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Week In Review

By Chris Helsel

Former New England Patriots Tight End Aaron Hernandez Found Guilty of First Degree Murder, Sentenced to Life Without Parole

Aaron Hernandez, formerly of the New England Patriots, has been found guilty of all charges, including first degree murder, stemming from the June 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd. He has been sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Mr. Hernandez, who signed a five-year, $40 million extension with the Patriots in 2012, played his last game for the team in January 2013, a loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship. On June 17th of that year, Mr. Hernandez and two other men drove Mr. Lloyd, a semi-professional football player who was dating the sister of Mr. Hernandez's fiancée, to an industrial park near Mr. Hernandez's home in North Attleboro, Massachusetts.

There, Mr. Lloyd was shot multiple times, fatally. The keys to a car rented by Mr. Hernandez were found in his pocket. Though the murder weapon was never found, surveillance video of Mr. Hernandez's home showed him carrying a Glock semi-automatic pistol just minutes after the murder - the same type of gun used to shoot Mr. Lloyd. Fingerprint evidence also revealed that Mr. Hernandez had driven the car from his Dorchester home to the industrial park that night, and video surveillance showed Mr. Hernandez and the two other men returning to his house shortly after the murder. The following day, Mr. Hernandez had his fiancée dispose of a box, which was believed to contain the murder weapon, in a dumpster.

At trial, the defense admitted that Mr. Hernandez was at the scene of the murder, but insisted that he had not pulled the trigger.

The prosecution struggled to establish a motive, only offering witness testimony indicating that Mr. Hernandez appeared angry with Lloyd at a club two nights prior to the murder. Allegedly, Mr. Lloyd had "disrespected" Mr. Hernandez in some way - and paid for it with his life.

This week, after a long deliberation, the jury found Mr. Hernandez guilty on all counts, including weapon charges and murder in the first degree. Absent a successful appeal, he will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Mr. Hernandez also faces double homicide charges for killing two other men in a 2012 drive-by shooting in Boston following an argument at a club over a spilled drink. Additionally, he faces civil suits for the aforementioned killings as well as another civil suit stemming from yet another shooting, this one a non-fatal interaction occurring in Florida in February 2013. In the Florida suit, Mr. Hernandez is accused of shooting a friend between the eyes and leaving him for dead following a trip to a Miami strip club. In that case, the victim survived.


European Union Formally Charges Google With Antitrust Violations for the First Time

On Wednesday, European Union (EU) antitrust regulator Margrethe Vestager formally accused American tech giant Google with violating EU antitrust law by skewing search results. Despite years of prodding by American regulators, this is the first time the company has faced actual antitrust charges.

According to Ms. Vestager, Google, which boasts a 92% market share in EU Internet searches, abuses its dominance of the market by diverting traffic away from competitors and to its own comparison shopping website.

Google, which has its European headquarters in Dublin, denied any wrongdoing. In a blog post this week, the company said: "While Google may be the most-used search engine, people can now find and access information in numerous different ways -- and allegations of harm, for consumers and competitors, have proved to be wide of the mark."

The company was also investigated by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, but that inquiry closed in 2013 without reaching a formal finding of wrongdoing.

The EU's decision to charge Google with antitrust violations has raised concerns that European authorities are becoming increasingly protectionist and anti-American. In February, President Obama warned EU regulators against making "commercially driven" decisions to penalize American tech companies. Additionally, on Wednesday, the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs deputy assistant secretary Daniel Sepulveda said, "It's important that the process of identifying competitive markets and remedies be based on impartial findings and not be politicized."

Ms. Vestager insisted on Wednesday that the case was solely about antitrust considerations and ensuring that all companies doing business in Europe obey EU competition laws. It should also be noted that many of the companies that have complained about Google's business practices in Europe, such as Microsoft and TripAdvisor, are themselves American.

Ms. Vestager, who took office late last year, also announced Wednesday that she had opened a formal antitrust investigation into Google's Android smartphone business. The investigation will delve into claims that Google abused its dominant position in the smartphone market (71% European market share, 81% worldwide) by pre-installing its own apps and services into Android devices to the unfair detriment of its rivals. This practice is similar to what Microsoft was accused of (improperly bundling its Internet Explorer browser with its Windows operating system) in the early 2000's.

