By Dialogo September 03, 2010 Bernardo Mosquera Machado, alias Negro Antonio, former commander of the FARC guerrilla group’s Front 42, was sentenced to forty-six years in prison for an attack on a town in which four civilians and a policeman died in 1999, the Colombian attorney-general’s office announced Wednesday. Mosquera was found guilty of the offenses of aggravated homicide, attempted aggravated homicide, aggravated terrorism, robbery, and aggravated robbery, the attorney-general’s office specified in a press release. According to the decision by the First Circuit Court of the department of Cundinamarca, Mosquera was found guilty of “ordering, directing, and executing” the attack on the town of Cúmaca (in central Colombia) on 27 January 1999, which left five people dead and two police and four civilians wounded. The guerrilla fighter has been jailed since February 2009, after being taken prisoner in combat by the army. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC, Marxists) have been engaged in armed struggle against the state for forty-six years and currently have around eight thousand fighters, according to official estimates.
I write this comment from a place of the Dominican Republic called Moca to tell you that you have a good newspaper. I accessed this newspaper while looking for information for a news blog that I have. I liked this newspaper. Continue this way. I am a social communicator here in my town. www.radioideal995.com and my blog is correcaminodemoca.blogspot.com By Dialogo October 11, 2012 Heriberto Lazcano, alias “El Lazca,” leader of Mexican drug trafficking gang Los Zetas, was killed in a confrontation with Mexican Military forces in the toughest strike against drug trafficking made by the government of Felipe Calderón. However, shortly after, his body was stolen from a funeral home. Los Zetas is the cruelest criminal organization in the country. In recent years, the group extended its power towards the northeast border with the United States, along the Mexican Gulf up to Guatemala, and is currently engaged in a deadly fight with the Sinaloa Cartel, led by another wanted drug lord, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, who escaped from a high security prison in Mexico, in January 2001. The Mexican Prosecutor’s Office was offering a $2.6 million reward for Lazcano, born in 1975, while the United States was offering $5 million. According to the Navy, Lazcano and one of his men died in a confrontation on October 7 near Progreso (3,500 inhabitants), in the northern state of Coahuila and on the border with Texas. The Mexican Navy published photographs of the body with his fingerprints on October 9. The pictures were taken before the body was stolen on October 8, from a funeral home in the town of Sabinas. “Facial features match those of Heriberto Lazcano,” the statement said adding that “forensic tests continue on information and samples collected during the legal autopsy.” A heavily armed commando broke into the funeral home and took the corpse around 1:30 am on October 8, said Prosecutor Homero Ramos, of Coahuila, in a press conference. Lazcano was particularly known for his bloodthirsty character. Drug trafficking expert Ricardo Ravelo, author of a book about Los Zetas, told AFP that Lazcano “set the trend of decapitating” victims and recruited Guatemalan militias to execute bloody massacres. In 2010, Los Zetas broke ties with their old Gulf Cartel bosses, generating a bloody battle in the country’s northeast. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration confirmed that by the end of 2011, “El Chapo” Guzmán agreed with other criminal organizations to confront Los Zetas, whose ramifications extended through the Mexican Gulf up to Guatemala. In addition to drug trafficking, Los Zetas have practiced human trafficking and kidnapping of immigrants, extortion, and fuel theft. Among other bloody crimes, Los Zetas are accused of the massacre of 72 migrants in Northern Mexico, in August 2010, the largest slaughter attributed to a drug trafficking organization in Mexico. Another of the crimes attributed to “El Lazca” is the killing of 52 people, mostly women, in a Monterrey casino (capital of Nuevo León, north of Mexico) in August 2011, where they set the building on fire in broad daylight, apparently because the owner refused to pay for extortions.
