As Pandemic Lingers, Courts Lean Into Virtual Technology

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Middle District of Florida virtual trial

As she started a civil jury trial in early October, Judge Marsha J. Pechman looked across her federal courtroom in Seattle, Washington. It was completely empty.

The litigants and their lawyers beamed in via video. So did her law clerks, and the court reporter tasked with transcribing the trial. Most strikingly, the eight jurors deciding the case also were participating by video from their homes.

Since the pandemic first closed many courts, one of the most significant adjustments made by federal courts has involved the use of electronic communications. Under provisions of the CARES Act, a COVID-19 relief law passed last March, federal courts began conducting routine procedural hearings, such as first appearances for criminal defendants, by telephone and video hookups.

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) has dragged on, a small number of courts have adapted electronic proceedings to meet more challenging situations. Several courts have conducted virtual bench trials, which do not require a jury. In a few cases, courts holding high-profile hearings have needed to stretch virtual technology to accommodate large numbers of listeners. In perhaps the most ambitious experiment yet, the Western District of Washington recently began holding all-virtual jury trials in civil lawsuits.

“Video jury trials are a tool that can be used, and it’s a tool we need to use unless we are going to be backed up forever and ever,” said Pechman, who has heard four virtual civil jury trials in recent months. “It has worked better than my initial expectations, all the way around. The jurors have been very, very diligent. They’ve cleared themselves of distractions and worked hard to pay attention.” 

Electronic proceedings also have shown vulnerabilities. In one of Pechman’s trials, proceedings were suspended when a windstorm cut some jurors’ internet connections. And during a high-profile election case in Pennsylvania, a telephone outage interrupted audience audio.

Overall, however, judges said the virtual proceedings were fair and efficient.

“I think it worked just as well as in person,” said U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani, of the District of Massachusetts, who has conducted two non-jury trials that brought together witnesses from multiple countries. “The convenience of not having to travel here was enormous. Absolutely it was an effective way to deliver justice.”

At least five courts have scheduled virtual civil jury trials, with jurors serving from home. In addition to the Western District of Washington, the Middle District of Florida and the District of Minnesota have conducted virtual civil jury trials. In the Districts of Kansas and Rhode Island, litigants settled their disputes before virtual jury trials began.

“It flowed seamlessly from jury selection through deliberations,” said Judge Mary S. Scriven, of the Middle District of Florida, who presided over a five-day all-video civil trial in late January. “I would do it again in a heartbeat. There were no more glitches than are typically seen in an in-person trial.”

Other courts have adopted a mix of tactics. In the District of Connecticut, jury members in one civil case were selected virtually from home but then came to court for an in-person trial.

The following are examples of how some courts have used electronics to deliver justice in more complex court situations.

Bench Trials in Boston

Bench trials are one of the simplest forms of federal trials because they do not require juries. In addition to deciding questions of law and procedure, the judge also determines the verdict.

But before Judge Indira Talwani conducted two bench trials in late August, her court in Boston had to use an entirely new technical structure to support trials with witnesses testifying from other continents. In one, an international child custody dispute, a parent would be participating from Armenia, while a separate business dispute involved possible witnesses from London and China.

District Judge Indira Talwani, District of Massachusetts

“I issued a protocol of procedures,” Talwani said. “I didn’t want everyone there and not having checked their bandwidth, and things like that. So my courtroom deputy played a critical role in doing a test run with everyone.”

Pretrial conferences also gave participants a chance to test the system. In addition to witnesses, the court had to connect Armenian interpreters into the child-custody case. Because the online video service had a translation function, listeners could choose to follow the trial in English, Armenian, or hear both languages.

The child custody dispute went smoothly, except for one hitch.

“The father who was making his custody claim was sitting with a well-positioned photograph of him and his daughter on the desk. That would not have happened in the courtroom,” Talwani said. “That’s a lesson I’ve learned. The witnesses need to be encouraged to appear as if they were on the witness stand and not think of it as an opportunity to color the proceeding.”

The makeshift virtual format had significant pros and a few cons, Talwani said. On the negative side, litigants can’t see each other in person, but in both cases she heard, the opposing sides knew each other well, reducing that concern.

