Friday, April 25, 2008

Talk To My Lawyer, He's in INDIA.

Blue-collar factory jobs and assembly line jobs are not the only American jobs being sent over seas. Lawyers are out-sourcing legal jobs overseas also.

Mark Alexander, a Dallas attorney, says he's ethically obligated to do what's best for his clients, "and that includes saving them money." So when one of them asks him to research a securities-fraud topic, for example, or breach of contract, he doesn't even think about applying his $395 hourly rate. Instead, he calls Atlas Legal Research, an outsourcing company based in Irving, Texas, that uses lawyers in India to provide the service for $60 per hr. "When a client pays me a $25,000 retainer and I can save them money, I will do so," says Alexander. Handing off the work to a $225-per-hr. junior associate is not an option. "They don't even know where to stand in the courtroom," he says.

While the Americans learn, well-trained lawyers in secure offices in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), Bangalore and Gurgaon (outside Delhi), who typically earn $6,000 to $30,000 annually, do legal grunt work. Alexander's sentiments may explain why outsourcing is blossoming in the legal profession, which is known--and often despised--for its high prices. Law-firm partners bill at a national average of $318 per hr. and at $550 per hr. at large New York City firms, according to a 2007 survey by Altman Weil, a legal-consulting company. Starting salaries for attorneys at some large firms now stand at $160,000. So a U.S. company's simple problem can generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees.

The considerable savings is perhaps one reason Forrester Research, based in Cambridge, Mass., has projected the offshoring of 29,000 legal jobs by the end of 2008 and as many as 79,000 by 2015. It's part of India's inevitable move up the corporate food chain, from lower-value business process outsourcing--like call centers--to knowledge process outsourcing (KPO). The latter category encompasses higher-skilled jobs, such as engineering and medicine, and relies on the KPOs to behave more like branch offices of U.S. companies.

ValueNotes, a business-research firm based in Pune, India, says a subset of KPO called legal process outsourcing (LPO) has grown revenues 49% from 2006, to $218 million last year. The figure will nearly triple, to $640 million, by 2010, it says. ValueNotes counts more than 100 legal-services providers in India, ranging from a handful of overseas corporate legal offices, such as Oracle's and General Electric's, to companies that contract to provide low-cost legal services to U.S. and British businesses. Leaders include Integreon and LawScribe, both in Los Angeles, and New York--based Pangea3.

Persuading lawyers to export work wasn't an easy sell, says Ganesh Natarjan, CEO of seven-year-old Mindcrest, which has its headquarters in Chicago and employs 440 lawyers in Mumbai and Pune. "Lawyers are a risk-averse group, so it was a slow process for them to adopt the idea," says George Heffernan, vice president and general counsel. Mindcrest's services include document review, research and support for compliance functions. The last cost large companies an average of $2.9 million each in 2006, according to Financial Executives International in Florham Park, N.J.

Educating American lawyers about India's English-speaking attorneys, who are trained in a common-law system modeled on Britain's, helped change attitudes, at least among top lawyers for U.S. companies, Heffernan says. About 75% of Mindcrest's clients are FORTUNE 500 companies. Mindcrest hired 390 lawyers last year alone, a staff increase mandated by clients with some large-scale projects, it says.

But outsourcing worries some experts because the ethical rules that bind U.S. attorneys have no force in India. "Lawyers are being seduced by the business end of outsourcing and are not being concerned enough with the ethical issues it's raising. I'm deeply troubled that outsourcing companies do not understand the scope of a lawyer's duty to confidentiality, nor are they familiar with conflict-of-interest rules," says Mary C. Daly, dean of St. John's University School of Law in New York City.

LPO firms say they are up to the task of security and confidentiality. At Integreon's facilities in Mumbai and Gurgaon, for example, guards search attorneys' belongings to ensure they're not carrying flash drives or laptops, according to CEO Liam Brown. Computers don't have disc drives, usable usb ports or CD burners, and most can't print. Attorneys work for a specific client in areas called dedicated delivery centers, which are accessible via a fingerprint scan and monitored by cameras. Each room can hold up to 36 terminals--many of them with dual screens. The company never stores data locally. Rather, the lawyers work directly on the client's server and only over a secure line or via the Internet. The space becomes a "virtual extension of the company we're working for," says Abhishek Khare, head of the Gurgaon office.

