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Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez was convicted Friday in New York of charges that he conspired with drug traffickers and used his military and national police force to enable tons of cocaine to make it unhindered into the United States.

The jury returned its verdict at a federal court after a two-week trial, which has been closely followed in his home country. Hernandez was convicted of conspiring to import cocaine into the U.S. and two weapons counts. The charges carry a mandatory minimum of 40 years in prison and a potential maximum of life. Sentencing was set for June 26.

Hernandez, 55, who served two terms as the leader of the Central American nation of roughly 10 million people, patted a defense attorney, Renato Stabile, on the back as they stood along with everyone else in the courtroom while the jurors filed out after the reading of the verdict.

When the news reached nearly 100 opponents of Hernandez on the street outside the courthouse, they applauded and began jumping into the air to celebrate the outcome.

The scene in the courtroom was subdued and Hernandez seemed relaxed as the verdict on three counts was announced by the jury foreperson. At times, Hernandez had his hands folded before him or one leg crossed over the other as each juror was asked to affirm the verdict. They all did.

In remarks to the jury before they left the courtroom, Judge P. Kevin Castel praised jurors for reaching a unanimous verdict, which was necessary for a conviction.

“We live in a country where 12 people can’t agree on a pizza topping,” the judge told them, saying his message would have been the same regardless of their verdict. “That’s why I’m in awe of you.”

Defense attorney Sabrina Shroff said Hernandez will appeal the conviction.

In a release, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said he hopes the conviction “sends a message to all corrupt politicians who would consider a similar path: choose differently.”


A judge on Friday rejected Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton ’s attempts to throw out felony securities fraud charges that have shadowed the Republican for nearly a decade.

The decision by state District Judge Andrea Beall, an elected Democrat, keeps Paxton on track for an April 15 trial on charges that he duped investors in a tech startup.

If convicted, Paxton faces up to 99 years in prison. Paxton, who has pleaded not guilty, appeared in the Houston courtroom for the hearing, sitting at the defense table with his attorneys.

“He’s ready for trial … This thing has been pending for eight years. (The special prosecutors) want to dance. Put on your shoes. It’s time to go. Let’s dance,” Dan Cogdell, one of Paxton’s attorneys, told reporters after Friday’s court hearing.

Brian Wice, one of the special prosecutors handling the case, said it was important that Paxton’s case go to trial because “no one is above the law. And that includes Ken Paxton. And that’s why this case matters.”

During Friday’s hearing, the other special prosecutor in the case, Kent Schaffer, announced he was withdrawing ahead of the trial.

After the hearing, Wice said the two prosecutors parted ways after disagreeing over Schaffer’s push to avoid a trial and instead settle the case through pre-trial intervention.

Wice said Schaffer had recently reached out to Cogdell with the offer for pretrial intervention, which is like probation and would ultimately lead to the dismissal of charges if a defendant stays out of legal trouble.

Wice said he doesn’t believe pretrial intervention would have been appropriate because there would be no admission of guilt and no jail time.

“And without an acknowledgment of guilt, to me, that was worse than a slap on the wrist. That was, gee, let’s get you a cocktail, a hot meal, and breath mint. And that wasn’t going to happen on my watch,” Wice said.

Cogdell said Schaffer had reached out to him about the proposal and he would have been happy to resolve the case without a trial and a dismissal of the charges.


A federal appeals panel ruled Tuesday that Donald Trump can face trial on charges that he plotted to overturn the results of the 2020 election, sharply rejecting the former president’s claims that he is immune from prosecution while setting the stage for additional challenges that could further delay the case.

The ruling is significant not only for its stark repudiation of Trump’s novel immunity claims but also because it breathes life back into a landmark prosecution that had been effectively frozen for weeks as the court considered the appeal.

Yet the one-month gap between when the court heard arguments and issued its ruling has already created uncertainty about the timing of a trial in a calendar-jammed election year, with the judge overseeing the case last week canceling the initial March 4 date.

Trump’s team vowed to appeal, which could postpones the case by weeks or months — particularly if the Supreme Court agrees to take it up. The judges gave Trump a week to ask the Supreme Court to get involved.

