July 2023

Carlee Russell’s Lawyer Confirms ‘There Was No Kidnapping’ in New Statement

Carlee Russell, the 26-year-old Alabama woman believed to have gone missing while driving home from work, has officially shared her side of the story.

Russell’s attorney Emory Anthony provided a statement on her behalf to Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis to read during a July 24 press conference.

“There was no kidnapping on Thursday, July 13, 2023,” the lawyer said. “My client did not see a baby on the side of the road. My client did not leave the Hoover area when she was identified as a missing person.”

Russell’s attorney also clarified that she didn’t have “any help” during the incident.

“This was a single act done by herself,” the statement continued. “My client was not with anyone or any hotel with anyone from the time she was missing. My client apologizes for her actions to this community, the volunteers who were searching for her, to the Hoover Police department and other agencies as well, [and] to her friends and family.”

“We ask for your prayers for Carlee as she addresses her issues and attempts to move forward, understanding that she made a mistake in this matter. Carlee again asks for your forgiveness and prayers,” the attorney’s note concluded.

As Parade previously reported, Russell called 911 on July 13, alleging that she’d seen a toddler walking on the highway. The woman then called a family member to share the same encounter. When police arrived, they found Russell’s car and belongings but no trace of her or the child. Russell returned home on foot around 10:45 p.m. on July 15 following a 49-hour search into her disappearance, per police.

In an earlier press conference held on Thursday, July 19, Hoover Police Department chief Nicholas Derzis revealed that Russell’s search history on her cell phone included queries like “do

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Biden has promoted diversity but his Supreme Court lawyers are mostly white

Lawyers representing Harvard University leave the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington in October 2022, as the court hears cases relating to affirmative action in college admissions. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

When Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar defended college affirmative action programs before the Supreme Court in October, she cited the lack of diversity in a group of people the justices know well: the lawyers who argue before them.

Just two of 27 lawyers who appeared before the court over the next two weeks would be women, Prelogar told the justices — a statistic that she argued could lead women to wonder whether they have a shot at arguing before the Supreme Court.

Prelogar cited only the dearth of women and not of Black and Hispanic lawyers arguing before the court, but her message in a case dealing with race-conscious admissions programs was clear.

“When there is that kind of gross disparity in representation, it can matter and it’s common sense,” she told the justices.

Her argument didn’t sway the court’s conservative majority, which ruled last month that Harvard and the University of North Carolina’s affirmative action programs were unconstitutional.

It did garner the attention of the court’s three liberal justices, who cited Prelogar’s remarks in a dissent, warning that “inequality in the pipeline to this institution, too, will deepen.”

But a similar lack of diversity to the one Prelogar pointed out in her argument has persisted for years in the solicitor general’s office, which is part of the Justice Department and represents the federal government before the Supreme Court.

Over the past dozen terms, nearly three-quarters of Supreme Court arguments made by lawyers in the office have been delivered by men, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.

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Council, Cooper at odds over lawyer in developer lawsuit | One Tammany

First the St. Tammany Parish Council launched an investigation of the parish president. Then the council hired a lawyer. Now, the north shore district attorney is seeking to force the council to fire the lawyer it hired to investigate Parish President Mike Cooper. 

In a motion filed in the 22nd Judicial District Court in Covington, District Attorney Warren Montgomery’s office is asking Judge William Burris to declare the parish’s contract with Ross Lagarde null and void. The council tapped Lagarde to represent the parish in a developer’s lawsuit seeking to force the parish to allow construction to begin on a 100-unit apartment complex, the Covington Trace Ridge Apartments, off Military Road, just outside the Covington city limits.

That’s the proposed apartment building that spurred the council’s unprecedented vote to investigate the Cooper administration’s handling of the permitting process for the complex. Council members were angered over what they said was a lack of communication from the Cooper administration about the apartment complex, which has run into a buzzsaw of opposition from area residents.