Changes in litigation procedures are boosting momentum in the LPO trade. Amendments to federal rules require parties to share electronic documents, such as e-mail and Microsoft Office files. That typically means both sides must review thousands of documents to prevent the inadvertent disclosure of confidential information to the other party. The service costs about $1 per page in India but can range from $7 to $10 per page in the U.S. "Some clients don't want to spend that much, especially if they don't even know how much their damages could be," says Conrad Jacoby, owner of efficientEDD, a legal-technology consultancy in Dunn Loring, Va.

TransUnion, in Chicago, has successfully outsourced legal work for four years, according to general counsel John W. Blenke. "Every law firm is really an outsourcer. One lawyer usually can't do it all," he says. Indian attorneys are currently reviewing more than a million litigation e-mails for the company, which costs less than $10 per hr., he says. He would pay $60 to $85 per hr. to a U.S.-based legal-staffing company for the job. Blenke says he's cautious, however, about the work he outsources. "You can only do it with a few things. It has to be an area that you know well, so you can build processes around that," he says.

DuPont saved $500,000 in 2006 by outsourcing paralegal work to Chicago's RR Donnelley, which uses facilities in India and the Philippines to review documents for the chemical giant, says Thomas Sager, DuPont's chief litigation counsel. "There's been some internal resistance, and from the outside too, about working with providers thousands of miles away. But geographic separation is now a fact of life," says Sager.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Navy Lieutenant Refused To Report For Duty In Iraq.

Lieutenant Sabrina M. Weiner, U S Navy, was arrested and given a choice between a court-martial or less-than-honorable discharge after refusing to serve in Iraq.
She graduated as a valedictorian from high school and earned a Navy ROTC scholarship to Stanford University.

LT Weiner says she was not against the war but the so-called "individual augmentee" program. In the past several years, that program has sent nearly 60,000 sailors from ships and bases to augment Army and Marine ground forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. "It is not an against-the-war argument but a people-accountability argument," Weiner says. "I was proud to say I was a Navy officer. My problem is the way they are using us as IAs. It minimizes the job and training we do for the Navy."

LT Weiner was jailed, flown across the nation in shackles and threatened with court-martial.

"I'm not another Watada," she cautions, referring to the Fort Lewis Army active duty lieutenant, Ehren Watada. In 2006, Watada refused to accompany his Stryker Brigade to combat duty in Iraq, contending that the war is immoral and unconstitutional.

Unlike Watada, whose case remains active after moving from a military to a federal court last year, LT Weiner's was resolved within a month in February. And unlike the Army lieutenant, Weiner has not become an anti-war cause for Hollywood celebrities and peace activists.

Navy officials declined to discuss Weiner's case.

According to the Navy Department, 7,063 active and 5,050 reserve sailors are serving as individual augmentees, not only in Iraq and Afghanistan but also in the Horn of Africa and other locations.

LT Weiner says her job in Iraq was to have been commerce officer, providing money to local Iraqi leaders.

That gave her pause, not only because she was not trained for the job, but also because she is of Japanese, Korean and Jewish ancestry.

"They were going to have me negotiate money transactions with Iraqi warlords. A woman of Jewish and East Asian descent to try to talk to men about money in a country where women aren't always allowed to handle money," LT Weiner says.

LT Weiner's record and fitness reports before she was called up to IA duty indicate anything but a shrinking violet. She had earned two overseas service ribbons, commendation and achievement medals and was part of a Meritorious Unit Commendation.

After graduating from Stanford in 2001, Weiner started her career aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Essex, a vessel second in size only to aircraft carriers and which transports Marine landing forces. She was serving overseas during the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

She received glowing fitness reports:

"Assigned to arduous sea duty ... ," her commander wrote in one review. "Outstanding officer and Navy professional! On the fast track! Assign only to the most challenging jobs!"

She left active duty in August 2004, receiving high marks in her final evaluation in all categories but professional expertise.

By 2005, Weiner as a reservist worked as a research liaison officer at the prestigious Office of Naval Research. Her detachment was responsible for managing research in underwater unmanned vehicles and weaponry. She also served as the unit's public information officer. Her fitness reports continued to average "above standards" or "greatly exceeds standards." A commander called her "an excellent officer" and "a highly motivated self-starter."

Her last good report was November 2007, this time newly assigned to a joint service unit of the Selective Service System in New Orleans.

"She is most strongly recommended for promotion and greater responsibility in the Naval Reserve," her commander wrote.

It all unraveled on Jan. 9 when she received orders to be called up.

