Law News Digest – Week of May 24, 2015
Animal rights & marijuana: A man in Chicago blew pot smoke in his chameleon’s face and posted a video of it on Facebook. PETA filed a complaint, the man was charged with animal cruelty, but was acquitted (ruled as innocent). (Side note: The man’s name is Bruce Blunt… I mean…)
Reproductive rights win: Idaho has a law banning most abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy (almost 5 months). But it is well established that under the Constitution the government can’t ban abortions until the fetus is viable (able to live outside the womb), which is usually understood to be at least 6 months. So today a federal court struck down Idaho’s law. 9 other states also have 20-week abortion bans, so those are in jeopardy as well.
Prominent former Congressman charged in sexual misconduct cover up: Former Speaker of U.S. House of Representatives Dennis Hastert was a high school teacher and wrestling coach before serving in Congress. During his time at the high school, he allegedly engaged in sexual misconduct with a male student. In 2010, the former Congressman allegedly agreed to pay the student $3.5 mil to keep quiet. Because federal law requires banks to report withdrawals of $10k+, he withdrew amounts of less than $10k, so as not to raise any questions. Except that you can’t do that either. Yesterday he was charged with evading bank transaction reporting requirements and with lying to the FBI about it. (Note: the sexual misconduct is too old for Hastert to be prosecuted for it.)
Sex on the beach in Florida has serious consequences: Do you dream of having a “romantic” time on the beach in Miami? That dream could quickly become a nightmare. A man and woman were convicted of “lewd and lascivious exhibition” for having sex on the beach in Florida (not in Miami, but the same law generally applies). The woman served about 3 weeks in jail, and has to register as a sex offender and the man is expected to be sentenced to 2.5 years!
Transvaginal mesh injury nets woman $100 mil: A jury awarded a woman $100 million (yes, one hundred million dollars) for her injuries in connection with a transvaginal mesh device, manufactured by Boston Scientific. The company is subject to about 25,000 additional lawsuits over the device.
6 charged in text message scheme: Do you ever get those annoying texts with jokes, horoscopes, “love tips”, etc, that you never signed up for, but they charge you anyway? And you’re like “these people should go to jail”? Well now they are. 6 men were charged for their involvement in a scheme auto-subscribing hundreds of thousands of cell phone users to text-based mobile content, and charging them $9.99 per month. Referred to as “mobile cramming,” the scam collected about $50 million from users. The men have now been charged with crimes including conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud, and could face upwards of 20 years in jail each.
Death penalty killed in Nebraska: Nebraska will no longer use the death penalty. After the legislature voted to get rid of the death penalty, the governor vetoed that bill, but today the legislature voted to override the governor’s veto. This makes Nebraska the 19th state to abolished the death penalty. (Story moved & updated from below)
World Soccer organization FIFA takes hit: U.S. prosecutors charged 9 current and former FIFA officials and 5 sports marketing executives with corruption, wire fraud, and money laundering. U.S. authorities claim the sports marketing executives bribed the FIFA officials with more than $150 million over 24 years, in exchange for the rights to televise games, deciding where the games were held, and who would be in charge of FIFA.
Your Instagram photos may have just sold for $90k: A NY artist took Instagram photos without getting the owners’ permission, enlarged them, and added weird comments. They went up in an art exhibit and sold for $90,000 each! Generally you own the copyright to every photo you take, so did the artist infringe on Instagram users’ copyrights? Maybe not. The law allows you to use someone else’s work if you make enough changes to it, such that it can be considered “transformative.” A law professor explains how this could apply here.
Policing the police: The Cleveland Police Department today agreed to follow tough new standards for when police can use force, as demanded by the federal Department of Justice. Cleveland police will no longer be able to engage in pistol whipping or firing warning shots, and will be required to immediately provide first aid to suspects, among other new rules.