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MC&A Newsletter
Volume XXI  :: July 2011 
Greetings,

 

Welcome to the July 2011 issue of the Midwin Charles & Associates Newsletter.  This summer has been a whirlwind when it comes to legal news:  Casey Anthony -- the young woman from Florida who captured the nation -- was found not guilty, the rape case against former IMF Chief Dominique Strauss Kahn has weakened due to the victim's credibility and former governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich has been found guilty of corruption charges.  Read below to learn more about these cases and why they matter.

 

Best,
Midwin
Mdiwin Charles
IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Casey Anthony's Verdict Shocks the Nation

 

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On July 5, 2011, Casey Anthony's trial came to a close when the jury found Anthony not guilty of first-degree murder. Casey had been charged with killing her 2 year-old daughter, Caylee, by suffocating the toddler with duct tape. She was also acquitted of manslaughter and child abuse, but found guilty of lying to the police. Had she been found guilty of murder, Anthony would have faced the possibility of the death penalty. The trial captured the nation, and the verdict has caused outrage amongst the millions that followed the story from the day Caylee went missing in 2008.  

 

It all began on July 15, 2008 when Cindy Anthony, Casey's mother, called police in Orlando, Florida to report that her 2 year-old granddaughter had been missing for 31 days. The next day, authorities took Casey into custody and on October 14, 2008, she was charged with killing her child. During the 31 days that Caylee was missing, Casey failed to report the child's disappearance to the police and reportedly spent her time partying. She even got a tattoo during that time that said "bella vita," which translates to "beautiful life" in Italian.

The trial lasted almost six weeks, with prosecutors arguing that Anthony used chloroform to render Caylee unconscious and then placed duct tape over Caylee's mouth and nose, causing her to suffocate. They claimed that Casey then dumped Caylee's body in a wooded area near Anthony's house, where the child was found six months later. At that point, the child's body was too decomposed for the medical examiner to determine a cause of death. What that meant for Casey, was a case based almost entirely on circumstantial evidence.

The defense argued that Casey did not kill Caylee, but that she accidentally drowned in the family's pool. According to the defense, George Anthony, Casey's father, George, attempted to conceal her death. The defense explained Casey's odd behavior during the time that Caylee was missing with a claim that George had sexually abused Casey as a child and as a result, learned from a young age that lying was okay. George, an ex-police officer, denied Anthony's allegations of molestation and of finding Caylee in the pool.

In criminal cases, the prosecution must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt to obtain a conviction. This burden of proof is high. If any reasonable doubt exists, the jury is instructed that they must return a not-guilty verdict. With no direct evidence linking Casey to her daughter's death, the jury came to its decision in 11 hours. Jennifer Ford, one of the jurors, told ABC News that she was not convinced that Casey was innocent, but there just was not enough evidence to convict her.

Casey was found guilty of lying to the police -- a misdemeanor charge - and fined $1,000 and sentenced to four years in prison. The lies she told the police included her place of employment, she had left Caylee with a babysitter and Caylee called her on the telephone the day she was reported missing. Casey is scheduled to be released on July 17, 2011 after receiving credit for time already served.

 

Sources: "Anthony sentenced but will go free on July 17," by Timothy Williams, July 8, 2011, The New York Times; "Casey Anthony verdict: Jury finds Florida mother not guilty of killing daughter Caylee Anthony, 2," by Helen Kennedy & Corky Siemaszko, July 5, 2011, The Daily News; "Verdict brought few answers in Caylee Anthony case," by Tamara Lush, July 10, 2011, The Associated Press.

THE PRACTICE CORNER
Strauss-Kahn: The Frenchman is Free . . . For Now
 

DSK In last month's newsletter , MC&A brought you news of former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn's alleged rape of a hotel maid and his highly publicized arrest. A recent turn of events in the prosecution's investigation has changed the course of the case against Strauss-Kahn and given him at least some temporary freedom.

On July 1, 2011, a New York judge released Strauss-Kahn from house arrest on his own recognizance without bail due to new developments in the rape case against him. The new development in the case was the Manhattan District Attorney's discovery that Strauss-Kahn's accuser, a housekeeper at the Sofitel Hotel in New York, admitted to lying on her 2004 asylum application, among other things. The 32 year-old woman is originally from Guinea in Africa and came to the United States in 2004 as a refugee, claiming that she had been beaten and gang raped for opposing the Guinea regime.

In addition to the housekeeper's admission that she lied on her asylum application, Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon stated in a June 30, 2011 letter to Strauss-Kahn's attorneys that the housekeeper's testimony to the grand jury regarding her actions after the alleged rape differed from her initial statement to prosecutors. In her initial statements to prosecutors, she said she immediately called her supervisor to report the incident. However, in her testimony to the grand jury, she testified that after the alleged rape, she began cleaning a nearby room, then returned to Strauss-Kahn's suite to clean that suite before finally going to her supervisor.

The New York Times also reported that after the alleged rape, the housekeeper had a phone conversation with a man imprisoned for drug offenses. During that phone conversation, she allegedly discussed the benefits of moving forward with rape accusations against such a wealthy man. According to the Times, there has been unusual activity in her bank account.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. expressed concern about the alleged victim's credibility, acknowledging that she was untruthful about a variety of additional topics concerning her history, background, present circumstances and personal relationships.