On the plus side, seeing the full faces of witnesses on a screen 18 inches away, instead of viewing them at an angle in the witness box, provided a better view.

The biggest advantage was convenience for participants.

“For these parties, the difference of not having to travel here was enormous,” Talwani said. “To be able to do all of that without everyone having to spend the travel time worked very well. If people are cost conscious, it would make a huge difference.”

Virtual Civil Trials in Seattle and Florida

A senior judge for the Western District of Washington, Marsha Pechman first conducted a virtual bench trial in June. Her immediate takeaway: “I was stunned by how well it went off.”

When Pechman began to draft a manual for judges and lawyers on virtual bench trials, Chief Judge Richard Martinez asked her to expand her focus to include virtual jury trials, in which jurors would hear the case from home using virtual technology. The request forced her to consider legal and technical questions that literally had no precedent in the federal Judiciary.

Senior Judge Marsha J. Pechman, Western District of Washington

“I had the Ninth Circuit librarians look for case law, and the answer is, there’s nothing out there,” Pechman said. “We only found a few futuristic articles by legal scholars.”

As she and other judges looked more closely, they concluded that while criminal trials probably needed to be conducted in person, because defendants have a constitutional right to confront their accusers, lawyers already were allowed to take civil depositions by video. The court decided that civil jury cases would stand up to any appeals.

Assembling virtual juries raised additional questions. Pechman was especially worried that the requirement to use computer equipment might skew the jury pool, reducing the number of elderly and low-income jurors. The court made provisions to train jurors without computer skills, and to lend computers to those who lacked suitable equipment. 

In the four virtual jury trials she has conducted, Pechman was surprised to find that it was easier to assemble diverse juries. For some jurors, not having to travel a hundred miles or more to a federal courthouse was a major advantage.

In one case, a windstorm temporarily knocked out a juror’s connections. But, Pechman noted, in-person trials also experience disruptions, such as jurors getting delayed in traffic. The jurors deliberated virtually, rendering million-dollar-plus verdicts in two cases, and deciding in favor of the defendant in a third. A fourth case ended in a settlement after eight days of trial.

“I debriefed each of the jurors. We asked if you feel like you can pay attention while you’re sitting in your own home. The jurors overwhelmingly said yes,” Pechman said. “I know the lawyers would say this guy was sitting in his laundry room, and this lady was sitting on her bed, but the point is, we invaded their house, and they found the best space they could in order to pay attention.”

Judge Mary S. Scriven, Middle District of Florida

Pechman has shared her experiences and resource materials with other courts. Judge Scriven, of the Middle District of Florida, “only slightly modified” a handbook provided by the Western District of Washington in setting up her trial, an insurance case.

“The jurors commented that they appreciated the ability to see the exhibits and see and hear the witnesses clearly because everything was magnified on the screen,” Scriven said. “We even had a doctor/fact witness appear in full COVID-19 protective gear from the hallway of the hospital where she worked.”

Virtual Media Access in Pennsylvania

Perhaps the greatest stress test of virtual courtroom technology occurred in November, when an election law case in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, attracted national attention.

Under the CARES Act, which was passed by Congress early in the pandemic, federal courts were permitted to conduct most court proceedings by telephone and video hookups. In an unprecedented step, the federal Judiciary ensured the constitutional guarantee of public trials by making call-in lines available to the media and public, not just lawyers and litigants, in almost all federal proceedings.

In routine cases, that has posed little if any strain on federal courts. The Middle District of Pennsylvania, for instance, relied on WebEx technology with a call-in capacity of 200 to 300 listeners. But with the filing of Trump v. Boockvar, which challenged Pennsylvania’s presidential voting results, the court knew it needed more lines, but it wasn’t clear how many.

Concerned that national organizations might circulate online hearing information, potentially flooding the call-in lines and blocking access to some reporters, the court initially boosted its capacity to 4,000 listeners, and then raised it to 8,000 the morning of the hearing.

“This was clearly not a time for half measures. You either go big or go home,” said Chief Judge John E. Jones III.

