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Venezuelan pleads guilty in suitcase scandal
Court Line | 2008/03/04 03:25

A Venezuelan pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in the alleged cover-up of a plot to smuggle $800,000 into Argentina to fund a presidential election campaign, officials said on Monday.

Carlos Kauffmann, 35, was one of five men accused of acting on behalf of Venezuela's anti-U.S. government in a case that touched off corruption allegations in Argentina and diplomatic tensions between the Washington, Caracas and Buenos Aires.

Kauffmann entered a guilty plea on Friday to a charge of conspiring to act as an agent of Venezuela without registering with the U.S. government and could face five years in prison. He agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, according to a plea agreement released by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami.



Kid Rock Pleads Not Guilty to Battery
Court Line | 2008/03/04 03:25

Kid Rock has pleaded not guilty to a charge of battery from a fight at a Waffle House in Atlanta. Robert James Ritchie, better known as the musician Kid Rock, was not present for the plea. His attorney, Darryl Cohen, waived an arraignment hearing and entered the plea on Ritchie's behalf in DeKalb County State Court, according to Cohen's office.

Ritchie and five members of his entourage were arrested October 21st on a misdemeanor charge of simple battery. The charges stem from a fight at a a metro-Atlanta Waffle House, where they had stopped following his performance at The Tabernacle.

Officials say a fight broke out after another customer recognized a woman in Kid Rock's party and exchanged words with her, prompting Ritchie to exchange words, too.



Logan lawyer appointed to 1st District Court
Law Firm Topics | 2008/03/04 03:23

Logan lawyer has been appointed to the 1st District Court by Gov. Jon Huntsman. Kevin Allen is currently the senior partner in the firm Allen and Ericson in Logan. He must be confirmed by the state Senate.

Allen will succeed Judge Gordon J. Low. "Kevin has a genuine desire to serve the people of our great state and his distinguished previous experience proves he will carry on the admirable service of Judge Gordon Low," Huntsman said in a statement announcing the appointment Monday.

Allen also has been a partner with Barrett and Daines in Logan and was a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navys Judge Advocate General Corps.


Lawyer in Bribery Case Says Witness Lied
Legal News | 2008/03/04 03:22

A key government witness lied to the grand jury that indicted several attorneys on charges they conspired to bribe a state judge, one of the accused lawyers said in court papers filed Monday.

Zach Scruggs, an attorney whose well-known father and law partner also face bribery charges in the case, is asking a federal judge to dismiss his indictment due to alleged government misconduct.

Scruggs' lawyers say grand jurors heard false and misleading testimony from an FBI agent and from former attorney Timothy Balducci, who has already pleaded guilty to conspiring with Scruggs and others to bribe state Circuit Judge Henry Lackey.

Scruggs' indictment is a product of their "patently false and misleading" testimony, his lawyers argue.

"It has been clear since the filing of this indictment that the government has no credible evidence that (Zach Scruggs) knowingly participated in any scheme to bribe a judge," the defense lawyers wrote.

U.S. Attorney Jim Greenlee didn't immediately return a call for comment Monday. Balducci has represented himself in the criminal matter. His office number has been disconnected.

A trial for Scruggs; his father, prominent plaintiffs lawyer Richard "Dickie" Scruggs; and fellow Scruggs Law Firm attorney Sidney Backstrom, is scheduled to start March 31 in Oxford.

Richard Scruggs, a brother-in-law of former U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., made tens of millions of dollars from tobacco and asbestos litigation. His role in a landmark settlement with tobacco companies was depicted in the 1999 film "The Insider," starring Al Pacino and Russell Crowe.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers Jr. rejected a different motion by the three defendants to dismiss the charges based on the government's "outrageous conduct." However, Zach Scruggs' attorneys didn't see transcripts of grand jury proceedings until last week.

Zach Scruggs claims the transcripts, when compared to wiretap evidence, show Balducci lied to the grand jury and mischaracterized Scruggs' knowledge of and participation in the alleged conspiracy.

Prosecutors say Balducci was acting on Richard Scruggs' behalf when he allegedly tried to bribe Lackey for a favorable ruling in a dispute with other lawyers over $26.5 million in fees from a mass settlement of Hurricane Katrina insurance lawsuits.

The FBI arrested Balducci Nov. 1 and sent him into the Scruggs Law Firm wearing a body wire. Balducci later testified that he met with Zach Scruggs and Backstrom that day and told them Lackey wanted $10,000 for the favorable ruling.

However, Zach Scruggs' lawyers say a recording of that Nov. 1 conversation shows that Balducci used confusing, coded language while their client "only participated in an ordinary conversation about how a judge's order reads."

Zach Scruggs' lawyers also accuse FBI Special Agent William Delaney of giving grand jurors a misleading account of taped conversations between the suspects in the case.

"The Government seeks to convict (Scruggs) on coded words uttered after he is disengaged from a conversation and on actions perceived through a presumptuous lens; yet they indicted a man relying on testimony they knew was facially false and wholly inaccurate," they wrote.



Supreme Court May Re-examine What Is "Indecent"
Legal News | 2008/03/04 03:21

This week, after more than 30 years, the Supreme Court may reopen the debate over what constitutes an "indecent" broadcast. The issue before the court is the usually accidental, so-called "fleeting expletive" that sneaks into an over-the-air broadcast, such as Bono's "This is really, really f---ing brilliant" comment at the 2003 Golden Globes, which was broadcast on NBC.

After receiving complaints from viewers, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) moved to crack down on broadcasters who air "isolated or fleeting expletives" during daytime and early evening hours. Last year, Fox and other television networks sued to block the new policy, and an appeals court in New York put it on hold. Now, the FCC is asking the Supreme court to clear the way for the crackdown to be enforced. The justices may act on the agency's appeal as soon as today, and if they vote to hear FCC vs. Fox TV, arguments will be heard in the fall, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The appellate judges in New York felt that the FCC's new policy was arbitrary and vague, as it does not specify that all expletives will trigger fines regardless of the circumstances. At the same time, the appellate judges hinted that a true ban on all broadcast expletives would violate the 1st Amendment's free-speech guarantee. At the same time, broadcasters have said they have no desire to air expletives, but they're just trying to make sure that when an unscripted expletive is used - most often by a celebrity who is not a network employee - it does not result in a large fine. To help monitor the situation, broadcasters have instituted five-second delays on awards shows and some other live programming, but an occasional expletive can still slip through.

"It's like the Maytag repairman," said Rick Cotton, general counsel for NBC Universal, according to the LA Times. "You're expecting that after sitting in front of a console for literally thousands of hours that at a particular moment, on a completely unexpected basis, a person will hear it and will react in time."



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