Archive for September, 2013

Barry Bonds’ Conviction Upheld

Monday, September 30th, 2013

On Friday September 13, 2013, Barry Bonds’ conviction of obstruction of justice was upheld in appeals court, with a jury ruling unanimously. Bonds, formerly of the Giants, was once known as the all-time and single-season home run record holder. Now he is also known as a child celebrity baseball player guilty of perjury in front of a grand jury.

A jury of 8 women and 4 men unanimously determined Bonds had lied to the grand jury about steroid use during his time in court in 2003.

Not only was the testimony considered by the jury to be untrue, it was labeled as misleading, evasive, and Bonds’ was openly called capable of misleading investigators and jurors alike.

The appeal came after Bonds’ was sentenced to 30 days of house arrest, $4000 in fines, 250 hours of community service, and two years probation in December of 2011. Bonds’ appeal didn’t go quite as he would have liked. The honorable judge Mary M. Schroeder, on behalf of a 3 judge panel, ruled that the run-on, rambling response to a question which referred to whether or not Bonds’ trainer, Greg Anderson, had ever given Bonds [drugs] that should have to be injected via syringe, was evasive to say the least.

Bonds’ argument was that his run on response, which brought up his childhood celebrity status- thanks to his celebrity father- should be accepted as it was a factual statement, not fictional, and his conviction should be reversed on those grounds. The jury did not feel the same way, as the answer provided to the grand jury in response to the steroid use questioning, though factual, evaded the line of questioning completely.

Judge Schroeder felt that not only did the answer evade the purpose of the questioning, she said it was meant to distract the attention of the grand jury from matters at hand.

Barry Bonds retired with 762 home runs. Less than two months after his final game in 2007, he was indicted on charges of obstruction of justice and perjury. Bonds is now 49 years of age.

Guantanamo Tapes ‘Not to be Released’- Rules Judge

Friday, September 27th, 2013

The government is not obligated to release Guantanamo interrogation tapes, found a US District Court judge on Friday September 13. The Center for Constitutional rights, or CCR, brought the case on behalf of Mohammed al-Qahtani, a man who had been held in connection with the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Though al-Qahtani was held in detention in Guantanamo Bay for several years, the charges against him were dropped. In its complaint, the CCR argued that the recorded evidence against al-Qahtani, comprised of videos and images, is a matter of public record and as such should be released.

Writing for the US District Court for the Southern District Court in the case of Center for Constitutional Rights v. Department of Defense, Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald found in favor of the Department of Defense (DOD). She found that the Government’s use of Exemption 1 from the Freedom of Information act was justified. The DOD had argued that terrorist groups would likely use the material for support, whether in fundraising, terrorist recruitment, or propaganda.

Additionally, Judge Buchwald did not find any evidence of human rights violations on the part of the interrogators. The CCR had argued that the tapes demonstrated transgressions by interrogators. Because of Judge Buchwald’s finding, there was no compelling argument against the DOD’s claim of FOIA exemption (referring to 5 USC § 552).
The Guantanamo Bay detention facility has been a magnet of controversy for over decade. It holds a number of detainees, many of whom have never been formally charged. The use of “enhanced interrogation” methods, such as waterboarding, on many of those detainees has been alleged to constitute torture. This latest ruling is a setback for prisoner advocates such as the CCR, but is not likely to end the public debate over Guantanamo. Though President Obama has promised to close the Guantanamo facility, the fate of the detainees held therein is still undetermined. The government has argued that it cannot bring cases against many of the detainees due to national security issues.

Judge Demands Office Stop Giving out Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

A judge in Pennsylvania recently ordered a clerk to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. A court clerk in Montgomery County, named Bruce Hanes, issued 116 marriage licenses to same-sex couples following a statement made by Pennsylvania’s Attorney General Kathleen Kane. She made an official statement that declared the Pennsylvania Marriage Law unconstitutional under the United States Supreme Court. She referenced the recent United States v. Windsor case. Commonwealth Judge, Dan Pellegrini, wasn’t happy with clerk’s initiative, and he immediately ordered Hanes to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Pellegrini stated that Hanes had no right to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The judge said that Hanes admitted to failing to comply with mandatory ministerial public duties under the Marriage Law. Hanes is also accused of waiving the mandatory three-day waiting period for same-sex couples.