For more than an hour, the system seemed to hold. Most or all of the 8,000 lines were in use, accommodating a far greater audience than normally could listen in, and the hearing was proceeding without incident. Then an AT&T server failed, plunging the public audio into silence.

Chief Judge John E. Jones III, left, and Clerk of Court Peter J. Welsh, Middle District of Pennsylvania

“It was an unbelievably stressful time,” said Peter J. Welsh, Clerk of Court for the Middle District. “When we realized it wasn’t just a few lines, we called AT&T, and they said they could fix it in five minutes. Five minutes turned to 10, and then 15. We notified the courtroom deputy.”

By the time U.S. District Judge Matthew W. Brann called a recess, the hearing had proceeded 25 minutes without public audio. Once repaired, the AT&T audio performed without incident for the rest of the hearing. The court addressed the audio gap by posting a transcript of the proceeding on its website, and Jones also issued a public statement.

“The transcript went a long way toward cleaning things up,” Jones said. “People wanted to know what they missed and what had happened. They had to have some account of it.”

Even with the audio interruption, Jones believes the public and media benefited from increased access.

“Despite the hiccup of the dropped lines, members of the press thought that on balance, the court did do a good job,” Jones said. “It may have been imperfect, but it was still awfully effective under the circumstances.”

Moving Forward

The long-term role of electronic court proceedings remains unclear. While virtual trials in civil cases remain a rarity, a Feb. 5 how-to seminar hosted by the Western District of Washington attracted more than 900 participants from more than 60 district courts.

Under the CARES Act, the Judiciary will end most electronic proceedings once the pandemic emergency is declared over. Until then, judges agreed in interviews, telephone and virtual hookups will play an important role in moving cases forward.

Read the Series

This is the fifth in a series of articles about how federal courts are working to recover from the COVID-19 crisis.

Chief Judge John R. Tunheim, of the District of Minnesota, said virtual civil trials are likely to be needed even after more people receive vaccinations. That is because anti-COVID-19 measures, such as plexiglass barriers and social distancing, will greatly reduce courtroom capacity, and criminal cases must be tried in person.

“We will only have one courtroom in Minneapolis and one in St. Paul for trials,” Tunheim said, “so the ability to do civil trials virtually while we catch up on our criminal trial backlog will be very helpful.”

And despite inevitable wobbles, judges said virtual strategies have preserved the essentials of justice during the nation’s worst health crisis in a century.

“I have no backlog. Every single case I had set in 2020 got tried in 2020,” Pechman said of her virtual civil jury trials. “I tell my fellow judges this may be the only way the wheels of justice will still turn.”

Jones was pleased that a critical case proceeded without delay, but also without sacrificing public access.

“The best of it was the fact that in the middle of a pandemic, Judge Brann could conduct this massive preceding, that literally had national import, and finish the case in two weeks,” Jones said of the Pennsylvania election lawsuit. “We operated in a way that promoted the Third Branch, and that’s the way it should be.”

