O.J. Simpson: guilty of stupidity

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Hat Tip: By Linda Deutsch, Associated Press

Las Vegas, NV – O.J. Simpson, who went from American sports idol to celebrity-in-exile after he was acquitted of murdering his ex-wife and a friend, was found guilty Friday of robbing two sports-memorabilia dealers at gunpoint in a Las Vegas hotel room.

The 61-year-old former football star could spend the rest of his life in prison after he is sentenced Dec. 5.

A weary and somber Simpson released a heavy sigh as the charges were read in rapid fire by the clerk in Clark County District Court. He was immediately taken into custody.

The Hall of Fame football star was found guilty of kidnapping, armed robbery and 10 other charges for gathering up five men a year ago and storming into a room at hotel-casino, where the group seized several game balls, plaques and photos. Prosecutors said two of the men with him were armed; one of them said he brought a gun at Simpson’s request.

Simpson’s co-defendant, Clarence “C.J.” Stewart, 54, also was found guilty on all charges and taken into custody.

Simpson showed little emotion as officers handcuffed him and walked him out of the courtroom.

His sister, Carmelita Durio, sobbed behind him in the arms of Simpson’s friend, Tom Scotto. As spectators left the courtroom, Durio collapsed and paramedics were called, according to court spokesman Michael Sommermeyer.

The jurors made no eye contact with the defendants as the entered and each of them answered firmly when asked if “this was their individual verdict.”

Judge Jackie Glass made no comment other than to thank the jury for its service and to deny motions for the defendants to be released on bail.

She refused to give the lawyers extended time to file a motion for new trial, which under Nevada law must be filed within seven days.

The attorneys said they needed time to submit a voluminous record, but she rejected that.

“I’ve sat through the trial,” Glass said. “If you want a motion for new trial, send me something.”

The verdict came 13 years after Simpson was cleared of murder in Los Angeles in one of the most sensational trials of the 20th century.

From the beginning, Simpson and lawyers argued the incident in Las Vegas was not a robbery; instead, they said, he was trying to reclaim mementos that had been stolen from him. He said he did not ask anyone to bring a gun and did not see any guns.

The defense portrayed Simpson as a victim of shady characters who wanted to make a buck off his famous name, and police officers who saw his arrest as an opportunity to “get” him and avenge his acquittal.

Prosecutors said Simpson’s ownership of the memorabilia was irrelevant; it was still a crime to try to take things by force.

“When they went into that room and forced the victims to the far side of the room, pulling out guns and yelling, `Don’t let anybody out of here!’ — six very large people detaining these two victims in the room with the intent to take property through force or violence from them — that’s kidnapping,” prosecutor David Roger said.

Kidnapping is punishable by five years to life in prison. Armed robbery carries a mandatory sentence of at least two years behind bars, and could bring as much as 30 years.

Simpson, who now lives in Miami, did not testify, but was heard on a recording of the confrontation, screaming that the dealers had stolen his property.

“Don’t let nobody out of this room,” he declared and told the other men to scoop up his items, which included a photo of Simpson with former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

Four other men initially charged in the case struck plea bargains that saved them from potential prison sentences in return for their testimony. Some of them had criminal records or were compromised in some way. One, for example, was an alleged pimp who testified he had a revelation from God telling him to take a plea bargain.

Memorabilia dealer Thomas Riccio, who arranged and secretly recorded the confrontation in the hotel room, said he netted $210,000 on the tapes from the media. He received immunity, and his recordings became the heart of the prosecution case.

Similarly, minutes after the Sept. 13, 2007, confrontation, one of the alleged victims, sports-memorabilia dealer Alfred Beardsley, was calling news outlets, and the other, Bruce Fromong, spoke of getting “big money” from the incident.

Simpson’s past haunted the case. Las Vegas police officers were heard in the recordings chuckling over Simpson’s misfortune and crowing that if Los Angeles couldn’t “get” him, they would. And the judge told jurors they had to put aside Simpson’s earlier case.

Simpson’s lawyers also expressed fears during jury selection that people who believed he got away with murder a decade ago might see this case as a chance to right a wrong.

As a result, an usually large pool of 500 potential jurors was called, and they were given a 26-page questionnaire. Half were almost instantly eliminated after expressing strong feelings that he should have been convicted of murder.

