Crimes and Their Punishments – Through the Ages

Punishments for Crimes through the ages – from the bizarre to outrageous, from the sublime to the ridiculous. We don’t know how lucky we are!

Many of us are apt to complain about sentences handed out by our Courts for crimes these days – too harsh, too lenient. But a quick look at some punishments for crimes through the ages, including in some countries today, we should really consider how much we really have to complain about.

Not only have punishments been truly shocking (and in some instances still are), but even some of the crimes are truly unbelievable.

Many Sydney criminal lawyers would have had their work cut out for them if some of these historical crimes were still on the statute books! Lucky for us that our complaints about the justice systems these days are limited to whether an offender should be given a jail sentence or community service, or whether a 2 year sentence is sufficient or whether 5 would have been better, and so on.

Thank goodness we don’t have to contend with crimes for which the penalty is being tortured to death by some truly unimaginable means. Criminal lawyers in Australia, as in Europe, the United States, Canada, New Zealand and others, these days don’t have to plead for the type of mercy that offenders of times gone by had to. And of course, some of these barbaric practices do still exist today in other parts of the globe, as you can see below.

Some Crimes and Some Punishments You Won’t Believe

Take a look …

Crimes and Their Punishments

Vindicated By Supreme Court, Lawyer With Criminal Past Now Finds She's Campaign Fodder – KUOW News and Information

The past eight months have been a whirlwind of victories for Tarra Simmons—an honors law school graduate with a criminal past.

In November, the Washington Supreme Court overruled the state bar association and said Simmons could sit for the bar exam despite her felony record. In February, she took that test. In April, she found out she passed and in June she was formally admitted to practice law in Washington.

Since then, Simmons has been working for the Seattle-based nonprofit Public Defender Association helping previously incarcerated clients with the legal and financial challenges of re-entering society. She also runs her own nonprofit focused on criminal justice reform.

But this week something happened that Simmons could not have anticipated. A political mailer started showing up in mailboxes in the 26th Legislative District that attacked a Democratic candidate for state Senate, Emily Randall, for supporting Simmons in her bid to become a lawyer.

“Emily Randall (D) has consistently failed to back our law enforcement, yet Randall has supported Tarra Simmons, a drug addicted ex-con who was denied admission to the Washington State Bar Association due to multiple felony convictions,” the mailer read.

“I just think it’s really disappointing,” said Randall. “I believe in second chances and I know that the police force and law enforcement agencies in our community do too.”

Last November, Randall posted to Facebook a message of support to Simmons as she prepared to make her case before the state Supreme Court. “Rooting for Tarra Simmons, her legal team and civil rights today!” Randall wrote.

After Randall saw the mailer, she said she called Simmons. “I was really angry,” Randall said. “I don’t think it’s appropriate or fair to bring Tarra into this especially in the way they misrepresent her.”

The mailer was paid for by a political action committee called WA Forward. According to filings with Washington’s Public Disclosure Commission, WA Forward’s committee officers are Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler and Senator John Braun, both Republicans. Filings show WA Forward gets its funding from The Leadership Council, a political action committee associated with the Washington state Senate Republican caucus. Efforts to reach the senators and the political action committees for comment on Tuesday were not immediately successful.

In an interview Tuesday morning, Simmons said she first found out about the mailer when a friend sent her a screenshot of it on Monday night.

“I was literally shocked,” Simmons said. “I’m not running for public office, so I didn’t even know that I was susceptible to these types of attacks.”

Simmons said she has met Randall a couple of times and has endorsed her for state Senate, but generally tries to steer clear of partisan politics. Instead, Simmons said her focus is on criminal justice reform in the Washington Legislature—an issue she considers bipartisan.

“I’ve always tried to work on both sides of the aisle to meet a common goal which is to allow people the ability to rebuild their lives, to save taxpayer money on over-incarceration, allow people to be set up for success, instead of failure, so they won’t come back to prison,” Simmons said.

In a Facebook post responding to the mailer, Simmons wrote: “Part of me is happy over this nonsense … I’ll take it as a compliment that you thought about me, and I’ll keep leading with the truth while y’all sit up here and throw stones at people who’ve done their time and have fought through pain that would make you crumble.”

One Republican state lawmaker quickly came to Simmons’ defense. “I am proud to support you,” wrote 26th District state Rep. Michelle Caldier on her personal Facebook page. “I am appalled that you were personally attacked.”

In a phone interview, Caldier expanded on her support for Simmons and her concern over the mailer.

“Tarra Simmons is a private citizen,” Caldier said. “I support people trying to get their life back on track and as a private citizen she should have been kept out of any political hit pieces.”

Caldier added that she supports Randall’s Republican opponent in the open 26th District state Senate race, Marty McClendon, but noted his campaign wasn’t responsible for the mailer.

McClendon too said he thought it was inappropriate for a political mailer to invoke private citizens who aren’t related to the campaign.

