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AGO Executes Search Warrants in Major Statewide Gambling-Device Enterprise

SALT LAKE CITY March 2, 2017 – The Utah Attorney General’s Office (AGO) announced today that AGO investigators, in a joint operation with local, state, and federal law enforcement partners, executed warrants to seize evidence of an alleged statewide enterprise related to illegal gambling machines. The operation identified over an estimated 500 machines or more at over 130 locations across the state.  Tips about illegal gambling devices were reported by citizens to legislators, Utah Senator Curt Bramble, Utah Representative Justin Fawson, and Utah Representative Norm Thurston, as well as from other sources. The investigation is ongoing.

“The Attorney General’s Office has focused its operation today on a large number of gambling devices that we allege are illegal under Utah statute,” said Utah Attorney General’s Office Investigations Chief Leo Lucey. “Because these devices are out in the open and are available to anyone, they present an especially dangerous threat to youth.”

“I appreciate the Attorney General’s office and the work they’ve done to address concerns that local law enforcement agencies brought to the attention of Representative Thurston and myself,” said Rep. Justin Fawson, District 7. “This was a coordinated effort between local law enforcement and the Attorney General’s office that resulted in bringing down an enterprise that was attempting to skirt the Utah gambling laws.”

“A question was raised whether coin pushers in local convenience stores were legal,” said Rep. Norm Thurston, District 64. “After learning the about the problems these machines create, it was made clear that statewide approach would be necessary to address this issue. Rep. Fawson and I appreciate the cooperation, hard work and response of the Attorney General’s office, investigators and agencies across the state to help resolve this issue.”

Utah law requires prosecutors and law enforcement to prosecute illegal gambling in Utah where ever it may be found. The Utah AGO takes this legislative mandate seriously and appreciates all of the various law enforcement agencies who have collaborated in this case. 

The following link contains clips that the media may use for purposes of their stories, if helpful. Click here for video. Click here for photography.

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AG Reyes Joins with 39 Other State Attorneys General as Plaintiff in Federal Generic Drug Antitrust Lawsuit

States file amended complaint in lawsuit against six generic drug companies, now alleging new violations of state antitrust and consumer protection laws

SALT LAKE CITY March 2, 2017 – Attorney General Sean Reyes announced today that Utah has joined a federal antitrust lawsuit alleging that six generic drug-makers entered into illegal conspiracies in order to unreasonably restrain trade, artificially inflate and manipulate prices and reduce competition in the United States for two generic drugs.

An amended complaint filed in with the federal court increases from 20 to 40 the number of plaintiff states in the lawsuit, which was initially filed in December 2016. The amended complaint also adds claims of alleged violations of state antitrust laws – in addition to the alleged violations of federal antitrust laws – in each of the 40 states, as well as state consumer protection laws in most of the states, against the defendant generic companies Heritage Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Aurobindo Pharma USA, Inc., Citron Pharma, LLC, Mayne Pharma (USA), Inc., Mylan Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.

Connecticut is leading the multistate group of plaintiff states, which now also includes Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

“Along with 39 other states, we have laid out a strong and compelling case. In our amended complaint, we allege that these drug companies engaged in anti-competitive behavior, driving drug prices artificially high for certain generic drugs to the serious detriment of consumers,” said Attorney General Sean Reyes. “With the filing of this amended complaint, my office hopes to send a message of zero tolerance for trade practices we believe harm Americans and particularly those that hurt residents of Utah.      

“I appreciate the hard work of my Anti-Trust team, including Section Director Ronald Ockey, former Division Director David Sonnenreich, Assistant Attorney General Eddie Vasquez, and their stellar paralegal, Brian Blake, who have worked diligently with Connecticut and the other plaintiff states to bring this case forward.  The Utah AG’s office is dedicated to protecting consumers and companies from unlawful business practices such as those alleged in this case.”

In July 2014, the state of Connecticut initiated an investigation of the reasons behind suspicious price increases of certain generic pharmaceuticals. The investigation, which is still ongoing as to a number of additional generic drugs, generic drug companies, and key executives, uncovered evidence of a well-coordinated and long-running conspiracy to fix prices and allocate markets for doxycycline hyclate delayed release, an antibiotic, and glyburide, an oral diabetes medication.

