Legal Report: Tree of Life Synagogue Attacker Sentenced to Death
Hate crime. A federal jury issued a death sentence against Robert Bowers, a white supremacist who killed 11 members of Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue in 2018. Two other synagogue members and five law enforcement officials were also injured in the attack.
Bowers was previously convicted of 63 criminal charges related to the attack.
Bowers—who repeatedly reloaded his weapon and did not surrender until he ran out of ammunition—did not express remorse for the deaths he caused. Instead, it was reported that he was proud of the attack.
Those slain included Joyce Fienberg, 75; Richard Gottfried, 65; Rose Mallinger, 97; Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, 66; brothers David Rosenthal, 54, and Cecil Rosenthal, 59; Bernice Simon, 84, and her husband, Sylvan Simon, 86; Dan Stein, 71; Melvin Wax, 87; and Irving Younger, 69, according to the Associated Press.
(United States v. Robert Bowers, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, No. 18-292, 2023)
Labor violations. A federal appeals court determined that an employer cannot artificially manipulate an employee’s regular hourly wage to reduce pay for overtime hours.
David Thompson worked for Regions Security Services as a security guard, and during the several first months of his employment, his regular hourly rate was $13.00 per hour with overtime pay at $19.50. Thompson worked approximately 20 additional hours beyond the typical 40-hour workweek every week, earning notable overtime pay. In July 2019, Regional Security reduced the regular rate to $11.15 per hour and was therefore also able to reduce the overtime rate, which is calculated at time-and-a-half, for the 55 to 75 hours he would work every week. The employer later cut Thompon’s hours down to only 40 hours per week and restored the original regular hourly rate.
Thompson filed a suit against Regions, alleging that the change in his hourly pay rate was an attempt to avoid paying him the full value of his overtime work.
Ruling in favor of Thompson, the appeals court vacated the district court’s order—which granted Regional Security’s motion for judgment on the pleadings—and remanded the case. (David Thompson v. Regions Security Services, Inc., U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 21-10954, 2023)
Liability. A jury in Broward County, Florida, awarded a family $800,000 after finding McDonald’s USA and one of its franchisees liable for the burns a toddler suffered from hot chicken nuggets.
In May, the jury had earlier found the fast food chain and the franchise owner, Upchurch Foods, liable for the injuries since it did not issue warnings or instructions that the hot food could cause an injury when one of the plaintiffs—Philana Holmes—bought a Happy Meal for her daughter from a Tamarac, Florida, drive-thru in August 2019. Holmes’s then 4-year-old daughter suffered second-degree burns on her thighs from one of the chicken McNuggets.
Then in July, the jury determined that the family should be awarded $400,000 for the past injuries and another $400,000 for future damages, in response to the plaintiffs’ pointing out that their daughter was scarred and disfigured by the overly hot food. “She has incurred, and will continue to incur, medical expenses for reasonable and related medical treatment in the past and future; she has sustained bodily injuries, physical impairment, and disfigurement; experienced pain, suffering, mental anguish, and emotional distress; she has been and will continue to be inconvenienced; and her ability to enjoy life has been and will continue to be diminished,” the lawsuit said.
(Philana Holmes and Humerto Caraballo Estevez, et al. v. Upchurch Foods, Inc, et al., Circuit Court of the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit for Broward County, Florida; No. 19019340, 2023)
Dangerous driving. Starting in December 2024, drivers in South Australia will need a special license for driving certain high-power vehicles. Applicants for the license will be required to complete an online training course, successfully maneuver through a specialized course, and are banned from turning off driving assistance systems, such as traction control.
Roughly 200 different automotive models—termed “ultra high-powered vehicles”—would require the new U class license. Authorities said that these class of vehicles are ones with a power-to-weight ratio of 276kW (370hp) per ton (1,000kg) or greater, according to Drive. Some examples of this include the Lamborghini Huracán (292) and the Porsche 918 Spyder (389.5).
The new rule, an amendment to the Motor Vehicles Regulations 2010 that was adopted by the state in early August 2023, also proposes harsher penalties for dangerous drivers. Drivers can be fined up to $5,000 AUD if they intentionally disable automatic intervention systems on such a vehicle—including antilock braking, traction control, automatic emergency brakes, and electronic stability control.
Additionally, the maximum sentence for someone found guilty of fatal incidents of dangerous driving increased from 12 months to seven years.
The amendment was introduced after the death of a 15-year-old girl who was killed when hit by a Lamborghini Huracán in 2019.
Personal data. Subsidiaries of Facebook parent company Meta were fined $20 million AUD over their actions in allegedly misleading users about usage of personal data.
The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission specifically fined Meta’s Facebook Israel and Onavo Inc $10 million AUD each “for engaging in conduct liable to mislead in breach of the Australian Consumer Law,” according to the commission. The commission determined that the subsidiaries did not sufficiently disclose the scope of consumer data usage, even though it was anonymized and aggregated.
Labor violations. In a June letter, the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) agreed to a $13 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). If approved, the settlement would close an investigation involving claims of unpaid wages and overtime between November 2018 and August 2021.
The DOL informed the DPSCS in November 2020 that it was investigating the allegations, which were tied to the Jessup Correctional Institution, and later expanded its investigation to all correctional institutions under DPSCS.
The proposed settlement would be paid to 3,874 current and former DPSCS correctional officers.
Also of Interest
Security Management also tracks instances where security incidents and interests intersect with judicial, legislative, and regulatory agencies. The following are developing stories of potential significance.
Bribery. A Vietnamese court sentenced 54 people to jail as part of one of the nation’s largest bribery and corruption cases. The convicted—which consisted of 54 people, several of them high-ranking officials, several senior diplomats, and one a former minister—extorted money from Vietnamese citizens abroad who wanted to return to the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Human trafficking. Bipartisan legislators introduced a bill that proposes cooperation between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and law enforcement agencies in Mexico, Central America, and South America to improve border security and disrupt human smuggling and trafficking efforts.
Defamation. An Arizona man—who was falsely publicized as a leader in an FBI plot to plan and execute the January 6 insurrection—filed a lawsuit against Fox News and former host Tucker Carlson for defamation of character.
Liability. The UK High Court ruled that London-based Savaro Ltd. was liable for a deadly blast in 2020 at a port in Beirut, Lebanon. The explosion, which resulted in the deaths of more than 200 people and injured more than 6,000 others, was caused by the detonation of hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate that was shipped by Savaro, a chemical trading firm.
Sexual assault. A London jury found Hollywood actor Kevin Spacey not guilty of sexual abuse allegations from three men.