 

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Judging Sarah

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Joe Biden’s ponderous Washington speak is nothing but a hinderance in reaching out to the American people.  There is nothing about the man that evokes change in the mind of the average American voter.  Bringing up dead fossils like Mike Mansfield and Jesse Helms just underscores that.   That being said, there is no doubt that Sarah Palin is out of her league as a Vice Presidential contender.   She continues to ramble her way through questions she clearly doesn’t know the answers to and no matter how charming and perky she comes across on television, her lack of depth is unmistakable.   I give her points for remembering most of her talking points, but she clearly coulda used more time to cram.

 

 

Bernie Sanders: progressive champion

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Yesterday’s Senate Debate on the Wall Street Bailout provided some stark contrasts.  On the one hand, you had progressive stalwarts like Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold.  On the other hand, you had John McCain and Barack Obama.  No matter how you slice it, Barack Obama’s capitulation on the Wall Street Bailout was a betrayal of progressive values and a betrayal of the working class, which is disproportionately composed of people of color.

Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Socialist who caucuses with Senate Democrats, illuminated the class betrayal of Obama and the majority of his Democratic colleagues with a clarity that should have embarassed them all.

In our country today we have the most unequal distribution of income and wealth of any major country on Earth, with the top 1 percent earning more income than the bottom 50 percent, and the top 1 percent owning more wealth than the bottom 90 percent. We are living at a time when we have seen a massive transfer of wealth from the middle class to the very wealthiest people in this country; when, among others, CEO’s of Wall Street firms receive unbelievable amounts in bonuses, including $39 billion in bonuses in the year 2007 alone for just the five major investment houses.

 We have seen the incredible greed of the financial service industry manifested in the hundreds of millions of dollars they have spent on campaign contributions and lobbyists in order to deregulate their industry so hedge funds and other unregulated financial institutions could flourish. We have seen them play with trillions and trillions of dollars in esoteric financial instruments in unregulated industries which no more than a handful of people even understand.

We have seen the financial services industry charge 30 percent interest rates on credit card loans and tack on outrageous late fees and other costs to unsuspecting customers. We have seen them engaged in despicable predatory lending practices, taking advantage of the vulnerable and the uneducated. We have seen them send out billions of deceptive solicitations to almost every mailbox in America.

I used to think that my home was the only one that was receiving them. It turns out that billions of other solicitations went out to probably every home in America. What they hoped to do was to gain new customers for credit card companies and then, through the very small print on the back of the solicitation, have the opportunity, have the ability to monkey around with interest rates so when people thought they were getting zero interest or 2 percent, it turns out that a few months later they were paying very high interest rates.

Most important, of course, we have seen the financial services industry lure people into mortgages they could not afford to pay, which is one of the basic reasons we are tonight in the midst of all of this. We have a bailout package today which says to the middle class that you are being asked to place at risk $700 billion, which is $2,200 for every man, woman, and child in this country. You are being asked to do that in order to undo the damage caused by this excessive Wall Street greed. In other words, the “Masters of the Universe,” those brilliant Wall Street insiders who have made more money than the average American can even dream of, have brought our financial system to the brink of collapse, and now, as the American and world financial systems teeter on the edge of a meltdown, these multimillionaires are demanding that the middle class, which has already suffered under Bush’s disastrous economic policies, pick up the pieces they broke.

That is wrong and that is something I will not support. The major point I want to make this evening is, if we are going to bail out Wall Street, it should be those people who have caused the problem, those people who have benefited from Bush’s tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, those people who have taken advantage of deregulation–those people are the people who should pick up the tab and not ordinary working people.

Obama’s support of the bailout didn’t come cheap.  With more than $9.8 millon rasised from the securities and investment industry, nobody can question that he is morally compromised himself by accepting $691,900 from Goldman Sachs, $448,600 from Citigroup,  $442,919 JP Morgan,  $404,750 from UBS, $370,500 from Lehman Bros, and $318,00 from Morgan Stanley.   These six investment houses and brokerages kicked in $2,676,739 to the Obama coffers alone. 

I like what I’ve read on Obama’s website about his proposals regarding predatory lending and his legislative record, but this Wall Street Bailout vote negates most of that in my mind and I am not at all happy about it.  Also missing is any real commitment to reimposing the Glass Steagall act reforms of the New Deal Era that separated investment banking from commercial banking and insurance and protected American consumers from monopoly and speculation. Votes like this underscore the necessity of campaign finance reform.  

Senator Sanders offered an amendment to the Wall Street Bailout that would have raised taxes on those making $500,000 or more to pay for the bailout and it failed on a voice vote.   I would have loved to have seen whether Obama’s lips moved yea or nay or whether they were on the floor at all.