Legal Report: Italy Increases Fines to €60,000 for Destroyed Cultural Heritage Sites
Gender discrimination. The California Civil Rights Department (CRD) and video game manufacturer Activision Blizzard, Inc., agreed to a $54.8 million settlement, ending a lawsuit that alleged the company discriminated against female employees. California’s Superior Court approved the settlement on 17 January.
CRD investigated Activision for more than two years, looking into accusations that the company discriminated against women by denying them promotion opportunities and paying them less than their male counterparts for similar work.
The agreement will have Activision Blizzard ensure fair pay and promotion practices and financially compensate female employees and contract workers who were employed in California between 12 October 2015 and 31 December 2020 with $45.7 million from the total sum. Any excess settlement funds will be distributed to charitable organizations committed to advancing women in the gaming and technology industries or focused on addressing gender inequality issues in the workplace.
Beyond the financial arrangement, the company will also retain an independent consultant who will evaluate Activision Blizzard’s compensation and promotion policies, as well as make any necessary recommendations. (California Civil Rights Department v. Activision Blizzard, Inc., Superior Court of the State of California, No. 21STCV26571, 2024)
Concealed carry. A circuit appeals court blocked a California state law that bans people from carrying concealed firearms in most public areas.
The law, which was enacted by Governor Gavin Newsom in September 2023, was slated to be effective as of 1 January 2024. However, the California Rifle and Pistol Association filed a suit to block the new legislation.
A federal court ruled that the law (CA SB2) violates the Second Amendment, and although a different circuit court panel issued a temporary hold that would have allowed the law into effect, the current ruling removed the hold and returned the injunction against the law while the case moves forward.
Oral arguments about the injunction’s merits are scheduled for April. (Reno May, et al., v. Rob Bonta, in his Official capacity as Attorney General of California, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, No. 23-4356, 2024)
Abuse of power. A federal court sentenced John Russell Bellhouse, a former federal correctional officer at the Federal Correctional Institute (FCI) Dublin, to more than five years in prison for sexually abusing two inmates at the California women’s prison where he worked.
After witnesses reported in June 2020 that Bellhouse and another employee were sexually involved with several inmates, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) began investigating prison employees’ activities, according to court documents.
Bellhouse, who was a safety administrator at the prison, was the eighth person from the prison charged with some form of sexual abuse of inmates at FCI Dublin. One of the others charged was the prison’s warden, Ray Garcia, who was convicted in December of molesting inmates. (United States of America v. John Russell Bellhouse, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, No. 21-mj-71905-MAG, 2023)
School shooting. A federal judge sentenced the mother of a 6-year-old boy who shot his teacher to 21 months in prison. Deja Taylor was found guilty of using marijuana while owning a firearm.
The sentencing is part of a plea deal between Taylor and federal prosecutors, with Taylor pleading guilty to marijuana use and making a false statement while buying the handgun. (In the U.S. state of Virginia, it is illegal for the owner of a firearm to abuse a controlled substance.) The plea deal also ordered Taylor to participate in mental health and substance abuse treatment.
Taylor’s son used the gun to shoot and injure his first-grade teacher in 2023 at the Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia.
Additional charges of felony child neglect, filed by the state of Virginia, are still pending against Taylor. A grand jury indicted Taylor of felony child neglect, along with a misdemeanor charge of endangering a child by reckless storage of a firearm.
The teacher, Abby Zwerner, filed a $40 million lawsuit against Newport News Public Schools, alleging school administrators were negligent, regularly dismissed concerns about the student’s behavior and multiple warnings that he had a gun at school the day he shot Zwerner. The student shot Zwerner once, injuring her hand and chest. (United States of America v. Deja Nicole Taylor, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, No. 23-cr-00045-MSD, 2023)
Terrorism. A new law bans displaying Nazi symbols, like the swastika, and Nazi salutes throughout the country. The Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Prohibited Hate Symbols and Other Measures) Bill 2023 was approved by the Federal Parliament in mid-December 2023 and became effective on 8 January 2024.
The new law also makes it a criminal offense to glorify or praise an act of terrorism, according to a statement from Australian Attorney General Mark Dreyfus.
Those found guilty of breaking this law could face one year in prison.
Cultural properties. After the actions of various vandals and climate protesters resulted in damage to monuments and cultural sites, the Italian parliament issued a final approval on a law that would increase penalties on vandals convicted of damaging these sites.
The new law, which was introduced by Italy’s cultural minister Gennaro Sangiuliano, will raise fines from €1,500 to €15,000 (approximately $1,620 to $16,230) to fines of up to €40,000 (roughly $43,300) in instances when monuments are defaced and up to €60,000 (roughly $64,900) if a cultural heritage site is destroyed.
Environmental activists have targeted cultural items recently to gain additional publicity. These actions have resulted in damage to La Scala Opera house in Milan, the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, and the Trevi Fountain in Rome. In other incidents, activists have thrown paint, oil, or other substances at artwork or monuments.
Border control. Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed an immigration bill giving state law enforcement officers the authority to arrest anyone suspected of illegally crossing the border between Mexico and Texas.
