Senate confirms Trump’s pick for 9th Circuit over objections of Feinstein and Harris

WASHINGTON — The Senate confirmed Los Angeles litigator Kenneth Kiyul Lee to a California seat on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday over the objections of Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris.

Harris and Feinstein have accused Lee of failing to initially disclose to the Senate Judiciary Committee his past writings decrying sexual harassment, gays, AIDS and affirmative action. They were uncovered by reporters and committee staff.

During his confirmation hearing in March, Republicans appeared satisfied with Lee’s apology for his youthful writings.

Lee is the fifth circuit court nominee approved by the Senate over the objections of home-state senators since President Donald Trump took office. Neither Harris nor Feinstein returned their “blue slips” for Lee’s nomination to signal their support for a judicial nomination in their home state.

Historically, failing to return the slips would have stalled a candidate’s nomination indefinitely, but Senate Republicans focused on confirming Trump’s court picks have trudged ahead confirming judicial nominees without the sign of support.

It’s a change in tradition that is likely to continue. Lee is the first of three men Trump nominated to fill vacant California seats on the 9th Circuit over Feinstein’s and Harris’ objections.

Lee, a South Korean immigrant, attended Cornell University as an undergraduate and earned a law degree at Harvard University. He worked on Capitol Hill and in the George W. Bush White House as associate counsel before entering private practice.

— Los Angeles Times

Trump pardons Pat Nolan, former Calif. GOP lawmaker taken down in FBI’s ‘Shrimpscam’ probe

LOS ANGELES — President Donald Trump has pardoned Pat Nolan, a former Republican state legislative leader in California who spent years in prison after being convicted in the “Shrimpscam” FBI sting in the 1990s.

Nolan, who was elected to the Legislature in 1978 and served as Assembly GOP leader from 1984 to 1988, was secretly videotaped accepting checks from an undercover FBI agent in what would become one of Sacramento’s most notorious political corruption cases. He was charged with using his office to solicit illegal campaign donations.

In a statement released Wednesday evening, the White House characterized Nolan’s decision to plead guilty as “a difficult choice.”

“He could defend himself against the charges of public corruption and risk decades in prison, or he could plead guilty and accept a 33-month sentence,” the statement read. “Determined to help his wife raise their three young children, Mr. Nolan chose to accept the plea.”

The White House statement announcing the pardon said Nolan is “uniformly described as a man of principle and integrity.”

After leaving prison, Nolan became a prominent conservative voice on criminal justice reform, serving as president of Justice Fellowship, a Virginia-based group that has advocated for sentencing reform.

— Los Angeles Times

Internet personality ‘Plainpotatoess’ pleads guilty to 8 lesser charges stemming from his viral videos

BALTIMORE — A Baltimore man who gained online fame under the persona Plainpotatoess has agreed to a plea deal on some of the 27 charges against him stemming from his viral antics.

Marquel Carter, 20, was charged in February with one felony count of second-degree assault and 26 misdemeanor counts related to harassment and trespassing — all of which stem from incidents that allegedly occurred while he was filming content for his viral social media accounts under the name “Plainpotatoess.”

Carter describes Plainpotatoess as a persona he used to provoke people, usually through insults, while he recorded the exchanges and later posted them to Twitter and Instagram. In February, he called his critics sensitive and defended his videos, before apologizing and stating he had not realized people were seriously bothered by his actions.

In the past week, Carter agreed to plead guilty to eight of the misdemeanor charges. Baltimore state’s attorneys dropped three charges and placed another 15 misdemeanors and the lone felony assault charge on a “stet,” or inactive, docket. That means the state can opt to reopen the case at any point in the next year if prosecutors can show good cause.

Additionally, Carter agreed to stay away from the alleged victim in the felony case, a man who police say Carter kissed on the face.

Carter is scheduled to face sentencing for the eight misdemeanors in June.

— The Baltimore Sun

Colombia justice in turmoil after court refuses to extradite former guerrilla

BOGOTA, Colombia — Colombia’s attorney general abruptly resigned Wednesday after the country’s Special Peace Tribunal refused to extradite a former commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia to the United States on drug trafficking charges.

Attorney General Nestor Humberto Martinez told the court that he wouldn’t sign off on the release of Seuxis Paucias Hernandez, better known as Jesus Santrich, because “my conscience and my devotion to the rule of law will not allow me to.”

Santrich is a longtime member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and one of the negotiators of the historic but controversial 2016 peace deal that ended the group’s half-century armed struggle and allowed it to become a political party.

In April 2018, a U.S. court indicted Santrich and others of conspiring to send tons of cocaine to the United States. Because some of the alleged criminal activity took place after the signing of the peace deal, the U.S. argued his case should have been overseen by Colombia’s regular court system.

Instead, the Special Peace Tribunal, or JEP, a body established under the landmark deal, oversaw his case. The JEP had asked the U.S. to share its proof against Santrich but the request was denied. The U.S. argues that existing treaties don’t require anything beyond an indictment to trigger extradition.

In a statement, the JEP asked the attorney general’s office to free Santrich due to lack of evidence and lack of clarity about “the precise date” when the alleged drug trafficking took place.

Santrich, who is blind, has always maintained his innocence and said he was being railroaded by enemies of the peace deal. FARC-EP, the political party that emerged after the guerrillas demobilized, is demanding his immediate release, but it’s unclear if and when that might happen amid a series of appeals.

U.S. officials have suggested that Colombia’s failure to extradite Santrich might jeopardize bilateral cooperation between the two longtime allies.

— Miami Herald