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Two-time Olympic silver medal-winning kayaker Nathan Baggaley and his younger brother have been jailed for more than 20 years each for trying to smuggle up to 200 million Australian dollars ($147 million) worth of cocaine into Australia.

The pair was found guilty by a Brisbane Supreme Court jury in April of attempting to import a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug in July 2018. During their trial in Brisbane, the court heard Dru Baggaley, 39, and another man travelled hundreds of miles offshore from northern New South Wales state and picked up 650 kilograms (1,430 pounds) of the drug from a foreign ship.

It also heard the men began throwing the drugs overboard on their way back to the mainland, when they spotted an Australian Navy patrol boat chasing them. The two men were arrested by Queensland Water Police shortly after the pursuit.

Nathan Baggaley, who won silver medals at the 2004 Athens Olympics in the K-1 and K-2 over 500 meters and is a three-time world champion over the K-1 500 distance, was charged almost a year later after it was determined he purchased and fitted out the boat which was used during the failed plot.

Lawyers for the men argued Dru Baggaley had believed the dozens of packages contained tobacco, while Nathan Baggaley knew nothing about a plan to import any illicit substance.

Judge Justice Ann Lyons rejected the brothers’ claims and sentenced them Tuesday on the basis that Dru Baggaley was a “principal organizer” of the operation and his brother Nathan was “actively involved” on the day the two men went to sea, and was set to be rewarded substantially for his role.

Nathan Baggaley, 45, will have to serve 12 years in custody before he is eligible to apply for parole, while Dru Baggaley will be eligible to apply for parole after 16 years.

Nathan Baggaley was banned for taking steroids in 2005 while still competing as a kayaker. The brothers were jailed in 2009 for manufacturing and supplying large numbers of ecstasy tablets, and again in 2015 for producing party pills and conspiring to make methamphetamine.


A woman convicted in the 1987 kidnapping and death of a northern Illinois businessman has been granted a re-sentencing hearing by the state’s appellate court.

Nancy Rish, 59, petitioned in December 2017 for a resentencing hearing so that the court can consider evidence of domestic violence. Stephen Small of Kankakee suffocated in a plywood box when a breathing tube running to the surface failed before a ransom could be paid.

Her attorneys argued Rish was coerced by ex-boyfriend Daniel Edwards into driving him and that she was unaware of his kidnapping plan even as he had her pick him up from the remote, wooded burial site and drive him between phone booths where he made ransom calls.

The attorneys argued her case is what Illinois legislators had in mind when they passed legislation in 2015 giving abuse victims who had been sentenced to prison for crimes a break on their sentences.

In its ruling Thursday, the court noted the state maintained the trial court’s sentence rested on the “horrific nature of the crime in which (defendant) played an integral part” and that the evidence of domestic violence could not overcome the seriousness of the crime.

“This is the first time in 33½ years that she’s gotten a ruling that may result in her sentence being reduced from natural life,” Margaret Byrne, a private attorney who is representing Rish pro bono, told the Chicago Tribune.

Rish was sentenced to life in prison after a jury trial in 1988. Edwards was convicted and sentenced to death. The sentence was commuted to a life term by then-Gov. George Ryan as Illinois moved toward ending the death penalty.

Rish, an inmate at Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln, has maintained her innocence through more than three decades of legal losses. In July 2019, Kankakee County Judge Michael Sabol rejected Rish’s petition for a re-sentencing, rejecting the argument a new sentence was warranted because of a change in Illinois law.



The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ordered a new trial for a man accused of killing his wife and then faking an all-terrain vehicle accident to cover up the slaying almost a decade ago.

The state’s highest court ruled 5-2 Friday that 48-year-old Joseph Fitzpatrick III might not have been convicted of first-degree murder in York County in 2015 without the admission into evidence of a note from his wife which the court called inadmissible hearsay that injected “significant prejudice” into the trial, the York Daily Record reported.

Fitzpatrick was accused of having drowned 43-year-old Annemarie Fitzpatrick in a Chanceford Township creek in June 2012 and then telling police they crashed their ATV in the water. Authorities alleged that he wanted out of his marriage, was emotionally involved with another woman and had a $1.7 million life insurance policy on his wife.

Hours before her death, prosecutors have said, Annemarie Fitzpatrick wrote, dated and signed a note in her day-planner at work saying “If anything happens to me — Joe.” She also wrote an email to herself titled “if something happens to me” saying the couple had marital problems and a huge log had almost fallen on her the night before.

“Joe was on the pile with the log and had me untying a tarp directly below,” the email said, according to prosecutors.

The trial judge, in a rare move, set aside the jury verdict, saying prosecutors had not presented enough evidence to support a conviction. The Pennsylvania Superior Court reinstated the conviction, saying the note was allowed as evidence to show the victim’s state of mind, an exception to the hearsay rule. The court said the email wasn’t admissible but ruled that its admission was harmless “in light of the overwhelming evidence against Fitzpatrick.”

In a 47-page opinion for the high court’s majority, Justice David Wecht said the note not only reflected the woman’s fear but also asserted that her husband would be responsible “if something untoward or violent happened to her.” Offering the note as proof of that would be inadmissible hearsay, and Wecht said it was offered “and repeatedly highlighted” to “establish the truth of the matters asserted therein.”

“The remaining evidence simply was not so overwhelming so as to overcome the note’s enormous impact,” Wecht said. “Accordingly, the admission of the note cannot be deemed harmless.”

