Looking for humor in dark story of Eric Conn and his Social Security clients | opinion – The Courier-Journal

Been quite a week here in the Kentucky mountains. The capture of self-proclaimed political refugee (Eric Conn) by a masked Honduran SWAT team while he was utilizing his WiFi at a Pizza Hut in the beach town of La Ceiba, Honduras has produced a wave of hilarity and pure delight in the mountains.

The astonishing variety of social media postings and nonstop chatter has revealed a level of satire that has produced no shortage of laughter. This humorous interlude is in sharp contrast to the gloom that has descended over the mountains. For more than two years the dark clouds caused by Conn and his colorful array of conspirators has stubbornly hung over this poverty-stricken region.

More: Fugitive Kentucky lawyer Eric Conn captured in Honduras after six months on the lam

More: Email to newspaper claiming to be from Eric Conn lists terms of surrender

 Don’t ever remember a story capturing the imagination of so many at such an intense level. John Grisham could not have imagined the bizarre facts. If he had written the story – would be some sort of comedic farce quickly labeled as fiction.

Now that the laughter has died down, some sobering thoughts. About 800 of Conn’s former clients have lost their benefits. They have also lost their health insurance and are receiving ominous letters from the Social Security Administration demanding those who struggled to exist on $800 per month pay back amounts often in excess of $100,000. Had three confirmed suicides. The true number is likely higher. You wouldn’t know these facts by reading the national publicity.

More: Fugitive lawyer Eric Conn was captured at a Pizza Hut in Honduras, FBI says

More: Indictment: Fugitive lawyer Eric Conn had help in escape plot a year before he disappeared

More: Fugitive lawyer Eric Conn, spotted in New Mexico, sentenced in absentia to 12 years

The Social Security Administration envisioned by FDR was designed to be a compassionate agency to alleviate the hardships of poverty. The agency throughout the Conn crisis has been anything but compassionate. Instead, their mission is to punish Conn’s vulnerable and innocent clients for the crime of guilt by association. Conn’s outrageous antics have fueled this inferno of guilt by association.  The ironic and infuriating part of the equation is there never was any true association. Still have yet to meet the first client who met Conn. The masked members of the Honduran SWAT team spent more time with Conn than his former clients.

While it makes enjoyable reading to read about Conn and sells newspapers, there is a more important story that is briefly mentioned.  It’s about the folks left behind. They don’t think any of this is funny.

Ned Pillersdorf is a criminal defense attorney and managing partner with the Prestonburg, Kentucky law firm of Pillersdorf, DeRossett and Lane. 

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As Mueller's Russia Probe Forges Ahead, Potential Legal Endgames Begin to Take Shape – NPR

Protesters outside the federal courthouse where Michael Flynn pleaded guilty early this month speculate what is coming next in the special counsel probe.

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While many aspects of the Justice Department’s Russia investigation remain shrouded in secrecy, one thing at this point is clear: Special counsel Robert Mueller isn’t finished yet.

That raises the question about where he might be heading.

Mueller has moved aggressively in his high-profile probe since taking the reins seven months ago. He has brought charges against four people with ties to the Trump campaign or administration so far, including the president’s onetime campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

The outcome of Mueller’s relationship with Flynn — who has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is cooperating with investigators — could be the key to what happens down the line, attorneys say.

“There are two possible ways this could end up going, and both hinge on why Flynn lied,” said Randall Eliason, a former federal prosecutor who teaches white collar criminal law at George Washington University Law School. “Depending on which is the case, you could have very different endgames.”

If Flynn lied about his Russia contacts because they were deemed politically damaging, then Trump associates — and maybe the president himself — could get caught in a cover-up, even if what they’re trying to hide isn’t itself criminal.

If the facts bear that out, that could mean an obstruction of justice case. For months, news outlets have reported that Mueller is looking into whether Trump obstructed justice, which would amount to attempting to influence or subvert an ongoing investigation.

A Trump tweet after Flynn’s guilty plea renewed the talk about possible obstruction and fueled questions about what the president knew when he cut Flynn loose in February.

Trump said on Twitter that he fired Flynn “because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies.” Trump lawyer John Dowd took responsibility for the tweet after it ignited a firestorm, but the White House ultimately acknowledged that Trump knew in late January, before he fired Flynn, that Flynn had probably lied to the FBI.