Google has 10 weeks to formally respond to the current charges regarding the alleged abuse of its dominant position in the Internet search market. The investigation into whether the company's Android practices violate EU antitrust law is expected to take years.


Presumptive #1 National Football League Draft Pick Jameis Winston Sued Over Alleged 2012 Rape

Jameis Winston, who won the Heisman Trophy and a national championship during his two years playing quarterback at Florida State University (FSU), has been sued by a woman who claims he raped her at his apartment in 2012.

Although his accuser, Erica Kinsman (she identified herself in a recent documentary film, "The Hunting Ground"), immediately reported the incident, Tallahassee police never questioned Mr. Winston and ultimately declined to bring charges. Following an FSU investigation, Mr. Winston was accused of violating the school's code of conduct, but was cleared by retired Florida Supreme court justice Major Harding in December.

In addition to suing Mr. Winston personally, Ms. Kinsman also filed suit against the school in January. In that suit, she accused FSU of violating her right to a welcoming educational environment under Title IX of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972.

The current suit against Mr. Winston, filed in Florida state court in Orlando, alleges sexual battery, assault, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Ms. Kinsman seeks monetary damages and has requested a jury trial.

Mr. Winston, who is widely expected to be selected first overall in the NFL Draft later this month, was suspended for one game in 2014 after standing on a table and shouting an obscene sexual phrase repeatedly in the student union. Mr. Winston also played on the school's baseball team, from which he was briefly suspended in 2014 for stealing $32.72 worth of crab legs from a local grocery store. In addition, Mr. Winston was stopped by police in 2012 on suspicion of involvement in a BB gun battle on campus and was accused of stealing soda from a Burger King restaurant in 2013. In the latter two incidents, no charges were filed.


WikiLeaks Posts Searchable Archive of Sony Pictures Documents

Last November, North Korean hackers, upset with the impending release of the depiction over Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un in "The Interview," posted stolen emails and other documents online. This resulted in a highly embarrassing public relations nightmare for the studio, which has been scrambling ever since to have the stolen material suppressed.

This week, the story has been given new life. Web portal WikiLeaks, which is devoted to disclosing confidential information from governments, corporations, and other large and powerful entities, has posted a searchable archive of 30,287 documents and 173,132 emails originally stolen by the North Korean hackers.

WikiLeak's decision to post the material was condemned by Sony, which released a statement Thursday stating that it "strongly condemn(ed) the indexing of stolen employee and other private and privileged information."

Julian Assange, WikiLeak's editor in chief, said he believes the archive belongs in the public domain because the documents and emails "show the inner workings of an influential multinational corporation." He stated that the hacking incident is "newsworthy and at the center of a geopolitical conflict" and that the stolen material "belongs in the public domain. WikiLeaks will ensure it stays there."

Following the initial North Korean hacking incident, attorneys for Sony have pressured websites and news outlets to remove the stolen material. WikiLeaks intends to ensure that the public maintains access to the entire trove, which Mr. Assange claims contains far more than what has already been released by the media. He asserts that reporters had barely "scratch(ed) the surface," and that the archive now posted describes Sony connections to the Democratic Party and the RAND Corporation.

Sony also faces a civil lawsuit claiming that it negligently allowed its employees' private information to be stolen.


Federal Government Urges Television Broadcasters to Sell Airwaves As Mobile Communication Outpaces Television Broadcasts

As more and more Americans are shunning traditional television broadcasts in favor of their mobile devices, the federal government now seeks to repurpose some of the nation's strongest airwaves to accommodate mobile transmissions.

The most desirable (and therefore valuable) of these airwaves, which are also known as spectrum, are able to travel long distances and through buildings and trees. Most of them are currently owned by local television broadcasters, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) intends to purchase as many of them as possible for millions (perhaps billions) of dollars - and then resell the airwaves to wireless carriers at a profit.

At a broadcasters conference in Las Vegas this week, the FCC delivered its sales pitch. An auction is expected to take place in early 2016, during which the FCC will buy spectrum and simultaneously resell it to wireless carriers. Calling the upcoming auction a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" for broadcasters, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler urged the rights holders to sell. He also claimed that in addition to being extremely lucrative, broadcasters who sold their spectrums would also maintain the ability to stay on the air.

