Category Archives: Legal News

Drug smugglers busted after disguising more than a ton of marijuana as fresh carrots

BY

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Wednesday, January 13, 2016, 8:40 PM
carr

These green-minded drug smugglers tried hiding more than a ton of marijuana as carrots while crossing the border through Mexico.

Ehh… what’s up, pot?

Drug smugglers were busted trying to hide more than a ton of marijuana disguised as carrots while crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, officials said.

Hiding their green bud among the orange vegetables, the smugglers tried driving through the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge on Sunday, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection said.

After an image scan, officers brought out a canine team to sniff out the drugs.

Disguised among the cargo of fresh carrots were 2,817 packages of marijuana, wrapped into carrot shapes with orange plastic.

The drugs were wrapped in carrot shapes around orange plastic and hidden among the fresh vegetables.

“Once again, drug smuggling organizations have demonstrated their creativity in attempting to smuggle large quantities of narcotics across the U.S./Mexico border,” said Port Director Efrain Solis Jr. “Our officers are always ready to meet those challenges and remain vigilant towards any type of illicit activities.”

Officers seized 2,493 pounds of marijuana, worth about $499,000, police said.

This isn’t the first time smugglers have tried hiding marijuana using salad ingredients at that border checkpoint.

On Dec. 2, 2015, at the same bridge, police stopped drug dealers from bringing in $1.7 million worth of narcotics, which were disguised as cucumbers and carrots again.

About two weeks after that, officers found $479,000 worth of marijuana hidden among fresh tomatoes.

Read Full Article – http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/drug-smugglers-busted-disguising-marijuana-carrots-article-1.2496306

Time for J&J to pay up in $124M Risperdal case as SCOTUS deflects final appeal

January 11, 2016 | By

Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) fell short Monday in its final effort to escape a Risperdal marketing penalty in South Carolina. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up J&J’s last appeal in the case, putting the company on the hook for a $124 million penalty.

J&J had cited the Eighth Amendment in arguing against the penalty, saying it qualified as an “excessive fine.” As Reuters notes, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had backed the drugmaker in seeking Supreme Court review.

J&J’s Janssen unit has been fighting South Carolina’s deceptive trade practices court win since 2011, when a jury ordered the drugmaker to pay $327 million for Risperdal marketing violations. The company succeeded in lowering the judgment twice, first to $136 million and then, last year, to the final $124 million.

The lawsuit centered on promotional materials Janssen used to market the antipsychotic drug. Key to the case was a letter sent to South Carolina physicians, which overstated Risperdal’s benefits compared with other drugs in its class and downplayed side effects, the jury found. The trial court judge ordered Janssen to pay about $4,000 for each of the more than 7,000 letters mailed.

The original $327 million judgment dwarfed other similar rulings in drug-marketing lawsuits, including sizable decisions and settlements in other Risperdal-related litigation, but it fell far short of a $1.2 billion verdict in Arkansas. The Arkansas Supreme Court struck down that judgment in March 2014, and the company later negotiated a settlement of $7.5 million.

The South Carolina decision survived that state’s top court in a ruling last year, in which Justice John Kittredge backed the decision at trial, but lowered the $327 million penalty to $136 million.

In affirming the judgment against the company, Kittredge echoed the trial judge’s “profit-at-all-costs” characterization of Janssen’s marketing efforts. “Janssen’s desire for market share and increased sales knew no bounds, leading to its egregious violation of South Carolina law,” Kittredge wrote in the February 2015 ruling.

Janssen had argued that it did not intentionally deceive doctors with the now-notorious “Risperdal letter” that has featured in several state-court lawsuits. The drugmaker also contended that South Carolina’s attorney general didn’t prove patients were actually harmed by the drug. It was on that point that Kittredge lowered the judgment.

The “Risperdal letter” lawsuits compose only part of the mountain of litigation J&J has fought over the antipsychotic drug. The company agreed to pay $2.2 billion in a marketing settlement with the U.S. Justice Department and a group of states.

