Category Archives: Law

Manafort Charged

It looks like the special prosecutor just got its first arrest, but it appears unrelated to anything to do with its charter.

President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and Manafort’s longtime business associate Rick Gates will surrender today to federal authorities in Washington, D.C., according to sources with direct knowledge.

Manafort and Gates would be the first charges in the special counsel‘s five-month investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion between Trump campaign associates and Russia.

Manafort originally emerged as a key figure in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry because of consulting work he did in 2014 on behalf of the Ukrainian government.

Abrahamson AWOL

Hope she’s OK.

 (AP) — Longtime Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Shirley Abrahamson was absent from court arguments and closed-door discussions Monday without explanation.

Chief Justice Pat Roggensack announced from the bench that Abrahamson would miss oral arguments in three cases the court heard that day and was not participating in the decisions. Roggensack did not give a reason for the absence.

Abrahamson did not recuse herself from the cases.

Court spokesman Tom Sheehan said that Abrahamson did not provide a reason for her absence. It is highly unusual for a justice to miss arguments without explanation.

Unsent Text Serves as Last Will and Testament

Fascinating.

A court in Australia has accepted an unsent, draft text message on a dead man’s mobile phone as an official will.

The 55-year-old man had composed a text message addressed to his brother, in which he gave “all that I have” to his brother and nephew.

The message was found in the drafts folder on the man’s phone after he took his own life last year .

Brisbane Supreme Court ruled that the wording of the text indicated that the man intended it to act as his will.

In the message, the man gave details of how to access his bank account and where he had hidden money in his house.

“Put my ashes in the back garden,” he wrote. “A bit of cash behind TV and a bit in the bank.”

According to ABC News, the man’s wife applied to manage his assets and argued that the text message was not valid as a will because it was never sent.

Typically, for a will to be valid in Queensland, it must be written and signed by two witnesses.

As technology evolves, so does everyone’s jurisprudence.

Frankly, I agree with the wife. The fact that he killed himself is relevant. If he met an untimely demise, then perhaps an unsent text would be relevant. But given the fact that he chose the moment of his own death, his unwillingness to send the text first indicates that he didn’t intend for it to be his final word.

UWO Wants to Force Taxpayers to Back Bad Investments

Argh.

OSHKOSH – The bankrupt University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Foundation is asking a judge to force the UW System to help cover its debt from what the state calls improperly funded real estate deals.

In a complaint filed Tuesday in federal bankruptcy court, the UW-Oshkosh Foundation argues that a series of loan guarantees signed by former UWO Chancellor Richard Wells and former Vice Chancellor Tom Sonnleitner commit the system to back the foundation’s debt on a string of showpiece building projects, including the Alumni Welcome and Conference Center.

The foundation filed for bankruptcy in August after becoming buried in debt on the center and four other building projects. The case could cost taxpayers millions if a judge agrees that Wells’ so-called “comfort letters” commit the system to that debt.

It’s likely that the case will turn on whether or not Wells had the legal authority, and if the foundation people knew that he didn’t have that authority, to obligate the taxpayers to back a private investment.

And this is just infuriating.

In its complaint, the foundation argues it would never have embarked on the building projects without the system’s backing, and banks wouldn’t have lent money for them.

So let’s think this through… the UWO Foundation is admitting that these were crappy investments that they wouldn’t have made with their own money – nor would any bank – and yet they were willing to move ahead with them if the taxpayers were willing to pick up the bill. That kind of reckless disregard for the taxpayers’ hard-earned money is far too common.

Justice Gives Speech at Trump Hotel

Most. Ridiculous. Complaint. Ever.

Washington (AFP) – Supreme Court justice Neil Gorsuch was under fire Thursday as he prepared to deliver a speech at a Washington hotel owned by US President Donald Trump, who appointed him to the bench.

Denouncing it as a conflict of interest and apparent display of political support, which is prohibited by the Constitution, activists, lawyers and academics have unsuccessfully sought the cancellation of Gorsuch’s speech at a luncheon at the Trump International Hotel.

Justices at the US Supreme Court may participate in events organized by institutes with clear political stances — such as the conservative Fund for American Studies which organized Thursday’s lunch — but for critics, the fact that Gorsuch is a featured speaker at Trump’s hotel raises ethical issues.

Summit Credit Union Sues Equifax

It’s tough to see how Equifax survives this. But it is also an important message to businesses that they must take data security seriously.

It states that Equifax was negligent in securing its website from the hacker intrusion, in failing to detect the intrusion for weeks and in failing to notify consumers of the breach for nearly six weeks. Equifax also knew or should have known that its data security measures were inadequate, the lawsuit states.