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    GAO's analysis of Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) data show that in fiscal year 2018, 287,547 Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries had inpatient stays that included care for severe wounds. These wounds include those where the base of the wound is covered by dead tissue or non-healing surgical wounds. About 73 percent of the inpatient stays occurred in acute care hospitals (ACH), and a smaller percentage of stays occurred in post-acute care facilities. Specifically, about 16 percent of stays were at skilled nursing facilities (SNF), and about 7 percent were at long-term care hospitals (LTCH). CMS data show that Medicare spending on stays for severe wound care was $2.01 billion in fiscal year 2018, representing a decline of about 2 percent from fiscal year 2016, when spending was about $2.06 billion. Spending declined as a result of decreases in both the total number of these stays, as well as spending per stay, which both decreased by about 1 percent. The decrease in per stay spending was likely driven, in part, by a change in where beneficiaries received care. CMS data show fewer severe wound care stays in LTCHs, which tend to be paid higher payment rates. At the same time, more severe wound care stays were at two other types of facilities that tend to be paid lower payment rates: ACHs and inpatient rehabilitation facilities. GAO's analysis of CMS data also show that, while the number of LTCHs that billed Medicare for severe wound care decreased by about 7 percent from fiscal years 2016 to 2018, Medicare beneficiaries continued to have access to other severe wound care providers. For example, CMS data show that most beneficiaries resided within 10 miles of an ACH or SNF that provided severe wound care in fiscal year 2018. Figure: Percentage of Medicare Fee-for-Service Beneficiaries Residing within 10 Miles of a Health Care Facility That Provided Any Severe Wound Care, by Facility Type, Fiscal Year 2018 Note: The “other” category includes facilities such as psychiatric hospitals or units. There is limited information on how or whether the decrease in LTCH care for severe wounds may have affected the quality of severe wound care Medicare beneficiaries receive. For example, CMS collects information on the percentage of patients with new or worsened pressure ulcers at post-acute care facilities, but it does not measure the quality of care they receive. Medicare beneficiaries with serious health conditions, such as strokes, are prone to developing severe wounds due to complications that often lead to immobility and prolonged pressure on the skin. These beneficiaries may require a long-term inpatient stay at an ACH or a post-acute care facility, such as an LTCH. LTCHs treat patients who require care for longer than 25 days, on average. In 2018, LTCHs represented about $4.2 billion in Medicare expenditures. Prior to fiscal year 2016, LTCHs received a higher payment rate for treating Medicare beneficiaries than ACHs. Beginning in fiscal year 2016, a dual payment system was phased in that paid LTCHs a rate similar to ACHs for some beneficiaries and a higher rate for beneficiaries that met certain criteria. As this payment system has moved from partial to full implementation, lawmakers had questions about how it may affect beneficiaries' severe wound care. The 21st Century Cures Act included a provision for GAO to review severe wound care provided to Medicare beneficiaries. This report describes facilities where Medicare beneficiaries received severe wound care, Medicare severe wound care spending, and what is known about the dual payment system's effect on access and quality. GAO analyzed Medicare severe wound care access and spending data for fiscal years 2016 and 2018 (the most recent data available); reviewed reports; and interviewed CMS officials, researchers, and national wound care stakeholders. HHS provided technical comments on a draft of this report, which were incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact James Cosgrove at (202) 512-7114 or cosgrovej@gao.gov.
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  • Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Robert A. Zink Delivers Remarks at Virtual GIR Live Interactive: Regional Spotlight-North America
    In Crime News
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  • Cybersecurity: Clarity of Leadership Urgently Needed to Fully Implement the National Strategy
    In U.S GAO News
    Federal entities have a variety of roles and responsibilities for supporting efforts to enhance the cybersecurity of the nation. Among other things, 23 federal entities have roles and responsibilities for developing policies, monitoring critical infrastructure protection efforts, sharing information to enhance cybersecurity across the nation, responding to cyber incidents, investigating cyberattacks, and conducting cybersecurity-related research. To fulfill their roles and responsibilities, federal entities identified activities undertaken in support of the nation's cybersecurity. For example, National Security Council (NSC) staff, on behalf of the President, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, have developed policies, strategies, standards, and plans to guide cybersecurity efforts. The Department of Homeland Security has helped secure the nation's critical infrastructure through developing security policy and coordinating security initiatives, among other efforts. Other agencies have established initiatives to gather intelligence and share actual or possible cyberattack information. Multiple agencies have mechanisms in place to assist in responding to cyberattacks, and law enforcement components, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, are responsible for investigating them. The White House's September 2018 National Cyber Strategy and the NSC's accompanying June 2019 Implementation Plan detail the executive branch's approach