Tag Archives: convicted

Tennessee man sentenced for Romney tax return fraud, extortion scheme

A Tennessee man was sentenced this week to 48 months in prison for engaging in an extortion and wire fraud scheme involving former presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s tax returns.

Michael Mancil Brown, 37, was found guilty at trial on May 12 of six counts of wire fraud and six counts of using facilities of interstate commerce to commit extortion.

U.S. District Judge Billy Roy Wilson of the Eastern District of Arkansas imposed the sentence and ordered Brown to pay $201,836 in restitution to PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.

According to testimony at trial, evidence recovered from a computer seized from Brown’s residence in 2012 implicated him in a scheme to defraud Mitt Romney, the accounting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers and others by falsely claiming that he had gained access to the PricewaterhouseCoopers internal computer network and had stolen tax documents for Romney and his wife, Ann D. Romney, for tax years prior to 2010.

In August 2012, a letter delivered to the offices of PricewaterhouseCoopers in Franklin demanded that $1 million worth of the digital currency Bitcoin be deposited to a specific Bitcoin account to prevent the release of the purportedly stolen Romney tax returns, according to trial evidence.

The letter invited interested parties who wanted the allegedly stolen Romney tax documents to be released to contribute $1 million to another Bitcoin account.

As part of the scheme, similar letters were delivered to the offices of the Democratic and Republican parties in Franklin and similar statements were posted to Pastebin.com.

The U.S. Secret Service’s Nashville Field Office investigated the case with assistance from the FBI’s Nashville Division.

Senior Counsel Anthony V. Teelucksingh of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Byron Jones of the Middle District of Tennessee prosecuted the case.

Making a phenomenon: Netflix series shines spotlight on Steve Avery murder case

“Did he just reference the O.J. Simpson case?” the armchair juror asked, looking sideways at her co-juror, sunk deep into the couch after hours of binge-watching Making a Murderer, the Netflix series about Wisconsin’s prosecution of Steven Avery for a rape he did not commit and the murder of a woman for which he is serving a life sentence.

The 10-part series, a runaway hit that debuted on the streaming service in mid-December, has Netflix subscribers taking on the roles of juror and judge, prosecutor and defense attorney, cop and criminologist in the State of Wisconsin’s cases against Avery for the rape of a Manitowoc woman in 1985 and the murder of a Calumet County woman in 2005. Avery’s nephew, Brendan Dassey, also was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the 2005 murder of 25-year-old freelance photographer Teresa Halbach at the Avery’s 40-acre property and salvage yard near Mishicot.

The reference to the Simpson case is apt because, like the televised proceedings in that trial, Making a Murderer leads the audience into deep, disturbing debates about guilt and innocence while questioning the integrity of the criminal justice system. Since the series launched, more than 250,000 people have signed petitions urging the president to pardon Avery and Dassey, which is not even an option in state cases.

The story may be new to Netflix’s audience, but Steven Avery’s trials and tribulations are familiar to Wisconsinites. He’s been known in the state as a small-time thief, a defendant, a convicted rapist, a prison inmate, an exoneree, a freed man, an advocate for the innocence project and, finally, as a convicted killer — as “evil incarnate.”

But now, once again, Avery is becoming known as the possible victim of a corrupt legal system, as a repeat non-offender. On Jan. 11, he filed a new appeal. He claims that prosecutors went after him to retaliate for the $36 million lawsuit he filed against Manitowoc officials.

The case recently settled for $400,000.

Avery, despite having alibi witnesses, was convicted of raping a woman jogging along Lake Michigan in Manitowoc in 1985. He served 18 years, exhausting many appeals, before his release from prison on Sept. 11, 2003, after the Wisconsin Innocence Project proved, using DNA testing, that another man committed the crime.

Avery’s wrongful conviction led Wisconsin lawmakers to champion new legislation meant to help the exonerated.

Still, Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, in an investigation of how Avery ended up in prison, did not find cause to bring criminal charges or ethics violations against the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department, which arrested Avery and ignored information that should have led to the arrest of the actual rapist, or against the Manitowoc District Attorney’s Office. In October 2004, Avery filed a federal suit for his wrongful conviction, seeking $36 million in compensation.

