Thursday, October 30, 2014

Ohio Supreme Court upholds conviction and death sentence for man convicted of shooting police officer

Court News Ohio reports that the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the conviction and death sentence yesterday for a man convicted of the 2008 killing of a Twinsburg, Ohio police officer. The defendant, Ashford L. Thompson, was convicted in 2010 for the shooting death of Joshua Miktarian. In July 2008, Miktarian followed Thompson's vehicle because of loud music and pulled him over as Thompson was turning into his driveway. The Cleveland Plain Dealer summarized the next series of events as follows:

"When Miktarian was handcuffing Thompson to place him under arrest, Thompson struggled, according to court records. Thompson had a permit to carry a concealed weapon and pulled the gun during the arrest. Miktarian had radioed for help two minutes into the stop. A 9-1-1 caller reported hearing loud shouting and "pop" sounds."

A jury convicted Thompson of aggravated-murder, escape, resisting arrest, tampering with evidence, and carrying a concealed weapon. He was sentenced to death for the aggravated murder conviction. Thompson appealed this conviction and sentence to the Ohio Supreme Court, raising 18 propositions of law. These include claims that Thompson's constitutional rights were violated because a juror was excluded based on race, because the court denied a request for change of venue and because of prosecutorial misconduct, including some remarks in closing statements which the Court agreed were inappropriate, but found would not have changed the outcome of the trial.

The justices reviewed each of the 18 propositions in a lengthy opinion penned by Justice French, and unanimously ruled to uphold the conviction. The decision to uphold the death sentence was not unanimous, as Justices Pfeifer, Lanzinger and O'Neill dissented on this issue. Justice Pfeifer wrote a dissent in which Justice Lanzinger concurred, arguing that mitigating factors such as Thompson's history, character and background outweighed the aggravating factors that led to the death sentence, and that Thompson should be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Justice O'Neill penned his own dissent, arguing that the state did not prove the aggravating factor that Thompson killed Miktarian to escape detection or punishment beyond a reasonable doubt, and that Thompson's mitigating factors, such as his college education, steady job and community involvement, outweighed the remaining aggravating factor of Miktarian's status as a police officer.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

FTC files suit against AT&T for data throttling

The Washington Post reports that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed suit against AT&T on Tuesday for throttling the data access of consumers with unlimited plans. The FTC has summarized aspects of their complaint in a press release published yesterday. They allege that AT&T misled customers with unlimited data plans by failing to adequately disclose that when they reached a certain percentage of usage on their plans the company would throttle their data access by reducing Internet speeds.

The complaint alleges that AT&T began throttling data speeds by as much as 80 to 90% for customers who had used as little as 2 gigabytes of data on their unlimited plans starting in 2011. The FTC charges that "AT&T violated the FTC Act by changing the terms of customers’ unlimited data plans while those customers were still under contract, and by failing to adequately disclose the nature of the throttling program to consumers who renewed their unlimited data plans," according to the October 28 press release.

AT&T claims that they did notify their customers of the throttling through emails or texts when they reached a certain limit on their data plans and defended its practices as "fully transparent and consistent with the law and our contracts," according to the Washington Post. The wireless carrier further stated that it "manages its network resources to provide the best possible service to all customers." AT&T is currently paying out a $105 million settlement of another case to the FTC, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the 50 states, plus Washington DC, for unlawfully billing customers for unauthorized third party charges.

The complaint regarding data throttling was filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The FTC reports that the vote authorizing the complaint was unanimous and that the organization worked closely with the FCC in its investigation of AT&T. The FTC generally "works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them," according to their website. The FCC "regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories."

Judge Leslie Isaiah Gaines, remembered

Iconic attorney and former Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Leslie Isaiah Gaines died Monday at the age of 69 after suffering from multiple health issues for many years. Mr. Gaines served as judge to the Hamilton County Municipal Court from 1993-1996 when he resigned from the bench to work as an evangelist and motivational speaker, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. Mr. Gaines returned to the practice of law in 2003. He was well-respected among Cincinnati's legal community as a talented lawyer and kind man.

In an interview with the Enquirer, Cincinnati City Prosecutor described Mr. Gaines as the  "first real flamboyant lawyer," and stated that "underneath all that, he was one of the kindest, most honest men I've ever met in my life," WKRC-TV reports that Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said of Gaines, "Les was a great lawyer, a great judge and a wonderful friend. He had the most incredible presence in the courtroom that I have ever seen. I will miss him very much. God bless him.”

The Cincinnati Enquirer has republished a 2003 article detailing Mr. Gaines life and return to legal practice, here.