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Tech Mogul, Marsy’s Law Advocate Faces Drug Charges In Las Vegas

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Authorities in Nevada have filed felony drug charges against a California tech billionaire and victim rights advocate arrested in August with what police said were briefcases full of drugs.

Broadcom Corp. co-founder Henry Nicholas III and a woman arrested with him, Ashley Fargo, were named in a complaint filed Wednesday in state court in Las Vegas.

Their attorneys deny Nicholas and Fargo committed any crime.

Police reported finding Fargo unconscious in a room at the Encore resort with cases with marijuana, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and tablets believed to be ecstasy.

Attorney David Chesnoff said Nicholas will fight the charges and noted his philanthropy and business accomplishments.

Nicholas has funded campaigns for states to adopt the so-called “Marsy’s Law” victims’ bill of rights.

Crime

Murder Trial of Former Navy SEAL Postponed Until May 2019

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SAN DIEGO (AP) — A military judge has postponed the murder trial of a Navy SEAL accused of fatally stabbing an Iraqi war prisoner.

The three-month delay came Wednesday after defense lawyers asked for more time to go over the prosecution’s evidence.

Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher has pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from a 2017 deployment to Iraq.

Prosecutors say he killed a teenage Islamic State fighter under his care and then held his reenlistment ceremony with the corpse.

They also accuse Gallagher of shooting two civilians in Iraq and firing inadvertently into crowds.

Defense attorney Phil Stackhouse said his team has received more than 1,000 pages of material from the prosecution since the end of January.

The trial has been reset for May 28.

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Crime

Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Convicted Of All Counts In US Criminal Case, Faces Life In Prison

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NEW YORK (AP) — Mexico’s most notorious drug lord, Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera, better known as “El Chapo,” was convicted Tuesday of running an industrial-scale smuggling operation after a three-month trial packed with Hollywood-style tales of grisly killings, political payoffs, cocaine hidden in jalapeno cans, jewel-encrusted guns and a naked escape with his mistress through a tunnel.

Guzman listened to a drumbeat of guilty verdicts on drug and conspiracy charges that could put the 61-year-old escape artist behind bars for decades in a maximum-security U.S. prison selected to thwart another one of the breakouts that made him a folk hero in his native country.

A jury whose members’ identities were kept secret reached a verdict after deliberating six days in the expansive case, sorting through what authorities called an “avalanche” of evidence gathered since the late 1980s that Guzman and his murderous Sinaloa drug cartel made billions in profits by smuggling tons of cocaine, heroin, meth and marijuana into the U.S.

As the judge read the verdict, Guzman stared at the jury without expression. When the jurors were discharged, he leaned back in his chair to catch the eye of his wife, who gave him a subtle thumbs-up.

U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan lauded the jury’s meticulous attention to detail and the “remarkable” approach it took toward deliberations. Cogan said it made him “very proud to be an American.”

Evidence showed drugs poured into the U.S. through secret tunnels or hidden in tanker trucks, concealed in the undercarriage of passenger cars and packed in rail cars passing through legitimate points of entry — suggesting that a border wall wouldn’t be much of a worry.

The prosecution’s case against Guzman, a roughly 5½-foot figure whose nickname translates to “Shorty,” included the testimony of several turncoats and other witnesses. Among them were Guzman’s former Sinaloa lieutenants, a computer encryption expert and a Colombian cocaine supplier who underwent extreme plastic surgery to disguise his appearance.

One Sinaloa insider described Mexican workers getting contact highs while packing cocaine into thousands of jalapeno cans — shipments that totaled 25 to 30 tons of cocaine worth $500 million each year. Another testified how Guzman sometimes acted as his own sicario, or hitman, punishing a Sinaloan who dared to work for another cartel by kidnapping him, beating and shooting him and having his men bury the victim while he was still alive, gasping for air.

The defense case lasted just half an hour. Guzman’s lawyers did not deny his crimes as much as argue he was a fall guy for government witnesses who were more evil than he was.

In closing arguments, defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman urged the jury not to believe government witnesses who “lie, steal, cheat, deal drugs and kill people.”

U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue called the conviction “a victory for the American people who suffered so much” while the defendant poured poison over the borders. He expected Guzman to get life without parole.

“It is a sentence from which there is no escape and no return,” Donoghue told a news conference outside the courthouse, through snow and sleet.

Lichtman said the defense “fought like complete savages” and will appeal the case. “No matter who the defendant is, you still have to fight to the death.”

He said his client was a positive thinker who “doesn’t give up.”

Upon hearing the verdict, Guzman was “as cool as a cucumber,” Lichtman added. “Honest to god, we were more upset than he was.”

Deliberations were complicated by the trial’s vast scope. Jurors were tasked with making 53 decisions about whether prosecutors have proven different elements of the case.

