Category: Litigation


Mom held in airport for hours after refusing to let TSA x-ray her breast-milk gets $75,000 in legal settlement

By Associated Press

A Southern California woman who was held at a Phoenix airport four years ago after refusing to have her breast milk X-rayed said Wednesday she has reached a tentative settlement with the Transportation Security Administration.

Stacey Armato, who filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Phoenix, said TSA officials have tentatively offered her $75,000, along with promises to retrain agents and clarify its guidelines on screening breast milk.

The reassurances about revised training and rules were more important than the monetary compensation, she said.

Refused: Stacey Armato of Hermosa Beach, California, was held at a Phoenix airport in 2010 after refusing to have her breast milk for son Lorenzo, pictured, x-rayed

Refused: Stacey Armato of Hermosa Beach, California, was held at a Phoenix airport in 2010 after refusing to have her breast milk for son Lorenzo, pictured, x-rayed

‘We had been waiting for them to really kind of confirm that they would be retraining everybody and making these policy updates,” Armato said. “When we finally got confirmation of that, that was really reassuring.’

TSA spokesman Ross Feinstein declined to comment on a “pending matter.” He confirmed that current TSA regulations classify breast milk as liquid medication. As a result, parents are permitted to bring an amount larger than the 3 ounces normally allotted for liquids.

According to the agency’s website, officers now use a bottled liquid scanner system in most airports to screen medically necessary liquids for explosives or other threats. The system uses lasers, infrared or electromagnetic resonance, rather than X-rays.

That was not an option at the time for Armato, who said she was accustomed to having a visual inspection for breast milk when traveling.

Armato, of Hermosa Beach, said she asked for an alternate screening of her breast milk at a security checkpoint at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on Feb. 1, 2010. She cited concerns about exposing the milk to radiation.

According to a 2013 complaint from Armato, agents denied her request and then detained her in a glass enclosure for 40 minutes.

 

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A dirty secret of the American judicial system is that juries are hardly fair and impartial

Jury selection these days is done with a wink and a nod.
Jury selection these days is done with a wink and a nod. (REUTERS/Art Lien)

Imagine you are a defendant awaiting trial on criminal charges that could send you to prison for the rest of your life. You are sitting at the counsel table during voir dire, the process by which a jury is selected before a trial.

The prosecutor asks a potential juror: “You haven’t heard any evidence. How would you vote?” The potential juror responds: “I would have to vote guilty.”

Your trial judge pipes up. He’s supposed to ensure that you receive a fair trial and that the jurors who will sit in judgment upon you are neutral, objective, and willing to see and hear the evidence with an open mind. The judge asks the prospective juror: “Could you return a verdict of not guilty if the government doesn’t prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt?” The would-be juror responds: “I don’t think I would be able to.”

The prosecutor — who wants this juror on the panel because he wants to convict you — presses on. He asks the juror: “Let’s say the victim takes the stand [and] you flat-out don’t believe her. In fact, you think she’s lying. You look at her [and conclude], ‘I don’t believe a word coming out of her mouth.’ Are you going to convict this man anyway?”

The potential juror responds: “That depends. I still feel he was at fault.”

How would you feel if this juror were allowed to join the panel that determined your fate? Would you feel as though you had received a fair trial by an impartial panel, as the Sixth Amendment commands? Or would you feel that the trial judge had failed to protect your presumption of innocence?

My guess is you would feel cheated. I know I would. But yet this precise scenario unfolded in California in 2009. This juror was allowed to serve on this trial. And to date, no judge has declared it a violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights.

Now, in this particular case, the defendant, Jose Felipe Velasco, was accused of an extremely heinous crime. He was an alleged serial child rapist who had gotten a 14-year-old girl pregnant after having some form of sex with her 21 times. But that should not change our minds about whether this man should be presumed innocent and be entitled to a fair trial. Indeed, this is precisely why we have constitutional rights in criminal cases — so that fairness and due process come even to the despised.

R. Scott Moxley, a veteran reporter and columnist for OC Weekly, brought this story to national prominence this week — and it’s a remarkably ugly picture in every way. Not only were the charges awful, not only is this defendant as unsympathetic a figure as the criminal justice system churns out, but the way the case was handled was ignoble, too. Thousands of years’ worth of the presumption of innocence shouldn’t go out the window just because a defendant is accused of heinous crimes.

 

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The myth of the impartial juror

Crazy story from the OC Weekly about a sex crimes case in California.

After an Orange County prosecutor gave an opening statement, Juror 112 notified [Judge David] Hoffer that based on her own experiences she believes criminals should forgo trials in such sexual assault cases and go straight to prison to spare victims additional turmoil.

The prosecutor then asked the juror: “You haven’t heard any evidence. How would you vote?”

Juror 112 responded, “I would have to vote guilty.”