It remains to be seen if the Marriage Law will be upheld as unconstitutional. Pellegrini is quick to point out that the unconfirmed issue has nothing to do with Hanes circumventing the proper forums. Will these couples have to give their marriage licenses back? Will the court stand behind them? Will the marriages be null and void?

Lawyers with the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Governor, Tom Corbett, debated Hanes’ actions in a legal filing. According to the filing, Hanes’ decision to issue same-sex marriage licenses was a separation-of-powers violation. They also stated that it could risk causing serious and limitless harm in the state. The Governor’s Office of General Counsel sent the Attorney General a letter stating that the Windsor case didn’t have anything to do with Pennsylvania’s Marriage Law.

There is no word on what will happen to the 116 same-sex couples who have already been issued marriage licenses. It would appear as though Hanes’ heart was in the right place. He heard from Pennsylvania’s Attorney General that the Marriage Law was unconstitutional, and he took it upon himself to rectify the situation. If it was against the constitution to withhold marriage licenses from same-sex couples, Hanes likely felt issuing the licenses was the right thing to do.

Prison Housing Bill Signed by California Governor

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Jerry Brown [D], Governor of California continues to stir up controversy regarding the Prison Crowding Bill (SB-105) that was recently signed into legislation. Brown just passed the Aseembly hurdle approving the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for $315 million in funding to reduce the California Prison Population to the Federal Court designated requirement of 137.5% of capacity. According to current statistics, many California jails are holding an inmate capacity of 200% or more. This amounts to a required shrinkage of roughly 9,600 inmates over the course of the next year. Governor Brown has been butting heads with the Senate for some time now as their priority has a focus on rehabilitation and improving mental health treatment to avoid repeat offenders which add to the overwhelming current state of Prison overpopulation.

Legal battles stem all the way back to 2006 in the Supreme Court when it was brought to light the deplorable living conditions and healthcare that California Prisoners were subject to. It was argued that the environments bordered on cruel and unusual punishment which is a direct violation of the Constitutional rights of the inmates. California Prisoners even made national news when they unified in a shocking hunger strike to demonstrate their protest for the horrifying conditions. Two specific inmate cases: Plata v. Brown, and Coleman v. Brown that were brought before a panel of 3 federal judges paved the way for the changes that are now coming about.

With bi-partisan fury acting as a roadblock in the Senate, there had been heated back and forth discussion on the suggestion to free over 10,000 prisoners by releasing them early before they finish their sentence. Governor Brown had expressed his lack of support for this option and believes it would be a threat to Public Safety if executed. One compromise that will effectively be put into action, is the transfer of thousands of inmates to county prisons and larger private jails to spread out the numbers and reduce overall population in high density prisons. Even with this compromise in the wing, there are still concerns being raised over the level of training that prison guards have among State vs. Private facilities and whether the lesser trained Private guards can handle the offenders being shipped to them.

Revealed at the September 11th Press Conference, the SB-105 Bill passed the Senate with flying colors with a 35-2 vote. Brown is expected to deliver an update for the Federal Judges on the status of the legislation the week of September 16th.

Multiple Violations of Employees Rights Found with Morco Geological

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

A year-long investigation by the US Labor Department has found that Morco Geological Services, a mud logging provider for gas and oil drilling firms, underpaid workers more than half a million dollars. The company attempted to avoid paying minimum wage, as well as overtime as required by federal law, by mislabeling employees as exempt workers. The workers, who provided support for oil and gas fracking companies, met the legal definition of employees. However, Morco treated them as non-employee labor and did not follow legal wage and hour requirements for employees.

According to a department spokesperson, employees were paid daily rates instead of hourly wages. Some worked shifts lasting as long as 24 hours for as little as $75 per day. Certain employees were forced to work up to 100 hours a week at less than half the federal minimum wage and were told they were not employees and were therefore ineligible for overtime pay. The investigation also revealed that Morco violated Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) recordkeeping requirements by neglecting to keep track of its employees’ hours.

“Our ongoing enforcement initiative seeks to identify and remedy such common violations to protect workers and ensure a level playing field for the law-abiding employers in this industry,” stated department official Cynthia Watson.

As a result of the investigation, Morco will pay nearly $600,000 in back pay to past and current employees who were underpaid due to the company’s improper classifications. Morco has also agreed to bring its recordkeeping procedures into line with FLSA requirements.

