National Roundup

Utah: Court won’t reconsider Utah cross case
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A federal appeals court says it won’t reconsider a case involving 14 memorial crosses on Utah highways that were ruled unconstitutional.

A three-judge panel decided in August that the 12-foot (3.6-meter) high crosses represent an endorsement of Christianity.

The Utah Highway Patrol Association and two state agencies petitioned for a rehearing. They contend the memorials honor fallen officers and encourage safe driving.

The 14 white crosses were first erected in 1998 and are paid for with donations to the association. The American Atheists Inc. filed a lawsuit in 2005 over the crosses’ use of the Highway Patrol shield and argued that the crosses should be removed.

A majority of the judges on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver rejected a rehearing in a split ruling issued Monday.

Massachusetts: Lawyer: Man in pizza prank agrees to pay up
AMHERST, Mass. (AP) — A man wearing a Bob Dylan backstage pass who ordered 178 pizzas from a Massachusetts pizza parlor but never picked them up has agreed to hand over the dough.

A lawyer for the New Jersey man says his client is a “decent enough” guy with no criminal record who felt bad about the prank.

Attorney Sean Cleary did not reveal his client’s name and did not say how much he’ll repay. The pizzas he ordered were worth about $4,000.

Workers at Antonio’s in the college town of Amherst stayed until 5:30 a.m. on Nov. 20 making the pies. The man ordered them shortly after a Dylan concert at the nearby University of Massachusetts.

He said he would return in several hours and deliver them to Dylan’s crew. But he never returned and the manager called police.

Some pizzas were given away, but most were thrown out.

Oklahoma: Army lieutenant’s clemency request denied by court
EDMOND, Okla. (AP) — The mother of a U.S. soldier from Edmond, Okla., who was convicted of unpremeditated murder in a war zone says her son’s clemency request has been denied.

Vicki Behenna says her son Michael told her Wednesday that the request was not approved.

Michael Behenna is an Army lieutenant who was convicted by a military court in 2009 of killing an unarmed Iraqi detainee in Iraq. Behenna said he shot the detainee after the man threw a piece of concrete at him then lunged for his gun.

Behenna was initially sentenced to 20 years in military prison. That sentence has since been reduced to 15 years.

Behenna continues to appeal his conviction to the Army Court of Criminal Appeals.

New York: Man seen in NYC rolling suitcase stuffed with body
NEW YORK (AP) — Police are searching for a man recorded in a surveillance video on a dark New York City street wheeling a suitcase that later was found stuffed with a strangled woman’s body.

The video shows the man rolling the luggage in East Harlem late Tuesday before pausing outside a building. The man looks around and then walks out of the camera’s view, taking the suitcase with him.

A passer-by found the suitcase and the body soon after outside a nearby building about a block from Rao’s, a well-regarded Italian restaurant founded in 1896.

Police say the unidentified woman in the suitcase was black and was in her 20s or 30s. They say she appeared to have a head injury.

The medical examiner’s office say the cause of the woman’s death was neck compression. The death has been ruled a homicide.

Illinois: Reputed mobster convicted in racketeering case
CHICAGO (AP) — A reputed Chicago mobster accused of orchestrating the bombing of a rival video gaming company was convicted of racketeering Wednesday, along with four members of his alleged crew.

Jurors in Chicago had deliberated since late Monday before convicting Michael “The Large Guy” Sarno and his co-defendants.

Sarno’s wife, Nicole, yelled “God!” as a federal judge granted prosecutors’ request that he be taken into custody immediately after the verdict, and his daughter broke down in tears, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Just one co-defendant has been allowed to remain free on bond as they await sentencing on May 23.

Prosecutors alleged that Sarno, 52, ordered two of the four, Mark Polchan, a Cicero jewelry store owner and member of the Outlaws motorcycle gang, and Samuel Volpendesto, the former owner of a Cicero strip club, to bomb the Berwyn offices of C&S Coin Operated Amusements Inc. in February 2003.

The bombing, which destroyed the offices, was meant as a message to the company to stop horning in on a profitable mob business in Chicago’s western suburbs, the government said.

Prosecutors also claimed the enterprise that Sarno allegedly was a part of was responsible for burglaries and thefts, including the armed robbery of a jewelry store in LaGrange Park that netted nearly $650,000 worth of jewelry and other valuables.

The Chicago Tribune reported that jurors had asked for guidance on jury instructions earlier in the day Wednesday.

The six-week trial offered a peek into the inner workings of Chicago-area organized crime, which experts say has been curtailed in recent years by racketeering laws, aggressive federal prosecutors and competition from big-city street gangs or biker syndicates.

The 2007 Family Secrets trial, the biggest such trial in Chicago in decades, was a blow to the area mob, also known as the Chicago Outfit. It ended in life sentences for reputed bosses James Marcello, Frank Calabrese Sr. and Joseph “Joey the Clown” Lombardo.

In Chicago, the mob now allegedly focuses more heavily on running illegal video gaming, with approximately 25,000 machines in bars and restaurants, generating millions of dollars in revenue, according to some estimates.

Its leaders allegedly include Sarno, who weighed as much as 300 pounds and was known for using his bulk to collect mob gambling debts as an enforcer.

Before the trial, Sarno’s attorney, Michael Gillespie, said allegations that his client was linked to the mob were “fanciful.”