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Judge Wants Shipwreck Evidence Worked On
Topics | 2008/03/05 12:18
A judge wants Florida shipwreck explorers and the Spanish government to settle their differences over sharing evidence related to an estimated $500 million in treasure the company recovered last year.

In Tampa, U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Pizzo told lawyers for Odyssey Marine Exploration and Spain to agree by Friday _ or he will be forced to intervene.

Spain believes it has a claim to the 17 tons of colonial-era coins Odyssey raised from an Atlantic Ocean shipwreck. But Odyssey has kept most details of the find secret to protect the site from competitors.

The two sides bickered in a hearing Wednesday over whether Tampa-based Odyssey has handed over sufficient information about the wreck site and treasure for Spain to determine the extent of a possible claim.



Ex-Alaska Governor's top aide to plead guilty
Legal Network | 2008/03/05 05:26
A top aide to former Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski admitted on Monday to fraud as part of a wide-ranging corruption conspiracy that has ensnared several state politicians and implicated many of Alaska's top political figures.

Jim Clark, who was the former governor's chief of staff, agreed to plead guilty to a single count of conspiracy fraud in a filing in U.S. District Court in Anchorage. He was scheduled to enter his plea at an arraignment hearing on Tuesday.

Clark admitted to taking $68,550 in illegal contributions from the state's largest oil-services company, VECO Corp, for Murkowski's failed 2006 reelection bid in exchange for working on VECO's behalf to secure an industry-friendly version of tax legislation, according to the plea agreement.

He is the first official from the Murkowski administration to be charged in a federal criminal investigation that has so far resulted in convictions of three former state lawmakers, the indictment of a fourth and guilty pleas from two top VECO executives and one former lobbyist.

Murkowski, who was also a former U.S. senator, was soundly defeated in the 2006 Republican primary by Sarah Palin, Alaska's current governor who ran as an anti-corruption reformer.

Clark and VECO conspired to hide the illegal contributions "in a manner so that the public would be deceived and the payments would not be disclosed, as required by law," according to charging documents.

The federal investigation centers around a revision of an oil-tax law that passed the state legislature in 2006 at Murkowski's urging. Bill Allen and Rick Smith, two former VECO executives, pleaded guilty to bribing state lawmakers for a pro-industry version of the bill and other favorable actions.

Former state Senate President Ben Stevens, son of powerful U.S. Senator Ted Stevens, received much of that bribe money, Allen and Smith testified in court last year.



Judge accepts plea deal in Cody Warren's death
Court Watch | 2008/03/04 22:21
A military judge has accepted the guilty plea from the Marine accused of killing Lance Cpl. Kristopher Cody Warren in Iraq in 2006.

Cpl. Douglas Michael Sullivan, 23, pleaded guilty Tuesday to involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death of the 19-year-old Gordon County native who had been deployed to Iraq with his Marine Reserve unit.

Robin Patterson, Warren’s mother, told the Calhoun Times earlier that she was “absolutely appalled” when she learned of the plea agreement last month.

Patterson planned to go to California for Sullivan’s court martial and is expected to testify during the sentencing phase.

Warren graduated from Gordon Central High School in 2005 and joined the Marine Reserves.

Sullivan said that he accidently shot Warren while improperly handling a weapon at Forward Operating base Trebil, near Fallujah, Iraq.



Lawsuit Dropped in Pain Doctor Case
Topics | 2008/03/04 22:21
A patient-advocacy group is dropping its lawsuit over the prosecution of a doctor accused of running a "pill mill" linked to 56 overdose deaths, just days after a stinging rebuke from a federal judge.

The Pain Relief Network had attempted to intervene to keep Dr. Stephen Schneider's clinic open. It claimed the clinic's 1,000 patients have been unable to find adequate care since Schneider's license was suspended in January.

But a judge refused Friday to grant a request by the advocacy group for a temporary restraining order preventing the Justice Department from taking action against Schneider's clinic.

On Tuesday, the group filed a voluntary motion for dismissal without prejudice of its civil lawsuit against the Department of Justice and the state of Kansas.

If U.S. District Judge Wesley Brown agrees to dismiss the action without prejudice, it could be refiled later.

The Pain Relief Network said in its motion it was seeking the dismissal "after reviewing the current posture of the case."

Schneider, who is jailed without bond, faces 34 federal charges, including four counts of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance resulting in death. He has vehemently proclaimed his innocence.

The Pain Relief Network filed the civil suit on behalf of Schneider's patients.

At the earlier hearing, Brown told a room crowded with about 40 of Schneider's patients, some of them on crutches, that if they needed care they should go to the emergency room, not the court.

In its lawsuit, the Pain Relief Network challenged the constitutionality of the Controlled Substances Act, arguing that it allows the federal government to improperly intrude in the physician-patient relationship.



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