The investigation into Morco Geological Services was part of a much larger investigation into companies that participate in the oil and gas fracking process in the American Southwest. As part of the division’s efforts to prevent FLSA violations in the oil and gas industries, the division is making efforts to make employees aware of their federal rights and to provide employers with the information they need to bring their companies into compliance with federal guidelines.

Unexpected Side Effects from Adderal Alter Young Woman’s Life

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Adderall is a prescription that is often prescribed for individuals suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but it is also regularly abused by college students. The drug has been proven effective at helping them attain stronger focus and attention to pull long all-nighters to study for exams. Although students take the drugs as an assistant to get through school, Adderall may lead to dangerous medical problems. Adderall has been associated with significant risks, including seizures, stroke, heart attacks, and even accidental deaths.

Over a decade ago, Cindy was diagnosed with ADHD and was subsequently prescribed Adderall to help improve her focus. While in college in her early 20s, the amphetamine drug did the trick and helped for a short while. However, Cindy then started to experience a few psychotic episodes and developed seizures. Cindy admits that she would simply walk into a room and stop in her tracks, stuck in place from the impact of the seizures. During her psychotic episodes, she reports experiencing hallucinations and extreme paranoia, where nonexistent people were watching or talking about her.

Puzzled by these symptoms, Cindy conducted some research on her own and discovered the psychological side effects of the drugs, including Adderall bipolar disorder. Immediately, she stopped taking the prescription and made an urgent visit to a neurologist. The specialist confirmed that the Adderall was the cause of the seizures. She also informed Cindy that if she had continued taking the drug for much longer, the seizures would have gotten significantly worse.

Although the seizures and episodes have faded away for more than two years, Cindy still has to take seizure medications for the remainder of her life. In addition, she had to make the difficult decision to leave college due to her ADHD. Luckily, Cindy has learned how to live with the disorder without the harmful usage of amphetamines and found employment that suits her individual needs, but the lasting effects of Adderall continue to haunt her everyday life.

NFL Brain Injury Lawsuit Continues

Friday, September 20th, 2013

The wrongful-death lawsuit concerning a 22-year-old Frostburg State University football player is one of the most recent in a rash of brain injury lawsuits being held against the grueling game practices of the NCAA and the NFL. Named as the defendant in the concussion-related death of university student Derek Sheely, the National Collegiate Athletic Association has a reputation of poorly educating players about catastrophic injury, and does little to prevent concussions that can lead to brain trauma.

Derek Sheely collapsed shortly after walking off the field at a pre-season camp on August 22nd, 2011. The lawsuit alleges that this pre-season camp included extensive and grueling practice session that sent the players into intense and repeated head-to-head collisions. During this practice, Sheely was seen bleeding from his forehead before returning to the field for drills, and just prior to his collapse he reported a headache and other symptoms. The aspiring young player remained in a coma for six days before his death on August 28th.

According to one of Sheely’s teammates, the training that produced the fatal injury was ‘out of control’. The lawsuit brought against the NCAA alleges that Sheely was never checked for concussions during practice, and Frostburg’s team policy does not afford any specific treatment to injuries that could cause potential brain damage. The university’s team policy does not even contain the word ‘concussion’, and treats head trauma with the same regard as a sprained knee. This reflects the lack of concern that is alleged against the defense both in this lawsuit and in the potential NFL settlements over massive brain injury lawsuits.

Though the NFL claims that the safety of their players is a top priority, a record of preventable injuries and fatalities continues to inspire players and their families to seek millions of dollars in potential settlements. Likewise, the NCAA was founded in 1900 with a pledge to protect players, yet historically fails to provide players with the education and resources that could prevent stories like Derek Sheely’s from happening in the future.

Yasmin Birth Control Liked to Teen Blood Clots?

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

Blood clots aren’t normally associated with active teenagers, but an alarming number of cases reported around the world are drawing attention to the increased risk of blood clots for young women taking the birth control pills known as Yaz and Yasmin. Manufactured by the drug company Bayer, the two products contain the synthetic hormone drospirenone, which effectively prevents ovulation by altering the levels of natural hormones. In the United States, children as young as 14 can be prescribed Yasmin.

