Texas Supreme Court Rules in Internet Smear Case

Categories: Courts

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Jeremy Brooks
The Texas Supreme Court last week issued a ruling that could change how Texas lawyers fight defamation in the internet age.

The State Supremes ruled in the case of Robert Kinney, a Texas legal recruiter for BCG Attorney Search, Inc. who left the firm in 2004 to start a competing venture. Some time later, BCG's president Andrew Barnes posted a warning of sorts on the websites JDJournal.com and Employmentcrossing.com accusing Kinney of taking part in a kick-back scheme while at BCG. Barnes claimed he'd uncovered evidence that Kinney attempted to pay a recruiter at competing firms under the table to hire one of his candidates. Barnes says he fired Kinney immediately upon discovering the kickback scheme.

Kinney insists that's all false. The case landed in Travis County court when Kinney sued Barnes, BCG and two subsidiaries for defamation. The case entered questionable First Amendment territory when Kinney asked the court for a permanent injunction ordering Barnes to remove the (allegedly, since his case hasn't yet been decided) defamatory statements from his websites, to contact any third-party publishers and ask them to scrub the defamatory statements from their websites, to "conspicuously post a copy" of the court order on Barnes' website, to publicly retract said defamatory statements, and to issue a letter of apology that would appear on Barnes' website for six months. (Kinney has since dropped his request for an apology and retraction from Barnes.)


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Houston Man Gets 20 Years in Synthetic-Drug Case

Categories: Courts

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We wonder what Scootdog makes of all this.
The supposed mastermind behind a Houston-based synthetic drug distributorship linked to the deaths of two teens in Minnesota and North Dakota has been sentenced to more than 20 years in prison.

Charles Carlton, sentenced in a North Dakota federal court August 28, was the 15th defendant sentenced in the multi-state "Operation Stolen Youth" investigation by the DEA, FDA, IRS, and Homeland Security. Carlton's business partner, John Polinski, was sentenced to 11 years in July.

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85-Year-Old Woman, a.k.a. "No Soul," Pleads Guilty to Ordering Hit on Prosecutors

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MCSO
Dorothy Clark Canfield might look like your grandmother, but in lockup she had an ominous nickname: "No Soul."

Canfield, 85, apparently picked up the moniker after being jailed in Montgomery County in 2012 on charges that she swindled undocumented immigrants out of $100,000 after posing as an immigration attorney. It was while she was in jail for that felony theft charge that she hatched a darker plan, according to authorities.

Two of Canfield's former cellmates testified Thursday in a Montgomery County court that Canfield asked them to help her "knock off" Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Rob Freyer, who was handling her theft case, according to a report in the Chron.

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Trial Set for Case Against Bellaire Cop Who Shot Unarmed Black Man

Categories: Courts

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A federal judge has set a trial date for the civil suit against a white Bellaire police officer who shot an unarmed black man in his parents' driveway.

A federal magistrate on Wednesday put Robbie Tolan's lawsuit against Bellaire police officer Jeffrey Cotton on course for a September 2015 trial, court records show. Tolan's family filed the lawsuit in 2009 shortly after a jury acquitted Cotton on state charges of first-degree aggravated assault. The civil suit had stalled until a May 2014 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that overturned a lower court ruling dismissing the claims against Cotton. In June, a three-judge panel on the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to the trial court, paving the way for an eventual courtroom showdown.

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Judge Hears Motions in Facebook "Threat" Case

Categories: Courts

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Josh Huskin
Don Flanary says Justin Carter did not commit a crime.
The charge against Justin Carter, the New Braunfels teen accused of making a terroristic threat on Facebook, should be dropped because a detective lied in an affidavit, Carter's lawyer argued in Comal County District Court Tuesday.

Carter made international headlines when Carter, then 18, was charged in April 2013 for allegedly writing "I think I'ma shoot up a kindergarten" during a Facebook conversation, landing him in jail on a $500,000 bond.

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Trial Begins in Case of Alleged Revenge Killing

Categories: Courts

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Screen shot from the "Free David Barajas" Facebook page
Jury selection began today in the murder trial of David Barajas, who is accused of killing a drunk driver who fatally struck Barajas' two children in Alvin in 2012.

Barajas has denied shooting Jose Banda, who allegedly ran into Barajas' 11- and 12-year-old sons "as they pushed the family's broken-down truck down a dark, narrow road just 50 miles from their home," according to Fox News.

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Baltimore Judge Scolds Houston Property Owner Scott Wizig for "Unsafe, Uninhabitable" Homes

Categories: Courts

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Wizig has 90 days to clean up 49 properties.
A Baltimore judge has ordered a Houston property owner to correct code violations on 49 vacant, blighted homes he owns in that city within 90 days.

The homes are owned by Scott Wizig, who, as we detailed in a 2004 story, has built a lucrative business of buying dilapidated homes on the cheap and enticing unsophisticated first-time home buyers with "option to buy" agreements that seem to set occupants up for failure. We like to call it "Wiziging."

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UPDATED Officials: Spindletop Owner Tortured, Drowned Injured Dog

Categories: Courts

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This is sick stuff.
See the end of this post for more from the chief animal control investigator's affidavit.

Former Spindletop dog refuge owner Leah Purcell poured water down a pit bull's nose while its mouth was held shut, "intentionally, knowingly or recklessly" torturing it to death in December 2011, according to a complaint filed by Montgomery County prosecutors.

The dog's alleged week-long primitive, homespun medical care is detailed in an affidavit recently made available online, and which is part of the long-awaited felony animal cruelty charge prosecutors filed in July. Purcell has also been charged with four misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty.

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Kountze Cheerleaders Take Bible Banner Case to Texas Supreme Court

Categories: Courts

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Wikimedia Commons
Kountze is a quiet little town in east Texas, situated in the Big Thicket just north of Beaumont. Recently, it began to make national headlines when the school district banned the use of Bible verses on banners made by the cheerleaders for football games. Apparently, the cheerleading squad of the local high school had taken to dropping some God quotes on the banners football players would run through onto the field, and the district said that violated church and state restrictions.

Naturally, the cheerleaders fought the ban in court, and eventually the district relented, allowing them to continue using the Bible verses, but that hasn't stopped them from pursuing the court case.

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UPDATED Inside the Theresa Roemer Defamation Lawsuit

Categories: Courts

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Twitter screenshot
We hope there's a happy ending.
Updated: Court records show Theresa and Maximilian have worked things out. Roemer's lawyer, William Ferebee has filed a motion to dismiss, stating that the two have "resolved their differences and request that this matter be dismissed without prejudice." It doesn't appear that the judge has signed the motion to dismiss yet, but this should settle things. Good for them.

As the world sits transfixed by the story of how Houston socialite Theresa Roemer's 3,000-square-foot, three-story "closet" full of designer bags and jewelry was burglarized, we thought we'd take a closer look into the weird, sad family saga unfolding in Harris County District Court.

Theresa, 52, sued her stepson, 32-year-old Maximillian Roemer, for defamation of character in July, accusing him of posting nasty comments on a Neiman Marcus blog devoted to what has become the most famous closet in all the land.

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