Friday, April 29, 2016

"not Quam ghu'vam, IoD!"

That's Klingon for, "This will not stand, man!" And it's in the amicus brief arguing that you can't copyright Klingon.

The Recorder has more:

To say the filing is colorful doesn't do it justice. Submitted by Marc Randazza of Las Vegas-based Randazza Legal Group, it is peppered with Klingon sayings­—including a translation of a phrase from the 1998 film "The Big Lebowski."
By the film studio's logic, the brief argues, everyone who translates something into Klingon, writes a poem in Klingon, or gives a speech in Klingon at a Star Trek convention is a copyright infringer. It adds: "not Quam ghu'vam, IoD!" (For the uninitiated, that's: "This will not stand, man!")
Overall, the language group's argument in Paramount v. Axanar, 15-9938, is that Klingon has taken on a life of its own since Paramount commissioned its creation by linguistics professor Marc Okrand in the early 1980s for the film "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock."
Okrand further developed the dialogue from that film into a functioning language and published a dictionary in 1985. Since then, entire groups of people have embraced it—teaching it to their children, exchanging marriage vows in Klingon, and even establishing the Klingon Language Institute, or KLI, which has translated works of Shakespeare into Klingon.
"Given that Paramount Pictures commissioned creation of some of the language, it is understandable that Paramount might feel some sense of ownership over the creation," the brief says. "But, feeling ownership and having ownership are not the same thing."
According to the brief, Paramount has actually claimed the rights to the Klingon language for many years, but has never asserted it in court until now—"most likely because the notion of it is meq Hutlh." (Translation: "it lacks reasons.")
Paramount once threatened to bring suit against the KLI, it says, but the institute avoided a clash by agreeing to license the use of the language.The fight appears to present a novel legal issue for U.S. District Judge Gary Klausner, who is presiding over the case."
Just as 'great men do not seek power, it is thrust upon them,' this court now has the opportunity to weigh in on the copyrightability of language and declare that there is no basis in either law or policy to allow copyright in a spoken language," the brief says, quoting a line from "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine."
 In other news, President Obama has nominated a bunch of new judges, some of which in the Middle District, including William Jung.  Cool!

William F. Jung:  Nominee for the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida
William F. Jung is a partner at the law firm of Jung & Sisco, P.A. (formerly Black & Jung, P.A.) in Tampa, Florida, which he co-founded in 1993.  He specializes in white collar criminal defense and complex civil litigation.  Prior to starting his own firm, Jung served as an Assistant United States Attorney for six years – first in the Southern District of Florida from 1987 to 1990 and subsequently in the Middle District of Florida from 1990 to 1993.  From 1985 to 1987, he was an associate for the Tampa, Florida office of Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, P.A.  From 1984 to 1985, he served as a law clerk to then-Justice William H. Rehnquist of the Supreme Court of the United States.  Jung began his legal career as a law clerk to the Honorable Gerald Tjoflat of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.  He received his J.D. summa cum laude from the University of Illinois College of Law in 1983 and his B.A. magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University in 1980.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Sarah Bujold selected for the UM School of Law Stuart A. Markus award

Friends and readers of the blog know that my family set up an award in my Dad's name at the University of Miami School of Law three years ago.  The Stuart A. Markus Award recognizes an individual student each year for outstanding work in one of the School of Law’s in-house clinics. The winner is selected by vote of the in-house, live-client clinic directors.  The first award went to Bethany Bandstra.  And last year went to Lindsay MacDonald.

This year the Markus Award went to Sarah Bujold. Sarah’s work and professionalism in the Health Rights Clinic were truly outstanding and distinguished her even among the other nominees for the award. Over the course of the academic year, she successfully argued two hearings before Social Security judges, securing past-benefit awards for two clients—totaling more than $50,000—in addition to their ongoing entitlements. She also filed and argued two administrative appeals before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, drafted a petition for a writ of mandamus to the Florida Supreme Court, and sued USCIS, prompting the agency to grant her client naturalization. All of this was in addition to Sarah’s maintaining a regular caseload, securing healthcare entitlements and immigration relief for her clients and serving as a guardian ad litem for children in dependency proceedings in Monroe County. Sarah has made real contributions to class discussions, especially on issues of ethics and ethical judgment. She drafted a presentation about her experiences that was accepted by the International Journal of Clinical Legal Education and the Association for Canadian Clinical Legal Education, and she will be presenting this summer in Toronto at the International Clinical Legal Education Conference.

