressed with irrelevant appeals to emotion. And unctuous, self-righteous, multi-millionaire televangelists.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 10:11 AM | Comments (0)

June 22, 2006

Here it comes!

Breaking News from NBC13--Jury Makes Announcement In Siegelman, Scrushy Trial

FOX 6 reports jury has failed to reach a verdict.

I would say the judge probably will now issue an Allen charge, but I suppose there will be plenty to talk about tomorrow. I'm a'going home to work on the Volvo.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 04:48 PM | Comments (0)

Well, that's odd.

Judge encourages Siegelman jury to keep working

By BOB JOHNSON
The Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The judge in the government corruption trial of former Gov. Don Siegelman and three others gave jurors a pep talk Wednesday, encouraging them to keep working to reach verdicts following 32 days of testimony and arguments.

U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller said his comments to jurors, who are on their fifth day of deliberations, were not intended to be what's known as an "Allen" or "dynamite" charge, normally given when juries are deadlocked.

He said he was just trying to encourage jurors to continue working and to remind them that they could return a partial verdict if they all agree on some charges in the 34-count indictment and not others, or if they all agree on charges against some of the four defendants and not others. [...]

Odd mainly because there have been no published reports that the jury has been discouraged or unpeppy. The judge seems to think, at least according to this report, that they might be needlessly rehashing things in order to see if they can reach a unanimous verdict on everything, which he noted to them was not necessary.

If there is a conviction, I imagine this will be one of the items brought up on appeal--the defense is all up in arms that the jury was given this instruction, despite the fact that in their public declamations, none of the charges are true and are all just politically motivated stunts. It's an indication, at least to me, that the defense might just have some doubt that everyone will buy their tales of good friends in high places swapping favors is just what everyone does.

If they really believed what they'd been spouting, I think I would have gotten up and made a big deal in front of the jury that you didn't care if they considered them separately or not because they were all bogus, but just as a matter of formality, I was just going to object anyway.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 09:25 AM | Comments (0)

June 20, 2006

Whatever happened to a good, old-fashioned shunning?

Creative sentence given to ex-Mobile County school board member

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — A judge ruled that former Mobile County school board member David Thomas Jr. must not speak to school officials for a year as part of his sentence for an unauthorized purchase of $9,033 in Mardi Gras throws.

Thomas, who was removed from office with his conviction in an impeachment trial, also was ordered to pay for five sixth-grade classes to go to the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, estimated to cost $3,000 or more, and fined $2,000 plus court costs. He also is to be under court supervision for the next year. [...]

I say make the sentence be that no one else can talk to HIM, either.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 04:42 PM | Comments (0)

June 14, 2006

And in a similar vein...

Jury convicts Jeffco engineer, construction firm in sewer case

VAL WALTON
News staff writer

It took a federal jury less than three hours Tuesday to convict a former Jefferson County engineer and a construction company of wrongdoing stemming from the county's $3 billion sewer program.

The jury found Ronald Wilson guilty of bribery and conspiracy involving a $4,500 payment from Pugh Construction Inc. made to UAB on behalf of his son. The jury found Pugh guilty of conspiracy. The verdict came after eight days of testimony before U.S. District Judge L. Scott Coogler.

Jurors agreed with prosecutors finding the payment was a bribe, symbolizing a pattern of rampant bribery involving contracts for court-ordered work on upgrading the county's dilapidated sewer system. Wilson's attorneys had argued the payment was a legitimate scholarship, noting the government's own witness, Grady Pugh Jr., testified that it was not a bribe, but a scholarship. [...]

Glennon Threatt, a lawyer for Wilson, said Wilson was harmed by unrelated evidence of bad acts involving other former Jefferson county officials who are accused of taking bribes. A federal jury in April convicted former commissioner Chris McNair of conspiracy and bribery, along with five executives and their companies. [...]

"It's a difficult environment for anyone who worked in the county to get a fair trial," Threatt said. "You can't escape the stench of unrelated evidence."

