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The U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 10 and 12 rendered the following decisions: The justices unanimously upheld the convictions of two men accused of pocketing more than $1.2 million as part of a nationwide religious investment scheme, ruling that the government does not have to prove “overt acts” by defendants. Whitfield v. United States, No. 03-1293, and Hall v. United States, No. 03-1294. David Whitfield and Haywood “Don” Hall, leaders of the Greater Ministries International Church, which promised people that God would double their money, were convicted in Florida of conspiracy to commit money laundering. The church took in hundreds of millions of dollars with donors getting little, if any, money back. Writing for the majority, O’Connor said that because federal law does not “expressly make the commission of an overt act an element of the conspiracy offense, the government need not prove an overt act to obtain a conviction.” The justices ruled, 7-2, that the government may not indefinitely detain criminals who are illegal immigrants, undercutting a Bush administration policy applied to foreigners deemed too dangerous to be freed. Clark v. Martinez, No. 03-878, and Benitez v. Rozos, No. 03-7434. The case involved two men who were part of the 1980 Mariel exodus, in which Cuban President Fidel Castro sent criminals and psychiatric patients to the United States along with thousands of other fleeing Cubans. Daniel Benitez was in prison in Florida for armed robbery, and Sergio Martinez was convicted of theft and assault in Rhode Island. They finished their sentences in late 2001, but have been in U.S. immigration custody since then, under a 1996 law that tightened restrictions on criminal aliens. The high court had ruled in 2001 that it is unconstitutional to detain legal immigrants who have served time for crimes for more than a “reasonable period.” The justices have now ruled that this should cover illegal immigrants also. Writing for the majority, Scalia said, “The government fears that the security of our borders will be compromised if it must release into the country inadmissible aliens who cannot be removed. If that is so, Congress can attend to it.” Scalia’s opinion was joined by Stevens, O’Connor, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer. Thomas filed a dissent, in which Rehnquist joined. The justices ruled, 5-4, that the United States can deport immigrants without first getting permission from the receiving country. The ruling will hasten the return of more than 8,000 Somalis being held in the United States who are subject to deportation or are awaiting hearings. Jama v. INS, No. 03-674. At issue was whether a president is authorized to deport legal immigrants even when the receiving country has not agreed to take them. Writing for the majority, Scalia said that Congress had intended that these immigrants could be deported without a country’s permission even though federal law does not specifically say that. If the Somali immigrants fear harm at home, they can apply for asylum. Scalia’s opinion was joined by Rehnquist, O’Connor, Kennedy and Thomas. Souter’s dissent was joined by Stevens, Ginsburg and Breyer. The justices’ 5-4 ruling that that the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial requires that current federal sentencing guidelines be advisory, not mandatory, is discussed on Page 1. United States v. Booker, No. 04-104, and United States v. Fanfan, No. 04-105. -AP

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