The United States Department of Justice unsealed a criminal indictment against Russian national Maria Butina (aka Mariia Butina) yesterday. Butina was charged with conspiracy under federal law (18 USC § 371).
A conspiracy charge requires two or more people conspiring together to commit another offense against the United States. Conspiracy is not a stand alone crime, it requires that there is an underlying offense first. Then, two or more people must work together to further that underlying offense.
In the Butina matter, she is charged with conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation within the United States without prior notification to the Attorney General. It is alleged that Butina worked from early 2015 until at least 2017 at the direction of a high-level Russian official to infiltrate political groups within the United States. The high-level official is described as a former politician in the Russian legislature and a Russian Central Bank official. Butina was a graduate student in Washington D.C. during the period in question and made numerous political connections, mostly with Republican politicians and the NRA.
The basic legal elements of the crime:
1. Two or more people
2. Make an agreement
3. To commit some illegal act against the United States
4. and the charged person joined the agreement with the knowledge of the objective to commit the illegal act
5. and then the charged person takes an overt action to further the objective of the agreement.
A standard conspiracy charge carries a penalty of up to five years in federal prison, but can be higher in some cases.
Past criminals convicted of conspiracy against the United States include mobsters, Enron officials, and terrorists.
The California Supreme Court has ruled that low-income litigants are entitled to a free court reporter in civil matters. Many courts throughout California cut court reporters due to budget cuts over the last decade.
The case, Jameson v. Desta, involved a prisoner who had previously qualified for a fee waiver, allowing him to making filings free of charge. However, the court told the prisoner that he would not be given a court reporter for his trial. He appealed, but the court of appeal was unable to review the record because there was no transcript. However, the appellate court denied his request for a new trial with a court reporter and found no legal error and ruled against the prisoner.
The California Supreme Court, long a champion of equal access to the courts for all people, ruled that the court of appeal's decision was not consistent with case law or longstanding public policy to allow people to petition the courts when they are harmed.
Courts will not be required to provide a free court reporter to all litigants who have qualified for a fee waiver.
The Los Angeles City Council recently approved a plan for greatly increased housing near the Expo line in Los Angeles. The "Exposition Corridor Transit Neighborhood Plan", would expand housing density and affordable housing near the Expo Line - a train that moves between downtown LA and Santa Monica.
Housing density will be increased by over 6,000 housing units, incentives to build affordable housing, emphasis on walkability projects, and more.
The move comes on the heels of the city council also approving plans for additional shelters for the homeless throughout the city. Further action is scheduled on the council's agenda related to housing, homelessness, and related issues.
The City of Los Angeles will begin accepting phase 2 applications for cannabis businesses starting August 1, 2018. The application period will be open for 30 days. Phase 2 is for businesses that operated previously which also include a social equity applicant.
The social equity program is designed to address some of the negative consequences that resulted from criminal marijuana prosecutions. Data produced by the city showed that while marijuana use by whites and minorities occurred in similar numbers, minorities and low income individuals were disproportionately affected by criminal prosecutions related to marijuana.
The application process in Los Angeles, like many other cities in California, is a time consuming and intensive process. If you are a cannabis entrepreneur, I can help you navigate the city process and connect you with industry professionals to produce the best application possible. I am available at email@example.com or 323-522-4440.
The Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act could be repealed by voters if they pass an initiative set for the November 2018 ballot.
Costa Hawkins, a law enacted approximately 40 years ago, put limits on rent control regulations that could be passed by local cities. Many cities in California do not have rent control, but could pass new regulations if Costa Hawkins is repealed.
Single family homes and condos are generally exempted from rent control laws, as are newer homes. The current law also allows landlords to raise the rent to market rate once a tenant moves out of an apartment unit. That practice could be prohibited by new local regulations if Costa Hawkins is repealed.
Opponents of the initiative argue that the initiative would limit the money landlords have to invest in maintaining properties and would artificially limit rental rates, even when the market warrants increases. They also argue that property values are harmed not only by properties under rent control, but also those properties nearby - thus reducing property tax collections by local governments.
