Thursday, August 27, 2015


Original Story:

DENVER — In an emotional end to the court drama that has preoccupied Colorado, Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. on Wednesday issued 12 life sentences in prison to James E. Holmes, who fatally shot 12 people in a movie theater in the Denver suburb of Aurora three years ago and wounded 70 others. The judge also imposed 3,318 years in prison on Mr. Holmes for his nonlethal crimes, including attempted murder. A Denver criminal lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

“Get the defendant out of my courtroom,” Judge Samour said from the bench before Mr. Holmes, wearing a red prison suit, walked out of Courtroom 201 for the last time.

This month, a jury had elected to sentence Mr. Holmes to life in prison rather than the death penalty, which prosecutors had sought. On Wednesday, it was up to the judge to decide the penalty for Mr. Holmes’s nonlethal crimes. Later, the Colorado Corrections Department will evaluate him and decide which prison is most fitting.

Before reading the sentence, Judge Samour spent more than an hour delivering an impassioned speech to the crowded gallery, defending the justice system to victims’ families and others who had said that they felt Mr. Holmes had prevailed because his life had been spared.

“The defendant will never be a free man again — ever,” Judge Samour said. “He will be behind bars in a locked facility every day for the rest of this life.”

At times, Judge Samour appeared to choke back tears. Near the end of his address, he called the case “a display in contrast.”

“Whereas the defendant had a long-lasting hatred of mankind,” he said, “the victims who have come in here and addressed the court have shown all that is good about humanity.”

In July, a jury found Mr. Holmes guilty, rejecting his lawyers’ claim that he was legally insane when he committed the crimes. In subsequent deliberations, at least one juror said she could not impose the death penalty on Mr. Holmes; because the decision was not unanimous, he was given the life sentences.

This week, dozens of victims rose to testify on how Mr. Holmes’s crimes had affected their lives. Arlene Holmes, his mother, also spoke, crying as she delivered an apology to the victims and their families. She said that she knew her son felt remorse, but that his medications and mental illness made it difficult for him to convey.

Mr. Holmes’s lawyers said they would let the verdict stand and would not file appeals.

In the prelude to issuing his sentence, Judge Samour mentioned a woman who had testified that she wanted Mr. Holmes to feel the same pain she did. “I completely understand why she feels that way,” he said. “But we can’t do that. Why? We’re a civilized society. If we subscribe to the ‘eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ philosophy, we would be no different than the criminal.” A Canadian County criminal lawyer is following this story closely.

Judge Samour took issue with those who had called the trial a waste of time, citing some of the people whose testimony had brought humanity to the dead: the mothers of Alexander Teves, Jessica Ghawi, A. J. Boik, and Jesse Childress; a daughter of Gordon Cowden; and the ex-husband of Rebecca Wingo, who told the jury that “she was fearless and wild, yet cultured and intelligent.”


Original Story:

PONTIAC, Mich. (WXYZ) - He ended a fight over his dog by shooting his neighbor. Tuesday, Charles Simkins learned his sentence.

Vickie Adams stood up before Charles Simkins and talked about what he took from her when he shot her fiancé 45-year-old Edwin Criswell, killing him. A Walled Lake divorce lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

“I have lost him. I have lost my job. I have lost finances, friends, some family, sleep, peace, and now my home,” said Adams.

She then asked the judge to lock Simkins away for as long as possible.

“I have seen no remorse shown from him and believe he is a dangerous man,” said Adams.

The tragedy that brought her to an Oakland County courtroom happened in Walled Lake in December 2013.

Simpkins, 28, was looking for his dog. He realized his neighbor had the dog. An argument over the dog running unleashed turned physical. Simkins shot Criswell in the leg and called 911 for help.

When given the opportunity in court to make a statement, Simkins apologized.

“To the Criswell’s I would like to say I am very sorry. I know my words are probably empty. I wish almost as much as you that this never happened,” said Simkins.

Defense attorney Todd Flood said the jury sent a message when it convicted his client, not of murder, but of voluntary manslaughter.

“This is not a man who should be thrown away,” said Flood.

He said Simkins is a veteran with post traumatic stress disorder, and the man killed does not lack guilt.

The judge responded saying Simkins had a history of violence and should have gotten help before his rage cost a man his life. She sentenced him to a minimum six years in prison. A Walled Lake divorce lawyer is following this story closely.