"I was not afraid of dying; I was afraid of acting out of weakness," she said. "It would have been easier to just go along with it." Weiner was to report Jan. 28. She was depressed, and she tried to call local Navy lawyers for advice. "I was told they could do nothing because I'm a reservist" with her headquarters in New Orleans, she said.

She turned to GI Rights hot line, a nonprofit organization at www.objector.netthat offers legal help to servicemen and women, especially to those refusing to go to war.

Weiner found a lawyer and filed a request for personal hardship. In a conference call, her commanding offer was angry at her, she said. "I never got to tell them why I was refusing to deploy," she said. He ordered her report to New Orleans.

Weiner said she refused to report while her request for exemption was in the pipeline.

A Navy official tried to reach her at her parents' home. Weiner was told to report voluntarily or risk arrest and being transported in shackles.

Weiner said she was preparing to pack for New Orleans on the night Everett, Washington police arrived at her door.

Weiner said she was booked and strip searched and did nothing to resist, and credits jail and military authorities who handled her arrest with "acting very professionally." Though friends and the GI Rights people knew of her situation, she wanted no action or protest. " I wanted to know what the Navy will do." Military police took over and escorted her in shackles, walking to help her conceal them and avoid attention through the airports from Seattle and in New Orleans. "The staff was kind and wonderful to me," she said.

She was flown to New Orleans, and the Navy was ready for her: Face detention, then a court-martial or accept an "other-than-honorable discharge", that is, a separation from the service in a middle ground, ranking below honorable and general discharges but above bad conduct and dishonorable discharges.

Wanting to teach and write after graduate school, she opted for the discharge. She was flown home the next day. Her final fitness report dated Feb. 20, 2008, sharply contrasts her earlier ones.

"LT Weiner's failure to report ... was counter to good order and discipline, negatively affected the command climate and represents a failure to live up to the Navy core values of honor, courage and commitment. LT Weiner effectively put her personal desires above the needs of the Navy team and the nation. ... LT Weiner is most strongly recommended for separation from the Navy."

LT Weiner feels she showed honor, courage and commitment. She wants to continue to serve her community, perhaps to apply her studies in bioethics to ensuring the safety of the food we eat.

"I want people to know about IAs, but there's a good side," she says.

"The Navy did the best it could. I have no hard feelings. We are there to serve -- we serve the constitution."

Sunday, April 20, 2008

USCG Veteran Sentenced To Federal Prison.

Morris Wade Hughes, a 20-year Coast Guard veteran, was sentenced Monday, 2 June, to nine months in federal prison for passing confidential information to his mistress, the owner of a fishing fleet who was convicted of hiring illegal immigrant workers.

Hughes, of Chesapeake,MD, also will serve five months of home confinement after his release from prison. U.S. District Judge Raymond A. Jackson imposed a $2,000 fine as well.

Hughes, 50, was found guilty of three misdemeanors in February involving unauthorized access of government computers and unlawful dissemination of confidential information. A jury acquitted Hughes of more serious felony charges.

During a three-year affair with Michelle Peabody, who runs the Newport News commercial fishing company Peabody Corp., Hughes passed confidential information to her regarding, among other things, the location of competing vessels.
Hughes, a law enforcement officer who had been stationed in Yorktown,VA sought to avoid prison time. But Jackson found that his violation of public trust was deserving of some incarceration.

Federal prosecutors sought even more prison time, arguing that Hughes lied on the witness stand during his trial.

Hughes is awaiting word from the Coast Guard on whether he will be granted an honorable discharge with full benefits, his attorney, Keith Kimball, an assistant federal public defender, told the judge in a court memo.

Peabody was sentenced to 90 days in prison for hiring undocumented workers. The two cases were uncovered during the same investigation

Coast Guard BM1 Benjamin Bostic has been charged with one count of bribery and one count of extortion. He is alleged to have taken payments from the family of an illegal immigrant who was trying to avoid being deported.

According to an indictment unsealed Thursday 17 April 2008 in Detroit, Michigan BM1 Bostic, 35, stationed at Coast Guard Station Belle Isle, Mich., accepted more than $35,000 in bribes from the family since September of 2006.

“These charges allege a serious breach by a member of our armed forces,” said an announcement from Stephen Murphy, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. “Protecting our waterways and enforcing immigrations laws is an essential duty of the U.S. Coast Guard. This betrayal of the public’s trust will not be tolerated.

