CourtSide - The FindLaw Breaking Legal News Blog

November 2009 Archives

Rachel Uchitel's Legal History: 9/11 Plaintiff and NY Divorcée

Rachel Uchitel, the woman whom media reports allege may be linked to golf star Tiger Woods, has some litigation history.

Uchitel is listed as a plaintiff in a multi-trillion dollar federal lawsuit stemming from the 9/11 terrorist attacks. On September 11, 2001, her fiancé James Andrew O'Grady was killed while working when the second hijacked plane struck the World Trade Center's South Tower.  O'Grady was a managing directory at financial advisory firm Sandler O'Neill.

Uchitel was also a defendant in a New York divorce case after her short-lived marriage to Steven Ehrenkranz.

Apple Files Power Adapter Patent Infringement Lawsuit

Apple filed a patent lawsuit against online retailers for allegedly selling knock off power adapters for use with the company's portable MacBook and MacBook Pro computers.

Apple's lawsuit against Media Solutions Holdings, LLC, eReplacements, LLC, and Laptops for Less, LLC has some nice pictures comparing Apple's product against the copy. The defendants apparent clone sure looks like a darn tootin' copy of Apple's product.

Take a look for yourself.

NYC Homeless Organization Accused of Being For-Profit Non-Profit

With the economy in shambles, you would think that a 24-year-old organization claiming to help New York City's homeless would be doing charitable work.

Guess again.

The United Homeless Organization ('UHO') was accused by New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo of being a for profit non-profit.

Coumo alleged that Stephen Riley, its founder and president, and UHO director Myra Walker, duped sidewalk donors into thinking their crew of homeless street-corner fundraisers were legit. Instead, the suit charges, the UHO's Riley and Walker lined their pockets with 'fees' they charged the homeless to beg passersby for contributions. Any money beyond the 'fixed daily fee' that the UHO execs charged the homeless ultimately lined the beggars' own pockets.

Erin Andrews' Accused Stalker's Criminal Charges

Michael David Barrett, the accused stalker and criminal voyeur of ESPN reporter Erin Andrews will be arraigned in federal court on Monday, November 23, 2009.

The latest in a series of sordid charges against the 48-year-old Chicago-area Combined Insurance employee suggests that the nude videos Barrett secretly record of Andrews in hotel rooms where not simply a one-time occurrence,

Rather, it now appears that Barrett relentlessly stalked Andrews for more than a year.

H&H Bagel Baron Accused of Stealing Tax Dough, UI Dumping

Helmer Toro, co-founder of the H&H Bagels empire, was indicted by a grand jury in New York City today on felony charges accusing him of stealing withholding taxes from his employee's paychecks, and manipulating his company's New York State unemployment insurance tax payments at an illegal, lower rate.

If convicted, the 59-year-old dough boy could be sentenced to 15 years in state prison after a 37-year career in the bagel business.

Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau announced that the investigators from his office found that Toro (inset) "collected but failed to pay $369,318.77 withheld from the payroll of the employees of his bagel business."

In bagelese, he's accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in dough from the employees of his bagel empire -- dough that his workers withheld from their paychecks so that Toro's company would submit it to New York tax authorities.

Barzee Pleads Guilty in Elizabeth Smart Kidnapping Case

Wanda Barzee, a co-defendant in the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping case, pleaded guilty to several criminal charges in federal court today in exchange for a reduced prison sentence recommendation and her cooperation with prosecutors in the kidnapping, sexual assault, and violence case when Smart was 14-years-old.

Instead of life in prison, Barzee will receive a 15-year (180-month) federal prison sentence, and plead guilty to Utah state kidnapping charges.

Here is what Barzee admitted to in U.S. District Court:

Is the GOP or Obama to Blame for Slow Pace of Judicial Nominations?

The US Senate is scheduled to vote on cloture today for the nomination of U.S. District Judge David F. Hamilton to a seat on the Seventh Circuit.  Leading Republicans have so far filibustered the nomination in response to what they see as Hamilton's liberal social agenda, and have vowed to keep the filibuster going as long as possible.