Statements by lawyers are not evidence, and Hoffer followed up with the juror, according to court transcripts reviewed by the Weekly.

The judge asked if she could return a verdict of not guilty if the government couldn’t prove it’s case beyond a reasonable doubt.

“I don’t think I would be able to,” the juror replied.

 

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Government Claims EFF’s Lawsuits Don’t Cover Ongoing Surveillance – Raising Fears Key Documents May Have Been Destroyed

UPDATE: Judge White today continued his temporary restraining order in these two cases until a more permanent order could be put in place. The question of whether the government improperly destroyed evidence so far will be briefed over the next several weeks.

San Francisco – The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) will fight disturbing new government claims in an emergency court hearing Wednesday – claims that may imply records documenting ongoing government surveillance have been destroyed despite a judge’s order.

Over the last several weeks, EFF has been battling to ensure that evidence of the NSA surveillance program will be preserved as part of its two cases challenging the illegal government spying: Jewel v. NSA and First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v. NSA. But in a court filing late Monday, the government made shocking new assertions, arguing that its obligation to preserve evidence was limited to aspects of the original Bush-era spying program, which the government contends ended eight years ago with a transition to FISA court orders.

“This argument simply does not make sense. EFF has been demanding an injunction to stop this illegal spying program, regardless of the government’s shifting justifications,” said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn, who will argue in front of U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey S. White at the hearing Wednesday. “But these government claims aren’t just nonsensical – they are extremely worrisome and dangerous. The government is suggesting it may have destroyed years’ worth of evidence about its illegal spying, justified by its own secret interpretation of our case. This is about more than just phone records; it’s about evidence concerning all of the government’s spying. EFF is asking the court for a full accounting of just what is going on here, and it’s time for the government to come clean.”

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Bloomberg

By Bob Van Voris and Patricia Hurtado Feb 6, 2014 11:00 PM CT
Photographer: Louis Lanzano/Bloomberg

Mathew Martoma, a former SAC Capital Advisors LP fund manager, center, exits federal… 

Former SAC Capital Advisors LP fund manager Mathew Martoma was found guilty in the most lucrative insider-trading scheme ever as federal prosecutors racked up a seventh conviction in their six-year probe of the hedge fund and its billionaire founder, Steven A. Cohen.

Jurors in Manhattan federal court yesterday found Martoma, 39, used secret tips on clinical trials of an Alzheimer’s disease drug to trade Wyeth and Elan Corp. shares. In doing so, he reaped a $275 million benefit for the fund. Martoma chose to risk a trial after rejecting U.S. offers of a deal for cooperation. He faces as long as 20 years in prison on the most serious counts.

Martoma showed no reaction when the verdict was announced. As the jury forewoman read the verdict tears welled in the eyes of Martoma’s wife, Rosemary, who sat in the front row of the spectator benches behind her husband. The couple, flanked by defense lawyers, walked out of the courtroom arm-in-arm, with Rosemary Martoma crying visibly.

Opinion: Steven Cohen Appears Oblivious to Insider Trading Law

Martoma’s conviction “is a major win for the government,” said Anthony Sabino, a law professor at St. John’s University in New York, in an interview. “It may embolden them to go after Cohen.”

The jury reached the guilty verdict after less than three days of deliberations. The conviction follows a similar verdict against SAC Capital fund manager Michael Steinberg, who was convicted in December of a separate insider-trading scheme involving technology stocks from 2008 to 2009. He hasn’t been sentenced and may yet seek to strike a deal with the U.S.

Harvard Expulsion

Martoma’s conviction raises the possibility that he also may seek to cooperate against Cohen in exchange for leniency, said Sabino. The disclosure, at the start of the trial, of Martoma’s expulsion from Harvard Law School for creating a phony transcript may lead prosecutors to reject such a deal, given the possible damage to his credibility as a witness.

U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe didn’t set a sentencing date and allowed Martoma to remain free on $5 million bond.

“We are very disappointed,” Martoma’s lawyer, Richard Strassberg, said through his spokesman Lou Colasuonno, who added “we are planning our appeal.”

Longest Sentence

Martoma was convicted of two counts of securities fraud, a charge that carries a maximum 20 years in prison. He was also convicted of conspiracy, which has a maximum penalty of as long as five years in prison. The longest insider-trading sentence of 12 years was given to attorney Matthew Kluger in 2012 for a $37 million scheme. The second-longest of 11 years was imposed upon Galleon Group LLC co-founder Raj Rajaratnam for a $72 million scheme.

In the Martoma case, prosecutors claimed SAC Capital reversed a bullish stance on Wyeth and Elan in July 2008, selling a $700 million position days after Martoma learned the disappointing trial results for the drug, bapineuzumab, and shared a 20-minute phone call with Cohen.

Cohen, 57, who denies wrongdoing, hasn’t been charged with a crime. He faces an administrative proceeding before the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission claiming he failed to properly supervise trading at his firm.