A year later, and shortly after several key players in the 1985 case were deposed in the lawsuit, Avery was arrested for the murder of Halbach. In her professional capacity, she had visited the Avery property on Halloween. Her burned remains were found behind Avery’s trailer. Her SUV was found in the Avery salvage yard. And the key to that vehicle eventually was found in Avery’s bedroom.

Months later, investigators obtained a confession from Dassey, 16 at the time, who said he participated in the rape and murder.

It was DNA evidence, which led to Avery’s exoneration in the 1985 crime, that sent Avery back to prison in the 2005 homicide.

Making a Murderer makes a compelling case that Avery was framed by at least two officers at the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department, who allegedly planted Avery’s blood and other evidence. The series also contends that Dassey was coerced and tricked into making the confessions he later recanted.

The filmmakers, Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, say the 10-part series took nearly 10 years to complete and is solid.

Wisconsin authorities say the series is slanted. They warn that viewers are seeing just 10 hours of film about a story that spans 30 years. They point out that testimony in Avery’s murder trial lasted 19 days, with more than 50 witnesses taking the stand.

Manitowoc County Sheriff Robert Hermann, who said justice was served in the Avery murder case, called Making a Murderer “a film. It’s missing a lot of important pieces of evidence.”

But for many viewers, the evidence trail isn’t ending with the conclusion of the series. Old news stories and clips are recirculating on the Internet as fans-turned-investigators are creating reddit and wiki pages.

In the first week of January, the Manitowoc County Clerk of Courts office announced a flood of requests for transcripts, exhibits and other records that fill six banker boxes. One Australian woman requested copies of the entire Avery trial transcript, which cost her $6,000.

‘MAKING A MURDERER,’ MAKING A HIT …

WHAT DOES THE SERIES CLAIM?

The documentary strongly suggests the possibility that Manitowoc County sheriff’s deputies planted evidence against Steven Avery, including a key found in his bedroom and blood found in the vehicle of homicide victim Teresa Halbach.

 

WHAT ABOUT THE VICTIMS?

Teresa Halbach’s brother Mike declined comment since releasing a statement from the family before the documentary became public. “Having just passed the 10-year anniversary of the death of our daughter and sister, Teresa, we are saddened to learn that individuals and corporations continue to create entertainment and to seek profit from our loss,” the statement read. “We continue to hope that the story of Teresa’s life brings goodness to the world.” Other relatives have claimed the series is one-sided.

 

WHAT HAS THE REACTION BEEN LIKE?

It’s been all over the map. Celebrities have tweeted about how into the series they are, late night talk show host Seth Meyers spoofed it and fake Twitter accounts have been set up for some of the main players in the case. However, Manitowoc County sheriff’s officers have received threats in emails and voicemails.

Dan Auerbach, lead singer of the rock bands The Black Keys and The Arcs, posted a song on The Arcs’ website inspired by the documentary series. Proceeds from the sale of the song will go to the Innocence Project, a legal organization that uses DNA evidence to exonerate prisoners. The song, called “Lake Superior,” includes several lyrics that reference the case, such as: “Your alibi will never do when the whole town’s got it out for you.”

 

WHAT ABOUT AVERY?

Steven Avery filed an appeal to overturn his conviction on Jan. 11. His attorney is confident that the appeal will succeed based on new evidence.

 

 

— from AP and WiG reports

 

Wisconsin sheriff defends hiring convicted killer

A Wisconsin sheriff has defended his decision to hire a man convicted of killing and dismembering his girlfriend nearly 40 years ago in Texas.

Rafael George Macias has worked as a radio technician for the Sheboygan County Sheriff’s Department since 2011 after performing similar duties as a contract employee for 10 years.

Macias was a 20-year-old airman at Carswell Air Force Base in North Texas when he pleaded guilty to killing and dismembering his live-in girlfriend, Julia Adams, in 1977. Macias was sentenced to 40 years in prison, but released after 13 years.

While at the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville, Macias earned an associate degree as a radio technician. He eventually moved to Wisconsin and ended up working at his cousin’s radio shop.

Macias told The Associated Press on Thursday that he never lied about his past and was upfront with Sheriff Todd Priebe when he wanted to bring him on as a regular employee. Details of the case resurfaced when an anonymous letter was sent recently to media outlets, including the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, questioning why Sheboygan County employees had to work with someone who committed such a horrible crime.

