The Supreme Court will decide whether the European Union can pursue its lawsuit claiming that tobacco company R.J. Reynolds sponsored cigarette smuggling in Europe as part of a global money-laundering scheme with organized crime groups.
The justices agreed Thursday to review an appeals court ruling that said the EU and 26 of its member states were within their rights to sue in U.S. courts under federal racketeering laws.
The suit alleges that RJR directed, managed and controlled the scheme that involved laundering money through New York-based financial institutions.
A federal judge threw out the claims, but a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that racketeering laws can apply to crimes committed in foreign countries.
The EU alleges that RJR orchestrated the scheme with the help of Colombian and Russian criminal groups and that the company laundered money through New York-based financial institutions. The EU claims the company's actions hurt the economies of EU member nations by depriving governments of tax revenues.
The suit alleges several violations of racketeering laws, including mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, violations of the Travel Act and laws banning material support to foreign terrorist organizations.
The company calls the claims baseless. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. is a subsidiary of Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based Reynolds American Inc.
A Wyoming man pleaded guilty Thursday in the shooting two American Indian men that exposed racial tensions in a reservation border town.
Roy Clyde, 32, faces life in prison with no possibility of parole under a plea agreement that spares him the death penalty. Clyde is a former parks worker for the city of Riverton, on the border of the Wind River Indian Reservation.
Clyde admitted in court that he walked into the Center of Hope detox center on July 18 and shot and killed Stallone Trosper, 29, as Trosper lay on a bed. He also shot James "Sonny" Goggles, 50, in the head, critically injuring him. Clyde then calmly surrendered to police outside the center.
Trosper and Goggles are members of the Northern Arapaho Tribe. The shootings have outraged tribal leaders, who have demanded a federal hate crimes investigation.
Victims' relatives were upset after Thursday's hearing because Clyde, under questioning of his lawyer, said he was targeting transients regardless of their race — not specifically hunting American Indians.
Defense lawyer Nick Beduhn questioned Clyde in court about his actions to establish a factual basis for the guilty pleas. Clyde affirmed that he had considered killing transients before the day he shot Trosper and Goggles.
A twice-condemned serial killer who claimed he was intellectually disabled was executed in Virginia on Thursday after a series of last-minute appeals failed.
Alfredo Prieto was pronounced dead at 9:17 p.m. at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt. The 49-year-old was injected with a lethal three-drug combination, including the sedative pentobarbital, which Virginia received from the Texas prison system.
Prieto, wearing glasses, jeans and a light blue shirt, did not resist and showed no emotion as he was strapped to the gurney.
"I would like to say thanks to all my lawyers, all my supporters and all my family members," he said, before mumbling, "Get this over with."
The El Salvador native was sentenced to death in Virginia in 2010 for the murder of a young couple more than two decades earlier. Rachael Raver and her boyfriend, Warren Fulton III, both 22, were found shot to death in a wooded area a few days after being seen at a Washington, D.C., nightspot.
Prieto was on death row in California at the time for raping and murdering a 15-year-old girl and was linked to the Virginia slayings through DNA evidence. California officials agreed to send him to Virginia on the rationale that it was more likely to carry out the execution.
He has been connected to as many as six other killings in California and Virginia, authorities have said, but he was never prosecuted because he had already been sentenced to death.
A man accused in some of the freeway shootings that put Phoenix drivers on edge for weeks pleaded not guilty Thursday as his defense lawyers questioned the strength of the evidence against him.
Attorneys for Leslie Allen Merritt Jr., 21, who was arraigned on 15 felony counts, including aggravated assault and carrying out a drive-by shooting, said outside court that the investigation by state police does not place him at the shooting scenes.
"We're going to work diligently to make sure that we investigate this fully, and we believe in his innocence," said Ulises Ferragut, one of Merritt's two attorneys.
Ferragut and attorney Jason Lamm also cited investigators' evolving timeline of the shootings. They plan to do their own investigation, looking into another person possibly admitting responsibility for any of the 11 shootings, Lamm said. They didn't identify that person or provide details.
"It's very, very early in the game to get hard confirmation on that," Lamm said.
Department of Public Safety investigators used ballistics tests to tie Merritt to four of the 11 shootings that occurred on Phoenix-area freeways between Aug. 22 and Sept. 10.
A federal appeals court agreed Wednesday that the NCAA's use of college athletes' names, images and likenesses in video games and TV broadcasts violated antitrust laws but struck down a plan to allow schools to pay players up to $5,000.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the NCAA could not stop schools from providing full scholarships to student athletes but vacated a proposal for deferred cash payments.
"The difference between offering student-athletes education-related compensation and offering them cash sums untethered to educational expenses is not minor; it is a quantum leap," Judge Jay Bybee wrote. "Once that line is crossed, we see no basis for returning to a rule of amateurism and no defined stopping point."
A statement from NCAA President Mark Emmert said the organization agrees with the court that "allowing students to be paid cash compensation of up to $5,000 per year was erroneous."
"Since Aug. 1, the NCAA has allowed member schools to provide up to full cost of attendance; however, we disagree that it should be mandated by the courts," he said.
An El Paso clinic shuttered by Texas' tough 2013 abortion law reopened Tuesday, the first in the state to do so since the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily blocked enforcement of some of the key restrictions three months ago.
The Reproductive Services clinic, so close to the Texas-Mexico border that its windows offer views of Ciudad Juarez across the Rio Grande, is now taking appointments and should begin performing abortions next week.
The reopening brings to 20 the number of abortion clinics in America's second most-populous state. But that's still down from 41 in 2012, and the facility could close again soon.
A June 29 Supreme Court order only created a temporary block that will hold until the high court decides whether to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling refusing to suspend the Texas restrictions. It's not clear when that decision will come, but the summer ruling is a strong indication that the Supreme Court eventually will hear the full appeal — which could be the biggest abortion case in decades.
"We're so excited about the reopening, but the discouraging part is we could be closed down at any time," said Marilyn Eldridge, president of Nova Health Systems, which operates Reproductive Services. She and her late husband, a Christian minister, first opened the clinic in 1977.
The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor has broadened her preliminary probe in Ukraine to cover possible crimes committed in the country since early 2014 — a period that saw Russia's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Tuesday's announcement by Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda came after Ukrainian authorities accepted the court's jurisdiction dating back to early last year.
While Ukraine is not a member of the court, it has twice voluntarily accepted its jurisdiction.
The first acceptance covered the period from November 2013 until February 2014 — weeks during which former President Viktor Yanukovych's regime staged a violent crackdown on demonstrators. Kiev's second acceptance of jurisdiction, lodged three weeks ago, starts in early 2014 and has no end date.