Showing posts from January, 2013

BP Plea Deal Approved by Federal Court - $4 Billion in Fines and Penalties

According to CNN , the plea agreement between BP and the U.S. Justice Department has been approved by a federal judge in New Orleans.  The plea deal requires BP to plead guilty to numerous federal charges and pay $4 billion in fines and penalties. A federal judge in New Orleans Tuesday approved a $4 billion plea agreement for criminal fines and penalties against oil giant BP for the 2010 Gulf oil spill, the largest criminal penalty in U.S. history. U.S. District Court Judge Sarah Vance imposed the terms that the Justice Department and BP had agreed to last November, which include the oil company pleading guilty to 14 criminal counts -- among them, felony manslaughter charges -- and the payment of a record $4 billion in criminal penalties over five years. Vance's ruling came after hearing from eight witnesses Tuesday, including family members of those killed, cleanup workers, and members of the Southeast Asian Fisherfolks Association. The plea agreement is with the oil company and

True Believers in Justice - NYT Opinion and Video

The New York Times has an interesting opinion page article and related video entitled "True Believers in Justice."  The article and video describe the work of public defenders in the United States.  I’d always wanted to be a lawyer, but unlike Travis Williams — the subject of this Op-Doc video — I never wanted to be a public defender. I didn’t understand how anyone could represent people who did terrible things. “Criminals” were not people I wanted to help. Then, in 2009, while working in the legal department at A&E Television, I met Jonathan Rapping, the founder of what’s now Gideon’s Promise. He invited me to his client-centered legal training program in Alabama. At the start of training, Mr. Rapping asked each lawyer to articulate why he or she chose to become a public defender. One young man said he had a brother with Down syndrome, so he wanted to help people who could not navigate the legal system for themselves. Another said he had been arrested as a teenager, s

Aaron Swartz and Plea Bargaining

The death of Aaron Swartz earlier this month sparked a significant discussion of the purposes of punishment and of prosecutorial discretion.  Another important aspect of the case is plea bargaining.  As detailed in the Wall Street Journal Article below, Swartz faced a significant sentencing differential in his case and difficult decisions regarding how to proceed in the face of federal charges. Just days before he hanged himself, Internet activist Aaron Swartz's hopes for a deal with federal prosecutors fell apart. Two years ago, the advocate for free information online, who was known to have suffered from depression, allegedly used the computer network at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to download nearly five million articles from a fee-charging database of academic journals. To some in the Internet community, it was a Robin Hood-like stunt. Prosecutors disagreed and threatened to put him in prison for more than three decades. Mr. Swartz's lawyer, Elliot Peters, f