“This is not coming from us, we wouldn’t generate an ad like this, me personally or my campaign, but this isn’t something we have control over,” McClendon said.

Simmons’ path to redemption has been a long, arduous and fraught journey. After a troubled childhood and brushes with the law, Simmons became a nurse. But in 2010, after the death of her father, she started using meth and prescription drugs. She was arrested three times in 10 months and eventually went to prison for delivery of Oxycodone, possessions of marijuana with intent to deliver and unlawful possession of a firearm.

When she got out in 2013 her life was in tatters. She’d lost her home to foreclosure, she was bankrupt and she couldn’t get a job. She was also a single mother.

Through it all she got help—from lawyers. They got her through her foreclosure, her bankruptcies and her family law issues relating to her children. They also saw promise in Simmons and encouraged her to do something that seemed impossible: apply to law school.

With their encouragement, she did and in 2014 Simmons was admitted to Seattle University School of Law. She received a series of awards, honors and grants culminating in 2017 when she became only the second law student from Washington to ever receive a prestigious national Skadden Fellowship. Simmons was awarded that fellowship to work with recently released prisoners.

Simmons went on to graduate from Seattle University and was awarded the Dean’s Medal. But her road to redemption faced a major hurdle: in April 2017, the Washington State Bar Association’s Character and Fitness Board, on a vote of 6 to 3, recommended against Simmons’ admission to the bar. It seemed her past had caught up to her.

With the help of a bank-robber-turned-lawyer named Shon Hopwood, who now teaches at Georgetown Law School, Simmons challenged that ruling all the way to the Washington Supreme Court where she prevailed.

“I’m just overwhelmed,” Simmons said last November shortly after receiving word of the Supreme Court’s order in her favor. “I went to my knees crying because it’s been such a long and painful journey.”

Vindicated, Simmons resumed pursuit of her legal career. Last March, her story of redemption, second chances and breaking the patterns of abuse and addiction within her family was chronicled by NPR’s “Invisibilia.”

Simmons said after she saw the flyer Monday night, she couldn’t sleep.

“I’ve fought so hard to rebuild my life and it’s been a lot of hard work and a lot of other people are trying to do the same thing and when you do this, you push people back down,” Simmons said, adding that she thinks as a political tactic it will “backfire.”

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Prosecutor, lawyer involved in Schuette complaint host party for Whitmer – Detroit Free Press

LANSING — An East Lansing attorney who asked for a criminal investigation of Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette and the Ingham County prosecutor who referred his complaint to the FBI are co-hosting a fund-raiser next weekend for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer, records show.

Backers of Schuette, who is also running for governor, point to the involvement in the Whitmer campaign of attorney Mike Nichols and Prosecutor Carol Siemon as evidence Nichols’ complaint and Siemon’s referral of it to the FBI were both politically suspect, and that the allegations against Schuette are without merit.

Nichols and Siemon are among 77 co-hosts listed on an invitation to a Whitmer fund-raiser set for July 22 at an East Lansing residence.

“I just think there’s questionable politics here,” Stu Sandler, a political consultant and spokesman for a pro-Schuette Super PAC, said Monday. “This is a meritless complaint and this referral is going to show absolutely nothing.”

Schuettte campaign spokesman John Sellek said on Twitter Monday the facts point to a “politically motivated smear campaign, directly coordinated by Gretchen Whitmer’s trial attorney fund-raiser friend.”

Nichols wrote Siemon on June 28, requesting a state grand jury or other criminal investigation of allegations Schuette improperly used state resources.

On July 2, Siemon referred Nichols’ letter to the FBI, saying the federal agency was “the most appropriate investigative body for this matter.”

The FBI has declined to comment and has not confirmed whether it has opened an investigation.

But on July 9, Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican who is supporting Lt. Gov. Brian Calley for governor, said Siemon’s referral of Nichols’ complaint was “clearly a serious matter,” and “it’s important that the FBI be allowed to do a thorough investigation without any undue influence and let the facts take them wherever they lead.”

More: Snyder: Referral to FBI of complaint about AG Schuette ‘a serious matter’

More: Ingham prosecutor refers request for investigation of AG Bill Schuette to FBI

Sandler said the involvement of Nichols and Siemon in the Whitmer fund-raiser shows “at the very least, there’s a question of politics” in the series of events.

In his letter to Siemon, a Democrat, Nichols cited Schuette’s use of state employees to witness personal real estate transactions in his state-funded office and his hiring of Republican campaign operatives to taxpayer-funded civil service posts in the run-up to his current campaign for governor.

Nichols said he was in a trial Monday morning and not available for comment.

Siemon issued a statement Monday confirming she is co-hosting the event but denying acting improperly with respect to the complaint she received from Nichols.

“I’ve never made a secret of my support” for Whitmer, Siemon said.

