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Chains we can believe in: Bagram jail detainee unlawfully held, court rules December 15, 2011


December 14, 2011

by legitgov

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Chains we can believe in: Bagram jail detainee unlawfully held, court rules –Appeal court tells British ministers to ask US to end Yunus Rahmatullah’s seven-year ordeal at notorious Afghan prison 14 Dec 2011 The government has been ordered by three senior judges to secure the release of a Pakistani man captured by British special forces and held by the US in Afghanistan’s notorious Bagram jail without trial for more than seven years. The judges ruled that Yunus Rahmatullah, 29, who was handed over by the SAS to American forces in Iraq in 2004 and then taken to Bagram, is being unlawfully detained. They ordered a writ of habeas corpus to be issued so he can be freed.

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Troy Davis remembered by Antone De’Jaun Correia December 11, 2011

My uncle, Troy Davis, was arrested in 1989 and sentenced to death in 1991, three years before I was born. He was in jail my whole life, but I knew him very well. I visited him with my mother – his sister – on death row in the Georgia state prison every other week until his execution in September and he became a father figure to me.

Troy was wise, respectful, motivated and a great listener. He didn’t like the position he was in but said he had to learn from it, and used that experience to give me advice. He told me to pick the right friends and not to run away when things got rough; to keep my head up in school and take criticism positively. My uncle was a good family man before he went to prison. My grandma used to tell me that when he got a paycheck he’d give half to her to help pay the bills at home. He was responsible and respectful from a young age.

On 19 August 1989 a police officer called Mark MacPhail was shot dead in a car park in Savannah. My uncle was there at the time and, based on eyewitness testimony, the police decided he’d done it – but they had the wrong person from the get-go. Later we got lawyers to go through the case. They did very rigorous investigations and found there was no evidence to prove my uncle committed the crime – no DNA, no gunpowder residue, nothing at all. Most of the witnesses withdrew their original statements, and another man was implicated in the murder. We appealed, and the execution was stayed three times over the past four years, but on 21 September 2011 Troy was killed by lethal injection.

It was a tough time for my family. My grandma had died in May, so we lost two important parts of the family in the space of five months, but I think we coped pretty well. You’ve just got to learn from things and keep moving. My uncle’s death opened a big can of worms for Georgia and all the other death-row states. The case provoked a huge amount of debate in the US, and we received support from people all over the world.

What Troy did for me in my life will never be forgotten Now I’m hoping to go to Georgia Tech to study robotic engineering. With good work put in, good things come out. My uncle helped me understand that, and I really can’t thank him enough.

Since De’Jaun Correia wrote the above, his mother, Martina Davis Correia, an anti-death penalty activist, died after a long illness on 1 December, aged 44.

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U.S. hikers’ release from Iran prison delayed again September 20, 2011

Tehran, Iran (CNN) — The lawyer trying to get two American hikers freed from prison in Iran was not able to get a signature on bail paperwork because a judge is on vacation until Tuesday, he told CNN Sunday.

Bail has been paid for Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, lawyer Masoud Shafiee said, but he needs the signatures of two judges to prove it.

He went to a judge’s office Sunday, when he was in court on a separate case, to see if he could get the second signature, but was told that the judge is on vacation until Tuesday and that Shafiee will have to return then, the lawyer said.

Separately, a delegation of American Muslim and Christian leaders asked Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to release the hikers, his office said Sunday.

Oman involved in U.S. hikers’ release

The four leaders who met with him in Tehran included Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a photo of the meeting showed.

The head of the human rights department of the Iranian judiciary, Mohammad Javad Larijani, linked the case of Fattal and Bauer to America’s treatment of detainees.

“If the U.S. is so sensitive about two of its spies and tries to free them, it should look at the way it treats other nationalities,” he said in an interview Sunday with the semi-official Fars news agency.

Fattal and Bauer have been held as spies for more than two years, after they apparently crossed an unmarked border between Iran and Iraq in July 2009.

The two men and a third hiker, Sarah Shourd, were seized while hiking in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq.

Iranian authorities arrested them, claiming they were spies and had entered the country illegally. Shourd, who is Bauer’s fiancee, was released last year for medical reasons, although authorities said her case remains open.

Fattal and Bauer were convicted last month of spying and entering Iran illegally, and each was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Ahmadinejad recently said they could be freed, raising hopes that have been dashed and raised again several times since then.

He said in an interview with NBC’s “Today” show that they will be released on humanitarian grounds “in a couple of days.”

But the judiciary shot back that only it could make decisions about their release.

Shafiee then announced that all the paperwork had been filed for them to be freed on bail, but their release was delayed.

He said he was “very hopeful” they would be released on Saturday, but the process is being held up by the lack of a judge’s signature.

Shafiee said he would not know for sure the amount of the bail or who paid it until he sees the signed document. Earlier reports put it at $500,000 for each American.

An Omani official flew to Iran on Wednesday to help work on any negotiation, a Western diplomat told CNN at the time.

Oman helped secure the release of Shourd, posting her bail last September, a senior Obama administration official said at the time.

Ahmadinejad is slated to travel to New York for the U.N. General Assembly on Monday, the semi-official Mehr News Agency reported. He is expected to give a speech and meet with several other presidents and Iranians living in the United States.

But his visit is not linked to moves to release the Americans, said Larijani of the Iranian judiciary.

CNN’s Shirzad Bozorgmehr contributed to this report.


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Synagogue Bomb Plotters Sentenced to 25 Years in Prison July 1, 2011

Three men convicted of plotting to blow up New York synagogues and to fire heat-seeking missiles at U.S. military planes were sentenced to 25 years in prison.

U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon in Manhattan handed down punishments today against James Cromitie, 45, Onta Williams, 35, and David Williams, 30, who were found guilty in October of crimes including conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction against the U.S. A fourth defendant, Laguerre Payen, had his sentencing postponed pending a psychiatric evaluation.

McMahon called Cromitie and his co-defendants “thugs for hire,” adding that “I am nonetheless convinced a sentence of 25 years, a quarter of century behind bars, is sufficient to punish you for what happened and what didn’t happen.”

The men were accused of planning to bomb the Riverdale Temple, a Reform synagogue in the Bronx section of New York, and the nearby Riverdale Jewish Center, an Orthodox synagogue, in May 2009. They also sought heat-seeking missiles to fire at aircraft at the Stewart Air National Guard base in Newburgh, New York, the U.S. said.

Prosecutors sought life sentences for the three men, saying they were career criminals and willing participants in a plot organized by a government informant, Shahed Hussain, who was posing as a member of the Pakistani terrorist organization Laiksh-e-Mohammad.

‘Little Respect’

“They have shown little respect for the law throughout their adult lives,” the U.S. said in a sentencing memorandum dated June 8. “This investigation revealed what their rap sheets never could: that these defendants were among the handful of people in the country who would actually agree to join forces with a terrorist to bomb synagogues.”

