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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.



Louisiana's new AG probes Foti's last-stand lawsuits
Legal Network | 2008/03/04 21:50

FCC General Counsel Feder Leaves for Law Firm
Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell could be ready to ditch some of the more "curious" cases he inherited from his predecessor.

Former attorney general Charles Foti, unseated by Caldwell last November, issued a flurry of lawsuits in his final days on the job, LNL reported last month. In two cases he teamed up with campaign-donor lawyers to file big class-action suits.

"There has been documented curious official behavior on the part of the previous AG's office that has not gone unnoticed," Caldwell stated in a report.

Another case left for Caldwell was against Foti, accusing the former AG of illegally contracting the same lawyers to represent Louisiana in another big lawsuit. Four law firms working on two of Foti's suits donated $13,500 to his unsuccessful re-election campaign last year, that report notes.

Attorneys from New Orleans firms Dugan Law Firm and Murray Law Firm - both of which gave Foti's campaign $5,000 - are listed as plaintiffs in two of the suits.

On the flip side, Foti has also been accused of violating state law by not gaining official approval to contract with private lawyers in a lawsuit against re-constructor Road Home. The case was filed by major insurers including State Farm.



Campton Hills pays $124,000 to lawyers
Legal Network | 2008/03/03 20:42

Campton Hills leaders are attempting to catch up on the village's mounting legal bills.

Village board members Tuesday voted 4 to 0 to pay Chicago-area legal firm Arnstein & Lehr LLP nearly $124,000 for services dating from July to November. Trustees Bern Bertsche and Al Lenkaitis were absent.

While there is currently enough money in municipal coffers to square up the latest bill, Village Treasurer Kathy Catalano said officials might soon need to dig into contingency funds earmarked for budget overruns.

Legal expenses are expected to only mount as the village wages ongoing legal battles with several groups of property owners who are trying to detach their land from the new municipality.

The latest bill is in addition to a roughly $50,000 tab the village paid off around the beginning of the year.

"I'd prefer it wasn't that much," Village President Patsy Smith said Tuesday. "But that's the cost of starting a new village when you're being challenged legally."

Village Attorney Bill Braithwaite has said his firm attempted to help the village by delaying invoices until the municipality, which incorporated after a referendum last April, began receiving state-shared revenue.

Catalano said while "there have been some invoices lagging because of this," the money is finally arriving.

"We've got the ability to pay these bills," she said.

No one at Tuesday's meeting addressed when to expect legal bills from November through today or how much they will be.



Justices reject appeal by Adelphia founder, son
Legal Network | 2008/03/03 19:20
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected on Monday an appeal by Adelphia Communications Corp founder John Rigas and his son Timothy of their conspiracy and fraud convictions.

The justices declined to review a ruling by a U.S. appeals court in New York which upheld the pair's convictions on 22 of 23 counts of conspiracy and securities and bank fraud.

A jury found the father and son guilty in 2004 of the charges that accused them of concealing loans and stealing millions from the cable operator.

John Rigas, formerly Adelphia's president and chief executive officer, was sentenced in 2005 to 15 years in prison, while Timothy Rigas, the former finance chief, was sentenced to 20 years. They began serving their prison terms last year.

In the appeal, defense attorneys argued that federal prosecutors were required to prove that John and Timothy Rigas had violated Generally Accepted Accounting Principles or call an expert accounting witness in order to convict them of securities fraud.

The attorneys also argued that the reversal by the appeals court of the bank fraud convictions on count 23 for John and Timothy Rigas required the reversal of their bank fraud convictions on count 22.



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