The eventual trial date carries enormous political ramifications, with special counsel Jack Smith’s team hoping to prosecute Trump this year and the Republican front-runner seeking to delay it until after the November election. If Trump were to defeat President Joe Biden, he could presumably try to use his position as head of the executive branch to order a new attorney general to dismiss the federal cases he faces or potentially could seek a pardon for himself.

Tuesday’s unanimous ruling is the second time since December that judges have held that Trump can be prosecuted for actions undertaken while in the White House and in the run-up to Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob of his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol. The opinion, which had been expected given the skepticism with which the panel greeted the Trump team’s arguments, was unsparing in its repudiation of Trump’s claim that former presidents enjoy absolute immunity for acts that fall within their official job duties.

“Presidential immunity against federal indictment would mean that, as to the President, the Congress could not legislate, the Executive could not prosecute and the Judiciary could not review. We cannot accept that the office of the Presidency places its former occupants above the law for all time thereafter,” the judges wrote.

They said the “interest in criminal accountability, held by both the public and the Executive Branch, outweighs the potential risks of chilling Presidential action and permitting vexatious litigation,” and they rejected Trump’s claim that a president could have “unbounded authority to commit crimes” that would prevent the recognition of election results.


More women on Monday joined a Tennessee lawsuit challenging the state’s broad abortion ban that went into effect shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022.

The legal challenge is part of a handful of lawsuits filed across the U.S. in Republican-dominant states seeking clarity on the circumstances that qualify patients to legally receive an abortion.

Here is the latest on what’s going on in Tennessee and where many of the lawsuits stand. On Monday, four more women joined the legal battle in Tennessee that first was filed in September— bringing the total of plaintiffs suing over the state’s abortion ban to nine, including two doctors.

Three of the women added Monday were denied abortions while experiencing severe pregnancy complications, forcing them to travel out of state to get the procedure.

Among the new plaintiffs is Rebecca Milner, who learned she was pregnant with her first child in February 2023 after several years of unsuccessful fertility treatments.

According to court documents, Milner was told at a 20-week appointment that the amniotic fluid surrounding her baby was low. A specialist later said that her water had broken likely several weeks before and that nothing could be done to save the baby.

However, her doctor said that Tennessee’s abortion ban prohibited abortion services in her situation.

That’s because the ban only explicitly lists ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages as legally allowed exemptions. While the law also allows doctors to use “reasonable medical judgment” when determining if an abortion is necessary to prevent the death of a pregnant patient or to prevent irreversible, severe impairment of a major bodily function, medical experts have criticized this provision as too vague, one that puts doctors at a high legal risk of violating the statute.

In Milner’s case, court documents state that she eventually traveled to Virginia for an abortion and returned to Tennessee with a high fever. Doctors told her that she had an infection and that the delay in getting an abortion allowed the infection to worsen.


The Supreme Court said Friday it will not immediately take up a plea by special counsel Jack Smith to rule on whether former President Donald Trump can be prosecuted for his actions to overturn the 2020 election results.

The ruling is a scheduling win for Trump and his lawyers, who have sought repeatedly to delay the criminal cases against him as he campaigns to reclaim the White House in 2024. It averts a swift ruling from the nation’s highest court that could have definitively turned aside his claims of immunity, and it further throws into doubt the possibility of the landmark trial proceeding as scheduled on March 4.

The issue will now be decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which has signaled it will act quickly to decide the case. Special counsel Jack Smith had cautioned that even a rapid appellate decision might not get to the Supreme Court in time for review and final word before the court’s traditional summer break.

Smith had pressed the Supreme Court to intervene, citing significant public interest in a prompt resolution to the case. The request to leapfrog the appeals court, which Smith himself acknowledged was “extraordinary,” also underscored prosecutors’ concerns that the fight over the issue could delay the start of Trump’s trial beyond next year’s presidential election.

The justices turned down Smith’s request in a single-sentence order Friday. As is customary, the court gave no explanation for the decision.

With the justices remaining out of the dispute for now, additional appeals are likely that could delay the case. If the appeals court, which is set to hear arguments on Jan. 9, turns down Trump’s immunity claims, he could then ask for the Supreme Court to get involved — giving the justices another opportunity to decide if they want to weigh in.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan has already put the case on hold while Trump pursues his claim that he is immune from prosecution. Chutkan has raised the possibility of keeping the March trial date if the case promptly returns to her court.

