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Facebook Photo of Judge Holding Beverage Is Not Proof of DWI Release Violation, Judge Says

Photographs posted on Facebook showing a judge holding a beverage at a Thanksgiving gathering don’t prove that she violated post-release terms of her earlier drunken-driving conviction, a court has ruled[1]. While noting the post had caused controversy in Rochester, where City Court Judge Leticia Astacio has been suspended since her 2016 conviction for driving while intoxicated, Judge Stephen Aronson ruled that the photos are not legal proof that Astacio actually was drinking alcohol.

“There was no evidence that the defendant was drinking alcoholic beverage, i.e., no witnesses to describe what was contained in the defendant’s cups in the photographs and, more importantly, no witnesses that observed the defendant drinking alcoholic beverages,” said Aronson, an acting Rochester City Court judge. Two witnesses at the Thanksgiving get-together testified in a “credible manner” that Astacio was not drinking alcohol at the gathering, Aronson wrote Monday in People v. Astacio, CR 16-02496.

“It is a fundamental right for a judge or jury to decide a case only after hearing and deliberating upon all of the evidence presented,” he said. “This is a basic principle that our family members and friends in the armed services have fought and died on foreign soil to preserve.”

Astacio’s sister and her boyfriend, who posted the photos, testified that Astacio was participating in a drinking game with family members, but was herself consuming only water. Aronson also wrote that the evidence presented before him during a trial earlier this month was insufficient to sustain a finding that Astacio was intoxicated during a night out with friends at a mall restaurant in the Rochester suburb of Henrietta, also in November 2016. While Aronson said a security guard testified that the judge “needed support for balance,” he noted that the guard did not smell alcohol on Astacio nor observe her buy or drink liquor during a two-to-three-hour stay at the restaurant.

Aronson also found that oversight of the terms of Astacio’s one-year conditional release were transferred illegally from Monroe County, where she was convicted, to neighboring Ontario County. He said state Vehicle and Traffic Law provides for no interjurisdictional transfer of responsibility for monitoring ignition interlock devices and ordered the matter back to Monroe County officials. Aronson’s ruling restored Astacio’s driver’s license under the 2016 post-release terms. Astacio continues to be barred from the bench, though she continues to receive a $173,700 annual salary. She was elected city court judge in 2015.

The state Commission on Judicial Conduct is continuing to investigate Astacio. Though the commission does not comment on open investigations, Astacio herself acknowledged that she had been interviewed by commission personnel for the panel’s inquiry. She is being represented by Edward Fiandach, partner at Fiandach & Fiandach in Rochester. Fiandach said Tuesday that Aronson was “absolutely right” in finding that the legal proof was insufficient to show that Astacio was drinking at the Thanksgiving gathering or that Ontario County officials had jurisdiction to monitor the ignition interlock device in the judge’s car.

References

  1. ^ a court has ruled (nycourts.gov)

Airport security clampdown ‘the biggest in 10 years’

Airport Security Clampdown 'the Biggest In 10 Years'Business NZ chief executive Kirk Hope. Photo / Mark Mitchell

New Zealand travellers are caught in the middle, as what’s being called the biggest security change in 10 years is introduced to airports in Britain and the US. Changes are being introduced by this Saturday at the latest, and will restrict the electronics passengers can put into their carry-on luggage. If coming from certain airports in the Middle East or North Africa, no device larger than a cell phone will be allowed.

Other electronics will need to be packed in checked luggage. The news has left New Zealanders scrambling to find out if their airline or travel route is affected, particularly those who rely on electronics to do work, or entertain children. BusinessNZ chief executive Kirk Hope said it would be very challenging for some people, who wouldn’t have the option to stop work for up to a 24-hour period.

“At the moment you see a lot of flights that are quite full, and people operate on work – sleep – work.

“You want to retain connectivity because you’ve got stuff going on back in New Zealand or in the country you’re travelling to.

“So if you’re travelling through one of those countries subject to the ban, that could be quite an impediment.”

Hope said some people might opt to travel through Hong Kong or Singapore to make sure they could keep working, or avoid the chance of a security breach with checked electronics.

Continued below.

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[3]

But that wouldn’t be an option for everyone.

“Some people will have business in those countries affected, it will be more than just a connecting transit point,” he said.

“It will be a place you stop for business considerations, and then fly on to the UK or US.

“But you can only be aware of it. You don’t want to have something confiscated, because that would be even more damaging to the work you can get done. The US and British governments haven’t given a direct reason for the changes, but cited unspecified attacks and threats against airliners over the past two years. In early 2015, hacker Chris Roberts achieved worldwide notoriety when he told the FBI he’d hacked into airlines up to 20 times, during flights he was aboard.

He claimed he’d even managed to control an aircraft engine during a flight, according to federal court documents. It’s not known if this incident is one of those which prompted these security changes. House of Travel marketing director Ken Freer said it was the most significant restriction on air travel since liquids and gels were banned around 10 years ago.

“Our advice to customers is just to be aware, and make sure you check anything bigger than a mobile phone into your checked luggage.

“For those who find it essential to work on the flight on their laptop, it might influence who they fly with.

“But thankfully most airlines offer similar prices on the different routes, generally speaking.”

Freer said the new restrictions would be noticed by other governments, and he would be interested to see if other countries also tightened their security requirements. Flight Centre NZ general manager retail Sue Matson said it would affect “quite a few” of their customers, as they were popular routes.

“For families travelling long haul the iPad is a welcome distraction for kids, particularly while waiting before you get on the plane.

“It’s even bigger for business travellers, as quite a few of them are required to carry their work laptops with them at all times.

“Particularly if they’re a government client, electronic security willl be in their employer policy.