The complaint further alleges that the defendants routinely coordinated their schemes through direct interaction with their competitors at industry trade shows, customer conferences, and other events, as well as through direct email, phone and text message communications. The alleged anticompetitive conduct – including efforts to fix and maintain prices, allocate markets and otherwise thwart competition – caused significant, harmful and continuing effects in the country’s healthcare system, the states allege.

The lawsuit was filed under seal in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut. Portions of the complaint are redacted in order to avoid compromising the ongoing investigation.

See below to view a copy of the redacted amended complaint. 

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Attorney General’s Office Announces Human Trafficking Arrests by ICAC and SECURE Strike Force

SALT LAKE CITY February 23, 2017 – In cooperation with local and national law enforcement agencies today, the Utah Attorney General’s Office (AGO) announced in a press conference the arrests of a number of individuals on human trafficking and child sex exploitation charges. The following contains information on the arrests, as well as cases studies and follow-up information on questions asked during the conference. The arrests are related to cases where victims of human trafficking were trafficked inside Utah. Some cases involved minors and some crossed state lines. As a result of the multi-agency action, involving 25 agencies, there were 16 arrests including two prior sex offenders and one parolee, and three children were rescued.

The Utah Attorney General’s office does not handle every case where a child is alleged to have been involved in sex trafficking. Cases are investigated and referred to other prosecutor’s offices throughout the state in the jurisdictions where the case arose. For various reasons, the Utah AGO cannot give the number of investigations, prosecutions, or convictions that would accurately convey the breadth of this crime throughout the state.

The Utah AGO office possesses the specific training, expertise, and resources needed for addressing human trafficking that allows the AGO to devote the time and attention needed to build these complicated cases. For this reason, many but not all of these cases are referred to the AGO for help. Some of the Sexual Exploitation of Minor cases involved the manufacturing of child pornography. Several of the suspects traveled across the state and state line to sexually abuse children.

Some of the Sexual Exploitation of Minor cases involved the manufacturing of child pornography. Several of the suspects traveled across the state and state line to sexually abuse children.

Charges filed include:

  • Rape of a Child (1st Degree Felony)
  • Sexual Exploitation of a Minor (2nd Degree Felony)
  • Enticing a Minor over the Internet (2nd Degree Felony)
  • Dealing in Harmful Material to a Child (3rd Degree Felony)
  • Failure to Register as a Sex Offender (3rd Degree Felony)
  • Criminal Charges (cont.)
  • Criminal Conspiracy (3rd Degree Felony)
  • Possession of Controlled Substance with Intent to Distribute (2rd
  • Degree Felony)
  • Multiple other A and B Misdemeanors

Most cases had multiple counts of the same charge.

Partner agencies in the arrests include:

  • Adult Probation and Parole
  • Bountiful Police Department
  • Clearfield Police Department
  • Davis County Sheriff’s Office
  • Department of Public Safety
  • Enforcement and Removal Operations
  • Heber City Police Department
  • Homeland Security Investigations
  • Ogden Police Department
  • Orem City Police Department
  • Park City Police Department
  • Pleasant Grove Police Department
  • Provo City Police Department
  • Sevier County Sheriff’s Office
  • South Salt Lake City Police Department
  • Summit County Sheriff’s Office
  • Syracuse Police Department
  • Tooele City Police Department
  • Unified Police Department
  • United States Marshal’s Office
  • Utah County Attorney’s Office
  • Utah County Sheriff’s Office
  • Vernal Police Department
  • Weber County Sheriff’s Office

The prosecuting agencies were the Utah Attorney General’s Office and the Utah County Attorney’s Office.

Cases where trafficking of a child may not result in charges for human trafficking

There are a few reasons why cases where children were trafficked for sex may not result in charges for human trafficking of a child:

  • Human Trafficking of a Child is a new area of criminal justice. It was only added to the Utah criminal code in 2015. In the old model of viewing these cases, many times the child being sex trafficked was arrested for prostitution and adjudicated delinquent in the juvenile justice system. Only in the last year did Utah pass a “safe harbor” provision for children engaged in the sex trade that clarifies they should be treated as victims and referred to services.
  • While the safe harbor provision has helped protect child victims of sex trafficking from improper criminal charges, the criminal justice field at large still has a long way to go in shifting from viewing this crime into a human trafficking lens. In some jurisdictions, these cases are still investigated through the lens of prostitution and not human trafficking. Sometimes suspects are charged with exploiting prostitution even in cases where children were sex trafficked.
  • Another component of the safe harbor philosophy is that we should avoid re-victimizing those preyed on by sex traffickers by pressuring them to participate in the criminal justice process. In our office, we often prosecute defendants who we have reason to believe are traffickers with other related offenses, either because the victim does not want to participate in our criminal case or to protect them from having to do so if we can secure justice through other charges.

