Palestinian teen sentenced to life in prison for murder of Dafna Meir, mother of 6


The Palestinian teenager who murdered Dafna Meir, a mother of six, in her West Bank home was sentenced to life in prison.

The teen, who was 16 at the time of the murder, was sentenced Wednesday by a West Bank military court that also ordered him to pay nearly $200,000 to the family in compensation. The court also recommended that authorities prevent an early release due to the unusually cruel nature of the crime.

He was arrested two days after the Jan. 17 murder in Otniel and confessed to the killing during an interrogation, the Shin Bet security service said at the time of his arrest. He was indicted in February and convicted in May of murder and illegal possession of a weapon.

Meir, 38, was stabbed to death at the entrance of her home while fighting off her attacker in what is believed to have been an attempt to save three of her children in the house. She was the mother of four children and foster mother of two young children. Her 17-year-old daughter was able to give security officials a description of the assailant, who fled after he was unable to remove the knife from Meir’s body.

The teen watched Palestinian television broadcasts that incited against Israel and said Israel was “killing young Palestinians” before he allegedly committed the crime, the Shin Bet said.

The teen returned home after the murder and spent the evening with his family watching a movie, according to the indictment.

WikiLeaks soldier Manning sentenced to 35 years in prison


Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier convicted of the biggest breach of classified data in the nation's history by providing files to WikiLeaks, was sentenced to 35 years in prison on Wednesday.

Judge Colonel Denise Lind, who last month found Manning guilty of 20 charges including espionage and theft, could have sentenced him to as many as 90 years in prison. Prosecutors had asked for 60 years.

Manning, 25, will be dishonorably discharged from the U.S. military and forfeit some pay, Lind said. His rank will be reduced to private from private first class.

Manning would be eligible for parole after serving one-third of his sentence, which will be reduced by the time he has already served in prison plus 112 days.

Wearing his dress uniform, the slightly built Manning stood at attention as the sentence was read, seeming to show no emotion. As he was escorted out of the courtroom, supporters shouted “Bradley, we are with you.”

Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, called the sentence “unprecedented” in its magnitude.

“It's more than 17 times the next longest sentence ever served” for providing secret material to the media, Goitein said. “It is in line with sentences for paid espionage for the enemy.”

In 2010, Manning turned over more than 700,000 classified files, battlefield videos and diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks, the pro transparency website, in a case that has commanded international attention.

Defense attorneys had not made a specific sentencing request but pleaded with Lind not to “rob him of his youth.”

Manning was working as a low-level intelligence analyst in Baghdad when he handed over the documents, catapulting WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, into the international spotlight.

The classified material that shocked many around the world included a 2007 gunsight video of a U.S. Apache helicopter firing at suspected insurgents in Baghdad. Among the dozen fatalities were two Reuters news staff. WikiLeaks dubbed the footage “Collateral Murder.”

KEEPING SECRETS

The case highlighted the difficulty in keeping secrets in the Internet age. It raised strong passions on the part of the U.S. government, which said Manning had put American lives at risk, and anti-secrecy advocates, who maintained Manning was justified in releasing the information.

During a pretrial hearing, Lind had determined that the eventual sentence would be reduced by 112 days because of harsh treatment after his arrest in 2010. He likely will be imprisoned at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

A U.S. rights group has said Manning should be a candidate for this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

Human rights group Amnesty International called on U.S. President Barack Obama to commute Manning's sentence.

“Instead of fighting tooth and nail to lock him up for the equivalent of several life sentences, the U.S. government should turn its attention to investigating and delivering justice for the serious human rights abuses committed by its officials in the name of countering terror,” said Widney Brown, senior director of international law and policy at Amnesty International.

Manning's trial at Fort Meade, Maryland, home of the ultra-secret National Security Agency, wound down as U.S. officials sought the return of Edward Snowden. The former NSA contractor, who disclosed details of secret U.S. programs that included monitoring the telephone and Internet traffic of Americans, has been given temporary asylum in Russia.

The Guardian said on Tuesday that British authorities had forced the newspaper to destroy materials leaked by Snowden.

Additional reporting by Jim Finkle; Editing by Scott Malone and Jeffrey Benkoe

Israeli Supreme Court shortens whistleblower’s prison term


Israel's Supreme Court on Monday shortened by a year the 4-1/2-year prison term of a soldier who gave a journalist classified military documents, some relating to operations against Palestinian militants.

Ruling on Anat Kamm's appeal against the length of her sentence, the court said it was disproportionate to the penalty of four months of community service imposed on Uri Blau, a reporter for Haaretz, an Israeli left-wing daily.

Some of the 700 classified documents copied by Kamm, a clerk in a general's headquarters during her 2005-2007 army service, were the basis for reports by Blau that some assassinations of Palestinian militants authorized by senior officers may have violated Israeli law.

In 2006, the Supreme Court ruled the military had the right to assassinate members of Palestinian groups that Israel classifies as terrorist organizations. But the court said planners must have “strong and convincing” information that a killing is necessary and always try to avoid harming bystanders.