Super Impressive.

My dad practiced law in Miami for over 50 years.  Throughout his career, he fought hard for his clients in every area of the law.  He never turned away a person in need, and helped countless people with practical, hands-on advice and representation that went far above and beyond the norm.  The Markus Award is given annually to a student who shares that caring spirit, and who has made a meaningful difference in someone’s life – which is something my dad did every day.

Congratulations to Sarah!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

"That hasn’t happened in quite some time.”

That was Justice Ginsburg after she was referred to as Justice O'Connor during an oral argument today in United States v. McDonnell. (via The Washington Post).


Well, that's better than being called a "serial child molestor" when your previous title was Speaker of the House:
An Illinois federal judge on Wednesday sentenced former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, once second in line to the President of the United States, to 15 months in prison and two years of supervised release after Hastert admitted hiding hush money he paid to cover up his sexual abuse of teenage boys on the Yorkville high school wrestling team.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin called Hastert a "serial child molester" as he imposed the sentence for dodging federal banking laws following a wrenching hearing in Illinois federal court. Hastert also must undergo treatment as a sex offender and pay a $250,000 fine to go toward a criminal victims' fund.

"Some actions can obliterate a lifetime of good works," Durkin said.

Hastert. the former high school teacher and wrestling coach who was elected to Congress in 1986, said Wednesday he was "deeply ashamed" for having "mistreated" some athletes he coached. "For 11 months, I have been struggling to come to terms with events that occurred almost 40 years ago," Hastert said.
Mistreated?  Mistreated?!  That doesn't sound like acceptance of responsibility...

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Two defense opinions in the 11th Circuit written by...

... William Pryor.

1) United States v. Jimenez-Antunez:
This appeal presents a question of first impression in this Circuit: whether a criminal defendant must show good cause to dismiss retained counsel if the defendant intends to seek appointed counsel. Gabriel Jimenez-Antunez pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Weeks before his sentencing hearing, Jimenez-Antunez sent a letter to his retained counsel expressing an intent to dismiss him. His retained counsel then moved to withdraw and stated that his client would request appointed counsel. The district court denied the motion on the ground that Jimenez-Antunez had been afforded effective assistance of counsel by his retained counsel. Because a criminal defendant need not show good cause to dismiss retained counsel, we vacate and remand for further proceedings.

2) Norris v. United States:
This appeal requires us to decide whether the district court erred by denying an evidentiary hearing for Harrison Norris’s motion to vacate, 28 U.S.C. § 2255, which alleged that his conviction violated the Due Process Clause because his trial judge was biased against him and mentally incompetent. Norris, a black man, was convicted of forcing women, many of whom were white, into prostitution. Judge Jack Camp presided over Norris’s trial and sentenced him to life in prison. We vacated that sentence as an impermissible general sentence. On remand, a different judge sentenced Norris to 35 years of imprisonment. Three years after Norris’s trial, Judge Camp was arrested for illegal possession of drugs and a firearm. The United States disclosed that Camp had bipolar disorder and had suffered a brain injury from a bicycling accident. The investigation also disclosed allegations of racial bias. One witness alleged that Camp wanted to give all black men who pimped white women the maximum penalty and that Camp specifically disliked Norris. Because Norris sufficiently alleged that Judge Camp was actually biased against him, we reverse and remand for an evidentiary hearing.

Monday, April 25, 2016

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz (UPDATED -- WAKE UP!)

For the zzzzzzzzz posters out there, check out Justice Thomas during oral argument last week:

UPDATE -- WAKE UP!! -- Paul Rashkind, appellate guru from the FPD's office, is headed back to the Supreme Court. Cert granted this morning in Manrique v.United States. Here's the 11th Circuit opinion.

The QP is: Should the Court grant certiorari to resolve the significant division among the circuits concerning the jurisdictional prerequisites for appealing a deferred restitution award made during the pendency of a timely appeal of a criminal judgment imposing sentence, a question left open by the Court’s decision in Dolan v. United States, 560 U.S. 605, 618 (2010).

