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Potential Release of Extradited Money Laundering Suspect in St. Thomas Raises Questions About Prosecution’s Evidence

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An individual, brought from the British Virgin Islands to St. Thomas under federal charges of money laundering and cash smuggling, may soon find himself a free man. This comes after the prosecution signaled a desire to drop the charges against him.

Nyron Erickson was scheduled to face trial this past Tuesday. Nonetheless, in an unexpected twist, a motion filed the previous week by the U.S. Attorney’s Office revealed doubts about the veracity of their evidence. The motion expressed concerns that the evidence at hand might not convince a jury of Erickson’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt”.

Although the motion from August 17 noted that there was no contention from the opposing counsel, Erickson’s defense sharply countered this move. They argued that without a clear commitment from the prosecutors that the charges won’t be reinstated, the court should deny the request for dismissal.

A key point of contention lies in the nature of the dismissal – whether it is “with prejudice” or “without prejudice”. The former would permanently shut the door on the same charges being brought against Erickson, while the latter leaves the possibility of the case being reintroduced.

This uncertainty arose from an alleged verbal agreement between the prosecutors and defense attorneys to dismiss “with prejudice”. Yet, the official motion did not explicitly confirm this. The defense has since emphasized that a dismissal with prejudice is the just course of action.

Nyron Erickson’s legal battle traces back to the arrest of his alleged accomplices, Akil Erickson and Mikiel Robin, in October 2018. Both were apprehended with non-disclosed cash as they traveled from Tortola by ferry. Then, in August 2020, Nyron Erickson surrendered to the authorities in the British Virgin Islands over claims of his involvement in a global money laundering scheme. This culminated in his extradition to the U.S. in February 2023.

Yet, the case against him has been shaky. The defense highlighted that pivotal evidence – the testimony of a significant witness – could not be presented due to the individual’s absence. Moreover, they voiced doubts over the credibility of another piece of evidence, a text message allegedly sent from Nyron to Akil Erickson.

Given the extended period that the prosecution had to solidify their case against Erickson, his defense insists that if charges are to be dropped, it should be a permanent dismissal. The defense’s position is that any other action would simply prolong the ordeal for Erickson, casting prolonged doubts and distress upon him without substantial evidence.

In a related note, the case against Akil Erickson and Mikiel Robin was terminated in June 2020. This decision was propelled by District Court Judge Robert Molloy, who felt the prosecution had intentionally delayed their trial proceedings. Their charges were dropped with prejudice, marking a definitive end to their legal battles.

The court now awaits the government’s counter-response to the defense’s motion, which is due by Thursday, August 24. This case continues to spotlight the intricacies and challenges of international law and prosecution.

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Challenges for U.S. Virgin Islands’ Legislative Priorities Amid Washington Gridlock

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David Schnittger of Squire Patton Boggs outlined the significant hurdles they faced last year in progressing the U.S. Virgin Islands’ policy objectives within a highly partisan environment in Washington. During a recent meeting with the V.I. Public Finance Authority Board, Schnittger explained, “Our efforts in 2023 were dedicated to navigating through the legislative gridlock to advance the agenda of the U.S. Virgin Islands.”

A primary focus for Schnittger’s team was advocating for the permanent extension of rum cover-over rates. He described this effort as a vivid example of the broader congressional stagnation affecting the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. “The 118th Congress has found it challenging to pass legislation across the board, leaving critical initiatives like the rum cover-over extension stalled,” he remarked.

In response to the legislative standstill, Governor Albert Bryan Jr.’s Washington representative, Terry Helenese, has established a weekly working group addressing the cover-over issue. This group includes key stakeholders from both the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, as well as industry representatives.

Beyond legislative advocacy, Squire Patton Boggs has successfully promoted the territory’s policy goals on sustainable energy and economic development by collaborating with federal entities such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy.

Concurrently, the law firm Winston & Strawn is striving to overcome congressional obstacles by working with V.I. Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett. Their goal is to secure earmarks in forthcoming appropriations bills that would fund necessary studies by the Army Corps of Engineers for the dredging of the Charlotte Amalie and Christiansted harbors, a step essential for their re-federalization and subsequent maintenance by the USACE.

