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Myanmar court sentences 4 family members in maid abuse
Court Watch | 2017/12/22 11:25
A court in Myanmar sentenced four members of a family to as much as 16 years in prison with hard labor on Friday after finding them guilty of enslaving and abusing their two teenage maids, in a case that has prompted widespread public outrage over the girls' treatment.

The two girls were 11 and 12 when they were sent to the city from their poor village in Myanmar's delta to work as maids for a family that owned a tailor shop. Five years later, a local journalist heard allegations of child abuse at the shop and investigated, pretending he wanted a suit. He wrote an article about the girls' broken fingers and scars from cuts, burns and beatings.

Police then investigated and arrested six family members who were accused of locking up and torturing the girls for five years, stabbing them with scissors and knives, and burning them with an iron. They were charged with assault and violations of anti-trafficking and child protection laws.

After a trial lasting more than a year, a district court in Yangon, Myanmar's largest city, on Friday sentenced the mother, Tin Thuzar, to 16 years and one month and two adult children to 13 years and one month, defense lawyer Hnin Su Aung said. The husband of one of the children also received a sentence of 13 years and one month.


US jury acquits Peruvian defendant in FIFA bribery case
Court Watch | 2017/12/21 11:25
A former South American soccer official was acquitted Tuesday of a corruption charge stemming from the FIFA bribery scandal after two others were convicted last week, capping a trial in which U.S. prosecutors sought to expose a culture of greed and corruption among the powerful men who oversee the world's most popular sport.

Jurors found Manuel Burga, the 60-year-old former president of Peru's soccer federation, not guilty of a single racketeering conspiracy charge.

Burga wept when the acquittal was announced. After the verdict, he came out of the courtroom, his eyes wet and said: "God Bless America. That's all I can say."

Burga said he would go home and resume a career as a lawyer that had been largely left behind for the last 15 years during his career as a soccer executive.

"My history in soccer is finished," he said. "I'll go back to the law."

On Friday, jurors told U.S. District Judge Pamela Chen they were deadlocked on Burga's case but had reached guilty verdicts on multiple charges against two other former officials: Juan Napout, of Paraguay, and Jose Maria Marin, of Brazil. Chen gave jurors the holiday weekend to think about Burga's case.

The judge had jailed Marin, 85, and Napout, 59, after their convictions Friday. The two were acquitted on some lesser charges. Burga, meanwhile, was waiting on his passport to return home.

Marin, Burga and Napout had been arrested in 2015. Prosecutors accused them of agreeing to take millions of dollars in bribes from businessmen seeking to lock up lucrative media rights or influence hosting rights for the World Cup and other major tournaments controlled by FIFA.



Russian court: ex-minister guilty of taking $2 million bribe
Court Watch | 2017/12/18 11:25
Russia's former economics minister was handed an eight-year prison sentence Friday after being convicted of accepting a $2 million bribe from one of President Vladimir Putin's top associates. The high-profile trial of Alexei Ulyukayev has been widely seen as part of infighting between Kremlin clans. Ulyukayev was a key member of a group of liberal-minded technocrats in the Cabinet, while his accuser, Igor Sechin is the most prominent representative of the hard-line flank of the Russian elite.

Sechin heads Russia's largest oil producer, Rosneft, and his clout seconds only that of Putin. The 61-year-old Ulyukayev is the highest-ranking Russian official to be arrested in more than two decades. The case was viewed by many as Sechin's personal vendetta against Ulyukayev, who had been critical of a Rosneft privatization plan proposed by Sechin.

Ulyukayev was detained a year ago at Rosneft's headquarters following a sting operation by the Federal Security Service (FSB), the main KGB successor agency.

Sechin claimed in written testimony that Ulyukayev was extorting a bribe from him in exchange for issuing a positive assessment of Rosneft's bid to take over another oil company, Bashneft.

Ulyukayev denied the charges, calling them a provocation set up by Sechin. The minister argued that a person would have to be insane to try to extort a bride from the powerful Sechin.

Sechin has flaunted repeated court orders to testify as a witness at Ulyukayev's trial, citing urgent business. Asked Thursday about Sechin's failure to show up, Putin said at his marathon news conference that he saw no violation of legal procedures by his lieutenant.

A Moscow court on Friday also ordered Ulyukayev to pay a $2.2 million fine.



Idaho man upset with court tries to crash into courthouse
Court Watch | 2017/12/04 16:57
Authorities say an Idaho man tried to crash a car into a courthouse in downtown Boise because he was upset with the court system.

The Ada County Sheriff's office says 37-year-old Jonathan Joseph Locksmith drove toward the courthouse in the state's capital city Sunday morning.

According to authorities, Locksmith apparently made it onto the courthouse plaza in the car, spinning it around in a "doughnut" before landing the vehicle in a fountain. There were no injuries reported.

Locksmith has been arrested on a misdemeanor reckless driving charge and is now in jail.  It's unclear if he has an attorney.

The sheriff's office says Locksmith told a passer-by that he was upset with the court system and wanted to be arrested to go back to jail.


Walker signs bill inspired by cabin-owners' court fight
Court Watch | 2017/11/24 13:36
Just five months after an adverse ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court had her in tears, Donna Murr was celebrating Monday after Gov. Scott Walker signed into law a bill that gives Wisconsin property owners more rights.

The Murr family fought for more than a dozen years, and all the way to the Supreme Court, for the ability to sell undeveloped land next to their cottage along scenic Lake St. Croix in western Wisconsin.

One of two property rights bills Walker signed Monday will give the family the right to sell or build on substandard lots if the lots were legal when they were created.

The Supreme Court ruled against the Murrs in June, but hours later state Rep. Adam Jarchow was on the phone with Donna Murr promising her he would take the fight to the Legislature.

"It's been a long road," Murr said after she and six other family members came to Walker's Capitol office for his signing of the bill Jarchow and Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, introduced. "It just felt like a culmination of everything we've worked for, coming to a head today after so many years of struggling and battling."

Donna Murr's parents bought two adjacent lots in the early 1960s and built a cottage on one but left the other vacant as an investment. In 2004, Donna Murr and her siblings wanted to sell the undeveloped lot to help pay for renovations to the cottage, but county officials barred the sale because conservation rules from the 1970s treat the two lots as a single property that can't be divided.

The regulations were intended to prevent overcrowding, soil erosion and water pollution. The county argued before the Supreme Court that not enforcing the rules would undermine its ability to minimize flood damage and maintain property values in the area.

But the family claimed those rules essentially stripped the land of its value and amounted to an uncompensated seizure of the property. They sought compensation for the vacant property they were forbidden to sell. The government argued, and the Supreme Court agreed in June, that it's fair to view the property as a whole and said the family is owed nothing.

Now with the law changed in Wisconsin, the Murr family can sell the vacant section. Donna Murr said she and her siblings will take some time to decide what to do next.



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