Ross Lagarde.jpg

Ross F. Lagarde, Metairie Bank and Trust

Montgomery isn’t weighing in on the apartment complex or the simmering tension between the council and Cooper. His position is that it’s the DA’s job to represent the parish in this, and any, litigation.

“The District Attorney’s Office has been selected by the voters of this Parish as legal counsel for Parish Government,” his filing reads. “Mr. Lagarde has not been retained by a written contract executed by the Parish President, and the Parish Council does not have the legal authority to act unilaterally on behalf of St. Tammany Parish Government.”

The motion asks the judge to “disqualify Ross F. Lagarde from any further involvement in this litigation.”

The district attorney is challenging the council’s ability to hire an outside

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Alabama woman Carlee Russell acted alone, lawyer says: ‘There was no kidnapping’

Carlee Russell, the 25-year-old Alabama woman whose reported kidnapping led to a nationwide search, has revealed that her abduction was a hoax.

During a press conference on July 24, her lawyer, Emory Anthony, said the nursing student submitted a statement to the Hoover Police Department recanting her previous story about witnessing a toddler wandering on the side of a highway and being kidnapped.

“There was no kidnapping on Thursday, July 13, 2023,” Hoover Police Chief Nicholas C. Derzis said, reading the statement. “My client did not see a baby on the side of the road. My client did not leave the Hoover area when she was identified as a missing person. My client did not have any help in this incident, but this was a single act done by herself.”

Russell apologized to her community, the volunteers, the Hoover Police Department and other agencies that assisted in search efforts to locate her.

Carlee Russell  (TODAY)

Carlee Russell (TODAY)

“As for her friends and family, we ask for your prayers for Carlee as she addresses her issues and attempts to move forward, understanding that she made a mistake in this matter. Carlee, again, asks for your forgiveness and prayers,” the statement concluded.

Derzis said that authorities are speaking with the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office about “possible criminal charges related to this case” and police will provide another update “when and if they are filed.” The department also plans to meet with Anthony about the case.

The police chief shared that Russell was supposed to be interviewed by the police with Anthony on July 24, but the statement was sent instead.

Russell’s admission comes a few days after police said they were “unable to verify” most of the information she had shared with them about the kidnapping and that there was “no reason

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It’s ‘not a crime’ to be in MS-13, lawyer for accused Queens gang leader says at murder trial

It’s not a crime to be in MS-13, the lawyer for one of the bloodthirsty gang’s leaders said at the first day of his racketeering and murder trial in Brooklyn Federal Court.

“The crimes are horrible. The crimes all happened,” Melvi Amador-Rios’ attorney, Murray Singer, told jurors during his opening statement Monday. “The defense position is that he didn’t do these things. He wasn’t involved.”

Singer conceded that Amador-Rios is a member of the gang, but told the jury that would not be enough to convict him.

“Here’s the thing: It’s not a crime to be affiliated with MS-13. … MS-13 is not a crime. Being a member of MS-13 is not a crime,” he said. “It’s not enough to prove that the crimes took place, and it’s not enough to prove that Melvi was part of the organization.”

Amador-Rios is accused of ordering the brutal murder and near decapitation of a low-level MS-13 member, 16-year-old Julio Vasquez, in a Queens park, as well as ordering the murder of another teenager, Luis Serrano, who was shot in the face and paralyzed. He also planned four armed robberies of Queens businesses, prosecutors allege.

“Don’t get lost in the emotion. My God, there’s going to be a lot of emotions,” Singer said. “Please, please, please, don’t get lost in that.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Raffaela Belizaire said, though, that every murder committed by the MS-13 “clique” in Queens went through Amador-Rios, who as leader was responsible for enforcing the gang’s rules. Those rules included killing rivals and turncoat MS-13 members whenever possible, and never talking to law enforcement.

