The SDFLA Blog is dedicated to providing news and notes regarding federal practice in the Southern District of Florida. The New Times calls the blog "the definitive source on South Florida's federal court system." All tips on court happenings are welcome and will remain anonymous. Please email David Markus at email@example.com
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Donations in lieu of flowers can be made to the "Sydney Chaykin College Fund" and mailed c/o
Mr. Sam Rabin
Eastern National Bank Building
799 Brickell Plaza
Miami, Florida 33131
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
RIP Steven Chaykin
ASPEN - A Florida man has died after jumping into a river on Wednesday while trying to save his wife near Aspen.
The Pitkin County Sheriff's Department says the man, Steven Chaykin of Florida, and his wife, who has not been identified, were near the Roaring Fork River 10 miles east of Aspen up Independence Pass.
Deputies on scene say the woman slipped into the river, then Chaykin jumped in to rescue her, but hit his head on a rock.
Bystanders pulled Chaykin from the water and started CPR, but he later died at the Aspen Valley Hospital.
More from the Aspen paper:
A 57-year-old Florida man died at the Grottos on Independence Pass near Aspen on Wednesday.The man, whose name has not yet been released, slid into a pool to rescue his wife, who had fallen in before him at about 1:30 p.m.The women hit her head and injured her leg, but was otherwise OK, authorities said.The man, however, suffered a severe head injury in the slide then fell over a 15-foot fall into the pool below, witnesses said.A few groups of day hikers at the nearby ice cave jumped into action when they heard screams from the waterfall, but it took five minutes to get the man out of the pool, where he floated face-down.One witness ran to her vehicle and drove toward Aspen, dialing 911 as soon as she was within cell phone range. Others performed CPR until Aspen firefighters and Pitkin County sheriff’s deputies arrived.CPR was stopped at 2:37 p.m.Rescue crews transported the injured woman on a backboard to the trailhead and by ambulance to Aspen Valley Hospital.The Grottos is a popular summertime spot east of Aspen, off Highway 82 as it climbs toward Independence Pass. The Roaring Fork River tumbles over waterfalls and through pools formed in the smoothed stone, creating an enticing spot to take a dip.
The whole community will be mourning Steve's untimely death. Our condolences to his family.
You gotta know when to hold em...
Well, Bill Barzee and Joel Denaro took a huge gamble today, which almost paid off big. After a week of trial before Judge Jordan, the jury was deadlocked. Barzee and Denaro decided to ask for a majority-wins verdict. Jordan said that if the prosecutor, Frank Tamen, would agree the Court would accept the non-unanimous decision. Tamen said no. So mistrial.
What was the vote, you ask.
7-5 for acquittal...
Conventional wisdom from the defense bar is to always require a unanimous verdict; never agree to majority wins. Typically, it's the government, not the defense, that requests such a jury decision.
Dear readers, what do you think about the conventional wisdom? About the Barzee/Denaro gambit? Better to live to fight another day? Or take the verdict with the first trial, your best shot at victory?
Here's some of the Herald article on the case:
Federal prosecutors in Miami have failed to secure a conviction of a man who -- according to his own lawyers -- smuggled enormous amounts of cocaine into the United States from Colombia.
The reason: The feds were unable to prove to the jurors' satisfaction that the crimes of Hernan Prada occurred within the statute of limitations.
As a result, jurors split 7-5 on Tueday in favor of acquittal, forcing U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan to declare a mistrial in the trial of Hernan Prada.
Prosecutors are expected to retry Prada, who authorities said once ran an international enterprise that pulled in hundreds of millions of dollars a year, as soon as next month.
During the seven-day trial, it was never in dispute that Prada at one time oversaw shipments of cocaine from Colombia to the United States. Even his lawyers conceded that point.
However, that was not enough for a conviction. The underlying issue of the case was this: Did the alleged Colombian drug-cartel kingpin plan or execute any deals after July 2, 1999, when the statute of limitations in his case would have expired?
When it became clear that a unanimous verdict was unlikely, the defense took an enormous chance.
At Prada's urging, attorneys William Barzee, Joel Denaro and Jelani Davis petitioned the court for a rarely used provision: a non-unanimous verdict. At the time of the proposal, it was not known which side had the most jurors in its corner.
All that was needed to declare guilt or innocence in such a case was a simple majority.
