National Roundup

New York
Judge: Mental exam for man accused of killing 3

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) — A defense lawyer suggested Monday that a man accused of fatally stabbing three women over 20 years may be mentally disabled, but relatives of the victims suggested the suspect was just trying to avoid life in prison.
Lucius Crawford, of Mount Vernon, pleaded not guilty in Westchester County Court as he was arraigned on murder charges in two of the killings. A third case is being prosecuted in the Bronx.
Crawford, 60, has already spent about half his life in prison for nonfatal stabbings of women in New York and North Carolina going back to the 1970s.
His lawyer, Angelo MacDonald, entered not-guilty pleas and then asked Judge Barbara Zambelli to order a mental health evaluation. He said the request was based on meetings with Crawford and on a doctor’s report from the 1990s that said “my client’s IQ is 64 and he was labeled mildly retarded.”
In court on Monday, Crawford wore a dress shirt and tie, and had closely cropped gray hair. He did not speak.
Crawford is accused of killing Tonya Simmons, 41, on Dec. 4. Her body was found in Crawford’s Mount Vernon apartment by officers from Yonkers and New York City who were looking for Crawford in connection with two cold-case killings. A recent DNA match had linked Crawford to those killings, police said.
One of the cold-case killings was the stabbing of Learonda Shealy, 23, of Yonkers, in 1993. The case in Westchester also charges Crawford with that killing.
Crawford was indicted last month in the 1993 killing of Nella West, 38, whose body was found in the Bronx.
After the judge granted the request for a mental exam, relatives of Simmons and Shealy took issue with it.
Arlene Perkins, of Yonkers, Shealy’s mother, said that if Crawford tries to avoid prison or even just succeeds in delaying a trial, “It’s going to make the whole process worse for us.”
“Don’t play on our sympathy saying you’re crazy,” said Elizabeth Thompson of the Bronx, a cousin of Simmons. “He’s not crazy at all.”
Simmons’ aunt, Waheebah Wajid of Beacon, said, “I don’t want to hear this nonsense about him being insane.”

U.S. pastor sentenced to 8 years in Iran

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A U.S. pastor who has been jailed in Iran since September has been sentenced to eight years in prison, the U.S. State Department said Sunday.
Spokesman Darby Holladay said the department is calling on Iran to respect Saeed Abedini’s human rights and release him.
Earlier this month, Iran’s semi-official news agency, ISNA, quoted Abedini’s attorney, Nasser Sarbazi, as saying his client stood trial in the Revolutionary Court on charges of attempting to undermine state security by creating a network of Christian churches in private homes.
The pastor, who is of Iranian origin but lives in Boise, Idaho, has rejected the charges.
“Mr. Abedini’s attorney had only one day (Jan. 21) to present his defense, so we remain deeply concerned about the fairness and transparency of Mr. Abedini’s trial,” Holladay said.
Following the court presentation, ISNA quoted Sarbazi as saying the court would issue its verdict later, and that Abedini would be allowed to leave Iran and meet his family in the U.S. after posting bail.
“The promise of his release was a lie,” said the pastor’s wife, Naghmeh. “With today’s development, I am devastated for my husband and my family. We must now pursue every effort, turn every rock, and not stop until Saeed is safely on American soil.”

Bill would allow parole for some juvenile killers

BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Deval Patrick has filed legislation that would eliminate mandatory life sentences without parole for teens under 18 convicted of first-degree murder.
The measure filed Monday would also raise the age for juvenile court jurisdiction from 17 to 18 in Massachusetts.
Under current state law, teens as young as 14 can be tried as adults for first-degree murder. Conviction on first-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence without parole in Massachusetts.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles are unconstitutional. Patrick’s bill would still allow life sentences without parole for juveniles under certain circumstances.

2 Houston cops face charges in cocaine scheme

HOUSTON (AP) — Two police officers have been charged with accepting bribes and allowing cocaine to be smuggled and distributed in the Houston area.
Federal prosecutors on Monday announced the arrest of Houston police Officer Emerson Canizales of Kingwood and Officer Michael Miceli of Humble (UHM’-buhl).
Both face court appearances on charges of conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute and accepting bribes for protection services.
The indictment was returned last Wednesday. Canizales and Miceli were arrested Sunday as they reported for duty.
Investigators say the 26-year-old officers in late December conspired to possess cocaine and received $1,000 payments for providing protection.
Police Chief Charles A. McClelland Jr. says the officers were relieved of duty with pay pending the outcome of the investigation.

Philadelphia drops charges in abuse case

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — As expected, Philadelphia prosecutors will step aside so federal authorities can pursue charges accusing a paroled killer and others of kidnapping mentally disabled adults for their disability checks.
City prosecutors on Monday dropped charges against 52-year-old Linda Weston, her daughter and two others.
Federal prosecutors will now pursue charges that include hate crimes and two murder counts.
The defendants are due in federal court Monday afternoon for a brief appearance. A fifth defendant has been added to the case.
Authorities rescued five disabled adults from a locked Philadelphia basement in late 2011, and say they had been starved and beaten over the years. They also removed eight juveniles from Weston’s care.
Weston previously served time for the slow starvation death of a man locked in her Philadelphia apartment.