“As the leader of the clique, the defendant issued a series of murder missions,” she said, adding that Vasquez was killed on May 16, 2017, because the teen could not bring himself to kill a

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New Jersey lawyer pleads not guilty to a second series of sexual assaults in Boston

BOSTON — A New Jersey lawyer already charged in connection with a series of sexual assaults in Boston’s Charlestown neighborhood about 15 years ago pleaded not guilty on Thursday to new charges stemming from sexual assaults in another area of the city that occurred at roughly the same time.

Matthew Nilo, 35, was released on $50,000 bail at his arraignment in Suffolk Superior Court after entering pleas to a total of seven new charges, including rape, aggravated rape and assault to rape.

The new charges stem from five attacks on four women — one woman was attacked twice — in Boston’s North End between January 2007 and July 2008, prosecutors said. Nilo lived in the neighborhood at the time, Suffolk District Attorney Kevin Hayden said, and the attacks followed a similar pattern to the Charlestown cases.

Nilo was previously freed on $500,000 bail after pleading not guilty in June in connection with the Charlestown attacks. He worked for a New-York-based cybersecurity company, was hired in January after passing a background check, and was suspended following his arrest.

Advances in DNA testing and genealogical testing led to identifying Nilo, who now lives in Weehawken, New Jersey, as a suspect, Hayden said.

“Nothing can eliminate the terror experienced by these survivors,” Hayden said after the arraignment. “But at least now they have the knowledge that Mr. Nilo must answer to the horrible charges he’s alleged to have committed. We hope this provides some solace to survivors of these attacks.”

Nilo’s attorney, Joseph Cataldo, said his client denies the charges and the district attorney’s office was “piling on.”

“I think they’re trying to solve some unresolved cases, and I’m afraid that the government might be piling on, just trying to claim that Mr. Nilo committed these crimes,” Cataldo said outside the courtroom.


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Latino teens prepare cases for their future at summer ‘Lawyer Camp’ in St. Paul

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, 17 rising ninth-graders embarked on a field trip for summer camp. But instead of going to a park or zoo, these kids headed to a lesser-known spot for summer fun: the St. Paul Police Department headquarters. It was their first day of Latino Lawyer Camp, and the kids appeared eager to discover the legal system in action.

The camp aims to introduce different aspects of the legal profession to Latino kids before they start high school — and also show what the path to becoming a lawyer could look like.

Enrique Estrada, a community engagement specialist with the St. Paul Police Department, told them about his years working with Latino kids who needed help navigating the court system. One problem he noticed: very few Latino lawyers.

“If everybody here graduates and becomes a lawyer, you’re going to make my job really easy,” Estrada said.

Nineteen percent of the U.S. population is Latino, but only 5% of lawyers are, according to the American Bar Association. This camp aims to change those statistics, one high school freshman at a time.

The St. Paul–based camp is the brainchild of Jorge Saavedra F., an assistant Ramsey County attorney. In the summer, he is the camp director. He first ran the camp in 2016. After a six-year hiatus, it returned this year. Saavedra hopes it will become an annual event. The camp is funded primarily by the Minnesota Hispanic Bar Association endowment fund; students pay $20 for the weeklong camp.

Saavedra’s goal: to reach Latino kids at the beginning of high school so they understand how to begin preparing themselves for college, whether they become a lawyer or choose a different career path. The camp recruits students through teachers and counselors, aiming to find students with potential who

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Hunter Biden’s lawyer tells Trump posts are putting family in danger

A lawyer for Hunter Biden has sent a cease-and-desist letter to former President Trump’s legal team, saying that Trump’s rhetoric is putting Biden and his family in danger.

In the Thursday letter, Abbe Lowell argues to Trump’s attorneys that Trump’s speech on social media and in other forums could lead to the “injury” of Biden or his family.

He pointed to several instances of Trump’s speech that allegedly led to violence, including the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol and the attack on Paul Pelosi, the husband of former House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

“This is not a false alarm,” Lowell said.

“We are just one such social media message away from another incident, and you should make clear to Mr. Trump — if you have not done so already — that Mr. Trump’s words have caused harm in the past and threaten to do so again if he does not stop,” he said.