In November, SAC Capital agreed to plead guilty to securities fraud in a landmark prosecution of the financial company. The hedge fund agreed to end its investment advisory business and pay $1.8 billion. The plea deal must be approved by a judge before it can take effect.

Rename Fund

Cohen plans to rename SAC Capital and add a layer of management to oversee traders as the hedge fund becomes a family office, a person familiar with the firm said.

The Stamford, Connecticut-based company, which will manage about $9 billion for Cohen in addition to employee money, will have three trading units after the restructuring, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the firm is private. The changes are expected to take place by mid-March.

The office of Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has filed insider-trading charges against 83 people and four entities — all of them units of SAC Capital — in its investigation of fund managers, company insiders and expert-networking firms.

‘Market Cheaters’

In announcing his case against SAC Capital last year, Bharara called it a “veritable magnet for market cheaters,” citing the series of cases his office made against the hedge fund’s portfolio managers and analysts.

Seven former SAC fund managers and analysts — Noah Freeman, Donald Longueuil, Jon Horvath, Wesley Wang, Richard Lee, Steinberg and Martoma — were convicted of insider-trading schemes.

An eighth man, Richard Choo-Beng Lee, an SAC Capital analyst from 1999 to 2004, pleaded guilty in 2009 to insider trading while at Spherix Capital LLC, the hedge fund he co-founded.

Prosecutors said in the indictment of SAC Capital that Lee, while he was at SAC Capital, obtained inside information about technology companies that he passed to the fund’s portfolio managers and others.

 

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Ex- SAC Capital manager found guilty in largest US insider trading case

Published time: February 07, 2014 13:14
Edited time: February 07, 2014 13:46
Mathew Martoma (L) walks with his wife Rosemary (C) and his lawyer after leaving Manhattan federal court, following his arraignment on insider-trading charges on January 3, 2013 in New York City. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images / AFP)

Mathew Martoma (L) walks with his wife Rosemary (C) and his lawyer after leaving Manhattan federal court, following his arraignment on insider-trading charges on January 3, 2013 in New York City. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images / AFP)

Mathew Martoma, a former SAC Capital hedge fund manager, has been found guilty of insider trading by a federal jury. He bought early information about drugs tests which helped his firm avoid $275 million in losses, and netted Martoma a $9 million bonus.

According to prosecutors, Martoma got secret information from a former Professor of Neurology at University of Michigan Sidney Gilman, who was participating in testing of a new drug for Alzheimer’s disease.

Martoma obtained the trial results for the drug in July 2008, and SAC Capital then started selling off a $700 million position in drug firms Elan and Wyeth before the negative results were made public, says Reuters.

Martoma bought the answer sheet before the exam – more than once – netting a quarter-billion dollars in profits and losses avoided for SAC, as well as a $9m bonus for him,” Preet Bharara, the US Attorney said. “It made him a convicted felon, and likely will result in the forfeiture of his illegal windfall and the loss of his liberty.”

Steven A. Cohen’s SAC Capital Advisors, a $14 billion hedge fund that has long been in the cross-hairs of the FBI, profited to the tune of $275 million by selling shares in the pharmaceutical companies Wyeth and Elan Corp. now owned by Pfizer Inc, which developed the drug.

At trial prosecutors presented testimony that Dr Sidney Gilman and Dr Joel Ross both provided confidential clinical drug test results to Martoma in exchange for thousands of dollars.

 

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Bloomberg

SAC’s Martoma Faces Up to 20 Years at June 10 Sentencing

By Patricia Hurtado Feb 8, 2014 11:16 AM CT
Photographer: Louis Lanzano/Bloomberg

Mathew Martoma, a former SAC Capital Advisors LP fund manager, center, exits federal… Read More

Former SAC Capital Advisors LP fund manager Mathew Martoma, who was found guilty Feb. 6 in the most lucrative insider-trading scheme ever, is scheduled to be sentenced June 10 and may face as many as 20 years in prison.

Martoma, 39, was convicted of two counts of securities fraud, which carries a maximum 20 year term, and one count of conspiracy, which has a maximum five year term. U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe may make each term concurrent, and has latitude to impose a significantly shorter sentence.

The longest insider-trading term of 12 years was given to attorney Matthew Kluger in 2012 for a $37 million scheme. The second-longest of 11 years was imposed upon Galleon Group LLC co-founder Raj Rajaratnam for a $72 million scheme.

Martoma was found guilty of a $275 million scheme. His was the seventh conviction tied to SAC Capital-related insider trading in the six-year probe of the hedge fund and its billionaire founder, Steven A. Cohen.

Jurors in Manhattan federal court found Martoma used secret tips on clinical trials of an Alzheimer’s disease drug to trade Wyeth and Elan Corp. shares. In doing so, he reaped a $275 million benefit for the fund.