She earlier rejected the Trump team’s arguments that an ex-president could not be prosecuted over acts that fall within the official duties of the job.


The Supreme Court is being asked to reverse an appellate ruling that would cut off mail-order access to a drug used in the most common method of abortion in the United States.

The case would be the first major abortion dispute decided by the Supreme Court since it overturned Roe v. Wade last year. That ruling has led to bans on abortion at all stages of pregnancy in 15 states, with some exceptions, and once cardiac activity can be detected, which is around six weeks, in two others.

In appeals filed Friday, the Biden administration and New York-based Danco Laboratories, the manufacturer of mifepristone, argued that federal judges should not second-guess the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the drug or the conditions under which it is dispensed.

A federal appeals court ruling in August would revoke approval for sending the drug through the mail and would shorten, from the current 10 weeks to seven weeks, the time during which mifepristone can be used in pregnancy.

The justices previously intervened in the case in April to assure the availability of mifepristone while a challenge proceeds in the federal courts. The Supreme Court is widely expected to agree to hear the case and have the final word, probably by early summer 2024 and in the middle of presidential and congressional campaigns.

In urging the justices to reverse the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, lawyers for Danco wrote, “For the women and teenage girls, health care providers, and States that depend on FDA’s actions to ensure safe and effective reproductive health care is available, this case matters tremendously.”

The Justice Department said the appeals court ignored a scientific judgment about mifepristone’s safety and effectivness since its approval in 2000.

“To the government’s knowledge, the decisions below mark the first time any court has restricted access to an FDA-approved drug based on disagreement with FDA’s expert judgment about the conditions required to assure that drug’s safe use — much less done so after those conditions had been in effect for years,” Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, the administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer, wrote.

Abortion opponents filed their challenge to mifepristone in November and initially won a sweeping ruling in April revoking the drug’s approval entirely. The appeals court left intact the FDA’s initial approval of mifepristone. But it would reverse changes regulators made in 2016 and 2021 that eased some conditions for administering the drug.

When the high court voted in April to block any changes until a final decision, Justices Samuel Alito, the author of last year’s decision overturning Roe, and Clarence Thomas said they would have allowed some restrictions to take effect while appeals played out.

Women seeking to end their pregnancies in the first 10 weeks without more invasive surgical abortion can take mifepristone, along with a second drug, misoprostol. The pills are now used in more than half of all abortions in the U.S.

Misoprostol also is used to treat other medical conditions. Health care providers have said they could switch to misoprostol if mifepristone is no longer available or is too hard to obtain. Misoprostol is somewhat less effective in ending pregnancies.

The FDA has eased the terms of mifepristone’s use over the years, including allowing it to be sent through the mail in states that allow access and reducing the dosage that is needed to end a pregnancy.


West Virginia can restrict the sale of the abortion pill, despite federal regulators’ approval of it as a safe and effective medication, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert C. Chambers determined Thursday that the near-total abortion ban signed by Republican Gov. Jim Justice in September 2022 takes precedence over approvals from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“The Supreme Court has made it clear that regulating abortion is a matter of health and safety upon which States may appropriately exercise their police power,” Chambers wrote in a decision dismissing most challenges brought against the state by abortion pill manufacturer GenBioPro, Inc. in a January lawsuit filed in the state southern district’s Huntington division.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court last year overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that provided nationwide access to abortion, most GOP-controlled states have enacted or adopted abortion bans of some kind, restricting abortion pills by default. All have been challenged in court.

Legal experts foresee years of court battles over access to the pills, as abortion-rights proponents bring test cases to challenge state restrictions.

In West Virginia’s case, regulation of medical professionals “is arguably a field in which the states have an even stronger interest and history of exercising authority,” than the federal government, Chambers decided.

GenBioPro, Inc., the country’s only manufacturer of a generic version of the abortion pill mifepristone, had argued that the state cannot block access to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved drug.

Chambers dismissed the majority of the manufacturer’s challenges, finding there is “no disputing that health, medicine, and medical licensure are traditional areas of state authority.”

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