​​​​​​​​​​​The Latest Legal News & Industry Information

Garland Repeats Vow to Prosecute
Participants in Jan. 6 Capitol Riot

     U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland renewed his pledge last week just before the anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the Capitol to hold anyone who participated in the violence liable through criminal prosecution.
     He said “there is no higher priority” for the Justice Department.
     The Justice Department announced this month that 725 suspects have been arrested in the year since the Capitol riot. The FBI is investigating 350 more.
     “The Justice Department remains committed to holding all Jan. 6 perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law — whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy,” he said. “We will follow the facts wherever they lead.”
     Garland’s vow of strict law enforcement against the insurrectionists is drawing criticism from some Democrats.
     They say Garland’s broad-based prosecutions appear to be punishing some people who were present at the Capitol but were not the ones who plotted or incited the violence, including Trump and his former attorney, Rudy Giuliani.
     Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., said during an interview last week with CNN that Garland’s approach to the Capitol rioters “has been extremely weak.”
     “I think there should be a lot more of the organizers of Jan. 6 that should be arrested by now,” Gallego said. “This is why we need to have an active attorney general that can separate those that were doing political work from actual work helping the insurrection and or the coup plotters.”
     A short distance away, senators at a hearing discussed security improvements since the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol but made no effort to hide their lingering anger.
     U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger testified to the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration as it sought assurances the Capitol Police are ready for any similar domestic attacks against federal officials or buildings.
     “January 6 exposed critical deficiencies with operational planning, intelligence, staffing, and equipment,” Manger said. “I recognize those issues have to be addressed, and that is what we are doing.”
     Senators at the hearing said progress with security at the Capitol was a welcome change after the violence that left hundreds of officers injured a year ago.
     Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who chairs the committee, recalled the tense and determined expressions she saw on faces of Capitol Police officers during the riot instigated by tough talk from former President Donald Trump as he alleged election fraud. 
     “This wasn’t just about doing your job, this was actually about bread and butter saving our republic,” Klobuchar said.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

New Laws Take Effect This Month
Throughout Washington Area

     New laws took effect this month in the Washington area to address the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and evolving demographics.
     In the District, leaf blowers still can be used but only if they are electric. Gas-powered leaf blowers are now banned.
     The D.C. Council ordered the ban after complaints about noise and fumes from gas-powered blowers. Violators could be fined $500.
     A second environmental measure prohibits restaurants in the District from routinely giving out plastic utensils with each meal. They still can give them to customers but only on request.
     The D.C. Council is trying to cut down on pollution from plastic, which can hang around in the ecosystem for decades after it is discarded. Restaurants can apply to the city for grants to cover any additional costs from switching away from plastic.
     Environmental concerns led Virginia suburban communities to institute a 5-cent surcharge on plastic shopping bags. The surcharge is supposed to discourage shoppers from using plastic that commonly ends up in waterways, roads and littering other places.
     Revenue from the surcharge will be used for environmental cleanup in the jurisdictions that instituted it, namely Fairfax and Arlington counties and the city of Alexandria. It also would pay for an environmental awareness campaign.
     Other new Virginia laws allow undocumented immigrants to obtain state-issued identification cards if they don’t already have “driver privilege cards.” They could use the ID cards to open bank accounts and to rent apartments.
     Beginning this month in Virginia, minimum wage workers will earn $11 per hour, up from $9.50 per hour. Next January, the state minimum wage will rise again to $12 per hour.
     In Maryland, low-income pregnant women will qualify for Medicaid health care coverage for as much as a year after giving birth. The previous limit was 60 days.
     The Montgomery County Council begins using a new district map that creates two seats in parts of the county that were underrepresented by Black, Latino and Asian residents. The new districts raise the number of council seats to seven, plus four at-large seats.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