Aww. Poor Stinky. I would imagine it IS hard to escape the stench of unrelated evidence, although harder still to escape the stench of RELATED evidence.

Here--I'll play this for you--I know it'll make you feel better, Mr. Threatt.

tiniest violin.jpg


Maybe this couple of verdicts means I was wrong about the juries around here. The one that will be the real test should be reaching a decision in the coming days.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 12:38 PM | Comments (0)

Wow.

Germany convicted of misusing county funds

Former Jefferson County Commissioner Jeff Germany was convicted this morning of using taxpayer money for personal gain.

He was convicted on four counts of misapplying county funds and one count of conspiracy. [...]

Assistant U.S. Attorney Pat Meadows had described Germany as a corrupt public official who manipulated a legitimate nonprofit agency to enrich himself, a co-conspirator, his wife, former girlfriends and other friends using thousands of taxpayer dollars set aside for use in his district.

Raymond Johnson, Germany’s lawyer, countered that Germany, who served from 1998 to 2002, did nothing illegal and was a dedicated public servant with a good heart in the county’s largest and poorest district. [...]

Germany was accused of illegally funneling discretionary funds through the Jefferson County Committee for Economic Opportunity, then giving instructions for new checks to be cut and the money to be passed on to other recipients he designated. [...]

Well, I'll be. Frankly, even though I was sure of the prosecution's case and thought he was guilty, it's gotten to where I have little faith that a jury will convict in these types of cases, going back to what I said about the Scrushy Siegelman Sircus going on down in Montgomery, that is, that juries seem to increasingly be willing to believe that criminals write down explicit instructions about all the crimes they want people to go commit for them.

IN this instance, though, it seems that they could see for themselves the connections, and were able to convict him.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 12:17 PM | Comments (0)

June 09, 2006

Roshambo!

Judge makes 'Rock, paper, scissors' ruling

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A federal judge, miffed at the inability of opposing attorneys to agree on even the slightest details of a lawsuit, ordered them to settle their latest dispute with a game of "rock, paper, scissors."

The argument was over a location to take the sworn statement of a witness in an insurance lawsuit.

In an order signed Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell scolded both sides and ordered them to meet at a neutral location at 4 p.m. June 30 to play a round of the hand-gesture game often used to settle childhood disputes. If they can't agree on the neutral location, he said, they'll play on the steps of the federal courthouse. [...]

While I appreciate the effort by the judge to make the attorneys come to some realization that they were acting like a bunch of spoiled brat jerks, you must remember that you can never make a jerk feel like one.

Flip a coin and be done with it. Or better yet, if the judge can set a location for the contest in case the lawyers are unable to decide on a neutral location for the game, why couldn't he just have gone ahead and decided on a neutral location for the deposition?

Or, if you simply must have them compete, drop them out of a plane without parachutes, and the first one to the ground is the winner.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 09:25 AM | Comments (0)

May 25, 2006

Stupidity on Parade

Judge: Man is too short for prison

SIDNEY, Neb. (AP) — A judge said a 5-foot-1 man convicted of sexually assaulting a child was too small to survive in prison, and gave him 10 years of probation instead.

His crimes deserved a long sentence, District Judge Kristine Cecava said, but she worried that Richard W. Thompson, 50, would be especially imperiled by prison dangers.

I have never believed that the barbarity of prison life is acceptable, and have never believed it should be the source of additional punishment for convicts. But to refuse to send a man deserving of prison time to prison due to concerns about his safety are ludicrous. ANYone (if prisons are allowed to be nothing but unsupervised dens of depravity) would be endangered if sent there, regardless of his size or level of aggression. Why not just let everyone bypass jail?

[...] "I want control of you until I know you have integrated change into your life," the judge told Thompson. "I truly hope that my bet on you being OK out in society is not misplaced."

Hey, thanks for wagering with the currency of your community's children, Judge!