“The president has the right to fire anybody when he wants. But what he can’t do is try to interject improper influence in, and impede, an investigation,” said Michael J. Moore, a former U.S. attorney now at Pope McGlamry in Atlanta.

Moore alluded to the account of former FBI Director James Comey after Flynn’s firing. Trump, in Comey’s telling, asked him in a confidential meeting at the White House whether he would “let this go.” And Trump later fired Comey himself.

“That’s why that tweet was so important,” Moore said. “If he knew at the time that Flynn had lied to the FBI and told Comey to back off, then he’s using his position as Comey’s superior as leverage to try to achieve an outcome in an investigation — that amounts to obstruction.”

Obstruction could remain a possible endgame charge in a second scenario as well: If Flynn lied to shield a broader network of contacts between Trump associates, Russians and some nefarious actions they engaged in together.

Mueller’s mandate from the Justice Department calls for him to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government” and the Trump campaign. In the popular parlance, that is often called the question of “collusion.”

But even though “collusion” is a word that has been frequently bandied about, there is no such criminal charge. There is another C-word that could come into play — conspiracy.

Depending on the facts developed in Mueller’s investigation, there are a couple of options.

A Trump tweet after Flynn pleaded guilty renewed the talk about possible obstruction and fueled questions about what the president knew when he cut Flynn loose in February.

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One potential charge might be conspiracy to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, says Barak Cohen, a partner and litigation lead at Perkins Coie in Washington, D.C. Mueller’s team could reach for that if there is evidence that Trump associates worked with Russia on the hacking of the Democratic National Committee or the emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta.

“I think the special counsel would like to be able to charge them as co-conspirators to the hack or accessories after the fact,” Cohen said. “It’s the most credible and well-established legal theory.”

If Trump associates weren’t directly involved in the hacks but, say, knew about them and kept them hidden, then they could be charged as accessories after that fact, Cohen said.

Another theory proffered by John Norris and Carolyn Kenney for the liberal Center for American Progress is that Mueller might try to use the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

“More dominoes seem almost inevitable to fall given the special counsel’s efforts to secure cooperating witnesses, and RICO statutes give him a powerful card to play if he wishes to do so,” they wrote.

Or a more general conspiracy charge — to defraud the United States — could come into play, according to Eliason. Conspiracy of this sort means interfering with a lawful government function by deceit or dishonest means. In this case, prosecutors might try to prove the Trump camp had helped pervert the election.

“Of course, it depends on what the facts show,” Eliason said, “but if one worked with the Russians to leak information and create false social media accounts and other such stuff, that could be conspiracy to defraud the U.S.”

A third possible endgame is some sort of financial crime such as money laundering.

“My guess is this is all going to center around money — Russian money,” Moore said.

Questions swirl around Trump’s finances, partly because he has been opaque about his tax payments and partly because of charges by opponents that his businesses are the terminus of a money laundering scheme.

This aspect of the story got a boost after reports that Deutsche Bank had received a subpoena from Mueller’s team for information on accounts held by people or entities connected to Trump.

A lawyer for Trump, Jay Sekulow, denied those reports. The bank itself has made no comment. A Deutsche Bank spokesman told a German business newspaper that it cooperates with official inquiries but does not comment on individual cases.

Probing possible financial crimes dating back to before Trump took office and unrelated to Russia could be perilous politically. Trump’s aides and Republicans have already argued that such a move would be a step too far for Mueller.

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The Keanu Reeves cinematic guide to being an 'excellent!' criminal defense attorney – ABA Journal

Law in Popular Culture

The Whole Truth

Keanu Reeves as small-town criminal defense lawyer Richard Ramsay in “The Whole Truth,” decades after his first “excellent adventure.” Lionsgate Publicity

Disclaimer: this is not the article I intended to write. Keanu Reeves’ hasn’t endorsed it … yet.

I had planned on penning something regarding the new Denzel Washington legal thriller Roman J. Israel, Esq. When I first learned of its impending release a couple of months ago, I was seriously stoked: I love watching Denzel Washington, and I love watching legal movies. I write this column. Perfect.

But as much as I love legal movies, I really, really love comic book films. So, obviously, Thor: Ragnarok took precedence. Then came the new Justice League film. And after a lackluster opening weekend—plus plenty of negative reviews—the newest Denzel vehicle was removed from rotation at my favorite local theater. Then came Thanksgiving … you get the picture.