Thursday, April 21, 2016

FBI does not trust prosecutors

For real.  Check out this USA Today article by Brad Heath, which says that the FBI did not want to share its tech secrets with prosecutors because they might become defense lawyers one day:
The FBI guards its high-tech secrets so carefully that officials once warned agents not to share details even with federal prosecutors for fear they might eventually go on to work as defense attorneys, newly disclosed records show.
A supervisor also cautioned the bureau’s “technically trained agents” in a 2003 memo not to reveal techniques for secretly entering and bugging a suspect’s home to other agents who might be forced to reveal them in court. “We need to protect how our equipment is concealed,” the unnamed supervisor wrote.
The records, released this year as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, offer a rare view of the extent to which the FBI has sought to keep its most sensitive surveillance capabilities secret, even from others within federal law enforcement. That secrecy remains a common feature of the FBI’s most sophisticated investigations, including recent cases in which it cracked the encrypted iPhone of one of the gunmen in last year’s San Bernardino terror attacks and breached the anonymous Tor computer network.
Meantime, John Pacenti and the PBP have continued to cover the zoo story.  The zoo has taken some very strange positions about what information it will release about the tiger and the zookeeper:

Zoo spokeswoman Naki Carter declined to answer questions about Konwiser’s death during a news conference Wednesday at which she announced the creation of a fund in her memory and the renaming of the zoo’s annual Save the Tigers 5K race in her honor.
The Palm Beach Post reported Tuesday that the tiger that killed Konwiser is a 13-year-old stud breeder named Hati, one of four at the zoo and one of 250 Malayans in existence. The zoo has declined to identify the tiger, saying that it could place the animal in danger.
Moments after The Post published an online story Tuesday naming Hati as the tiger that killed Konwiser, the zoo released a statement asking that media outlets refrain from identifying the animal.

Finally, Slate crushes the lawyering in the Supreme Court yesterday concerning DUI testing:

 The justices of the United States Supreme Court are at their best when united against a common foe. It’s much easier to put aside doctrinal differences and work together when an attorney at the lectern sounds like a clodhopping amateur trying out for the moot court team. On Wednesday, in a critically important Fourth Amendment case, not one but two advocates performed so terribly that the justices effectively gave up and had a conversation among themselves. The result was a deeply uncomfortable 70 minutes during which the clash between state power and individual autonomy took a back seat to jokes about night court and hillbilly judges.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Judge Martin rocks

She is so great.  Check out her concurrence today in U.S. v. Robinson:

I agree that Troy Robinson cannot benefit from Johnson v. United States, 576
U.S. ___, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015), because his sentence is valid even without the
residual clause. I write separately to note that Mr. Robinson is one of dozens of
prisoners who has tried to file similar applications based on Johnson. Prior to
yesterday’s decision in Welch v. United States, No. 15-6418, 2016 WL 1551144
(Apr. 18, 2016), all these applicants were turned away from our Court not because
Johnson wouldn’t benefit them but because our Court held that Johnson could not
apply in these cases. Some of those who filed applications in other courts have
already been freed because they were serving an unconstitutional prison sentence.
As best I can tell, all the prisoners we turned away may only have until June 26,
2016, to refile applications based on Johnson. See Dodd v. United States, 545 U.S.
353, 359, 125 S. Ct. 2478, 2482–83 (2005).
Although I have not taken the time to investigate the merits of these cases,
below is a list of every case I know of in which this court denied an application from
a prisoner seeking to file a second or successive 28 U.S.C. § 2255 petition based on
Johnson. I share this list in the hope that these prisoners, who filed their applications without a lawyer’s help, may now know to refile their applications. I
have separated out the cases that arise under the residual clause in the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) and the cases that arise under the identical language in United States Sentencing Guidelines § 4B1.2 (which includes cases for which the
guidelines were mandatory together with those for which the guidelines were
advisory). I have also listed the district court in which each sentence was imposed,
to the extent Federal Public Defender and U.S. Attorney offices are monitoring these cases.
She then goes on to list 110 cases.  