BM1 Bostic was a law enforcement small-boat operator at his station. He has been reassigned to non-law enforcement duties pending the commencement of trial or disciplinary action by the 9th Coast Guard District Commander.

BM1 Bostic faces a maximum of 18 years in prison and fines of up to $500,000 if he is convicted.

(17 Dec 2008)Coast Guard Petty Officer Pleaded Guilty to Extortion
A former U.S. Coast Guard petty officer pleaded guilty to extortion Wednesday in federal court in Ann Arbor.

Benjamin H. Bostic, 36, of Macomb Township, admitted to taking more than $30,000 from the family of an illegal alien seeking to avoid deportation.

Bostic, who joined the Coast Guard in 1996, is to be sentenced April 14 by U.S. District Judge John Corbett O'Meara. He faces 36 months in prison under his plea agreement.

The U.S. Coast Guard spotted a fishing boat with 92 Ecuadoreans migrants aboard on Sunday 13 April in international waters off the coast of Costa Rica. The 72 men and 20 women aboard were in good health.
Ecuador’s Merchant Marines Office estimates that 4,859 Ecuadoreans have been rescued since 2004 while attempting to reach the U.S. illegally via Central America
The vessel had veered off course and had mechanical problems when the U.S. Coast Guard spotted it from the air on 13 April in international waters.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Appeals Court Judge Finds For Cadet Webster Smith

A Judge on the Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals found that former cadet Webster Smith was denied a fair trial and that the case should be sent back to the trial court for a new trial. He found that the Case of United States vs Webster Smith should be returned to the Convening Authority for a new trial.

The Judge found so many discretionary errors in the court-martial proceedings that he had no choice but to rule that Webster Smith had been denied a fair trial.

It was a classic case of "he-said she-said". The trial came down to simply a credibility issue. The big question was who was telling the truth and who was not.

This was a quetion for the jury to decide. It was a fact question. The jury is the trier of facts. The court-martial judge went to extraordinary lengths to keep the question out of the hands of the jury. He took it upon himself to decide the issue of credibility. That is why Webster Smith was convicted.

The jury had no idea what the real issue was. They were kept in the dark. They were not given proper instructions. The judge decided who was the more credible witness. The judge abused his discretion.

The judge went beyond the authority and power delegated to him under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and the Federal Rules of Evidence. Webster Smith was denied his Sixth Amendment Rights.

One does not have to read the Appeals Court decision to know that an accused at a court-martial has a right to cross-examine the witnesses against him. Anyone who has watched Perry Mason or Tom Cruise in the movie "A Few Good Men", would come away with an appreciation for the fact that the jury has the responsibility to decide what the facts are and who is not telling the truth.

When a judge does not allow the jury to do its job, he commits reversible error. When a judge confuses his duties with the duties assigned to the jury, then he has abused his discretion and that constitutes reversible error.

The prosecution was allowed to ask Webster Smith questions that were like bombshells that would cave in the sides of a Sherman Tank, but on cross-examination of the principal witness, the Defense lawyers were reduced to tip-toeing through the tulips. The uncorroborated testimony of the principal witness was a roadside bomb to Webster Smith's defense.

If the jury had only been allowed to follow the Yellow Brick Road and to resolve the credibility issue itself, then, at least, the trial of Webster Smith would have had some semblance of a fair trial. The trial judge was not taking any chances. He took matters into his own hands. He jumped onto the Scales of Justice and pulled them way down on the side of the Prosecution.

In a case where the principal witness was allowed to hide behind the military judge for protection from thorough cross-examination; and where facts and perceptions may have been dispositive of the ultimate issue, Truth can be elusive. In a case where a convincing and charming fabricator of facts can sway a jury that has not been fully informed, and where the jury has only been given some of the relevent facts, the judge left a lot of room for mischief on the part of a sneaky prosecutor. The judge left a lot of room for the imagination of the jury to run wild when he allowed the Prosecutor to introduce just enough evidence to put Webster Smith in a compromising position; but he denied the Defense lawyers an opportunity to explain the contradictions by cross-examining the principal witness. Then the judge left it to the jury to "connect the dots". This was terribly unfair to the accused, Webster Smith.

Webster Smith was reduced to "a bug under a glass jar" for inspection, and the principal witnesswas kept as snug as a bug in a rug. Eventually all of this discretionary "hokus-pokus" became so egrecious as to eliminate any possibility of a fair trial for Webster Smith. Finding the Truth became next to impossible. This case must be remanded for a new trial. To send the case back to the Superintendent of the Coast Guard Academy for a new trial is the only fair way to remedy the errors that were committed in the court-martial of Webster Smith.