ALL DEFENDANTS DESERVE THEIR DAY IN COURT

Missing out on Denzel somehow led me to Keanu. Instead of trying to find time to see the new film at some inferior theater during the holiday, I decided to stream something at home instead.

I found The Whole Truth. It was released late 2016 to little fanfare. Honestly, I had never heard of the film until I came across it on Amazon, probably because of the critical beating it took. It’s got a 29 percent approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes. But, we’re not here to talk about the movie’s cinematic merits. We’re here to discuss the man who was, and always will be, Ted “Theodore” Logan, III.

But first, an aside: My legal partner and I have a running joke in the office about the difference between an innocent client and a guilty one. It’s in regards to the 1997 Keanu Reeves hit Devil’s Advocate and its opening scene. There, you see Keanu’s character, Kevin Lomax, come to grips with the realization that his client is likely guilty. This is in the middle of jury trial. A confrontation ensues, as Keanu is obviously upset that his client has been lying to him about his innocence through the whole case.

However, Keanu does what any good trial lawyer would do. He puts his own personal perception of the situation aside—remembers he’s not judge nor jury—and proceeds to destroy the prosecution’s case with a very well-crafted cross-examination of the teenage accuser.

Guilty or innocent, every criminal defendant deserves their day in court. Guilty or innocent, every criminal defendant deserves a zealous advocate.

DEFENDING THE INNOCENT CLIENT VS. DEFENDING THE GUILTY CLIENT

Which brings us back to The Whole Truth (my Denzel substitute). Keanu plays small-town defense attorney Richard Ramsay tasked with defending a teenage boy against accusations he murdered his wealthy father. Ramsay knows the family, also represents the mother, and used to work with the deceased (don’t get me started on the potential ethical implications).

Here, Keanu plays pseudo mentor to a young attorney. He lets her second-chair the jury trial. As the trial unfolds, the young attorney begins to question the evidence and the defense theory.

Keanu explains that every witness lies in their own way and for their own reason. It may be something small, or it may be something bigger; regardless, it happens.

When the young attorney pointedly confronts Keanu about the possibility that defense witnesses may be stretching the truth, he answers “That might be true. I don’t know or care.”

The fact of the matter is that the testimony is the testimony. Neither attorney on either side can or should coach their witnesses. Obviously, there is a very thick, bright line between simply eliciting testimony and suborning perjury. Any trial attorney will tell you it is impossible to predict exactly what a witness will say when they get on the stand. Many times, it’s something they’ve never said before. A good defense attorney handles the testimony as is. After all, the witness is under oath. You have to assume, and hope, that they will testify truthfully.

As Keanu so aptly puts it, any attorney worth his salt has to find a balance between “his own need to know the truth and the best interest of his client.”

TRUST IS INTEGRAL TO THE ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP

Towards the end of The Whole Truth, Keanu is faced with a difficult situation. His client has refused to discuss potential testimony with him. In fact, the client has refused to speak with anyone during the pendency of his criminal case. Even though Keanu admits that normally such circumstances might call for a psychological evaluation, he believes the kid is competent and does not request one. He intends to proceed with the defense based solely on attacking the prosecution’s evidence in hopes the jury will hold them to their burden.

Regardless, things take a surprise turn when the defendant demands to testify on his own behalf. When asked about his thoughts on this turn of events, Keanu knows the rules: If the defendant wants to testify, he gets to testify. “It’s his constitutional right.”

Some might think this scene could only occur in a Hollywood production. Well, I’m here to tell you personally that it can happen in real life as well, to a certain degree. I distinctly remember a jury trial a few years back where I worked tirelessly with my client and explained to him that taking the stand and testifying would completely ruin any chance we had of winning … and we didn’t have much of a chance to start with.

Now, the case never should have gone to trial in the first place (we had bad facts, and I had worked a deal for the mandatory minimum). I tried my best to convince the client of what I thought was best, but he would have none of it.

For whatever reason, there was some level of trust lacking in our relationship. He did not trust my trial plan, and I did not trust his ability to testify truthfully without sinking our ship. Regardless, my client did end up testifying on his own behalf. Consequently, he also ended up confessing to the crime, on the stand, under oath. I kid you not.