Monday, August 24, 2015


Original Story:

WASHINGTON — At first, he had to worry about a remote piece of land in Arkansas that no one wanted. Then there were billing records that went missing before mysteriously reappearing in the White House. And of course there was the blue dress.

Today, the object of concern for David E. Kendall is a tiny thumb drive that sat in a safe at his law firm until a couple weeks ago before attracting the attention of Congress, the F.B.I. and the news media. Once again, the whirlpool of Washington politics has arrived at Mr. Kendall’s doorstep as he defends perhaps the world’s most famous client.

For more than 20 years, Mr. Kendall has been on the front lines for Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton as their personal lawyer, battling investigators and litigants in the superheated environment where law and politics meet. A Houston litigation attorney is following this story closely. From Whitewater to impeachment, he has waged legal warfare to keep the Clintons’ political careers on track. So as Mrs. Clinton faces questions about her use of a personal email server as secretary of state, no one is surprised she turned to Mr. Kendall.

The latest furor has put Mr. Kendall under a spotlight in a way that discomfits the tight-lipped and camera-shy lawyer. From Mrs. Clinton’s foes come public questions about why he had the thumb drive containing her email and whether he secured it properly. From Mrs. Clinton’s friends come private questions about whether he has managed the situation effectively and whether he should be more outspoken to protect a Democratic presidential candidate leading in the polls.

“They always say, ‘Is Kendall the lawyer to do this or that?’ ” said James Carville, the former political strategist for Mr. Clinton who expresses great admiration for Mr. Kendall. “I never saw that there was a huge conflict. But you know, sometimes lawyers are lawyers and spokespeople are spokespeople.”

Mr. Kendall, said Mr. Carville, is not a public pit bull. “He has no bluster about him,” Mr. Carville said. “He’s aggressive, but he doesn’t have an in-your-face kind of thing about him. I don’t think he views that as his role. The chances that he’s going to talk to the press are way beyond remote.”

Unsurprisingly, Mr. Kendall declined to comment last week. But he enjoys Mrs. Clinton’s deep confidence. A Denver government lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

“He has their complete trust, and he’s earned their complete trust,” said Robert Barnett, another lawyer for the Clintons and a partner with Mr. Kendall at Williams & Connolly in Washington. “There’s nobody more dedicated to his clients than David Kendall. There’s nobody who spends more time thinking about how to help his clients than David Kendall.”

To critics, that is the problem. Mr. Kendall, who turned over the thumb drive to the Justice Department on Aug. 6, has become so integrated into the Clinton apparatus that he risks crossing the line from lawyer to participant, they said. Two Republican senators wrote him letters in recent weeks questioning his handling of the thumb drive.

“The problem with the Clintons is once you begin working with them or acting as their agent you often get caught up in their scandals,” said Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch, a watchdog group suing over Mrs. Clinton’s email. “So now Mr. Kendall is stuck having to explain his handling of the classified information Mrs. Clinton gave him.”

Michael B. Mukasey, an attorney general under President George W. Bush, said the thumb drive was a concern “insofar as it may contain information that should not be present outside a dot-gov setting that is approved for handling classified information.” He added, “Recall John Deutch,” referring to a former C.I.A. director who faced charges for having classified information on home computers until Mr. Clinton pardoned him.

In a letter to lawmakers, Mr. Kendall noted that although some email messages had recently been deemed classified, none were so designated at the time they were sent. And he noted that he and his law partner Katherine M. Turner both have security clearances. While he did not elaborate, his security clearance appears to stem from his defense of David H. Petraeus, a former C.I.A. director who pleaded guilty to providing classified material to his lover and biographer.

His defenders say Mr. Kendall is nothing if not discreet. “He doesn’t speak out of school. He doesn’t gossip,” said Robert F. Muse, who represented Mr. Petraeus’s paramour, Paula Broadwell. “He takes very seriously the imperatives of dealing with classified information.”

Slender and fastidious, reserved and precise, Mr. Kendall, 71, is hardly the picture of the Washington legal powerhouse. He stays off talk shows, turns down book agents and prefers to speak in letters and legal documents. If he gets to court, he does not pound the lectern or point his finger, but lays out a meticulous set of arguments crafted over many hours.