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

State shenanigans

Rumpole and Ovalle cover Jackie Schwartz's bar issues.  Here's Ovalle:
“You are a f---ing idiot, you don’t know who I am,” County Judge Jacqueline Schwartz yelled at a waiter at a Miami Greek restaurant after she was refused more alcohol, according to a state investigative report released on Monday. It also quotes the judge calling police officers “pigs” when they were were summoned to the restaurant on March 18.
 The investigation for the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission on Monday recommended that Schwartz be suspended. Ultimately, the Florida Supreme Court will decide what, if any, punishment she deserves.
 Her lawyer, Jeffrey Feiler, told the commission this month that she was not drunk but under the influence of a new prescription medication.
Schwartz has been on “paid medical leave” since she was sent home from the bench on March 28.

It’s the second time that a state judicial oversight board has questioned Schwartz’s behavior and salty language.
In December, the Florida Supreme Court scolded Schwartz after she told a store owner to “go f--- yourself” during a heated re-election campaign in June 2014. She was angry over an oversized campaign sign posted at the story for her opponent. She was suspended for 30 days and had to pay a $10,000 fine.

Read more here:

Sad story.  Here are the formal charges.

Meantime, I miss John Pacenti on our beat.  He's now with the PBP and does a great job covering the awful zoo story:
The timeline of when and how the tiger encountered Konwiser remained hazy on Monday as a spokeswoman for the zoo did not return a phone call to answer questions after chastising the media on Sunday for speculation that the tiger in question would be euthanized. It remains at the zoo and has not been identified other than its sex.
What is known is Konwiser was mauled while performing routine tasks in the “night house,” which is not viewed by the public but is adjacent to the new tiger exhibit.
The area was monitored by video cameras and the zoo has not said how Konwiser died, whether she was in the enclosure with the big cat or if a latch malfunctioned on the door.
The energetic lead keeper was minutes away from giving a “tiger talk” to the patrons in what would have been one of her last official acts for the zoo. A spokesperson for the U.S. Food & Drug Administration told the Palm Beach Post’s news partner, WPTV News Channel 5, that she was to begin as consumer safety officer with the FDA in Maitland on May 1.

Monday, April 18, 2016

SCOTUS happenings (UPDATED)

Everyone is wondering why SCOTUS decided to announce an opinion this morning when it wasn't previously scheduled.  Whisper is that it might be Welch, the retroactivity case on the ACCA.  Check in with SCOTUSblog for more.

Update 10:14am -- Yup, it was Welch.  7-1 decision per Kennedy saying Johnson is retroactive, reversing the 11th Circuit (which had denied the certificate of appealability).

Clarence Thomas is coming to HBO.  Apparently it isn't going to be flattering.

Former Broward Teacher's Union president Pat Santeramo was sentenced Friday to five years by former federal prosecutor Jeffrey Levenson. From the Sun-Sentinel:
Santeramo, who had asked Broward Circuit Judge Jeffrey R. Levenson for leniency, faced a maximum penalty of 55 years after he was convicted in January of money laundering, organized scheme to defraud and violating campaign contribution laws.

"I ask you when making your final decision to consider the good that I have done throughout my life and not just this snapshot in time," Santeramo said.
But prosecutor David Schulson said while Santeramo doesn't deserve the maximum sentence, his actions weren't a momentary lapse of reason.
"Santeramo made the choice to steal from BTU funds," Schulson said, citing trial evidence that the union head received 30 payments from 2006 until 2011 from general contractor David Esposito, who testified against Santeramo in exchange for immunity. "It is crystal clear based on the evidence that not a single dollar of BTU funds would have been stolen without the knowledge and participation of Pat Santeramo."
Santeramo was a music teacher from 1978 until 1995, when he began working for the union full time. He became president of the union in 2001 after the previous president, Tony Gentile, was arrested on child pornography charges. Santeramo served as president for 11 years.

Jurors took eight hours over two days to find Santeramo guilty of all charges against him except for one – an allegation that he misused his union-issued gasoline card for personal business.