The defense argued that the men were the victims of entrapment, lured into the plan by a paid government informant who gave them money for rent, food and car fare, and who promised them $250,000 in cash, a BMW, vacations in Puerto Rico and a barbershop.

The case is U.S. v. Cromitie, 09-cr-00558, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

© Copyright 2011 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

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Casey Anthony Blood Lust June 30, 2011

It’s the story that demands breaking live coverage on not one but two, three cable news networks.

­“Another day of powerful testimony in the Casey Anthony murder trial,” resounded the anchors on cable news.

“Another day of disturbing testimony in the Casey Anthony murder trial.”


Mainstream media is reporting and analyzing every gory detail.

“There were a lot of people upset in court today and that’s because we were hearing testimony about Calee’s limbs,” recounted one reporter. “Her legs being chewed on by animals her trunk torso being dragged off and chewed on.”

The American public literally clamoring to hear it all as people get in near brawls lining up for a seat in the courtroom.

Ask anyone on the street they can tell you why.

“There is something about this case that is mesmerizing and I do think it is because it is a young girl,” said a passerby in Washington DC.

“I mean you can speculate that she is a fairly attractive young mother,”
speculated another. “Why else this case? It doesn’t involve a famous person.”

“It’s like a modern day soap opera,” added one more.

And nearly everyone you ask knows who Casey Anthony is.

“Someone who murdered her kid, who allegedly murdered her kid in Florida,”
said a stranger in Washington DC.

And one part of the formula for media coverage and obession this journalism professor says can’t be ignored: Casey Anthony is white.

“If it were minorities it would have to be a foot ball player or a politician or something along those lines,” said Chris Chambers, journalism professor at Georgetown University.

 But does this one criminal trial affect the lives of Americans?

“No,” and “probably not,” according to a few people we talked to on the streets.

Nonetheless America can’t get enough.

According to pollsters at Pew research, last week Casey Anthony was one of the top five newsmakers in mainstream news, after people such as the president of the United States and Republican John Huntsman, who made it official that he’s running for president himself.

And the viewers seem to want her to be. Headline News, which has been delivering wall to wall coverage has seen a huge boost in ratings as a result. Media watchdogs report coverage has been sending prime-time ratings surging to first and second place spots on many a day over the last several weeks. 


Meanwhile, men like Michael Austin arrested in 1974 for a murder and armed robbery he didn’t commit, will never get a fraction of the attention. An injustice that most people will never have heard of.

He was exonerated after a difficult battle and serving 27 years in prison, despite plenty of evidence of innocence including an alibi (proof he was working), and a description that pegged the 6’5” black man as a light skinned man of 5’8.”

It’s just one of many cases Americans may never hear about, as they tune into “another day of disturbing testimony in the Casey Anthony murder trial,” on the airwaves.

That attention whether it matters to greater society or not.

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American prisons are going private

Most Americans are unaware that private prisons in the country are on the rise. Is there a reason behind this trend that isn’t going reported though?

Ana Kasparian of The Young Turks says that private prisons are thriving in America right now because of the profits they are generating, which most people are unaware of. Millions of dollars are going into lobbying for the institutions, and as more and more states relinquish their duties of running prisons, the private sector is reaping the benefits and pumping the profits back to the corporate entities that are backing them.

“Whenever a prison system is privatized,” says Kasparian, “the number one thing they’ll want to do is profit.” She recalls a case of a Pennsylvania judge who replaced all county detention centers for juveniles with privatized ones, who thus paid off the judge under the table. While that was only one case that leaked to the media, this is happening elsewhere across America.

Kasparian notes that, though many lawmakers are becoming more and more opposed to the decades-long “War on Drugs,” legislation is only becoming more stricter, so that prisons will soon be brimming with remote offenders. “The War on Drugs is an absolute failure (but) why are p[politicians ignoring that?” she asks. “Because they know that private prisons are fattening up their pockets…and making huge profits.”

“Pretty soon,” she says, “we are going to spend time in prison because of minor offenses.”

“There needs to be limits,” says Kasparian. “When it comes to corporations, it is never-ending. They get what they want because they have the money.”

As lobbyists continue to push for a transition to privatization, Kasparian says a political revolution needs to happen before everyone is behind bars for ridiculous laws. Corporations are the root of every single problem in the US, she says, and as corporations begin to take foot of the prison system, the problem is only worsening.

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Blackwater killer gets 30 months, Newburgh 4 get 25 years

Before a federal court room this week, US Attorney Neil MacBride was rather blunt about what actions a former Blackwater security guard undertook while working in Afghanistan in 2009.

“Justin Cannon opened fire with an AK-47 at the rear of a retreating vehicle and took the life of an innocent Afghan,” is all he needed to say. For that unjust murder, however, Cannon was handed down a sentence yesterday of only 30 months in jail.

If that cold blooded killing is costing Cannon barely two years behind bars, you would think that the US court nowadays would be a bit more lenient in cases where, say, no one was harmed. On the contrary, three of the men linked to the Newburgh 4 plot to allegedly blow up a New York City synagogue were senteced to 25 years in prison today.

James Cromitie, David Williams and Onta Williams have been convicted of plotting to blow up worship houses in the Bronx and shoot down planes at Stewart Air National Guard Base. Defense attorneys, however, argued that the three men are the victims of an immense entrapment perpetrated by the FBI.

The defense claims that an FBI informant posed as a recruiter for a terrorist organization and offered the men special Stinger missiles to take down planes at Stewart. Attorneys attest that the introduction of Stingers in the case calls for a minimum sentence of 25 years, the highest minimum the three men face out of all eight of the charges brought against them.

“The government, not the defendants, chose Stewart Air Force base, and the government, not the defendants, introduced and supplied the missiles,” writes one of the attorneys for the defense.

Their legal team also attests that Shahed Hussain worked with the FBI and purposely picked the men up and drove them into Connecticut to obtain weapons to be used in the attacks. FBI Special Agent Robert Fuller has explicitly stated during the trial that they picked the Connecticut warehouse solely to get the Newburgh 4 to cross state lines.

“The entire trip to Connecticut and the missiles were introduced by the government for the singular purpose of securing a 25-year minimum sentence,” say defense attorneys.

Meanwhile, 200 miles from that New York City courtroom, Cannon’s “reckless behavior,” as US Attorney MacBride calls it, will have him back on the streets in mere months. Cannon’s killing was in cold blood. And the Newburgh 4? They are guilty of falling for a trick enacted by their own government.

Cannon had also been charged with fatally shooting an Afghan passerby while overseas while the man walked his dog. Along with another Blackwater guard, Cannon was acquitted of charges stemming from that case.