Yet despite his low profile, he has accumulated an extraordinary roster of high-profile clients. In addition to keeping Mr. Petraeus out of jail, he has defended The National Enquirer against celebrities, overturned a big libel judgment against The Washington Post, waged intellectual property cases for Sony Pictures Entertainment and Disney, and defended Bechtel in Boston’s “Big Dig” investigation. A Salt Lake City intellectual property lawyer has experience confronting businesses, organizations, and individuals regarding intellectual property matters.

“He’s a true Midwestern gentleman, but he’s a true Midwestern gentleman lawyer who will be very prepared and will not shy away from battling when he believes it’s in his client’s interest,” said Lanny A. Breuer, a former White House and Justice Department lawyer who worked alongside Mr. Kendall fighting Mr. Clinton’s impeachment.

Even Mr. Kendall’s antagonist in that episode, Kenneth W. Starr, the former independent counsel, praises him as “one of America’s greatest lawyers,” as he put it in an interview.

“He is going to fight tenaciously, tirelessly hard for his client,” Mr. Starr said. “You’ll get nothing handed to you. You’ll just have to work and work because you know that David will, great lawyer that he is, put up every obstacle that he can as long as he is proceeding professionally.”

Raised in a Quaker family in Sheridan, Ind., by a father who worked as a grain elevator manager and a mother who taught school, Mr. Kendall was educated at Wabash College and came of age in the liberal movements of the 1960s. In 1964, he went to Mississippi during Freedom Summer to register black voters and was arrested several times. A half-century later, the only framed item on his office wall is a receipt from the Marshall County jail for the food he had to pay for during three days behind bars.

He earned a Rhodes scholarship and spent two years at Oxford University, just missing Mr. Clinton, who arrived for the next term. But he later met both Clintons at Yale Law School, where he graduated in 1971. He clerked for a year for Justice Byron White on the United States Supreme Court and then after a year in the Army joined the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc. to work on death penalty cases.

In 1977, he won Coker v. Georgia, a landmark Supreme Court ruling written by Justice White declaring capital punishment unconstitutional for rape. Even after going to work for the celebrated Edward Bennett Williams at the white-shoe firm of Williams & Connolly in 1978, Mr. Kendall continued representing death row inmates, including John Spenkelink, who was executed in Florida the next year.

“He’s unshakable — not in a stone-faced, stern, ‘we’re going to beat the pants off these guys’ way,” said Daniel Dell’Orto, the general counsel for a defense contractor that Mr. Kendall represented and helped win a $277 million verdict. “He’s just very disarming in his very quiet but firm conveyance that he knows how this will turn out.”

Mr. Kendall, who with his wife, Anne, a psychologist, has three children and five grandchildren, is a movie buff who reads scripts of films he has not seen and a voracious reader who recites poetry at length. He played chess by mail with death row clients. He is fascinated by World War I and belongs to a small group that travels every couple of years to European battlefields. Mr. Dell’Orto recalled Mr. Kendall, at dinner one night, discussing at length the Maginot Line, built after the war.

While at the Supreme Court, Mr. Kendall and his fellow clerk, Richard J. Danzig, realized they could not change Justice White’s legal views, so they tried “to change the way he viewed life,” Mr. Danzig recalled. “We began trying to get him to go to the movies or art exhibits, just generally expand his vision of the world. That was largely unsuccessful.”

Mr. Kendall’s biggest moment in the spotlight came during Mr. Starr’s long-running investigation into the Clintons’ Whitewater land dealings and later into whether the president lied under oath to cover up his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Not everyone on the Clinton team was happy with Mr. Kendall. Some political advisers complained the lawyers withheld information or even misled them, and some viewed Mr. Kendall as more worried about a court of law than the court of public opinion.

But the Clintons leaned on Mr. Kendall heavily. “He became an anchor in our lives,” Mrs. Clinton later wrote in a memoir. “David was perfect for the job.”

Now she needs him to be again.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Original Story:

It is a superlative that Suffolk County officials are not bragging about: Every year since at least 2001 the county has recorded more crashes involving alcohol than any other county in New York. Also: More people have died in alcohol-related crashes in Suffolk during that time than anywhere else in the state. A Long Island DUI lawyer represents clients charged with intoxicated driving.

Nassau County has followed in second place in both categories in many of those years, helping to give Long Island a reputation as the drunken-driving capital of New York.