to managing the nation's cybersecurity. When evaluated together, these documents addressed several of the desirable characteristics of national strategies, but lacked certain key elements for addressing others. National Cyber Strategy and Implementation Plan are Missing Desirable Characteristics of a National Strategy Characteristic Cyber Strategy and Plan Coverage of Issue Purpose, scope, and methodology Addressed Organizational roles, responsibilities, and coordination Addressed Integration and implementation Addressed Problem definition and risk assessment Did not fully address Goals, subordinate objectives, activities, and performance measures Did not fully address Resources, investments, and risk management Did not fully address Source: GAO analysis of 2018 National Cyber Strategy and 2019 Implementation Plan . | GAO-20-629 For example, the Implementation Plan details 191 activities that federal entities are to undertake to execute the priority actions outlined in the National Cyber Strategy. These activities are assigned a level, or tier, based on the coordination efforts required to execute the activity and the extent to which NSC staff is expected to be involved. Thirty-five of these activities are designated as the highest level (tier 1), and are coordinated by a functional entity within the NSC . Ten entities are assigned to lead or co-lead these critical activities while also tasked to lead or co-lead lower tier activities. Leadership Roles for Federal Entities Assigned as Leads or Co-Leads for National Cyber Strategy Implementation Plan Activities Entity Tier 1 Activities Tier 2 Activities Tier 3 Activities National Security Council 15 7 3 Department of Homeland Security 14 19 15 Office of Management and Budget 7 6 5 Department of Commerce 5 9 35 Department of State 2 5 11 Department of Defense 1 6 17 Department of Justice 1 10 5 Department of Transportation 1 0 5 Executive Office of the President 1 0 0 General Services Administration 1 2 1 Source: GAO analysis of 2018 National Cyber Strategy and 2019 Implementation Plan . | GAO-20-629 Although the Implementation Plan defined the entities responsible for leading each of the activities; it did not include goals and timelines for 46 of the activities or identify the resources needed to execute 160 activities. Additionally, discussion of risk in the National Cyber Strategy and Implementation Plan was not based on an analysis of threats and vulnerabilities. Further, the documents did not specify a process for monitoring agency progress in executing Implementation Plan activities. Instead, NSC staff stated that they performed periodic check-ins with responsible entities, but did not provide an explanation or definition of specific level of NSC staff involvement for each of the three tier designations. Without a consistent approach to engaging with responsible entities and a comprehensive understanding of what is needed to implement all 191 activities, the NSC will face challenges in ensuring that the National Cyber Strategy is efficiently executed. GAO and others have reported on the urgency and necessity of clearly defining a central leadership role in order to coordinate the government's efforts to overcome the nation's cyber-related threats and challenges. The White House identified the NSC staff as responsible for coordinating the implementation of the National Cyber Strategy . However, in light of the elimination of the White House Cybersecurity Coordinator position in May 2018, it remains unclear which official ultimately maintains responsibility for not only coordinating execution of the Implementation Plan , but also holding federal agencies accountable once activities are implemented. NSC staff stated responsibility for duties previously attributed to the White House Cyber Coordinator were passed to the senior director of NSC's Cyber directorate; however, the staff did not provide a description of what those responsibilities include. NSC staff also stated that federal entities are ultimately responsible for determining the status of the activities that they lead or support and for communicating implementation status to relevant NSC staff. However, without a clear central leader to coordinate activities, as well as a process for monitoring performance of the Implementation Plan activities, the White House cannot ensure that entities are effectively executing their assigned activities intended to support the nation's cybersecurity strategy and ultimately overcome this urgent challenge. Increasingly sophisticated cyber threats have underscored the need to manage and bolster the cybersecurity of key government systems and the nation's cybersecurity. The risks to these systems are increasing as security threats evolve and become more sophisticated. GAO first designated information security as a government-wide high-risk area in 1997. This was expanded to include protecting cyber critical infrastructure in 2003 and protecting the privacy of personally identifiable information in 2015. In 2018, GAO noted that the need to establish a national cybersecurity strategy with effective oversight was a major challenge facing the federal government. GAO was requested to review efforts to protect the nation's cyber critical infrastructure. The objectives of this report were to (1) describe roles and responsibilities of federal entities tasked with supporting national cybersecurity, and (2) determine the extent to which the executive branch has developed a national strategy and a plan to manage its implementation. To do so, GAO identified 23 federal entities responsible for enhancing the nation's cybersecurity. Specifically, GAO selected 13 federal agencies based on their specialized or support functions regarding critical infrastructure security and resilience, and 10 additional entities based on analysis of its prior reviews of national cybersecurity, relevant executive policy, and national strategy documents. GAO also analyzed the National Cyber Strategy and Implementation Plan to determine if they aligned with the desirable characteristics of a national strategy. GAO is making one matter for congressional consideration, that Congress should consider legislation to designate a leadership position in the White House with the commensurate authority to implement and encourage action in support of the nation's cybersecurity. GAO is also making one recommendation to the National Security Council to work with relevant federal entities to update cybersecurity strategy documents to include goals, performance measures, and resource information, among other things. The National Security Council neither agreed nor disagreed with GAO's recommendation. For more information, contact Nick Marinos at (202) 512-9342 or marinosn@gao.gov.
