Does the U.S. Have Legal Jurisdiction over the FIFA Officials?

Fourteen FIFA officials are being charged for allegations of racketeering, conspiracy, and corruption. The U.S. Department of Justice indicted all fourteen this past Wednesday and the officials were arrested at a hotel in Zurich, Switzerland. The arrests are a product of a three year investigation into the multi-billion dollar organization.

fifa briberyAccording to the 47-count indictment, the officials have immersed themselves into a 24-year long plot to self-benefit and grow richer. Four FIFA officials and 2 corporations plead guilty to similar charges years back.

Does the U.S. Have Legal Jurisdiction over the Officials?

Some FIFA officials have argued that the U.S. has no legal jurisdiction into the indictment of the non-USA officials. But, U.S. federal officials are allowed to charge foreigners abroad if there is a connection to the U.S., and in this case, there is.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch states that the indicted “abused the U.S. financial system and violated U.S. law.” Notably, the illegal payments were transacted through U.S. banks.

In addition to the U.S. charges, the Office of the Swiss Attorney General opened a case on the suspicion that FIFA officials were participating in “criminal management” and “money laundering” regarding the location of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

All fourteen officials are facing either 10 to 20 years in prison, mandatory restitution, forfeiture, and fines.

Will Lawsuits Put an End to College Hazing Rituals?

A distraught family is suing Baruch College in New York City for $25 million after their son, Michael Deng, died in a fraternity hazing ritual. The lawsuit comes after Deng’s parents sued the fraternity Pi Delta Psi and multiple members for his 2013 death. The lawsuit states the school knew about the dangerous rituals the fraternity engaged in, and failed to intervene.

wrongful death college hazingThe ritual that ended in Deng’s death is called “The Gauntlet.” The fraternity went on a weekend retreat to a house in Pennsylvania in the middle of winter. New fraternities members were blindfolded and forced to carry a 20 pound backpack filled with sand across a snowy field while older members tackled and charged at them. Deng fell and hit his head after a member wrestled him to the ground, resulting in a serious brain injury.

Fellow fraternity members, too scared they would get in trouble themselves, called their organization’s president instead of 911. The president told the members to destroy all incriminating evidence, and members Googled Deng’s symptoms before finally driving him to the hospital. He died shortly after.

In response to the tragic death, Baruch College instituted a ban for three years on all Greek rush and pledge activities. Organizations must submit lists of their members to the Office of Student Life and organize all of their social activities on campus grounds. All the Greek houses must also participate in anti-hazing, anti-bullying, and sexual assault prevention training programs. Baruch also completely banned Pi Delta Psi, and the national fraternity revoked its affiliation with the chapter.

Wrongful Death Lawsuits and Hazing Rituals

Wrongful death lawsuits against fraternities is an ever growing problem. Since 2005, more than 60 people have died in incidents stemming from fraternities. In addition to wrongful death, multiple students in the Greek system suffer from assaults, serious injuries, and sexual crimes.

Joining the Greek system is a dream for a majority of high school students. Being in a fraternity or sorority is a huge part of the whole college experience. In movies, the Greek houses are fun, a great way to meet friends, and throw the biggest parties. For most chapters, all of this is true. What most movies do not show though, is the price you have to pay to join one.

In addition to physical torment, mental issues are also linked to the Greek system. Sorority girls are more likely to develop eating disorders and be victims of sexual assault. Fraternity men, due to the highly sexist atmosphere houses provide, are more likely to commit sexual assault. Greek members are also more likely to abuse prescription drugs.

Forty-four U.S. states currently have anti-hazing laws. Most of the time, these laws will not stop the Greek system from engaging in historic rituals. Due to the estimated $3 billion collective value of these houses, private owners and colleges won’t be demolishing any fraternity or sorority anytime soon. We can just hope more restricting hazing laws are implemented, and members will be more worried about their friends’ safety, instead of their own legal liability.

Boy Scouts Might Finally Revoke the Ban on Gay Leaders

Robert Gates, the former Defense Secretary and current president of the Boy Scouts, has called for the ban on gay Boy Scout leaders to be revoked. Although he’s not requesting that the policy be immediately changed, he made it clear that the policy should be revised during this time of social progress.

robert gates boy scouts gay rightsGates pointed out that legal issues could arise if the policy is not changed soon. He noted that a court order could change the policy, possibly in reaction to discrimination lawsuits that could occur.

Following Gates’ announcement, organizations can begin using their best judgment when hiring scout leaders. However, with 70% of the scout units sponsored by churches, it still seems unlikely that a significant number of gays will be hired for leadership positions.

How This Issue Extends Beyond the Boy Scouts

Discriminating laws continue to restrict the LGBT community from participating in certain activities. For example, this population is often limited in terms of adoption rights, marriage, and choosing which bathroom to use.

During the civil rights movement, Jim Crow laws discriminated the black population to no end. Seating on the bus, bathrooms, and water fountains were segregated-to name just a few. Discriminatory laws like these were deemed unconstitutional, and were eventually banned. But aren’t laws that restrict the LGBT community of the same caliber?

The ban on gay leaders in the Boy Scouts stems from the unprovoked myth that gay men are pedophiles. This ban only exemplifies this archaic view and directly contradicts Americans’ supposed view that every citizen is equal. Isn’t this also an employment discrimination violation? In every other organization or company, workers have the right to sue if they feel they are discriminated against based on their sexual orientation (in most states). Why should the Boy Scout organization be any different?