Prosecutors claimed SAC Capital reversed its bullish stance on Wyeth and Elan in July 2008, selling a $700 million position days after Martoma learned the disappointing trial results for the drug, bapineuzumab, and shared a 20-minute phone call with Cohen. Martoma, who earned a $9.3 million bonus connected to the trades, chose to risk a trial after rejecting U.S. offers of a deal for cooperation.

 

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‘Monsanto’s reign of intimidation is allowed to continue in rural America,’ says Food Democracy Now!’s Dave Murphy

- Andrea Germanos, staff writer

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied a group of farmers the right to challenge Monsanto’s seed patents, a decision critics charge allows the biotech giant’s “reign of intimidation” to continue.

(Photo via OSGATA.org) The plaintiffs in the suit, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) et al v. Monsanto, sought to protect themselves from lawsuits by the corporation for patent infringement should Monsanto’s genetically engineered seed contaminate the farmers’ crops.

Monsanto has sued over 100 farmers for patent infringement.

Jim Gerritsen, president of lead plaintiff OSGATA, previously explained, “We are not customers of Monsanto. We don’t want their seed. We don’t want their gene-spliced technology. We don’t want their trespass onto our farms. We don’t want their contamination of our crops. We don’t want to have to defend ourselves from aggressive assertions of patent infringement because Monsanto refuses to keep their pollution on their side of the fence. We want justice.”

The farmers’ and seed producers’ battle to preemptively to protect themselves began in 2011 with a case filed in a federal district court in Manhattan. Then, as we previously reported,

Their case was dismissed in February 2012 by Federal Judge Naomi Buchwald, but attorney Dan Ravicher of the not-for-profit Public Patent Foundation [which is representing the plaintiffs] said, “The District Court erred when it denied the organic seed plaintiffs the right to seek protection from Monsanto’s patents.”

In July of 2012 the group filed an appeal to reverse the lower court’s decision.

In June of 2013, a three-judge panel at the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit dealt the farmers a blow in dismissing the case.

“In light of the Court of Appeals decision, Monsanto may not sue any contaminated farmer for patent infringement if the level of contamination is less than one percent,” Daniel Ravicher, Executive Director of the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) and lead counsel to the plaintiffs, said in a statement on Monday. But the Supreme Court’s decision is “disappointing,” Ravicher said, and “it should not be misinterpreted as meaning that Monsanto has the right to bring such suits.”

“This high court which…under Citizens United in 2010 gave corporations the power to buy their way to election victories, has now in 2014 denied farmers the basic right of protecting themselves from the notorious patent bully Monsanto.”
—Jim Gerritsen, OSGATA
Organic dairy farmer and plaintiff Rose Marie Burroughs of California Cloverleaf Farms adds that “GMO contamination levels can easily rise above 1% and then we would have zero protection from a costly and burdensome lawsuit.”

OSGATA’s Gerritsen slammed the Court’s decision as putting a “notorious patent bully” above family farmers.

“The Supreme Court failed to grasp the extreme predicament family farmers find themselves in,” stated Gerritsen. “The Court of Appeals agreed our case had merit. However, their safeguards they ordered are insufficient to protect our farms and our families.”

“This high court which gave corporations the ability to patent life forms in 1980, and under Citizens United in 2010 gave corporations the power to buy their way to election victories, has now in 2014 denied farmers the basic right of protecting themselves from the notorious patent bully Monsanto,” Gerritsen stated.

Dave Murphy, founder and executive director of Food Democracy Now!, another plaintiff in the case, added, “Once again, America’s farmers have been denied justice, while Monsanto’s reign of intimidation is allowed to continue in rural America.”

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ThinkProgress | January 3, 2014 11:52 am

 

By Emily Atkin

 

Exxon Mobil Corp. subsidiary XTO Energy will have to face criminal charges for allegedly dumping tens of thousands of gallons of fracking waste at a Marcellus Shale drilling site in 2010, according to a Pennsylvania judge’s ruling on Thursday.

 

xtoenergy

 

Following a preliminary hearing, Magisterial District Judge James G. Carn decided that all eight charges against Exxon—including violations of both the state Clean Streams Law and the Solid Waste Management Act—will be “held for court,” meaning there is enough evidence to take the fossil fuel giant to trial over felony offenses.

 

Pennsylvania’s Attorney General filed criminal charges back in September, claiming Exxon had removed a plug from a wastewater tank, leading to 57,000 gallons of contaminated water spilling into the soil. The Exxon subsidiary had contested the criminal charges, claiming there was “no lasting environmental impact,” and that the charges could “discourage good environmental practices” from guilty companies.

 

“The action tells oil and gas operators that setting up infrastructure to recycle produced water exposes them to the risk of significant legal and financial penalties should a small release occur,” Exxon said at the time.

 

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