Patterico's Pontifications


Excellent Article About Yagman Trial — Plus, a Teaser

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 12:07 am

The L.A. Weekly has a fascinating and detailed article on the Yagman trial. Read it here.

I told you that it was a shame nobody from the L.A. Times seemed to be covering the case. That suspicion was confirmed by the article:

Los Angeles Times coverage of the conviction, for example, gave the strong impression that Yagman’s renegade past — battling the feds and the Los Angeles Police Department, which the lawyer regularly described as a “criminal enterprise” — was the prime reason he ended up in court. But those reporters, who rarely attended the trial, missed the core tale that unfolded there.

At the trial itself, court watchers saw Yagman’s personal and professional lives opened wide for the jury: a man who took huge amounts of money from aging relatives and spent it on himself, lied about his pricey Venice beach house while claiming bankruptcy, and secreted huge amounts of cash by opening bank and brokerage accounts in the name of a girlfriend, where it was found by the IRS.

The article gives real insight into the kind of fellow Yagman is:

YAGMAN, IT TURNED OUT, loved spending other people’s money, most notably his aging relatives’, as the prosecution embarrassingly showed. Sagar and Kim accused Yagman of taking control of investments and savings totaling $776,110 from his aunts, uncles and mother, then transferring the money into bank and brokerage accounts under the name of his girlfriend, K.D. Mattox, so the feds wouldn’t know about the sudden cash influx.

The humiliating part, beyond the alleged gross violation of federal law? He spent the money on himself, according to the prosecutors, paying for expensive suits, meals and other living expenses. It was a devastating charge that ultimately played against him with tax-paying, family-oriented jurors and almost certainly sealed his fate.

To make matters worse, the prosecutors successfully alleged that Yagman’s aunt, Doris Smolek, was hospitalized and dying from cancer when Yagman raided her bank account, leaving her only $1,200 in savings — and $16,000 in hospital bills — by the end of 1999.


The lawsuit-happy Yagman even threatened to sue the article’s author, Patrick McDonald:

[Yagman’s] ballsy attitude came through loud and clear midway through the trial when Yagman approached me in the courtroom gallery during a break. The day before, I had offered him a business card, but Yagman brushed me off. He now walked over in a dark, too-tight suit and apologized. “There’s a lot of stuff happening here,” he said.

When I told him I wrote for the L.A. Weekly, Yagman’s eyes narrowed. Although the Weekly had run my somewhat flattering article about Yagman’s litigation prowess, the piece had also described him as an “obnoxious” lawyer with a “big mouth.” (See “Best Served Cold,” June 1–7, 2007.) And an accompanying photograph showed Yagman speaking out of the side of his mouth, making him look silly.

“You didn’t have to use that picture,” Yagman declared. “You know, when I’m done with all of this stuff,” he said, gesturing to the courtroom, “I’m going to have to sue you.” He then alleged that the Weekly article had been “completely untrue… with no fact checking.” When asked to name the errors, he said he didn’t know and asked for a copy of the paper. Finally, he warned, “If someone tries to damage me or my firm, I have to sue. That’s what I’m known for.”

Well, pal, now you’re known for something else: being a convicted felon. Get used to it.

P.S. I have a wonderful story to tell you about the trial — a story that will put a smile on all of your faces. But I don’t have time to tell it now. Stay tuned, though — this one is good.


Cheney: The Executive Branch Guy Who Isn’t

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 5:39 am

Dick Cheney invoked executive privilege to avoid disclosing who he met with when forming an energy policy.

Now his office is apparently claiming he is exempt from legislative oversight of the executive branch, because he is a member of the legislative branch. Because, you know, once in a blue moon he casts a tie-breaking vote in the Senate.

At first glance this strikes me as laughably hypocritical. But I’ve been extremely busy, so I haven’t had time to read up on it. Maybe there’s some plausible defense out there. It’s hard to believe there could be, but I’m willing to give you folks the chance to make the argument.

Is anyone willing to defend this seemingly indefensible position?

P.S. It’s not clear that this really is Cheney’s position. The article relies on anonymous sources for that assertion. But if it’s not his position, he should explain publicly why he is resisting oversight.

The Return of the Professional Man on the Street

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 5:36 am

Guess who’s first in line for the new iPhone?

The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

To claim his 15 minutes of fame, Greg Packer started queueing to be among the first paying customers in the world to own an Apple iPhone a full 101 hours before the much-hyped mobile phone goes on sale on Friday evening.

. . . .

Packer, who says he’s an Apple fan despite not owning an iPod or a Mac, says he intends to hang on to the phone rather than try selling it for a profit.

Packer, the Apple Fan, is also a serial media hound. He’s a fan of whatever is hot right this moment.

And, God help us all, now he’s blogging about it.

Previous Packer sightings here.

Concerts and Proximity

Filed under: Music — Patterico @ 12:02 am

So the wife and I saw The Police on Saturday, and Glen Phillips last night.

We spent a lot less on the Glen Phillips concert, and probably enjoyed it more.

I think a lot of it had to do with our proximity (or lack of it) to the performers.

If you gave me one of those nice long Ping drivers, I could have leaned forward and poked Glen Phillips in the kneecaps without significantly lifting my behind out of my chair.

Whereas we saw The Police at Dodger Stadium, with about 54,998 other people. We sat in deep foul territory on the third base side, and without the binoculars I forgot to being, the members of the band were antlike in appearance. Even with the video screens, I had to take Christi’s word for the fact that Stewart Copeland was wearing glasses.