“My referral to the FBI was not politically motivated — in fact, the opposite. I referred it to the appropriate investigative entity. Period. I can’t help what political use others made of my actions but mine were emphatically not politically motivated.”

Zack Pohl, a spokesman for the Whitmer campaign, said the facts show Schuette used “government employees to help him sell $7.2 million in luxury Caribbean real estate” and “while Schuette said his millions were in a blind trust, he was getting his staff to help him turn a profit while on the taxpayers’ time.”

Schuette has acknowledged some of his state employees witnessed or notarized documents related to private real estate transactions while at work. He has said he sold real estate owned by him and his sisters and that family real estate did not belong in a blind trust.

Michael Schrimpf, a spokesman for Calley, said “it isn’t surprising to see that people who understand the extent to which Bill Schuette is abusing his office for personal gain would choose to oppose him from holding the highest office in Michigan.”

Contact Paul Egan: 517-372-8660 or Follow him on Twitter @paulegan4.

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Ex-USC gynecologist retains high-profile criminal attorney – The San Diego Union-Tribune

Unfortunately, our website is currently unavailable in most European countries. We are engaged on the issue and committed to looking at options that support our full range of digital offerings to the EU market. We continue to identify technical compliance solutions that will provide all readers with our award-winning journalism.

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23 creative ways states are keeping women from getting abortions in the US — that could erode Roe v. Wade without repealing it

brett kavanaugh donald trump family supreme court nominee

The US Supreme Court declared abortion was legal and that women had a constitutional right to the procedure with the landmark case Roe v. Wade in 1973.

But the reality of that right today varies considerably across the states.

Since then, antiabortion activists and lawmakers have found ways around Roe to make it as difficult as possible for women to get the procedure in most states.

Many legal scholars don’t think the Supreme Court would outright overturn Roe — even if President Donald Trump gets his second nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, on the bench. The more likely route is that abortion rights will slowly erode over time until only women in blue states (or rich women who can travel there) can get them.

Here’s a look at some of the major state laws that are restricting access to abortion across the country:

SEE ALSO: The Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade isn’t the biggest threat to abortion rights

DON’T MISS: Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s stance on Roe v. Wade could be hinted at in an undocumented teen’s abortion case

Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Providers (TRAP) Laws

Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Providers — or TRAP — laws impose strict requirements on abortion clinics and providers. The standards are frequently so specific that clinics often can’t afford the changes, and end up closing down altogether.

Nine states specify the size of the procedure rooms, seven specify the width of the clinic corridors, and eight require physicians to have admission privileges at a nearby hospital in case complications arise — even though less than 0.5% of abortions result in complications that require a hospital visit.

An Alabama law mandated that abortion clinics cannot be within 2,000 yards from a school before a judge struck it down.

The most famous law, Texas’s HB2, went all the way to the Supreme Court in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. In June 2016, the high court struck it down in a 5-3 decision.

The justices concluded that the law “provides few, if any, health benefits for women, poses a substantial obstacle to women seeking abortions, and constitutes an ‘undue burden’ on their constitutional right to do so.”

Though SCOTUS deemed Texas’s TRAP law unconstitutional, 23 states still have laws on the books that “regulate abortion providers and go beyond what is necessary to ensure patients’ safety,” according to the Guttmacher Institute, a leading research and policy organization on reproductive health.

Specific week bans

One of the most common ways to restrict abortions is to set limits on when women can get them. Specific week bans, the most popular of which is the 20-week ban, only allow abortions before 20 weeks into the pregnancy, for example.

In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court didn’t specify when abortions were legal, deciding at the time to vaguely make it unconstitutional to outlaw them up until the fetus was “viable,” since the science hadn’t (and still hasn’t) determined at the time when that was, medically speaking.

States have seized on this ambiguity and passed specific week bans. A whopping 43 states have passed some type of gestational limit, usually only allowing exceptions to if the mother’s life is in danger.

According to 2014 data, 89% of elective abortions occur in the first trimester of pregnancy. The vast majority of the 10% that occur after are for medical reasons.

Three specific examples of week bans include fetal heartbeat, fetal pain, and personhood restrictions.

Fetal heartbeat limits

In December 2016, the Ohio legislature passed a bill that would ban abortion after the fetus’ heartbeat can be detected.

Gov. John Kasich vetoed the so-called heartbeat bill, saying it was “clearly contrary to the Supreme Court of the United States’ current rulings on abortion,” and that signing it into law would ensure the “State of Ohio will be forced to pay hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars” in a losing lawsuit. (He also signed a 20-week ban into law that same day).

Doctors can detect a fetus’ heartbeat as early as six weeks into pregnancy. Women usually don’t find out they’re pregnant until four to seven weeks in — meaning the bill could have left many women unable to get a safe, legal abortion in the state because they wouldn’t have known they were pregnant.