Case studies and updates on previous human trafficking arrests

Among the cases reported on today is the AGO’s prosecution of William Piol Makuei: Mauei was charged with three counts of 1st Degree Felony Rape of a Child after his DNA was found to match the newborn child of a girl who was impregnated before she turned 14. He later admitted to having sex with the child victim. This case arose from a human trafficking tip and ensuing investigation

The following two cases were not included in today’s briefing, but are provided here as updates to arrests previous reported.

  • Charles Daryl Kelley:  Kelley was convicted in July 2016 of Attempted Human Trafficking of a Child, after he attempted to recruit a 15-year-old girl into a commercial sex operation he was running out of a motel in Midvale. 
  • Quinlen Nathaniel Atkinson: Last April, Mr. Atkinson was charged with 1st Degree Felony Human Trafficking of a Child, 1st Degree Felony Aggravated Exploitation of Prostitution Involving a Child, and several other felony charges based on allegations that he was running a commercial sex operation from Ogden to Idaho and Southern Utah. Both girls he is accused of manipulating into joining his operation were high school students. At the time of the known offenses, one of the girls had recently turned 18 and the other was 17 years old. This case is awaiting trial in Weber County.

Tip Line Numbers

Individuals with tips are encouraged to contact the Utah Attorney General’s tip lines:

The PowerPoint Presentation utilized at the press conference is embedded below.

 


Utah Attorney General’s Office Announces Guilty Plea in Bountiful Human Trafficking Case

Davis County, Utah  February 18, 2017 – The Office of the Utah Attorney General announced today the guilty plea on Thursday of Todd Jeremy Rettenberger to charges relating to human trafficking and related crimes.  Rettenberger was sentenced to one to fifteen years in prison for second-degree felony human trafficking and zero to five years for third-degree felony exploitation of prostitution. The sentences will run concurrently.

“The victims of this trafficker were girls, barely older than teens, forced into prostitution against their will and compelled to stay in “the life” by threats against their well-being and against their families. I am thrilled they will not have to endure a trial and be forced to relive the atrocities perpetrated upon them.  It is imperative that we now keep these survivors safe, avoid revictimizing them, empower them with resources and do everything we can to help them heal and reclaim their lives,” said Attorney General Sean Reyes. “Importantly, this case demonstrates that human trafficking is real. It exists in Utah as it does across the nation and around the world. It takes many forms and can happen anywhere.

“I offer my sincerest thanks and congratulations to Assistant Attorney General Dan Strong who brought the charges and to our elite investigative unit, the Utah SECURE Strikeforce, for their work on this case. I also want to thank and acknowledge Detective Aric Barker of the Bountiful City Police Department, his agency, and his chief, for their efforts to bring this human trafficker to justice and protect these victims.  Lastly, I reiterate my deep appreciation to each federal, state, county and city law enforcement agency that works side-by-side with the Utah AGO every day to disrupt human trafficking and related crimes in all their insidious forms.”

Rettenberger was charged in April of 2016 after police received reports that he was running a commercial sex operation out of Bountiful, along the Wasatch Front, and into other states. The Utah Attorney General’s Office’s SECURE Strike Force in conjunction with the Bountiful City Police Department investigated the allegations and found two women who were victimized by Rettenberger as part of this operation.  The women alleged that Rettenberger used forceful and coercive tactics, including threats of violence, physical violence, exploitation of their drug dependencies, and financial coercion.

The Utah Attorney General’s Office administers and coordinates the SECURE Strike Force partnership with the Utah Department of Public Safety and county, federal and city law enforcement agencies to combat violent and other major felony crimes associated with illegal immigration and human trafficking.

The mission of the Utah Attorney General SECURE Strike Force is to carefully target major fraud, organized gun, drug and human trafficking, detect creation of fraudulent government identification and other documents, and prosecute these crimes with specialized investigators and resources and a dedicated Assistant Attorney General prosecutor. The SECURE Strike Force works closely with the Utah Trafficking in Person’s Task Force. Learn more about the SECURE Strike Force here

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Attorney General Reyes Testifies in Support of HB199

Proposed law would fight the trafficking of adopted children

SALT LAKE CITY February 16, 2017 – A bill before the Utah legislature would implement safeguards to protect adopted children from “rehoming,” the illegal practice of adoptive parents giving away their adopted children away to strangers without the usual home study or background checks performed to protect children. At the invitation of the US Department of State, the Utah Attorney General’s Office joined national a committee two years ago tasked with addressing the illegal phenomenon and exploring model legislation for other states around the country. The bill, HB 199, was passed out of the House Judiciary Committee with a favorable recommendation.