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  • Department of Justice Announces Charges of North Korean and Malaysia Nationals for Bank Fraud, Money Laundering and North Korea Sanctions Violations
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice announced a criminal complaint charging Ri Jong Chol, Ri Yu Gyong, North Korean nationals, and Gan Chee Lim, a Malaysia national. The three were charged with conspiracy to violate North Korean Sanctions Regulations and bank fraud, and conspiracy to launder funds. The defendants allegedly established and utilized front companies that transmitted U.S. dollar wires through the United States to purchase commodities on behalf of North Korean customers.
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  • Chinese Man Extradited for Financing Turtle-Trafficking Ring
    In Crime News
    A Chinese citizen was extradited from Malaysia to the United States today to face charges for money laundering.
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  • Texas Woman Charged with Fraudulently Obtaining Nearly $2 Million in COVID Relief Funds
    In Crime News
    A Texas woman has been taken into custody on allegations she fraudulently obtained more than $1.9 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick of the Southern District of Texas.
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  • Founder and Chairman of a Multinational Investment Company and a Company Consultant Convicted of Bribery and Public Corruption are Sentenced to Prison
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    The founder and chairman of a multinational investment company and a company consultant were sentenced to prison today for orchestrating a bribery scheme involving independent expenditure accounts and improper campaign contributions.
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  • Man Arrested for Illegally Entering Office of Speaker of the House
    In Crime News
    Richard Barnett, 60, of Gravette, Arkansas was arrested today in Bentonville, Arkansas on multiple criminal charges related to his alleged unlawful activities earlier this week at the U.S. Capitol Building where he was photographed with his feet up on a desk in the Speaker of the House of Representatives’ office.
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  • Justice Department Files Statement of Interest in Michigan Religious Schools’ Challenge to COVID-19 Closing Order
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department today filed a statement of interest in federal district court in Kalamazoo, Michigan, arguing that the Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution requires the state of Michigan to justify why it cannot provide exemptions to its school closing order for in-person instruction at religious high schools when it provides exemptions for trade and technical instruction in person, college sports teams, and other educational activities.
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  • Justice Department Awards Nearly $101 Million to Combat Human Trafficking
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice today announced it has awarded nearly $101 million, through the department’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP) in funding to combat human trafficking and provide vital services to trafficking victims throughout the United States.
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  • United States Citizen Who Joined ISIS Charged With Material Support Violations
    In Crime News
    An indictment and arrest warrant were unsealed today in the federal court of the District of Columbia charging Lirim Sylejmani, a Kosovo-born naturalized U.S. citizen, with conspiring to provide, providing, and attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization, and receiving training from ISIS, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2339B and 2339D. 
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  • Statement of Acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen Regarding Nationwide Safety and Security for Inauguration Day
    In Crime News
    Tomorrow, the Nation and the world will witness an orderly and peaceful transfer of power in the United States, as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court swears in President-Elect Biden.  Throughout our Nation’s proud history, this ceremony has served as a beacon of democracy and a testament to the enduring strength of our Constitution.
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    Alexander Yuk Ching Ma, 67, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer, was arrested on Aug. 14, 2020, on a charge that he conspired with a relative of his who also was a former CIA officer to communicate classified information up to the Top Secret level to intelligence officials of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The Criminal Complaint containing the charge was unsealed this morning.
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  • Former Veterans Affairs Doctor Pleads Guilty to Three Civil Rights Offenses
