Crimes and Their Punishments – Through the Ages

Punishments for Crimes through the ages – from the bizarre to outrageous, from the sublime to the ridiculous. We don’t know how lucky we are!

Many of us are apt to complain about sentences handed out by our Courts for crimes these days – too harsh, too lenient. But a quick look at some punishments for crimes through the ages, including in some countries today, we should really consider how much we really have to complain about.

Not only have punishments been truly shocking (and in some instances still are), but even some of the crimes are truly unbelievable.

Many Sydney criminal lawyers would have had their work cut out for them if some of these historical crimes were still on the statute books! Lucky for us that our complaints about the justice systems these days are limited to whether an offender should be given a jail sentence or community service, or whether a 2 year sentence is sufficient or whether 5 would have been better, and so on.

Thank goodness we don’t have to contend with crimes for which the penalty is being tortured to death by some truly unimaginable means. Criminal lawyers in Australia, as in Europe, the United States, Canada, New Zealand and others, these days don’t have to plead for the type of mercy that offenders of times gone by had to. And of course, some of these barbaric practices do still exist today in other parts of the globe, as you can see below.

Some Crimes and Some Punishments You Won’t Believe

Take a look …

Crimes and Their Punishments

Lawyer: vandalism to Washoe County campaign sign "seems to be a hate crime" – KRNV My News 4

Candidate Verita Black Prothro sees damage in person for the first time

Reno Police are now investigating the suspected racial vandalism of a campaign sign in Arrowcreek.

In a phone interview with News 4- Fox 11, attorney Sean Neahusan said it appears as though it could be a hate crime.

The campaign sign belonged to Verita Black Prothro who is running for Washoe County Public Administrator.

He maiden name, Black, was crossed out with black paint over the weekend. Her face was also covered with black paint.

People have come out on social media to denounce the vandalism and express support for Black Prothro:


Criminal defense attorney, Sean Neahusan, said the court must first decide if the crime is a misdemeanor or a felony.

Here are the requirements for a felony:

  • damage totals $5,000
  • vandal convicted of two prior misdemeanors for graffiti
  • vandal convicted of prior felony for graffiti

The court can hand down a sentence of one to four years behind bars for a felony. If the hate crime is attached, an additional penalty of one to four years is added. The sentences would run consecutively.

If the court finds the crime to be a misdemeanor, the sentence could be community service and fines.

If the hate crime element is added, the vandal could be sentenced to up to six months behind bars.

How to Help

Reno Police are investigating and ask that anyone with information calls Secret Witness at 775-322-4900.

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Microsoft fired the guy overseeing its NFL partnership for allegedly scalping company Super Bowl tickets and trying to fake $1.4 million in invoices (MSFT)

NFL Microsoft Surface

  • A federal grand jury has indicted Microsoft’s former director of Sports Marketing and Alliances for allegedly trying to create fake invoices for up to $1.4 million, according to the DOJ.
  • The indictment alleges that Jeff Tran tried to route fake invoices through two Microsoft vendors and that he scalped Super Bowl tickets Microsoft acquired through its Surface tablet partnership with the NFL.
  • Tran was one of the people responsible for Microsoft’s relationship with the NFL.

A federal grand jury has indicted Microsoft’s former director of Sports Marketing and Alliances Jeff Tran for allegedly trying to create more than $1.4 million in fake invoices, the Department of Justice announced on Thursday.

The indictment alleges that Tran, 45, tried to submit fake invoices and that he sold Super Bowl tickets that Microsoft had paid for, pocketing the proceeds for himself.

A big part of Tran’s job was to oversee Microsoft’s marketing partnership with the National Football League. The most prominent part of that relationship is the NFL’s use of Surface tablets on the sidelines of games. Last year, the NFL signed a renewed, five-year contract for the Surface tablets.

As part of its arrangement with the NFL, Microsoft was allowed to buy a block of Super Bowl tickets. It was Tran’s job to distribute them to Microsoft employees but the indictment alleges that instead of distributing them all, he took 62 of the tickets, sold them off for $200,000 and kept the money for himself.