“Getting the bill out of committee is a positive step in the right direction,” said Attorney General Sean Reyes. “This bill isn’t designed to be overly punitive towards adoptive parents.  We know the vast majority of adoptive parents have only the most noble of intentions when bringing adopted children into their families. But the reality is that many adopted kids coming from overseas environments have been victims of terrible abuse in war-torn countries or experienced severe trauma from the horrors of torture, famine, abuse or other atrocities.  Some adoptive parents who become overwhelmed by the cultural, emotional and psychological challenges of highly traumatized children, panic and end up desperate.  In too many situations, parents have literally given away their children to strangers like they might with old furniture, beginning with an online communication or transaction.

“This bill provides these adoptive parents more resources to face such challenges or find another adoptive family through legal processes rather than simply giving away, selling or abandoning their adopted child.  Without a law at the federal and state level prohibiting this kind of transfer of custody, thousands of kids will continue to be placed into the hands of human traffickers, pimps, rapists and other predators. In short, this bill is absolutely necessary to protect children and assist adoptive families. It allows the state to better educate and inform adoptive parents going into an adoption, empowering them to be more informed and prepared. And it more effectively keeps children out of the hands of potential abusers and predators.”

The practice of rehoming, facilitated by websites that connect overwhelmed adoptive parents with strangers, was discovered by journalists. The Utah Attorney General’s Office has supported the effort to combat this form of human trafficking along with other members of the State Department committee, including the U.S. Department of Justice; the U.S. Department of Human Services, Children’s Bureau; and the administrators of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children. By passing this HB199, the Utah Legislature will close the legal loopholes that have allowed the practice of rehoming to flourish.

Representative Merrill Nelson’s bill, with the support of the Utah Attorney General’s Office, takes a largely non-punitive approach to the problem of rehoming. The bill assures that, before committing to the adoption, prospective adoptive parents get accurate information about the specific child’s history and training about the challenging kinds of behavior adopted children can exhibit. The new law would make clear that sending an adoptive child to live permanently with a stranger outside the legal system is prohibited. Further, Utah Child Protective Services would have the authority to investigate the living situation of a child who has been sent to live with strangers without a legal transfer of custody.

The bill language was developed in cooperation with the Utah Adoption Council, which also voted unanimously to support the bill.

“The Utah Adoption Council supports the efforts of the Attorney General to address the phenomenon of rehoming,” said Larry Jenkins, Standards and Practice Chair at the Utah Adoption Council. “Families with high needs children need to know what options are available to them, and this bill is a model for other states and a giant step forward towards helping these families.”

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Attorney General Sean Reyes, 20-State Coalition Urges Senate Confirmation of Judge Gorsuch to Supreme Court

SALT LAKE CITY February 2, 2017  — Attorney General Sean Reyes joined a 20-state coalition in urging Senate leaders to confirm the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The coalition expressed its support in a Wednesday afternoon letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley and Senate Judiciary Ranking Member Patrick Leahy.

The letter urges the Senate, including Senator Orrin Hatch and Senator Mike Lee, to confirm Judge Gorsuch without delay.

“I applaud President Trump’s decision to nominate Judge Neil Gorsuch, a committed textualist and fellow westerner, to the Supreme Court of the United States,” said Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes. “By any objective measure, Judge Gorsuch is a sterling, eminently qualified nominee in the mainstream of American jurists. His decade-long record on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals—where he was confirmed by a voice vote in the Senate—shows that if he is confirmed, Judge Gorsuch will bring to the nation’s highest Court a keen intellect, a vibrant pen, and a healthy respect for the judiciary’s proper role in our constitutional system. I urge the Senate to give Judge Gorsuch the up-or-down vote he deserves—and to confirm him as the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.”

President Trump, in nominating Judge Gorsuch, fulfilled a promise to nominate a jurist who shared the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s commitment to interpreting the Constitution as it was originally written.