Jordan considered the proposal. Assistant U.S. attorney Frank Tamen dismissed it immediately. Later, it became clear that Prada would have walked if the prosecution had agreed.
''Our instinct was right,'' Denaro said. ``It would have been spectacular if they had agreed. It was really intense.''
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
News and Notes
Monday, July 28, 2008
The DBR's new blog
Should I take it personally that they don't link to me even though I'm a "DBR affiliated blog"?
Is it me...
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Life for Archer...
Guillermo Zarabozo is proceeding to trial. The government announced that the death penalty is also off the table for Zarabozo. When Judge Huck heard this, he moved the trial date up to August, and discharged the court-appointed death penalty lawyer, Bill Matthewman.
Here's the Sun-Sentinel coverage, the AP's and the Herald's.
"Suit: Contractors caused mold that killed magistrate Klein"
"The son and daughter of the late U.S. Magistrate Judge Theodore Klein have filed a wrongful death suit against contractors who handled projects at the courthouse where he worked alleging they created the conditions that killed him."
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
"These individuals had it all--success, money, and the admiration of their community."
That's Alex Acosta discussing Carlos de Cespedes, 58, and Jorge de Cespedes, 55, co-owners of Pharmed Group Corp.
The brothers were charged by way of two separate informations (read them here and here).The tax case went to Judge Jordan and the health care fraud case went to Judge Altonaga. Usually when individuals are charged by information that means that they have already worked out deals. I wonder why they did two separate cases though....
From the Herald article:
In a Tuesday afternoon court appearance, the brothers pleaded not guilty, and a federal magistrate ordered their release on $250,000 personal surety bonds.
Their attorneys, Alan Ross and Dennis Kainen, dodged questions about how the brothers ultimately would resolve the case. ''Carlos and Jorge, who are both honorable and charitable men, will be resolving these charges with the same commitment and enthusiasm'' they have shown in this community for many years, the attorneys said in a joint statement.
Tuesday's charges signify a huge fall for the brothers, who in 2003 earned a profit of $48 million. They often showed up in matching Bentleys at Chispa, their restaurant in Coral Gables, which is now closed. They went to basketball games at the Pharmed Arena on the campus of Florida International University. The Pharmed name has since been removed.
The Sun-Sentinel coverage is here. Credit to the Miami Herald for the photo above.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Former U.S. Attorney: Terror Watch List is Absurd
As a former federal prosecutor with a top national security clearance, Marcos Jimenez would seem an unlikely terror suspect.Yet when he travels, the former U.S. attorney for South Florida endures delays, searches and other inconveniences, because someone with his name appears on the government watch list airlines use to identify possible terrorists.It happened most recently Thursday, as security personnel at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport pulled aside Jimenez, once the region's top federal law enforcement official, for an intrusive physical pat down."They put you off to the side like an animal in a little pen. They wand you. They grab you everywhere," Jimenez said. "To go through this hassle and inconvenience every time you get on a plane is just extremely frustrating."
An animal in a little pen..... Nice imagery. So what does our former U.S. Attorney do to get around this:
Even more absurd, Jimenez says, he can avoid the hassle simply by traveling under his middle name."If I use Marcos Jimenez, I get just short of strip-searched. If I go as Daniel Jimenez, I go right through," he said. "If this is really, truly an important terrorist prevention technique, it's not working because I can avoid it extremely well."
He makes a good point. But I just wonder what would have happened if some newbie major crimes prosecutor got a call from TSA about someone going thr0ugh security with his middle name. They would call it attempted boarding of an airplane with an alias or some such nonsense and chalk up the case as a terrorism stat...
In other news, congrats to my office-mate Marc Seitles (and the co-defendants' lawyers Ken Swartz, Steve Amster, and Lisa Colon) on his not guilty before Judge Altonaga in the last trial in the Tower Building. Judge Altonaga and Judge Cooke are moving to the new building this week, the last judges to do so.
As long as we are on my office-mates, Bill Barzee (and Joel Denaro) start trial Monday morning in front of Judge Jordan defending Hernan Prada, who the government says was one of the kingpins in Medellin who took over for Pablo Escobar. The case is being prosecuted by Frank Tamen.