And the litigation isn’t over yet. The company now faces more than 1,000 lawsuits over Risperdal’s ability to trigger breast development in boys. J&J lost the first court battle last February, as a Philadelphia jury ordered J&J to pay almost $2.5 million to a young man who developed breasts while using Risperdal. In November, another jury awarded $1.75 million in a similar case.

Read Full Article – http://www.fiercepharma.com/story/time-jj-pay-124m-risperdal-case-scotus-deflects-final-appeal/2016-01-11

Sean Penn Secretly Interviewed ‘El Chapo,’ Mexican Drug Lord

Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the Mexican drug lord known as El Chapo, started out in business not long after turning 6, selling oranges and soft drinks. By 15, he said in an interview conducted in a jungle clearing by the actor and director Sean Penn for Rolling Stone magazine, he had begun to grow marijuana and poppies because there was no other way for his impoverished family to survive.

Now, unapologetically, he said: “I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world. I have a fleet of submarines, airplanes, trucks and boats.”

Though his fortune, estimated at $1 billion, has come with a trail of blood, he does not consider himself a violent man. “Look, all I do is defend myself, nothing more,” he told Mr. Penn. “But do I start trouble? Never.”

The seven hours Mr. Guzmán spent with Mr. Penn, and the follow-up interviews by phone and video — which began in October while he was on the run — marked another surreal turn in his long-running effort to evade the Mexican and American authorities. Mr. Guzmán, one of the world’s most wanted fugitives, who had twice escaped jail, was captured in his home state of Sinaloa in northwest Mexico on Friday after a gun battle with the authorities.

Mr. Guzmán’s comments also mark a stark admission that he has operated a drug empire. Interviewed by a group of reportersin 1993 after a previous arrest, he denied that he engaged in drug dealing. “I’m a farmer,” he said, listing his produce as corn and beans. He denied that he used weapons or had significant funds.

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 3.13.19 AM

The interview with Mr. Penn, believed to be the first Mr. Guzmán has given in decades, was published online Saturday night, along with a video portion of the interview.

The interviews were held in a jungle clearing atop a mountain at an undisclosed location in Mexico. Surrounded by more than 100 cartel troops, and wearing a silk shirt and pressed black jeans, Mr. Guzmán sat down to dinner with Mr. Penn and Kate del Castillo, a Mexican actress who once played a drug kingpin in the soap opera “La Reina del Sur,” according to Rolling Stone.

Even though Mexican troops attacked his hide-out in the days after the meeting, necessitating a narrow escape, Mr. Guzmán continued the interview by BlackBerry Messenger and in a video delivered by courier to the pair later.

The story provides new details on his dramatic escape from prison last summer, when he disappeared through a hole in his shower into a mile-long tunnel that some engineers estimated took more than a year and at least $1 million to build. The engineers, Mr. Penn wrote, had been flown to Germany for specialized training. A motorcycle on rails inside the tunnel had been modified to run in the low-oxygen environment, deep underground.

Mr. Penn’s account is likely to deepen the concern among the Mexican authorities already embarrassed by Mr. Guzmán’s multiple escapes, the months required to find him again and his status for some as something of a folk hero. Mr. Penn describes being waved through a military road checkpoint on his way to meet Mr. Guzmán, which Mr. Penn suggested was because the soldiers recognized Mr. Guzmán’s son. Mr. Penn said he was also told, during a leg of the journey taken in a small plane equipped with a scrambling device for ground radar only, that the cartel was informed by an insider when the military deployed a high-altitude surveillance plane that might have spotted their movements.

In the end, the Mexican authorities said Friday night that Mr. Guzmán had been caught partly because he had been planning a movie about his life, and had contacted actors and producers, which had helped the authorities to track him down. Mr. Penn’s story says Mr. Guzmán, inundated with Hollywood offers while in prison, had indeed elected to make his own movie. Ms. del Castillo, whom he contacted through his lawyer after she posted supportive messages on Twitter, was the only person he trusted to shepherd the project, the story says. Mr. Penn heard about the connection with Ms. del Castillo through a mutual acquaintance, and asked if he might do an interview.