The Founding Fathers and the framers of the U S Constitution provided procedural safeguards for criminal defendents facing the awesome powers on the Federal Government with a bottomless pocket and a legion of attack dog prosecutors. They gave him; among other rights, the right to remain silent, the right to trial by jury, and the right to confront and to cross-examine the witnesses against him. These rights are inalienable. These rights cannot be taken away; not by the Government, and certainly not by a part-time trial judge.

One judge on the Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals saw clearly how the legal system, the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, and the Military Rules of Evidence were misused to deny Webster Smith a fair trial.

It was due process without all of the process that was due.
It was military justice without fairness and very little justice.
It was a kangaroo court-martial.
It was (to quote Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas) a high tech lynching.
It is a stain on the Red, White and Blue.
It is a stench in the nostrils of a just God.
It will live in infamy.

Attorneys for former Coast Guard Academy cadet Webster Smith have filed a brief and a petition for review and appeal of his court-martial with the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. (Aug 2008). This is the last level of appeal before the U S Supreme Court.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Sixth Amendment Wounded By Coast Guard Court.

Good news travels fast, bad news even faster. Webster Smith is one step closer to the Supreme Court. That is the good news. He lost his appeal to the Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals. That is the bad news.

There is no joy in Mudville; Webster Smith has struck out. As far as the Coast Guard and its ability to right a terrible wrong is concerned, all men of goodwill are left bewildered. The Coast Guard no longer has the power to correct its own mistake.

The Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals by a narrow margin has made the wrong decision for the wrong reason. They have left the Sixth Amendment to the U S Constitution in shreds. {Footnote.(1)} By a majority of 2-1, they voted against Webster Smith. Only one member of the Appellate Court was able to see clearly the errors made by the Trial Court. There will be much said about this decision in the future.

Several pieces of the puzzle were missing at the Trial and the Appellate level. For the moment, let us provide just one missing link.

The Missing Link In the Webster Smith Case: Katie Collela

Most people know the basic premise of the story, the collusion of several young women that resulted in the court-martial of the first cadet at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Shelly Raudenbush Wyman was the lone victor of the several women that accounted for the 22 charges against Webster Smith. Why did she come forward over two months after Webster Smith was removed from classes, following the allegations by then Regimental Commander-Kristen Nicholson, her two best friends Shannon Frobel, Kristin Strizki and Nicholson's subordinates: Stacy Chmielecki, Keri McCormack, and Katie Collela?

During the Court-Martial, Webster was represented by LT Stuart Kirkby and Merle J. Smith. Neither believed that the charges would prevail for the government. They did not pursue details of Shelly's relationship with the other female cadets. They could not mention Katie Collela or call her to the stand, Captain Judge denied her as a defense witness. Besides Kristen Nicholson, she was the only person who could detail how and why she came forward. Her father had just been appointed the Dean of Students and wanted no part of it. This was not the only reason that Smith's attroneys did not further pursue Shelly. Shelly Raudenbush Wyman was charged with two UCMJ violations--including disobeying an order--by the Coast Guard Academy, to push her to cooperate. She consulted with an attorney before the Smith trial and would not testify in the May pre-trial hearing so that she would not incriminate herself. The academy did not give her prosecutorial or testimonial immunity until the day she testified.

Why did she come forward?

The only cadet that knew about Webster and Shelly's sexual relationship was then-cadet Katie Collela.
Katie Colella and Webster went out several times in November of 2005. Over Thanksgiving break when Webster decided to stay at the academy, he picked her up from Captain Collela's home in Ledyard, CT. They went out on the first of two or three dates, with the blessing of the Captain. The first night, they went to a club called Complex and outside of the Complex Webster told Katie about Shelly. Katie asked Webster to end it if he wanted to hang out with her.
Before the investigation, as the evidence revealed, Katie had not told the Regimental Commander about Shelly.
Katie played as integral of a role as Kristen Nicholson did in pushing the charges but when it came time to end Webster's career, she was nowhere on the charge sheet.
The circumstances around their relationship could not be crafted for a charge sheet and maybe she had a little more integrity than the others.
In February of 2006 when CAPT Wisniewski realized that Webster was not going to plead guilty to the original charges, he stood before the Corps of Cadets in the Chase Hall wardroom and asked for any additional female cadets to testify against Webster Smith.
Katie Collela, Shelly's track teammate, told Kristen of the conversation about Shelly. Kristen, the acting Regimental Commander, approached Shelly (Shelly admitted in trial) and several days later, she was interviewed by CGIS
Not only was there a question of criminal prosecution for Shelly, she squelched rumors to save her engagement to Grant Wyman by agreeing to help the girls with Webster Smith.
Shelly's fiance was not there to support her during any of the hearings or the trial
Shelly did not attend or testify against Webster at the sentencing hearing
Katie Collela was later kicked out on an Honor Violation
Webster's continued relationship with Shelly was never allowed into evidence in court. Breakfast and physical therapy in CDR Richard Shumway's office the next day, her lobbying webster to join the track team, and her frequent trips to Webster's dorm room to comfort him after several issues that Webster had with his ex-girlfriend Kristen Nicholson in early November were never allowed into evidence.
The court of appeals majority ruling stated that there was no reason for Shelly to misrepresent the truth in trial.

