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Crime & Litigation



Gangster Whitey Bulger's belongings to be sold at auction

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Written by DENISE LAVOIE, AP Legal Affairs Writer   
Wednesday, 15 January 2014 09:36

Alcatraz mug shot of James J. 'Whitey' Bulger, 1959. Federal Bureau of Prisons image, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

BOSTON (AP) – When authorities searched the apartment of Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger, they found $822,000 in cash and a large collection of guns hidden in holes cut into the walls.

Other than the cash, there were few valuables. Books, hats, sweatshirts and household items bought at discount stores filled the rent-controlled Santa Monica, Calif., apartment the notorious crime boss shared with his longtime girlfriend while he was on the run.

But authorities are hoping they can attract buyers for Bulger's belongings so they can compensate his victims.

Bulger's possessions will be sold to the highest bidders during a criminal forfeiture auction expected to be held over the next few months.

Prosecutors in U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz's office are now trying to decide which of Bulger's belongings should be auctioned. They are trying to balance their desire to compensate relatives of Bulger's murder victims with avoiding glamorizing Bulger or his crimes and staying within the boundaries of good taste.

“We want to certainly be able to obtain funds to go back to the victims who were harmed by Bulger, but we don't want to do that in a way that glorifies Bulger or potentially causes some offense to the victims or others who have been impacted by Bulger,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Murrane.

Bulger was convicted in August of orchestrating or participating in 11 killings during his reign as leader of the Winter Hill Gang. He was sentenced to two life terms plus five years in prison. The cash and proceeds from the auction will be split among the estates of murder victims who choose to participate and several extortion victims.

There are a few things likely to bring in a substantial amount of money, including a gold and diamond claddagh ring with an estimated appraised value of $48,000, a replica of a 1986 Stanley Cup championship ring and a 40-inch flat-screen TV.

But most of the items found in the apartment Bulger shared with Catherine Greig are ordinary things that have no intrinsic value. Authorities are hoping they could appeal to crime memorabilia collectors or other buyers.

There's a rat-shaped cup used to hold pens and scissors, a collection of books about the mob and Bulger's gang, an assortment of cat figurines and Soldier of Fortune magazines. There are also Valentine's Day and Christmas cards Greig sent to Bulger.

Authorities haven't yet decided whether personal items should be auctioned, Murrane said.

“It's looking at those items that on their own don't have value and which of those would be appropriate to auction, knowing that they would sell only because of who owned them,” she said. “It's definitely a question of balance.”

Families of Bulger's victims have mixed feelings about the upcoming auction.

Bulger was convicted of gunning down Patricia Donahue's husband, Michael, in 1982 while targeting a different man who offered him a ride home that night. She said she isn't opposed to the auction.

“I can't imagine anybody wanting his things, but if they can sell them and make money and give the money to the victims, I think that's great. I'm sure a lot of the victims can use the money,” she said.

But Steve Davis said he doesn't like the idea of an auction. The jury was unable to reach a decision on whether Bulger was responsible for his sister Debra Davis' death.

“I wish they would burn everything right in front of all of us,” Davis said. “They should just destroy everything. That would kill the memories we have of him.”

Thomas J. Abernathy, assistant chief inspector of the asset forfeiture division of the U.S. Marshals Service, said the program has two goals: to compensate victims and to deter future criminal activity.

“It's a very important piece of the law enforcement process. Compensating victims is paramount in our program,” he said.

Auctions in other high-profile cases have brought in millions.

The U.S. Marshals Service, which is responsible for selling seized and forfeited properties, raised $232,000 through a 2011 online auction of Ted Kaczynski's belongings, including 20 personal journals and the hooded sweatshirt and sunglasses depicted in his famous FBI sketch.

A two-day auction in Miami in 2011 brought in $3.2 million in the case of convicted financier Bernard Madoff to compensate victims of his $65 billion Ponzi scheme. The sales included fine jewelry, coins and even 14 pairs of Madoff's underwear.

Rich Kroll, an online retailer who bought some of Madoff's clothing at the auction, said he thought Madoff's status would attract buyers, but he doesn't expect Bulger's possessions to draw much interest.

“Madoff was more of a celebrity. Bulger was a downright killer,” he said. “I don't even want anything of his.”

Bulger, now 84, fled Boston in 1994 after being tipped by a former FBI agent that he was about to be indicted. He was finally captured with Greig in 2011.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-01-12-14 1749GMT



ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE

Alcatraz mug shot of James J. 'Whitey' Bulger, 1959. Federal Bureau of Prisons image, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 January 2014 09:57
 

Trio of Rauschenberg trustees seeking $60 million in fees

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Written by TAMARA LUSH, Associated Press   
Wednesday, 08 January 2014 10:10
Chuck Close photograph of pop artist Robert Rauschenberg, 1998. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Wittlin & Serfer Auctioneers. CAPTIVA ISLAND, Fla. (AP) – Before he died in 2008, pop artist Robert Rauschenberg asked three of his closest friends to oversee his $600 million estate.

