A treasure hunter locked in a legal battle over one of the greatest undersea hauls in American history was scheduled to appear in federal court Thursday after two years on the run.
The U.S. Marshals Service captured former fugitive Tommy Thompson at a Hilton hotel in West Boca Raton on Tuesday. The capture was announced Wednesday by Brian Babtist, a senior inspector in the agency's office in Columbus, Ohio, where a federal civil arrest warrant was issued for him in 2012 for failing to show up to a key court hearing. A criminal contempt warrant was unsealed Wednesday.
Thompson had been on the lam for two years, accused of cheating investors out of their share of $50 million in gold bars and coins he had recovered from a 19th century shipwreck.
Thompson made history in 1988 when he found the sunken S.S. Central America, also known as the Ship of Gold. In what was a technological feat at the time, Thompson and his crew brought up thousands of gold bars and coins from the shipwreck. Much of that was later sold to a gold marketing group in 2000 for about $50 million.
Panama's Supreme Court voted Wednesday to open a corruption probe against former President Ricardo Martinelli, a move likely to rally popular support in a nation where the politically powerful rarely face justice for misdeeds.
A statement from the court said all nine judges voted to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Martinelli over allegations he inflated contracts worth $45 million to purchase dehydrated food for a government social program.
The accusation is based on the testimony of a political ally, Giacomo Tamburelli, the former head of the National Assistance Program who has said he was taking orders from the then president to inflate contracts. He is now under house arrest.
Martinelli, a billionaire supermarket magnate, has denied the charges and says he is the target of political persecution by his successor, Juan Carlos Varela, who broke with the government in 2011 while serving as Martinelli's vice president and foreign minister.
The Supreme Court is weighing whether candidates for elected judgeships have a constitutional right to make personal appeals for campaign cash.
The justices are hearing an appeal from Lanell Williams-Yulee of Tampa, Florida, who received a public reprimand for violating a Florida Bar rule that bans candidates for elected judgeships from personally soliciting donations.
The bar and many good government groups say the ban that is in place in Florida and 29 other states is important to preserve public confidence in an impartial judiciary.
A ruling for Williams-Yulee could free judicial candidates in those states to ask personally for campaign contributions.
In all, voters in 39 states elect local and state judges. In the federal judicial system, including the Supreme Court, judges are appointed to life terms and must be confirmed by the Senate.
The arguments are taking place five years after the Supreme Court freed corporations and labor unions to spend freely in federal elections. The court has generally been skeptical of limits on political campaigns, though slightly less so when it comes to those involving judges.
In 2002, the court struck down rules that were aimed at fostering impartiality among judges and barred candidates for elected judgeships from speaking out on controversial issues. But in 2009, the court held in a case from West Virginia that elected judges could be forced to step aside from ruling on cases when large campaign contributions from interested parties create the appearance of bias.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday turned away three appeals from military contractor KBR Inc. that seek to shut down lawsuits over a soldier's electrocution in Iraq and open-air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The justices offered no comment in allowing the lawsuits to proceed.
One lawsuit was filed by the parents of Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, who was electrocuted in his barracks shower at an Army base in Iraq in 2008. The suit claims KBR unit Kellogg Brown & Root Services Inc. was legally responsible for the shoddy electrical work that was common in Iraqi-built structures taken over by the U.S. military. KBR disputes that claim.
Dozens of lawsuits by soldiers and others assert they were harmed by improper waste disposal while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. They seek to hold KBR and Halliburton Co. responsible for exposing soldiers to toxic emissions and contaminated water when they burned waste in open pits without proper safety controls.
The contractors say they cannot be sued because they essentially were operating in war zones as an extension of the military.
The Obama administration agreed with the contractors that lower courts should have dismissed the lawsuits, but said the Supreme Court should not get involved now because lower courts still could dismiss or narrow the claims.