"It confounds the court and I must ask why," Levenson said. "Why over these years did you abuse the trust of the union that you were so devoted to and that you so loved?"
Former Broward Teachers Union president Pat Santeramo found guilty of corruption
Former Broward Teachers Union president Pat Santeramo found guilty of corruption

Schulson asked Levenson to sentence Santeramo to a 10-year term; Levenson decided on half that. "Hopefully this will be a note for those who are in those positions of trust to take those positions of trust seriously" Levenson said.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Another pitch for cameras

David Ovalle has taken up using Periscope in state court, posting short video clips of court proceedings on Twitter. It's actually a great service to court watchers and it's very interesting. Of course the feds are way too crusty to allow anything like that, which is a shame. Just to get into the federal courthouse has become a burden, with people being turned away for random reasons. Instead of a courthouse, it's beginning to feel like a fortress.

Some news from the 6th, 7th & 8th Circuits:

Add the 6th Circuit to the list of courts getting the cell-site data case wrong.

The 7th Circuit addresses strip club ordinances: "This case requires us to visit the world of strip clubs—establishments that no one seems to want, officially, but that are somehow quite lucrative."

And the 8th Circuit discusses Halliburton and securities laws.  It's a pretty interesting read.  Here's the Reuters analysis:
After several years of litigation, U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank of St. Paul, Minnesota, certified a class of Best Buy shareholders. Investors could not bring fraud claims based on the Sept. 14 press release, the judge said, because it was a forward-looking statement covered by the safe-harbor provision in securities laws. But he ruled statements during the analyst call about the company’s present performance were not protected by the safe-harbor provision. Judge Donovan found that lead counsel from Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd had established the price impact of the alleged misrepresentations by showing the sharp drop in Best Buy’s stock price when the supposed fraud was revealed in December.
On Tuesday, a divided three-judge panel at the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that class certification decision. The court’s opinion is the first federal circuit court analysis of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 ruling in Halliburton v. Erica P. John Fund – and it’s quite a boon for defendants in securities class actions. Best Buy’s lead counsel, Joseph McLaughlin ofSimpson Thacher & Bartlett, called the decision “a blueprint” for securities defendants hoping to capitalize on the Supreme Court’s decision.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


So Above the Law has decided to nix comments permanently.  What do you think?

I can't get the poll to work here, so click on this link to vote.

Above The Law has gotten rid of comments. Should SDFLA Blog delete comments?

Above The Law has gotten rid of comments. Should SDFLA Blog delete comments? free polls

Thursday, April 07, 2016

"I barely have clout in my own court as a senior judge, much less clout in somebody else's court."

That was Judge Huck commenting on whether he would get any special breaks in small claims court.  The DBR has more:

Small claims court might not be the place you'd expect to see a host of heavy hitters in the Miami legal community.
But a Miami-Dade County Court tussle over a $75 fee at the exclusive Riviera Country Club has a "who's who" list of plaintiffs, including a federal judge, a state appellate judge and high-profile attorneys.
U.S. Senior District Judge Paul Huck and Third District Court of Appeal Judge Frank Shepherd are the first two named plaintiffs on the lawsuit against the Coral Gables club.
The judges and the four other plaintiffs, all self-represented, are suing the club to resolve a dispute about senior membership, which is available to club members over 70 who have been members for at least 25 years. The complaint seeks a declaratory judgment and seeks no damages.
...The other plaintiffs, who are or expect to be senior members, include attorneys Raul Valdes-Fauli of Fox Rothschild in Miami, Abigail Watts-Fitzgerald of Devine Goodman Rasco Watts-Fitzgerald in Coral Gables and solo practitioner Philip Brawner of Coral Gables.
Senior members of the club are not allowed to vote on club matters, but the club agreed to freeze their dues and never charge them future assessments, according to the Feb. 1 complaint.
The club is calling the $75 monthly charge a capital fee, but the plaintiffs contend it's an assessment and they shouldn't have to pay it.