By Dialogo April 15, 2013 WASHINGTON — As U.S. secretary of defense in the Clinton administration, William J. Perry often envisioned a place where scholars and officials from throughout the Western Hemisphere could study how the military functions in a democratic society. Perry’s idea would become the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies at Washington’s National Defense University. Yet once he left his post in 1997, Perry often wondered if the center would survive him. That doubt turned out to be one of the few misjudgments in Perry’s long military career, one in which he was key in the development of the Pentagon’s Stealth aircraft and Global Positioning System technology. On April 2, the CHDS was named in his honor during a ceremony at Fort McNair, where the project is located. Speaking to an audience that included his family, foreign generals and embassy dignitaries and former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn, the 85-year-old Perry reminded his audience that a civilian-run military shouldn’t be taken for granted. “That might be obvious and simple to all of you,” said Perry, speaking in the Abraham Lincoln Hall auditorium. “But believe me, it isn’t so simple in other countries.” Perry helped foster regional military cooperation Ideological resistance to the idea of wide-ranging cooperation among defense departments throughout the Americas was evident early in Perry’s tenure in the Clinton administration. The 19th U.S. secretary of defense recalled how he wanted to visit Mexico City to engage his counterpart, Gen. Enrique Cervantes Aguirre, and was told it was not a good idea due to lingering resentments against the United States dating back to the mid-19th century. “I wanted to push the reset button on relations with Mexico,” said Perry, who nonetheless pursued a relationship with Aguirre and in October 1995 became the first U.S. defense secretary in modern times to visit Mexico. The emerging friendship helped thaw relations between the militaries of the two neighboring countries and led to the first Defense Ministerial of the Americas in Williamsburg, Virginia, in August 1995. From these meetings, the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies — now the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies — was born in 1997. “This is very important for the exchange of ideas and understanding one another,” said Lt. Col. Ricardo Melendez, a military attaché to the Mexican Embassy who attended the ceremony. “It’s good to know how the United States has achieved” balance between military officials and the civilian agencies which direct them. The glaring exception to hemispheric cooperation is Cuba. In the autumn of 1962, Perry — then director of a private defense laboratory in California — was summoned to Washington by the Kennedy administration to help assess the threat of Soviet missile bases in Cuba. Words of praise from Paul Kern, Ashton Carter Also present at the CHDS ceremony was a man who accompanied Perry on some of the most historic events of the 1990s, including the 1995 Dayton Accords which effectively ended Bosnia’s civil war. That man is retired Army Gen. Paul J. Kern, Perry’s senior military assistant during his tenure as defense secretary. “Without Secretary Perry’s influence, we would never have gone into the Balkans,” said Kern, 67, former commanding general of the U.S. Army Material Command. “He re-energized NATO to act as things were getting worse [in the former Yugoslavia] instead of better.” It was also a moment when a Russian brigade joined an American division in Bosnia, marking bilateral military cooperation for the first time since the end of World War II. “Bill helped negotiate peace in the Balkans and welcomed Russia into the KFOR” international peacekeeping force in Kosovo, said Dr. Ashton B. Carter, 58, a protégé of Perry’s who introduced him at the re-naming ceremony. “Vision and integrity equals Bill Perry,” said Carter, currently the nation’s deputy secretary of defense under Chuck Hagel. “His achievements were highlighted in the Ukraine in the summer of 1996 when the last nuclear weapons left that country.” But it was progress on this side of the world that the pomp — accompanied with song by the United States Marine Brass Quintet — was all about. Inscribed on the Perry Center’s seal are the Latin words mens et fides mutual which mean “understanding and mutual trust. Renaming ceremony helps Perry’s legacy endure The center was inaugurated Sept. 17, 1997, about eight months after Perry left the Pentagon. Its aim is to foster partnerships with other nations while advancing defense and promoting civilian-military relationships in democratic societies. And it does this through a variety of academic projects, research and outreach programs. Other activities include post-graduate seminars in national security planning workshops. The center began accepting its first students in early 1998. Kenneth A. LaPlante, acting director of the Perry Center, said it took an act of Congress and just over five years to get the center renamed for Perry. LaPlante noted that during Perry’s tenure as defense secretary, three other centers with similar goals were established around the world: the Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Germany; the Asia Pacific center in Hawaii and the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, also on the NDU campus at Fort McNair. All of these things, Perry said, show “just how much the world has changed, just how much our security has changed … how much the Department of Defense has changed and just how much [the job of secretary of defense] has changed. Those changes, as well as stories about the man who helped bring them about, are being documented by Perry’s daughter Robin, who now assists her father with writing his memoirs. “When we were growing up back in Palo Alto, we thought of him as just a father who loved his family,” she said. “But when Dad went to the Pentagon for the first time in 1977, we all knew how accomplished he’d become.” Let’s follow the example of William Perry’s vision. His capacity for equilibrium, for mutual understanding between soldiers and civilians, which lead us towards development with peace, justice and safety. It is a good tribute for those of us that follow him.