Several other states have passed or tried to pass fetal heartbeat laws, but governors have vetoed them, the bills have died in committee, or courts have struck them down. No state currently has such a law on the books.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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High-profile ex-prosecutor and a top former public defender run for Criminal Court judge – The Commercial Appeal

Editor’s note: Both are women lawyers named Jennifer. Both are running for judge of Criminal Court Division 10.

There the similarities end.

One is black. One is white. One grew up in Memphis, the other didn’t. One was a public defender, the other was chief deputy prosecutor, and currently is an appointed interim judge.

They are Jennifer Johnson Mitchell and Jennifer Nichols.

Shelby County voters will pick one in the Aug. 2 election. Here’s a look at both lawyers. Judicial candidates do not declare a party affiliation.

Jennifer J. Mitchell

Representing hundreds of clients charged with felonies over the years, Jennifer Johnson Mitchell was regarded as one of the most experienced public defenders in Memphis.

Now the criminal defense attorney is running for judge of Criminal Court Division 10.  Mitchell and Jennifer Nichols, a former deputy prosecutor known for a sterling record of high-profile convictions, are contending to replace retired Judge James C. Beasley Jr.

Gov. Bill Haslam Jr. appointed Nichols interim judge of Division 10 in January. Shelby County voters will choose between the former prosecutor and former public defender in the Aug. 2 general election.

Before her appointment, Nichols was chief deputy for District Attorney General Amy Weirich, the top prosecutor criticized last year by the Black Lives Matter activist group. Its leaders contended Weirich had used overzealous prosecution tactics. Rather than play up the defender-prosecutor divide while campaigning, Mitchell said she pointedly tells voters she is not singling out Nichols or the AG office’s record. 

‘‘I tell them,” Mitchell said of voters, “I’m not running against her. I’m running because there’s an open seat. I want to get across to voters that I’m going to be fair and I’m going to be impartial and treat them with dignity. It’s how I’d like to be treated.”

Handling what she describes as countless cases – the public defender “caseload is massive,” she said – prepared her for a judgeship. She defended clients, negotiated out-of-court settlements, understood the prosecution’s side, observed the judges, and became, she said,  thoroughly immersed in the Criminal Courts’ workings.

Still, Nichols maintains better name recognition. When the Memphis Bar Association recently surveyed local lawyers, 170 attorneys chose Mitchell as best qualified for judge, 314 gave no opinion and 598 picked Nichols.

“The results probably mean the trial attorneys know her name very well,” said Carol Chumney, a Memphis lawyer who ran in 2011 for District Attorney General, referring to the former prosecutor. 

Mitchell, 48, didn’t set out to be a lawyer.

She grew up in Memphis’ Raleigh area, the daughter of a pair of LeMoyne-Owen College graduates. Her father taught in Memphis City Schools. Her mother was a procurement specialist at the old Defense Depot.

Coming out of Memphis Catholic High School she was awarded a volleyball scholarship to the University of Tennessee at Martin, earned a degree and started a mental health career in Memphis working first with poor  at Youth Villages, and then women imprisoned in the Shelby County Correctional Center.

Thinking she’d eventually advance only with more education, she earned a master’s degree in criminal justice in 1994 at what then was named Memphis State University, then moved to Northwest Tennessee. She was employed in Dyersburg by the old Northwest Counseling Center’s mobile crisis unit.

One task: Evaluate people apprehended by police officers, recommend whether they should be admitted as a mental health patient. “That was a very humbling experience,” she said. Two years in Dyersburg led her to figure “it was time to do something different.” A professor had once suggested law school.

She enrolled in the University of Memphis law school at age 28, borrowing the tuition money and soon after graduating was hired in 2001 by the Shelby County Public Defenders’ Office.

The state government agency provides the indigent with legal services free of charge and employs about 140 lawyers, investigators and other staff in Memphis. In Memphis and Shelby County, where almost a third of the nearly 1 million residents are classified as impoverished, she was loaded with dozens of cases.

“The public defender’s office gives you wonderful, hands on experience,” Mitchell said. “You see everything, all kinds of people. You learn how to juggle tasks. You learn how to multi task.”

She spent hours almost every week in the Criminal Court rooms inside the Shelby County Justice Center at 201 Poplar. She’d married. Her husband commented on her long work days. She had landed difficult cases in Criminal Court Division 5, inherited seasoned clients with tough records. Prosecutors were reluctant to agree to more lenient settlement offers.

“Those cases were hard to move,” Mitchell said. “I realized I could do this on my own and in the process get paid a little better.”

In 2014, Mitchell left the public defender agency and opened her own law office in sight of 201 Poplar. She bought men’s dress shirts and pressed trousers and kept them in the office for her client’s court appearances. She also stocked a winter jacket.  She reasoned a client arrested in July wearing a T-shirt would need a coat to walk home in upon release from 201 Poplar in December.