Never mind the fact that Hamilton has been lauded as a moderate by both Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar - a Republican from Hamilton's home state - and the president of Indiana's chapter of the conservative Federalist Society.  Lugar plans to cross party lines and vote for a motion that will allow a final vote on Hamilton's nomination.

Also disregard the fact that the GOP condemned the Democrats' use of the filibuster to block several of George Bush's judicial nominees, even going so far as to call it unconstitutional and threatening to remove the use of filibusters from the judicial confirmation process altogether.

A federal judge in Utah ruled that a defendant accused of tampering and falsely bidding upon oil and gas leases offered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management cannot present a 'necessity defense' a/k/a 'lesser of two evils defense' at trial.

Timothy DeChristopher sought to argue that his submission of winning auction bids on BLM federal oil and gas leases that he never intended to honor was justified because, he maintained, extracting oil and gas from federal lands would exacerbate global warming and climate change.

Oreo, Abused NYC Dog Put to Sleep; Ex-Owner Faces Sentencing

Oreo, the dog who was thrown off a six-story roof in Brooklyn by Fabian Henderson, her teenage owner this spring, was put to sleep by the A.S.P.C.A. in Manhattan this afternoon.

Yesterday The New York Times reported that an animal behaviorist hired by the A.S.P.C.A. to assess Oreo's disposition -- after several months of unsuccessful therapy and rehabilitation at the organization's facility -- concluded that Oreo displayed "exhibited intense aggressive behaviors," and concluded that "Oreo should not have any access to the public or uncontrolled areas outdoors. Oreo shouldn't be around children."

In a statement, the A.S.P.C.A. revealed further details on Oreo's suffering:

KSM, 4 Other Gitmo Detainees, to be Tried in N.Y. Federal Court

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed ('KSM'), the reputed al Qaeda plotter of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, will be put on trial in federal court in Manhattan, one site of the Sept. 11th attacks, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced this morning.

Four other Guantanamo Bay detainees -- Walid Muhammed Salih Mubarak Bin Attash, Ramzi Bin Al Shibh, Ali Abdul-Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed Al Hawsawi -- will also be tried in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Not only will KSM still face prosecution in the SDNY for his reputed role in the 9/11 attacks, but he is likely to also face outstanding charges in a secret 1996 indictment for his alleged role in the 1994 'Bojinka' plot -- described by the 9/11 Commission as "the intended bombing of 12 U.S. commercial jumbo jets over the Pacific during a two-day span."

Prosecutors are likely to face defense challenges over KSM's waterboarding while he is was in U.S. Custody. But according to National Public Radio's Dina Temple-Raston, "he actually admitted before being tortured that he was the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks."

Ft. Hood Murder Charges Filed Against Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan

Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan (inset), the U.S. Army psychiatrist being held for killing thirteen (13) people at the Army's Ft. Hood base in Texas, and wounding 43 soldiers and civilians in the attack, was charged with 13 counts of murder

Hasan's charges include 13 specifications of premeditated murder, in violation of Article 118, Uniform Code of Military Justice.

If convicted, the UCMJ provides that "he shall suffer death or imprisonment for life as a court-martial may direct."


Jurisdiction Has Its Day in (Supreme) Court

The Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments this morning on two cases involving jurisdictional issues.

First up is Kucana v. Holder, a case involving questions over the jurisdiction-stripping provision of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act.  The Act removed courts' jurisdiction to review a "decision or action of the Attorney General . . . the authority for which is specified under this subchapter to be in the discretion of" the Attorney General.

Justices Reverse Convicted Killer's Ineffective Counsel Claims

In a new per curiam opinion issued by the U.S. Supreme Court today, the Justices held that a convicted Ohio killer's "attorneys met the constitutional minimum of competence," reversing a 2008 federal appeals court ruling that his attorneys failed to find certain mitigating factors in his defense in violation of the Sixth Amendment.

How convinced was the Supreme Court of its decision? The justices concluded that:

[t]his is not a case in which the defendant's attorneys failed to act while potentially powerful mitigating evidence stared them in the face,

Monday Morning at the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in three cases today, two of which deal with juveniles who were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for non-homicide offenses.  The other case involves limits that the Federal Circuit has imposed on patents for certain types of business methods.