The ICONS program seeks expertise in accelerator and plasma science, high-voltage engineering, enabling multi-function materials, integrated design optimization, and pulsed power. “We’re looking for innovative designs and construction methods to shrink a neutron accelerator from 10 meters or longer down to 1 meter or less, similar to the size of portable X-ray tubes today,” said Vincent Tang, DARPA program manager. “Creating a high-yield, directional neutron source in a very compact package is a significant challenge,” Tang added. “But a successful ICONS program would provide an imaging tool with significant national security applications, able to deliver very detailed, accurate internal imaging of objects in any setting.” Seeking to expand the United States’ capability to detect and identify materials that are not easily visualized by conventional imaging technologies, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) released an announcement inviting proposals to develop portable, next-generation imaging tools that combine the complementary benefits of X-ray and neutron radiography. X-Ray imaging has proven invaluable in a host of military and commercial applications—from spotting tiny cracks in aircraft wings, to making medical diagnoses, to scanning passengers’ bags to keep the flying public safe. As useful as X-ray scanning is, however, it is limited in what it detects. For example, while X-ray radiography can highlight heavier chemical elements very well (think of shiny silver fillings on a dental X-ray), it’s not very good at revealing lighter elements, such as hydrogen. That’s why X-ray radiography machines are generally “blind” to water or other liquids. DARPA’s new Intense and Compact Neutron Sources (ICONS) program seeks to develop a portable unit able to generate both neutrons and X-rays. Such a device would harness the complementary strengths of the two imaging sources and enable much more detailed radiography in field settings. The ICONS program seeks expertise in accelerator and plasma science, high-voltage engineering, enabling multi-function materials, integrated design optimization, and pulsed power. By contrast, neutron radiography—which uses neutrons to image objects—is very good at visualizing lighter elements and liquids, in some cases even identifying a substance’s atomic makeup. Unfortunately, neutron sources are not nearly as portable and practical as X-ray machines, typically extending up to tens of meters in length and requiring powerful energy sources to generate the neutrons. DARPA’s new Intense and Compact Neutron Sources (ICONS) program seeks to develop a portable unit able to generate both neutrons and X-rays. Such a device would harness the complementary strengths of the two imaging sources and enable much more detailed radiography in field settings. “We’re looking for innovative designs and construction methods to shrink a neutron accelerator from 10 meters or longer down to 1 meter or less, similar to the size of portable X-ray tubes today,” said Vincent Tang, DARPA program manager. “Creating a high-yield, directional neutron source in a very compact package is a significant challenge,” Tang added. “But a successful ICONS program would provide an imaging tool with significant national security applications, able to deliver very detailed, accurate internal imaging of objects in any setting.” By contrast, neutron radiography—which uses neutrons to image objects—is very good at visualizing lighter elements and liquids, in some cases even identifying a substance’s atomic makeup. Unfortunately, neutron sources are not nearly as portable and practical as X-ray machines, typically extending up to tens of meters in length and requiring powerful energy sources to generate the neutrons. For example, Tang said, ICONS could enable non-destructive evaluation of military equipment with greater fidelity than X-rays, revealing water penetration and corrosion in aircraft wings and welds on ships. Neutron imaging could also help detect explosives and contraband by identifying the chemical and atomic make-up of an object or its contents. And it could assist in forensics and attribution, such as differentiating sources of ammunition through imaging of the propellant fill levels. X-Ray imaging has proven invaluable in a host of military and commercial applications—from spotting tiny cracks in aircraft wings, to making medical diagnoses, to scanning passengers’ bags to keep the flying public safe. As useful as X-ray scanning is, however, it is limited in what it detects. For example, while X-ray radiography can highlight heavier chemical elements very well (think of shiny silver fillings on a dental X-ray), it’s not very good at revealing lighter elements, such as hydrogen. That’s why X-ray radiography machines are generally “blind” to water or other liquids. For more information, visit: http://go.usa.gov/dWJw. By Dialogo January 01, 2015 For example, Tang said, ICONS could enable non-destructive evaluation of military equipment with greater fidelity than X-rays, revealing water penetration and corrosion in aircraft wings and welds on ships. Neutron imaging could also help detect explosives and contraband by identifying the chemical and atomic make-up of an object or its contents. And it could assist in forensics and attribution, such as differentiating sources of ammunition through imaging of the propellant fill levels. Seeking to expand the United States’ capability to detect and identify materials that are not easily visualized by conventional imaging technologies, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) released an announcement inviting proposals to develop portable, next-generation imaging tools that combine the complementary benefits of X-ray and neutron radiography. For more information, visit: http://go.usa.gov/dWJw.
