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Man denies kidnapping charge in alleged murder-for-hire plot
Legal Network | 2022/06/03 16:27
A Colorado man pleaded not guilty Thursday in federal court in Vermont to kidnapping a man who was later found shot to death in a snowbank in 2018 in what prosecutors allege is a murder-for-hire case stemming from a financial dispute.

Federal prosecutors say they believe Jerry Banks, 34, of Fort Garland, Colorado, killed Gregory Davis, 49, of Danville, Vermont, but he has not been charged in the killing. U.S. District Judge Geoffrey Crawford ordered Banks to remain detained until trial, noting the prosecutors’ concerns about his risk of flight and safety risk to potential witnesses.

“Someone who would kill for money would likely kill or improperly influence a witness or otherwise seek to influence the course of a trial that would result in his life in prison,” Paul Van de Graaf and Jonathan Ophardt, assistant U.S. attorneys for Vermont, wrote in their detention request. They said Banks has a history of living “off the grid” and no strong connection to Vermont or anywhere else in the country.

Banks’ federal public defender, Mary Nerino, did not contest detention and would not comment on the charges after the arraignment.

Davis was abducted from his Danville, Vermont, home on Jan. 6, 2018, and found shot to death the next day in a snowbank on a back road in Barnet.

Prosecutors detailed the alleged conspiracy in a filing Monday in federal court in Las Vegas. They wrote that Davis had been threatening to go to the FBI with information that Serhat Gumrukcu, 39, an inventor and the co-founder of a Los Angeles-based biotechnology company, was defrauding Davis in a multimillion-dollar oil deal Gumrukcu and Gumrukcu’s brother had entered into with Davis in 2015.

Gurumkcu was facing felony fraud charges in California in 2017 and was working on a deal that came together soon after Davis’ death that gave him significant ownership stake in Enochian Bioscience.


California governor backs plan to pay for some abortions
Legal Network | 2022/05/12 15:57
California taxpayers would help pay for abortions for women who can’t afford them under a new spending proposal Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday to prepare for a potential surge of people from other states seeking reproductive care if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

California already pays for some abortions through its Medicaid program, the taxpayer-funded health insurance plan for the poor and the disabled.

But some women don’t qualify for Medicaid and don’t have private health insurance. When that happens, clinics will sometimes perform abortions for free, known as “uncompensated care.” Wednesday, Newsom said he wants the state to give $40 million worth of grants to clinics to help offset those costs.

An abortion can cost between a few hundred dollars and a few thousand dollars in California, depending on how far along the pregnancy is and what kind of insurance a patient has.

“California will not stand idly by as extremists roll back our basic constitutional rights; we’re going to fight like hell, making sure that all women – not just those in California – know that this state continues to recognize and protect their fundamental rights,” Newsom said in a news release.

While the grants could potentially pay for abortions for women from other states, the money would not pay for those women to travel or stay in California.

A bill in the Democratic-controlled state Legislature would set up a fund to help pay for the logistics of getting an abortion in California, including things such as travel, lodging and child care. The California Legislative Women’s Caucus has asked Newsom for $20 million to put into that fund. But Newsom’s announcement on Wednesday did not include that money.


2nd defendant pleads guilty in 2018 hate crime in Washington
Legal Network | 2022/04/11 04:55
A second defendant has pleaded guilty in federal court to a hate crime and making false statements in connection with a 2018 racially-motivated assault in the Seattle area.

U.S. Attorney Nick Brown said Jason DeSimas, 45, of Tacoma, Washington, is one of four men from across the Pacific Northwest being prosecuted for punching and kicking a Black man at a bar in Lynnwood, Washington.

U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones scheduled sentencing for July 8.

According to the plea agreement, DeSimas was a prospective member of a white supremacist group. DeSimas believed that he and his group could go into bars and initiate fights, so that the rest of the members of the group could join in.

On Dec. 8, 2018, the men went to a bar in Lynnwood, Washington and assaulted a Black man who was working as a DJ. The group also assaulted two other men who came to the DJ’s aid. The attackers shouted racial slurs and made Nazi salutes during the assault.

DeSimas also admitted making false statements to the FBI during the investigation of the case.

Under terms of the plea agreement, both sides will recommend a 37-month prison term. The judge is not bound by the recommendation.

Daniel Delbert Dorson, 24, of Corvallis, Oregon, has already pleaded guilty in the case and is scheduled for sentencing Aug. 19. Jason Stanley, 44, of Boise, Idaho, and Randy Smith, 39, of Eugene, Oregon, are also charged in the case and are in custody awaiting trial.



Courts, BMV act after license retained after fatal crash
Legal Network | 2022/03/14 22:39
The Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles and court officials have scrambled to close a gap in tracking and sharing information about criminal convictions that should result in license suspensions.

The problem surfaced when a man who pleaded guilty to manslaughter following a fatal crash during a police pursuit was arrested for causing another crash while being chased by police. Two others were injured, one of them critically, in the crash on March 4 in Paris, Maine.

The man being chased by police shouldn’t have had a license after pleading guilty last summer to the earlier crash that killed a 70-year-old driver.

A one-page document that would have allowed the BMV to process his suspension was never sent by court staff despite the BMV’s requests, and court officials suggested it was not their duty to send the paperwork because the conviction was not technically considered a driving offense under state law, the Portland Press Herald reported.

The state court’s response hinged on a technicality — he was convicted not of a driving offense but manslaughter. In Maine, there’s no separate conviction for “vehicular manslaughter.”

On Friday, officials including Secretary of State Shenna Bellows and Valerie Stanfill, chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, came to an agreement on correcting the problem, the newspaper reported.

But the Portland Press Herald reported that representatives of the courts and secretary of state declined to discuss specifics.

The agreement with the courts will encompass convictions connected to use of a vehicle but not specifically included in the driving statute, said Emily Cook, spokesperson for Bellows.


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