That status seemed to be reaffirmed last weekend when a pickup truck slammed into a limousine carrying eight young women in Suffolk County, killing four and critically injuring two. The driver of the pickup truck was charged with driving while intoxicated. The investigation into the crash continued on Friday, as the region’s restaurants and bars prepared for another busy summer weekend, people planned barbecues and picnics and law enforcement agencies stepped up their vigilance for drunken drivers. An Albany DUI lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

Long Island officials acknowledge the gravity of drunken driving. Yet in interviews this week, they also cautioned against oversimplifying complex crash data, saying that the absolute number of alcohol-related crashes is an incomplete and misleading yardstick when comparing counties and measuring progress in dealing with the problem.

Both Suffolk and Nassau have large populations that are dependent on their cars — unlike, say, the residents of New York City, who have an extensive public transportation system at their disposal. Therefore, while the populations of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens are each much larger than those in Long Island’s two counties, a resident of Long Island is more likely to get behind the wheel of a car than is a resident of New York City, officials said.

In addition, Suffolk is threaded with rural roads on which average driving speeds climb higher than on the congested streets of cities, raising the likelihood of a crash resulting in fatalities, officials said. The law was further strengthened in 2013. A Westchester County criminal defense lawyer is following this story closely.

According to federal statistics, 53 percent of all fatal traffic crashes in the United States in 2013 occurred in rural areas.

While Suffolk and Nassau have generally led the state in alcohol-related crashes, alcohol-related fatal crashes and the number of people killed in those crashes, they drop down the list when the number of those crashes is measured against other factors, such as population size, number of registered vehicles or number of licensed drivers.

“I’m not trying to minimize what happens here,” said Christopher Mistron, coordinator for Nassau’s Stop D.W.I. program. “However, when you take into consideration the number of vehicles on the roadway, the number of drivers and our population, we are actually doing a yeoman’s job in trying to battle D.W.I. incidences.”

The fatal crash last weekend came at the time of year when the populations of Nassau and Suffolk, particularly on the weekends, balloon with visitors.

In a news conference on Friday, Suffolk officials said that a test of blood taken from the driver of the pickup truck about an hour and 40 minutes after the crash found that he had a blood-alcohol content of .066 — below the legal standard for intoxication, which is at or above .08. A Bedford DUI lawyer provides aggressive legal representation in drunken driving cases.

“Standing alone, this number is below the legal standard for a charge of driving while intoxicated,” Thomas J. Spota, the Suffolk County district attorney, told reporters in Riverhead, N.Y. “However, the inquiry does not end there.”

Before he would consider reducing the charges, Mr. Spota said, there were unanswered issues that needed to be resolved, including whether the pickup truck driver, Steven Romeo, was on drugs or using his cellphone at the time of the incident. Investigators also have not spoken to the survivors who were in the limousine, and Mr. Spota said it was crucial that investigators knew more about the speed of the vehicles.

“We have a very emerging picture,” he said. “But it is not a complete picture.”

New York State has gradually tightened its penalties for drunken driving. In 1981, the State Legislature enacted the Stop D.W.I. law, which stiffened penalties for drunken driving and required that every county have an anti-drunken driving program funded by revenues from drunken-driving fines.

New York was also one of the first states to make it an automatic felony to drive drunk with a child in the vehicle on the first offense. The law, known as Leandra’s Law and passed in 2009, also required that all convicted drivers use an ignition interlock device that prevents them from driving their cars if they are drunk.

At the same time, law enforcement agencies around the state have been constantly adjusting and fine-tuning their approach to the problem.

Suffolk County, for instance, now deploys a team of police officers five nights a week to conduct so-called saturation patrols in drunken-driving hot spots. In addition, a special interagency task force does saturation patrols on Long Island’s East End, especially during the summer.

Improvements in car designs, the wider use of seatbelts and the impact of public awareness campaigns have further helped to address the problem in the state as in the rest of the country.

“Kids today get it,” said Richard Finn, Suffolk’s Stop D.W.I. program coordinator. “I’m a creature of the ’60s and ’70s. When I was a kid, D.W.I. wasn’t a big deal.” The authorities’ response to drunken driving at the time was far more cavalier, he recalled. If caught drinking and driving, “a cop would take your keys out of the ignition and throw them in the woods.”