Speaking to RT hours after the sentencing of the three men today, Alicia McWilliams-McCollum, the aunt of ones of the convicted men, says it is common knowledge that the government used ex-offenders to manufacture a plot.

“Who holds the government accountable?” she asks. “We know it’s government misconduct.” The sentencing, she says, is just another example of “a miscarriage of justice.”

In the meantime, she urges people to speak out on the matter. “Nobody wants the truth,” she says, and urges that “the community needs to come out”

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Blagojevich Mess Will Linger for Years in Illinois June 29, 2011

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — In the end, Rod Blagojevich did not bring doom for his party or the national political figures whose names got dragged into his scandal. But long after he is behind bars, Illinois will still be cleaning up the mess left behind by the state’s cartoonish former governor.

Blagojevich — who drew laughs around the nation for his goofy haircut, foot-in-mouth quotes and affinity for Elvis Presley — will also be remembered here for six years of dysfunctional leadership. He contributed to a massive budget deficit, nearly paralyzed the government with his stubborn inaction and damaged the reputations of some fellow Democrats in President Barack Obama’s home state.

A day after Blagojevich was convicted on wide-ranging corruption charges, experts and veterans of Illinois politics said his attempt to sell Obama’s Senate seat was only the most heinous example of the harm inflicted by a lazy, disinterested chief executive.

“Clearly he was one of the worst governors that we’ve seen in modern times,” said Chris Mooney, a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Springfield. “Not only in terms of ethical shenanigans … but he really was incompetent. He didn’t understand what he was doing.”

Testimony at Blagojevich’s two trials depicted a governor who all but left the state to run itself. Lawmakers quickly concluded they couldn’t trust him to spend money fairly and refused to work with him — a political breakdown that carried lasting consequences.

If Blagojevich was in his office — which was rare — he seemed unwilling to do his job. Aides said he was known to hide in the bathroom to avoid discussing complex issues.

They talked about tracking the governor down at his tailor or even a bowling alley to force him to sign legislation. He showed up late for meetings and public events and explained that he had been busy jogging or playing video games with his children.

The lack of cooperation that developed with lawmakers delayed many proposals, including major public works projects that would have created jobs.

“His approach tarnished everything he touched,” agreed Debbie Halvorson, a former Democratic state legislator and member of Congress.

Blagojevich didn’t create the state’s budget problems, which began under Republican Gov. George Ryan and were caused by national economic trends. But there’s ample evidence that Blagojevich made the crisis worse at a time when decisive action might have helped.

He didn’t cut spending when tax revenue plummeted. Instead, he got lawmakers to go along with temporary fixes like skipping the state’s annual pension payment. Those maneuvers got the state through one budget season but left an even bigger hole to fill the next year.

Blagojevich’s core political promise was that he wouldn’t raise income taxes or sales taxes, and he kept that pledge even when the state’s deficit grew to billions of dollars. But that didn’t keep him from spending more money, sometimes without legislative approval, on things like expanded health care for children and free prescription drugs for the elderly.

Mooney said Blagojevich also hired unqualified candidates to run programs and drove competent people out of government. His handed jobs to campaign donors and circumvented laws that give preference to veterans so he could hire political allies.

State employees flocked to unions under Blagojevich’s tenure, partly to gain protection from his salary cuts and political hiring decisions.

But Alan Gitelson, a Loyola University political scientist, cautioned against blaming all of Illinois’ problems on Blagojevich.

“There’s a limited amount of damage any governor can do because he is dealing with the Legislature,” Gitelson said. “These are joint efforts.”

Blagojevich’s troubles did not extend in any lasting way to his party.

The state still has a Democratic governor, Pat Quinn, who was elected despite twice serving as Blagojevich’s lieutenant governor. And Obama’s name surfaced repeatedly in Blagojevich’s two trials, but there was never any suggestion that he did anything wrong as Blagojevich schemed to benefit from his power to choose Obama’s Senate replacement.

Last fall, when Rahm Emanuel left his post as White House chief of staff, some political analysts warned that his dealings with Blagojevich could doom his chances to be elected mayor of Chicago.

But Emanuel easily won. And while he testified briefly at Blagojevich’s second trial, he was never accused of any wrongdoing. In fact, on the charge directly involving Emanuel — that Blagojevich tried to shake down Emanuel for a fundraiser — jurors were unable to reach a verdict.

The politician hurt most by his association with Blagojevich was Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., whose name arose in a scheme by the governor to solicit campaign contributions in exchange for naming Jackson to the Senate.

By the time jurors convicted Blagojevich, Jackson had been badly damaged.

Gitelson said Jackson had been “a bright light” for the party who might have been a contender for Chicago mayor or U.S. senator.

Now it’s unlikely that Jackson “is in any sense a viable candidate outside his congressional district,” Gitelson said.

Blagojevich gave the public reason to question the judgment of Democratic leaders who supported the governor long after evidence of misconduct had surfaced.

House Speaker Michael Madigan, also chairman of the state Democratic Party, eventually refused to attend meetings with the governor because he felt it was a waste of time. That did not stop Madigan from serving as co-chairman of Blagojevich’s re-election campaign, however.

Quinn vouched for Blagojevich’s honesty. Obama endorsed Blagojevich for re-election.

“We’ve got a governor in Rod Blagojevich who has delivered consistently on behalf of the people of Illinois,” Obama said in 2006.

Republicans seemed to pay a higher price after one of their own, Gov. George Ryan, left office amid scandal in 2003 and eventually went to prison. The GOP lost every statewide race in the next election, and four years later their candidate for governor lost in large part because the Blagojevich campaign portrayed her as Ryan’s best friend.

Still, Ryan will also be remembered for his stance on the death penalty. He is an international hero among death penalty opponents for pardoning wrongly convicted death row inmates and eventually halting executions and commuting 167 death sentences to life in prison.

Blagojevich has no such legacy. His biggest initiatives, such as providing health care and preschool for all children, were hobbled by the state’s record-setting deficit. They’re footnotes in an administration that will always be associated with scandal.

Stephen Schnorf, budget director under two Republican governors who preceded Blagojevich, said the disgraced former governor never seemed to have any ambition to lead.

“It was as if not working was the purpose of the whole thing, as if that was the goal,” he said.

___

Babwin reported from Chicago.

© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Convicted Blagojevich Faces Prospect of Prison

CHICAGO  —Rod Blagojevich wakes up to a stark reality a day after appearing nearly speechless when a Chicago jury read guilty verdicts against him.

The impeached ex-Illinois governor will likely be on his way to federal prison within months, leaving his wife, two young daughters and comfortable home in a leafy Chicago neighborhood behind.

Legal experts say a federal judge is likely to sentence him to around a decade on the 17 corruption counts the jury convicted him of Monday.