Like other birth control pills, Yasmin raises the risk for developing dangerous blood clots. In 2011, Canada’s governmental health agency Health Canada reported that the risk of blood clots is up to three times higher with birth control pills like Yasmin than with pills that do not contain drospirenone. Health Canada recently examined data reported from pharmacists and doctors between 2007 and 2013 and found that the deaths of 23 women were linked to the use of Yaz and Yasmin. Most of the women died from blood clots.

More than half of the deaths reported in the Health Canada study were young women. The youngest woman was just 14 years old at the time of her death. Most died shortly after they began taking the birth control pills. Some of the teenagers who developed blood clots after taking Yasmin were prescribed the drug not as a method of birth control but as a way to address irregular menstrual cycles. Teenagers are attracted to the pill because it is said to improve acne as well.

Even teenagers who survive blood clots can suffer permanents damage. A 17-year-old girl suffered a stroke that left her with impaired vision in one eye. Young woman who suffer strokes due to blood clots may need to take blood-thinning medications for the rest of their lives.

It’s estimated that as many as 10,000 lawsuits against Bayer are pending in the United States. The company has reportedly already paid around $1 billion to settle claims connected to Yaz or Yasmin. In a statement to Canada’s CBC news, Bayer stated that they “fully stand behind Yaz and Yasmin” and that “patient safety comes first.”

Community Concern Over Asbestos Drilling Mud

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

Community concerns over asbestos drilling mud and its health effects have been well documented, and recent reports from Oregon are causing concern for area residents. Drilling mud that contained asbestos was commonly used until the end of the 1980s, even though the substance was a known carcinogen that has been linked with lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. In a drilling rig, the mud is used to keep the bits cool and help flush out minor amounts of debris that naturally occur as part of the drilling process.

Many individuals who were employed in the oil industry were probably exposed to asbestos when it was used as an ingredient in drilling mud. As a result, some people may have developed fatal or serious health conditions that are related to asbestos exposure. Additionally, some employees were never given proper safety precautions and may have not been warned about the full risks that are associated with asbestos exposure.

In a report from the Corvallis Gazette Times on August, 15, 2013, an incident in which drilling mud entered the Marys River is discussed. While it is not known if the mud presents a hazard to the environment, the article highlights why area residents have a good reason to be concerned about their environment.

Another issue that should be noted is the possibility of asbestos exposure that occurs incidentally. Many people have succumbed to mesothelioma and other health conditions because they simply lived with people who worked around asbestos. The substance is easily transported in clothing, and anyone who comes into contact with these items is at an increased risk for asbestos-related health hazards.

A host of lawsuits have been filed by attorneys and plaintiffs against manufacturers and other companies who allegedly should have known about any health risks that are associated with asbestos and the products that are made from the substance.

Man Confesses to DUI Accident in Video; Now Faces Courts

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

22-year-old Matthew Cordle of Powell, Ohio has pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated vehicular homicide after killing 61-year-old Vincent Canzani in a drunk-driving collision. Cordle made headlines when he released a YouTube video confessing to the crime.

According to Cordle, he was out drinking with friends on the night of June 22, 2013. Although his blood alcohol level was well beyond the legal limit at 0.19 percent, Cordle chose to drive home. In his intoxicated state, he began driving the wrong way down Interstate 670 and struck Canzani’s Jeep. The Gahanna resident and father of two was pronounced dead on the scene at 3 am. Although Cordle was the only suspect, authorities elected to wait to arrest him until after his toxicology tests were processed.

Cordle asked founder Alex Sheen to help him record a video in which he confessed to killing Canzani while intoxicated. On September 3, 2013, Sheen posted the video on YouTube and linked to it on The video quickly went viral.

Cordle was criticized for releasing the confession video when he was already the only suspect in the investigation. Cordle asserted in the video that his legal counsel told him they could have his blood test thrown out if he pleaded not guilty. The prosecutor’s office stated that they had adequate evidence to charge him even before he released the confession video.

On September 11, Cordle appeared in Common Pleas Court for his arraignment. He pleaded not guilty in order to send his case to a different judge. His bond was set at $150,000. According to Cordle’s lawyers, he plans to plead guilty during his court appearance next week. He faces a maximum sentence of eight years in prison, although his lawyers say they are seeking a reduced sentence of four years.