“I love the work. I like people,” Mitchell said. “I care about people. You see the best of the best and the worst of the worst. You learn how to treat people as who they are. Everyone’s circumstance is different. You deal with a lot of social work. This is just another opportunity to serve.”

Jennifer Nichols

Two decades as a deputy prosecutor put Jennifer Smith Nichols on the front line of some of Memphis and Tennessee’s most sensational criminal cases.

Almost every time she asked for a guilty verdict in the courtroom, a jury delivered — including in the recent high-profile cases that sentenced Zachary Adam for murdering kidnapped teen Holly Bobo, Ronald Goodwin for the murder of his malnourished mother and Cedrick Clayton for shooting to death his wife and her parents. In Clayton’s case, his four-year-old daughter testified as a witness.

“Our goal was not to get convictions,” Nichols said. “It was justice.”

After a long stint as a prosecutor, Nichols, 56, is now running for judge of Shelby County Criminal Court Division 10.

Shelby County voters will choose between her and Memphis attorney Jennifer Johnson Mitchell in the Aug. 2 election.

Ten divisions comprise the state’s criminal court system at 201 Poplar in Memphis. Each division has its own courtroom and judge to try jury trials. Together they handle more than 10,000 new indictments each year.

Nichols appeared regularly in these courtrooms as a trial lawyer, negotiating plea agreements and prosecuting defendants in more than 200 jury trials.

While leading the prosecution in the Holly Bobo trial last year, and at the same time serving as the No. 1 deputy to District Attorney General Amy Weirich, Nichols was asked by several criminal defense attorneys and judges to apply for an interim judgeship. She decided to try.

“I really believed I was ready,” Nichols said, adding, “I look at this as a way to serve in a broader fashion than I was able to do before in the DA’s office.”

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam early this year appointed Nichols to fill in for retiring Division 10 Judge James C. Beasley Jr. The appointment runs until an elected judge is seated following next month’s general election.

Nichols was picked for the bench after serving amid a controversial stretch in the AG’s office. Prosecutorial misconduct allegations aimed chiefly at Weirich surfaced in several cases.  Two complaints named Nichols. Tennessee’s Board of Professional Responsibility dismissed both with no charges.

“People can file anything,” Nichols said. “The important part here is those were summarily dismissed.”

Memphis criminal defense lawyer Leslie Ballin, who has defended clients Nichols charged with murder, lauded his former adversary.

“I think she’s awesome,’’ said Ballin, a lawyer since 1977.

  Asked why lawyers surveyed recently by the Memphis Bar Association favored Nichols for the bench, Ballin cited her widely known name and abilities.

“I think it was also recognition of her character, intellect and judicial temperament, not only while she was in the AG’s office, but also in the last few months she’s served on the bench,’’ Ballin said.

Years ago, it was said Memphis lawyers’ handshake could settle matters, Ballin said, but now agreement terms put in writing can need close reading.

“In the last few years that type of (handshake) understanding has become antiquated. There are instances where they attempt to hide the ball,” Ballin said, referring to prosecutors negotiating agreements with defense lawyers.

 “Those instances are few in number,” Ballin said, adding “none of mine ever involved Jennifer Nichols.”

Singled out for dogged preparation as a trial lawyer, Nichols said she wants to be known as a “predictable” judge in following the law and ruling “straight down the middle’’ on every decision.

She also wants to be known as polite and attentive. “I am determined people who come to my courtroom leave feeling they were respected,” Nichols said.

She’s strived, she said, to explain the legal process. “One of my major goals is to make sure defendants who come to my courtroom understand what is going on,” she said. “I want every victim to understand their case is being handled with integrity by a fair judge who follows the law.”

Nichols, a Memphis resident, moved to the city with her husband in 1991, coming here for his job and leaving an Orlando, Florida, law firm that specialized in medical malpractice cases.

She’s a graduate of the University of Alabama and her hometown law school, Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama.

The daughter of a former U.S. Department of Labor investigator, Nichols had long wanted to be a prosecutor. Hired in Memphis at the AG’s office, she soon became the chief prosecutor of the then-new child abuse and homicide unit. From there she went to the major violators unit, prosecuting violent individuals, and then the gang unit, where she was named chief prosecutor.

Nichols, by then a single mother, at times asked the judge for a temporary recess so she could fetch her child from the nearby day care before it closed for the day. She then sat the girl, Austin, in the back of the courtroom while the case proceeded. Today, Austin Nichols is an assistant prosecutor in the AG’s office.

In 2003, she looked for more stable hours. The U.S. Postal Service hired her as an attorney in Memphis. Once her daughter was in college in 2009, Nichols rejoined the AG’s office.

Within a year, Bill Gibbons, then the top prosecutor, had formed the special victim’s unit. Nichols was named the unit’s chief prosecutor. Weirich succeeded Gibbons as District Attorney General and named Nichols her chief deputy. 