By Geraldine Cook/Diálogo February 01, 2017 El Salvador has intensified its fight against the country’s criminal organizations, especially gangs. New government regulations and the participation of the Armed Forces are part of the strategies to eliminate the illegal structures of criminal organizations.Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 are two of the main Salvadoran gangs involved in, among other criminal acts, drug trafficking, arms smuggling, human trafficking, extortion, and kidnapping. According to a report from the Central Reserve Bank of El Salvador published in April 2016, the violence generated by gangs cost the nation $4 million.The financial cost and national and regional security concerns caused by gangs worry Colonel Salvador Ernesto Hernández Vega, general Chief of Staff of the Salvadoran Air Force. That is why since assuming office in December 2015, he has supported his country’s Armed Forces role in helping to keep the peace internally and to defend the sovereignty and integrity of domestic airspace. Combating gangs in his country and throughout Central America has become one of his fundamental priorities.Col. Hernández spoke with Diálogo during the Central American Air Chiefs Conference, held December 12 and 13, 2016 at the Davis-Monthan Air Base in Tucson, Arizona.Diálogo: What is the importance of El Salvador’s presence at the Central American Air Chiefs Conference?Colonel Ernesto Hernández Vega: Participation is important to me because one can meet and interact with leaders from the region’s air forces. I think that it’s quite important. If we are seeking integration in the region and collaboration amongst ourselves, then what could be better than meeting each other and being able to exchange ideas and experiences and, why not, needs and problems? All of this enriches the region and gives us tools to be able to interact and face problems or solutions jointly.Diálogo: What is El Salvador’s goal for its participation in this conference?Col. Hernández: We want to collaborate to prevent transnational crimes like smuggling and the illicit trafficking of drugs through the Central American region. One of our objectives is this: for them to stop using our maritime, land, or air territory for this type of illicit activity. Likewise, it is a good opportunity for us to exchange ideas, propose solutions, or listen to solutions that could benefit the region and El Salvador itself.Diálogo: Which are the most important security issues facing El Salvador?Col. Hernández: Currently, the main issue facing El Salvador is gangs. We have a high daily death rate resulting from this blight, followed by drug trafficking, but I don’t think trafficking affects El Salvador as much as consumption does. Our main problem is gangs, which also affect the country’s economy, stability, and security.Diálogo: What agreements/collaboration programs does your country have with the United States and other partner nations in the region to face these kinds of issues?Col. Hernández: Coming here and being able to interact with various participants in the region demonstrates our collaboration with these countries. El Salvador has collaborative programs with Air Forces Southern and U.S. Southern Command. We’ve also had the opportunity to exchange ideas, recommendations, and solutions with the New Hampshire National Guard, which is our partner state [in the State Partnership Program]. Additionally, this meeting involves several members of the System of Cooperation among the American Air Forces (SICOFAA, per its Spanish acronym), which is an excellent program aimed at regional integration, trust-building, cooperation, and finding solutions to regional problems. It is a regional program that is very beneficial and also gives us the opportunity to interact with leaders from the air forces of Central America. In El Salvador and the Dominican Republic, we have the Central American Armed Forces Conference (CFAC, per its Spanish acronym), which is another beneficial tool, another program to face all the current challenges for the regional armed forces and, specifically, the air forces.As countries from the Central American region, I think that, like many other air forces, we have many weaknesses, such as the scarcity of resources, and I am convinced that we can only face and create solutions to these regional problems by integrating as a region.Diálogo: In terms of SICOFAA, as a member country, what do you think is the importance of this type of integrated cooperation system?Col. Hernández: SICOFAA is quite important because it allows the air forces to know each other better, to have more trust and greater cooperation among air forces. SICOFAA facilitates cooperation, consulting, and the resolution of problems through the kinds of close relationships that we have forged as members.Diálogo: As head of the Salvadoran Air Force, what is your biggest challenge?Col. Hernández: Our fundamental challenge, just like any other air force in the region or the world, is resources. Maintaining and developing an air force anywhere, regardless of what air assets you have, is expensive. So one of the challenges is maintaining an air force that is versatile, competent, useful to the region, and also has personnel that is suitable and appropriately trained to face the challenges that every air force has.Diálogo: Colonel Hernández, would you like to add anything else for readers in the region?Col. Hernández: First, I would like to thank Air Forces Southern for this invitation, and, second, I would like to invite all the air force members who attended [the Central American Air Chiefs Conference] to join forces with each other because integration is the only tool that will give us answers to the needs and issues we have as the Central American region.
By Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo May 23, 2017 The Guatemalan Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Naval Construction Battalion (known as the Seabees), participated in the Water Well Drilling Course. The course was part of a training program for infrastructure projects that the engineering corps will carry out in August to provide drinking water to remote communities in Guatemala. Members of the Honduran Army and the Colombian Army also attended the course, held from April 9th to the 15th in Gulfport, Mississippi. U.S. specialists shared their knowledge and advanced skills on deep-well drilling for groundwater extraction. Participants learned how to operate high-tech equipment and well-drilling vehicles to collect pure water, as well as how to optimize resources for the purpose of achieving larger and better objectives using the fewest resources possible. “This course was a refresher for us mainly in the handling of rotary drilling machines. This is bigger equipment with greater capacity, and it’s more complex than the percussion drilling equipment that we have in our service organization,” said Second Lieutenant Alfonso José Jiménez Dubon, an engineering officer and commander of the Guatemalan Army Corps of Engineers’ Water Squad, who attended the training. During the course, service members shared information and experiences about the features of the area where the infrastructure projects in their respective countries will be implemented. For example, the Colombian Army will be working in a strategic desert area, the Honduran Army will be drilling wells in a mountainous area, and Guatemalan service members will be in a region that is close to the sea. In addition to fighting transnational organized crime organizations, drug trafficking, and gangs, the Guatemalan Army cooperates on supporting domestic development activities. In the 1970s this service branch started to explore underground hydrological resources through well drilling to supply Army units and civilian populations located farthest from these services. Since that time, the water table in Guatemala has dropped to approximately 520 meters. Before, underground water could be found at 130 meters, according to the report “Scarcity of Potable Water in Guatemalan Cities,” published by the Science and Technology Research and Forecasting Institute in 2015. In addition, the report “Water in Guatemala,” issued in 2014 by the social service foundation Archdiocese Charity of Guatemala, indicated that 90 percent of surface water sources are polluted and close to 40 percent of the population does not have access to potable water. “This has us in a bit of a bind because we only have drilling equipment that can reach 122 meters. Having modern drilling systems would help us revitalize all the water sources that we have and those that we opened up [years ago]. Currently, those wells aren’t in use because they are too deep to be useful to us,” Colonel Gustavo Méndez Morán, second commander of the Guatemalan Army Corps of Engineers, told Diálogo. “Because of the reduced supply of surface water and the pollution of many of more shallow aquifers, extracting underground water to provide clean water to the people is vital,” Col. Méndez added. During the second week of August, a Seabees detachment will travel to Guatemala to extract underground water through wells. To carry out drilling projects in the municipality of Puerto Barrios, in Izabal department, service members will take high-tech machinery that can drill to a depth of more than 305 meters and support equipment that will be transported on board a U.S. Navy vessel. In this assignment, both of the Guatemalan service members who took part in the drilling course will assist the U.S. experts in the infrastructure projects in Puerto Barrios. “We are ready for this assignment. Once again, we will have the opportunity to learn and to exchange knowledge with U.S. specialists in civil engineering and construction.” Second Lt. Jiménez noted that a well is not simply a hole that has been dug. It is a structure that must meet technical, environmental, economic, and health specifications, among others. It must have a durable, efficient, and high-quality infrastructure. “A couple of wells will provide potable water to outlying communities on the Atlantic coast of Guatemala and to the military unit [Marine Brigade] in Puerto Barrios. All of the water tables in that area are totally polluted,” Col. Méndez stressed. “This cooperation and training will really improve our capabilities as an engineering corps.” For years, the Guatemalan and the U.S. armed forces have cooperated on education, training, security, and defense matters. In 1999, officers from U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) documented the general situation with water resources in Guatemala, so they could provide accurate information to U.S. military researchers, plan various joint engineering exercises intended to provide humanitarian assistance to the civilian population, and help ensure that the Guatemalan government could maximize its use of water resources. “For Guatemala, the support we get from the different branches of the U.S. military means a lot. Thanks to their cooperation, we have taken a number of actions that contribute to community development in the most remote communities with major problems of the country,” Col. Méndez said. “According to the planning, the U.S. military group will work directly with the Guatemalan Ministry of Defense on two wells, and with other Guatemalan government agencies or municipalities on other [wells] around the country,” he concluded.
Rules panel asks for DNA testing extension October 1, 2003 Gary Blankenship Senior Editor Regular News Rules panel asks for DNA testing extension Senior EditorAfter hearing an impassioned plea from two law professors, a Bar rules committee has voted to seek an emergency extension giving inmates more time to seek DNA testing that could exonerate them.The Criminal Procedure Rules Committee voted 23-10 on September 5 to seek the rule change. It filed an emergency petition with the Supreme Court on September 17 to extend the filing deadline for testing DNA evidence from October 1, 2003, to October 1, 2004. The committee met in Tampa during the Bar’s General Meeting.Acting days after the committee vote, the Bar’s Executive Committee endorsed the change, with Bar President Miles McGrane thanking rules committee Chair Judge Olin Shinholser “for the courage of what your committee did.”And state Sen. Alex Villalobos, R-Miami, filed SB 44, a shell bill, stating that, “The legislature intends to revise laws relating to DNA evidence following conviction.” Villalobos, who chairs both the Senate Judiciary and Criminal Justice committees, said he intends to have a joint meeting of the two panels later this month to address the issue.Two and a half years ago, the rules panel voted to seek an amendment allowing convicted inmates to seek DNA testing of evidence that could exonerate them. The committee recommended the two-year deadline.Shortly afterward, the legislature passed its own law, setting a two-year limit expiring October 1, 2003, for seeking the DNA testing. Noting the law and the committee’s majority vote, the court set the two-year limit.The problem, according to Nova Southeastern University law Professor Catherine Arcabascio and Florida State University law Professor Sandy D’Alemberte, is two years wasn’t enough time to review all of the cases. The two professors head the Innocence Project at their respective schools, which seeks DNA testing in criminal cases when it could lead to exoneration.D’Alemberte said the debate over the extension usually gets tied up in emotions involved in delaying death penalties, but the two schools work only with noncapital cases. There are hundreds which have not been reviewed, he added.