In a lawsuit that has dragged on for years with Rauschenberg's family and charitable foundation, those friends are asking for $60 million in fees as compensation for administering the trust. The case will likely go to trial this year; a hearing will be held in Lee County court on March 31.

At issue is whether the $60 million in fees requested by the trustees is the “reasonable fee” allowed by Florida law.

“Bob Rauschenberg believed the trustees he chose were trustworthy friends who understood that the Rauschenberg Foundation was to be Bob's crowning achievement and legacy,” said Robert Goldman, the attorney for the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. “The trustees' demand for $60 million that would otherwise belong to the foundation is a monstrous affront to Bob's testamentary intent and is not a reasonable trustees' fee under Florida law.”

Rauschenberg spent the last days of his life at his 35-acre waterfront compound on Captiva, an exclusive and tropical Gulf Coast island.

He died on May 12, 2008, of heart and lung failure, at the age of 82.

The artist, who also had a home in New York City, was famous for his use of odd and everyday articles in his paintings, and his unusual style earned him fame as a pioneer in pop art, along with Jasper Johns, James Rosenquist and Andy Warhol. In the 1950s, Rauschenberg created his “White Paintings,” modular panels which appear at first to be a blank white canvas. He is also known for his “Combines,” which are free-standing, mixed media works.

In the 1960s, he began incorporating photographs into his art – memorably, pictures of John F. Kennedy. He won a 1984 Grammy Award for best album package for the Talking Heads album Speaking in Tongues.

After his death, some of Rauschenberg's works soared in value. In 2010, one of his “Combine” works – which had been owned by the late author Michael Crichton – sold for $11 million at a Christie's auction in New York.

Rauschenberg was also an avid philanthropist, and while alive he gave money to children's charities and environmental causes. In his will, he stated that all of his assets should go into a trust – which was overseen by his friends, the three trustees – and that the primary beneficiary of the trust was the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, which would manage the art and continue to support charities and emerging artists.

“Based upon the increased value of the Rauschenberg art, the Trustees estimate the current value of the Trust assets to exceed $2 billion,” wrote the attorney for the three trustees in a court document dated March 14, 2012.

The trustees are Darryl Pottorf, Rauschenberg's assistant and companion; Bill Goldston, who was partners with Rauschenberg in an art printing company; and Bennet Grutman, the artist's accountant.

Attorneys for the trustees couldn't be reached for comment. But court documents show that the trustees believe they are deserving of the fees because “they have provided extraordinary services that have greatly enhanced the value of the Trust assets,” including reintroducing Rauschenberg's artwork to the market in a “prudent manner and under a comprehensive plan, resulting in an increase in value and public appreciation.”

The trustees also said they had to deal with copyright issues and analyze complex federal and state tax laws.

Two experts hired by the three men said that trust administration fees based on hourly wages weren't reasonable.

“While I have yet to form an opinion about the reasonable fees for administration of the trust,” wrote James Myers, a Palm Beach attorney who provided his expert opinion in a court document for the case, “I can state unequivocally that a trustee's fee based on an hourly rate is not reasonable and is not fair to the trustees and would not be customary under these circumstances.”

One expert hired by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation said the trustees' fee request is “unconscionable.”

Laird Lile, a Naples, Fla.-based probate and trust attorney who is also on the Board of Governors for the Florida Bar, said in a May 16, 2013, court document that his analysis showed that the three trustees have paid themselves $5.7 million in fees from the trust – a sum Lile called “grossly disproportionate” to the services required of the trustees.

There was no fee agreement between the trustees and the foundation. And the trustees did not keep records of their time served, Lile said, adding that there was little in the way of annual accounting to the foundation.

“The net result of this improper administration is to allow the unbridled expenditure of trust funds with no checks or balances among the three trustees,” Lile said.

Rauschenberg's son, Christopher Rauschenberg – who is a Seattle-based photographer – said in a statement that his father wanted to help artists and others after he died. The younger Rauschenberg, who is chairman of the board of trustees for the foundation, said that the organization has given grants to cultural institutions, supported artists impacted by Superstorm Sandy and donated more than 100 works of art to museums across the United States. In the fall of 2013, the foundation supported a citywide dialogue on climate change in New York.

“Our goal in this matter is to ensure that my dad's legacy is protected and that the foundation he created can succeed and make an impact,” Christopher Rauschenberg wrote in the statement. “We do not think his philanthropic intentions should be eroded through the payment of tens of millions of dollars to the people he entrusted to implement his wishes. We are confident that the Florida court will make a ruling that is fair and consistent with my dad's intent to promote his foundation and better the world.”