But what tipped Microsoft off was suspicions around some invoices, according to the Department of Justice allegations. As part of Tran’s job, he was allowed to authorize payments to some vendors. The indictment alleges that he had a fake $775,000 invoice submitted through Microsoft’s vendors, subverting the payment to his own bank account. He is accused of trying to submit another, $670,000 fake invoice as well, but when Microsoft’s vendors grew concerned about the nature of these invoices, they alerted the company.

Microsoft reportedly confronted Tran, the DOJ says, and he returned the initial $775,000. The company fired him, a spokesperson tells Business Insider, saying, “When we learned of Mr. Tran’s conduct we investigated, terminated his employment, and then referred the matter to law enforcement.”

Microsoft is known to pay its director-level employees pretty well. The job may not pay millions, but a director of marketing at Microsoft makes on average $195,000 total compensation and a more senior person makes closer to $250,000, according to self-reported salaries at Glassdoor. 

Tran will be arraigned on the charges in U.S. District Court in Seattle in the next ten days. Tran could not be reached for comment.

SEE ALSO: The extraordinary life of Microsoft’s billionaire cofounder Paul Allen, who has died at the age of 65

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The Gnarliest Criminal Minds Serial Killer, According To Paget Brewster – Cinema Blend

6 hours ago

Criminal Minds has possibly showcased more evil and deviancy than any other TV show, across 300+ episodes and more to come, As such, the show’s stars have seen a lot of horrifying acts over the years. When Paget Brewster was asked which of the show’s gnarly murder methods took the top billing, she didn’t mention the latest one, but here’s how the actress answered.

Geez, why did that monster have to get put back into our brains like that? As longtime Criminal Minds fans know, the killer that Paget Brewster is referring to is Brad William Henke’s Steve. As seen in the Season 6 episode “Sense Memory,” Steve made a habit out of taking women captive in his taxi, rendering them unconscious, and then rendering parts of their bodies down for candle-making. Classic Steve.

Justified and Orange is the New Black‘s Brad William Hanke has made a career out of playing filthy and skeezy characters, with Criminal Minds featuring one of his creepiest performances. Just thinking about Steve smelling all those women makes me feel uncomfortable, and it’s stomach-turning to think about him burning one of his candle trophies.

Meanwhile, Paget Brewster’s longtime co-star Joe Mantegna had a different answer when he was asked. Although Brewster also had something to say about it.

As one of the key villains to wreak havoc two different episodes (the Season 5 finale and Season 6 premiere), Tim Curry’s Billy “Prince of Darkness” Flynn was positively disgusting to watch the entire time. With his nicotine and meth addictions, Billy traveled the country, building up a list of victims that was started when he was just a teenager. Not a single iota of warmth or cuddliness about this guy.

To see what other Criminal Minds stars lke A.J. Cook and Adam Rodriguez have to say about the gnarliest of gnarly killers, head to TV Guide.

With way more crazy killers and tragic victims on the way, Criminal Minds airs Wednesday nights on CBS at 10:00 p.m. ET. While the crime drama’s premiere didn’t do so hot in the ratings, other shows from our fall TV premiere schedule will surely bring in the big numbers.

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First of many criminal cases dismissed in wake of Eden Prairie police officer's misconduct – Minneapolis Star Tribune

The first of several drug convictions called into question after an Eden Prairie police detective was found to have lied on a search warrant was thrown out Wednesday, with several others likely to follow.

Hennepin County District Judge Jeannice Reding vacated the drug conviction of Sean Donzell Cole in a hearing that lasted no more than six minutes. Cole remained in the county jail on another matter, according to records.

Cole, 26, was one of three men in prison because of the primary testimony of police officer Travis Serafin. Cole was convicted in January of selling narcotics and was sentenced to almost three years in prison. But he still has time to serve on an unrelated felony for receiving stolen property.

Cole’s was the first of 33 convictions likely to be vacated. Hearings are scheduled next Thursday for Timothy Holmes and Torrance Gray, the only two other men who went to prison on the testimony of Serafin. Holmes’ case is the one that first raised flags about Serafin’s handling of a search warrant.