Summit, with $2.6 billion in assets, 34 locations in Wisconsin and more than 162,000 members, is asking for orders temporarily and permanently barring Equifax from negligent business practices that are alleged in the lawsuit, along with unspecified costs, restitution and damages.

“Financial institutions often incur the costs of fraud due to others’ data breaches,” Summit said in a statement issued Friday. “Equifax may be the largest compromise in U.S. history, and we believe Equifax should cover any losses incurred due to their breach.”

On another note, if you want a job right now, get into IT security.

Man Indicted for Frauding WEDC

Good.

A Green Bay-area businessman has been indicted on federal charges for allegedly defrauding the state’s job-creation agency of more than $1 million, U.S. Attorney Gregory Haanstad announced Wednesday.

The indictment of Ron Van Den Heuvel, owner of Green Box NA, for alleged fraud and money laundering marks the first time criminal charges have been leveled against a business owner who received taxpayer funding from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

According to the indictment filed in federal court Tuesday, Van Den Heuvel allegedly devised a scheme that ended up defrauding $9 million from WEDC, acquaintances and investors from Canada and China between 2011 and 2015.

WEDC loaned $1.12 million to Green Box on Oct. 21, 2011, according to the indictment. The funds were supposed to help the company create 116 jobs by December 2014 as part of a more than $13 million project to turn fast-food wrappers and other waste paper into synthetic fuel and paper products while producing zero waste, according to agency records.

Van Den Heuvel persuaded WEDC and other investors to give him money by falsely claiming he had entered into agreements with major companies to advance Green Box’s operations and produced false financial statements that grossly inflated his personal wealth and financial situation, the indictment said.

Sometimes investments don’t work out or one doesn’t get the anticipated results, but when someone commits outright fraud, we should throw the book at them.

Milwaukee Airport Director Fired

Boy… there’s been all kinds of scamming going on.

General Mitchell International Airport Director Ismael Bonilla has been released from his duties effective immediately.

[…]

According to the Audit Services Division report on the investigation, the airport awarded a $250,000 contract to Springfield, Illinois-based engineering and planning firm Hanson Professional Services Inc., to create a business plan for Lawrence J. Timmerman Airport. The Audit Services Division learned that Bonilla and airport deputy director Yul McNair had prior working relationships with Hanson personnel and a Hanson sub-contractor, according to the report. Bonilla has a current quasi-business relationship with Hanson personnel, outside of the Timmerman business plan contract, the report states.

Bonilla and McNair arranged for Hanson personnel to take a site visit of Timmerman prior to the release of the request for proposal for the business plan contract, the ASD report states. When the RFP was issued it did not include explicit notice that site visits were possible and the ASD report states that the division found no evidence that the three other companies that submitted a response to the RFP requested or conducted a site visit.

“ASD has determined that Bonilla and McNair, by arranging a site visit for a company prior to the publication of a RFP which did not include an option for a site visit, violated Milwaukee County General Ordinance…prohibition against disclose of privileged information,” the ASD report states.

Clerk Scams Thousands from Pick n’ Save

From the Washington County Insider.

Sept. 14, 2017 – West Bend, WI – A 19-year-old West Bend man is facing felony charges in Washington County Court in connection with allegedly stealing money/identity from the store or customers and then converting it into gift cards for himself.

The criminal complaint alleges Alexander Deaton worked at Pick n’ Save north and used the company’s “make it right” return policy to enter in fraudulent returns and swap it out for gift cards.

West Bend police said about 80 customer complaints have been filed.

 

Justice Gableman Being Vetted by Trump Administration

Interesting! Gableman is a smart guy and solid conservative. He could serve the country well in any number of roles.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman is being considered for a job in the Trump White House, although it is not clear which position he is being considered for.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Wednesday that, according to multiple sources, FBI agents had been interviewing associates and colleagues of the jurist, a preliminary step in hiring someone for a top administrative position. Gableman, who declined to comment, announced in June that he would retire from the bench when his term expires next year.

Monkey Selfie Case Settled

Looks like the end result is another liberal shakedown – this time by PETA.

A photographer has won a two-year legal fight against an animal rights group over a “monkey selfie” photograph.

Naruto the macaque monkey took the image in the Indonesian jungle in 2011 when it picked up a camera owned by David Slater from Monmouthshire.

US judges had said copyright protection could not be applied to the monkey but Peta said the animal should benefit.

Peta’s appeal on the “monkey’s behalf” was dismissed but Mr Slater has agreed to donate 25% of any future revenue.