Putting the responsibility of hiring Boy Scout leaders on sponsoring organizations that mostly consist of churches creates a huge problem. Most Christian leaders have proven their distaste and disproval of the LGBT community. Putting them in charge of hiring leaders won’t change the existing policy. What will actually make a difference is putting a non-biased third party with no religious affiliation in charge of the hiring process. If Gates truly wanted to make a difference, he would demand that churches have no part in this decision.

The LGBT community is considered a second class group of people. Although our nation’s views have changed about the community, lawmakers are slow in the process of allowing them the same rights as every other citizen. These discriminatory policies are the Jim Crow laws of our time. The sooner lawmakers can see this and realize the need for change, the faster American citizens can live in harmony together.

Bank Attempts to Foreclose a Widow Even Though Her Home Was Insured

After the 2008 Foreclosure Crisis, many states passed laws to prevent foreclosure abuse. Although these laws are now on the books, the banks themselves were never adequately punished for their fraud. As a result, some major banks continue practices that are clearly unethical and most likely illegal.

foreclosure fraudLaura Coleman Biggs was the target of such a foreclosure practice. Ms. Bigg’s late husband, George Mitchell, had purchased an insurance policy to pay for the principle of the mortgage in the event of his death. The lender, a Bank of America subsidy, had insisted Mr. Mitchell purchase life insurance worth $100,000 to cover the mortgage. This information was kept a secret from Ms. Biggs until April 2015.

Mr. Mitchell passed away in 2003, with $120,000 still on the mortgage. The life insurance policy should have left Ms. Biggs with only $20,000 to pay. However, Bank of America, its subsidy, and the insurance company all failed to notify Ms. Biggs that she had a life insurance payout that could pay off the bulk of her mortgage. Instead, Bank of America continued charging the full $120,000 mortgage. On top of that, the insurance company continued charging insurance premiums even though Mr. Mitchells had already passed away.

By the end of 2011, Ms. Biggs was threatened with foreclosure. Ms. Biggs filed for bankruptcy and the case dragged out for two years. The $120,000 plus “fees” seemed hopeless. Ms. Biggs consulted an attorney, who discovered that the “fees” were not legal fees at all. The “fees” were actually insurance premiums that should have been paid off when Mr. Mitchells passed away in 2003.

After learning about the life insurance, Ms. Biggs filed a lawsuit earlier this year against Bank of America and all parties involved for maliciously conspiring to ignore the insurance policy that allows Ms. Biggs to stay in her home.

Expanding Existing Protection  

Many of the anti-foreclosure abuse laws were written to prevent a procedure known as “dual tracking.” Dual tracking is the lending practice of offering mortgage modification while foreclosing the homeowner at the same time. Banks that use dual tracking are negotiating in bad faith and many states now have laws prohibiting such foul play.

Currently, dual tracking laws only prohibit simultaneous mortgage modifications and foreclosure. However, lawmakers and judges should expand anti-dual tracking laws to include situations like the one Ms. Biggs found herself in. In Ms. Biggs case, there was a pool of insurance money that Bank of America and its subsidiary should have used to satisfy the loan. Bank of America knew the insurance existed because the lender suggested Mr. Mitchell purchase insurance in the first place!

Dual tracking laws should be amended so that banks cannot foreclose homeowners while there are alternative remedies available to the lenders. Dual tracking laws were created so that banks have to exhaust all options before using foreclosure. Mortgage modification is one such option, but insurance payments are another option that banks can utilize before foreclosing a homeowner. Widows should not be thrown out of their homes while banks and insurance companies pocket the profits.

Failure to Disclose HIV Status Can Result in Life Behind Bars

The college wrestler Michael Johnson, also known as “Tiger Mandingo,” was found guilty of failure to disclose his HIV positive status to sexual partners and is facing life in prison. Specifically, Johnson was charged with six counts: transmitting HIV to two partners (Class A Felony), attempting to expose a partner to HIV (Class B Felony), and three charges of exposing three partners to HIV (Class B Felony).

hiv disclosureJohnson’s trial in May, 2015 lasted three days. At the trial, medical professional testified that they had informed Johnson about his medical issues. Johnson was well aware of the laws requiring him to tell partners about his condition.

Johnson testified and defended himself, saying he did disclose his status to partners and they were fully aware before they had consensual sex. Johnson was officially diagnosed with HIV in Missouri on January 7th, 2013. The very next day, he had his first sexual encounter with one of the accusers. During trial, prosecutors stated Johnson had also been diagnosed with HIV in Indiana in 2011. Johnson’s lawyer denied this allegation.

Missouri law mandates that all HIV positive people must disclose HIV positive status to partners before engaging in consensual sex, whether practicing safe sex or not.

Another aspect that makes the controversial case even more difficult is the area he lives in. The trial was held in St. Charles, Missouri; 91% of the population is white. In addition, only 13 of the 51 interviewed jurors believe homosexuality is not a sin. If this wasn’t enough, only one of the 12 jurors is black.

Johnson is up against a predominantly white jury in a largely Christian and Republican town. The big question is: did he disclose his HIV positive status to his partners, or did he fail to do so?

The answer to this vital question is up to the courts to decide. Johnson is facing a minimum of 10 years or a maximum of 30 to life in prison. Sentencing begins the morning of Friday the 15th.