In September 2017, Serafin obtained and executed a search warrant for Holmes’ house where he found large amounts of heroin and other drugs. He then searched Holmes’ car without a warrant and found more drugs. Holmes was charged with first-degree drug sale and third-degree murder in the death of a person who purchased his heroin. When Serafin was then asked about a warrant for the car, he falsified a second warrant that included both the house and the car.

Holmes’ lawyer Fred Goetz asked the officer to explain why there were two warrants. In sworn court testimony, Serafin blamed a “clerical error.” Holmes took a deal, pleading guilty to a drug charge in exchange for the prosecutors dropping the murder charge.

After a Hennepin County judge communicated his suspicions to the city of Eden Prairie, the city investigated and found that Serafin created the second warrant after the search and lied about it under oath. Last week, the county attorney’s office said 33 convictions where Serafin was a primary witness would be dismissed.

The county attorney’s office had not yet completed a list of all the affected cases, but a spokesman said it will be made public when it’s ready. Prosecutors said they were looking at all the cases that came after Serafin lied about the warrant.

But Goetz thinks there could be many more cases.

The veteran criminal defense attorney said he’s been getting lots of calls from clients wondering whether their cases are affected.

“It’s certainly raising a lot of questions,” Goetz said. “It’s not a path any of us have been down.”

Holmes is serving a six-year prison sentence and likely will be released as soon as next week.

Serafin remains employed by Eden Prairie. He was removed from the Southwest Hennepin Drug Task Force, the SWAT team training unit, sent to ethics training and ordered to work with a supervisor on all future warrants.

Serafin, 41, was hired by Eden Prairie in October 2000. He earns $92,289 annually.

Of the other known cases, five men are in diversion programs, and their convictions will be dismissed and expunged. In 17 cases, defense lawyers have been asked to file motions to vacate convictions, the prosecutor said.

In 14 other cases, Serafin was determined to be a peripheral witness. Three of those were sent to diversion so they will be dismissed and expunged. Of the remaining 11 cases, defense lawyers have been notified.


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Facebook has 'tentatively' concluded that spammers, not foreign agents, are to blame for the biggest hack in its history (FB)

mark zuckerberg facebook ceo

  • Facebook has “tentatively” concluded that spammers pretending to be a digital marketing firm are responsible for the biggest hack in the company’s history, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
  • Anonymous sources told the WSJ that the company does not believe a nation-state was involved. 
  • The hacker stole personal information of 29 million Facebook users.

Facebook believes that spammers, and not a nation-state, are responsible for a devastating recent hack that stole the personal information of 29 million Facebook users, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.

The report, which cites anonymous sources, says that Facebook has “tentatively” concluded the hackers were spammers who were posing as a digital marketing company. 

The hack, which Facebook first disclosed in September, is the largest breach suffered by the social network. The hackers were able to exploit vulnerabilities in Facebook’s code to get their hands on “access tokens” — essentially digital keys that give them full access to compromised users’ accounts — and then scraped users’ data.

Among the user data stolen by hackers were birthdates, phone numbers, search history and even recent locations the users had “checked in” at. 

Facebook and other social media services have increasingly been targeted by malicious actors seeking to use the platforms to spread misinformation and wreak other havoc. Facebook has said it believes Russian operatives were behind a campaign to spread misinformation ahead of the 2016 US Presidential elections.  

The fact that criminal spammers, presumably with commercial motives rather than a political agenda, are behind the recent hack is an unexpected development, though it’s unlikely to quell some of the mistrust the company has earned from a large segment of users.

Interestingly, Facebook noted in an update last week that the FBI had asked it not to publicly discuss “who may be behind this attack.”

A Facebook representative referred Business Insider to the company’s statement from a week ago when it disclosed certain details of the incident: “We are cooperating with the FBI on this matter. The FBI is actively investigating and have asked us not to discuss who may be behind this attack.”