Judge James Zagel hasn’t set a sentencing date. Chicago defense attorney Gal Pissetzky says it’s likely Blagojevich will be sentenced only late this year.

When he is, there’s a chance he could end up in the same Indiana prison as his predecessor, Republican George Ryan, who’s serving 6 ½ years.

© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Pa. Man Found Guilty of Killing 3 Pittsburgh Cops June 27, 2011

PITTSBURGH — A jury found a Pennsylvania man guilty in the 2009 killings of three Pittsburgh police officers who responded to his mother’s 911 call about an escalating argument.

The jury deliberating for just over three hours Saturday before returning the verdict against 24-year-old Richard Poplawski. He was found guilty of all 28 counts he faced.

Poplawski was found guilty of first-degree murder in all three killings, the three most serious charges he faced.

The trial now enters a penalty phase in which the jury will hear evidence about his mental state, background and other factors before determining if he gets the death penalty or life in prison without parole.

© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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‘Whitey’ Bulger, Accused Mobster, Seeks Court-Appointed Lawyer June 26, 2011

James “Whitey” Bulger, the accused Boston mobster arrested in California with $800,000, was given three days to show why a lawyer should be appointed to represent him at taxpayer expense.

Bulger, 81, and his girlfriend, Catherine Greig, 60, made initial appearances in federal court in Boston Friday after a trip from California. Bulger, who was a fugitive for 16 years, didn’t oppose his continued detention while awaiting arraignment. Wearing jeans and a white hooded sweatshirt, he was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs by U.S. marshals.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Kelly said prosecutors oppose any kind of taxpayer-funded attorney for Bulger, saying he has “family resources available.” Bulger was asked by Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler if he could afford an attorney.

“Not after you took my money,” Bulger responded. More than $800,000 in cash and more than 30 firearms, along with false identification, were found in Bulger’s apartment after his arrest, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said.

“We think he has more access to cash,” Kelly said. “We clearly don’t think this was his last stash.”

The government seized all of Bulger’s assets, said Peter Krupp, a lawyer appointed to provisionally represent him. Bowler gave Krupp until the close of business on June 27 to make any filings regarding the appointment of lawyers to represent Bulger. She gave Bulger the same deadline to file a financial affidavit.

Bulger is described in a 111-page indictment dated May 23, 2001, as a leader of a criminal organization known as the “Bulger Group” and “Winter Hill Gang.”

The gangs committed extortion, loan sharking, bookmaking, narcotics trafficking and murder, beginning about 1972, the government said. Bulger was wanted in connection with 19 murders.

Bulger may face life in prison or the death penalty if he is convicted of murder, depending on the jurisdiction, Carmen M. Ortiz, the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, said.

Greig, who fled with Bulger in 1995, was charged in an April 1997 complaint in federal court in Boston with harboring and concealing him from arrest. If convicted, she may face a five-year prison term.

After appearing yesterday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jennifer Boal, Greig was returned to the custody of U.S. Marshals. She is scheduled to return to court June 28 for a hearing on bail.

Entering the courtroom, Bulger mouthed the word “hello” to his brother William, who was seated in the second row. Greig’s twin sister, Margaret McCusker, also attended the court appearances.

William Bulger served as president of the Massachusetts Senate from 1978 to 1996 and later became president of the University of Massachusetts. While president of the university, he appeared before a U.S. House committee and refused to answer questions about his brother’s whereabouts, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Bulger and Greig were arrested June 22 in Santa Monica, California, after FBI agents and Los Angeles police put an apartment building under surveillance and lured Bulger outside with an undisclosed ruse, said FBI agent Richard DesLauriers.

The arrests came as the result of a tip received the day before generated as the result of an ad campaign about Greig. The ads ran in 14 cities starting this week and targeted women who were the same age as Greig and might have been her co- worker, hair-stylist or neighbor.

The tip was received by the FBI’s Los Angeles office. While the ads didn’t run in Los Angeles, news coverage of the campaign aired in that market on national news and cable outlets, DesLauriers said.

FBI Informants

U.S. District Judge Mark L. Wolf was assigned to preside over Bulger’s case. It was in Wolf’s courtroom in 1998 that Bulger’s partner, Stephen Flemmi, revealed that he and Bulger were FBI informants and had been promised immunity from prosecution.

Bulger’s group was also linked to illegally shipping arms to the Irish Republican Army and importing about 36 tons of marijuana into the U.S., both in 1984, prosecutors said.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, Bulger worked as an informant on mob activities for the FBI in Boston, according to the agency. He was indicted in January 1995 for racketeering violations, including activities while he was an informant. Five years later he was indicted for multiple murders.

Bulger, who was born in Boston, has a violent temper and was known to frequent libraries and historic sites, the FBI said. He carried a knife and kept physically fit by walking on the beach, the agency said.

Another girlfriend of Bulger’s cooperated with the government in trying to track down the fugitive in 1996, according to a 1997 FBI affidavit in support of the criminal complaint against Greig. The woman, who told the FBI she had been Bulger’s girlfriend for 20 years, found out in 1994 that he had been involved with Greig as well during that time.

The former girlfriend told the FBI in 1996 that, after Bulger was charged in January of 1995, he returned to Massachusetts and picked up Greig, according to the affidavit.

In 2008, the FBI doubled its $1 million reward for information leading to Bulger’s capture. Officials said the disposition of the reward — and a $100,000 reward for Greig — is undetermined.

DesLauriers, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston division, said speculation that the bureau knew of Bulger’s whereabouts before this week’s advertising campaign was wrong.

“Any claim that the FBI knew Mr. Bulger’s whereabouts prior to the FBI’s publicity efforts this week are completely unfounded,” DesLauriers said in a statement posted on the website of the FBI’s Boston division. “When we learned his location, he was arrested promptly.”

The case is U.S. v. Bulger, 94-cr-10287, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston.)

© Copyright 2011 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

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Accused Boston Crime Boss ‘Whitey’ Bulger Arrested June 24, 2011

Former mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger, captured near his coastal California hideout after 16 years on the run, was ordered held without bond Thursday for transfer back to Boston to face charges of murder, extortion and conspiracy.

Bulger, 81, one of America’s most wanted fugitives, was lured from his Santa Monica, California, apartment just blocks from the Pacific Wednesday evening by federal agents and police acting on a tip from the public.

The man who inspired the gangster character played by Jack Nicholson in the 2006 film “The Departed” put up no resistance when he and his longtime companion, Catherine Greig, 60, were arrested, federal officials said at a Boston news conference. Greig had been with him in hiding since 1995.

An employee for the company that manages the apartment building, Joshua Bond, told Reuters the couple had lived there for 15 years and went by the names Charles and Carol Gasko. Neighbors said had frequently seen pair out walking together.

