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An ex-California state senator pleaded guilty Wednesday to a racketeering charge in an organized crime and public corruption case centered in San Francisco's Chinatown.
 
Leland Yee could face a maximum of 20 years in prison when he is sentenced in October after entering the plea to one count of conspiracy to engage in racketeering as part of his campaign committees.

He appeared relaxed as he entered federal court in a dark suit and red tie, smiling and chatting with people in the audience. He left the courthouse without talking to reporters.

The FBI arrested Yee and 19 others in 2014 during a series of raids, one of which targeted a Chinese fraternal organization. Yee was accused of soliciting and accepting bribes in exchange for providing help from Sacramento.

The FBI also alleged that the San Francisco Democrat, who was running for secretary of state at the time, conspired to connect an undercover agent with an international arms dealer in exchange for campaign contributions.

Yee's arrest was among a series of legal cases involving Democratic state lawmakers in 2014 that damaged the Legislature's image and led to reforms. Sen. Ron Calderon was also indicted on federal bribery and corruption charges.

Calderon has pleaded not guilty. Sen. Rod Wright was convicted for lying about living in his district and sentenced to three months in jail.

"Today's news turns the page on one of the darker chapters of the Senate's history," Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León said about Yee's plea.

Yee previously pleaded not guilty to bribery, money laundering and other felony charges.


Gov. Phil Bryant remains opposed to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, but he’s stopping his court fight against it.

In a letter Wednesday, Bryant’s lawyer asks the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to return a Mississippi gay marriage lawsuit to U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves in Jackson. That would allow Reeves to enter a final ruling aligned with the Supreme Court decision.

Reeves overturned Mississippi’s gay marriage ban last year, but put his ruling on hold. The appeals court also put a hold on Reeves’ ruling.

Those procedural blocks need to be lifted, but most Mississippi counties are already issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Lawyers for plaintiffs want judges to act before July 4, to “celebrate the promise of liberty and freedom for all.”



A Detroit woman pleaded guilty Monday to killing two of her children and storing their bodies in a home freezer, telling a judge that she had no remorse for beating and suffocating them.

Mitchelle Blair, 36, has never challenged allegations that she killed her 13-year-old daughter and 9 year-old son. She pleaded guilty to first-degree murder without any deal with prosecutors — an extraordinary move — and said she would have accepted the death penalty if Michigan had it.

She was arrested in March, after deputies carrying out an eviction at her Detroit apartment found the bodies of her children in a deep freezer. She said she attacked the children months apart in 2012 and 2013.

Blair said she intended to kill her daughter, Stoni Blair, but didn’t know the abuse of her son, Stephen Berry, would be fatal. Blair alleged the children had sexually abused a sibling, though she said she didn’t witness the alleged assaults and didn’t get police involved because she feared she would lose her other children.

“I don’t regret none of this,” Blair told Judge Dana Hathaway during the hearing. “I don’t feel no remorse for the death of those demons.”

Mental health experts had found Blair competent to face charges. She faces life in prison with no chance for parole.

Hathaway asked a series of questions about what happened. Blair said she repeatedly beat Stoni and Stephen, and poured scalding water on them. She said she made Stephen drink window cleaner.



A strongly worded dissent in the U.S. Supreme Court's narrow decision this week upholding the use of an execution drug offered a glimmer of hope to death penalty opponents in what they considered otherwise a gloomy ruling. One advocate went so far Tuesday as to call it a blueprint for a fresh attack on the legality of capital punishment itself.

But even those who see Justice Stephen Breyer's dissent as a silver lining think it will take time to mount a viable challenge.

And Breyer's words don't change the fact that the Supreme Court has consistently upheld capital punishment for nearly four decades. The five justices forming the majority in Monday's decision made it clear they feel that states must somehow be able to carry out the death penalty.

In disagreeing with the 5-4 ruling that approved Oklahoma's use of an execution drug, Breyer, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, called it "highly likely that the death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment," which protects against cruel and unusual punishment.

"It was a sweeping and powerful dissent that issues an invitation that we should accept, which is to make the case for why today the death penalty itself is no longer constitutional," said Cassandra Stubbs, director of the Capital Punishment Project of the American Civil Liberties Union.


The Supreme Court won't hear an appeal from Nevada over a lawsuit that claims the state wrongfully bused indigent psychiatric patients to San Francisco without paying the costs of their medical care.
 
The justices on Tuesday let stand a lower court decision that said California state courts have authority to hear the case challenging Nevada's discharge policies.

San Francisco is seeking $500,000 in reimbursement costs for treating 29 patients who were given vouchers for one-way bus tickets to California. It also wants an order barring Nevada from sending over any more patients.

A California Superior Court judge ruled that Nevada could be sued in California because it knew San Francisco would have to spend money on the patients.

Nevada claims the lawsuit interferes with its sovereign powers.



Apple violated antitrust laws by colluding with publishers to raise electronic book prices when it entered a market in 2010 that had been dominated by Amazon.com, a federal appeals court said Tuesday.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan ruled 2-to-1 that a lower court judge was right to find Apple Inc. violated the laws to upset Amazon.com Inc.'s control of the market.

The appeals court also agreed that U.S. District Judge Denise Cote was right to order injunctive relief to ensure the Cupertino, California-based company didn't commit additional violations of antitrust laws.

An Apple lawyer said in an email that comment would be issued soon.

Cote ruled against Apple after a civil trial in summer 2013. She ordered the technology giant to modify contracts with publishers to prevent price fixing and appointed a monitor to review the company's antitrust policies. The appeals court weeks ago upheld the appointment of the monitor.



The Supreme Court acted Monday to keep Texas' 19 abortion clinics open, amid a legal fight that threatens to close more than half of them.

The justices voted 5-4 to grant an emergency appeal from the clinics after a federal appeals court upheld new clinic regulations and refused to keep them on hold while the clinics appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court order will remain in effect at least until the court decides whether to hear the clinics' appeal of the lower court ruling, not before the fall.

The court's decision to block the regulations is a strong indication that the justices will hear the full appeal, which could be the biggest abortion case at the Supreme Court in nearly 25 years.

If the court steps in, the hearing and the eventual ruling would come amid the 2016 presidential campaign.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas would have allowed the state to move ahead with regulations requiring abortion facilities to be constructed like surgical centers. Doctors at all clinics also would be required to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

The clinics said enforcing the new regulations would lead to a second major wave of clinic closures statewide since the law was enacted in 2013. Texas had 41 abortion clinics in 2012; 19 remain.


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