Friday, July 18, 2008
18 USC 48 found unconstitutional by en banc Third Circuit
According to the majority's opinion, the "case is the first prosecution in the nation under [the federal statute in question] to proceed to trial, and this appeal represents the first substantive constitutional evaluation of the statute by a federal appellate court."
The majority opinion, written by Circuit Judge D. Brooks Smith, begins:
The Supreme Court has not recognized a new category of speech that is unprotected by the First Amendment in over twenty-five years. Nonetheless, in this case the Government invites this Court to take just such a step in order to uphold the constitutionality of 18 U.S.C. sec. 48 and to affirm Robert Stevens' conviction. For the reasons that follow, we decline the Government's invitation. Moreover, because we agree with Stevens that 18 U.S.C. sec. 48 is an unconstitutional infringement on free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment, we will vacate his conviction.Back in October 2006, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had an article headlined "Dog fight videos called free speech" reporting on the oral argument of the appeal before the original three-judge panel. And in January 2005, The Associated Press reported on the trial of the case in an article headlined "Dogfight video seller on trial for cruelty; Virginia man is first charged under 1999 federal statute."
In related coverage, a little over one year ago, Adam Liptak of The New York Times had an article headlined "First Amendment Claim in Cockfight Suit." Liptak's new beat for The NYTimes is the U.S. Supreme Court, which is where the case that the en banc Third Circuit decided today is likely heading next.
That lawsuit about cockfighting referenced at the end was the one I (and Rick Bascuas) filed, discussed here. Unfortunately, we had to dismiss the case as the client's business went under (after we had filed this motion for summary judgment). Looks like we would've won. We had a much stronger claim than the dog fighting case in the Third. DAMN! It's not often you get a chance to get a statute declared unconstitutional. Congrats to the PD's office who represented the defendant in the Third Circuit.
Prosecutors say the 36-year-old Archer and 20-year-old Guillermo Zarabozo hired the charter boat for $4,000 to go to the Bahamas, then tried to divert it to Cuba.
Zarabozo has passed a polygraph and blamed Archer in court papers for killing the captain, his wife and two crew members when they resisted. Should be a fascinating trial...
Here's the news coverage from the Sun-Sentinel, the Herald, and the AP.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
"Defense Team Argues DOJ Ideology Spurred Money Laundering Indictment of [Ben Kuehne]"
At issue is a 1988 carve-out from the federal anti-money laundering statutes that exempts attorneys from criminal liability in accepting defense fees.
"The Department of Justice has been hostile to this exemption for many years and appears not to accept the policies that underlie it," Kuehne's attorneys said in a 13-page dismissal motion. "However, it is Congress that makes the laws."
Kuehne is charged with laundering drug proceeds while vetting $5.2 million in fees collected by celebrity attorney Roy Black to defend Colombian drug kingpin Fabio Ochoa Vasquez. Kuehne, Colombian attorney Oscar Saldarriaga and accountant Gloria Florez Velez were hired to make sure the money was "free from taint" to pay Black's team.
He makes the point in his filing with flair, quoting folk rock legend Dylan's song "Like a Rolling Stone" in his motion to dismiss a wire fraud conspiracy count, writing, "When you [ain't] got nothing, you got nothing to lose."
The government alleges the defendants committed wire fraud by converting pesos to dollars to bring them to the United States and subvert the Colombian government's right to seize the assets.
Motions for Kuehne and Saldarriaga argue the Colombians never made an effort to seize the assets and to this day have not filed a forfeiture action.
Strafer, paraphrasing a decision from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said in an interview, "The government has taken off in an aircraft without wings, engines or wheels" in the wire fraud count. He is asking for additional time to file more motions hinging on complicated issues of foreign law.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
The state court budget crisis
Florida trial court officials plan to handle future budget cuts with layoffs rather than furloughing employees for weeks without pay. The state Trial Court Budget Commission, which is made up of members of all 20 judicial circuits, met last week to formulate a plan to deal with a projected budget shortfall that already has state agencies scrimping. A hiring freeze and travel ban imposed earlier this year in a budget-saving move have been extended indefinitely, said State Courts Administrator Lisa Goodner. The commission splintered when considering whether to absorb fresh cuts with layoff or furloughs. “A lot of people saw furloughs as a way to make a statement and layoffs is taking it again,” said Palm Beach Chief Judge Kathleen Kroll, who attended the meeting. The commission has not determined how many people would have to be laid off or when, but state agencies are operating with a 4 percent budget holdback.