Nichols still prosecuted cases. And as chief deputy she supervised the 225 lawyers, investigators and other staff members in the office. One task: Negotiate terms with defense lawyers who wanted better plea deals  for their clients than the original terms offered by assistant AGs.

“I think if you asked a defense lawyer they would tell you what they have told me,” Nichols said. “She was tough but she was fair.”  

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7 things we learned about Apple's self-driving car project from the explosive FBI investigation into stolen trade secrets (AAPL)

Tim Cook in a car

  • The FBI has charged a former Apple employee with theft of trade secrets.
  • He worked on Apple’s self-driving car project, Project Titan. 
  • The FBI’s criminal complaint reveals that Project Titan is significantly larger than previously believed, based on the number of employees with access to information about the project. 

A Chinese engineer was boarding a flight from California to Beijing on July 7 when he was yanked off at the last minute by an FBI agent. 

It’s not a spy movie — it’s a real life story of trade secrets allegedly stolen from Apple, an American icon, for the purposes of potentially handing them to a small, relatively unknown Chinese company. 

Those secrets are related to self-driving cars, one of the hottest technologies in the world. Every major technology company is working on some project related to cars that drive themselves, but Apple’s work in the space is particularly high-profile because of its secrecy and its reputation in Silicon Valley.

Self-driving car technology is valuable enough that Alphabet and Uber publicly fought in court over a $680 million deal that allegedly included Waymo self-driving trade secrets.

In this specific case, the FBI alleges that Xiaolang Zhang, a hardware engineer who used to work for Apple, stole trade secrets related to the company’s work on self-driving car technology. He planned to work at Xiaopeng Motors, a little-known Chinese startup backed by Alibaba. 

Although Eric Proudfoot, the FBI agent investigating the case, said that the information in the Tuesday affidavit does not include every fact he’s aware of, the complaint filed on Wednesday is still an incredible look behind the secrecy curtain into Apple’s car project, as well as the security at Apple’s Cupertino headquarters. The FBI had extensive cooperation from Apple, according to the criminal complaint.

Zhang faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if he’s found guilty of the federal felony of theft of trade secrets. His lawyers requested a Mandarin translator. 

Here are 7 things we learned from the document:

Apple was designing hardware specifically for self-driving cars, including a proprietary chip 

The affidavit says that Zhang’s role was on the Computer Team, and he designed and tested circuit boards to analyze sensor data. A 25-page PDF he allegedly pilfered contained electrical schematics for “one of the circuit boards that form Apple’s proprietary infrastructure technology for the product.” An employee also showed Zhang a “proprietary chip.”

Screen Shot 2018 07 11 at 3.05.57 PM

Apple has 5,000 employees who have been told about “the Project,” likely the self-driving car project

According to the complaint, 5,000 of Apple’s 135,000 employees are “disclosed” on a project which is likely Project Titan, Apple’s project name for self-driving car technology.

That’s a significantly larger number of employees than was previously believed, although it’s possible that these employees have only been told about a small portion of the project, such as cleaning digital maps for self-driving cars. 

Previously, the best public estimate for the number of Project Titan employees was 1,000. 

Screen Shot 2018 07 11 at 3.09.06 PM

“Disclosed” — how Apple handles secret projects internally 

The complaint also has a lot of information about how Apple handles “disclosure,” or an internal term that describes when an employee can be told about a top-secret project, according to former employees. 

According to the complaint, a manager needs to “sponsor” an employee before he becomes “disclosed” on any given project, whether it’s Project Titan or Apple’s augmented reality division.

Asking whether an employee is “disclosed” is not an uncommon conversation at Apple, according to former employees. 

Apple’s self-driving groups are organized under a “Research and Development organization”

Screen Shot 2018 07 11 at 3.09.47 PM

There’s still a lot of mystery outside of Apple how it organizes its automotive project within the company. Apple has what’s called a “functional structure,” where employees report up to an executive depending on what their skill is. 

Software engineers, for example, are usually in Craig Federighi’s group, because he’s Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering. 

Apple’s self-driving group was reportedly led by Bob Mansfield, an Apple old-timer who had to be coaxed back out of retirement. But it was less clear where it ultimately fit inside the company.

One line from the complaint, however, suggested that it is under the “research and development” organization. 

Apple closely tracks the number of employees who can access information from its systems

Screen Shot 2018 07 11 at 3.13.54 PM

One key piece of information underpinning the government’s case against Zhang is that Apple recorded the number of times he accessed information from “disclosed” internal Apple databases after he had resigned from the company. 

According to the criminal complaint, apparently Zhang generated “581 rows of user activity” two days before he resigned, according to Apple Information Security.

