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April 2012 Archives

Former BP engineer charged with deleting oil spill texts

The Justice Department has filed its first criminal charges related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010. The accused person is not charged with criminal liability in causing the spill itself, described as the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, but with federal obstruction of justice by allegedly deleting text messages sent and received through his cell phone.

Delay by DA's office causes judge to dismiss embezzlement case

Under the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, a person charged with a crime has the right to a speedy trial. The philosophy behind this rule is that the government should not be able to drag out a prosecution -- keeping the defendant locked up or held under the terms of bond -- indefinitely. In essence, prosecutors are supposed to "put up or shut up"; either present what evidence they have gathered to the court or drop the charges.

Police say major drug dealers among 60-plus arrested in sting

A five-month undercover operation by Pittsburgh police resulted in the arrest of more than 60 residents of the Hill District, the chief of police and mayor said at a press conference on April 16. Among those arrested in the sting, called Operation Clean Sweep, were several middle-aged people that city officials claimed were longtime "high-level targets." Officials also plan to increase surveillance of the public in the area through street cameras.

Microsoft takes on 'prosecutor' duties, targets online crime

It may surprise readers to learn that in a recent police raid of a Pennsylvania office building, attorneys and technical support employees of Microsoft were on hand to take part. While the raid was led by U.S. marshals and authorized by a search warrant issued by a federal judge, it was at the behest of Microsoft, which in recent years has taken an aggressive approach toward those it accuses of operating botnets, or computer networks that use viruses to steal personal information from people's home computers.

Collector says police did not give him a chance to get rid of guns

An Allegheny County man who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges in February now faces 164 weapons charges related to his gun collection, which he no longer can possess under Pennsylvania law. The man says that authorities lied to him about how much time he had to get rid of the guns before he would be criminally charged. Just an hour after his probation officer told him he had a week to take care of the problem, police officers came to his home and arrested him.

Man arrested for trying to report bad check, attorney says

An attorney for a Pittsburgh-area man who spent a week in jail after being arrested for check fraud says his client is suing the police officer who arrested him for false arrest. He said that his client was wrongly charged after he tried to do the right thing by reporting suspected check fraud from a scammer.

More Amish charged in federal hair-cutting case

Additional defendants have been added to a bizarre case involving a renegade sect of Amish worshippers who cut the beards and hair of more mainstream Amish. The news of more federal indictments was released on March 30, bringing the number of defendants in the case to 16. Federal officials say that the new defendant group consists of four women who are married to nephews of the outlaw sect's leader.

Prosecutors' drug claims dismissed after defendant dies

A gynecologist whom federal prosecutors accused of operating an interstate oxycodone ring passed away on March 20, ending the case against him. Whether the doctor would have prevailed at trial will never be known, but attorneys on each side say that they would have won the case, which involved 20 other defendants.

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