Read more about the massive Facebook hack:

Hackers stole millions of Facebook users’ personal data — here’s why you should be worried

Here’s how to check if you were affected in the Facebook hack — and how to delete your Facebook account

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'Criminal Minds' Takes on 'Seven' Inspired Case on Wednesday Night's Episode –

Criminal Minds will be dealing with some bad pieces of mail in their latest episode.

In a sneak peek from “Rule 34,” the Behavioral Analysis Unit is briefed on a case involving people getting body parts of a murder victim in the mail.

“This morning D.C. metro police reported that body parts were sent to six separate locations within the Washington metropolitan area,” Prentiss (Paget Brewster) briefed the team. “Each appendage was wrapped and sealed inside its own box. In all there were two arms with no hands, two legs with no feet, one torso cut in half but without the head.”

“So, although this unsure felt the sadistic urge of shock and awe the victims that received the boxes, he was still organized enough to withhold the parts that would’ve helped better identify the victim,” Dr. Tara Lewis (Aisha Tyler) said.

“Oh, but wait there’s more,” Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness) adds. “Each box. Underneath the victim pieces was an index card, and on each one, a piece of a handwritten note.

The note reads: “All the Kings horses and all the King’s Benz Couldn’t put this Bitch Back Together Again. Forever Yours. Gone Postal.”

Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler) hilariously reads out the letter and hesitates before he says the word “bitch” in the clip.

The official synopsis for the episode, released by CBS reads: “When packages with gruesome contents are delivered to six people in the Washington, D.C. area, the BAU must first figure out what connects the recipients before they can identify the UnSub.”

“Also, Simmons (Daniel Henry) and Kristy (Kelly Frye) struggle to connect with their son, David, who is suspended from school for aggressive behavior.”

The grim case of the week comes after a compelling episode featuring the team investigating an UnSub murdering victims and mummifying their bodies for preservation.

The episode also featured the return of Krystall (Gail O’Grady), with Rossi (Joe Mantegna) struggling to tell the team about getting back together with his ex-wife.


The box seems to be a tribute to the iconic David Fincher 1995 film Seven, which involved a murder mystery surrounding the seven deadly sins. The film’s most climactic scene involved the main character being tormented by the assumption that his wife had been murdered and her head had been removed from her body and placed in the box, though the contents of the box is not actually shown.

Will the macabre crimes of this episode deal with similar dark themes? Criminal Minds airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on CBS.

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We endorse: Padula and Williams would shake up the mix at Pierce County District Court – The News Tribune

When a judge is elected to Pierce County District Court, he or she can count on a long career handling all kinds of business, both banal and bizarre, from traffic tickets to legal name changes, from misdemeanor offenses to small claims.

True, judges must be re-elected every four years for a job that pays around $164,000, but they’re almost always unopposed. The two judges retiring in 2018 have served more than 35 years combined.

Whenever a vacancy arises, then, voters should choose well, as if filling a lifetime appointment. Ideally, judges will be experienced in many aspects of the justice system, will reflect the diversity of the community they serve and won’t be vulnerable to undue influence.

That’s why we’re endorsing Lizanne Padula of Tacoma and Karl Williams of University Place to join the eight-member bench.

For Position 3, Padula, a 52-year-old attorney in private practice, is up against Tim Lewis, 42, who’s worked in the Pierce County prosecutor’s office 15 years.

For Position 6, Williams, a 57-year-old civil and criminal lawyer and long-serving judge pro tem (translation: a substitute judge), faces John Sheeran, 54, a veteran of 22 years in the prosecutor’s office, where he’s second-in-charge in the criminal division.

Working as a deputy prosecuting attorney is an honorable way to protect the public. Sheeran and Lewis have firm command of the rules of evidence, and a keen knowledge of the therapeutic courts that are sprouting up — such as felony courts for drug users and broken families — with an eye toward expanding them to District Court.

Sheeran, a UP resident, helped develop Pierce County’s mental health court. Lewis, who lives in Gig Harbor, has moonlighted as a judge pro tem in local communities for 10 years. They’re both accomplished legal professionals.