Lock him up.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 08:07 AM | Comments (3)

May 23, 2006

I admit...

...I have very little (read "no") knowledge of how the Dutch legal system works, but after seeing so many stories over the past year like the one associated with this headline: Suspect in Natalee Holloway Case Released, I really would not be surprised to see a headline tomorrow reading, "Every Person on Island of Aruba Arrested, Released--Prosecutors Expect to Arrest, Release Everyone In Netherlands Within Hour."

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 09:22 AM | Comments (0)

February 07, 2006

A time and a place for everything, folks--

Judge apologizes for Super Bowl cheer

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — The judge who led her courtroom in a Super Bowl cheer before a manslaughter sentencing hearing has issued an apology to the victim's family, prosecutors and others in the court.

Pierce County Superior Court Judge Beverly G. Grant had said she was just trying to ease tensions Friday when she asked everyone to say "Go Seahawks" before starting the hearing.

On Monday, after drawing heavy criticism, Grant said she never meant to hurt anyone's feelings and issued the apology. [...]

Madame, Night Court was taken off the air a long time ago. And trust me, you're not Harry Anderson.

Just remember the old stage adage, "Dying is easy -- COMEDY is hard."

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 09:39 AM | Comments (0)

February 02, 2006

Finder's Fee?

Aw, piffle!

Regular contributor and NASA rocket scientist Steevil sends along this link about the retired Massachusetts lawyer who held on to some stolen pictures for 28 years.

The guy only wants a 10% finder's fee? Hey, just be glad he's not trying to get reimbursed for 28 years' worth of billable hours for providing a holding service.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 10:40 AM | Comments (2)

June 28, 2005

DICKIE BIRD FLIES THE COOP!

Oh, thank heavens the government has been stymied in its efforts to persecute this tender, humble, man of God!

Oh, and by the way--I don't want to ever hear another word about all that "rich keep getting richer at the expense of minorities" crap. It's obviously just fine to take as much as you want as long as you spread a little bit back to the right people.

(No online story yet--but acquitted on all charges--announced at around noon. Okay--here's the online version from al.com. )

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 12:01 PM | Comments (4)

June 22, 2005

More News from the Train Wreck

Judge replaces ailing juror, commends jury's service

U.S.District Judge Karon Bowdre replaced a juror with a history of health problems deliberating in the Richard Scrushy trial with an alternate today. Following the change, Bowdre will recharged [sic] the jury, which will now begin new deliberations. [...]

One wonders how long the new deliberations will take...

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 12:36 PM | Comments (0)

June 03, 2005

Yet more news from the train wreck.

'Nother note--Scrushy Jury Deadlocked

"The jury for the Richard Scrushy trial has sent the judge a note expressing their inability to reach a verdict.

The jury sent the note to Judge Karon Bowdre at 10:27 a.m. Friday expressing their concerns.

"We regret to inform the court that we are unable to reach a verdict," said the note. [...]"

Well, all I have to say is that there have to be a some people in there who just don't care. They haven't really worked long enough to actually, really, deliberate on each of those thirty-some-odd charges (they didn't even work yesterday), and just about every other day they've met they've done nothing but send notes saying they can't reach a decision. There has been some talk locally that the judge might issue an Allen charge to them, which she might do, but it seems now to just be a waste of taxpayer's money. They've been told and been told to do something, and they aren't. I don't think the judge is going to dismiss the charges, either, though, so get ready for yet more of the Traveling Dickie Bird Media Circus for the foreseeable future.

Tips for the next case? The Feds need to streamline things a bit and clean up any perceived discrepancies, and the next judge needs to enforce a strict gag order and look real hard at sequestering the jury.

UPDATE: Well, the most recent viewing of the story says that an Allen charge was issued. For what it's worth.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 11:34 AM | Comments (8)

June 01, 2005

AND another thing.