“The sentence of everyone in the Florida Innocence Project is being carried out. The sentence is not being delayed,” D’Alemberte said. He added there’s no reason for attorneys representing the inmates to delay seeking the DNA test, either.The problem has come from inadequate resources to screen cases. Both law schools use volunteer law students to examine cases, but they have hundreds to tackle, and it can be an involved process.D’Alemberte said the volunteers have to track down files, determine whether DNA testing would make a difference, and see if the evidence still exists. Then they have to find a pro bono attorney to take the case.He also argued that the extension would improve the administration of justice. Without the longer date, inmates will flood the courts with last-minute petitions for testing, including mostly cases where testing won’t help — and the courts will have to sort through the cases, he said.So far, D’Alemberte estimated that screening has shown DNA testing won’t help or the evidence isn’t available in the overwhelming majority of the cases, which saves valuable court time. Nationally, of the cases that have been screened and gone through court, about 40 percent have resulted in exonerations, he said.Committee member Abe Laesser, who chaired a subcommittee which studies the exemption, questioned whether it would do any good because one year wasn’t enough time to deal with the backlog.D’Alemberte didn’t disagree.“I don’t want to represent to you it can be done in a year,” he said. “But not one of these cases and lawyers has any interest in delay.”He estimated it would take $5 million and three years to work through the backlog.Arcabascio said her Nova project has screened 800 cases, which has led to the filing of seven cases, and she expected another 15 would be filed by the October 1 deadline. There are still 300 cases that need to be screened there, she said. FSU has 297 cases awaiting screening.Committee member George Tragos said he had just accepted a screened case, and knowing someone had already reviewed the records will help meet the filing deadline.“The time limit was artificial when we set it,” he said. “It was set because we didn’t have any time records or statistics to show us whether that time was reasonable. They now have the history to show that time wasn’t reasonable.”A one-year extension is like a sunset, he said, noting the Innocence Project will have to justify any further continuance.Laesser said his subcommittee originally voted 3-2 in favor of a one-year extension, but then one member, who thought he could not vote, discovered he could, and that made it a 3-3 tie. Laesser said as chair he would vote to break the tie by opposing the extension.He said he was concerned about delays and the lack of guarantees the backlogs could be addressed in a timely fashion.“I don’t have a strong way of knowing how many of those hundreds of cases that are in the pipeline are going to be closed if we agree to an extension,” Laesser said. He added if the extension failed, his subcommittee would look at lowering the standards in existing rules that would allow waiving the time standards.Committee members also had questions whether the Supreme Court had the authority to change the time limit when it had been established in law by the legislature. D’Alemberte argued that under Allen v. Butterworth, (case no. SC00-113), decided by the court in 2000, that the justices could amend the rule.Following Chair Shinholser’s ruling that the subcommittee had voted 3-3 to not recommend the rule change, the panel voted 20-10 to reject that recommendation. It then voted 23-10 — three votes more than the two-thirds required — to seek the one-year extension. By a majority vote, the committee decided to seek an emergency amendment since waiting for the normal two-year cycle rule review would render the one-year extension moot.Bar Executive Committee members, when they met September 16, also expressed concern about whether the court could amend the rule without further legislative action. Bar General Counsel Paul Hill told the members that’s a borderline question depending on whether the change is seen as procedural — which is under the court’s purview — or substantive, which is under legislative oversight.The committee, which acts for the Board of Governors between its meetings, voted 11-0 to endorse the change and to support seeking an emergency rule amendment from the Supreme Court.McGrane reported that as a courtesy he had informed the Governor’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office about the proposed amendment. He said the Attorney General’s Office indicated they would not take a position on the extension.Villalobos said he was approached by attorney Barry Scheck during the last week of the session. Scheck, who runs the national Innocence Project, asked Villalobos to introduce a bill to extend the deadline — the first time the senator knew there was a problem.He said he told Scheck it was too late in the session to introduce legislation.Then a few weeks later, D’Alemberte and Arcabascio visited to further explain, and Villalobos said that was the first time he realized virtually everyone affected by the deadline was not on Death Row.The original two-year deadline was a time frame agreed to by prosecutors, the three Capital Collateral Regional Counsel offices. “When we were doing the hearings [on the bill], no one complained about the time limits,” Villalobos said.He agreed with Arcabascio and D’Alemberte that there is a legitimate concern, and consequently scheduled the rare joint meeting of the two Senate committee’s concerned with legal matters.“We will invite them, and state attorneys, and the attorney general and all interested parties and see if we can come up with language to solve this,” Villalobos said.He added the bill now contains no details because “I really want to wait and see what the testimony airs out. For all I know, there might be some other unforeseen circumtances. That’s why it’s important to get everyone together at one place.”The committees’ meeting is set for October 21.