But employment in this particular prosecutor’s office comes with baggage — especially when the boss, Prosecutor Mark Lindquist, is known for wanting to load local courts with his proteges to expand his sphere of influence.

Four of the six judges who are unopposed on the ballot this year came to District Court by way of the prosecutor’s office. Shaking up the mix would be healthy.

Fortunately, Padula and Williams make strong cases on their own merits. Both cite their “exceptionally well qualified” ratings from lawyer groups including the Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association. (Neither Sheeran nor Lewis sought the ratings.)

The resume with the greatest breadth belongs to Padula. She’s worked as a deputy prosecutor on the Olympic Peninsula, a pro-tem judge and now as a civil litigator based in Bellevue; she says she’s even served as a police officer.

Being part of a family with addiction struggles makes Padula passionate about the need to intercept and help drug users in District Court, where they often show up before moving on to felony offenses. She points to her work obtaining “hundreds” of protection orders for abused women and says courts must “move mountains” to assist them. “They might not come back a second time,” she told us.

Padula, who’s lived in Pierce County just a year, has had a nomadic career, but she’s no stranger to the region.

Williams boasts deep local roots; he calls UP his lifetime hometown. His never-quit spirit is exemplified by five unsuccessful runs for judge since 1999. He’s paid his dues during 22 years as a fill-in judge for Pierce County, Fife, Puyallup and Ruston.

Concern for the rights of low-income defendants is a driving force for Williams. Electronic home monitoring as an alternative to jail should not be contingent on ability to pay, he told us, adding that he’s determined to make changes if elected.

It’s also worth noting that Williams, who is African-American, would be the only person of color on a bench that is regrettably homogenous.

We believe Lizanne Padula and Karl Williams would distinguish themselves as fair and thoughtful District Court judges, now and for years to come.

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'This is what happens when you elect a moron to the presidency': Michael Avenatti claps back at Trump's 'Horseface' tweet toward Stormy Daniels

stormy daniels

  • Attorney Michael Avenatti fired a warning shot in response to President Donald Trump’s tweets in which he called Avenatti’s client, adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, “Horseface.”
  • “I’m a father to two daughters … how do you tell your kids to look up to the president of the United States when he behaves in this manner?,” Avenatti said. “It’s an absolute joke.”
  • Avenatti, who has hinted at a 2020 presidential run, also took a jab at what he believed to be “wishy-washy” tactics some Democratic lawmakers have used to counter Trump.
  • “There’s only one way to deal with a bully … and that is when they punch you, you hit them back twice as hard,” Avenatti said. “He better pack a lunch.”

Attorney Michael Avenatti fired a warning shot at President Donald Trump in response to his “Horseface” insult toward adult-film actress Stormy Daniels.

“This is a disgrace,” Avenatti said during a CNN interview on Tuesday evening. “Donald Trump is the president of the United States. Never in my lifetime did I think that I would witness behavior like this from the president.”

“I’m a father to two daughters … how do you tell your kids to look up to the president of the United States when he behaves in this manner,” Avenatti added. “It’s an absolute joke.”

Asked how Daniels reacted to Trump’s insult, Avenatti said she was “incredulous.” 

“She couldn’t believe it,” Avenatti said. “She thought that his account had been hacked or that it was some joke.”

“The rest of the world looks at us, they laugh at us,” Avenatti added. “I don’t care what your politics are. This has no place, this is a complete disrespect to the office of the presidency.”

Avenatti, who has hinted that he might run as a Democrat in the 2020 presidential election, also took a jab at what he called “wishy-washy” tactics he believes some Democratic lawmakers have used to counter Trump.

“There’s only one way to deal with a bully … and that is when they punch you, you hit them back twice as hard,” Avenatti said. “He better pack a lunch.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Trump took a victory lap after a federal judge dismissed Avenatti and Daniels’ defamation lawsuit against him on First Amendment grounds. In addition to dismissing the lawsuit, US District Judge James Otero ordered Daniels to pay Trump’s legal fees.