U.S. Constitution: Sixth Amendment
Sixth Amendment - Rights of Accused in Criminal Prosecutions

Amendment Text | Annotations
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Attorneys for former Coast Guard Academy cadet Webster Smith have filed a brief and a petition for review and appeal of his court-martial with the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. (Aug 2008). This is the last level of appeal before the U S Supreme Court.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

MySpace Lawsuit Dismissed.

The family of a teenage girl who says she was sexually assaulted by a 19-year-old man she met on asked a federal appeals court in March 2008 to revive their lawsuit against MySpace Web site.

A federal judge in Austin, Texas, dismissed the $30 million suit in February 2007, rejecting the family’s claim that MySpace has a legal duty to protect its young users from sexual predators.

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks also ruled that interactive computer services like MySpace are immune from such lawsuits under the Communications Decency Act of 1996.

The girl’s family asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans to overturn Sparks’ rulings. A three-judge panel heard arguments from lawyers on both sides of the case, but didn’t immediately rule on the appeal.

Harry Reasoner, a lawyer for MySpace and News Corp., said Congress enacted the 1996 law to promote the growth of the Internet and protect online companies from tort litigation.

"That doesn’t leave it unregulated," Reasoner told the judges. "Any of these Web sites can be prosecuted for criminal conduct."

Gregory Coleman, a lawyer for the girl’s family, said the law only gives MySpace a "limited shield" from liability.
"It has a responsibility to (protect) children," he said.
The girl, identified as Julie Doe in court papers, was 13 when she created a MySpace profile in 2005. MySpace requires users to be at least 14, but the girl misrepresented herself as 18 years old.

She was 14 when Pete Solis, then 19, contacted her through MySpace and corresponded for several weeks before he allegedly sexually assaulted her during a meeting in a Travis County, Texas, parking lot in May 2006.

The girl’s mother reported the alleged assault to police a day later. Solis, of Buda, Texas, later was indicted on a sexual assault charge - a felony punishable by a 20-year prison sentence - and is awaiting trial.

The girl’s family sued MySpace and its parent company, News Corp., alleging fraud and negligence. They claim MySpace markets itself to children but has failed to implement basic safety measures, such as age verification or privacy settings.

"It needed to take reasonable measures," Coleman said.
However, Sparks said requiring MySpace to confirm the ages of its more than 100 million users would "of course stop (its) business in its tracks."

"If anyone had a duty to protect Julie Doe, it was her parents, not MySpace," the judge wrote.
In court papers, lawyers for the girl’s family cite 11 cases between December 2005 and June 2006 in which adults face criminal charges stemming from contact with underage MySpace users.

MySpace has denied any wrongdoing. Although the site uses computer programs to root out underage users who lie about their age to create a profile, MySpace says it warns members that its safety protections are not foolproof.

"We warn parents. We have elaborate advice," Reasoner said, noting that Julie Doe circumvented MySpace’s safety features by misrepresenting herself as an 18-year-old.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

What Did You Do In The War, Daddy?

Bill Clinton is a draft dodger. George W. Bush received a deferement to the Texas Air Nation Guard. Ronald Reagan never served in the military, but he acted in a lot of military movies.

The Viet Nam War was very unpopular. Returning veterans were reviled. Some were spat on in public. From 1970 to 1980 we could not wear our uniforms in public without having a macho college prepie snatch our hat or cap and run awat with it. Our caps and ribbons were turning up as trophies in my college fraternity houses. It was not popular to be a veteran or to be on active duty. It was not until 1986 that Viet Vam veterans received a victory parade down 5th Avenue in New York.

