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Quick Picks: No Charges, Plenty of Jail Time

Jan. 8: This post has been updated.

Every afternoon, we write a quick post about a select few of the day's stories from "Breaking on the Web." Was there a story we missed? Send us stories from your local paper, favorite blog or magazine, etc.

  • Thought you lived in a country where you couldn't be jailed for 10-plus years without being charged with a crime? Think again. Today the Wall Street Journal takes a look at civil contempt cases, which legal experts say are ripe for abuse. Judges can toss someone in jail for civil contempt to induce them to cooperate. And if that person doesn't spill the beans (for instance, by telling where they've stashed some cash, forking over alimony, or revealing confidential sources), or prove that he has no beans to spill, he can languish in jail for years. Legal experts say placing the burden of proof on the person accused of wrongdoing "runs counter to our entire system."
  • "Pay to Play" is already the phrase of the year. Blago's got a near-monopoly on it, but it's also being tossed around in reference to a deal between a California-based firm and the New Mexico Finance Authority. Federal prosecutors are investigating whether CDR Financial Products and its president's big donations to New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson's PACs had anything to do with winning two contracts -- worth about $1.4 million together -- to advise the state on its municipal bonds in 2004. Now it turns out that there's another tie between the governor and CDR: The AP reports today that one of Richardson's close friends and advisers worked for CDR for years as a consultant, until at least 2007. Several reporters have pointed out that CDR already has something of a reputation: It's had run-ins with both the IRS and the SEC in the past few years. CDR responds -- CDR spokesman Alan Ripp told ProPublica that Richardson's adviser helped establish relationships in New Mexico as part of his work for the company, but he did not know if that included a meeting with Richardson. He said Richardson and CDR are not "friends," but his background as a Hispanic, liberal Democrat is "very much in line with CDR’s own interest in supporting liberal, Democratic political activities."

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Update: CDR spokesman Alan Ripp told ProPublica that Richardson’s adviser helped establish relationships in New Mexico as part of his work for the company, but he did not know if that included a meeting with Richardson. He said Richardson and CDR are not "friends," but his background as a Hispanic, liberal Democrat is "very much in line with CDR’s own interest in supporting liberal, Democratic political activities."

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