They announced either this morning or yesterday morning on the Wendy Garner Show on Channel 13 that we Alabamians can now get free copies of our credit reports. (Some of the rest of you outta state furriners can, too, apparently.) I thought this was actually something you could do all along, but apparently only if you'd been turned down for credit. ANYway, they had a handy link, which in my intense boredom I clicked to see what this deal was all about.

The initial information gathering sign-up screen on the first site was trouble-free, but when it came time to actually GET a report, the TransUnion site was an absolute confusing minefield of a mess, and to make matters worse, I never could get the thing to give me my credit report, even after fifteen futile minutes of clicking. The Experian site was much easier, quicker, reliabler, and bother-freer, and I had my report in about five minutes. I didn't check the last one for Equifax, because you can only get one free one a year, and I figure it's probably better to stagger these things out so that if something comes up, it might be easier to spot.

As for my credit, I think the only way I manage to maintain any kind of goodwill is due to still being listed on several of my parents' credit cards.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 04:27 PM | Comments (0)

May 26, 2005

More News from the Train Wreck

New note from jury indicates it's deadlocked

The jury in the Richard Scrushy trial sent a note to the judge this morning indicating it is deadlocked on the conspiracy charge against the HealthSouth founder.

The note says: “This question have (sic) been asked, but a simple yes or no to this count will let me know if their (sic) is a need to move on to the other counts. We cannot reach a unanimous decision on Count One Conspiracy.”

The note asks if their decision has to be unanimous and asks for an answer “so we can move on.”


U.S. District Court Judge Karon Bowdre will address the jury this morning.

I believe there's more than one person feeling a bit sic right now.

There's still a lot the jury has to do besides the conspiracy count, but I sense a mistrial coming for some, if not all, of the charges. I think the American jury system is good, and better than the alternative of having "professional" jurors as some have advocated. But, you have to remember there are many folks in this town who respond well to two things: oily demogogues, and walking-around money. And it only takes one person so swayed to lock things up.

I had the same experience when I was on (civil) jury duty a few years back, when there were several folks who were absolutely immune to reason and logic. Just to look at them, you'd think nothing about them was amiss, but once deliberations got started--boy-howdy--the sheer lunacy of their thought process was frightening. It was a wrongful termination suit, and the plaintiff was serving as her own attorney, and although her story was pitiful, there was no evidence the company did anything wrong. In the jury room, one old codger was incensed when this was brought up, and said something to the effect of, "Well, if she was required to have that kind of evidence, then she'd lose!" ::blink::blink:: It was like watching the Witch Scene.

Anyway, I do hope that if any of the charges go to trial again, that whoever the judge is will have the good sense to recuse him or herself if that judge has any ties to the defendant's family, or feels the least bit whiny about taking on a hard case. Although there is some willful ignorance going on in the jury room, there is also some blame for the confusion about the law that has to be spread at the bench as well, and it might have been better had the judge passed the case on to a more experienced gavel.

Anyway.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 12:04 PM | Comments (3)

May 20, 2005

Deliberations. Of a sort.

Hmm. I can see a train wreck coming. Article from today's Birmingham News on the ongoing deliberations in the governmental persecution of well-known black televangelist and civil rights champion [/sarcasm] Richard Scrushy--

[..] Jurors began their deliberations Thursday and almost immediately sent the judge a note asking to hear the digital recordings made by the FBI.

In another note Friday, they asked for clarification of a key conspiracy charge against Scrushy, and asked: "If we can not decide unanimously one way or another, what happens."

Deliberations could be lengthy based on the 37-page form jurors must complete to decide the initial 36 counts against Scrushy. The first charge alone, a key conspiracy count, requires jurors to answer 52 separate questions. [...]

Well, maybe they just wanted some clarification. After all, they've only been going at this a day,

But reading between the lines, it seems they might have taken a preliminary shot at a vote on the conspiracy charge and there wasn't a unanimous decision. Probably there's enough people who didn't vote for it, but who still think Tricky Dick nonetheless might have done something on the shady side, and they want to know if they don't get him on this one, can they still maybe slap him on the wrist for something else.