Tough sentencing hearing

What should a judge do when a jury completely rejects the government's case (acquits of all felony charges) but convicts of a sole misdemeanor count?  This issue came up at yesterday's sentencing of former Massey CEO Don Blankenship. The case involved allegations of a cover up of an explosion that killed 29 people. The judge gave the maximum 1-year sentence.  From the AP:
Standing before a federal judge, former coal company executive Don Blankenship expressed sorrow for the families of 29 men killed in his coal mine six years ago but contended that he committed no crime.
"I just want to make the point that these men were proud coal miners. They've been doing it a long time. And they'd want the truth of what happened there to be known," Blankenship said Wednesday, drifting closer toward mentioning his theory that an act of nature, not negligence, caused the deadly explosion in his mine.
The judge told him to stop talking about the explosion and handed down the stiffest sentence allowed for his misdemeanor conviction: one year in prison and a $250,000 fine. ***
A federal jury convicted Blankenship on Dec. 3 of a misdemeanor conspiracy to violate mine safety standards at Upper Big Branch. The jury acquitted him of felonies that could have extended his sentence to 30 years.
The trial wasn't about what caused the explosion, and the judge made that painstakingly clear. U.S. District Judge Irene Berger also ruled that family members couldn't speak at Wednesday's sentencing for similar reasons, saying they weren't eligible for restitution and the cause of the explosion wasn't up for debate in the case.
At Upper Big Branch, four investigations found worn and broken cutting equipment created a spark that ignited accumulations of coal dust and methane gas. Broken and clogged water sprayers then allowed what should have been a minor flare-up to become an inferno.
Blankenship disputes those reports. He believes natural gas in the mine, and not methane gas and excess coal dust, was at the root of the explosion.
Blankenship rose from a meager, single-mother Appalachian household to become one of the wealthiest, most influential figures in the region and in the coal industry, and someone who gives back to the community, the judge noted Wednesday.
"Instead of being able to tout you as one of West Virginia's success stories, however, we are here as a result of your part in a dangerous conspiracy," Berger said.
During the trial, prosecutors called Blankenship a bullish micromanager who meddled in the smallest details of Upper Big Branch. They said Massey's safety programs were just a facade — never backed by more money to hire additional miners or take more time on safety tasks.
Blankenship's attorneys believe he shouldn't have gotten more than a fine and probation, and have promised to appeal. They embraced Blankenship's image as a tough boss, but countered it by saying he demanded safety and showed commitment to his community, family and employees.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

More on the possibility of Judge Pryor moving to SCOTUS

The Heritage Foundation gave it short list of judges, and Judge Pryor tops the list:

In addition to an in-depth knowledge of the law and a settled judicial philosophy, a judge must have the backbone to withstand the inevitable onslaught of withering criticism from the mainstream media and the societal elites, cognoscenti, and other habitu├ęs who frequent the Georgetown and New York cocktail circuits without moderating his or her view to please them. Although he was speaking about his religious beliefs at the time, Scalia’s words could just as easily apply to conservative judges: “Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity. … And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world.”
While there are a number of well-respected organizations within the conservative movement whose views should be solicited and considered, the following non-exclusive list of current judges illustrates the kind of highly qualified, principled individuals the new president should consider—after a thorough review of their backgrounds, records, legal acumen, judicial philosophies, and intestinal fortitude—for nomination to the Supreme Court.

William Pryor Jr. (Judge, 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals)
The former Alabama attorney general made headlines in 2004 when President George W. Bush recess appointed him to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, where he was subsequently confirmed. While he was considered by some as controversial in 2004, during his 12 years on the bench, Pryor has established himself as a serious and thoughtful jurist, and has written on a variety of important issues. He is also a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