Macias said he’s not sure what the motivation was in bringing up his crime to the media, but knows he has Priebe’s support.

“You can’t change what happened. It happened,” Macias said. “What you can do is change what you do in the future and don’t put your life to waste.”

Priebe said Macias has proven himself as a trusted employee and is a rehabilitation “success story.”

Macias said through faith, anger management counseling and maturity he has become a better man.

“As far as I’m concerned, that guy is dead,” Macias said referring to his younger self, adding, “It was a fit of rage.”

Priebe said he will meet with the county board’s law committee at its request to discuss the hiring, but the committee does not have the authority to overrule his decision.

Supreme Court turns away appeal from former Walker aide

The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear an appeal brought by a former aide to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Kelly Rindfleisch was convicted of campaigning on taxpayers’ time and she was asking the nation’s highest court to review her argument that the investigation against her involved an illegal search of her emails.

However, the justices on Oct. 5 let stand a lower court ruling that said prosecutors did not violate her constitutional rights.

Rindfleisch pleaded guilty in 2012 to doing campaign work at her Milwaukee County government job.

The AP said she was one of six people convicted following an investigation into Walker’s former aides and associates when he served as Milwaukee County executive.

Walker was never charged.

Rindfleisch argued that the warrants for her emails were too broad and violated her constitutional right to be free of unreasonable searches.

A state appeals court ruled 2-1 that the warrants were constitutional.

Wisconsin peace activist jailed for trespassing

A Juneau County jury on April 1 found longtime peace activist Bonnie Block guilty of trespassing.

The Madison resident was sentenced to pay a $232 fine or spend five days in the county jail. Trespassing in Wisconsin is not a criminal offense.

Block told the Juneau County court, “I can’t in good conscience pay the fine. It would be giving consent to the outcome of a legal process I believe was unfair and which sets dangerous precedents for those of us engaged in nonviolent civil resistance and seeking justice for victims of US drone warfare.”

She was then sentenced to five days in jail and was told to report to the county justice center after lunch with her husband and son.

According to a news release from the Wisconsin Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, Block was involved in an action on May 17, 2014, that also involved the Rev. Jim Murphy. The two took a bus tour of Volk Field, part of the base’s public open house. As they left the bus at the National Guard Museum, they handed out a leaflet with four questions about drones to other passengers on the bus. They were arrested and charged with trespass.

Block opted for a Jury trial because she believed her constitutional right of free speech was violated as was her conscientious objection to drone warfare. 

Block, who represented herself at the jury trial, was blocked under a pretrial ruling from talking about international law, the U.S. Constitution, morals and ethics.

In her closing statement, she said she is committed to nonviolence . 

The jury deliberated 30 minutes before returning with the guilty verdict. 

Block is part of the Wisconsin Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, which holds monthly vigils outside the gates of the Wisconsin Air National Guard Base. Since 2009, Volk Field has been training operators of RQ-7 Shadow drones.  

The following is the statement Bonnie Block delivered at her sentencing, as provided by the coalition:

Your Honor, I asked for a jury trial in this matter so I could explain to the citizens of Juneau County my moral, constitutional, and legal reasons for opposing the drone training via handing out a leaflet at the Volk Field Open House. I also wanted to point out the absurdity of being arrested for trespassing at an event to which the public had been invited. 

However, the Court’s pretrial orders based on the District Attorney’s 25 point Motion in Limine precluded me from explaining this to the jury because the pre-trial orders prohibited any mention to the Jury of the very issues that I believe constitute a defense for my nonviolent action. 

These prohibitions also made it impossible for me to testify on my own behalf because I couldn’t honor the oath “to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” And to top it off, there was the unilateral refusal of Volk Field Commander Romauld to honor my third party subpoena to testify so he could explain the military rules and rationale that he considers the justification for my arrest. It puts the military brass above the law and I object. 

For these reasons, I can’t in good conscience pay the fine. It would be giving consent to the outcome of a legal process I believe was unfair and which sets dangerous precedents for those of us engaged in nonviolent civil resistance and seeking justice for victims of US drone warfare. So I’ll “do the time instead of paying the fine.”

ACLU sues Miami-Dade over law forcing former sex offenders to live by railroad tracks

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Florida sued Miami-Dade County and the Florida Department of Corrections seeking a permanent injunction against a housing ordinance that is extraordinarily difficult for former sex offenders to follow without becoming homeless.