Again, I just hope they understand there's a big gulf between "THEY AIN'T GOT NUTHIN' ON ME!" and innocence.

I will say it was awfully entertaining to see the Dickie Bird in full song outside the courthouse yesterday, full of righteous indignation and fury and spittle. It was a performance that would have been something to see in open court, that's for sure. Shame he didn't feel the need until now.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 12:12 PM | Comments (0)

May 18, 2005

May 09, 2005

Okay, you can come up with as many rules as you want, but...

...when you try to apply them to your fellow civil servants, they will usually be smart enough to figure the way around every single stupid rule you put in place.

Which means, I have my car tag now. ::sticks out tongue toward Courthouse::

Buncha maroons. And lunch was very nice with My Friend Jeff. We ate over at the Middle Eastern sandwich shop in Edgewood known by that famous Arabic name of Sam's. Good as always, and with the added bonus of a new toy to look at!

Jeff was mightily impressed--I think I sufficiently lowered expectations enough so that he was pleasantly surprised. Then I got to drive him around the corner to see his fixed up old new home. Very nice and quite a stretch from where it started out. Still some bits and pieces to fix, but overall quite worthy of a magazine spread. AND I got to see My Friend Cathy, Wife of MFJ, and their smallest tot, whom we woke up. Sorry. Oh, and Jeff, please feed Cathy more cheeseburgers.

Anyway, did all that and got back to the Courthouse, stood in line for thirty minutes behind at least three other people who were fighting mad by the time they left (without their new car titles) and when it came my turn, I got my registration handled with no trouble at all. Because all of my papers were very much in order. Nope, nothing amiss, AT ALL. Because I am conscientious. So there. ::backs up to window and moons Courthouse::

So, maybe NOW I can try to reconstruct my long-winded post about the joys of making myself sore through the judicious use of car cleaning products this past weekend.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 02:09 PM | Comments (4)

I don't know if I've ever mentioned this--

but BOY I really hate having to do anything at the Jefferson County Revenue Department.

Talk about giving civil servants a bad name!

Off to lunch now.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 10:55 AM | Comments (5)

April 21, 2005

The Perils of Dickie-Bird, Volume MMLXVI

Judge refuses early end to Scrushy trial

The past couple of weeks, the local airwaves have been full of throaty denunciations of the government's case by the defense team; with the assurances by various mouthpieces that the state has miserably failed to show guilt of the prime player. Always it has been delivered with puffed-chest braggadocio, I suppose to set the stage amongst potential future jurors for an appeal should the defendant be convicted.

But, it's rare to get a directed verdict at this stage, even if the government is unable to show the jury a signed letter of intent to commit fraud. "There is NO paper trail!" I believe I heard one of the nicely-suited legalists say yesterday.

Juries are funny things, and maybe this one will free Dickie-Bird to fly away and enjoy the spoils of his efforts on a nice island in the Bahamas. But lack of a paper trail seems a risky sort of ploy to rely on--you don't often have people who know something is illegal commit that recognition to paper.

Again, it'll be interesting to see what happens during the rest of the afternoon, and how many charges will be retained.

UPDATE: Judge drops some charges, Scrushy trial continues

U.S. District Court Judge Karon Bowdre this morning dismissed five counts against HealthSouth founder Richard Scrushy and reserved ruling on 12 others. She determined that the bulk of charges in the $2.6 billion will remain intact and the defense can begin presenting its case this afternoon. [...]

From the 58-count indictment Scrushy faced at the start of the trial, he still faces 50. Charges include conspiracy, securities fraud and money laundering. He has pleaded not guilty.

But the whittling of the charges is a good thing even before the formal phase of the defense begins, Lewis Gillis, a Scrushy attorney, said after this morning’s hearing.

“Any count that gets dismissed is a big victory,” he said.