One (not so) Shining Moment

Judge Moreno took into consideration that this defendant did a whole lot of good both before and after getting popped in this case.  From Dave Ovalle:
The judge heard a long list of bad stuff about Jorge Hernandez, the heavily tattooed, bodybuilding ex-U.S. Army soldier who ran one of the largest Molly drug rings in Miami history.
Three beautiful women, his ex-lovers facing prison time themselves, blamed Hernandez for fueling their drug addictions while convincing them to help smuggle in kilos of the synthetic drug from China. Two of them accused him of physical and psychological abuse.
One of his buddies insisted he helped Hernandez only to partake in the lifestyle of night clubs, porn stars and luxury rides.
But once he was caught, Hernandez proved to be an ace undercover operative – making drug deals that helped agents bust 13 other people. “The best I’ve seen in my experience,” federal prosecutor Marton Gyires told the judge on Monday during his sentencing.
That cooperation, combined with Hernandez’s impressive service in the military– he served in Iraq and Afghanistan as an Arabic-speaking translator – persuaded U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno to shave some time off what could have been a sentence of at least 10 years in prison. The end result: Hernandez, 37, will serve only four years.
“It wasn’t just service. It was combat duty,” Moreno said. “He should be given credit for his service to the military.”
Another defendant didn't fare as well:
Moreno also sentenced Seth Daniel Murray, 28, the son of two Miami-Dade corrections officers. Murray also wired money and picked up Molly packages, although his lawyer insisted it was only to “endear” himself to the lifestyle enjoyed by Hernandez.
“If someone says beautiful women, porn stars and ‘you can drive my Bentley,’ most people are going to say ‘yes’,” lawyer Scott Saul said.
Judge Moreno sentenced Murray to 50 months in prison, but not before noting: “The fact that he was enamored with the Hernandez lifestyle – I’m sure that love has dissipated by now.”

Read more here:

Monday, April 04, 2016

Back to Blogging

Hey, sorry about the slow blogging last week.  I was trying a short case before Chief Judge Moore, and now I'm back.  What did I miss?

Housing Market bubble part 2, this time due to foreign investors -- via the Miami Herald:
In Miami, secretive buyers often purchase expensive homes using opaque legal entities such as offshore companies, trusts and limited liability corporations.
Offshore companies are legal as long as the companies declare their assets and pay taxes. But the secrecy that surrounds those companies makes it easy and tempting to break the law.
The U.S. Treasury Department is so concerned about criminals laundering dirty money through Miami-Dade County real estate that in March it started tracking the kind of transaction most vulnerable to manipulation: shell companies buying homes for at least $1 million using cash.
Those deals are considered suspicious because a) the real buyers can hide behind shell companies and b) banks aren’t involved in cash transactions, circumventing any checks for money laundering.
Cash deals accounted for 53 percent of all Miami-Dade home sales in 2015 — double the national average — and 90 percent of new construction sales, according to the Miami Association of Realtors.
“A property owned in the name of a shell company is not transparent,” said Jennifer Shasky Calvery, director of the U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen), the Treasury agency behind the new policy. “There may be legitimate reasons to be non-transparent, but it’s also what criminals want to do.”
The temporary initiative also applies to Manhattan and expires in August. It requires that real-estate title agents identify the true, or “beneficial,” owners behind shell companies and disclose their names to the federal government. In Miami-Dade, the rules apply to homes sold for $1 million or more. In Manhattan, where real estate is more expensive and where foreign buyers also flock, the threshold is $3 million.
No other jurisdictions are being targeted.
Even a former Supreme Court Justice from Brazil is allegedly involved according to the MH:
When Brazilian news outlets found out then-Supreme Court chief justice Joaquim Barbosa had bought a Brickell condo in 2012, they asked the well-respected jurist how much he paid.
Barbosa refused to say.
The problem? In Florida, real-estate sales are public.
But not Barbosa’s.
Miami-Dade County property records seemed to suggest the 61-year-old paid a big, fat zero for his one-bedroom condo at Icon Brickell, one of the trendy neighborhood’s best-known condo towers.
Buyers are supposed to pay a documentary stamp tax when they close on a property. In Miami-Dade, the tax amounts to 60 cents for every $100 paid for the property. Sales prices aren’t listed on deeds — but they can be calculated from the tax.
The deed for Barbosa’s unit lists no tax. (Even when someone gives their property away to a family member, they pay a nominal tax.)As it turns out, Barbosa didn’t get the apartment for free. The unit’s seller sent the Miami Herald a contract showing Barbosa paid $335,000 in cash. The tax on that sale would have amounted to about $2,000.
Three real-estate attorneys consulted by the Miami Herald could see no reason why Barbosa wouldn’t be subject to the tax.
“This is a very unusual deed,” said one of the attorneys, Joe Hernandez of South Florida law firm Weiss Serota.
It’s not clear why the Florida Department of Revenue didn’t flag the nonpayment and impose a fine. A spokeswoman said the department could not comment on individual cases.
Details of Barbosa’s purchase came to light after a massive leak of documents from inside Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.