Luckily, I was able to minimize the damage during closing, and the jury recommended only one year above the mandatory minimum sentence. Still, the result could have been so much worse. At the end of the day, though, it was his case. “It’s his constitutional right.”

NEVER TALK WITH LAW ENFORCEMENT

I had to throw this into the mix as well. It has nothing to do with The Whole Truth or Devil’s Advocate, but it’s still a great takeaway from the man in question.

You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who enjoys the stress, confusion, and uncertainty of a criminal interrogation. Well, guess what? Keanu doesn’t like it either. (Warning: Language NSFW.)

If law enforcement officers want to speak with you, call your lawyer first …even if you are a lawyer. Don’t go it alone even if you are a practicing attorney (or have simply portrayed one on the silver screen). It’s a bad idea 10 times out of 10.

Thanks for your wisdom, Keanu. You’ve made us all most triumphant attorneys because of it.


Adam Banner

Adam R. Banner is the founder and lead attorney at the Oklahoma Legal Group, a criminal defense law firm in Oklahoma City. Mr. Banner’s practice focuses solely on state and federal criminal defense. He represents the accused against allegations of sex crimes, violent crimes, drug crimes, and white collar crimes.

The study of law isn’t for everyone, yet its practice and procedure seems to permeate pop culture at an increasing rate. This column is about the intersection of law and pop culture in an attempt to separate the real from the ridiculous.


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Trump Lawyer's Claim He Wrote Flynn Tweet Stuns Legal Experts – Newsweek

Legal experts are baffled after Trump’s lawyer John Dowd claimed Sunday that he wrote a tweet on the president’s account that seems to incriminate the commander in chief.

The tweet, posted Saturday, reads:

The message suggests Trump knew his national security adviser Michael Flynn lied to the FBI when the U.S. president allegedly pressured the then–FBI Director James Comey to abandon the investigation into Flynn in a private meeting, a day after Trump fired Flynn.

12_04_Dowd Lawyer John Dowd exits Manhattan Federal Court in New York on May 11, 2011. Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Comey described the meeting from detailed memos he took at the time in a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee ahead of his testimony in June.

“This is a pretty substantial confession to essential knowledge elements of an obstruction of justice charge,” wrote Susan Hennessey, a national security attorney and fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank in response to Trump’s tweet Saturday.

On Sunday, Trump’s lawyer Dowd took the blame for the ham-fisted tweet. “The tweet did not admit obstruction. That is an ignorant and arrogant assertion,” he told Axios, calling the tweet “my mistake.”

Dowd has sought to defend the tweet, claiming Monday that the “president cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer” under the Constitution.

Dowd told CNN that he drafted the tweet and that he believes Dan Scavino Jr., the White House social media director, posted it. He would not answer questions about whether Trump reviewed the message.

Read more: Trump attacked by law enforcement over anti-FBI tweets

Dowd’s admission left a number of legal experts incredulous that the former Department of Justice attorney, who once defended a former Air Force officer during the Iran-Contra affair, would make such a rookie mistake.

“Dowd’s explanation to CNN makes no sense. He claims he wrote the tweet claiming Flynn was fired partly for lying to the FBI, but he also rejects the idea that POTUS knew Flynn had lied. Why would you write the tweet then, Dowd? Or did you?” wrote attorney Walter Shaub, former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, who left the Trump administration in frustration early this year.

Dowd acknowledged the tweet was sloppy and told Reuters that he “should have put the lying to the FBI in a separate line referencing his plea.”

“The point of that tweet was entirely correct. It’s just very sad. I don’t know why the guy lied. He didn’t need to,” Dowd told Axios.

“An experienced criminal defense attorney like Dowd would know that it’s proper to say that Flynn ‘pleaded guilty,’ not ‘pled guilty,’” wrote attorney Renato Mariotti‏, a Democratic candidate for Illinois attorney general, in an analysis of Trump’s tweet.

Pleaded is “the traditional past-tense form” that lawyers use when describing a plea, tweeted Bryan A. Garner‏, the editor in chief of Black’s Law Dictionary. The implication is that such an experienced lawyer would never compose the tweet.