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Sallie Updyke Mundy said the note could have been allowed to show that the defendant’s wife feared him, if the judge read a limiting instruction to the jury, but she would have upheld the conviction even though that was not done.


 Senate Democrats are raising new concerns about the thoroughness of the FBI’s background investigation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh after the FBI revealed that it had received thousands of tips and had provided “all relevant” ones to the White House counsel’s office.

The FBI, responding to longstanding questions from Democrats, disclosed in a letter late last month that it had received more than 4,500 tips as it investigated the nominee’s past following his 2018 nomination by President Donald Trump. The process was the first time that the FBI had set up a tip line for a nominee undergoing Senate confirmation, said an assistant FBI director, Jill Tyson, writing on behalf of Director Christopher Wray.

A group of Democratic senators said in a letter to Wray dated Wednesday that his response “raises significant additional questions.” They called on him to explain, among other things, how many tips the FBI decided were relevant and what criteria agents used to make that determination and what policies and procedures were used to vet the tips. The senators also asked for more information about the tip line, including how it was staffed and how the tips were recorded or preserved.

“Your letter confirms that the FBI’s tip line was a departure from past practice and that the FBI was politically constrained by the Trump White House,” the senators wrote.

Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court in October 2018 after a rancorous process in which claims emerged that he had sexually assaulted women three decades ago. He emphatically denied the allegations.

The FBI conducted a original background investigation into Kavanaugh that consisted of interviews with 49 people over the course of five days, Wray said. The bureau then did a supplemental background check after new information arose about a woman, Christine Blasey Ford, who alleged that Kavanaugh had assaulted her when they were teens. As part of that process, Wray said, the FBI interviewed 10 people over six days.

But, he stressed, the inquiry was limited in nature, without the “authorities, policies and procedures” that would be used for an FBI criminal investigation.


A Tulsa attorney whom the American Bar Association rated as “ not qualified ” to serve as a federal judge was tapped Friday by Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt to serve as the state’s next attorney general.

After a two-month search that began in May after Republican Mike Hunter stepped down suddenly, Stitt selected John O’Connor, 66, to fill the vacancy, giving the governor an ally in his increasingly contentious relationship with some of the Native American tribes in the state. Stitt and Hunter, both Republicans, occasionally clashed on various matters, including over Stitt’s decision to renegotiate the state’s gaming compacts with Native American tribes.

“It was so important to me to find someone who was highly competent in the law, but more importantly, I was looking for someone with high moral character who will do the right things for the right reasons and never for personal gain,” Stitt said after announcing his pick in Tulsa.

“As the state’s top law enforcer, we needed someone willing to fight and defend what’s best for all 4 million Oklahomans.”

O’Connor was formally sworn into office Friday afternoon by Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice John Kane during a ceremony at the state Capitol.

Stitt said he’s known O’Connor for more than 20 years and considers him a “mentor” who helped advise him when Stitt was CEO of a mortgage company.

O’Connor will have to run for the seat in a statewide election in 2022, and he indicated Tuesday that he “absolutely” plans to do so.

“I want to get in there, get my hands dirty, and I’m sure it will take longer than 16 months,” O’Connor said.

O’Connor clearly sides with the governor in his opposition to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last year in McGirt v. Oklahoma that a large swath of eastern Oklahoma remains an Indian reservation. He said he hopes the high court reverses its position in the landmark tribal sovereignty case.


Maine’s supreme court has upheld a 40-year prison sentence imposed on a man who killed his roommate in Old Orchard Beach.

Dustan Bentley pleaded guilty to murder in the death of 65-year-old William Popplewell, who was beaten, stabbed and strangled with a ligature.

Police arrested Bentley as he was attempting to use a ratchet and strap to pull the body into the trunk of his car, which was lined with a shower curtain. An autopsy revealed the victim suffered multiple broken bones and had been stabbed up to 30 times.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court unanimously ruled that there was nothing in the record to indicate that the judge made a mistake.

“At no point did the court depart from sentencing principles or abuse its discretion in coming to or issuing its sentence,” the court said.

Bentley and Popplewell met at a Portland homeless shelter, and Bentley later moved into Popplewell’s apartment in Old Orchard Beach in December 2018. Popplewell was killed in March 2019.


The Pennsylvania Department of Health can’t allow applicants seeking to grow or dispense medical marijuana to redact their own applications under the state’s public information law, regardless of the burden it places on the department, the state’s highest court affirmed Wednesday.

Lawyers for the department had appealed a lower court’s similar ruling, arguing that only the companies submitting the hundreds of pages of required documentation in the applications know what is proprietary or an issue of security. State law says the applications for the licenses are public information, but allows exemptions for those areas.

Under the ruling, the department will be responsible for individually considering redactions in each application.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in favor of PennLive, The Patriot-News and reporter Wallace McKelvey, who brought the initial lawsuit arguing the state had improperly allowed the company redactions and ultimately withheld information that should be subject to disclosure under the public information law. Lawyers for the news organizations cited the uneven redactions between applications — some had entire sections blacked out while others only redacted a few words.

The court also rejected an assertion from one of the applicant companies that it should be allowed to take a broader view of what was proprietary information in its request to redact parts of its application because as a non-governmental entity, it isn’t directly covered by the public information law.

The court, however, granted an appeal from another applicant, Terrapin Investment Fund, 1, LLC, which argued the lower court had not properly considered its argument that some banking information should be considered redactable because it can lead to higher chances of robberies in the largely cash-based businesses or damage financial relationships with banks that agree to hold their accounts. The company’s request will be sent back to the lower court for reconsideration.

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