Although Blau's reports were submitted to the military censor, who approved their publication, he was accused of illegally possessing classified documents and agreed to a plea bargain in July.

Kamm, who cited ideological motives for her actions, admitted in a plea bargain to charges of espionage, collection and possession of secret information and passing it onwards. She began serving her sentence in November 2011.

Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Mark Heinrich

Gabby Giffords faces Tucson assailant as he is sentenced to life


Former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords stood in federal court to face her would-be assassin on Thursday moments before he was sentenced to life in prison for killing six people and wounding 13 others, including Giffords, last year.

Jared Loughner, 24, a college dropout with a history of psychiatric disorders, received seven consecutive life terms plus 140 years in prison, without the possibility of parole, under a plea deal with prosecutors that spared him the death penalty.

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns said the life sentences he imposed – one for each of the six people who lost their lives, and a seventh for the attempted assassination of Giffords – represented the individuality of the victims.

“He will never have the opportunity to pick up a gun and do this again,” Burns said before Loughner was led away by federal marshals.

Giffords suffered a head wound in the Jan. 8, 2011, shooting that left her with speech difficulties, a paralyzed right arm, diminished sight and a limp.

Loughner, who sat through the proceedings without addressing the court, showed no visible emotion as his sentence was pronounced or during statements delivered earlier in court by several survivors.

Giffords did not speak. Her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, spoke on her behalf.

“You may have put a bullet through her head, but you haven't put a dent in her commitment to make the world a better place,” Kelly told him, with Giffords standing at his side as she impassively faced her assailant.

Loughner, seated next to his lawyer, Judy Clarke, appeared to gaze back at them without expression.

“Although you were mentally ill, you were responsible,” Kelly told Loughner in a clear, ringing voice. “You have decades upon decades to contemplate what you did, but from this moment, Gabby and I are done thinking about you.”

Giffords resigned from Congress in January to focus on her recuperation.

GUN CONTROL

Kelly also used the occasion to take a political swipe at Republican Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, a staunch gun-rights advocate, criticizing her for speaking out against proposed restrictions on high-capacity ammunition magazines, like the ones Loughner used, in the aftermath of the shooting.

“Jan Brewer said it had nothing to do with the size of the magazine. … She said this just one week after you used a high-capacity magazine,” Kelly said, also noting that she named a “state gun” weeks later instead of “fixing the education system.”

Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson declined comment on the criticism leveled against the governor.

“On this solemn occasion, Governor Brewer isn't interested in engaging in politics,” he said in a statement. “This is a day of justice and peace. Governor Brewer wishes both for the victims and their families.”

The proceedings marked a dramatic epilogue to a rampage of gun violence that shocked many Americans, added to the long-running debate over gun control and cut short the political career of Giffords, a rising star in the Democratic Party.

Loughner pleaded guilty in August in federal court to 19 charges, including murder and attempted murder, in connection with the shootings outside a Tucson area supermarket.

He admitted going to Giffords' “Congress On Your Corner” event armed with a loaded Glock 19 pistol and 60 additional rounds of ammunition with plans to kill the Arizona Democrat.

Loughner shot her through the head at close range. Six people were killed, including U.S. District Judge John Roll and 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green.

Court-appointed experts later said Loughner suffered from schizophrenia, disordered thinking and delusions. He was declared unfit to stand trial in May 2011 after he disrupted court proceedings and was dragged out of the courtroom.

Loughner was ruled mentally competent three months ago after being treated for psychosis at a U.S. Bureau of Prisons psychiatric hospital in Springfield, Missouri. He then agreed to plead guilty.

Few clues to the motives for the attack have emerged. Prison psychologist Christina Pietz has testified that Loughner had expressed remorse for the rampage and especially for the 9-year-old girl's death.

His calm, quiet demeanor in court on Thursday contrasted sharply with the wild-eyed image of Loughner from an early mug shot that captured the then-bald defendant grinning maniacally into the camera.

Asked at the outset of the hearing by the judge if he had chosen to waive his right to make a statement, Loughner answered in a low voice, “That's true.”

He was otherwise silent through the hearing, and made no attempt to avert the gazes of victims who testified before he was sentenced.

One of them was Giffords' former congressional aide Ron Barber, who also was wounded and ended up serving out the rest of her term after winning a special election.

Barber ran in Tuesday's election for a newly created U.S. congressional district in Arizona and was running neck-and-neck with Republican Martha McSally, with the outcome hanging on some 80,000 provisional and early votes that have yet to be tallied.

Speaking to Loughner's parents, Amy and Randy, who were seated in the front row of the courtroom, Barber said, “Please know that I and my family hold no animosity toward you, and that I can appreciate how devastating the acts of your son were.”

Additional reporting by Jazmine Woodberry and David Schwartz; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Will Dunham

Rubashkin appeals conviction, sentence to Supreme Court


Former Agriprocessors executive Sholom Rubashkin has appealed his conviction and sentence for bank fraud to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Rubashkin on April 2 filed a petition for writ of certiorari from the High Court. The court can decide to review the case or allow a federal appeals court ruling to stand. 