Apple was building prototypes and had requirements for power, battery system, and “drivetrain suspension mounts”

Screen Shot 2018 07 11 at 3.12.56 PM

Screen Shot 2018 07 11 at 3.13.01 PM

Some of the technical PDFs that Zhang allegedly stole described requirements for a prototype. Although Apple has publicly alluded to its car project, it has never confirmed that it planned to build custom prototypes of any car parts, including sensors. 

Apple has secrecy training specifically for its self-driving car project

In addition to the secrecy training for new hires and interns when they join Apple, apparently the self-driving car project had a separate secrecy training, too. 

Screen Shot 2018 07 11 at 3.12.09 PM

Read the entire document below: 

USA v. Zhang by Kif Leswing on Scribd


SEE ALSO: Researchers find that owning an iPhone or iPad is the number-one way to guess if you’re rich or not

Join the conversation about this story »

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Justice Dept. Nominee Who Drew Scrutiny for Russian Bank Work Is Confirmed – New York Times

Justice Dept. Nominee Who Drew Scrutiny for Russian Bank Work Is Confirmed

Brian A. Benczkowski, left, the new head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, with Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, who voted against him.CreditHarry Hamburg/Associated Press
  • July 11, 2018

WASHINGTON — The Senate narrowly confirmed a former Justice Department official on Wednesday to lead the department’s Criminal Division and oversee the government’s career prosecutors, including those investigating President Trump.

Democrats fought the nomination of the former staff member, Brian A. Benczkowski, raising questions about his qualifications. Mr. Benczkowski has never tried a case in court and was also scrutinized over private-sector work for one of Russia’s largest banks.

The 51-to-48 vote was along party lines, with only Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, joining Republicans to confirm Mr. Benczkowski.

His confirmation broke a logjam of pending nominations for top jobs at the Justice Department, where officials and employees complained privately and publicly that the Senate took an unusually long time to greenlight Mr. Benczkowski, who was nominated 13 months ago.

“Brian is an outstanding lawyer with a diverse public service and criminal law background spanning over 20 years,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “At a time like this — with surging violent crime and an unprecedented drug epidemic — this position is especially important.”

Mr. Benczkowski, 48, has worked since 2010 as a lawyer focused on white-collar criminal defense cases at the firm Kirkland & Ellis. In that job, he helped Russia’s Alfa Bank investigate whether its computer servers had contacted the Trump Organization, a question that touched directly on suspicions about the bank that emerged in the early months of the Trump-Russia affair.

The F.B.I., which also investigated, found that data moving between the bank and the Trump Organization did not amount to clandestine communications, and some experts suggested that it was related to Trump hotel marketing materials.

But Democratic senators said Mr. Benczkowski’s decision to take on the Alfa Bank work last year amid heightened scrutiny over relations between Trump associates and Russia showed a lack of good judgment. Alfa Bank’s owners have ties to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, and Mr. Benczkowski worked closely with the Trump transition team and was once a Senate Judiciary Committee staff member when Mr. Sessions was on the committee.

“The main criticism is that Brian will be the person in the Justice Department who oversees sensitive cases, criminal trials and people who make calls on things like search warrants,” said Joyce Vance, a former United States attorney for the Northern District of Alabama. “The flip side of that and the good news is that he’ll be surrounded by career prosecutors who will know how to do all of these things, and whose advice he will have access to.”

He will also help oversee the special counsel investigation into Russian election interference and possible ties to the Trump campaign as well the inquiry into Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, which is being conducted by federal prosecutors in Manhattan.

Mr. Benczkowski has told lawmakers that he supported Mr. Mueller’s investigation but would not promise to recuse himself from issues involving Russia. Mr. Sessions has stepped back from election-related matters, including the Russia investigation, which is overseen by Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general.

Senate Democrats sought to block Mr. Benczkowski’s confirmation, citing a lack of relevant experience. Though he has served in several Justice Department roles — work in legislative affairs and legal policy as well as key leadership posts for the offices of the attorney general, the deputy attorney general and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — Mr. Benczkowski was not a federal prosecutor.

“The only apparent qualification that Mr. Benczkowski has is his close relationship with, and political loyalty to, the attorney general and the president,” Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, said in his floor statement during Mr. Benczkowski’s confirmation hearing on Wednesday.

“This could prove to be a historic mistake,” Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, warned after Mr. Benczkowski’s confirmation. He, Mr. Leahy and other Democrats on the Judiciary Committee wrote in May to their colleagues urging them to deny Mr. Benczkowski’s appointment.

But 14 former United States attorneys who supported Mr. Benczkowski’s nomination told the Senate that he was a “person of integrity and fairness, and someone whose experience and leadership skills will serve him and the department well.”

Mr. Benczkowski is a “serious attorney” who understands the Justice Department’s importance, said Megan L. Brown, a lawyer at the firm Wiley Rein who worked with him at the Justice Department. “He has a great sense of duty to country and the safety and security of the country, and also understands the seriousness of the threats we face, domestically and abroad,” she said.