Despite the discrepancies, prosecutors will continue the case against Strauss-Kahn. Vance told reporters outside the courthouse after Strauss-Kahn was released from house arrest that "[t]oday's proceedings did not dismiss the indictment or any of the charges against the defendant."

Indeed, according to investigators, there is DNA evidence linking Strauss-Kahn to the hotel room and the housekeeper's clothing. Specifically, a law enforcement official reported to the Associated Press that Strauss-Kahn's semen was found on the housekeeper's uniform. Strauss-Kahn, however, claims that he and the housekeeper engaged in consensual intimate acts, which explains the DNA evidence. Strauss-Kahn's legal team also claims to have unreleased information that would undermine the alleged victim's credibility.

The numerous attacks against the housekeeper's credibility have created a stir in the media, with many voicing their anger about her continued victimization. Strauss-Kahn and his supporters claim that because his accuser has lied in the past, she is most likely lying now. Supporters of victim's rights point out that this line of thinking would invalidate every accusation of rape or any crime for that matter because everyone has lied during their lifetime. Kenneth P. Thompson, the housekeeper's attorney, stated in a letter to Vance that such attacks on a person's credibility discourages women from coming forward about sexual assault for fear that they too will be personally attacked.

For now, the case is set to continue. Strauss-Kahn will not accept any plea bargain and says that he will not plead guilty to the charges against him. And in France, the recent developments have spurred opinions that Strauss-Kahn is the victim of a plot to ruin his presidential campaign. Should this case crumble, it looks like he may still have the chance to run for the French Presidency

 

Sources: "Strauss-Kahn Is Released From House Arrest," by NPR Staff & Wires, July 1, 2011, NPR.com; "Strauss-Kahn won't strike plea deal in sex crimes case," by CNN Wire Staff, July 7, 2011, CNN.com; "Prosecute the crime, not the alleged rape victim," by Rachel Marsden, July 9, 2011, The Kansas City Star

Blagojevich Convicted of Corruption
 

Blagojevich On June 27, 2011, Rod Blagojevich, the former Governor of Illinois, was convicted of 17 public corruption charges. Blagojevich faced 20 counts of public corruption charges related to his attempt to sell President Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate seat in 2008.

Blagojevich was found guilty of 10 counts of wire fraud, 1 count of attempted extortion, 1 count of soliciting of a bribe, 2 counts of conspiracy to commit extortion, 2 counts of attempted bribery and 1 count of attempted extortion. The jury found him not guilty of solicitation of a bribe in relation to the allegation that Blagojevich tried to obtain $500,000 from Gerald Krozel, a road-building executive, in exchange for approving a major tollway project. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on 2 counts of attempted extortion: one in relation to the tollway project, and the other for the allegation that Blagojevich attempted to convince Rahm Emanuel's brother to hold a fundraiser in exchange for releasing a state grant for a school in Emanuel's district.

Blagojevich has been entangled in this case since his arrest in December 2008. At that time, Blagojevich was in his second term as governor, and he was required to name a new senator to replace Obama. Blagojevich was accused of attempting to secure campaign contributions in exchange for acts such as naming a new senator and supporting certain legislation. Federal agents revealed that they had been secretly recording phone calls.

This was the second trial for Blagojevich, who was first brought to court in January 2009. The first trial ended in a hung jury on 23 of 24 charges brought against him. Blagojevich was convicted on one charge of making a false statement to the FBI. Jurors from the first trial complained that the prosecution's case was overly complex, which led federal prosecutors this time around to condense and tighten their case against the ex-governor.

The prosecution was not the only party to change its approach in this second trial. Unlike the first trial, Blagojevich decided to take the stand in his defense. Blagojevich testified for seven days in an attempt to refute the hundreds of recorded phone calls. In one such phone call, Blagojevich is recorded stating, "I've got this thing and it's f---ing golden. And I, I'm just not giving it up for f---ing nothing." Blagojevich testified that the recorded conversations were simply speculative political brainstorming with a lot of talking and nothing more. Federal prosecutors, however, argued that the crime was in the asking, not whether anyone actually took the bait.

The jury also heard recordings of Blagojevich in which he wondered whether there were senior jobs in the new administration he could get if he appointed Valerie Jarrett, an Obama confidante as well as a scheme to sell the senate seat to friends of Jesse Jackson, Jr. for over $1,000,000 in campaign contributions. The jury took ten days to deliberate before reaching their verdict. They said that the accusations that related to selling the senate seat were the easiest to decide, mainly because of the audio recordings.

As a result of his 2008 arrest, Blagojevich was impeached and removed from office. He now faces up to twenty years in prison.

 

Sources: "Blagojevich convicted on corruption charges," by CNN Wire Staff, June 27, 2011, CNN.com; "Jury Finds Blagojevich Guilty of Corruption," by Monica Davey & Emma G. Fizsimmons, June 27, 2011, The New York Times; "Rod Blagojevich Convicted on Corruption Charges," by Chris Bury, June 27, 2011, ABC.com; "Blagojevich Verdict: The Breakdown," June 27, 2011, CBSChicaco.com.

MC&A is firmly committed to our valued clientele.  We provide services in the areas of litigation, criminal law, and general corporate and business law.

For more information about how we can be of service to you, call us at 212.551.3617 or send an email to info@charleslawfirm.com.

Midwin Charles & Associates LLC
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New York, New York 10169
212.551.3617
www.charleslawfirm.com

© 2010 Midwin Charles & Associates LLC


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