National Roundup

Man serving 2 life terms gets 50 years more in murder plot

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A man serving two life sentences for causing a massive Indianapolis house explosion has had 50 years added to his prison time for trying to have a witness killed.

A Marion County judge ordered the additional sentence Wednesday against 47-year-old Mark Leonard. A jury convicted Leonard last week of conspiracy to commit murder for attempting to hire a hit man to kill a key witness in the house explosion case.

Leonard was convicted in 2015 of blowing up his then-girlfriend’s house with a natural gas explosion to claim insurance money. The November 2012 blast killed a couple who lived next door and damaged or destroyed more than 80 houses.

Leonard received two life sentences without parole, plus 75 years. Four other people have also been convicted in the house explosion.

Police: Man in lingerie fought, threatened police officers

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh police say a man who was found semi-conscious behind the wheel of a car while wearing pink lingerie fought with officers and threatened them.

Police say 51-year-old Daniel Marchese was exposing himself when they arrived to find him in the running car that was stopped in the middle of an intersection Monday afternoon. Police also say they found an open bottle of whiskey and two guns in the vehicle.

Online court records show Marchese was still in custody awaiting arraignment Tuesday on charges including drunken driving, indecent exposure, aggravated assault and weapons offenses. The records don’t list a defense attorney.

New York
Dentist cleared in fatal poisoning sentenced to prison for fraud

KINGSTON, N.Y. (AP) — A Hudson Valley dentist cleared of murder charges in the poisoning death of his ex-lover’s husband has been sentenced to seven years in state prison for unrelated convictions.

The Daily Freeman of Kingston reports 49-year-old Gilberto Nunez, of Poughkeepsie, was sentenced Tuesday in Ulster County Court to the maximum term for his convictions last year on fraud and theft charges.

Nunez was charged with insurance fraud and lying on a pistol permit application. He was convicted of a total of 12 felonies at three separate trials.

Nunez, who had a dental practice in Kingston, was acquitted earlier in 2016 of charges that accused him of fatally poisoning a 44-year-old Saugerties man in 2011.

Prosecutors claimed Nunez was having an affair with the man's wife and wanted her husband out of the way.

New York
Facebook takes search warrant challenge to state’s top court

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Facebook and Manhattan prosecutors went to New York state’s highest court Tuesday to settle a legal dispute over search warrants for users’ accounts, a closely watched case with big implications for online privacy.

An attorney for Facebook told the judges that it must be allowed to object when law enforcement seeks search warrants for its users’ information. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. argued it is up to individual Facebook users to fight any effort to obtain personal information for criminal investigations.

Prosecutors sought search warrants in 2013 for the accounts of 381 people in connection with a disability benefits fraud case against New York City police and fire retirees.

The Menlo Park, California-based social media company challenged the warrants, but lower courts sided with prosecutors, ruling that Facebook didn’t have legal standing to object since the target was information about possible suspects — not Facebook. Facebook turned over the data but has continued to contest the actions of prosecutors.

Facebook attorney Thomas Dupree said the search warrants were unprecedented in their scope. Facebook regularly works with law enforcement but has to be allowed to object when it feels a search warrant is overly broad, he said.

“This case involves the DA’s seizure of the most personal and intimate information imaginable,” Dupree said. “These are people’s private thoughts and communications, on their lives, their identities, their families, their politics, their religion, their sexuality, all captured in the DA’s dragnet.”

Vance said anyone whose Facebook information is seized has the right to sue prosecutors for damages or challenge the admissibility of the evidence in court. He also noted that prosecutors must go before a judge before obtaining search warrants.

“Law enforcement is always going to be bumping up against people’s privacy,” he said. The search warrants for social media posts, he added, are “really no different than if we issued a search warrant into someone’s house and took books and records or a car or a safe deposit box.”

In the alleged disabilities fraud case against police and fire retirees, prosecutors sought the social media content in an attempt to show the retirees were leading active lives and lying about disabilities.

A decision is expected within a few months.

Federal judge refuses to lift order delaying state’s executions

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A federal judge has refused to lift his order delaying Ohio’s executions after declaring the state’s new lethal injection process unconstitutional.

Magistrate Judge Michael Merz last month rejected Ohio’s use of a sedative used in problematic executions in Arizona and Ohio.

The judge also barred Ohio from using drugs that paralyze inmates and stop their hearts.

Attorneys for Ohio’s prison system asked the judge to lift the order, saying his decision would likely be overturned on appeal.

Merz stood by his ruling in a written opinion Tuesday. He said the state is overstating the significance of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year regarding the permissibility of the sedative midazolam.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati will hear the case Feb. 21.