In 2013, Suffolk had 853 alcohol-related crashes — more than 10 percent of the state’s total — of which 51, or 14 percent of the statewide total, were fatal, according to state data. During the same year, Nassau had 548 alcohol-related crashes, of which 26 resulted in a fatality.

By comparison, in 2007, there were 1,024 alcohol-related crashes in Suffolk and 699 in Nassau, grim high-water marks in the past decade. (All of these episodes did not necessarily involve a driver who had been drinking: In collating “alcohol-related crashes,” the state also includes bicyclists and pedestrians who have been drinking and were involved in collisions.)

In March, Mr. Finn said, Suffolk had no drunken-driving fatalities, the first time in about three decades that a month had gone by without a fatal alcohol-related crash on the county’s roadways.

In Nassau, the authorities are now making half as many drunken-driving arrests as they did 20 years ago, Mr. Mistron said. “In 1995, we made upwards of 6,000 D.W.I. arrests in Nassau,” he said. “Now, it’s below 3,000.”

But while alcohol-related crash statistics on Long Island and throughout New York have improved in the past two decades, even as the population has increased, there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done, say officials and activists, who assert that even one drunken-driving death a year is one too many.

“Drunk driving is 100 percent preventable,” said Colleen Sheehey-Church, national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The volume of crashes, she said, is “still ridiculous.”

The challenges of policing the problem were evident late one night this week during a ride-along with the special patrol of the Suffolk County Police Department.

Seven patrol cars — six officers and their supervisor, Sgt. Patrick Detwiler — deployed to Smithtown in western Suffolk to search for drunken drivers. It was an exercise in patience and alertness, as the officers crisscrossed the town, looking for vehicles behaving aberrantly: weaving, driving with the headlights off, abruptly changing speeds or moving unusually slow or unusually fast.

It was a Wednesday night and traffic was well off the weekend peak, but there was still some life in the town’s bars and restaurants and the promise that someone was deep into their drink and bound to make a bad decision.

After a few largely uneventful hours — the officers made a couple of traffic stops but the drivers turned out to be fine — the team made its first arrest. Early Thursday morning, Officer Roger Kleber pulled over a Jeep S.U.V. that had tailgated another car, failed to signal on a turn and driven about 50 miles per hour in a 30 mile-per-hour zone.

The driver was slurring his words; there were half-empty liquor bottles in the car.

Officer Kleber began to tell the driver about the breath alcohol test he was going to administer.

“No, no,” the driver interrupted, his voice mushy. “I know how to do it.” He blew into the testing mechanism.

“Do you know what the legal limit is in New York?” Officer Kleber asked.

“I definitely failed,” the driver declared. He had already been convicted once of driving while intoxicated. The meter read .18 blood alcohol content, well over the legal limit. Seconds later, he was in handcuffs and slumped, droopy-eyed, in the back seat of Officer Kleber’s cruiser.


Original Story:

Three California Highway Patrol officers, a Modesto criminal defense attorney and five others have been arrested in connection with the 2012 killing of Korey Kauffman, a 26-year-old Turlock resident whose body was found more than a year later by hunters in a remote Mariposa County forest. A Denver criminal defense lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

The arrests — on charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy and lying in wait — follow an investigation by the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department with help from the Stanislaus County district attorney's office; police in Turlock, Modesto and Ceres; the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation; and the state Department of Justice.

Frank Clifford Carson, a prominent defense attorney who ran for Stanislaus County district attorney in 2014, is portrayed in a 334-page affidavit in support of the arrest warrants as aggressive; dismissive of help from law enforcement; angered by repeated thefts of antiques, car parts and other materials from his Turlock property; and intent on retaliating against those responsible.

Carson's property backs up to the home where friends last saw Kauffman on March 30, 2012, after he stated that he was going to steal some irrigation pipe stacked in Carson's yard. According to his stepfather, who first reported him missing, Kauffman made a living as a "scrapper" or scavenger of metals. A Westchester County criminal defense attorney represents clients in criminal defense cases involving assault and gun or weapon charges.

Carson was arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder, with enhancements that include lying in wait, false imprisonment, conspiracy and the use of a firearm.

Also arrested on similar charges were his wife, Georgia DeFilippo; Daljit Singh Atwal and Baljit Singh Athwal, owners of the nearby Pop N Cork; Robert Lee Woody, a felon who was already incarcerated on charges related to Kauffman's killing; and Walter Wells, who was stationed with the CHP in Merced but is no longer employed there, according to the agency.