The coalition believes Judge Gorsuch is particularly well-suited to enforce the Constitution’s limits on federal overreach and protect the role of individual states. Federal agencies have consistently overstepped the bounds of their authority under the Constitution, to the detriment of the states, during the past eight years.

Judge Gorsuch offers a positive change. He respects the role of state governments and has consistently defended the constitutional rights to freedom of speech, religion and the right to bear arms.

The Senate previously confirmed Judge Gorsuch with broad, bipartisan support to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The coalition’s letter finds no reason why a jurist of such immense qualifications should not receive prompt confirmation once again.

Those signing the letter were state attorneys general from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Read a full copy of the letter at http://bit.ly/2jDSp8j.

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McFarland Pleads Guilty to Two Counts of Aggravated Murder

Sentenced to life without parole

SANPETE COUNTY, Utah  January 25, 2017 – The Office of the Utah Attorney General and the Sanpete County Attorney’s Office today announced the guilty plea and sentence of Logan Welles McFarland for the two charges of aggravated murder in relation to the December 30, 2011, robbery and murder of Leroy and Dorotha Ann Fullwood in their Mt. Pleasant home.  McFarland pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree aggravated murder. For each count, Judge Marvin D. Bagley of the Sixth District Court sentenced McFarland to life without parole with the sentences to run consecutively.

“This is a great day for the victim’s family, the Sanpete community, and the state of Utah,” said Sanpete County Attorney Brody Keisel. “Justice was served.”

Late on the evening of December 29, 2011, McFarland was in Mt. Pleasant with a plan to commit robbery to get money for drugs.  He had already stolen items from one home in Mt. Pleasant the day before and decided to come back a second time. McFarland was dropped off, armed with a .22 magnum caliber gun, at a church parking lot near the Fullwood home.  Removing a screen, McFarland entered the house through an unlocked window leading to a bedroom inside the Fullwood residence.

Once inside, McFarland shot the Fullwoods multiple times, killing both. The morning after the robbery and murders, McFarland visited his brother at his trailer in Moroni where he told his brother he had “dispatched lives in Sanpete County” and that a “mission had gone south.”  McFarland also told his brother he was leaving the area and wanted to say goodbye.  McFarland fled to Nevada and was eventually apprehended and arrested in the Nevada desert.  

Prosecuted by the Sanpete County Attorney’s Office and Utah Attorney General’s Office, the prosecution included Sanpete County Attorney Brody Keisel and Deputy County Attorney Kevin Daniels; Utah Attorney General’s Office Division Director Greg  Ferbrache, Criminal Deputy Craig Barlow,  Special Prosecutions Director Janise Macanas, and Special Prosecutions Paralegal Rosie McDonough. The case was investigated in cooperation with multiple Sanpete jurisdictions, including the Sanpete Sheriff’s Office, and a special thanks are extended to Nevada for cooperation in the case.

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Texas Four Plead Guilty to Charges Relating to Theft of Dinosaur Bones

WAYNE COUNTY, Utah January 20, 2017 – The Office of the Utah Attorney General (OAG) and Wayne County Attorney’s Office (WCA) today announced the guilty pleas of four individuals to charges relating to tampering with and theft of dinosaur bones from Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands in Wayne County, Utah in May 2015.   

“Utah’s archaeological and natural treasures contribute greatly to its beauty and allure and are an important part of what makes our state unique. This case demonstrates that anyone who illegally takes, tampers with, or disturbs our hidden treasures and natural resources will face criminal charges,” said Attorney General Sean Reyes.

“My thanks and congratulations to the entire investigation and prosecution team,  including Special Prosecutions Director Janise Macanas, Assistant Utah Attorney General Matthew Lloyd, and Paralegal Rosie McDonough of the (OAG) Justice Division’s Special Prosecutions Section, as well as Wayne County Attorney LeEllen McCartney.  The investigative team was spearheaded by (OAG) Investigation Division Special Agent Ronald Barton and BLM Agent Daniel Barnes. We are also grateful to the McLennan Community College for its cooperation.”

The individuals, all Texas residents, were in Utah as part of a geology expedition from McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas. Led by Philip Bukowski of Crawford, Texas, they entered Utah’s School and Institutional Trust Lands (SITLA) area, removed dinosaur bones and took them back to Texas. Additionally, the individuals were accused of damaging the area surrounding the dinosaur bones.  Bureau of Land Management agents made successful efforts to locate and seize the dinosaur bones.

