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Lawyer Melvyn Weiss to Plead Guilty in Scheme
Law Firm News | 2008/03/20 17:55
Prominent attorney Melvyn Weiss has agreed to plead guilty in a lucrative kickback scheme involving payments to plaintiffs in class-action lawsuits against some of the largest corporations in the nation, his defense attorney said Thursday.

Weiss will plead guilty to "limited participation in a criminal conspiracy" involving payments to plaintiffs, attorney Benjamin Brafman said in a statement.

"I deeply regret my conduct and apologize to all those who have been affected," Weiss said in the statement.

Brafman did not specify the charges involved in the plea. Weiss previously pleaded not guilty to one count each of conspiracy, mail fraud, money laundering and obstruction of justice in a revised indictment.

The plea deal calls for Weiss to receive a prison sentence of 18 to 33 months, with the court able to substitute time in home confinement or community service.

Weiss also agreed to pay $10 million in fines and forfeiture penalties, according to the statement.

Authorities say the firm now known as Milberg Weiss made an estimated $250 million over two decades by filing legal actions on behalf of professional plaintiffs who received $11.3 million in kickbacks.

The lawsuits targeted companies such as AT&T, Lucent, WorldCom, Microsoft Corp. and Prudential Insurance.



Man Pleads Guilty After Verdict Tossed
Court Issues | 2008/03/20 15:59
A man who was on death row for nearly 20 years until the U.S. Supreme Court overturned his verdict because of racial discrimination has pleaded guilty to the 1985 slaying for which he was originally sentenced to die.

Thomas Miller-El accepted a deal with prosecutors Wednesday that spares the 56-year-old from heading to death row for a second time but virtually assures he will never leave prison.

A judge sentenced Miller-El to life in prison after he pleaded guilty to capital murder and aggravated robbery in the killing of a hotel clerk. He waived his right to appeal in exchange for prosecutors not seeking the death penalty, reported Thursday.

The plea appeared to end a two decades-old saga in which Miller-El, who is black, had his original conviction tossed in 2005 by the high court on the grounds of racial discrimination in jury selection.

"The attitude currently in the DA's office is not conducive to the tone that existed back when Mr. Miller-El's case was tried," said Doug Parks, Miller-El's attorney.

The Supreme Court cited a manual, written in 1969 and used until at least 1980, that instructed prosecutors on how to exclude minorities from Texas juries. Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter called racial discrimination in Dallas County's jury selection process unquestionable.

Miller-El was sentenced to death row in 1986 by a 12-member jury that included one black. Prosecutors struck 10 of the 11 blacks eligible to serve.

Miller-El pleaded guilty to killing Holiday Inn clerk Douglas Walker during a robbery. Walker and co-worker Donald Ray Hall were bound, gagged and shot. Hall, who was paralyzed in the shooting, identified Miller-El as the triggerman.



Cyclist Landis Appeals Arbitration Court Ruling
Topics | 2008/03/19 18:00
US cyclist Floyd Landis, stripped of his 2006 Tour de France victory for doping, began making his appeal to a three-man panel from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) here on Wednesday.

The private hearing is expected to continue through Monday with no comments from any of the participants, both Landis and the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) having agreed to the closed-door session unlike last May's open US hearing.

Landis, 32, has denied wrongdoing and fought his positive test for steroid testosterone on July 20, 2006, but a USADA arbitration panel ruled 2-1 against him last September, resulting in a two-year ban through January 29, 2009.

The International Cycling Union stripped Landis of his 2006 crown after that verdict, awarding the title to Spain's Oscar Pereiro.

In a Manhattan law office, Landis will make much the same case as he did last year, attacking the credibility of the French laboratory which handled his doping samples, and hope the global panel sees matters differently.

The CAS appeal board includes David Williams of New Zealand, Paris attorney Jan Paulsson and New York lawyer David Rivkin.

Swiss-based CAS will announce its binding ruling from Lausanne after completion of the hearing and consideration of the evidence presented.

Landis tested positive for synthetic testosterone after the penultimate 17th stage of the 2006 race. He fell back in stage 16 but rallied in stage 17 to reclaim almost eight minutes on his way to a now-disgraced victory moment.

The USADA arbitration panel noted several areas in which the French lab's handling of the test sample was improper but said the carbon ratio isotope test that showed Landis testing positive outweighed those issues.



Supreme Court to Hear Indecency Case
Court Watch | 2008/03/19 17:59
The U.S. Supreme Court has stepped into one of the biggest free speech fights of the past three decades, but it's unclear how far the court will go when it rules on just how much trouble broadcasters can get into for a slip of the tongue.

On Monday, the court agreed to hear arguments over the Federal Communications Commission's policy regarding so-called "fleeting expletives" in a closely watched case that will decide whether the government can fine or revoke a broadcaster's license because someone says a bad word. The case will be argued late this year.

Both News Corp., the Fox Broadcasting parent that wanted its victory in a lower court to stand, and the FCC, which pushed the Bush administration to appeal the case, applauded the justices' decision.

"The commission, Congress and most importantly parents understand that protecting our children is our greatest responsibility," FCC chairman Kevin Martin said.

Solicitor general Paul Clement, the Bush administration's top lawyer, urged the court to take the case, arguing that the appeals court decision had placed "the commission in an untenable position," powerless to stop the airing of expletives even when children are watching.

Fox said the move would "give us the opportunity to argue that the FCC's expanded enforcement of the indecency law is unconstitutional in today's diverse media marketplace, where parents have access to a variety of tools to monitor their children's television viewing."

The case surrounds two incidents in which celebrities used profanity during the Billboard Music Awards. In 2002, Cher told the audience: "People have been telling me I'm on the way out every year? So f--- 'em." The next year, Nicole Richie said: "Have you ever tried to get cow s--- out of a Prada purse? It's not so f---ing simple."


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