Maybe so--as Churchill said, "Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result." But it's probably not yet safe enough to prance about while wearing a big target. That guy with the gun still has a belt full of ammo.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 12:01 PM | Comments (5)

April 08, 2005

Wow!

Rudolph pleads guilty

Incredible--all this time and effort, and just as they get ready to start getting a jury pool picked, he pleas. Well, good. Saves us from having to have hordes of reporters all over town, but I sure wish he could get the punishment he truly deserves.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 02:24 PM | Comments (2)

April 06, 2005

Stupid is as stupid does.

Oh, give me a break.

Fla. sheriff used records to find critic

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Orange County's sheriff used driver's license records to contact a woman who wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper citicizing his staff's use of Taser stun guns and describing him as fat.

Some say Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary violated federal privacy law when he had his aides use the records to get the address of Alice Gawronski. He sent her a letter accusing her of slander.

Well, first off, Chunky--it's not slander. Slander is spoken, libel is written. But that's beside the point--

It is illegal to access a driver's license database to obtain personal information, except for clear law-enforcement purposes, under the U.S. Driver's Privacy Protection Act of 1994.

"I recently read your slanderous remarks about the Orange County Sheriff's Office in the Orlando Sentinel," Beary wrote Gawronski on March 23. "It is unfortunate that people ridicule others without arming themselves with the facts before they slander a law enforcement agency or individual."

I suppose it's not worth going over the idea of slander again, is it? But as for arming yourself with the facts, why look in the license database?! Aren't there such things as telephone books if you want to harrass someone? Or Google?

Gawronski said, "I thought I was exercising my First Amendment right of free speech — expressing an opinion in an open forum about a paid public official." She considered Beary's letter a form of intimidation.

"If I were her, I'd sue and get him in front of a jury. He'd probably get laughed out of the courtroom," said Chris Hoofnagle, the senior counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

And with a name like Hoofnagle, he's probably heard his share of laughter. But here's where we have to get the chest waders on--

But sheriff's spokesman Jim Solomons said using a database to respond to a resident's concern is well within Beary's official duties.

Surely to goodness, Jim, you don't think this little response is the type of response this resident was seeking, do you? I mean, no one can be that dense.

The issue arose when Gawronski's letter appeared in the Sentinel on March 10, expressing concerns about Taser stun guns.

In her letter, she referred to a news conference when Beary allowed himself to be zapped with one to demonstrate its safety. Seeing Beary "in an obvious state of duress" convinced her the stun guns should not be used, she wrote.

Gawronski also wrote that Beary appeared overweight and suggested that if deputies were more fit, they might not need to resort to zapping suspects.

Okay--now one for the other side. Taser guns probably do have some risk of causing death, but you have to remember they are intended to be used to subdue someone who DOESN'T WANT TO BE SUBDUED. What--would you rather the cops go ahead and start blasting? Yes, it looks bad to watch someone be tasered, but it's a lot less gruesome than having to pick up their innards from off the street.

Hey, it's fine if you don't think they should be used, but there aren't a lot of alternatives that work as well. Which is what She'ff Heavybottom should have dashed off to the newpaper letters to the editor column--NOT to the letter writer.

Beary said he was a victim of slander.

I think we have establishacated that by now.

"During my Taser incident, I was never under any duress," he wrote Gawronski, adding that his heart activity was monitored by a doctor. Before the test, the 5-foot, 10-inch Beary estimated his weight at 290 pounds.

I'd say he was a victim of too much gravy and biscuits, and this is said as someone who has been very close to that level of undertallness.

Anyway, end result--Tasers aren't the worst thing in the world--they are much less deadly than a 230 grain slug in the center of mass.

Using a license database to hassle a citizen who disagrees with you isn't part of a policeman's job.

Slander is not the same as libel.

Fat cops who get offended by being called a fat cop shouldn't be either.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 12:34 PM | Comments (7)