The letter was first reported by ABC News.

Hunter Biden, the son of President Joe Biden, walks from Marine One upon arrival at Fort McNair, Sunday, June 25, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Trump repeatedly criticized President Biden’s son during the 2020 presidential campaign and made a litany of accusations against him. He has more recently slammed the plea deal Biden is set to agree to, in which he will plead guilty to two minor tax crimes and admit to the facts of a gun charge through a pretrial diversion program.

“Wow! The corrupt Biden DOJ just cleared up hundreds of years of criminal liability by giving Hunter Biden a mere ‘traffic ticket.’ Our system is BROKEN!” the former president wrote in a Truth Social post.

Trump also argued last week that the cocaine found in the White House recently could only have

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Fred Hiestand, Sacramento lawyer who advised Huey Newton and Jerry Brown, dies at 79

Fred Hiestand, a Sacramento-based lawyer and lobbyist who counseled Black Panther Party co-founder Huey Newton and former California Gov. Jerry Brown among others, died July 2 following a cancer diagnosis. He was 79.

Having worked as the Civil Justice Association of California’s general counsel since its founding in 1979, Hiestand spent his career writing about and arguing issues including medical liability and tort reform.

Those topics might sound dense or complicated but, according to Kyla Christoffersen Powell, president and CEO of CJAC, the briefs Hiestand wrote were “works of art.”

“One time, I was reading a brief that he wrote, and I looked down and realized I was reading lyrics to a Bob Dylan song.” Powell said. “That’s not something you expect to see in a legal brief.”

John Norwood, a partner at Norwood Associates alongside Hiestand, described him as “a real renaissance man.”

“When we went to dinner (recently), he mentioned to me that it was his intent to make his briefs sing,” Norwood said. “They were full of quotes from philosophers, former justices and poets. They weren’t long — they grabbed your attention and took you back in history.”

Gov. Brown, who Hiestand worked with as special counsel on medical liability during his first administration beginning in 1975, similarly noted that Hiestand “had a gift for legal writing.”

“In the minds of many lawyers, he was exceptionally creative,” Brown said in a telephone interview with The Sacramento Bee. “He always made arguments eloquently, and he was a person of upstanding intellect — he was also just an interesting person.”

Powell said that one of her favorite “Fredisms” was his proclivity to incorporate the story of the Sword of Damocles into his writing as a metaphor. As the legend goes, after a subject of the rich and powerful King

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For Many, a Lawyer Is a Luxury Out of Reach

This is The Marshall Project’s Closing Argument newsletter, a weekly deep dive into a key criminal justice issue. Want this delivered to your inbox? Subscribe to future newsletters here.

If you live in a large city, you probably don’t worry much about finding a lawyer, should you ever need one. Whether you can afford that lawyer is another matter, but they are available. As a city-dweller, I can easily recall the names of several local defense attorneys just from thinking of bus advertisements and billboards I pass on a typical drive.

In much of rural America, the situation looks vastly different.

The Denver Post reported this week that 23 of Colorado’s 64 counties now fall into the category of “legal deserts”: mostly rural places where there is fewer than one attorney per 1,000 people. It’s hardly just a Colorado problem, said Pamela Metzger, director of the Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center at Southern Methodist University. She told me that lawyers in rural areas skew much older than those in cities and are retiring at a much faster pace than they are being replaced, citing research on legal deserts in Texas.

“We don’t teach about it in law school. We don’t make it a viable career opportunity, and we’ve priced everybody out of practicing in rural areas,” Metzger said.

Legal deserts are just one of many barriers people face in obtaining legal representation, the most apparent one being cost: By some estimates, 80% of criminal defendants can’t afford a lawyer. Indeed, 2023 marks 60 years since the Supreme Court ruled in Gideon v. Wainwright that state courts must provide attorneys to criminal defendants who can’t afford their own.

The case spurred the creation of public defender officers as a counterpart to prosecutors in the criminal system. Notably, though,

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