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Across the Nation: ‘Whitey’ Bulger asks U.S. Supreme Court to hear his appeal

‘Whitey’ Bulger asks U.S. Supreme Court to hear his appeal 

James “Whitey” Bulger has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear his appeal of his racketeering convictions for playing a role in 11 murders and committing a litany of other crimes.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Bulger’s 2013 convictions in March. A three-judge panel of the court found that Bulger had not shown that his right to a fair trial was violated when a judge barred him from testifying about his claim that a now-deceased federal prosecutor granted him immunity. The trial judge said Bulger had not offered any hard evidence that such an agreement existed.

Bulger’s lawyer, Hank Brennan, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bulger, now 86, led a notoriously violent gang from the 1970s through the early 1990s. He fled Boston in 1994 after an FBI agent tipped him that he was about to be indicted. Bulger remained a fugitive until 2011, when he was captured in Santa Monica, California. He is now serving a life sentence.


Appeals court won’t halt Michigan straight-party vote ruling

Michigan residents still may be allowed to use the state’s long-standing straight-party voting option in the November election after a federal appeals court rejected a request to keep intact a new ban on the practice.

A panel of judges from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ruled 3-0 against Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s motion to stay an injunction. U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain in Detroit blocked the Republican-backed law last month, saying an increase in long lines would disproportionately burden blacks in the November election, which would be the first in which the ban would have gone into effect.

Attorney General Bill Schuette said his office would file an emergency appeal for a review by the full appellate court. State lawyers have said election officials will begin setting ballots by Aug. 30.

The ruling is the latest related to voting rights around the country. Federal judges recently staved off tougher photo ID requirements in Texas, North Carolina and Wisconsin, though some are being appealed.


Judge: New Jersey US prosecutors too focused on convictions

A federal judge on Wednesday sharply rebuked federal prosecutors in New Jersey, saying they’re more focused on getting convictions than pursuing tougher punishments.

The Record reported that  U.S. District Judge William Walls scolded the U.S. attorney’s office in Newark for what he called a pattern of seeking lighter sentences for those who plead guilty in corruption cases. Walls’ comments came during a sentencing hearing for Leovaldo Fundora.

“The society is being swindled, and your office seems to care about notching wins,” the judge told Barbara Llanes, the assistant U.S. attorney handling the corruption case against Fundora.

Fundora pleaded guilty in 2013 to conspiring with Union City officials to steal federal housing money. Prosecutors estimated losses at between $120,000 and $200,000. He faced up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, but prosecutors filed a motion asking the judge to deviate from federal sentencing guidelines and impose a lighter sentence.

Despite his comments, Walls agreed and sentenced Fundora to three years of probation. He also ordered Fundora to pay about $75,000 in restitution and fines.

“This is absolutely ridiculous, and I will not do it again,” Walls said.

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