“Great, now I can go after Horseface and her 3rd rate lawyer in the Great State of Texas,” Trump tweeted, referring to Daniels and Avenatti. “She will confirm the letter she signed! She knows nothing about me, a total con!”

Trump appeared to be referring to a letter Daniels signed in January, in which she denied having an affair with Trump in 2006. Next week, Trump is scheduled to hold a campaign rally to support Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Daniels’ home state.

Daniels immediately fired back at Trump using some sexual innuendo:

“Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present your president,” Daniels said in a tweet. “In addition to his…umm…shortcomings, he has demonstrated his incompetence, hatred of women and lack of self control on Twitter AGAIN! And perhaps a penchant for bestiality. Game on, Tiny.”

Despite the ruling, Avenatti said in a statement that he would appeal the judges decision and that Daniels’ lawsuits against Trump and Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney, would “proceed unaffected.” Avenatti also claimed that the dismissed defamation lawsuit was only “secondary” to his original claim regarding the nondisclosure agreement between Cohen and Daniels.

“The defamation case was a secondary case to the main case, which is the case over the nondisclosure agreement,” Avenatti said. “I don’t think Donald Trump is smart enough to understand that.”

“I mean, this is what happens when you elect a moron to the presidency of the United States, somebody that doesn’t even understand basic law.”

SEE ALSO: Trump scores a ‘total victory’ after federal judge dismisses Stormy Daniels’ lawsuit and orders her to pay his legal fees

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Experienced White Collar Lawyer And Ex SFO Prosecutor Paul Feldberg Joins Jenner & Block's Investigations … – PR Newswire (press release)

"We are excited to welcome Paul to Jenner & Block," said Terrence J. Truax, Jenner & Block’s managing partner.  "Adding a top-tier lawyer like Paul strengthens our London office as well as our Investigations, Compliance and Defense Practice."

Mr. Feldberg concentrates his practice on advising and defending companies and individuals in matters relating to criminal fraud, corruption, money laundering, sanctions, insider trading, and other regulatory actions.  His experience includes working on some of the highest profile UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) cases, either as a prosecutor with the SFO or, more recently, in private practice, when he has acted for companies or individuals subject to SFO investigations or prosecutions.

"I am delighted to once again be working with Paul," said Ms. Braamskamp.  "As a former criminal barrister and prosecutor he brings exceptional experience representing companies and individuals as well as having experience working across borders with multiple enforcement agencies.  His ability to instinctively understand how clients can best achieve their intended objectives brings exceptional value to our practice and the firm."

Opened in 2015, the London office now has 20 lawyers and is increasingly regarded for its work in complex commercial litigation, investigations and international arbitration.

"Paul is an established and well-respected white collar crime lawyer and barrister in the London community with significant private practice and prosecutorial experience," said Charlie Lightfoot, managing partner of the London office.  "London is a very competitive market and we’re pleased to attract top talent like Paul and further build our London platform and reputation."

"I have crossed paths with various Jenner & Block lawyers during the course of my career and have seen the caliber of the firm’s work, which is top-notch," said Mr. Feldberg.  "In addition to once again working with Christine Braamskamp, I am excited to bring my experience as a former SFO prosecutor and private practitioner to enhance the firm’s offerings and assist clients."

Jenner & Block represents individuals and businesses in criminal prosecutions, grand jury investigations, extradition proceedings and civil enforcement actions brought by government agencies, including the US Department of Justice, Securities Exchange Commission, the UK Financial Conduct Authority and Serious Fraud Office.  The practice’s high level of credibility with prosecutors and regulators enables minimization of the damage and disruption caused by these proceedings, often before charges are brought.  If an indictment or charge cannot be avoided, Jenner & Block’s investigations, compliance and white collar lawyers can advise on the risks and benefits of going to trial versus accepting a plea or negotiating other resolutions, and have the experience and expertise to take the matter to trial if necessary. 

The practice also has significant experience in advising clients on compliance with relevant laws and regulations, ranging from advising on establishing appropriate anti-bribery, anti-money laundering and sanctions compliance programs, to advising on ensuring an entity is not involved in the facilitation of tax evasion or in breach of regulations concerning modern slavery.  The practice is also highly experienced in advising clients on how to deal with breaches of such regulations should they occur.  The firm is also extremely well placed to deal with any collateral civil or administrative litigation.