Even with Mr. Benczkowski’s confirmation, the Justice Department is still waiting for the Senate to greenlight leaders for some of its most high-profile divisions, including civil, environmental and civil rights.

Department officials have grown frustrated by the slow pace of confirmations. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, has focused on confirming conservative judges as part of the Republican Party’s efforts to reshape the judicial branch while allowing some executive-branch nominations to languish.

A yearlong confirmation process, Mr. Rosenstein said in May, “is a long runway for a job that lasts for only a few years.”

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A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A15 of the New York edition with the headline: Senate Breaks Logjam to Confirm Former Sessions Aide for Justice Department Job. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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Questions are being raised about Facebook's decision to give a Russian internet company temporary special access to its user data (FB)

Mark Zuckerberg and Yuri Milner

  • Facebook acknowledged that it gave Mail.Ru special access to user data after 2015, when it officially ended the system that allowed third-party apps to access user data.
  • Mail.Ru was among dozens of companies that were granted special temporary access to Facebook user data.
  • Mail.Ru has ties to the Kremlin, according to news reports.

Facebook is facing fresh scrutiny over its data-sharing practices following the publication of reports highlighting how a Russian internet giant with ties to the Russian government gained access to user data. 

On Tuesday, CNN and Wired published reports exploring how Mail.Ru built apps that were able to access Facebook user data after the social network locked down its platform in 2015. Facebook recently disclosed in written testimony to US Congress that Mail.Ru had built apps that integrated with its platform — and that it was one of a select group of app makers that was given an extension beyond the formal 2015 cut-off date.

According to CNN and Wired, Mail.Ru was granted an extra two weeks of access to this user data. Facebook did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

Mail.Ru’s parent company was founded by Alisher Usmanov, a Russian businessman with links to the Kremlin. As such, Mail.Ru’s activity on the platform has raised some eyebrows, and prompted calls for more information: The Russian government infamously used Facebook to sow disinformation and propaganda during the 2016 US presidential election.

What’s more, a former Mail.Ru CEO and Chairman, Yuri Milner, invested $200 million for a 2% stake Facebook in 2009 through his firm Digital Sky Technologies, and another few hundred million dollars in the following years. Milner, who stepped down as Mail.Ru Chairman in 2012, has since sold its stake in Facebook, CNN reported.

In a statement given to CNN, Democratic senator Mark Warner called for more information: “In the last 6 months we’ve learned that Facebook had few controls in place to control the collection and use of user data by third parties.

“Now we learn that the largest technology company in Russia, whose executives boast close ties to Vladimir Putin, had potentially hundreds of apps integrated with Facebook, collecting user data. If this is accurate, we need to determine what user information was shared with and what may have been done with the captured data.”

BI PRIME: A third of Facebook’s ad revenue growth now comes from Instagram — and it couldn’t come at a better time

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Senate Expected to Confirm Trump DOJ Nominee Who Represented Russian Bank in 2017 – Roll Call

As the frenzy surrounding President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh kicks into high gear this week, the Senate is expected to vote Wednesday to confirm a divisive new director for the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice.

In late winter 2017, the nominee, Brian Benczkowski, briefly represented Alfa Bank, a Russian bank with close ties to Russian government officials that media outlets previously reported was a subject of the FBI’s probe of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.

No one at Alfa has been charged with wrongdoing, and it is unclear if the bank is still part of any probe.

Leading Democrats in the chamber wrote a letter to the president last week arguing Benczkowski cannot “credibly oversee” the DOJ Criminal Division’s involvement in Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation and the criminal investigation of Michael Cohen, the president’s former personal lawyer.

“Unanswered questions remain about Alfa Bank that should be resolved before the Senate even considers voting to confirm this bank’s lawyer to a top Justice Department position,” the Democratic senators wrote.

But Senate Republicans, who hold a one-vote majority in the chamber, stuck together Tuesday in support of Benczkowski by voting to end debate on his nomination and proceeding to a floor vote to confirm him.

They gained a two-vote cushion after Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, who is up for re-election in Trump-friendly West Virginia this November, defected to the GOP side on the motion to end debate — the only member of either party to break ranks.

Manchin’s office could not immediately be reached for comment.

The final vote broke down in favor of moving forward with Benczkowski’s nomination, 51-48. GOP Sen. John McCain, who is home in Arizona, did not vote.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the second-in-command at the DOJ, has repeatedly urged the Senate to stop delaying Benczkowski’s confirmation, saying the 48-year-old lawyer is a “highly qualified” candidate for the job.

“The President nominated a highly qualified lawyer named Brian Benczkowski to serve in that position almost one year ago,” Rosenstein said in a speech to lawyers in New York in May. “But Brian is still awaiting a confirmation vote.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is expected to schedule Benczkowski’s confirmation vote for Wednesday, nearly a year and one month after Trump first nominated him.

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