In a joint statement from Peta and Mr Slater, it said the photographer will give a quarter of the funds he receives from selling the monkey selfies to registered charities “dedicated to protecting the welfare or habitat of Naruto”.

“Peta’s groundbreaking case sparked a massive international discussion about the need to extend fundamental rights to animals for their own sake, not in relation to how they can be exploited by humans,” said Peta lawyer Jeff Kerr.

El Chapo Complains About Torture

Ummmm… no.

New York (AFP) – Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, one of the world’s most notorious criminals, is claiming his extradition to the United States was illegal and wants a US judge to dismiss his case.

The 60-year-old kingpin, accused of running the Sinaloa cartel — one of the world’s biggest drug empires — was extradited to New York on January 19, and is being held in solitary confinement in Manhattan pending trial next April.

But in a new court filing, his public defender lawyers say his extradition violated the terms of Mexico’s initial agreement to send Guzman to either Texas or California, and violated the Mexico-US extradition treaty.

They also allege that had Mexico known of “the extraordinarily harsh conditions” of his US confinement, it would never have signed off on his extradition.

“These conditions… are tantamount to torture. Had Mexico been advised of these conditions, it almost certainly would not have consented to Mr Guzman’s detention and prosecution in this district,” said the court papers.

On another note, why the heck does one of the richest and most powerful drug lords in the world get a public defender?

Castille’s Imprisoned Pop Wants Settlement Money

In what kind of odd world do we live in where the unfortunate killing of a man becomes a cash windfall for his relatives?

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The father of Philando Castile, a motorist fatally shot by a suburban Minneapolis police officer last summer, wants a portion of the $3 million settlement reached in his son’s death.

Phelix Frazier Sr. is serving a life term in federal prison on drug trafficking charges. The Star Tribune reported that Frazier has asked a judge to give him $500,000, disputing claims that he was absent from his son’s life.

Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, has petitioned the court for $2 million, with the remaining amount going to attorneys. A Hennepin County judge was expected to review the petition during a Wednesday hearing and will approve how the funds are distributed.

Federal Judge Rules Against American Family

This is huge news in Wisconsin.

A federal judge in Ohio has affirmed an advisory jury’s verdict that thousands of American Family Insurance agents are, in fact, employees of the Madison company and not independent contractors as the company defines their role — a ruling that could cost American Family as much as $1 billion in retirement benefits, attorneys for the plaintiffs say.

In a 44-page ruling on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Cleveland, Judge Donald Nugent said American Family treats agents as employees by imposing such rules as not letting them sell insurance from other companies except those with financial ties to American Family; requiring agents to sign a one-year non-compete agreement when they leave; referring to agents as “employees” in training manuals; requiring agents to file daily reports; and giving managers authority over agents’ business plans and vacation times.

“American Family trained its managers to exercise control over the means and manner of agents’ sales and service duties when the company deemed it necessary, and reprimanded managers who did not exercise such control when the company deemed it beneficial to do so,” Judge Nugent wrote. That degree of control “was inconsistent with independent contractor status and was more in line with the level of control a manager would be expected to exert over an employee.”

 Attorney Charles Crueger, of the Crueger Dickinson law firm in Milwaukee, the lead law firm representing the plaintiffs, called it a “landmark” decision. “As far as I’m aware, we have the first case that has ever gone to a full-blown trial on this issue and then prevailed,” Crueger said.

Scooter Crime Grips London

Hmmm… this sounds strangely familiar.

Offences involving scooters and mopeds have rocketed in London, but the epidemic is yet to spread to the rest of the UK.

[…]

There are two parts to the crime wave – the theft of the scooters themselves and the offences for which they are used.

The Met says that between July 2016 and June 2017 there were 14,943 thefts of “powered two-wheel vehicles”, the vast majority of which were scooters.

The total represents more than 50% of all vehicles stolen in London and is up almost 30% on the previous year.

[…]

Dr Harding says although some stolen scooters are stripped for parts or shipped abroad (the average value of each machine stolen is estimated to be £3,000) the main attraction for the gangs is the ability to use them to carry out drug deals and commit other crimes – sometimes as many as 10 in the space of an hour.

The number of such offences recorded by police in London has more than trebled in a year.

[…]

An officer embarking on a car chase with criminals on a scooter has to seek authorisation from their control room. A tactical adviser will be on hand and the operation will be overseen by a chief inspector. They will weigh up the risks of the pursuit against the seriousness of the offence of which the rider is suspected.

Police will consider if the suspect might be a danger to the public and if they are on their way to carry out more crimes, as well as conditions on the road – the weather, the time of day and whether there is a lot of other traffic.

