National Roundup

AG attacks school for axing biblical reference

KILLEEN, Texas (AP) - The Texas attorney general is criticizing a school district's decision to remove a portion of a poster that included a biblical verse recited by Linus in the film "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

Attorney General Ken Paxton says in a statement that the so-called Merry Christmas law adopted in 2013 means schools can't "silence a biblical reference to Christmas."

He said Thursday that the decision by officials in Killeen, north of Austin, is an "attack on religious liberty."

But KWTX-TV reports that Killeen administrators argue school employees are not permitted to impose their personal beliefs on students.

A staffer had placed the poster on a school door. It shows Linus and the line from the gospel of Luke: "unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior."

Misogynistic, racist messages get university team suspended

AMHERST, Mass. (AP) - The men's cross-country team at Amherst College in Massachusetts has been suspended from team activities after a number of messages came to light that administrators called racist, misogynistic and homophobic.

The messages surfaced in a report in a student publication, The Indicator, which reported on a series of emails and messages sent from 2013 to 2015. In some messages, female students' pictures are included with comments on their sexual history. Some women are referred to as "meat slabs" or "a walking STD." Many were sent to incoming freshmen.

Administrators on Sunday said team members confirmed the messages, and they are investigating.

Amherst President Biddy Martin calls the messages appalling, vulgar and cruel.

Athletic Director Don Faulstick says the behavior is disgusting and violates the school's zero-tolerance standard for bigotry.

Ex-treasure hunter ordered to tell about missing coins

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A federal judge has ordered a former deep-sea treasure hunter to answer questions about the location of 500 missing gold coins.

Tommy Thompson has been held in contempt of court since last December, when Judge Algenon Marbley in Columbus found he violated a plea deal by refusing to respond.

Marbley on Monday told Thompson to answer questions about the coins within 30 days.

Thompson has said that he told everything he knew during depositions last year. Todd Long, an attorney for Thompson, told Marbley on Monday that nothing has changed from Thompson's perspective.

The coins were minted from gold taken from the S.S. Central America, which sank in an 1857 hurricane.

Juror Facebook posts could impact $2 million jury verdict

MILWAUKEE (AP) - A juror's Facebook posts during a federal civil rights trial could jeopardize a $2 million verdict awarded to a man who claimed he was illegally strip-searched by a Milwaukee police officer.

Jurors last month found that former officer Michael Vagnini had violated Willie Newman's civil rights during a 2010 arrest.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports the city's lawyers have asked the judge to question jurors under oath after the city says it found one juror had posted about the trial on Facebook, and also had shared a post by an anti-police activist.

If the judge determines that outside information entered the deliberations, he could throw out the verdict.

Vagnini was one of four officers convicted of crimes in illegal strip and cavity searches from 2008 to 2012.

Competency questions stall capital murder suspect's trial

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Competency questions have stalled the prosecution of a man charged with capital murder and rape in the death of a woman who was set on fire at a Wichita park.

The Wichita Eagle reports that the arraignment of 28-year-old Cornell McNeal has been on hold for over a year. He's undergoing a second evaluation at a mental health facility in Larned after refusing to speak to his attorneys and the court.

McNeal is accused in a November 2014 attack that left Letitia "Tish" Davis with burns on more than half of her body and cuts on her head. The 36-year-old mother of four died about a week later.

Affidavits show a damaged cellphone and DNA evidence connected McNeal to the attack. Prosecutors are contemplating seeking the death penalty.

New York
Juror comments led judge to toss man's conviction

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) - Prejudicial statements made by a juror to other members of the panel led to the dismissal of a murder conviction of an upstate New York man.

The Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester reports that Monroe County Judge Douglas Randall made the ruling Thursday because of allegations about the juror's comments during the trial and deliberations . Another juror contacted Judge Randall about the comments.

Randall set aside Jalen Everett's Nov. 4 convictions on second-degree murder charges in the fatal shooting of three people outside a Rochester community center last year.

The 21-year-old Everett was charged along with two other men in the August 2015 shooting outside the Boys and Girls Club. Three other people were wounded by the gunfire.

New Hampshire
Sentencing to come for man in decades-old sex assaults case

NORTH HAVERHILL, N.H. (AP) - A New Hampshire man will be sentenced this week in a sexual assault case that dates back more than two decades.

The Concord Monitor reports 55-year-old Kevin Drown, of Webster, is scheduled to appear in Grafton County Superior Court Thursday morning for a sentencing hearing.

Prosecutors say Drown was convicted in an Oct. 26 jury trial of three counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault and one count of felonious sexual assault between August 1988 and August 1990.

Drown was indicted in February. Court documents say the assaults happened in Bristol when the female victim was between 6 and 8 years old.

Published: Tue, Dec 13, 2016