Bernard Kerik, Ex-NYPD Commissioner, Pleads Guilty

Former NYPD Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik pleaded guilty today in a federal court in a case accusing him of criminal conspiracy, tax fraud, making a host of false statements to both federal agents and New York City investigators, and lying on a loan application for his New York City apartment.  According to his plea agreement, Kerik could get from 27 to 33 months in federal prison under sentencing guidelines.

The disgraced former N.Y.C. top cop was accused of making multiple false statements to White House and other federal officials when he applied for an advisor position to former President Bush's Homeland Security Advisory Council and in connection with his nomination to be Secretary of the United States Department of Homeland Security.

He was also charged with illegally receiving $255,000 in renovation work to his apartment from a contractor who wanted to do business with the City government, falsely telling regulators that the company did not have ties to organized crime, and failing to disclose these six-figure benefits in his financial disclosure forms.

Read Kerik's plea agreement here:

Accusing Silicon Valley's Intel (NYSE: INTC) of "bribery and coercion to maintain a stranglehold on the market," New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo filed an antitrust lawsuit against the chip-making giant.

How serious were the threats? Cuomo's lawsuit says that a February 2004 Dell internal e-mail charged that Intel executives, then CEO and Chairman Craig Barrett, and current CEO Paul Ottelini (inset, left to right) "are prepared for jihad if Dell joins the AMD exodus."

Today at the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is hearing arguments on two cases related to criminal prosecutions today.  The first, Pottawattamie County v. McGhee, examines whether prosecutors are subject to a civil trial and potential damages for wrongful conviction and incarceration when the criminal defendant alleges that the prosecutor encouraged a witness to lie during the criminal investigation and then presented that testimony during the criminal trial.

The Court's other argument today, Wood v. Allen, deals with several questions that have arisen during a capital punishment case.  Most of the questions concern the ways that the courts and attorneys handled the defendant's mental impairments, but there's also a Batson jury/evidence question thrown in for good measure.

Give a Judge the Finger, Go Directly to Jail!

A 24-year-old Illinois man already facing a host of criminal charges flipped off a judge during his court arraignment, earning himself six months in county jail for contempt of court.

McHenry County Circuit Court Judge G. Martin Zopp reportedly gave Kane Kellet (see below) a cussing freebee at his initial court hearing Saturday morning. According to State's Attorney Louis Bianchi, Judge Zopp asked Kellet. "'Sir, do you have an attorney?" to which the suspect replied "F--- no.'"

So what prompted him to give the judge the finger?

RICO Pays a Visit to the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has another day of oral arguments today, and the star case is Hemi Group v. City of New York, a case examining whether state and local governments have standing under RICO to pursue noncommercial losses, such as unpaid taxes.  Governments around the country will be watching this one with keen interest.

Also on the Court's agenda are a case involving challenges to electricity rates, and a bankruptcy case.  Not the most, um, electrifying topics, but, as with all things Supreme, still important.

Today the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal of James Ford Seale, the ex-Ku Klu Klan member, former Mississippi policeman and sheriff's deputy who was indicted and convicted for his role in the kidnappings and brutal murders of Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore in the summer of 1964.

According to a report in the Jackson Free Press, "the FBI investigation of the Dee-Moore case yielded more than 1,000 pages of files, including informant accounts." In November 1964, then FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, wrote to President Lyndon B. Johnson's Special Assistant Bill Moyers, that Seale and fellow Klansman Charles Marcus Edwards ""willfully, unlawfully, feloniously and with malice aforethought [for] killing" Dee and Moore.

Seale was never charged until more than forty years later. 

Back to Work at the Supreme Court

After a break in oral arguments that allowed several of the justices to get out on the town, the Court is back in session today, and there are some important issues before the justices, even though the subject matter of the cases the Court will be hearing today won't exactly have the general public lining up to get into the arguments.

On the calendar for today are a mutual fund case, a case about state regulation of the federal courts and a petition for habeas corpus.