The law prohibits former offenders from living 2,500 feet — almost half a mile — from any building the county labels a “school,” a category the county has enforced arbitrarily since the ordinance went into effect in 2010.

This restriction has left about 50 former offenders with nowhere to live other than an outdoor area along railroad tracks on the outskirts of Miami-Dade county. Each night, they sleep in chairs, in tents, and under tarps, without running water or shelter from the weather.

“As public policy, the Miami-Dade ordinance is a disaster. It has created a homeless population living outdoors in squalor, while doing nothing to serve public safety,” said Brandon Buskey, staff attorney at the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project. “Disease, exposure to the elements, no drinkable water — these conditions make it extremely difficult to find and maintain stable employment and psychological treatment, which are the only two factors proven to reduce the likelihood of reoffending. We know from decades of research that housing restrictions like Miami-Dade’s have no impact on reoffending and, are more likely to increase it.”

Finding affordable housing for former offenders is so futile under the Miami-Dade ordinance that probation officers routinely direct supervisees to the railroad tracks, recording the tracks as the person’s “address.”

“Sending someone just out of jail into homelessness makes no sense, not for the person and not for the public. The Miami-Dade ordinance is not just unworkable, it’s unconstitutional,” said Nancy Abudu, Legal Director of the ACLU of Florida.

For years, county officials have shuffled former offenders around Miami-Dade. Officials broke up the infamous shantytown under the Julia Tuttle Causeway bridge in 2010, only to create another, lesser known encampment in the Miami neighborhood of Shorecrest. Since officials disbanded that tent city, the area by Miami’s railroad tracks has become the only possible location for scores of individuals.

The ACLU of Florida Greater Miami Chapter has assisted in this case.

Drug supplier to ‘Monsignor Meth’ sentenced to 5 years

A woman who authorities say helped supply nearly 10 pounds of methamphetamine to a drug operation in Connecticut run by a Catholic priest dubbed “Monsignor Meth” has been sentenced to five years in prison.

The Connecticut Post reports that 49-year-old Kristen Laschober, of Laguna Niguel, California, was sentenced on Aug. 20 in federal court in Hartford.

She and her boyfriend, Chad McCluskey, of San Clemente, California, pleaded guilty last year to drug conspiracy charges connected to their meth business with now-suspended Monsignor Kevin Wallin.

McCluskey was sentenced to more than five years in prison in June.

Wallin pleaded guilty to a federal drug charge and awaits sentencing for selling large quantities of meth out of his apartment in Waterbury.

4 men publicly whipped in Nigeria for homosexuality

A human rights network says four men convicted of having gay sex have been whipped publicly in an Islamic court in northern Nigeria.

Dorothy Aken’Ova of the Coalition for the Defense of Sexual Rights Network says the men will go to jail and face humiliation and beatings if rights organizations do not come up with an additional fine of 20,000 naira ($120) each meted out on March 6 by a judge in Bauchi city.

She says the men, aged between 20 and 22, should not have been convicted because their confessions were forced by law agents who beat them.

Gays can be sentenced to death under Islamic Shariah law in force in some northern Nigerian states.

The four men were among dozens arrested after Nigeria strengthened laws against homosexuals in January.

California man convicted in gang rape of lesbian

A California man associated with a street gang was found guilty on Dec. 18 of the gang rape of a lesbian in 2008.

Humberto Salvador, 36, was convicted of 15 felonies associated with the attack on the woman.

The jury in the case out of Richmond, Calif., deliberated for about eight hours before finding Salvador guilty of kidnapping, carjacking, robbery, street terrorism and gang rape, in addition to hate crime penalties for targeting the victim because she is a lesbian.

The Contra Costa Times reported that law enforcement authorities said the brutality of the attack proved a turning point in the community, helping to galvanize people to fight gang violence.

The newspaper quoted Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus: “It really touched a lot of people, and I think as awful as that crime was, there was a positive that came out of it, and that’s a sense that a community can come together to non only provide tips but also to rally behind a victim in need of support.”

According to the report, Salvador and three associates were looting cars when they saw a woman walking toward her apartment. She was wearing a rainbow belt and her car was decorated with rainbow Pride stickers.