Dowd and Trump’s legal team should release the “email chain, texts or other proof Dowd sent the draft tweet, and explaining the Trumpian tone and characteristic errors (‘pled’ instead of ‘pleaded’),” tweeted attorney Norm Eisen, who chairs the board of the nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

Some Republican senators warned Trump about continuing to put out messages about the Russia investigation, which is examining whether his campaign worked with Russia to hurt his rival Hillary Clinton.

“I would just say this with the president: There’s an ongoing criminal investigation,” said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham on the CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday. “You tweet and comment regarding ongoing criminal investigations at your own peril.”

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Trump lawyer: Collusion is not a crime – The Hill

One of President Trump’s top lawyers told The New Yorker that it doesn’t matter if members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russia as long as no crimes were committed.

“For something to be a crime, there has to be a statute that you claim is being violated,” Jay Sekulow said in an article published in the December issue of the magazine. “There is not a statute that refers to criminal collusion. There is no crime of collusion.”

Trump’s attorney told the magazine on multiple occasions that collusion with Russia or another foreign power during a campaign is not illegal, and that no statute would be violated by the campaign working with the Russian government even if such an act is proven by special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

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Mueller’s investigation has the authority to investigate any matters that come up in the course of investigating possible collusion between the campaign and Russia.

That includes possible obstruction of justice, which would be a crime.

Trump could be investigated for obstructing justice when he fired FBI Director James Comey earlier this year. He told reporters at the time that the Russia investigation was firmly in his mind when he did so.

Sekulow in the past has claimed that Mueller is not investigating the president himself, despite the scope of Mueller’s authority.

“Let me be clear here,” he said in June. “The president is not and has not been under investigation for obstruction.”

Sekulow also denied in August that the president was considering firing Mueller, a move that Trump’s critics have speculated about for months.

“The president is not thinking about firing Robert Mueller,” Sekulow told Fox News. “So the speculation that’s out there is just incorrect.”

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A War Criminal Drank Poison in Court, and Died. How Could This Happen? – New York Times

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PARIS — The moment was dramatic enough: In a courtroom in The Hague on Wednesday, a military commander from the former Yugoslavia pulled out a small bottle and drank from it, declaring that he had ingested poison to protest his conviction for war crimes. The judges quickly ordered that courtroom curtains block the view of spectators in the public gallery. Live television coverage went dark.

But what happened next, beyond public view, was just as shocking, according to lawyers and court officials. The war criminal, Slobodan Praljak, 72, slumped in his chair and began to gasp for breath. He was later taken to a Dutch hospital and pronounced dead.

On Friday, Dutch prosecutors announced that Mr. Praljak had died of heart failure after ingesting potassium cyanide — a highly toxic compound — and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia announced that it would conduct its own “independent, expert review” of Mr. Praljak’s suicide. But a key question remained unanswered: How did he manage to smuggle the poison into court?

Defense lawyers at the tribunal say the security arrangements in place for defendants like Mr. Praljak, and the five other men whose sentences were affirmed on Wednesday, were rigorous. They were subjected to body searches when they left their detention center — inside a high-security Dutch prison — and again when they arrived at the tribunal building. But, lawyers acknowledged, body-cavity searches were not part of the routine.

Even so, that left the question of how Mr. Praljak could have laid hands on the toxin since visitors were supposedly searched, too. And in the months before his final appearance in court, he had seemed to eschew contact with his family and his lawyers.

Nika Pinter, his lead counsel, said in a telephone interview from Zagreb, the Croatian capital, that Mr. Praljak had told his family not to be present at the judgment.

“For 13 years his wife came to visit him in prison every month, the last time I think at the end of October. His stepson and stepdaughter would also visit,” Ms. Pinter said. However, she added, “He forbade his wife to listen to the judgment. And he told her: Don’t come to The Hague.”

Ms. Pinter recalled: “Last weekend I called him and asked him if he would like me to visit him before the judgment. He said: ‘No, don’t come.’ I called again on Tuesday and told him I would come to court early to meet him. He told me: ‘No, don’t come. I’ll see you in the courtroom.’” She said she believed he wanted to spare her from what followed.

“From the start, 13 years ago, he told me he could not bear being called a war criminal,” Ms. Pinter said. “He couldn’t live with the stigma.” But she added: “He never gave a hint that he was planning to end his life.”

Mr. Praljak had been a theater and film director and a writer. He joined the Croatian Army and was named a general when it was formed after the country broke away from Yugoslavia in 1991.