Under the new law (SB 4), which is effective starting in March 2024, someone convicted of an illegal border crossing can face up to six months in jail for first-time offenders and up to 20 years in prison for a repeat offender.
Opponents of the new law argue that it is broad in the leeway it gives law enforcement to stop and question individuals suspected of illegal entry into the state, opening the door to racial discrimination.
In early January, the DOJ filed a lawsuit against the state, arguing that the existing federal law supersedes the state’s authority, and that the new legislation violates the U.S. Constitution. A hearing considering a preliminary injunction is scheduled for 13 February. (United States of America v. The State of Texas, et al., U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, No. 24-cv-00008, 2024)
Artificial intelligence. Twenty different U.S. states introduced legislation in January concerning the regulation of deepfakes generated by artificial intelligence (AI) during an election.
If enacted, most of the proposed bills—from Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming—would at least require the disclosure of when deepfakes are used in political and campaign ads or communications. In other instances, such as with HB 426 from Idaho, it outright bans the use of such deepfakes in election ads and communications.
Workplace surveillance. The National Commission on Informatics and Liberty (CNIL) fined Amazon France Logistique €32 million ($34 million) after finding that the warehouse managing company overly surveilled its workers, according to the commission’s decision.
The CNIL determined that it was illegal for the company to maintain a system that measures work interruptions and potentially requires “employees to justify every break or interruption.” This involved giving warehouse workers scanners that tracked their activities during certain tasks in real time. The commission found that the system was “excessively intrusive.”
The company was also fined for improper use of its video surveillance system, as neither employees nor visitors to warehouse facilities were informed that they would be recorded, a violation of the GDPR.
Despite “the fact that the very heavy constraints weighing on Amazon’s business, and the high performance targets that the company has set itself, can justify the scanner system put in place to manage its business…[CNIL] considered that the retention of all this data and the resulting statistical indicators were disproportionate overall,” according to the CNIL.
Medical devices. In a recent report, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) said that medical devices used in hospitals have cybersecurity vulnerabilities.
The report found that these devices—such as heart monitors, insulin pumps, and blood glucose monitors—offer cyber attackers a way to attack a healthcare organization. If, for example, an attacker accesses a hospital’s network through a phishing scam, the attacker can take control of a server connected to patient heart monitors, putting patients at risk.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates these types of devices. The report, Medical Device Cybersecurity, recommends that the FDA work with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to update its medical device cybersecurity agreement, which is five years old.
Wildfire. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved a $45 million settlement agreement between the CPUC’s Safety and Enforcement Division and Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) over the power provider’s involvement in the 2021 Dixie Fire.
According to the agreement, PG&E will pay $2.5 million in fines to the California General Fund and another $2.5 million to the Greenville Rancheria and Maidu Summitt Consortium, which represent several groups, tribes, non-profits, and grassroots organizations affected by the fire. The remaining amount of $40 million will be in the form of shareholder funding to cover the costs of transitioning hard copy records to an electronic format for distribution patrols and inspections. This new system is meant to provide more accurate records on the utility’s infrastructure, providing awareness and timeliness for inspections and maintenance.
The settlement also orders PG&E to submit an implementation plan that details the project for the new record-keeping system, as well as annual reports, to the Safety and Enforcement Division.
Also of Interest
Security Management is tracking other court cases, legislation, and regulatory actions that intersect with the security industry. The following items are stories of additional significance.
Arson. The Kyoto District Court in Japan determined that Shinji Aoba was mentally sound enough to receive a death sentence after he was found guilty of the murder of 36 people who died when he set fire to an animation studio.
Armed school security. West Virginian lawmakers are considering a new law that would allow county education boards to contract military veterans and retired law enforcement officers as armed security personnel in public schools. The bill received unanimous support in the state’s Senate and now awaits a vote in the state’s House of Delegates.
Firearms. A U.S. appeals court determined that a $10 billion lawsuit filed by the Mexican government against U.S. gun manufacturers—including Smith & Wesson, Glock, Beretta, Barrett, Sturm, and Ruger—can proceed. The suit was revived after a lower court dismissed the case in 2022, a decision the Mexican government appealed. The government alleges that the manufacturers knew that its guns were sold to people who would smuggle them into Mexico and generate violence.
Prisoner neglect. The family of an Indiana inmate agreed to a $7.25 million settlement with Jackson County officials after the man, Josh McLemore, died after 20 days of solitary confinement in a county jail. The complaint against the county alleged that McLemore’s death was avoidable because while he was in confinement and suffering a mental health crisis no one helped him, even when he began to starve himself to death.
Terrorism. The Superior Court of Ontario found Nathaniel Veltman guilty of four counts of first-degree murder. Veltman intentionally killed four members of a Pakistani Canadian family when he drove into them with his pickup truck in London, Toronto. Prosecutors said that Veltman spent months planning the attack, motivated by white nationalist beliefs and hatred against Muslims.
Wrongful conviction. UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that he will introduce a law to overturn the convictions of more than 900 postal workers wrongly accused of theft or fraud. The accusations were due to a defective accounting software system that post offices began using in the late 1990s.