___

Follow Tamara Lush on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tamaralush

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-01-06-14 2000GMT



ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE
Chuck Close photograph of pop artist Robert Rauschenberg, 1998. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Wittlin & Serfer Auctioneers.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 January 2014 10:29
 

Utah town, art center settle suit over eviction

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Written by Associated Press   
Wednesday, 08 January 2014 09:53
Downtown Ephraim, Utah. Image by Ken Lund. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. EPHRAIM, Utah (AP) – A small town in Sanpete County has agreed to pay $60,000 to settle a federal lawsuit over its eviction of an edgy art center from a city-owned building.

The Central Utah Art Center will receive the money from the city of Ephraim under the settlement announced Friday.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports the art center sued after Ephraim cut $30,000 in funding and evicted it from an old grain mill in Pioneer Square in June 2012.

The city argued the art center failed to perform community outreach by rolling out art programs.

But the art center maintained the real issue was censorship and it was evicted for displaying art that was deemed offensive to rural Utah.

The art center has since moved to Salt Lake City.

___

Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-01-05-14 2357GMT



ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE
Downtown Ephraim, Utah. Image by Ken Lund. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 January 2014 10:05
 

Banksy’s Sundance murals vandalized in Utah

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Written by Associated Press   
Monday, 06 January 2014 11:00

Dreweatts & Bloomsbury sold this Banksky painting last month in London for $291,326. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Dreweatts & Bloomsbury.

PARK CITY, Utah (AP) – Police released surveillance photos Friday in hopes of identifying the person who vandalized two works there by famous graffiti artist Banksy.

Park City police released images of a shadowy figure who appears to be tampering with one of the murals about 3:30 a.m. on New Year's Eve.

The owner of one of the businesses where one of the murals was located has offered a $1,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest and conviction, police said.

Brown spray paint was found on a mural that depicted a young boy with a pink halo and angel wings kneeling to pray behind a can of pink paint. The clear protective covering over the image had been shattered.

The second piece, of a cameraman stooped to shoot video footage of a flower, was not defaced, but the covering had been cracked.

A motive for the vandalism is unclear, and it's not known whether the mural of the boy can be restored.

The unauthorized art first appeared in 2010, around the time Banksy was in Park City for the Sundance debut of his documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop.

The works initially prompted outrage by people who considered them unwelcome graffiti, according to Alison Butz, executive director of the Historic Park City Alliance. But the city has come to embrace the murals. The alliance features the work prominently on its website, and the images are among the most-photographed sites in town, police Sgt. Jay Randall said.

The elusive Banksy, who uses the name as a pseudonym, is known for silhouetted figures and spray-painted messages that show up in unexpected places.

His works have been sold at auction for as much as $1.1 million apiece.

Police said it would be difficult to put a price on the Park City murals because they weren't sanctioned art. A judge would likely assign a value to the paintings for purposes of prosecution, Randall said.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-01-03-14 2346GMT

Last Updated on Monday, 06 January 2014 11:17
 

Dozens of artifacts missing from museum in southern Egypt

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Written by MAGGIE HYDE, Associated Press   
Friday, 03 January 2014 09:30

Ruins of the temple of Khnum at the southern point of Elephantine Island where the Aswan Museum is located. Image by Claude Vallette. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.

CAIRO (AP) – Nearly a hundred small artifacts, some dating back to the time of the pharaohs, have gone missing from a museum in southern Egypt, officials said Wednesday.

The Ministry of Antiquities said 96 artifacts, mostly small figurines and beads, disappeared from the Aswan Museum's storehouse.

Employees noticed a number of artifacts missing, the statement said. A committee looking into the objects' disappearance checked the storehouse's inventory and found that the lock on the inner door had been broken.

Officials in Aswan said the disappearance was a first for the museum, which hasn't experienced the thefts that have plagued some other museums around the country throughout the unrest of the past three years. They said evidence pointed to an insider theft.

They spoke anonymously as they weren't authorized to brief the press,

Egypt's ancient treasures have suffered during the aftermath of the uprising that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak in 2011. During the 18 days of protest that led to Mubarak stepping down, 51 pieces were stolen from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, located on the edge of Tahrir Square, the center of the uprising. Some have been recovered.

Not long after Mubarak left office on Feb, 11, 2011, a Jordanian man was caught trying to smuggle as many as 3,753 artifacts including pharaonic statues, Roman coins, and medieval jewelry out of the country, according to earlier statements by Interior Ministry officials.

There have also been a number of break-ins at antiquity storehouses around the country. In one of the largest thefts, in the city of Qantara on the Sinai peninsula, roughly 800 artifacts were damaged or stolen, with some subsequently recovered.

Located next to ruins on the tip of Elephantine Island in the Nile in Egypt's southernmost city, the Aswan Museum holds artifacts from the southern region of Nubia.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-01-01-14 1921GMT



ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE

 Ruins of the temple of Khnum at the southern point of Elephantine Island where the Aswan Museum is located. Image by Claude Vallette. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.

Last Updated on Friday, 03 January 2014 09:45
 
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