December 1, 2003 Regular News Briefs Roth wins AFTL’s Nichols Award Neal Roth was recently awarded the Perry Nichols Award by the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers. The Perry Nichols Award is the highest honor the academy bestows on a member, and was established in 1977 as a permanent tribute to Perry Nichols, a founder and first president of the academy. It is given to those who have “fought valiantly for justice and integrity throughout their lives.” “Just as Perry Nichols was committed to the pursuit of justice and integrity in the legal field, Neal has devoted his life to carrying out this cause,” said Richard M. Shapiro, AFTL president, adding that Roth has devoted many hours to the Academy at almost every level including legislative challenges, fundraising goals, and political endeavors. ABA Tax Section seeks volunteers The Pro Bono Committee of the Tax Section of the ABA is raising the level of participation in the IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, and is asking for support. “The VITA program is a valuable community asset as many taxpayers are in need of assistance in preparing and filing their returns,” said the section’s Brian P. Trauman. “The complexities of the tax law frustrate many low-income, elderly, disabled, and limited English proficient taxpayers’ efforts to complete their own returns, and many taxpayers forgo refunds to which they’re entitled because they don’t file a return, or they file an erroneous return.” Trauman said because commercial tax preparers are not a viable option for low-income taxpayers, the VITA program provides a location where these taxpayers can come for assistance. “Members of the community — including professionals, students, and other volunteers — donate their time to help these less-fortunate taxpayers complete their returns,” he said. For more information on this and other tax pro bono projects, visit www.abanet.org/tax/groups/probono. Hillsborough Bar hosts conference The Hillsborough County Bar Association recently hosted its Seventh Annual Bench Bar Conference in Tampa. The event was co-chaired by 13th Circuit Judge Robert J. Simms and Scott Stigall of Barnett, Bolt, Kirkwood, Long & McBride. Approximately 35 trial judges and five judges from the Second DCA participated in the conference. Following a luncheon, break-out sessions with the judges in a panel discussion format took questions from attendees. The Ethics session consisted of round table discussions with a judge assigned to a table of lawyers. Approximately 400 people attended the event. Rosenthal & Weissman help build a home Rosenthal & Weissman participated as a group of corporate volunteers in a Habitat for Humanity of Palm Beach County “build.” Volunteers from the firm helped build a home in Greenacres last month. “Habitat for Humanity is an amazing organization,” said senior partner Gerald A. Rosenthal. “The tangible results of their mission are evident in communities across the country. I am proud this firm has the opportunity to take part in such a gratifying and beneficial endeavor.”Elves for Elders kicks off donation initiative Richard, 78, wants magazines with pictures in them. Bertha, 97, wants scrunchies for her hair. Billy, 66, wants pictures for his bedroom. Sandra, 53, who has been incapacitated and under guardianship virtually all of her adult life, only wants instant coffee, fruit, and honey. The Elves for Elders program in the 13th Circuit will try to meet those needs to help ease life for wards of the court “We think that people will be very surprised at the basic wants and needs of the people we serve under the jurisdiction of the Guardianship Division,” said Marcie Larkin, senior court program manager of the Elder Justice Center in the 13th Circuit. She is quick to add, “It’s the simplicity of the needs that goes to the very heart of why we are doing this.” Things as basic as underwear, socks, pajamas, or a Christmas dress make a big difference for people under public guardianship, Larkin said. Larkin believes many people historically give for needy children during the holidays but the elderly are often neglected, noting these wards of the state under public guardianship have no money and no family and generally go without the basics that many take for granted. Anyone interested in participating in the Elves for Elders project should come to the Elder Justice Center, located in the Main Courthouse in downtown Tampa, Room 296, where a Christmas tree is decorated with individual name tags and wish lists. For those who can not make the trek downtown, call the Elder Justice Center for a list of “elders” at (813) 276-2726. The gift drive will conclude on Wednesday, December 3, 2003, on the second floor of the Main Courthouse at 2 p.m. Participants are welcomed to attend the holiday celebration which will conclude at 4 p.m. Rundle honored for community service Katherine Fernandez Rundle, state attorney for the 11th Judicial Circuit, was recently honored by Amigos for Children, the Inner City Dance Club, and Informed Families for her years of dedicated service to the community. This event, a fundraiser for those three charitable organizations, was held recently at the Intercontinental Hotel in downtown Miami. During the event, Fernandez Rundle received special recognition in the form of a proclamation from the mayor and the Board of County Commissioners of Miami-Dade County. Fernandez Rundle also was presented a proclamation from Miami Mayor Manuel Diaz, proclaiming Katherine Fernandez Rundle Day. Representatives of the International Union of Police Associations and the Florida Highway Patrol also honored Fernandez Rundle with a tribute in recognition of her achievements as state attorney. Stetson wins Zehmer mock trial competition Stetson University College of Law trial teams finished first and second in the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers’ Honorable E. Earle Zehmer Memorial Mock Trial Competition, held in November in West Palm Beach. The Stetson team of Richard Barbara, Marc Semago, Gabrielle Osborne, and Steven Kay defeated the other Stetson team of Meredith McCall, Slade Dukes, Sheetal Brahmbhatt, and Neil Andrews in the finals. Justice Fred Lewis of the Florida Supreme Court presided over the final round. Barbara was named best advocate for the competition. The Stetson teams each defeated groups from Florida State University in the semi-finals after defeating Florida State, the University of Miami, St. Thomas University and Florida Coastal School of Law in the preliminary rounds. Trial team alumnus Thea Dalkalitsis coached the teams, and Stetson Law Professor Pam Bell accompanied them as faculty advisor.
Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York A Head of the Harbor couple has admitted to their role in smuggling undocumented immigrants from Pakistan to work in 7-Eleven stores that they owned on Long Island and stealing their pay.Farrukh and Bushra Baig both pleaded guilty Monday at Central Islip federal court to conspiracy to conceal and harbor illegal aliens for financial gain. Farrukh also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. They had been arrested last year.Loretta Lynch, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, had called the scheme a “modern day plantation system.”U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents had raided more than a dozen of the convenience stores, including some beyond LI, in what authorities had described at the time as one of the biggest busts of its kind in federal law enforcement history. Federal agents raided up to 30 7-Elevens nationwide as a part of the probe.Authorities have said the suspects hid the victims’ immigration status, stole their workers’ wages and forced them to live in illegal boarding houses. Prosecutors said the suspects forced them to pay their rent in cash to cover their tracks. The victims were afraid to report the crimes because they were afraid of being deported or arrested, officials said.The couple is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 18.
Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York Republican James D. Kennedy handily beat Democrat Joseph Stufano in a special election Tuesday to fill the vacant 12th Nassau County legislative district seat representing the county’s southeast corner, unofficial results show.Kennedy, the son-in-law of the late Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa), who represented the same district before he died in 2012, won 85 percent of the vote against Stufano’s nearly 15 percent, out of 2,281 votes cast, according to initial tallies from the Nassau County Board of Elections.Kennedy, 42, whose campaign manager was his mother-in-law—Schmitt’s widow—Lois, will replace one-term Nassau County Legis. Michael Venditto (R-Massapequa), who was elected in November to fill the 8th New York State Senate seat, which former Sen. Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick) vacated a year prior.The result was expected in a district where registered Republican voters far outnumber Democrats.Kennedy, who also had the Conservative and Independence Party lines, is a Nassau elections board worker. His 53-year-old challenger is a biomedical engineer. Both are from Massapequa.The race was the first of three special elections to fill vacant county legislative seats on Long Island.In March 10, voters will decide who will fill the 19th Legislative District seat left vacant by former Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick), who resigned after pleading guilty to defrauding a client of his private law practice out of $2 million. At the time the case came to light, Denenberg was running against Venditto, son of Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, for state Senate.The second Nassau special election pits Rita Kestenbaum, 56, who’s running on the Democratic and Working Families party lines, against Steven Rhoads, 46, who has the Republican, Conservative and Independence party lines and the Tax Revolt party designation.Kestenbaum is a former Hempstead Town Board member who became a gun control activist in 2007 after her 20-year-old daughter was shot to death on the night of her birthday outside her off-campus apartment in Tempe, Arizona, by a disturbed young man who then killed himself. Afterwards, Kestenbaum set up a foundation and has worked closely with the Long Island Crisis Center.Rhoads is a personal injury attorney who twice tried to unseat Denenberg. Both candidates are from Bellmore. Republicans also outnumber Democrats in that district.If the Republicans can win both Nassau special elections, then they would need to gain just another seat in the Nassau Legislature to control a super majority of 13 votes—they now have 10 of the 19 legislative seats—and that margin would enable the GOP to approve borrowing measures without needing Democratic support.The third special election, in Suffolk’s 12th Legislative District, will be held on March 31 to fill the seat held by former Legis. John M. Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset), who won his bid to become Suffolk County comptroller in November. Kennedy’s 58-year-old wife, Leslie, a longtime aide who ran her husband’s office, will be running for the seat herself.Kennedy’s Democratic challenger, Deborah Monaco, 55, is reportedly not going to run “an active campaign,” according to Suffolk County Democratic Chairman Rich Schaffer, due to time constraints and other factors. She has been the secretary of the Suffolk Democratic Committee and has a job at the Suffolk Board of Elections. Republicans outnumber Democrats in this district, too.—With Spencer Rumsey