Some industry experts aren't so sure. With limited airwaves available for television broadcast after the auction, it is possible that many TV stations will be forced off the air, or need to combine with other stations to survive. This could limit the amount of content each station could offer, as well as limit the stations' capacities to broadcast in high definition.

Former Oregon Senator Gordon H. Smith, who serves as president of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), warns broadcasters that cashing in now could have dire consequences in the future. "I've told broadcasters: Your spectrum is your seed corn. If you sell that, you have no harvest next year. You can't plant."

Additionally, the NAB has filed a lawsuit claiming that the FCC is not doing everything within its power to ensure that stations remaining on the air post-sale will reach the same coverage area as they did before.

Currently, the vast majority of spectrum dedicated to wireless communication is owned by two carriers, Verizon and AT&T. The government hopes that the upcoming auction will make more airwaves available for other carriers, such as T-Mobile and Sprint, thereby increasing competition among wireless carriers.

Interestingly, the spectrum sought to be purchased from local TV stations by the government is not actually owned by the stations - it is owned by the government. However, the spectrum has been licensed to the stations since the Eisenhower administration, and the government hopes that its financial offers will convince the broadcasters to release their license rights.


National Basketball Association To Institute Testing for Human Growth Hormone

The National Basketball Association (NBA, league) and its players' union, the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) announced this week that blood testing for Human Growth Hormone (HGH) will commence next season.

The NBA drug-testing program had previously been described by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) as "insufficient." In 2012, WADA director general David Howman said, "They've got gaps in their program, between what they do and what we suggest would be better...They do not feel they have such an issue as the other major leagues and therefore haven't addressed it in quite the same way." WADA, whose strict testing protocols are used by the Olympics and hundreds of other international and national sporting federations, does test for HGH.

While HGH has long been banned in the NBA, until now there was no mechanism in place for the league to test for it. During negotiations for the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement, the league and NBPA agreed to a process for determining how HGH blood testing would be implemented.

Under the recently-agreed upon system, all players will be subjected to three random, unannounced tests annually, beginning during training camp next fall. Players will be suspended 20 games for a first violation and 45 games for a second (the season is 82 games long). A third positive test will result in dismissal from the league.

The NFL and Major League Baseball have both recently enacted HGH testing procedures as well. The NFL specifically faced strong opposition from its players' union on the issue, but testing was finally implemented in 2014.


Adrian Peterson Reinstated by NFL Following Suspension For Child Abuse

Minnesota Vikings (Vikings, team) running back Adrian Peterson, who pleaded no contest to charges misdemeanor reckless injury charges after abusing his four-year-old son last year, has been reinstated by the NFL. Mr. Peterson had been placed on the commissioner's exempt list (barred from playing but still paid) last September 17th, then suspended indefinitely without pay on November 18th following his plea of no contest. On February 26th of this year, Judge David Doty of the District of Minnesota ordered the league to vacate the suspension.

On Thursday, the NFL announced that Mr. Peterson would be reinstated and not face further suspension. He is therefore now eligible to participate in the Vikings' offseason activities. In announcing Mr. Peterson's reinstatement, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell stated that Mr. Peterson is expected to fulfill his remaining obligations to authorities in Minnesota and Texas (where the incident occurred), as well as his agreed-upon commitments to the NFL, including participating in counseling.

Mr. Peterson, whose 2015 salary of $12.75 million makes him the highest-paid running back in the NFL, is currently at odds with the Vikings. In September, he told ESPN that he did not feel the team had shown sufficient support for him during the process and described the decision to put him on the exempt list as an "ambush." Though his agent has stated that Mr. Peterson would prefer to leave the Vikings, his contract runs for another three years and the team said in a statement that it "look(s) forward to Adrian rejoining the Vikings."

It is unknown whether Mr. Peterson will attend the team's voluntary offseason workouts, which begin Monday. Mandatory minicamp commences in June, which Mr. Peterson must attend or else be subject to a steep fine.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 20, 2015 11:22 AM.

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