The trial cast a harsh glare on the corruption that allowed the cartel to flourish. Colombian trafficker Alex Cifuentes caused a stir by testifying that former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto took a $100 million bribe from Guzman. Peña Nieto denied it, but the allegation fit a theme: politicians, army commanders, police and prosecutors, all on the take.

The tension at times was cut by some of the trial’s sideshows, such as the sight of Guzman and his wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, showing up in matching burgundy velvet blazers in a gesture of solidarity. Another day, a Chapo-size actor who played the kingpin in the TV series “Narcos: Mexico” came to watch, telling reporters that seeing the defendant flash him a smile was “surreal.”

While the trial was dominated by Guzman’s persona as a near-mythical outlaw who carried a diamond-encrusted handgun and stayed one step ahead of the law, the jury never heard from Guzman himself, except when he told the judge he wouldn’t testify.

But his sing-songy voice filled the courtroom, thanks to recordings of intercepted phone calls. “Amigo!” he said to a cartel distributor in Chicago. “Here at your service.”

One of the trial’s most memorable tales came from girlfriend Lucero Guadalupe Sanchez Lopez, who testified she was in bed in a safe house with an on-the-run Guzman in 2014 when Mexican marines started breaking down his door. She said Guzman led her to a trap door beneath a bathtub that opened up to a tunnel that allowed them to escape.

Asked what he was wearing, she replied: “He was naked. He took off running. He left us behind.”

The defendant had previously escaped from jail by hiding in a laundry bin in 2001. He then got an escort from crooked police officers into Mexico City before retreating to one of his many mountainside hideaways. In 2014, he pulled off another jail break, escaping through a mile-long lighted tunnel on a motorcycle on rails.

Even when Guzman was recaptured in 2016 before his extradition to the United States, he was plotting another escape, prosecutor Andrea Goldbarg said in closing arguments.

“Why? Because he is guilty and he never wanted to be in a position where he would have to answer for his crimes,” she told the jury. “He wanted to avoid sitting right there. In front of you.”

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Capital Punishment

Death-Row Prisoners Ask Supreme Court to Review Georgia, Oklahoma Verdicts Involving Racist Jurors

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Georgia death-row prisoner Keith Tharpe (pictured, above left) and Oklahoma death-row prisoner Julius Jones (pictured, above right) are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to grant them new trials after evidence showed that white jurors who described the defendants with racist slurs participated in deciding their cases. The involvement of the racist jurors, the prisoners say, violated their Sixth Amendment rights to impartial juries. A juror in Tharpe’s trial gave a sworn affidavit years after voting to convict Tharpe, in which he wondered “if black people even have souls,” and said, “there are two types of black people: 1. Black folks and 2. N***rs.” Tharpe, he wrote, “wasn’t in the ‘good’ black folks category in my book, should get the electric chair for what he did.” In Jones’s case, a juror told Jones’s legal team that another juror had said the trial was “a waste of time” and “they should just take the n***r out and shoot him behind the jail.”

Tharpe and Jones argue that two 2017 Supreme Court decisions, Peña-Rodriguez v. Colorado and Buck v. Davis, require the Court to reconsider their cases. In Buck, Chief Justice John Roberts declared for the Court that “the law punishes people for what they do, not who they are,” and overturned a death sentence imposed after a psychologist testified that Buck posed a greater risk of future dangerousness because he is black. The Chief Justice wrote that “discrimination on the basis of race, odious in all aspects, is especially pernicious in the administration of justice,” calling racism a “toxin[ that] can be deadly in small doses.” In Peña-Rodriguez, now-retired Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for a five-justice majority of the Court that courts may consider a juror’s statement showing he had relied on racial stereotypes to convict a defendant as evidence of a Sixth Amendment violation.

In January 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a federal appeals court’s refusal to consider Tharpe’s racial discrimination claim.  Less than three months later, that court again refused to consider the issue, saying Tharpe had not previously presented it to the state courts. Jones has also repeatedly sought review of claims that racial discrimination has infected his case. He previously asked the Court to overturn his death sentence based on the findings of a 2017 study that showed significant racial disparities in Oklahoma’s death sentencing practices. On January 22, 2019, after having rescheduled consideration of Jones’s appeal 25 times, the Court declined to review the case. Samuel Spital, who was co-counsel in Buck’s case and is lead counsel on the brief of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund’s friend-of-the-court brief supporting Tharpe, said of Tharpe and Jones, “We know that these two men are facing execution at least in part because they’re black. Under those circumstances, the state just doesn’t have an interest in enforcing a death sentence, and for that reason, the procedural obstacles that you would have with respect to certain other claims should not be part of the analysis.” The cases are considered a bellwether of the post-Kennedy Court’s commitment to racial justice. [Death Penalty Information Center]

This post will be updated when new information is available. Due to executions and the appeals process surrounding them, information can rapidly change.

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