It is not clear whether the contacts described in the story are the ones that led to Mr. Guzmán’s arrest. Mr. Penn wrote that he had gone to great lengths to maintain security while arranging to meet Mr. Guzmán. He described labeling cheap “burner” phones, “one per contact, one per day, destroy, burn, buy, balancing levels of encryption, mirroring through Blackphones, anonymous email addresses, unsent messages accessed in draft form.” Nevertheless, he wrote, “There is no question in my mind but that DEA and the Mexican government are tracking our movements,” referring to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration. A Mexican government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe confidential matters, said the authorities were aware of the meeting with Mr. Penn.

Mr. Penn and Mr. Guzmán spoke for seven hours, the story reports, at a compound amid dense jungle. Mr. Guzmán does not speak English, and the interview was conducted in Spanish through translators.

It was not immediately clear what the ethical and legal considerations of the article might be. In a disclosure that ran with the story, Rolling Stone said it had changed some names and withheld some locations. An understanding was reached with Mr. Guzmán, it said, that the story would be submitted for his approval, but he did not request any changes. The magazine declined to comment further Saturday.

A Mexican official said late Saturday that all actors and producers who met with Mr. Guzman, which includes Mr. Penn, were under investigation. But it remained unclear whether the circumstances of the meeting were the subject of inquiry or the individuals themselves would face scrutiny from the Mexican government.

The topics of conversation turned in unexpected directions. At one stage, Mr. Penn brought up Donald J. Trump, the Republican presidential candidate; there were some reports that Mr. Guzmán had put a $100 million bounty on Mr. Trump after he made comments offensive to Mexicans. “Ah! Mi amigo!” Mr. Guzmán responded.

He asked Mr. Penn whether people in the United States were interested in him and laughed when Mr. Penn told him that the Fusion channel was repeating a documentary on him, “Chasing El Chapo.”

In a wider-ranging interview, for which Mr. Penn submitted questions that were put to Mr. Guzmán on video by one of his associates, he detailed his childhood and said he had tried drugs during his life but had never been an addict and had not touched them for 20 years. He said that he was happy to be free, and that the pressure of evading the authorities was normal for him.

Pushed on the morality of his business, he said it was a reality “that drugs destroy. Unfortunately, as I said, where I grew up there was no other way and there still isn’t a way to survive, no way to work in our economy to be able to make a living.” If he disappeared, he said, it would make no difference to the drug business.

Asked about the violence attached to his work, he said in part it happened “because already some people already grow up with problems, and there is some envy and they have information against someone else. That is what creates violence.”

Mr. Guzmán, Mr. Penn said, was familiar with the final days of Pablo Escobar, the Colombian drug boss who had previously been the world’s most notorious and who died in a shootout with the authorities. How, he asked, did Mr. Guzmán see his last days? “I know one day I will die,” he said. “I hope it’s of natural causes.”

Read Full Article – http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/10/world/americas/el-chapo-mexican-drug-lord-interview-with-sean-penn.html

Massachusetts Senate Panel on Legal Pot to Visit Colorado

  • By BOB SALSBERG, ASSOCIATED PRESS

BOSTON — Jan 8, 2016, 5:04 PM ET

Members of a Massachusetts Senate panel plan to visit Colorado next week to learn more about that state’s experience with the legalized use of recreational marijuana.

The Senate Special Committee on Marijuana was created last year in response to a likely 2016 ballot question that — if approved by voters — would allow pot to be used recreationally in Massachusetts.

A draft itinerary for the four-day trip starting Monday includes meetings and discussions with Colorado state regulators, legislators and law enforcement officials.

“We have recognized all along that the best way to really learn about the impact of legalizing marijuana is to spend time on the ground in the state that has the most experience with it, and that is Colorado,” said Sen. Jason Lewis, a Winchester Democrat who chairs the committee of 10 senators, eight of whom plan to be on the trip.

The visit is being paid for by Milbank Memorial Fund, a nonprofit foundation that specializes in health policy, Lewis said Friday.

Three other states — Washington, Alaska and Oregon — have legalized recreational pot.

A group called The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol collected more than enough signatures last year to advance the proposed ballot question, which would allow Massachusetts residents 21 or older to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana. It would also create a 3.75 percent state excise tax on retail marijuana sales that would be assessed on top of the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax.

