Texas Court Exonerates Women Imprisoned for Nearly 15 Years

In Texas, the Court of Criminal Appeals has ruled that the four San Antonio women comprising the infamous “San Antonio 4” are innocent. In a high-profile decision, the four women have been exonerated, following nearly 15 years in prison. The four women (Kristie Mayhugh. Elizabeth Ramirez, Cassandra Rivera and Anna Vasquez) were wrongfully convicted in 1997 of the sexual assault of two young girls, one of the women’s nieces. The 7- and 9-year-old girls accused the four women of restraining them, sexually assaulting them and threatening their lives several years earlier while the women had babysat them for a week. At the time, the forensic evidence presented was inconsistent; however, in retrospect it is believed that societal conditions at the time may have influenced the jury, including a national preoccupation with allegations of child sexual abuse in so-called satanic cults as well as the fact that the four women were openly lesbian. About ten years after the four women were incarcerated, nonprofit organization The Innocence Project of Texas agreed to take on the case, where it eventually came to be represented by attorney Mike Ware. The Innocence Project, a nationwide organization, investigates the possibility of wrongful convictions and has helped to exonerate the accused in many cases. Shortly after renewed interest in the case had been shown, including the filming of a documentary, the younger of the two victims recanted her accusations. She stated that her father, the ex-boyfriend of Ramirez’ sister, had coached her. In a majority opinion, Judge David Newell noted “Those defendants have won the right to proclaim to the citizens of Texas that they did...

Russia Formally Recognizes Legality of Bitcoin and Other Cryptocurrencies

On November 29, 2016, Russian authorities released a document taking a long-awaited formal position on the use of Bitcoin and related transactions. The document, released by the Federal Tax Service, states explicitly that there is no legal prohibition on such use of cryptocurrencies. The document puts nearly three years of legal ambiguity to rest; those who dealt in the currencies were unsure of whether Bitcoin and the like were banned, authorized, and what the penalties were. It also follows several months’ worth of rumors that the Russian authorities were leaning toward this decision. At one point, a finance minister for the Russian government proposed four years’ incarceration for Bitcoin use, though it was never formalized. It was also determined previously that dealers of Bitcoin who were banking officials would receive seven years’ incarceration and specific bans on what finance positions they could later hold. (That decision was since rescinded and a new law is to be drafted.) Regarding the treatment of Bitcoin as a foreign currency, in the new tax document Russia has indicated that any cryptocurrency trade operations will be considered “foreign” or “external” securities; in effect, treating those operations as monetary transactions. Interestingly, and perhaps surprisingly, per the new regulations, the transfers are not required to be subject to financial reporting, which appears to be less stringent than United States IRS treatment and subsequent investigations of Bitcoin and related transactions. The decision and corresponding documentation contain caveats, however. It states that Russian authorities may launch an investigation into anyone using Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies as a potential money laundering or terrorism operation. This may call for enhanced...