The Police sounded fine. Don’t Stand So Close to Me was oddly soulless, and Sting pussed out on some of the notes in Roxanne. And on one of the songs, it sounded like he sang the whole first verse in a different key from the instruments. My friend Amy, who is very musically savvy, agreed.

Those minor nits aside, they sounded great.

But there’s really something missing when you can’t see the artists’ faces. I can fire up one of my favorite artists’ CDs or DVDs any time. But if I can watch them perform close up, it’s an experience that can’t be duplicated by a DVD — whereas a DVD beats a crappy seat at a huge stadium concert, every time.

IT’S A SMALL WORLD AFTER ALL POSTSCRIPT: At a dinner Thursday night, we learned that a couple we know would also be attending the concert. We joked about how we’d see them there. Ha, ha! With 50,000 people attending, what were the chances?

We saw them in the parking lot.

P.P.S.: This guy had better seats than we did.


Beldar on Nifong, Fitzgerald, and Libby’s Chances for Remaining Free Pending Appeal

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:04 am

Beldar rips Dorothy Rabinowitz for comparing Nifong to Patrick Fitzgerald. At the same time, he predicts that the appellate court will free Libby pending his appeal, because of the issue relating to the manner of Fitzgerald’s appointment. Both posts are worth reading in their entirety.

A Muslim Holds Forth on Several Controversial Issues

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 5:59 am

The church of blogger and Patterico reader Anwyn was visited by a Muslim representative from Bilal Mosque, as part of a program to build interfaith bridges. The speaker’s message turned out to be doctrinaire rather than inclusive — especially when he was pulled away from vague generalities by Anwyn’s pointed questions. It’s unclear how representative his views are of those held by Muslims as a whole, but her post is worth reading.

No Supreme Court Justice Would Have Held the Principal Liable in the “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” Case

Filed under: Constitutional Law,Court Decisions,General,Law — Patterico @ 12:09 am

I offered no opinion on the “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” case in my bare-bones post yesterday, mainly because I hadn’t had the chance to read the opinion before leaving for work. Now that I have read the various opinions, I still have no view as to which one is most compelling. I think that to come to a sound legal conclusion on that topic would require one to be familiar with the underlying precedents, which I have not had time to re-read.

I think it’s important to recognize, though, that all nine Justices believed that the principal should not be held liable for taking the banner from the student. They simply disagree as to why.

All nine Justices agree that the principal’s actions took place in a school-related context. They all agree that the school context justifies a higher degree of governmental intrusion than is permissible in the usual First Amendment case. But they disagree as to the specific reasons that the principal’s actions should not result in liability.

The majority believes that the First Amendment simply is not implicated by speech that, in its view, advocates illegal drug use in a school context.

Justice Thomas believes that the First Amendment does not apply to speech by students in public schools.

Justices Alito and Kennedy concur with the majority but caution that the speech restrictions here are at the outer limit of what they would allow school principals to control.

Justice Breyer would find for the principal on the grounds of qualified immunity. His opinion is a little bizarre. He believes that the principal’s actions were reasonable regardless of the content of the speech on the banner — but points to the fact that the message is “irrelevant or inappropriate” as part of his explanation why he believes that the principal’s actions were reasonable.

The dissent thinks the message on the banner was ambiguous, and that the student just wanted to get on TV — but says:

[C]oncern about a nationwide evaluation of the conduct of the JDHS student body would have justified the principal’s decision to remove an attention-grabbing 14-foot banner, even if it had merely proclaimed “Glaciers Melt!”

Justice Breyer, implicitly chiding Chief Justice Roberts for not seeking common ground in a narrow ruling, thus observes:

Were we to decide this case on the ground of qualified immunity, our decision would be unanimous, for the dissent concedes that Morse should not be held liable in damages for confiscating Frederick ’s banner.

So: think what you like about the various opinions — but recognize that not one of the Justices would have held this principal liable for what she did.

Preview of School Busing Decision

Filed under: Constitutional Law,Court Decisions,General,Law — Patterico @ 12:05 am

In this article, Jan Crawford Greenburg previews the upcoming Supreme Court decision on assigning students to public schools according to their race. Greenburg says that the Court is expected to hand down a decision on Thursday.

The smart money says that it will be 5-4 rejecting the race-based assignment plans, with Chief Justice Roberts writing for the majority. Anything else will come as a shock. The interesting thing will be to see how the majority characterizes the holding of Brown v. Board of Education.


Amnesty Set to Pass

Filed under: Immigration — Patterico @ 8:11 pm

It’s looking like the amnesty bill will pass. A vote for cloture is a vote for passage, and it’s looking like the votes are there for cloture.

Brace yourselves.

Shocker: Judge Loses Pants Suit

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:45 am

In the most predictable ruling from any court in recent memory, the judge who brought the $54 million pants suit lost. The judge awarded costs to the dry cleaner — but under our system, could not award attorney’s fees.

UPDATE: Perhaps I spoke too soon. The general “American Rule” is against the awarding of attorney’s fees, but this report in the Washington Post states:

A motion to recover the Chungs’ tens of thousands of dollars in attorney fees will be considered later.

Perhaps there is a local rule that allows attorney’s fees to be awarded in specified circumstances. One can only hope.

Thanks to Beldar.

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