The initiative, Proposition 10, will be voted on during the general election set for Tuesday, November 6, 2018. You can register to vote online in California at: https://registertovote.ca.gov/
The felony murder rule is understood by most attorneys but can be confusing to the general public. The basic rule is that a person can be charged with murder if they are involved in a felony crime that leads to the death of another person, even if that person wasn't actively involved in the murder.
The classic example involves a getaway driver. A group of people plan to rob a gas station and the driver drops them off. During the robbery, the gas station clerk is shot and killed. The group runs out and gets in the car, and the driver takes off. In this example, the driver never entered the store and simply sat in the car waiting for the other group members. However, because of the felony murder rule, the driver could be charged with murder due to the death of the attendant.
However, a bill is moving through the California legislature that would place strict limits on the use of the felony murder rule. Proponents of the bill argue that the rule disproportionately affects women and minorities while also stating that the punishment under the rule was not proportionate to their crime. Opponents have argued that the bill takes away a powerful deterrent while possibly limiting the ability of prosecutors to tackle gang crimes.
New regulations took effect for marijuana businesses throughout California, including rules relate to testing of cannabis levels. The new regulations saw companies selling off large quantities of marijuana at discounted prices before the rules started.
Other rules include more strict requirements from packaging and labeling, and enhanced testing requires to look for pesticides and bacteria. The new requirements started July 1, 2018 after a 6-month window for companies to prepare for the changes.
The City of West Hollywood Rent Stabilization Commission received a report last week updating the city's relocation fees for no-fault evictions. The fees are updated each year on July 1. The new fees are below, under the "effective" section:
In addition to the updated relocation fees, the Rent Stabilization Commission also received a report detailing the allowable rent increase beginning September 1, 2018. The allowable increase will be 3.0% and is based on a formula related to the Consumer Price Index or CPI.
Some obvious advice, but one guy didn't get the memo. If you steal the identities of immigrants, you will get caught and you will go to jail. A lost bar license adds to the woes of the former chief counsel of Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE).
Raphael Sanchez, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and identity theft and now faces four years in prison. As the head attorney for the agency's Seattle division, Mr. Sanchez was responsible for giving legal advice to ICE agents and overseeing asylum and deportation cases in several states.
It was in his position at ICE that Mr. Sanchez was able to obtain the personal information of immigrants and use it to his advantage. Court records indicate Mr. Sanchez was able to fraudulently obtain almost $200,000 through his crimes.
As a former Deputy Trial Counsel at the State Bar of California, I have seen many attorneys make bad decisions like this one. It is never worth it, especially after working so hard to graduate from law school and pass the bar exam. If you do find yourself facing a State Bar complaint or investigation, my office handles such matters. Feel free to contact me for a free consultation at 323-522-4440 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
CAn government agencies use member fees to promote messages that members oppose? A Grape case in california says yes.
Free speech vs. the government's interest in promoting and marketing the state's grape industry. That was the question in Delano Farms Company v. California Table Grape Commission. The California Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Grape Commission, finding that the marketing, paid for by fees passed on to grape growers and shippers, constituted government, not private speech
(which is given more protection from government intrusion).
The Court went through a lengthy discussion and review of the case law regarding private vs. government speech and the consequences of speech being classified in either category. The Court also reviewed the statutory set up and duties of the Grape Commission, which was created in the 1960's to assist the table grape industry. This industry is now worth approximately $1.7 billion to the California economy. The Grape Commission was originally created when the grape industry to deal with increasing competition and other issues in the grape markets.
After a lengthy review, the speech that was being generated in the Grape Commission's work, including marketing of grapes, was found to be government speech - not private speech being forced upon the grape shippers and growers. Such a classification proved fatal in this case, as this type of speech enjoys little to no protection under Article I, Section 2 of the California Constitution. The California Supreme Court found in favor of the Grape Commission, allowing them to continue charging fees to grape growers and shippers.