In the Nation

Norman Hsu lost a legal effort to reverse his conviction and reduce his sentence in a 10-year Ponzi scheme.
Norman Hsu lost a legal effort to reverse his conviction and reduce his sentence in a 10-year Ponzi scheme. (PAUL SAKUMA / AP)
Posted: February 18, 2012

Holder: Won't deny gay vets benefits

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration is extending its decision to stop defending an anti-gay-marriage law to provisions affecting same-sex couples in the military.

The 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act requires the Pentagon to ignore same-sex marriages even if they were legally obtained in a state that allows them. A group of married gay service members and veterans sued in U.S. District Court in Boston last fall, arguing that the law is unconstitutional and that they are entitled to spousal benefits.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced a year ago that President Obama had determined that DOMA was legally indefensible, reversing a policy of defending the law in litigation. On Friday, Holder wrote to congressional leaders that the administration had reached the same conclusion for lawsuits like the one in Boston involving military personnel. - AP

Spain wins access to ship's treasure

TAMPA, Fla. - A federal judge signed off Friday on a Spanish government plan to begin moving a vast shipwreck treasure from Florida to Spain next week, culminating a five-year legal battle with the treasure hunters who found and raised it off the Portuguese coast.

U.S. Magistrate Judge James Pizzo ordered Tampa-based Odyssey Marine Exploration to give Spanish officials access to the 17 tons of silver coins and other artifacts beginning Tuesday. It has been stored in an undisclosed facility since Odyssey salvaged it from the wreck of the Spanish galleon Nuestra SeƱora de las Mercedes - which was sunk by the British in 1804 - and brought it back to the Tampa area in 2007.

Odyssey lost at every level of the federal court system in trying to keep all or most of the treasure. The Spanish government filed a claim soon after the coins were flown back to Tampa, contending it never relinquished ownership of the ship or its contents. - AP

Fund-raiser Hsu's conviction upheld

NEW YORK - A federal appeals court in New York City on Friday upheld the conviction and 24-year prison sentence of former Democratic fund-raiser Norman Hsu, in a case that became an embarrassment to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other marquee Democrats.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit rejected efforts by Hsu to reverse his conviction and reduce his sentence. It said a lower court judge acted properly during his trial and in calculating the losses to investors that the sentence was based on.

Hsu, a former fund-raiser for Clinton and others, was sentenced in 2009 for breaking campaign-finance laws. The judge said Hsu stole more than $50 million from hundreds of investors in a 10-year Ponzi scheme. His arrest led then-Sen. Clinton to return more than $800,000 to donors linked to Hsu. - AP

Elsewhere:

The U.S. Supreme Court blocked a century-old Montana ban on corporate campaign spending Friday in a sign the justices are standing behind a 2010 ruling that lets companies donate unlimited amounts to influence elections. The court put the ban on hold until it announces whether it will review the ban.

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