No bail was set for any of them.

Two other CHP officers who work out of Merced — Eduardo Quintanar Jr. and Scott J. McFarlane — were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit a crime and being accessories; each is being held in lieu of $250,000 bail. They have been placed on administrative leave and have had their peace officer powers revoked pending the results of the Highway Patrol's internal investigation.

Carson's daughter was arrested on suspicion of the same counts, with bail set at $50,000.

A spokesman for the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department said he expects the district attorney's office to file charges against the group Monday. No attorneys representing any of those arrested could be reached for comment late Friday.

The affidavit paints a picture of a cozy relationship among the officers and Atwal and Athwal, two brothers who entertained the officers with parties in a back room of their store; the officers allegedly tried to intervene when the brothers came under suspicion.

For years, Carson had been filing complaints about burglaries that he believed stemmed from the home behind his. Wiretaps and seized computers indicated that his daughter expressed concern a little more than a year before Kauffman's disappearance that her father was "freaking out" about the burglaries and was going to be at the property with a gun.

Interviews disclosed in the affidavit also contend that Carson had helped a man bail out of jail so that he could "do something" to the people living at the home behind his and that rumors circulated that he had asked Atwal and Athwal to do the same.

The affidavit states that Woody, the felon, told his son he heard gunshots at Carson's property that night.

Cellphone records placed Athwal in Mariposa County just after Kauffman's disappearance.

The affidavit states that all three CHP officers withheld information during the investigation, and that Wells may have been in possession of Kauffman's cellphone after he is believed to have been killed.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


Original Story:

Bumble Bee Foods agreed to pay $6 million to settle criminal charges Wednesday in the death of a worker who was cooked in an oven with tons of tuna. A Newark criminal lawyer is following this story closely.

District Attorney Jackie Lacey said the settlement is the largest payout in a California workplace-violation death.

Jose Melena, 62, died three years ago in a 270-degree oven at the seafood company's Santa Fe Springs, California, plant after a co-worker mistakenly believed he was in the bathroom and filled a pressure cooker with six tons of canned tuna.

"This is the worst circumstances of death I have ever, ever witnessed," said Deputy District Attorney Hoon Chun, who noted he had tried more than 40 murder cases over two decades. "I think any person would prefer to be - if they had to die some way - would prefer to be shot or stabbed than to be slowly cooked in an oven. " A Grand Rapids personal injury lawyer represents clients in cases in which injury or death occurs due to the negligence of another party.

Bumble Bee, its plant Operations Director Angel Rodriguez and former safety manager Saul Florez had each been charged with three counts of violating Occupational Safety & Health Administration rules that caused a death.

Under the agreement, Bumble Bee will be plead guilty to a misdemeanor of willfully failing to have an effective safety program in January 2017 if it completes several safety measures that include upgrading ovens so workers don't get trapped inside and providing worker training.

"We will never forget the unfathomable loss of our colleague Jose Melena and we are committed to ensuring that employee safety remains a top priority at all our facilities," the San Diego-based company said in a statement.

Florez, 42, of Whittier was sentenced to three years of probation and will face fines and penalties of about $19,000 after pleading guilty to a single felony count of violating a workplace safety rule that caused a death.

Rodriguez, 63, of Riverside, agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor in 18 months and pay about $11,000 after he completes 320 hours of community service and worker safety courses.

The two men had faced up to three years in prison and fines up to $250,000 and the company had faced fines up to $1.5 million.

Melena's family will receive $1.5 million under the settlement. It does not prevent them from also suing the company or receiving workers' compensation funds, Hoon said. A Charleston workers compensation lawyer represents clients in workplace injury cases.

Melena, 62, had been loading pallets of canned tuna into 35-foot-long ovens at the company's Santa Fe Springs plant before dawn Oct. 11, 2012.

When a supervisor noticed him missing, an announcement was made on the intercom and employees searched for him in the facility and parking lot, according to a report by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

His body was found two hours later after the pressure cooker was turned off, cooled and opened.

The state's occupational safety agency previously cited the San Diego-based company for failing to properly assess the danger to employees working in large ovens and fined it $74,000.  A Memphis employee rights lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

Melena's family agreed to the settlement, but declined to comment, prosecutors said.