National Roundup

Trial underway for woman in vodka death of disabled child

ST. JOHNSBURY, Vt. (AP) — A Vermont woman is on trial for manslaughter in the death of her disabled son who had vodka poured into his feeding tube.

The trial of 41-year-old Melissa Robitille of Hardwick, began Monday in Vermont Superior Court in St. Johnsbury.

Robitille is facing the charge stemming from the 2014 alcohol poisoning death of 13-year-old Isaac Robitille, who prosecutors say was blind, had no ears, had a cleft palate and had developmental delays.

Last year, Robitillle’s former boyfriend Walter Richters was sentenced to three years in prison for his role in Isaac’s death.

The Caledonian Record reports Richters testified he watched Robitille pour the vodka into her son’s feeding bag.

Robitille’s attorney, Robert Sussman, told the jury on Monday that Richters fed the vodka to the child.

Lawsuit blames bad cremation unit rebuild for mortuary fire

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — An Omaha mortuary and its insurers have sued a Pennsylvania company, alleging that it didn’t properly rebuild a cremation machine blamed for a fire that injured four people.

The Jan. 26, 2016, blaze heavily damaged the Heafey-Hoffmann-Dworak-Cutler funeral chapel. The lawsuit was filed last month by Heafey’s corporate entity and Cincinnati Casualty Co. and Cincinnati Indemnity Co. They seek a jury trial and at least $5.75 million from Matthews International Corp., which is based in Pittsburgh. A company spokeswoman declined to comment Tuesday.

The bodies and cremains of deceased people that had been in the burning structure later were taken to other mortuaries owned by the company.

Co-owner Bill Cutler said Tuesday that the rebuilding is expected to be completed in September.

Woman admits to embezzling $750,000 from former astronaut

SEATTLE (AP) — An Orcas Island bookkeeper has pleaded guilty to federal charges for embezzling more than $750,000 from a former NASA astronaut and his wife.

The Seattle Times reports Sarah Elizabeth Coffelt pleaded guilty to wire fraud Monday as part of a plea deal.

Court documents say an Orcas Island couple hired Coffelt in 2003 to keep records of their two family businesses.

Under the plea agreement, Coffelt admitted she stole from her employers to cover the costs associated with her own business, an arts and crafts store in Eastsound. She also used the couple’s money to pay for family trips and her mortgage.

Judge tosses adultery-related suit from Satanist

CHICAGO (AP) — It’s not every day that federal judges grapple with issues of Satanism and adultery.

But Judge Amy St. Eve in Chicago dealt with both Monday in tossing a lawsuit from a self-described Satanist. David Mayle challenged various Illinois laws, including one still on the books prohibiting adultery. He said in the January lawsuit that Satanism encourages adultery.

The Chicago man said the adultery ban violates his constitutional rights to free expression. Mayle described the lawsuit as a pre-emptive action to prevent his unlawful arrest. He added the state’s anti-adultery law had “a chilling effect” on his “future relationships.”

St. Eve said 20 states still have anti-adultery laws, but don’t enforce them. Illinois last did in the 1970s. She cited those factors in ruling Mayle had no grounds to sue.

Copyright lawsuit over Ed Sheeran hit song settled

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A copyright infringement lawsuit over Ed Sheeran’s hit “Photograph” has been settled.

A federal judge in Los Angeles dismissed the case on Monday based on a request by attorneys for Sheeran and the composers of a song called “Amazing.”

The composers, Martin Harrington and Tom Leonard, claimed “Photograph” was nearly identical in pitch, tempo and structure to their song.

The terms of the settlement were not included in court filings. Harrington and Leonard’s attorney Richard S. Busch said he could only confirm the case was settled.

“Photograph” topped pop charts throughout the world and sold more than 3.5 million copies.

“Amazing” was recorded and released as a single by Matt Cardle, winner of the 2010 season of TV’s “The X Factor.”

Judge to rule on murder case linked to ex-cop

CHICAGO (AP) — Closing arguments have been heard in a case of two men who have been imprisoned since 1995 for a double murder they say they did not commit.

Cook County Judge James Linn on Monday heard from prosecutors and attorneys for Roberto Almodovar and William Negron.

Detective Reynaldo Guevara helped gather evidence against the men. The Chicago Tribune reports the detective has since been accused of coercing witnesses on multiple occasions.

The attorneys for the 40-year-old Negron and 41-year-old Almodovar argued Guevara’s pattern of misconduct necessitates a new trial. Assistant State’s Attorney Celeste Stack said none of the accusations against Guevara have been proven.

Almodovar and Negron were convicted on eyewitness testimony. One witness has since recanted his testimony. A state appellate court ruled in 2015 the case deserved closer scrutiny.

The judge is expected to issue a ruling at an April 20 hearing.

Bill: ‘Deadbeat parents’ would lose benefits

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Social workers, lawyers and a nonprofit focused on ending hunger are among the groups opposing a bill in the Wisconsin Legislature that would take away food stamps from parents who miss child support payments.

The proposal from Republican Rep. Joe Sanfelippo is the subject of a public hearing Tuesday by the Assembly Committee on Public Benefit Reform.

Under the proposal, parents who refuse to acknowledge paternity or are late on child support payments wouldn’t be eligible for FoodShare benefits. FoodShare is a federally funded food stamp program for low-income households.