Jenner & Block LLP is a law firm with global reach, with more than 500 lawyers and offices in Chicago, London, Los Angeles, New York and Washington, DC.  The firm is known for its prominent and successful litigation practice and experience handling sophisticated and high-profile corporate transactions.  Firm clients include Fortune 100 companies, large privately held corporations, financial services institutions, emerging companies and venture capital and private equity investors.

Jenner & Block London LLP is a limited liability partnership established under the laws of the state of Delaware, USA and is authorized and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority with SRA number 615729.  Jenner & Block London LLP is affiliated with Jenner & Block LLP, which operates Jenner & Block’s offices in the United States.

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Google cloud boss Diane Greene won't attend Saudi investment event, throwing a wrench into Google's plans to tap new revenue in the country (GOOG, GOOGL)

Diane Greene

  • Diane Greene, Google cloud chief, will not attend an investment event in Saudi Arabia. 
  • Greene is the latest US business leader to pull out of the event following the disappearance of a dissident Saudi journalist.
  • Greene’s decision not to attend the conference comes following a year whe Google has tried to build closer ties to the Saudi government. 

Google is the latest in a still growing number of US businesses to distance themselves from Saudi Arabia following accusations that the government there is behind the disappearance of a dissident journalist.

Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene was scheduled to speak at an investment event called the Future Investment Initiative, a conference sponsored by Saudi government, but has now dropped out.

“We can confirm Diane Greene will not be attending the FII Summit,” said a Google spokesperson in a written statement.

A cloud of suspicion has hung over the Saudi government ever since Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, a Saudi citizen, and a well-known critic of the government there, went missing on Oct. 2. The government of Turkey alleges it has proof that Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi embassy in Turkey. Saudi officials have denied it had anything to do with Khashoggi’s disappearance.

In response to the accusations, several high-profile tech leaders announced last week they had pulled out of the conference dubbed the “Davos in the Desert.” Included among them are Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s CEO, Steve Case, an AOL cofounder and venture capitalist, Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post, and Andy Rubin, cofounder of Android and former Google executive.  

Dara Khosrowshahi

The controversy comes at an awkward time for Google. The past year, the company has tried to strengthen ties with the Saudis. In April, Google’s leaders met with  Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. According to reports, they discussed cooperating on cloud computing services and the possibility of building a digital hub in Saudi Arabia.    

Later that month, after the company reported earnings, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced that Google would roll out cloud services in Saudi Arabia.

“Our global infrastructure continues to expand to support demand,” Pichai told analysts on the call. “We commissioned three new sub sea cables and announced new regions in Canada, Japan, Netherlands and Saudi Arabia, bringing our total of recently launched and upcoming regions to 20.”

Pulling out of the conference could conceivably harm Google’s relationship with the crown prince, though had Greene attended, critics would have likely claimed that Google was once again at odds with the company’s values.

The situation shows just how hard it can be for Greene to build Google’s cloud business, and make up ground on two much larger rivals, Amazon AWS and Microsoft’s Azure, while not running afoul of the company’s moral codes.

Earlier this year, after thousands of the company’s employees rose up in protest, Google stopped working on a military program called Project Maven, an effort that used artificial intelligence to analyze drone surveillance footage.

The company also published a list of principles that would direct its use of AI in the future. Those principles appear to demand some sacrifice from the company. Last week, Google said it would not bid on a $10 billion Pentagon contract due to potential conflicts with the AI principles.

Amazon is currently the favorite to win the contract. And Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos took a veiled shot at Google at a conference in San Francisco on Monday: “If big tech companies are going to turn their back on the US Department of Defense, this country is going to be in trouble,” he said.

SEE ALSO: ‘Things have changed at Google’: An engineer who quit to protest Project Maven explains why the company’s changing values forced him out

SEE ALSO: Individuals and businesses are distancing themselves from Saudi Arabia following the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi

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