Massachusetts voters approved two earlier ballot questions that decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana and authorized patients with certain medical conditions to use the drug.

“We don’t want to repeat the mistakes and the challenges we had in implementing the medical marijuana question,” said Lewis, referring to regulatory delays that kept the first dispensaries from opening until last year.

Regulating recreational marijuana would be even more complex, he said, with issues that include public safety, licensing, taxes and compliance with federal law.

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and state Attorney General Maura Healey, a Democrat, are among those lined up against the proposed ballot question, with Baker saying he is “unalterably opposed” to legalizing marijuana.

Read Full Article  – http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/massachusetts-senate-panel-legal-pot-visit-colorado-36170306

‘Mission accomplished’: Mexican President says ‘El Chapo’ caught

Updated 6:24 PM ET, Fri January 8, 2016 | Video Source: CNN

(CNN)Mexican authorities snared drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman in a bloody raid Friday, recapturing one of the world’s most notorious and slippery criminals.

“Mission Accomplished,” President Enrique Peña Nieto announced via Twitter. “We have him.”

Members of Mexico’s navy caught Guzman in an operation at about 4:30 a.m. (6:30 a.m. ET) in the coastal city of Los Mochis in Sinaloa state, a senior law enforcement official in Mexico told CNN.

Several people aligned with Guzman died in the raid, the official said. The Mexican navy put the number of dead at five, with six others arrested. No navy personnel were killed, and only one was injured.

Peña Nieto said the recapture of Guzman culminates “days and nights” of collaborative work among Mexican intelligence and police agencies.

“They are a pride to our nation,” he said, referring to the multi-agency operation in an address at the National Palace in Mexico City.

Without specifically mentioning how Guzman had already twice escaped from Mexican prisons, the Mexican President said the recapture of Guzman ought to restore Mexicans’ faith in their government and justice system.

Friday’s announcement marked the third time that Guzman was captured by Mexican authorities.

“Today our institutions have demonstrated one more time that our citizens can trust them, and our institutions are at the level needed to have the strength and determination to complete any mission that is granted to them,” the President said.

Guzman’s recapture represents a major success in what has been an embarrassing ordeal for Mexico. For many, “El Chapo” has been a symbol of the Mexican government’s ineptitude and corruption.

He has led one of the country’s most powerful, violent drug cartels and escaped maximum-security prisons not once, but twice, the latest in July when he busted out through a hole into a mile-long tunnel and then on to freedom.

Last year’s breakout spurred major criticism about the Mexican government’s ability to safeguard such a notorious criminal, with some saying he should have been held in the United States.

U.S. officials were aware of the operation to capture Guzman, according to a law enforcement official.

The Americans provided assistance in the search, but his capture was the Mexican government’s operation, the official said.

Mexican authorities were closing in on him for at least 24 hours before special forces moved in. The official said it’s not a surprise El Chapo was located in Sinaloa.

“There was a belief he was in Sinaloa. That was his refuge. We would have been surprised if it were anywhere but Sinaloa,” the official said.

Some U.S. officials were skeptical that Guzman would ever be captured again, especially alive, given the amount of protection he has in Mexico and his ability to escape prison twice, the official said.

The U.S. Justice Department previously sought extradition of El Chapo to the United States, and it is likely that the Justice Department will try to do so again.

The raid began after a citizen complained about armed people in a home, and when Mexican special forces went to the scene, they were fired upon by alleged members of organized crime, the Mexican navy said.

On Friday, Mexican authorities released a video of a person identified as Guzman, whose head was covered and who was being led by several armed officers from a vehicle to an airplane. They released a video of a white structure where the raid occurred, and the footage showed several weapons.

In all, authorities seized four armored vehicles, eight rifles, a handgun, ammunition, and a tube rocket launcher with two charges, the Navy said.

Led one of Mexico’s richest, most violent cartels

Born in Badiraguato in Sinaloa state, Guzman started his career in the drug trade working for Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, according to Time magazine in 2009.

Read Full Article – http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/08/americas/el-chapo-captured-mexico/