The pair appeared Thursday afternoon before a U.S. magistrate judge in Los Angeles, who ordered both of them to remain in federal custody without bail.

Handcuffed but looking calm and fit, Bulger gave short answers to procedural questions posed by the judge. He was mostly bald and wore a neatly trimmed white beard and wire-rimmed glasses.

He smiled and chuckled to himself while staring at reporters in the courtroom before the proceedings began.

When the judge asked if he had read the indictment against him, Bulger held up a sheaf of white papers and replied, “I got ‘em all right here. It will take me quite a while to finish these.” He said “thank you” to the judge at the end.

Greig, with close-cropped white hair, appeared frailer and older than Bulger. She scowled through much of her hearing.

Bulger and Greig waived rights to challenge their removal from California to Boston. The judge said both would be “sent forthwith” back to Massachusetts.

Steven Martinez, assistant director of the FBI Los Angeles office, later said the pair were spending the night locked up in Los Angeles, and that U.S. marshals would escort them across the country as early as Friday.

Bulger, a onetime underworld informant and former leader of the Irish-American criminal group the Winter Hill Gang, was wanted on 19 counts of murder committed in the 1970s and 1980s, and on charges of drug dealing, extortion, money laundering and conspiracy.

Greig was charged in 1997 with harboring a fugitive.

Boston U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said Bulger faced life in prison if convicted.

Bulger fled Boston in late 1994 and was joined by Greig a few months later. Before their arrest, the last credible sighting of the pair was in London in 2002. Bulger was thought to have traveled extensively in the United States, Europe, Canada and Latin America after slipping away.

His story inspired Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning film “The Departed” about double-dealing gangsters and corrupt cops in Boston.

 

BEACHSIDE HIDEOUT

Inside Bulger’s Santa Monica hideout, agents said they found $800,000, more than 30 firearms, knives and pieces of false identification. They declined to give details of the ploy that led to Bulger leaving his apartment.

A new series of televised public service announcements aimed at female viewers who might have seen Greig was launched just Tuesday, airing in 14 cities during daytime TV programs — though not in Los Angeles. The FBI also placed billboards in New York’s Times Square and elsewhere.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard DesLauriers said the media campaign paid off with an anonymous tip that directly led the critical break in the case.

Agents from the FBI and the Los Angeles Police Department staked out the three-story apartment building Wednesday afternoon before making the arrests.

Bulger is the older brother of William “Billy” Bulger, a former president of the Massachusetts State Senate. William Bulger had no comment about his brother’s arrest.

He was placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list in 1999, and a $2 million reward was offered for information leading to Bulger’s arrest. The FBI doubled the reward offered for Greig’s whereabouts this week, to $100,000.

Bulger, said to be an avid reader and history buff who likes to take long walks on beaches, has been featured on the television show “America’s Most Wanted” more than a dozen times from 1995 to 2010. (Additional reporting by Lauren Keiper in Boston, Jeremy Pelofsky in Washington and R.T. Watson and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Steve Gorman and Eric Walsh)

© 2011 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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Former NY Pro-Choice Leader Admits to Fraud June 23, 2011

NEW YORK  – The former longtime head of a New York State pro-choice organization has admitted to using the group’s funds to pay for personal perks, including a vacation home and designer clothes, Manhattan prosecutors said on Wednesday.

Kelli Conlin, 53, the former chief executive of NARAL, the New York affiliate of the national abortion rights group Pro-Choice America, pleaded guilty to one felony count of falsifying business records, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said in a statement.

She was the non-profit group’s executive director from 1992 to 2010, and was removed after an internal audit uncovered her unauthorized expenditure of group funds, the statement said.

“We are pleased with this outcome and to have a final resolution in this case,” Donna Bascom, chair of NARAL Pro-Choice New York said in a statement.

Conlin also headed the National Institute for Reproductive Health, which is tied to NARAL.

She faces $75,000 in restitution, but likely no prison time, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said that from 2007 to 2010, Conlin billed the non-profit for personal expenses such as car service charges, meals, childcare and a rental house in the fashionable Hamptons, the Long Island beach spot where many wealthy New Yorkers spend their summer weekends.

© 2011 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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Israel Asks US to Let Spy Attend Father’s Funeral June 21, 2011

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israelis are rallying behind convicted spy Jonathan Pollard like never before, urging the U.S. on Sunday to let the former Pentagon analyst leave prison to attend his father’s funeral.

Israelis widely feel that after 25 years behind bars, Pollard has been excessively punished, and they seem puzzled over the U.S. refusal to set him free, despite recent calls for his release from some prominent former American officials.

Pollard was a civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy when he copied and gave to his Israeli handlers enough classified documents to fill a walk-in closet.

Arrested in 1985 after unsuccessfully seeking refuge at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, Pollard was convicted and sentenced to life in prison two years later. Pollard is scheduled for release in 2015, according to a U.S. Justice Department Web site.

Nachman Shai, an Israeli lawmaker leading a campaign on Pollard’s behalf, said Israel has done everything it reasonably could to repair the damage done by the scandal.

“Israel has already apologized,” he said. “Israel accepted responsibility.”

It also pledged years ago to halt espionage against its main ally.

Pollard advocates claim that other spies convicted of far worse crimes against America — including on behalf of actually hostile nations — have received lesser sentences and have been released earlier than Pollard.

The U.S. defense establishment is considered hostile to the idea of clemency, claiming Pollard caused huge, but largely undisclosed, damage.

Once a niche cause for the Israeli right, the Pollard campaign is now an issue that unites most Israelis. It is a rarity in this politically divided country, and it is reflected in the origins of the petition — in Shai’s opposition centrist Kadima Party.

Nearly two-thirds of the members of Israel’s parliament signed the call asking that Pollard be allowed to attend his father’s funeral Monday in Indiana, and dozens rallied for Pollard in front of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv Sunday. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has personally appealed for Pollard’s freedom as well.

“The Americans have still not figured out how principled an issue this is for the Israeli people,” wrote Ben Caspit, the normally liberal-leaning chief columnist for the Maariv daily. “It is simply an issue of humanity. To let him say a final goodbye to his father after spending 25 years in jail, you don’t have to be ‘Israel’s best friend.’ You simply have to be a human being.”

Caspit suggested that Israeli officials boycott the annual July 4 party at the U.S. ambassador’s home because of America’s “cruelty and brutality” in the matter. Pollard’s mother died in 2001, and he was not allowed to see her or attend her funeral.

Shai, who collected 73 signatures from the 120 lawmakers, said a similar petition last week, calling for Pollard to visit his dying father in the hospital, was ignored. “It’s a very humanitarian issue, nothing to do with any political business or security,” he said.

Israeli Arab lawmaker Ahmad Tibi called the uproar over Pollard “typical Israeli hypocrisy” — since “Israel consistently refuses to allow Palestinian prisoners attend their parents’ funerals.”