So London has a police policy that makes chasing scooters almost impossible, so the crooks have taken to stealing them and using them to commit other crimes. Sounds a lot like Milwaukee, eh? It’s amazing how human behavior stays consistent regardless of which side of the pond we’re on.

Appeals Court Strikes Down D.C. Concealed Carry Law

Excellent!

A federal appeals court struck down a District of Columbia law Tuesday that required a “good reason” to carry a concealed firearm, ruling that it essentially bans the Second Amendment right for most D.C. residents.

The decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit conflicts with rulings from other appeals courts on concealed-carry rights, potentially ripening the issue for a Supreme Court that for years has stayed on the sidelines of gun control laws.

The D.C. Circuit, in a 2-1 decision, ruled the Second Amendment’s right of responsible citizens to carry firearms for personal self-defense beyond the home is not subject to bans on carrying in urban areas like the District or carrying absent a special need for self-defense.

“In fact, the Amendment’s core at a minimum shields the typically situated citizen’s ability to carry common arms generally,” the majority wrote. “The District’s good-reason law is necessarily a total ban on exercises of that constitutional right for most D.C. residents.”

Citizens as Prey

Instapundit nails it.

In the meantime, Sessions is doing exactly the wrong thing by doubling down on asset seizure. The message it sends is that the feds see the rest of us as prey, not as citizens. The attorney general should be ashamed to take that position. And, really, he should just be gone.

EU Officials Investigate Possible German Car Cartel

This would be stunning, if true.

Antitrust officials confirmed Saturday that they are investigating claims that the country’s major carmakers may have been operating a cartel since the 1990s, colluding on everything from vehicle development and engines, to suppliers and diesel emissions systems.

“The European Commission and the Bundeskartellamt [German cartel office] have received information on this matter, which is currently being assessed by the commission,” the European Commission said in a statement.

“It is premature at this stage to speculate further.”

The automotive industry accounts for about 20% of total industry revenue in Germany, and employs about 800,000 people in the country.

VW is already weakened by its emissions cheating scandal. If this is true and further cripples those companies, one wonders if there will be more opportunity for a resurgence from America’s auto manufacturers.

Monkeying With Copyright Law

Poor guy.

Eyes gleaming amber, teeth goofy and mouth wide as if in laughter. After returning to Britain, Dave made a few thousand pounds from distributing the photos — covering the cost of his trip to Indonesia. But over time, with the rise of the selfie, his monkey snap became a classic — published more than 50million times around the world.

But instead of bringing Dave financial security and a warm glow of professional pride, it has caused him untold misery, cost him his life savings and marked the end of his photography career.

His story has all the elements of a 21st-century farce — involving crazy controversy over copyright law in a Californian court, and the ‘inhumanity’ of an activist animal charity that has filed a suit against Dave on behalf of the six- year- old male macaque, claiming it is the rightful owner of the photograph’s copyright.

So it is that for the past six years he has been embroiled in what must be one of the most pointless, idiotic, money-wasting andaggressive legal battles of all time. So, who owns the copyright? Dave or the monkey?

Dave has never been in any doubt. ‘Of course it was my copyright!’ he says. ‘I set the background. I decided where the sun was going to hit the monkey.

‘I selected the lens and I processed the images. The creativity was all mine, and it required a lot of perseverance, sweat and anguish.’

His problems began when Californian-based blog Techdirt and the online encyclopedia Wikipedia (whose mission statement is ‘to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free licence or in the public domain’) muscled in.

They claimed the image was uncopyrightable because the monkey was the creator — and so they uploaded the picture onto their websites, free for anyone to use. To Dave, this was an assault on his livelihood.

Family of Drowned Girl Sues West Bend

The inevitable lawsuits that follow in the wake of tragedy.

A Milwaukee family is suing an assortment of West Bend officials over a drowning death at Regner Park.

According to a lawsuit filed on July 21st, 6-year-old Swannie Her was swimming at Regner Park on June 11th, 2016, when she was found unresponsive in “four to five feet of water in the south west area of the pond.”

The family says three lifeguards were at their stations, while more than 200 people swam in the pond.

State law requires 5 lifeguards to be stationed for swimming areas larger than 10,000 square feet. The square footage of the swimming area is not posted, but a to-scale map posted on the city website shows it to be between 30,000-60,000 square feet.

According to the lawsuit, “three lifeguards actively monitoring the water were insufficient to meet the requirements of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.”

The family also says Her was swimming in an area of the pond that requires a swim test and wristband to access. They say she had not taken a test, and was not wearing a wristband.