Named commander of the Croatian forces fighting in Bosnia, he was a key figure during the conflict, including the long siege and shelling of the ethnically mixed city of Mostar. At the time, he was the main liaison between political and military leaders in Croatia and the Croatian force fighting in Bosnia.

He surrendered to the tribunal in 2004 and was convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity in 2013. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but appealed. (He would have been due for release in 2019, after serving two-thirds of his sentence, including time served.)

The tribunal had just affirmed his verdict and sentence on Wednesday when Mr. Praljak kept standing.

He reached forward to pick up the vial.

“Slobodan Praljak is not a war criminal,” he declared portentously, in Croatian. “I reject your judgment with contempt.”

He then opened his fist, took out the vial, tilted back his head and drank.

“I have taken poison,” Mr. Praljak said. One of his lawyers, Natacha Fauveau Ivanovic, called out to ensure that the presiding judge, Carmel Agius, understood: “Mr. President, our client says he took poison.”

The judges were stunned, but appeared not to have fully grasped what had happened. Judge Agius directed the next defendant to rise, and began reading.

“People did not realize exactly what was going on,” said Michael Karnavas, a veteran defense lawyer representing Jadranko Prlic, one of Mr. Praljak’s co-defendants. “This man was always full of bravado. Prajlak sat down and almost immediately he was gasping for air, struggling to breathe. It was loud. He made sounds like he was choking. I saw him slumped in his chair. Someone shouted for help. The guards came over and got him onto the floor.”

Mr. Karnavas added: “After a few minutes two medics arrived from the medical office in the tribunal. One of the medics calls out: The heart has stopped. They start doing CPR, they are pumping his chest to get his heart going, taking turns with some of the security guards.”

After 20 minutes, an emergency team arrived from a local hospital and took over. They kept him in the building for another 40 minutes or so because they wanted to stabilize him. It was not clear what made the medical team finally decide to take him to the hospital. Croatia’s justice minister has called into question the speed of the responses by security and medical staff.

The tribunal said on Friday that its inquiry would be led by Hassan B. Jallow, the chief justice of Gambia and a former prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

A report on the findings is expected by Dec. 31.

It was unclear to what extent those findings would be open to scrutiny. “The outcome of the review will be made public, subject to due process and confidentiality considerations,” the tribunal said.

To smuggle the vial into the courtroom, Mr. Praljak had to circumvent what were supposed to be tight security arrangements. The defendants are escorted by guards and enter the building through an underground parking lot. They are strip-searched when they leave the detention unit and then again at the court. They are unable to have contact with members of the public.

Visitors also face tough security checks, said Ms. Fauveau Ivanovic, the defense lawyer, first to enter the high-security Dutch prison, and then again at the United Nations detention unit set within the compound.

“Everything — our shoes, our clothes, our bags — everything goes through the X-ray machine,” she said. “We walk through a scanner, like at an airport. We can’t bring in liquids.”

Mr. Karnavas recalled seeing Mr. Praljak just before the fatal court hearing. “I last saw him outside the courtroom that morning as he was coming out of the toilet,” he said. “I thought nothing of it at the time. But I’m thinking about that now.”

Marlise Simons reported from Paris, and Alan Cowell from London. Christopher F. Schuetze contributed reporting from The Hague.

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#JusticeForJazzy: Lawyer For Brianna Brochu Says She Shouldn't Face Hate Crime Charges – Essence.com

The former University of Hartford student who jeopardized the health of her black roommate by secretly smearing body fluids on her personal belongings should not be charged with a hate crime, her lawyer said.

The Connecticut NAACP chapter had called for a hate crime charge to be filed against Brianna Brochu for using disgusting tactics to force her roommate Chennel “Jazzy” Rowe — whom she reportedly referred to as “Jamaican Barbie”—  to move out.  

The NAACP chapter believes Brochu’s actions were racially motivated and that she caused physical harm and intimidation to Rowe because she is Black. Brochu, meanwhile, was permanently expelled from the university shortly after Rowe’s disturbing story went viral.

She was charged with criminal mischief and breach of peace when she appeared in court Tuesday. But there was no hate crime charge.

Her lawyer told reporters that the case had nothing to do with race.