Israeli prison officials were not available for comment.

Pollard’s Israeli lawyer, Nitzana Darshan-Leitner, said she believes his harsh punishment initially derived from a personal vendetta of former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, who pushed for a heavy sentence despite a plea bargain that would have sent Pollard to prison for a shorter term.

She said Israel’s refusal for years to acknowledge that Pollard was in fact its operative has harmed his chances for clemency ever since. Israel accepted responsibility for the affair only the following decade.

Pollard, 56, was granted Israeli citizenship during Netanyahu’s first tenure as prime minister, in the late 1990s. Later, when he was out of office, Netanyahu visited Pollard in prison. In January, Netanyahu made a formal appeal to the U.S. for his release and on Sunday his office said it had contacted Washington in hopes of at least getting him out for the funeral.

A string of top American officials, including former U.S. Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Schultz and former U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle, have also lobbied for Pollard’s freedom.

“We are in Obama’s hands now,” Darshan-Leitner said.

Before he died, Morris Pollard, 95, a professor emeritus of biological sciences at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, said he couldn’t sleep at night because of his son’s incarceration. He called it “an overwhelming miscarriage of justice.”

Pollard wife, Esther, said she hoped her husband would be allowed to bury his father after not being able to see him in person.

“Right now we are just so brokenhearted, because Morris so much wanted to see Jonathan before he died, and Jonathan wanted so much to part from his father like a real loving son,” she said, in tears. “He just wanted to say goodbye to his dad, and he never got a chance.”

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After 2-year Run, ‘Barefoot Bandit’ Faces Prison June 19, 2011

SEATTLE (AP) — Colton Harris-Moore gained authority-mocking, cult status as he ran from the law for two years in stolen boats, cars and planes. Now, he faces years in prison.

The young Washington state man dubbed the “Barefoot Bandit” for a cross-country his crime spree pleaded guilty Friday to seven felony charges, ranging from stealing an aircraft to possessing a firearm.

“We’re here today to say that Mr. Harris-Moore’s flight from justice has ended,” U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan said after the hearing. He will “spend a significant time in prison and will not make one dime from his crimes.”

Under a plea agreement, Harris-Moore would forfeit any future earnings from movie, book, or other deals from selling his story. Earnings would be used to pay off the $1.4 million in restitution he owes to his many victims.

Harris-Moore could receive between 5 1/4 and 6 1/2 years in prison when he’s sentenced in October, defense attorney John Henry Browne said.

However, he still faces state charges in several counties, including the county where his crimes began.

Prosecutors have said Harris-Moore hopscotched his way across the United States, frequently crash-landing planes in rural areas and stealing cars from parking lots at small airports. His escapades were widely followed in print and the Internet, earning him the “Barefoot Bandit” moniker by committing some of crimes without shoes.

Harris-Moore, now 20, smiled and greeted his lawyers as he entered the court room Friday. He sat quietly — sometimes smiling, sometimes holding his hands and looking down — as federal judge Richard Jones went over the details of the crimes.

The federal charges, which included stealing an aircraft, possession of firearms and piloting without a license, stemmed from a spate of crimes in late 2009 and early 2010, when Harris-Moore was accused of flying a stolen plane from Anacortes, in northwestern Washington, to the San Juan Islands.

Authorities say he later stole a pistol in eastern British Columbia and took a plane from a hangar in Idaho, where investigators found bare footprints on the floor and wall. That plane crashed near Granite Falls, Wash., after it ran out of fuel, prosecutors said.

He made his way to Oregon in a 32-foot boat stolen in southwestern Washington — stopping first to leave $100 at an animal shelter in Raymond, Wash. From Oregon, authorities said, Harris-Moore traveled across the United States.

In Indiana, he stole another plane, flew across half of the united States, and crash landed in the Bahamas, where he was captured last July.

Harris-Moore also faces several dozen charges in four Washington counties, with the most serious charge being burglary where a handgun was involved. Those charges will likely be consolidated and a hearing should take place in about a month, San Juan County prosecutor Randall K. Gaylord said.

Friday’s agreement calls for Harris-Moore to serve his federal sentence concurrently with whatever prison time he may get from the state.

But the state charges could mean more time in prison beyond what the federal judge decides, as well as an increase in the restitution owed, according to federal and local prosecutors.

“All of this is up to the judge,” Browne said. “We’re very hopeful it’ll be around the same sentence.”

Browne added that Harris-Moore’s story would attract enough attention to pay off all the restitution.

Asked what Harris-Moore plans to do after he’s done with prison, Browne said that he’d like to go to college to study engineering.

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Union Official Apologizes for Calling Christie Adolf Hitler in Heated NJ Budget Battle

TRENTON, N.J.— Labor leaders rallying for collective-bargaining rights in New Jersey went on the offensive Thursday — with one even comparing Gov. Chris Christie with Adolf Hitler and two Democratic legislative leaders to his generals, then apologizing amid widespread criticism.

The stinging criticism came one day after the three agreed on a deal to sharply restrict state employee bargaining rights and increase healthcare and pension costs.

“Welcome to Nazi Germany,” Christopher Shelton, international vice president of the Communication Workers of America’s District 1, told the large crowd gathered on the Statehouse lawn. “It’s going to take World War III to get rid of Adolf Christie.”

Hours after criticism over the remarks starting coming from all directions, Shelton acknowledged that his comments were inappropriate, and he apologized to “the governor and to anyone else I may have offended.”

Carrying signs that read “negotiate, don’t legislate,” an estimated 3,500 people took to the Statehouse lawn Thursday to protest the deal, which was reached late Wednesday night with mostly support from Republicans and a few Democrats, who have long enjoyed union backing.

“I think (Christie) is doing the same thing that Scott Walker is doing in Wisconsin,” Lee Saunders, secretary-treasurer of AFSCME, told The Associated Press. “It’s unacceptable to preclude us from the right to collectively bargain for our rights.”

The rally was planned before Christie, Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver agreed to put forward a bill to require the state’s 500,000 government employees to pay a portion of their health care premiums based on income and to contribute more toward their pensions.

“I view this as union busting,” said Jersey City police officer Mark Razzoli, who accused lawmakers of trying to turn the public against public workers when he said lawmakers deserved blame for raiding the pension system in flush years.

“Not that long ago, we were heroes, you know,” Razzoli said. “I was at ground zero, as many other people were. It is disgraceful what is going on here.”

Several Democratic lawmakers told the rally they opposed the deal; that group included Senator Ray Lesniak and Assemblymen Daniel Benson, Patrick Diegnan, Wayne DeAngelo, Reed Gusciora, and Vincent Prieto.