The worm has turned. Things have changed in America. Candidates for Superior Court Judge in California, aspiring professors at the United States Military Academy at West Point are falsifying their biographies to indicate that they served in the Viet Nam War. Some are going so far as to claim military decorations for heroism and valor in the face of the enemy.

A Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge was kicked off the bench because he repeatedly lied about being a Caltech graduate, a wounded war veteran, and a CIA operative in Laos. Another judge earlier was ousted for malingering, excessive absenteeism, and attending a Caribbean medical school while on the judicial payroll. (Los Angeles Times, 8/16/01, page B6)

A baby boomer in Mississippi has been arrested and charged with making false claims about earning military decorations and medals.

Frank Thayer from Gulfport, Mississippi has been arrested on charges that he made false verbal and written representations that he had served in the military and been awarded the Purple Heart.

A news release from U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton said that 59-year-old, frank Thayer, also purchased Purple Heart and Bronze Star medals without legal authority.

An affidavit filed with the criminal complaint claims that Thayer allegedly misrepresented himself in an interview with WLOX-TV during a segment honoring veterans. The release says he later admitted he had never been in the military when interviewed by federal agents.

Thayer was released on an unsecured $25,000 bond after appearing in federal court.

A widely admired writer for Sports Illustrated, the late Pat Putnam faked his Korean War record.
His widely celebrated background as a Marine veteran and former Korean War prisoner of the Chinese — with four Purple Hearts and a Navy Cross — wasn’t true, Marine officials said Thursday, 1 May 2008.
Putnam, who died in 2005, does not exist in Marine Corps Archival Tapes, a list of Marine veterans that covers Corps history until about 1970. He also does not exist in any Marine medals databases, including one for the Navy Cross, the Corps’ second-highest military honor.
The revelation came just hours before the Boxing Writers Association of America was set to award the Pat Putnam Award at the association’s annual award dinner at the posh Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles.
Previous honorees include Muhammad Ali, honored in 2006 for his struggle with Parkinson’s Disease.
Bernard Fernandez, BWAA president, said he would still honor the 2008 recipients Thursday night, but would not mention Putnam.
“He had a substantial enough career as a major, big-time successful sports writer that he didn’t have to do this,” said Fernandez, a columnist with the Philadelphia Daily News. “Being someone in his line of work, I can’t believe he didn’t think this wouldn’t come to light eventually. He had to know this would come to light, and that people would get hurt.”
Fernandez said he first learned of potential inconsistencies in Putnam’s service record earlier this week when he was called by Chuck and Mary Schantag and Doug Sterner, who run Web sites dedicated to preserving the stories of war heroes and exposing fakers.
“They checked it 17 ways to Sunday, and it came up totally bogus,” Fernandez said. “He had us all fooled. You’re talking about media people (in the association), and he had us buffaloed.”
The Schantags and Sterner began investigating Putnam’s story after Fernandez wrote in a Philadelphia Daily News column on Tuesday that Putnam — the “rawhide-tough Marine” who “came back [from Korea] with four Purple Hearts and the Navy Cross” — would be happy with the 2008 selections for the award bearing his name.
Those winners, brothers Anthony and Lamont Peterson, grew up homeless in Washington, D.C., but are now top boxers in their respective weight divisions, Fernandez’s column said.
Putnam’s background as a Marine veteran and prisoner of war has been covered in numerous publications over the years, including Sports Illustrated, the Boston Globe and several boxing Web sites.
At the time of his November 2005 death, boxing columnist Michael Katz also recalled a 1988 trip to South Korea with Putnam to cover the Olympics in which Putnam introduced him to a Korean general in charge of the country’s amateur boxer program.
“Please turn around,” Katz recalled Putnam saying, on the Web site “I want to see if I recognize you.”
Fernandez said Putnam’s story became believable, in part, because he had one lung missing and a steel rod inserted in his back “many years ago.” Putnam perpetuated the myth that the injuries were sustained in combat, rather than a car accident, Fernandez now believes.
“The proof is overwhelming,” said Fernandez, who noted the association’s “overcoming adversity” award will not carry Putnam’s name next year.
“He told a little fib 50 years ago, and look where it is now. At some point, it passed the point of no return, and he couldn’t go back.”

