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Legal Roundup: Bike Path Terrorist Sentenced; Twitter Not Liable for Terrorist-Related Content; Jewel Heist Thieves Convicted

There are a hefty number of instances this week where the legal environment and security intersect—from court decisions to vetoed bills to investigations, and more. To help you stay on top of the scene, Security Management put together a roundup of the legal and crime stories that caught our eye since Monday.

Bike Path Terrorist Receives 10 Life Sentences, Plus 260 Years

A U.S. federal court sentenced Sayfullo Saipov multiple life sentences, plus another 260 years in prison, for killing 18 people by deliberately driving a vehicle on a bike path in New York City, New York, in 2017.

In March 2023, the jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision to issue the death penalty, making a life sentence for Saipov mandatory. Federal prosecutors, however, asked the U.S. district judge to give Saipov eight consecutive life sentences and two concurrent life sentences, according to the Associated Press.

“They also wanted an extra 260 years to send a stern message to other like-minded terrorists,” the AP reported. “And that’s what the judge did.”

The judge made a special note of Saipov’s defiant attitude during the trial and sentencing, showing little remorse for his crime. Saipov claimed he drove the truck that killed eight people and injured 18 others on a bike path on behalf of the Islamic State group.

U.S. Supreme Court Finds Twitter Not Liable for Terrorist Content

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Twitter in a liability suit where the plaintiffs—the family of Jordanian citizen, Nawras Alassaf—claimed that the social media company supported ISIS in the fatal attack.

U.S. relatives of Alassaf alleged that Twitter, along with tech companies Facebook and Google, “failed to properly police its platform for Islamic State-related accounts” prior to a 1 January 2017 attack on a nightclub in Reina, Turkey, according to The Washington Post. The attack killed Alassaf and 38 other people.

The Court unanimously determined that the plaintiffs failed to prove that the companies had “aided and abetted” in the attacks.

“The allegations plaintiffs make here are not the type of pervasive, systemic, and culpable assistance to a series of terrorist activities that could be described as aiding and abetting each terrorist act by ISIS,” wrote Associate Justice Clarence Thomas for the Court. “In this case, the failure to allege that the platforms here do more than transmit information by billions of people—most of whom use the platforms for interactions that once took place via mail, on the phone, or in public arenase—is insufficient to state a claim that defendants knowingly gave substantial assistance and therefore aided and abetted ISIS' acts. A contrary conclusion would effectively hold any sort of communications provider liable for any sort of wrongdoing merely for knowing that the wrongdoers were using its services and failing to stop them.”

The decision in the case also meant that the U.S. Supreme Court returned another related case, Gonzalez v. Google LLC, to a lower court for further consideration. 

“In the Google case, the family of an exchange student killed in an Islamic State attack in Paris said Google’s YouTube should be liable for promoting content from the group,” the Post reported.

Five Men Convicted in Germany of 2019 Jewel Heist

Five men were convicted of stealing precious jewels worth 113 million euros ($120 million) from a Dresden museum in 2019. 

“The men, all members of a notorious criminal family network, face sentences of four to six years,” BBC News reported.

To carry out the theft, the men set a fire to cut the electricity to the lights outside The Green Vault in Dresden. 

“CCTV footage captured the thieves wearing masks and wielding axes as they entered the sumptuously decorated Gruenes Gewoelbe, or Green Vault, and smashed the glass display cases to get the treasure,” according to the BBC. “The thieves then sprayed a foam fire extinguisher over the room to cover their tracks before making their getaway in an Audi which they then dumped in a car park, setting fire to the vehicle before they fled back to Berlin.” 

Florida Governor Enacts Laws That Restrict Education About Systemic Racism, Sexism, Oppression

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed SB 266 into law on 15 May, along with two other bills that will significantly change the educational landscape of the U.S. state’s colleges and universities.

SB 266 “restricts certain topics from being taught in general education courses…(and) expands the hiring and firing powers of university boards and presidents; limits protections for tenured faculty members; and prohibits spending related to diversity, equity, and inclusion programs beyond what is required by accreditors,” according to the Tampa Bay Times.

The other bills signed were SB 240 and HB 931, the latter prohibits requiring students and school staff to take political loyalty tests, according to a press release from DeSantis' office.

Florida Governor Enacts Law Approving Permitless Concealed Carry

DeSantis also enacted a law on Monday that allows Florida residents to carry a concealed weapon without requiring a government-issued permit. The new law “also ends an existing state requirement to undergo training before carrying a concealed weapon outside the home,” CNN reported. The law is effective come 1 July.

Nevada Governor Vetoes Three Gun Control Bills

Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo issued three vetoes on 17 May for bills that aimed to increase the age limit from 18 to 21 for possessing certain firearms (AB 355), as well as banning ghost guns (AB 354) and banning anyone convicted of a violent hate crime from possessing a firearm (SB 171).

However, Democratic supporters of the bills could override the governor’s decision becaue they have a supermajority in the Nevada State Assembly. They would need only one Republican vote the State Senate to override the veto in the higher chamber.

EU Approves Crypto Rules

The European Union’s cryptocurrency rules were finally approved by member states on 16 May. The Markets in Crypto Assets (MiCA) rules will take effect in July 2024 and are designed to improve transparency while cracking down on money laundering.

Developing Stories...

Active shooter. A gunman killed three people and wounded six more on 15 May in northwestern New Mexico. Investigators are still looking for a motive for the apparently random shooting. The gunman, an 18-year-old high school student, was killed by police officers responding to the incident.

Classified documents. U.S. Federal prosecutors previously charged a member of the U.S. Air National Guard with mishandling and sharing sensitive national security information with foreign nationals. Jack Teixeira was arrested in April 2023 after allegedly posting information in an online chat group, however, his coworkers were concerned months before his arrest by his disregard for rules on the use of classified systems.

Copyright infringement. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Warhol Foundation, finding that the organization violated a photographer’s copyright of an image she produced of the late rock star Prince.

Corporate espionage. A former engineer at Apple, Weibao Wang, is accused of stealing thousands of files that contained proprietary information about the company’s self-driving car technology on behalf of a Chinese company.

Drug trafficking. Multiple law enforcement agencies in Bosnia and Hezegovina uncovered a criminal operation involved in drug trafficking, money laundering, and corruption. Law enforcement arrested seven people linked to the operation and issued international arrest warrants for two additional people.

Fraud. A former U.S. Army employee operating as a civilian in a South Korea facility was arrested on charges of bribery and fraud.

Prisoner abuse. A former U.S. federal correctional officer at a California women’s prison was charged with sexually abusing three inmates. Law enforcement has filed complaints against two people in response to the incident.

Ransomware attacks. The U.S. Department of Justice indicted a Russian national for ransomware attacks against critical infrastructure, including law enforcement agencies in Washington, D.C., and New Jersey.

Transportation communications. Instead of the typical announcements, commuters on an Austrian train heard a recording of a speech given by Nazi German leader Adolf Hitler. The incident is one of several similar occurences in the past few days, the BBC reports.