“I think that when it’s all said and done, what you’re going to see is that there was nothing racist that motivated this,” Lawyer Tom Stevens said, according to the New York Daily News. “These were two students who were placed together … who didn’t like each other … and it escalated.”

Local police in West Hartford said earlier this month that they were seeking a hate crime charge against Brochu. The local NAACP chapter held a rally earlier in the day before filling the courtroom during Brochu’s court appearance. 

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Criminal defense, bankruptcy lawyers face misconduct charges – The Columbus Dispatch

Two Columbus-area lawyers face professional misconduct charges alleging they mishandled the cases of clients.

Westerville bankruptcy lawyer Robert Leon and Columbus criminal defense lawyer W. Martin Midian face disciplinary hearings before the Board of Professional Conduct after charges against them were unveiled this week.

Leon is charged with failing to file bankruptcy cases on behalf of an Urbana husband and wife despite accepting payment of $1,850 in cash that was not placed in his client trust account.

He also was charged with failing to file a medical-malpractice lawsuit on behalf of the couple’s daughter, agreeing to handle the matter despite no prior experience in such cases, and failing to create a written contingency fee agreement.

The complaint further alleges that in 2016, Leon had consensual sex in his office on at least three occasions with his female client from Urban after previously exchanging “sexts” that sometimes reached up to 100 a day. Lawyers are forbidden from sexual activity with clients unless a consensual relationship existed prior to handling legal work on their behalf.

Leon admitted most of the charges against him, including the sexual encounter.

Midian disputes Columbus Bar Association charges that he failed to provide competent representation, charged an excessive fee, failed to create a written fee agreement and improperly split client funds with a lawyer from another firm.

The charges claim that Midian agreed to file a motion to vacate or amend the workers-compensation fraud conviction of a Mahoning County psychiatrist he had not previously represented.

The client paid $25,000 to Midian, who asked a friend with little criminal law experience to write what was a legally flawed motion to vacate the conviction that threatened the client’s interests, the charges said. Midian repaid $17,500 to the client more than a year after the complaint was filed against him.

Following hearings, a three-member panel will recommend to the Ohio Supreme Court what disciplinary action, if any, should be taken against Leon and Midian.

rludlow@dispatch.com

@RandyLudlow

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Some WH aides anxious over Russia probe despite reassurances from Trump lawyer: report – The Hill

Various White House aides have expressed concern regarding special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing probe into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, despite reassurances from White House lawyer Ty Cobb, according to The Washington Post.

The Post reported that some White House aides have taken comfort in Cobb’s reassurances that the probe will wrap up soon, and that Mueller has so far treated those he has interviewed “fairly.”

However, others view the reassurances as “naive,” according to the newspaper.

While Trump reportedly likes Cobb’s reassurances, others close to him have expressed concerns about the lawyer, the Post reported. 

Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon has pressed Trump to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney instead, arguing that Cobb and his team don’t compare to Mueller’s seasoned team of lawyers, according to the Post.

The Hill has reached out to the White House for comment. 

A source close to the White House told the Post that staffers nervously joke with each other, saying, “Good morning. Are you wired?”

Various figures in the administration, including Vice President Pence, have hired lawyers amid the probe. 

The report comes after Mueller’s investigation has intensified in recent weeks. 

Mueller announced recently that Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his associate Richard Gates have been charged with money laundering and conspiracy against the U.S., among other things, while former foreign policy adviser to the campaign George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to misleading the FBI about his past contacts with Russian government officials. 

The White House has said the charges against Manafort are not related to them, and that Papadopoulos was a low-level figure in the campaign. 

Mueller’s team has already interviewed former chief of staff Reince Priebus and former press secretary Sean Spicer. 

The team is preparing to interview White House communications director Hope Hicks in the coming days. 

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New state law gives those with a record a second chance – Newsday

Rick Collins, at his Mineola office, Friday, Nov. 16, 2017, was instrumental in drafting a new law that allows people convicted of nonviolent felonies and misdemeanors to ask a court to seal one previous felony or two previous misdemeanors. Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

A former Nassau County resident convicted of a misdemeanor in the 1980s became the first person to have his criminal record sealed by a Long Island court under a new state law aimed at giving nonviolent offenders a clean slate.

The man’s attorney, Rick Collins of Mineola, said his client’s request to have his criminal record sealed was approved Thursday by a Nassau County court under a law…

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