National Roundup . . .

New Jersey
Burglary suspect reveals plans with ‘butt dial’

BRANCHBURG, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey man has been indicted on burglary charges after police say he inadvertently dialed 911 and let authorities in on his plans.

Police say they heard Scott Robert Esser and an accomplice talk about breaking into homes, emptying drawers and stealing goods. reports Friday that officials described the call as an errant, open-line emergency cellphone call “commonly referred to as a ‘butt dial.’”

The 42-year-old Esser was indicted on burglary, theft and other charges in connection with burglaries in Branchburg and Stafford townships and Berkeley Heights.

Esser was arrested July 29 on the Garden State Parkway. Police say they found jewelry, electronics, $11,300 in bonds and a handgun in his car.

Chief justice set to undergo kidney surgery

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga has cancer and is expected to undergo kidney surgery.

Labarga made the announcement in a statement released last week. He says he is scheduled to have a kidney removed this month.

Under Florida’s Rules of Judicial Administration, Justice Barbara J. Pariente will assume the role of acting chief justice because she has the longest service time.

Labarga became the state’s 56th chief justice and the first of Hispanic descent in 2014.

Appeals court overturns long drug sentence

HOLLIDAYSBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania Superior Court has overturned the longest drug sentence ever imposed in a central Pennsylvania county as “manifestly unreasonable and excessive.”

Blair County Senior Judge Thomas Peoples imposed the 104½- to 216-year sentence four years ago against 43-year-old Gene “Shorty” Carter, of Philadelphia. Carter had been convicted of running a major heroin ring — while still serving time in a halfway house for a previous drug conviction.

The judge, who has since died, imposed mandatory sentences for 16 separate crimes Carter committed, then ran them consecutively.

Although the appeals court upheld those convictions, the Altoona Mirror reports that the court ordered Carter must be resentenced.

The court cited a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision which determined juries must decide whether mandatory sentences are warranted, not judges.

Carter’s resentencing has not been scheduled.

Judge refuses to perform same-sex marriages

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A Marion County judge has asked his clerks to refer couples seeking same-sex marriages to other county judges.

Judge Vance Day, a former chairman of the Oregon Republican Party, is now facing an ethics investigation as a result of that decision.

Spokesman Patrick Korten says Day asked his staff to send same-sex couples elsewhere due to his religious beliefs.

Last week, the Oregon Government Ethics Commission gave Day permission to create a legal defense fund for himself in order to cover such expenses he expects to incur during the investigation.

Day joined the bench in 2011 and has not performed any same-sex marriages. He stopped doing marriages of any kind this past spring. Marion County judges are not required to perform marriages.

Lost body, wrong corpse at viewing leads to lawsuit

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A family is suing an Ohio funeral company after their deceased relative’s body was misplaced and the wrong corpse was displayed for a private viewing.

Seven family members of Nivina Cargill filed the lawsuit Monday against Smoot Funeral Services, which works out of Edwards Funeral Home.

The suit, filed in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, seeks more than $25,000 in both compensatory and punitive damages.

Cargill’s sister, Pamela Merritt, says the suit isn’t about money, it’s about ensuring what happened doesn’t occur to another family.

Merritt says another woman was found in a casket wearing her sister’s clothing when relatives arrived for Cargill’s July 1 viewing.

She says the family waited five hours for staff to find and prepare Cargill’s body.

Court hears case in lawmaker’s defamation suit

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — The Nevada Supreme Court is weighing whether a campaign ad campaign defamed a state senator.

The Nevada Appeal reports that the court heard oral arguments Wednesday in State Sen. Ben Kieckhefer’s suit, which was filed against Republican challenger Gary Schmidt during the June 2014 primary race.

According to Kieckhefer, Schmidt falsely claimed in a commercial that Kieckhefer endorsed Democratic U.S. Sen. Harry Reid’s 2010 re-election bid.

A district court judge granted Kieckhefer a preliminary injunction days before the primary, ordering the commercial pulled from the air.

Schmidt countersued for more than $10,000 and appealed the ruling.

Kieckhefer defeated Schmidt in the District 16 primary race and went on to win the general election.

DA: Constable in shooting of man acted recklessly

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania grand jury says a constable acted recklessly and without justification when he shot a parking ticket scofflaw, paralyzing him from the waist down.

Howard Altemos was charged Thursday with aggravated assault and reckless endangerment. The 57-year-old is free on $75,000 unsecured bail pending a Sept. 25 preliminary hearing.

No one answered a phone number listed for Altemos. Online court records did not list a lawyer to comment on the charges.

Prosecutors say Altemos shot 40-year-old Kevin Christopher McCullers once in the shoulder while he and another constable were serving parking warrants in Whitehall Township in July 2014.

Altemos said he was pinned against a garage wall by McCullers’ car, but the grand jury found McCullers was trying to flee and the constables were not in any danger.