Who's got some tips for me on an interesting trial or hearing in federal court. Come on people.
Monday, July 14, 2008
The Conway briefs are in
Courtesy of JAABBlog, the briefs are in:
CONWAY RESPONSE BAR RESPONSE ACLU AMICUS BRIEF
The one worth reading is the ACLU brief.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Handshake assault case dismissed
The case of an over-enthusiastic courtroom handshake that escalated into an assault charge against a local attorney was dropped Thursday by federal prosecutors who deemed it the "prudent" thing to do.Kathy Brewer Rentas, with the Hollywood firm of Becker & Poliakoff, spent the night in jail after her Feb. 7 arrest for assaulting a federal prosecutor by handshake in a Fort Lauderdale courtroom.The victim, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Keene, was prosecuting Brewer Rentas' husband, Anthony Rentas, for violating probation in a cocaine distribution case out of New York. A hearing had just concluded in which Anthony Rentas was put on house arrest for 90 days.Marshal Robert Kremenik was in the courtroom when Brewer Rentas insisted on shaking hands with Keene. The prosecutor refused at first, he said, but Brewer Rentas persisted, following Keene.
"Brewer forcefully grabbed onto Keene's right hand and squeezed it, pulling Keene toward her, forcing Keene off balance," Kremenik wrote in his report. "With Keene in hand, Brewer made an upward, then a quick downward motion and pulled Keene toward the ground moving her forward, almost causing Keene to fall to the ground."Gilberto Pay, a court security officer, told Kremenik that Brewer Rentas "almost pulled her arm out of the socket."
Steve Stallings makes a move
The prosecutor who headed the federal public corruption cases against Dr. Cyril H. Wecht and the Allegheny County Sheriff's Office is crossing the aisle.
Thursday was the last day in the U.S. Attorney's Office for Stephen Stallings, who heads down Grant Street from the federal courthouse to go into private practice at Dreier, a law firm in the Koppers Building.
"Most of my career has been in private practice," said Stallings, 40. "And this was the right time for me and my family to make the return."
Stallings practiced civil law in south Florida before joining the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami in 2001. He moved to Pittsburgh, his wife's hometown, in 2004.
*Friend of Blog
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Jack Thompson update
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta, right foreground, and Diego Herrera, Director of the Colombian Institute of Anthropology, left, foreground, look at recovered artifacts in Miami, Tuesday, July 8, 2008. Federal authorities in Miami have recovered a treasure trove of pre-Columbian gold, artifacts and emeralds, which were returned to the Colombian government. The treasures will be handed over to authorities from the South American nation on Tuesday. Federal authorities say the items were recovered from an Italian citizen who was living in south Florida and illegally smuggling them into the country.
Can you come up with a better caption?
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
A federal judge's limerick in response to a 465 page complaint
But it seems he skipped Rule 8(a).
His Complaint is too long,
Which renders it wrong,
Please re-write and re-file today."
via ABA Journal (and Seattle Times)
Monday, July 07, 2008
Sailfish, beagles, and...
Tom Watts-Fitzgerald is prosecuting a business for selling small turtles. From Vanessa Blum's article last week:
There's a new salmonella threat in South Florida and this time it's tiny turtles, not tomatoes.Federal prosecutor Thomas Watts-Fitzgerald filed misdemeanor charges last week against a Hollywood-based reptile business. The business is accused of violating a public health law banning the sale of turtles with shells less than 4 inches long.Strictly Reptiles, which claims to be the nation's largest wildlife importer/exporter, illegally supplied 400 undersized Mississippi map turtles and 600 Yellow-bellied sliders that turned up for sale at flea markets, kiosks and pet stores, prosecutors allege.Congress enacted the ban in 1975, after public health investigations identified small turtles as a major source of human salmonella infections, particularly in children who liked to put the critters in their mouths.
Friday, July 04, 2008
Three Years Old!
Fourth of July weekend three years ago, the SDFLA blog was born -- the first (I think) legal blog in South Florida (since then, a bunch of great local legal blogs have become daily reading -- Rumpole, Broward Blog, SFLawyers, to name a few).
Here's our very first post.
Our 1st b-day post.
And our 2nd (and here).