Moreover, Winston & Strawn is actively pursuing equitable solutions for the residents of the Virgin Islands, focusing on issues like the unavailability of Supplemental Security Income and the rigid funding cap on Medicaid. “Advocating for fair medical treatment remains a cornerstone of our efforts,” stated Winston & Strawn partner Bryant Gardner.

Despite these extensive efforts by the territory’s representatives in Washington, the members of the PFA board were informed that achieving several key policy goals for the Virgin Islands still hinges on breaking through the ongoing legislative deadlock.

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$12.5 Million Federal Grant Boosts Climate Resilience at Cyril E. King Airport in the USVI

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The Cyril E. King International Airport in St. Thomas has been earmarked for significant infrastructure upgrades, thanks to a generous $12.5 million grant from the Biden administration. This financial boost is directed at augmenting the airport’s resilience in the face of the escalating threats posed by climate change.

Announced on Thursday, this grant is a segment of a broader federal initiative distributing nearly $830 million across 80 projects nationwide. These projects are strategically chosen to reinforce the transportation infrastructure against the adverse effects of extreme weather conditions, including but not limited to flooding, sea-level rise, and heatwaves, which are becoming more frequent and severe due to the climate crisis.

This initiative springs from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, utilizing funds allocated by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law under the PROTECT Discretionary Grant Program.

Secretary Pete Buttigieg, along with FHWA Administrator Shailen Bhatt, emphasized the critical nature of these investments. The duo pointed out the growing threats that climate change poses to the nation’s transportation networks. “America’s transportation infrastructure is increasingly compromised by extreme weather events, ranging from wildfires in California that disrupt freight rail lines to flooding subways in New York. These events not only impede mobility but also threaten economic stability by disrupting supply chains,” Buttigieg remarked.

The project earmarked for the Virgin Islands will concentrate on restoring around 460 feet of shoreline at the airport. This initiative aims to curb flooding and combat shoreline erosion, ensuring the continued operation of both the airport and the adjacent petroleum facility that serves as a vital aviation fuel source during emergencies.

This funding initiative is part of the Biden Administration’s extensive efforts to bolster climate resilience. Over $50 billion has been earmarked for various climate resilience and adaptation projects through legislative measures, showcasing a committed stride towards protecting the nation’s infrastructure from climate-induced challenges and ensuring uninterrupted economic growth.

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Delegate Plaskett Applauds Congressional Approval of Funding Bill, Highlighting Benefits for U.S. Virgin Islands

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Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett has lauded the enactment of the Fiscal Year 2024 appropriations bill, marking a significant milestone with its presidential endorsement. This legislative achievement promises substantial benefits for the U.S. Virgin Islands through a comprehensive funding initiative celebrated for its cross-party backing in both Congressional chambers.

Characterized by its extensive support for economic growth, public safety enhancements, and family assistance nationwide—and by extension, in the Virgin Islands—the bill embodies a commitment to vital societal sectors. According to Congresswoman Plaskett, the legislation channels funds into pivotal areas such as educational initiatives, job training, and accessible, high-quality childcare. “This funding package champions essential services and programs that underpin education, workforce development, and childcare affordability,” Plaskett remarked.

The bill earmarks significant funding across various domains: $1.1 billion is allocated to the Small Business Administration to aid underserved business owners, $20.3 billion is designated for comprehensive disaster recovery efforts, and additional funds are directed towards combating the opioid crisis, specifically fentanyl. It also encompasses contributions towards Rural Health Programs, Career and Technical Education (CTE) State Grants, School-Based Mental Health Services, support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, among other initiatives.

Highlighting the bill’s transformative investments, Ms. Plaskett pointed out the strategic funding for education, healthcare, and climate change mitigation efforts that are critical to the Virgin Islands’ prosperity. “The legislative package makes unprecedented allocations towards Head Start, childcare, educational enrichment, workforce training, and placement programs,” she detailed. The bill also fortifies national defense, underscores the U.S.’s dedication to climate change countermeasures and global health improvement, and boosts funding for border security and cyber-defense.

Congresswoman Plaskett views the bill’s passage as a triumph for House Democrats, who she notes, “successfully protected community investments while countering several detrimental proposals by House Republicans, such as cuts to education and climate change initiatives.”

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