“Today is the difference between sheep and lions,” Gusciora, D-Princeton, said. “There’s a lot of sheep inside while the lions are out here protecting workers’ rights.”

DeAngelo told the crowd: “I’m not inside because my mind is already made up.”

Inside the Statehouse, a Senate budget committee was considering the bill sponsored by Senate President Stephen Sweeney, an official with the ironworkers union.

As Sweeney spoke, union members at the rally chanted “Sweeney is a rat” with some pointing to a 10-foot inflatable rat holding a sign saying: “Pension Betrayal.”

Workers also brought along a coffin with a sign proclaiming: “The death of collective bargaining.”

The Senate panel passed the measure 9-4, with four Democrats supporting it, but not before 25 union members were taken out of the hearing room and arrested for disorderly conduct because they were chanting, “Kill the bill.”

The Assembly and full Senate are to consider the bill next week in what is expected to be a contentious vote, given that all 120 legislators are up for re-election in November — a fact that union leaders noted Thursday with this warning: “We’ll remember in November.”

Sweeney seemed unfazed, saying, “I’m not going to be here to be told what to do.”

Christie said public employees in New Jersey eventually will thank him and the leaders of the Democratic-majority for saving their pensions.

“New Jersey is setting a model for dealing with these problems in an honest, forthright and bipartisan way,” the governor said.

Lou Venezia, a 33-year-old firefighter in Bloomfield, wasn’t in a thanking mood when he compared lawmakers to criminals.

“I’m down here protesting all the pimps, thieves, prostitutes and racketeers,” Venezia said, “and I’m not at Trenton State Prison, I’m at the Statehouse.”

Amid the unfiltered criticism, there was a call for temperance.

Lesniak, D-Elizabeth, who was opposed by the NJEA in a tough primary election last week, urged Democrats to distance themselves from inflammatory genocide remarks.

“We cannot support equating Chris Christie and Steve Sweeney and Sheila Oliver with Nazis,” Lesniak said. “We support your rights totally, but we cannot be associated with those comments.”

More rallies are planned for next week.

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Spared Ohio Inmate Says He Felt Relief for His Mom June 15, 2011

LEBANON, Ohio — An inmate who was spared from execution last week told a newspaper he felt relief for his mother, because his death would have broken her heart.

Shawn Hawkins said his mother already has lost two children: one daughter to a childhood illness and another to a gunshot.

Hawkins made the comments during an interview with The Columbus Dispatch at a prison in southwest Ohio on Tuesday, the day he was supposed to have died by lethal injection for a 1989 double killing in the Cincinnati area. Gov. John Kasich granted mercy a week ago, saying details of the case were “frustratingly unclear.”

The governor ordered that Hawkins spend life in prison with no chance of getting out, a fate Hawkins calls a “harsh reality.” His attorney is appealing for a new trial.

___

Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com

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States Weigh Relaxing Penalties for Teen Sexting June 12, 2011

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A congressman who sends an X-rated photo of himself jeopardizes his reputation and his job. But in many states, teens caught doing the same thing can risk felony charges, jail time and being branded sexual offenders.

That’s because a minor who transmits a sexually explicit photo of themselves according to many state laws, is manufacturing and distributing child pornography. Lawmakers across the country, however, now say the problem of teen sexting didn’t exist when they enacted harsh punishments for child porn and are considering changes that would ensure minors don’t face jail time for youthful mistakes.

“Let’s just call this what it is: stupid,” said Rhode Island state Rep. Peter Martin, a Democrat from Newport who is sponsoring a bill to downgrade teen sexting from a felony to a juvenile offense. “These are kids we’re talking about. I don’t think minors should face these severe punishments just for being stupid.”

Legislatures in Rhode Island and 20 other states have considered bills this year to adjust penalties for teen sexting, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. California lawmakers are considering legislation that would enable schools to expel students caught sexting. Florida lawmakers voted to punish teen sexting with a $60 fine and community service.

Lawmakers in New York, where U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner is embroiled in a sexting scandal, have introduced legislation that would allow judges to send teens who send explicit photos to counseling instead of jail if prosecutors agree they meant no harm.

Studies show that one in five teens has electronically transmitted explicit photos of themselves, and one third say they have received such photos. It’s a 21st century update of “I’ll show you mine” with one critical difference: lewd photos can be passed on with the push of a button and live forever on the Internet.

“It’s an extraordinarily common behavior among kids, like it or not,” said Amy Adler, a law professor at New York University who has studied how child pornography laws have been applied to sexting. “I hope lawmakers and prosecutors figure out quickly how to address it, because it’s not going away.”

Parents and educators are the most likely to discover that a teen has sent or received lewd photos. Even when police or prosecutors get involved, most cases don’t result in felony charges. But it has happened.

Six Pennsylvania teens faced felony child pornography charges after police found underage boys swapping nude pictures of female classmates. Three girls were charged with manufacturing and distributing child porn, and three boys were charged with possession. The case ended up in juvenile court, where the teens were sentenced to community service and curfews.

In another Pennsylvania case last year, a federal judge blocked a prosecutor from filing felony charges against teen girls caught in a sexting investigation.

Last month, a Michigan prosecutor announced he had authorized felony charges against three 13- and 14-year-olds caught sexting.

In Rhode Island, a 16-year-old avoided felony charges last summer but pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and indecent exposure. The boy had shown friends an explicit phone video of himself with a female student. He was sentenced to 200 hours of community service and prohibited from owning a cell phone with a camera for one year.

Prosecutors and judges need more discretion to treat each cast of sexting differently, according to Sherry Capps Cannon, a former principal and high school administrator who recently graduated from Southern University Law Center in Louisiana, where she wrote a law review article examining laws surrounding teen sexting.

There’s a big difference, she said, between an adult who emails an explicit photo of a young teen and a 15-year-old who sends such a photo to a boyfriend. But laws in most states make no distinction.

“The law has to acknowledge the intent of the person sending the photo,” she said. “Right now, laws designed to protect children are being used to punish them.”

The legislation working its way through the Rhode Island General Assembly would make sexting by minors a juvenile offense similar to truancy. The bill has passed the House and awaits a vote in the Senate. Under current law minors who transmit indecent photos of themselves could face criminal penalties including prison time and fines of up to $5,000.

Teens who forward indecent photos of other minors, however, could still face child pornography charges.

State Sen. John Tassoni led a state task force examining cyberbullying and other problems caused by teens using technology in inappropriate ways. He said parents and schools can help stop sexting by reminding students that mistakes committed in cyberspace can have long-lasting, real-world consequences.

But as Weiner’s recent case shows, he said, there’s no age limit for inappropriate Internet use. And Tassoni doesn’t see the problem going away anytime soon.

“I tell these kids that whatever they’re putting out there will live forever,” said Tassoni, D-Smithfield. “We need to discourage it, but charging them with felonies doesn’t seem to be the way to do it.”