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    A doctor of osteopathic medicine who formerly worked at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center in Beckley, West Virginia, pleaded guilty today to three counts of depriving veterans of their civil rights under color of law by sexually abusing them.
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  • Statement from Attorney General William P. Barr on the Arrest of Kansas City Man Charged with the Murder of Four-Year-Old LeGend Taliferro
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    Attorney General William P. Barr issued the following statement in response to the arrest of a Kansas City man accused of murdering four-year-old LeGend Taliferro, after whom the Department of Justice’s Operation Legend is named.
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  • Florida Businesswoman Pleads Guilty to Criminal Health Care and Tax Fraud Charges and Agrees to $20.3 Million Civil False Claims Act Settlement
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    A Florida businesswoman has agreed to resolve criminal charges and civil claims arising out of false claims to the United States for braces and other durable medical equipment (DME), the Justice Department announced today.
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  • Complaint Seeks Forfeiture of Iranian Oil Aboard Tanker Based on Connection to Terror Group
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    The United States filed a forfeiture complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia alleging that all oil aboard a Liberian-flagged vessel, the M/T Achilleas (Achilleas), is subject to forfeiture based on U.S. terrorism forfeiture laws. The complaint alleges a scheme involving multiple entities affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the IRGC-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) to covertly ship Iranian oil to a customer abroad.  Participants in the scheme attempted to disguise the origin of the oil using ship-to-ship transfers, falsified documents, and other means, and provided a fraudulent bill of lading to deceive the owners of the Achilleas into loading the oil in question. 
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  • Former Hilo Correctional Officer Pleads Guilty for Assaulting an Inmate and Conspiring with Other Officers to Cover it Up
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    A former correctional officer at the Hawaii Community Correctional Center pleaded guilty to three felony offenses yesterday for assaulting an inmate; for failing to protect the inmate from being assaulted by three other correctional officers; and for conspiring with those officers to cover it up.
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  • Agile Assessment Guide: Best Practices for Agile Adoption and Implementation
    In U.S GAO News
    From September 28, 2020 through September 27, 2021, GAO is seeking input and feedback on this Exposure Draft from all interested parties. Please click on this link https://tell.gao.gov/agileguide to provide us with comment on the Guide. The U.S. Government Accountability Office is responsible for, among other things, assisting Congress in its oversight of the executive branch, including assessing federal agencies' management of information technology (IT) systems. The federal government annually spends more than $90 billion on IT. However, federal agencies face challenges in developing, implementing, and maintaining their IT investments. All too frequently, agency IT programs have incurred cost overruns and schedule slippages while contributing little to mission-related outcomes. Accordingly, GAO has included management of IT acquisitions and operations on its High Risk List. Recognizing the severity related to government-wide management of IT, in 2014, the Congress passed and the President signed federal IT acquisition reform legislation commonly referred to as the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act, or FITARA. This legislation was enacted to improve agencies' acquisition of IT and enable Congress to monitor agencies' progress and hold them accountable for reducing duplication and achieving cost savings. Among its specific provisions is a requirement for Chief Information Officers (CIOs) at covered agencies to certify that certain IT investments are adequately implementing incremental development as defined in the Office of Management and Budget's capital planning guidance. One such framework for incremental development is Agile software development, which has been adopted by many federal agencies. The Agile Assessment Guide discusses best practices that can be used across the federal government for Agile adoption, execution, and program monitoring and control. Use of these best practices should enable government programs to better transition to and manage their Agile programs. GAO has developed this guide to serve multiple audiences: The primary audience for this guide is federal auditors. Specifically, the guide presents best practices that can be used to assess the extent to which an agency has adopted and implemented Agile methods. Organizations and programs that have already established policies and protocols for Agile adoption and execution can use this guide to evaluate their existing approach to Agile software development. Organizations and programs that are in the midst of adopting Agile software development practices and programs that are planning to adopt such practices can also use this guide to inform their transitions. For more information, contact Carol Harris at (202) 512-4456 or harriscc@gao.gov.
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  • Final Defendant Sentenced in $7 Billion Investment Fraud Scheme
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    The former chief of Antigua’s Financial Services Regulatory Commission (FSRC) was sentenced today to 10 years in prison for his role in connection with a $7 billion Ponzi scheme involving the Stanford International Bank (SIB).
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