Prince George’s County Sued
Over Allegations of Police Abuse

     Prince George’s County is facing another lawsuit over a police corporal whose alleged abuse already has resulted in a $20 million settlement with the family of a man the officer shot while he was handcuffed.
     The lawsuit filed this month accuses Cpl. Michael A. Owen Jr. of brutality in separate incidents against four men.
     It says his behavior demonstrates a “consistent and well-known history of police brutality.”
     “For 50 plus years, Prince George’s County has condoned the brutality inflicted by its police officers, refusing to implement effective training, oversight, or disciplinary measures for its officers to this very day,” says the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.
     Owen is suspended without pay from the Prince George’s County Police Department and is awaiting trial on charges that include second-degree murder.
     The murder charge results from the fatal shooting of William Green. His family’s attorneys say Owen shot him multiple times while Green was sitting in the front seat of a police cruiser with his hands cuffed behind his back.
     The $20 million settlement in 2020 was negotiated by the Baltimore-based firm of Murphy, Falcon & Murphy. The same firm is representing the four men suing in the consolidated lawsuit filed this month.
     Each of the plaintiffs seek more than $75,000 in compensation for “physical, emotional, mental, and financial injuries.” They also ask for punitive damages.
     One of them is Jerry A. Costen Sr., a tow truck driver who says he was helping his niece with her malfunctioning car when Owen mistakenly accused him of wrongdoing. He says Owen knocked him to the ground while he was handcuffed and pressed his fingers into his neck.
     A second plaintiff is Devonne Gaillard Jr., who says Owen grabbed him and hit him in his neck after Gaillard argued with his girlfriend at a Temple Hills home.
     A third plaintiff is Jonathan M. Harris, who officers stopped while he drove a car with no tags. Harris’ video of the arrest shows the officers pulling him out of his car. Owen allegedly put his hands around Harris’ neck while pinning him to the pavement.
     The fourth is Demetrice A. Patterson, who says officers pursued him after he was found riding a stolen motorcycle. He produced evidence he bought it on the Internet without knowing it was stolen. He also said Owen fired a shot while Patterson was handcuffed, but it did not hit anyone.
     In each case, either Owen or his police department claim the plaintiffs aggravated the situation through threats or aggression.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

Congress’ Doctor Warns
COVID Cases Are Surging

     A warning last week from the attending physician for Congress about skyrocketing COVID-19 cases is compelling lawmakers and Capitol Hill staff members to rethink their meeting schedules and masking requirements.
     A letter Dr. Brian P. Monahan wrote to House and Senate leaders says that at Capitol Hill test centers the COVID-19 positivity “rate went from less than 1 percent to greater than 13 percent” in the past week.
     He urged them to adopt a policy of “maximal telework” while limiting in-person meetings as much as possible.
     Monahan also wrote that cloth face masks, blue surgical masks and gaiter masks “must be replaced by the more protective KN95 or N95 masks.”
     The positivity rate at the Capitol is similar to a rise in COVID-19 infections throughout the District of Columbia, making it a pandemic hotspot for the United States.
     The omicron variant infected about 61 percent of the people who tested positive at the Capitol. The delta variant made up 38 percent of the cases.
     Warnings about the rise in infections prompted Senate Democrats to switch their caucus lunches to virtual meetings this week. The Capitol Visitor Center is expanding its space and personnel at its test center. House eateries temporarily closed.
     The House requires that everyone on its side of the Capitol wear masks. The Senate so far has encouraged but not required masks.
     “Any group activity indoors should promote strict mask-wear compliance,” Monahan’s letter said.
     He described most infections among staff members as “breakthrough” for people who have been vaccinated. So far, none of the people who tested positive were hospitalized, suffered serious complications or died, “attesting to the value of coronavirus vaccinations,” the letter said.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

Former Washington Football Player
Sentenced for False Medical Claims

     Former professional Washington football running back Clinton Portis is spending the next six months in federal prison and six more in home confinement after being sentenced in a healthcare scam.
     He admitted receiving nearly $100,000 after filing false medical claims.
     Portis was one of nine retired National Football League players the Justice Department charged in December 2019 with filing false claims with the Gene Upshaw National Football League Health Reimbursement Account Plan. The plan was designed to care for former NFL players who are sick or infirm.
     Together the nine players filed $3.9 million in false claims, according to the Justice Department. The health plan paid $3.4 million of the claims.
     Portis pleaded guilty to fraud in September.
     After his sentencing, the 40-year-old Portis thanked his legal team from Baker Botts LLP in an Instagram post that showed him in a photo with his attorneys.
     “I would fight with you all any day!” Portis wrote. “You all believed in me from the start & worked tirelessly to prove my innocence! We came up short & things didn't go as planned but the bond created will last forever! Thank you all!”
     The players are accused of submitting false claims for expensive medical equipment, such as hyperbaric oxygen chambers, cryotherapy machines and ultrasound devices.
     Portis submitted a claim for $44,732 for an oxygen chamber and $54,532 for a cryosauna. He was reimbursed with $99,264 from the health plan.
     Portis rushed for 9,923 yards and 75 touchdowns in his nine-year professional career. He played for the Washington Redskins from 2004 to 2010 and made it into the Pro Bowl after the 2008 season.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

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