Michael Allan Fraser, of Oroville, California has pleaded guilty to falsely representing himself as a decorated military hero from the Vietnam War.
Mr. Fraser, 62, claimed in an interview with the Oroville Mercury-Register in2007 that he was awarded two Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars for combat in Vietnam. He also claimed that he traveled to Vietnam with war veterans on a mission to “bury the ghosts of the past.”
A Colorado man who helped write the Stolen Valor Act, which was signed into law by President Bush in 2006, noticed problems with Fraser’s daring tale of valor.
He looked up Fraser’s record and found that he had served in the military as a veterinarian’s assistant in the Philippines.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Edmund F. Brennan sentenced Fraser to a fine of $500 and 100 hours of community service working with veterans.

LT Paul J. Pelletier, a Navy Reserve public affairs officer, is facing a general court-martial for allegedly forging an award citation and pretending to be a lieutenant when he was not.
LT Pelletier, 42, is charged with five counts of violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice(UCMJ), including failure to obey an order or regulation, making false official statements and going absent without leave. His court-martial is set to begin May 13.
According to the charge sheet, Pelletier put himself in for a Joint Service Achievement Medal at some point between June 20 and July 20, 2006, while serving with Multi-National Force in Baghdad. He served at Camp Victory in Iraq for nine months in 2006.
The award justification “outlined achievements he had not accomplished,” the sheet said.
About the same time, he wore the rank of lieutenant when he was actually a lieutenant junior grade, the sheet said. He continued to wear the unauthorized rank, the charge sheet stated, even though he had been ordered by a captain to stop. At the time, he was still a year away from being eligible for that rank.
Specifically, he allegedly told his commander he was commissioned in November 2001 — it was really November 2003 — and made lieutenant junior grade in November 2003. He actually made O-2 in November 2005 and was selected for promotion in June 2007. Pelletier was authorized to put that rank on in December.
Pelletier later racked up a few more charges while serving at the Naval Air Facility at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., in 2007.
He is charged with being,AWOL,absent without leave for a day around the beginning of August.
A few months later, in the first week of November, he is accused of attempting to impede an investigation by “removing two pieces of documentary evidence from the preliminary inquiry officer’s investigation report.”
Also in November, he allegedly had a firearm and ammunition in his barracks room at Andrews. Doing so violates standing orders and is also illegal under the U.S. Code.
His Article 32 hearing was held Dec. 15, 2007; and, he was arraigned March 10, 2008

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Pay Up or Die In Jail.

Failure to pay cild support lead to the death of R&B singer, Sean Levert, a third of the 1980s R&B trio LeVert and son of lead O'Jays singer Eddie Levert. He died after falling ill while serving a jail term. He was 39. Authorities said on March 31, 2008 that an autopsy was inconclusive but foul play was ruled out.

Levert was sentenced last week to one year and 10 months in jail for failing to pay $89,025 in child support. He died at Lutheran Hospital in Cleveland late Sunday, less than an hour after he was taken there from the jail, said coroner Frank Miller.

Levert was sentenced by Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Nancy Margaret Russo, who said a presentence report indicated he had been addicted to marijuana from the time he was 14 until recently. He didn't speak at his sentencing and gave no indication of any health problems, the judge said Monday.

His brother Gerald Levert, who had success as a solo artist after leaving their trio died in 2006 at age 40 of an accidental mix of prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

The brothers had formed LeVert in the 1980s with childhood friend Marc Gordon. Their hits included "Baby I'm Ready," "(Pop, Pop, Pop, Pop) Goes My Mind" and "Casanova."

"Casanova" was nominated for a Grammy in 1988 for best R&B performance by a duo or group with vocal. It was also nominated for best R&B song.

At Gerald Levert's funeral service in November 2006, Sean Levert and his father performed "Dance With My Father" and personalized the words for Gerald. The elder Levert's group, the O'Jays, was known for such smash hits as "Back Stabbers" and "Love Train."

Sean Levert found a new third partner last year and was trying to revive LeVert.
An autopsy was done Monday but no immediate cause of death was determined, according to Powell Caesar, a spokesman for the Cuyahoga County's coroner's office, but he said there was no evidence of foul play or trauma.

Levert suffered from high blood pressure and had been hallucinating in jail, Caesar said. Toxicology reports could take four to six weeks, he said.

Warden Kevin McDonough said earlier that Levert had been sick and guards were watching him at the jail's regular cellblock because he had been acting strangely.

Sean Levert had pleaded guilty last week to six counts of nonsupport involving children ages 11, 15 and 17.