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Kevorkian Remembered for Devotion to Cause June 11, 2011

TROY, Mich. (AP) — Friends, family and supporters gathered Friday to pay tribute to the late Dr. Jack Kevorkian, remembering him for his courageous devotion to the cause of physician-assisted suicide, which cost him his freedom late in life.

More than 150 people attended the chapel service at White Chapel Memorial Cemetery in suburban Detroit before Kevorkian was laid to rest. He died last week at age 83 of a pulmonary blood clot.

Kevorkian’s stunning claim to have assisted in more than 130 deaths of ill people in the 1990s brought him worldwide notoriety, but those who stood behind his American flag-draped casket Friday spoke also of his softer, less public side.

A niece, Ava Janus, said Kevorkian had deep respect for anyone who was competent at their craft, even a “good chimney sweep.” She said he loved to talk about the origin of words, favored classical and Big Band-era music and was loyal to the Detroit Tigers no matter the baseball team’s fortunes.

A friend, Ruth Holmes, recalled Kevorkian arriving at her home with just a toothbrush and fresh underwear to escape media attention in 1998 after he assisted in the death of Thomas Youk, a man with Lou Gehrig’s disease. He stayed with her family for six months. It was video of Youk’s death aired by CBS’s “60 Minutes” that eventually led to Kevorkian being convicted of second-degree murder.

Holmes said Kevorkian had a motto: “The more you are the less you need.”

“Few men are willing to brave … the wrath of society,” she said. “That was our dear friend, Jack Kevorkian.”

The casket bore the American flag to signify his service in the Korean War. To the left was a large portrait of a smiling Kevorkian with his face resting in his right hand. Flowers were dedicated to “dearest brother” and “dearest uncle.” A lifelong bachelor, Kevorkian had no children.

“It gave him lots of freedom,” Janus said.

His friend and attorney, Mayer Morganroth, said celebrities and the less fortunate were fascinated by Kevorkian. He recalled actress Susan Sarandon not allowing him to leave her home before actress Demi Moore and actor Ashton Kutcher could drop by.

Morganroth read an email from actor Al Pacino asking where he could send flowers. He portrayed Kevorkian in the 2010 HBO movie, “You Don’t Know Jack.” Sarandon was a co-star.

Morganroth noted that inmates lined up to cheer Kevorkian when he was released from prison in 2007 after eight years. He said people from all over the world sent thousands of letters to Kevorkian over the years, including some with checks that were always returned.

“He couldn’t care less for any kind of wealth,” Morganroth said of a man who bought his clothes and furniture from The Salvation Army.

Kevorkian used throwaway parts to build a so-called suicide machine, which injected lethal drugs. He helped people die in their homes, motels and in the back of his rusty Volkswagen van and often took the bodies to hospital emergency rooms.

Spike Tyson traveled 100 miles from Lansing for the memorial service. He entered the chapel in a motorized scooter, due to injuries in the Vietnam War.

“I’m a strong supporter of what he did,” Tyson, 60, said in an interview. “He allowed people to die with dignity. They were vegetables and tired of life.”

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Biden Contributor Pleads Guilty to Campaign Violations June 10, 2011

(Updates with prosecutor’s comment in fourth paragraph.)

June 9 (Bloomberg) — Christopher Tigani, a Delaware businessman once identified as one of Vice President Joe Biden’s top 20 political donors, pleaded guilty to violating campaign- contribution laws.

Tigani, former president of NKS Distributors Inc., today acknowledged he broke federal election laws with his 2007 contributions to an unidentified presidential campaign. U.S. District Judge Gregory Sleet in Wilmington, Delaware, set sentencing for Sept. 20. Tigani faces a maximum prison term of 16 years, prosecutors said in a statement.

Federal prosecutors said outside of court that Tigani’s plea is part of a joint investigation with state officials. They refused to identify the focus of the probe.

“The investigation is broad in scope and extends beyond campaign contributions,” Assistant U.S. Attorney David Weiss said in an interview.

The government contends Tigani created a “sham” campaign drive for the unidentified presidential candidate in 2007 by soliciting checks from his liquor distributorship’s employees and then reimbursing them with company funds, according to charging papers made public today.

Tigani declined to comment on his plea outside the courtroom.

Tigani, 40, lost control of New Castle, Delaware-based NKS, which has the exclusive right to distribute Anheuser-Busch InBev’s beers across Delaware, in a 2009 dispute with his father. Tigani made more than $47,000 in campaign contributions during the past decade, Federal Election Commission records show.

Political Donations

Those donations included $7,500 to Biden, who ran for president in 2008 before accepting President Barack Obama’s offer to become vice president, according to FEC records. Tigani’s personal contributions covered a six-year period starting in 2001, the records show.

Tigani and his family members gave Biden another $12,300 during the period, according to the records. Tigani’s $1,200 donation to Biden’s 2008 presidential campaign made him one of the then-Delaware senator’s top 20 individual contributors, according to Follow the Money, a website that tracks political donations.

Amy Dudley, a Biden spokeswoman, didn’t immediately return a call for comment on Tigani’s plea today.

Tigani also contributed $2,300 to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2007, FEC records show. He donated $2,000 to former President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign.

‘Illegally Bundled’

Tigani “illegally bundled campaign contributions” totaling at least $219,800, prosecutors said in today’s statement. He was charged over contributions he made to candidates for president, the senate, governor, lieutenant governor, state treasurer and other offices, prosecutors said, without identifying the candidates.

Tigani also pleaded guilty to making false statements on his 2005 and 2006 tax returns, according to the statement.

Tigani sought bankruptcy protection last year to stop a foreclosure sale of his 23,937-square-foot mansion northwest of Wilmington. The home had been owned by Charles Cawley, founder of credit-card issuer MBNA, which Bank of America Corp. acquired for $34.2 billion in 2006.

Wilmington Trust Co., a unit of MT Bank Corp., began foreclosure proceedings after Tigani failed to make payments on his $4.1 million mortgage on the home, according to court records.

The bank was the only bidder for the 1929 stone mansion at a January auction and bought it for $2.1 million, according to court records. It comes with a carriage house, formal garden and 18-vehicle garage.

The criminal case is U.S. v. Tigani, 11-cr-42, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington). Tigani’s bankruptcy case is In re Christopher J. Tigani, 10-11855, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

–With assistance from Dawn McCarty, Sophia Pearson and Michael Bathon in Wilmington, Delaware. Editors: Stephen Farr, Andrew Dunn

To contact the reporters on this story: Jef Feeley in Wilmington, Delaware, at jfeeley@bloomberg.net; Phil Milford in Wilmington, Delaware at pmilford@bloomberg.net; Steven Church in Wilmington, Delaware, at schurch3@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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