“Those people should talk to their travel manager ASAP. They might need a new route that isn’t affected.”

Matson warned that while the changes were being brought in, extra delays should be expected while checking in. She advised allowing at least three hours before an international flight.

SIDEBAR
The changes at a glance
Restrictions apply if flying to the US from the following airports
– Queen Alia International Airport (AMM)
– Cairo International Airport (CAI)
– Ataturk International Airport (IST)
– King Abdul-Aziz International Airport (JED)
– King Khalid International Airport (RUH)
– Kuwait International Airport (KWI)
– Mohammed V Airport (CMN)
– Hamad International Airport (DOH)
– Dubai International Airport (DXB)
– Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH)

Airlines affected by the US restrictions
– Royal Jordanian
– EgyptAir
– Turkish Airlines
– Saudi Arabian Airlines
– Kuwait Airways
– Royal Air Maroc
– Qatar Airways
– Emirates
– Etihad Airway

Restrictions apply if flying to the UK from the following countries
– Turkey
– Lebanon
– Egypt
– Saudi Arabia
– Jordan
– Tunisia

Airlines affected by the UK restrictions
– British Airways
– EasyJet
– Jet2.com
– Monarch
– Thomas Cook
– Thomson
– Turkish Airlines
– Pegasus Airways
– Atlas-Global
– Middle East Airlines
– EgyptAir
– Royal Jordanian
– Tunis Air
– Saudia

NZ Herald[4]

References

  1. ^ Your Views: Readers Letters (www.nzherald.co.nz)
  2. ^ Grant McLachlan: NZ should raise the bar on corruption (www.nzherald.co.nz)
  3. ^ Editorial: Time to talk about the bed tax (www.nzherald.co.nz)
  4. ^ NZ Herald (www.nzherald.co.nz)

‘Iron Fist’ stumbles, fails to establish a distinct identity

Over the past half-decade, superheroes have come to dominate Hollywood. With ten superhero films released from 2015 to 2016, and another 25 slated for release through 2020[1], there doesn t appear to be an end in sight for comic-book franchises Marvel and CAPCOM. The latest entry into this superhero universe comes in the form of Netflix s Iron Fist, a television adaptation of the comic-book series of the same name. Slow and lacking a clear direction, Iron Fist struggles to develop an identity and craft an entertaining plot capable of exciting viewers. In the series, protagonist Danny Rand (Finn Jones, Game of Thrones ) returns to his previous home in New York City after spending 15 years training in martial arts. There, Rand discovers that the business his father co-founded, Rand Corporation, is now ran by his father s unscrupulous former business partner, and he sets out to regain control of his family s legacy. Iron Fist is held back by its meandering storyline, which is to blame for the show s sluggish pace. Seemingly intent on portraying even the most granular, uninteresting details of Rand s life, the series gives off a leisurely feel, as if it doesn t care to condense anything. Toward the end of the show s premiere, in one of the strongest examples of this quality, Iron Fist devotes a whole scene to depicting Rand meeting a homeless man named Big Al (Craig Walker, The Cobbler ) and using his phone to read a news story covering the death of his parents 15 years prior. Becauase he was on the plane crash with his parents, Rand is already aware of their death, and this coupled with the fact that Big Al later dies in the episode makes the entire scene feel utterly unnecessary. By subjecting audiences to these meaningless bits of Rand s life, Iron Fist reveals that it has little idea of the type of show that it wants to be. Along with its lack of identity, Iron Fist suffers from writing that often spoon-feeds the plot to viewers. Despite its gradual pacing, the series constantly works to ensure that its storyline is clear, oftentimes becoming overly transparent. Ostensibly, the show perceives itself as confusing, and hopes to avoid audiences developing a similar sense. In an almost-comically bad instance of Iron Fist spoon-feeding viewers, Rand is attacked by the same menacing security guard, Shannon (Esau Pritchett, The Narrows ), who he fought earlier in the episode. After disarming the guard, Rand loudly professes: You re the security guard from Rand [Corporation] to identify Shannon for viewers, but then asks him Who sent you? not five-minutes later. Such lines effectively kill Iron Fist s momentum and further dilute the show s quality by preventing audiences from experiencing its storyline naturally.

Throughout its marketing materials for Iron Fist, Netflix made a concerted effort to highlight Jones s role as Rand in the series. As the poster-boy for the show, Jones s performance was used as one of the selling points for Iron Fist, especially given Jones strong work on Game of Thrones. While Jones certainly isn t the weakest link of the series s cast, he doesn t deliver a particularly impressive or meaningful performance, and he does little to distinguish Rand among Marvel s growing roster of superheroes. Unfortunately, Jones s slightly above-average interpretation of Rand represents the best of the show s cast, with Jessica Stroup ( Prom Night ) and Tom Pelphrey ( Banshee ) disappointing as a brother-sister antagonist duo. Even Jones s former Game of Thrones co-star, Jessica Henwick ( Star Wars: The Force Awakens ), is emotionally-restrained in her role. This cast should be better, and it will have to improve to keep audience members engaged with the series. It s not all bad for Iron Fist. The show s cinematography is well-done and includes several gorgeous shots of New York City that portray Iron Fist s diverse backdrop. Avoiding the typical clich sweeping shots of the Empire State Building or the city skyline, these scenes attempt to highlight the city s underbelly and the different sides of New York. It s an interesting take, one that serves to almost revitalize and rebrand a city that has been featured in countless superhero films and shows alike. While the show may be visually-appealing, Iron Fist s struggles with plotline and pacing remain, looming large over a series that, in its current form, doesn t inspire viewers to return beyond the poorly-executed pilot.

References

  1. ^ slated for release through 2020 (moviepilot.com)
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