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Walker appointee, judge, prof face off in high court primary
Court Watch | 2020/02/15 02:49

Wisconsin voters will choose between a Republican appointee, a Madison judge and a law professor as they winnow down the candidates for a state Supreme Court seat in a primary Tuesday.

Conservative Justice Dan Kelly will face off against liberal-leaning Jill Karofsky and Ed Fallone. The top two vote-getters will advance to the April 7 general election with a 10-year term on the high court at stake.

The race can’t change the court’s ideological leaning since conservative-leaning justices currently have a 5-2 edge. But a Kelly defeat would cut their margin to 4-3 and give liberals a shot at a majority in 2023.

Then-Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, appointed Kelly to the Supreme Court in 2016 to replace the retiring David Prosser. An attorney by trade, he represented Republican lawmakers in a federal trial over whether they illegally gerrymandered Wisconsin’s legislative district boundaries in 2011. He’s also a member of The Federalist Society, a conservative organization that advocates for a strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.


Court raises sentence for banker who smuggled a Picasso
Court Watch | 2020/02/07 11:11

A Spanish court has raised the sentence against a former bank president found guilty of trying to smuggle a painting by Pablo Picasso out of the country.

The Madrid court announced the decision Tuesday to raise the sentence against fined ex-Bankinter head Jaime Botin to three years instead of 18 months. The move came after the prosecution detected an error in the original sentence handed down last month.

The court also raised the amount Botin was fined from 52.4 million euros ($57. 9 million) to 91.7 million euros.

The trial last year heard how a team of Spanish police experts flew to the French island of Corsica in 2015 to retrieve the painting, Picasso’s masterpiece “Head of a Young Woman.” The Spanish government had ruled in 2012 that the painting, which is valued at some 24 million euros ($26.5 million), could not be taken out of the country.

The work was owned by Botin, an uncle of Ana Botin, president of the powerful Santander banking group.

Corsican authorities said they had been tipped off about an attempted smuggling of the prized painting from Spain by boat. They said the oil painting, which comes from the Cubist master’s “pink period” and features a woman with long black hair, was seized when the boat’s captain was unable to produce a proper certificate.

On the boat, authorities found a document in Spanish confirming that the work was of “cultural interest” and was banned from leaving Spain, Picasso’s homeland, without permission.





Cross-examination drives key Weinstein accuser to tears
Court Watch | 2020/02/05 11:13

A  key accuser in the New York City rape trial of Harvey Weinstein broke down in tears on the witness stand on Monday during an exhaustive cross-examination over the nature of her relationship with the once-powerful movie mogul.

The drama, which prompted the judge to send the jury home about an hour earlier than usual, came as the defense sought to paint the 34-year-old woman as an opportunistic manipulator who took advantage of Weinstein while pursuing an acting career, even after he allegedly raped her.

The woman said she tried to make Weinstein "my pseudo father" after a rough upbringing. She said she sent him flattering emails and kept seeing him because “I wanted him to believe I wasn't a threat."

“I was afraid of his unpredictable anger," the woman testified.

She became emotional while reading an email passage about being abused earlier in her life. It was part of a lengthy confessional email she sent to her then-boyfriend in May 2014 about her relationship with Weinstein. She was bawling as she left the courtroom, and her cries could be heard from a nearby witness room.

She returned after about a 10-minute break, but continued to weep loudly, resting her head on the witness stand and blotting tears with a tissue. The lead prosecutor tried to console her, but she couldn't continue. Her cross-examination will resume Tuesday.


Missouri county sued over jail time for unpaid court costs
Court Watch | 2020/02/03 11:10

A Missouri man at the heart of a state Supreme Court case that overturned what critics called modern-day debtors’ prisons is back in jail and suing the local officials who put him there.

Warrensburg resident George Richey, 65, is one of two Missouri men who sued over boarding costs for time spent in county jails, which are commonly referred to as board bills.

Richey spent 65 days in jail in 2016 for not paying past board bills. Supreme Court judges last year unanimously sided with him, writing in an opinion that while inmates are responsible for those costs, “if such responsibilities fall delinquent, the debts cannot be taxed as court costs and the failure to pay that debt cannot result in another incarceration.”

The nonprofit legal defense organization ArchCity Defenders on Tuesday sued St. Clair County and Associate Circuit County Judge Jerry Rellihan on behalf of Richey for the harm caused by his unlawful imprisonment.

Richey’s lawyers wrote in a Tuesday court filing that the time he spent in jail meant he lost “his home, all of his personal belongings, and lived in constant fear of arrest for the past four years.”

“I have the clothes on my back, but that’s it. This has caused me to lose everything,” Richey said in a statement. “I’m not the only one these counties are picking on, and I’m taking a stand because these crooked practices can’t continue.”

Associated Press requests for comment to St. Clair County officials were not immediately returned Wednesday.

Richey’s lawyers also argued that the judge retaliated against him for taking his board bill case to the Supreme Court.

Three months after the high court’s ruling, Rellihan sentenced Richey to more than two years in county jail for probation violations and misdemeanor counts of assault, trespassing and disturbing the peace.


Russian court jails 2 terrorism suspects arrested on US tip
Court Watch | 2019/12/29 01:32

A St. Petersburg court on Monday ordered the detention of twoRussianmen who were arrested on a tip provided by the U.S. and are suspected of plotting unspecified terrorist attacks in the city during the New Year holidays.

The Dzerzhinsky District Court ruled that the suspects identified as Nikita Semyonov and Georgy Chernyshev should remain in custody pending their trial.

The Federal Security Service (FSB), the main KGB successor agency, said in a statement that the suspects detained on Friday confessed to plotting the attacks. It added that it also seized materials proving their guilt.

The FSB didn’t elaborate on their alleged motives or targets, but Russia’s state television reported that the suspects had recorded a video swearing their allegiance to the Islamic State group.

The FSB said it was acting on a tip provided by its “American partners.”

On Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin called U.S. President Donald Trump to thank him “for information transmitted through the special services that helped prevent terrorist attacks in Russia,” according to the Kremlin.


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