Salvador approached the woman, robbed her, hit her with a flashlight, forced her to strip and then sexually assaulted her. Authorities say two other men also raped the woman, who said at the trial that Salvador asked her during the assault, “You like men now, don’t you? Tell me you like men.”

A second man has pleaded guilty to a sexual assault charge, a third man pleaded guilty to carjacking and a fourth man awaits trial.

On the Web…

http://www.contracostatimes.com/contracostatimes/ci_24750642/richmond-gang-member-found-guilty-hate-crime-gang

United Methodist jury convicts pastor for officiating at his gay son’s wedding

A United Methodist pastor was convicted on Nov. 18 of breaking church law by officiating his son’s same-sex wedding and could be defrocked after a high-profile trial that has rekindled debate over the denomination’s policy on gay marriage.

The Methodist church put the Rev. Frank Schaefer on trial in southeastern Pennsylvania, accusing him of breaking his pastoral vows by presiding over the 2007 ceremony in Massachusetts.

The 13-member jury convicted Schaefer on two charges: That he officiated a gay wedding, and that he showed “disobedience to the order and discipline of the United Methodist Church.”

The jury was to reconvene today (Nov. 19) for the penalty phase, where Schaefer faces punishment ranging from a reprimand to losing his ministerial credentials.

“Obviously I’m very saddened. What we’re hoping for tomorrow is a light sentence,” said Schaefer’s son, Tim Schaefer, 29, whose wedding led to the charges.

Testifying in his defense, the 51-year-old pastor said he decided to break church rules out of love for his son. He said he might have lost what he called his “ritual purity” by disobeying the Methodist Book of Discipline, but that he felt he was obeying God’s command to minister to everyone.

“I love the United Methodist Church. I’ve been a minister for almost 20 years and there are so many good things about the United Methodist Church except for that one rule,” said Schaefer, of Lebanon.

Schaefer, who pleaded not guilty to the charges, could have avoided the trial if he had agreed to never again perform a same-gender wedding, but he declined because three of his four children are gay.

The nation’s largest mainline Protestant denomination accepts gay and lesbian members, but it rejects the practice of homosexuality as “incompatible with Christian teaching.”

The church’s lawyer, the Rev. Christopher Fisher, told the jury that Schaefer clearly violated the Book of Discipline. He said the complainant, Jon Boger – a member of Schaefer’s congregation – was dismayed and shocked when he learned this year about the ceremony.

Fisher used his closing argument to condemn homosexuality as immoral and said Schaefer had no right to break a Methodist law that bans pastors from performing same-sex marriages just because he disagreed with church teaching. He told jurors they were duty-bound to convict.

“You’ll give an account for that at the last day, as we all will,” he told the jury, to audible gasps from spectators.

Dozens of Schaefer’s supporters stood in silent protest as Fisher spoke, then linked hands and sang “We Shall Overcome” after the jury left to begin deliberating.

Boger, the church’s sole witness, testified Monday that he felt betrayed when he found out that Schaefer, who had baptized his children and buried his grandparents, had presided over a gay wedding.

“When pastors take the law of the church in their own hand … it undermines their own credibility as a leader and also undermines the integrity of the church as a whole,” Boger said.

“It’s his son. He loves his son. In a way I felt bad for him. But he’s also shown no remorse or repentance, nor has he apologized to anyone.”

When Schaefer chose to hide the marriage from the congregation, Boger said, “It was a lie and a broken covenant.”

But Schaefer testified he had informed his superiors of his part in the marriage. He said he kept it from his conservative church’s congregation because it would be divisive.

“I did not want to make this a protest about the doctrine of the church. I wasn’t trying to be an advocate,” Schaefer said. “I just wanted this to be a beautiful family affair, and it was that.”

Schaefer faced no discipline until April – less than a month before the church’s six-year statute of limitations was set to expire – when Boger filed a complaint.

Schaefer’s son came out to his parents at age 17, revealing he had contemplated suicide over his struggle with sexual identity and the church’s stance on homosexuality.

“He had heard messages that were hateful from the church, from the culture around him, that told him you’re not normal, you’re not valid, you’re a freak,” Schaefer testified.

The pastor said he and his wife told their son he was a “beloved child of God.”

Years later, Tim Schaefer asked his father to marry him.

“To say no to his request would have negated all the affirmations I gave him over the years,” he said.