This is the 930th post! The blog has grown quite a bit and it's been a lot of fun. Thanks for stopping by and reading.
Thursday, July 03, 2008
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
From the most boring post ever to .....
Most boring post *ever*
1. First up is United States v. Svete. The Court agreed to hear the case en banc. This is going to be followed by all prosecutors and defense lawyers. The panel decision reversed a mail fraud conviction because, the court held, mail and wire fraud offenses do not encompass schemes which are not calculated to deceive a reasonably prudent person. The Court will address whether mail fraud (and related offenses) encompass schemes which are not calculated to deceive a reasonably prudent person? Get fired up baby!
2. Next is Jerry Greenberg v. National Geographic Society. No, not that Jerry Greenberg. This Jerry Greenberg. Can National Geographic reproduce (on a CD set) old magazines with Greenberg's pictures without his permission?
Judge Barkett wrote the majority opinion, which starts out this way:
Appellant National Geographic Society is a nonprofit scientific and educational organization that has published a monthly magazine since 1888.2 The Society also produces televised programs and computer software as well as other educational products through National Geographic Enterprises, a wholly-owned and for-profit subsidiary of the Society. Appellee Jerry Greenberg is a freelance photographer, some of whose photographs were published in four issues of the National Geographic Magazine. For decades, the Society has reproduced back issues of the Magazine in bound volumes, microfiche, and microfilm. In 1997, National Geographic produced “The Complete National Geographic” (“CNG”), a thirty-disc CD-ROM4
set containing each monthly issue of the Magazine, as it was originally published, for the 108 years from 1888 through 1996—roughly 1200 issues of the Magazine. In addition, the CNG includes a short opening montage and a computer program that allows users to search the CNG, zoom into particular pages, and print. Greenberg sued National Geographic, alleging that it had infringed his copyrights by reproducing in the CNG the print magazine issues that included his photographs. The district court disagreed and granted summary judgment in favor of National Geographic, holding that because the CNG constituted a “revision” of
the print issues of the Magazine, the reproduction of Greenberg’s photographs in the CNG was privileged under 17 U.S.C. § 201(c) of the Copyright Act and did not constitute an infringement of Greenberg’s copyrights. However, a panel of this Court in Greenberg v. National Geographic Society (Greenberg I), 244 F.3d 1267, 1275–76 (11th Cir. 2001), reversed and remanded for the district court to “ascertain the amount of damages and attorneys fees that are, if any, due as well as any injunctive relief that may be appropriate.” After a jury trial on damages, the jury returned a verdict against National Geographic in the amount of $400,000.
National Geographic appealed again, this time arguing that the intervening decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in New York Times Co. v. Tasini, 533 U.S. 483 (2001), decided after Greenberg I, mandated a reversal of the jury verdict against it. A second panel of this Court agreed, finding that Tasini compelled a reversal of the jury verdict because, under Tasini’s rationale, National Geographic was privileged to reproduce its print magazines in digital format pursuant to § 201(c) of the Copyright Act. See Greenberg v. Nat’l Geographic Soc’y
(Greenberg II), 488 F.3d 1331 (11th Cir. 2007).5 This Court then vacated the Greenberg II panel opinion and granted rehearing en banc to address the question of whether National Geographic’s use of Greenberg’s photographs in the CNG is privileged.
In the light of the Supreme Court’s holding in Tasini that the bedrock of any § 201(c) analysis is contextual fidelity to the original print publication as presented to, and perceivable by, the users of the revised version of the original publication, we agree with the Second Circuit in Faulkner and find that National Geographic is privileged to reproduce and distribute the CNG under the “revision” prong of § 201(c).
The CNG—albeit in a different medium than print or microform—is a permissible reproduction of the National Geographic Magazine. Greenberg’s photographs are preserved intact in the CNG and can only be viewed as part of the original collective works in which they appeared. Similar to the microforms of Tasini, which preserve the context of multiple issues of magazines, the CNG’s digital CD-ROMs faithfully preserve the original context of National Geographic’s print issues. The CNG’s additional elements—such as its search function, its
indexes, its zoom function, and the introductory sequence—do not deprive National Geographic of its § 201(c) privilege in that they do not destroy the original context of the collective work in which Greenberg’s photographs appear.21 We REVERSE and REMAND to the district court for proceedings consistent with this opinion.