Last September, the U.S. appeals court in St. Louis denied Rubashkin’s bid for a new trial, in which he presented evidence that the original trial was unfair because of the involvement of Judge Linda Reade of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa in planning the May 2008 federal immigration raid on Agriprocessors. The raid led to the company’s bankruptcy later that year.

Rubashkin, who headed what once was the nation’s largest kosher slaughterhouse and packing plant, in Postville, Iowa, was convicted on 86 counts of financial fraud in 2009 and sentenced to 27 years in prison. Rubashkin is in a federal prison in New York state.

Rubashkin also is appealing to the Supreme Court to shorten his 27-year sentence, which the appeals court upheld as “reasonable.” Rubashkin says it violates federal sentencing laws for a first-time, nonviolent offender. In the federal raid on the plant in May 2008, 389 illegal immigrants, including 31 children, were arrested.

More than 52,000 people have signed a petition on the White House’s “We the People” Web site urging an investigation into misconduct by the prosecution. In addition, 50 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have written letters to Attorney General Eric Holder calling for an investigation into the allegations of prosecutorial misconduct.

Last June, 75 U.S. Attorneys and law professors sent a letter to the Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility calling for an immediate investigation into allegations of improper communications between Reade and prosecutors.

Abusive ‘rabbi’ sentenced to 24 years in prison


A self-proclaimed rabbi who counseled his followers to commit acts of child abuse and abused several children who lived with him was sentenced to 24 years in prison.

Elior Chen was sentenced Monday in Jerusalem District Court to 24 years in prison and damages of $192,000 to his victims, eight children of the woman with whom he lived, a follower whose husband had given her over to the charismatic leader.

One child has been in a persistent vegetative state for the last nearly three years since suffering abuse at the hands of Chen. The children’s mother is serving a five-year jail sentence for her involvement.

Four of Chen’s followers have already been sentenced to up to 20 years each in prison on similar charges.

Chen’s attorney and his supporters on Monday maintained his innocence.

Chen fled Israel for Canada and then Brazil in 2008, and was extradited back to Israel several months later, after he counseled his followers to severely beat and burn the children in order to rid them of the devil. Some of the children were forced to drink alcohol and turpentine until they vomited, and to eat their own feces. They often were locked in suitcases and other small spaces.

Rabbi gets maximum sentence in molestation case


A Brooklyn rabbi was given the maximum prison sentence for sexually assaulting a male teenager.

Rabbi Baruch Lebovits was sentenced to 10 years and eight months to 32 years in prison on Monday by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Patricia DiMango, the New York Daily News reported. He received consecutive sentences on eight counts of sexual abuse.

Lebovits, the father of seven and grandfather of 24, declined to address the court before the sentence was pronounced. The rabbi, who owns a travel agency in Borough Park, was convicted early last month of sexually molesting the Jewish teen in 2004 and 2005. The victim, now 22, testified in court that the rabbi assaulted him in his car several times over a 10-month period, luring him into the vehicle with promises that he could drive, the Daily News reported.

The rabbi told authorities that he had been a victim of sexual abuse as a youngster, according to Lebovits’ probation report, which was read in court, the Daily News reported.

Lebovits is awaiting trial on charges of molesting two other minors.

Abramoff receives new four-year sentence, Phoenix community leader murdered


Abramoff Receives New Four-Year Sentence

Jewish lobbyist Jack Abramoff was sentenced to four years in prison. Abramoff had pleaded guilty to corruption and tax offenses related to influence peddling involving Republican congressmen and midlevel Bush administration officials, some of whom were convicted.

The prosecution noted Abramoff’s cooperation in helping to build cases against some 10 other officials in recommending that he be given a reduced term, largely to motivate others to cooperate with investigators.

However, on Sept. 4, Judge Ellen Huvelle of the U.S. District Court in Washington sentenced Abramoff to nine months more than the 39-month term suggested by prosecutors, citing the erosion of the public’s trust in government that Abramoff’s activities generated.

Wearing a yarmulke, Abramoff offered a wrenching apology to the court, saying, “I have fallen into an abyss,” according to the reports. “My name is the butt of a joke.” Abramoff currently is serving a two-year prison term in an unrelated fraud case.

Prominent Jewish Activist in Phoenix Slain

A prominent Jewish activist in Phoenix, Irving Shuman, 84, was murdered at his office on Sept. 2.

Shuman’s body was found Tuesday evening at his real estate office after he failed to show up for a dinner appointment, according to the Arizona Republic. His car was also stolen.

Shuman, who was active in Jewish organizations and pro-Israel lobbies, had received several honors, including the Tree of Life award by the Jewish National Fund in Arizona and the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix’s Medal of Honor.

“Irv Shuman was a man of exceptional values,” said Rabbi Ariel Shoshan, who studied with Shuman and other Phoenix executives on Thursdays, according to the Republic. “He lived for causes like the well-being of Israel and the furtherance of Jewish education and was an active supporter of over 100 charities.”

Shuman’s gold Lexus was recovered in San Bernardino this week.