Today, before the Honorable Judge Wallace A. Lee, in the Sixth Judicial District Court in Loa, Utah, Philip Bukowski entered a guilty plea to one count Third Degree Felony Theft, Paige Bukowski entered a guilty plea to one count Class A Misdemeanor Theft, and Travis York entered a guilty plea to one count Class A Misdemeanor Criminal Mischief.   The fourth defendant, Crystal Webster, entered an earlier plea to one count Class A Misdemeanor Theft.  All pleas are held in abeyance until the court’s conditions are met, including a restitution order in the amount of $6,417.84.

 

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AG Reyes Lauds District Court Injunction Halting Department of Labor’s Harmful Overtime Rule

SALT LAKE CITY November 23, 2016 – Late yesterday, a federal judge granted a nationwide preliminary injunction against the U.S. Department of Labor’s new Overtime Rule. Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes joined the twenty-one state coalition that successfully challenged the rule. 

“This rule has been touted as worker friendly but is just the opposite.  Unfortunately, this kind of federal and bureaucratic overreach has been all too frequent under the current administration, which has allowed the Department of Labor to effectively rewrite the Fair Labor Standards Act,” said Attorney General Reyes. “In particular, the administration assumes that through force of will alone, it could order a new economic reality into existence. The finalized overtime rule harms local businesses, slows the economy, and hurts American workers. It limits workplace flexibility without a corresponding increase in pay, forcing employers to cut their workers hours. All in all, it exchanges the advantages of negotiated benefits, personal to each worker, with a one-size-fits-all standard that looks good only in press statements. We can do better than this for American workers.”

Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, employees are entitled to overtime pay at one-and-a-half times their regular hourly rate for all hours worked above forty per week.  But certain kinds of employees — including “white collar” employees — have long been exempt by statute from that overtime requirement. Under Department of Labor regulations, whether employees qualified as “white collar” employees turned in part on their salary, so the new Overtime Rule more than doubled the salary threshold at which employees would qualify for that exemption.  But the district court found that the new rule was unlawful because Congress intended the “white collar” exemption “to depend on an employee’s duties rather than an employee’s salary.”

In granting the injunction, U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant admonished: “the Final Rule . . . is contrary to the statutory text and Congress’s intent” and “Congress, and not the Department, should make that change.”

Because of the court’s injunction, the new rule will not take effect on December 1, 2016 anywhere in the nation.

The court’s preliminary injunction can be found here.

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Utah Supreme Court Upholds Esar Met Convictions and Part of Sentencing

SALT LAKE CITY November 22, 2016 –The Utah Supreme Court today affirmed the convictions and part of the sentence of Esar Met, who kidnapped, sexually abused, and brutally murdered 7-year-old Hser Ner Moo in 2008. 

“I congratulate Assistant Solicitor General John Nielsen on successfully representing Utah in this difficult case,” said Sean Reyes, Utah Attorney General. “One of the most important duties of our office is providing the best advocacy possible to make sure that justice is fairly and fully served. My thanks to all those who assisted John in briefing and arguing the appeal, including Solicitor General Tyler Green, Criminal Appeals Division Director Thomas Brunker, Search and Seizure Section Director Jeff Gray, and Assistant Solicitor General William Haines.”

Met was previously convicted of aggravated murder and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.  He raised more than a dozen claims on appeal, challenging the constitutionality of Utah’s non-capital aggravated murder sentencing statute on eight different grounds.  Met also claimed that police coerced his statements during his police interview, that police illegally searched his apartment, that the prosecution unlawfully used two pictures of the victim at trial, that the prosecution destroyed important evidence, and that his conviction for child kidnapping should merge into his conviction for aggravated murder.  The Utah Supreme Court rejected each of these claims. 

Met was sentenced to two concurrent terms of life without the possibility of parole, but the Utah Supreme Court held that the trial judge misapplied the law to Met’s aggravated murder conviction by presuming that life without parole was the appropriate starting sentence.  The court sent the case down for the trial court to determine if this presumption affected its decision on the aggravated murder count, but affirmed the imposition of life without parole on the child kidnapping count.

Assistant Solicitor General John Nielsen represented the State on appeal, briefing and arguing the case.  Solicitor General Tyler Green, Criminal Appeals Division Director Thomas Brunker, Search and Seizure Section Director Jeff Gray, and Assistant Solicitor General William Haines helped develop and refine the State’s arguments.

A copy of the ruling can be found here.

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