National Roundup

Attorney general rejects donations from drugmakers

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma’s attorney general is refusing all political donations from prescription drug manufacturers and distributors.

Attorney General Mike Hunter received $3,500 in donations from political action committees associated with drugmakers in July and August. He returned those donations last month.

“Given what we’re dealing with on the opioid oversupply issue, I felt that it was important to establish complete independence and separation from any drug manufacturer or distributor as a part of my campaign fundraising,” Hunter said.

Hunter has so far raised $390,920, according to his latest report.

“He did not think it was appropriate to accept campaign donations from any opioid manufacturer — even those not involved in the lawsuit,” said Robyn Matthews, Hunter’s campaign manager. “Mike Hunter will always do the right thing.”

Hunter has prioritized fighting the opioid epidemic since he was appointed in February by Republican Gov. Mary Fallin, The Oklahoman newspaper reported. Hunter plans to run for a full four-year term in 2018.

Hunter has helped create and leads the Oklahoma Commission on Opioid Abuse.

Hunter is also suing several pharmaceutical companies, accusing them of fraudulent marketing claims.

He has urged U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to pursue opioid manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

Ex-deputy charged with inmate-abuse sentenced to jail

SUMMIT COUNTY, Utah (AP) — A former Utah deputy charged in an inmate-abuse investigation at a rural jail has been sentenced to four months behind bars.

Court records show 27-year-old Joshua J. Cox was sentenced Monday after pleading guilty to charges alleging he stunned inmates with a Taser and used them for police-dog training.

His lawyer Loni DeLand has said the incidents were “fun and games” between inmates and guards, though he acknowledged they shouldn’t have happened.

State Attorney General Sean Reyes called the treatment “unbelievably inhumane.”

Two other Daggett County officials, the former sheriff and jail commander, also pleaded guilty to charges in the investigation that led to the closure of the 80-bed Daggett County jail.

House unveils  shakeup in criminal justice 

BOSTON (AP) — Sweeping changes in Massachusetts’ criminal justice laws proposed Monday by House leaders would toughen penalties for habitual drunken drivers and those who traffic in deadly synthetic opioids, but also eliminate some mandatory minimum sentences and allow certain past crimes, including marijuana possession, to be expunged from a person’s record.

The bill makes “meaningful, workable and sustainable” reforms, ranging from pre-trial diversion programs and bail guidelines to new standards for solitary confinement in state prisons, said Democratic House Speaker Robert DeLeo.

The full House will debate the legislation next week, setting the stage for negotiations with the Senate, which last month approved its own version of a criminal justice overhaul. DeLeo said he hopes a compromise bill will be sent to Republican Gov. Charlie Baker early in 2018.

While the House and Senate concur on many elements, they diverge in several key areas. The House did not back a Senate provision to raise the age for juvenile court jurisdiction from 18 to 19, nor would the House alter statutory rape laws to decriminalize consensual sex between minors close in age.

Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said the legislation seeks a balance between public safety and fairness.

“How do we make sure that we deal with a criminal justice system that hasn’t been just?” the Boston Democrat asked rhetorically during a briefing with reporters.

Sanchez said his Boston district continues to be hit hard by drugs and gun violence, noting the recent shooting death of a 16-year-old boy in one of the city’s public housing communities. But too many people who get into trouble at a young age also face insurmountable obstacles when trying to turn their lives around, he added.

“What we have attempted to do is address the criminal justice every step of the way, from a person’s first contact with the criminal justice system through the courts and right up until the end, after a person has been incarcerated and re-enters society” said House Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Claire Cronin, an Easton Democrat.

The House bill would, for the first time ever, allow people to petition the courts to expunge from their criminal records certain crimes committed before age 21. A person of any age could seek to expunge crimes that no longer are illegal in Massachusetts, such as possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The bill would reclassify fentanyl and carfentanil as Class A drugs, equivalent to heroin, creating what DeLeo said would be the nation’s toughest penalties for the synthetic opioids that are blamed for escalating the state’s devastating overdose crisis.
The House also proposes beefed-up sentences for people who are repeatedly caught drinking and driving, including up to 10 years in prison for anyone with nine or more drunken-driving offenses.

The House appeared to respond to concerns raised by a majority of the state’s district attorneys about the scope of the Senate bill.

Unlike the Senate, the House bill would not retroactively eliminate mandatory minimum sentences, which prosecutors argued could result in early release for some convicted drug traffickers.

The prosecutors also opposed raising to 19 the age at which a person is consider an adult under the law as well as a Senate provision increasing from $250 to $1,500 the threshold at which larceny is considered a felony. The House bill would set that threshold at $750.

Ex-coach ends whistleblower suit against PSU

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — A former Penn State assistant football coach has ended his defamation and whistleblower lawsuit against the university.

Court records show Mike McQueary’s attorney filed for the lawsuit to be discontinued and ended with prejudice Friday, meaning the lawsuit cannot be brought back to court.

McQueary filed his lawsuit against the university in 2012 after he lost his job following the firing of former head coach Joe Paterno. He later testified during the child sex abuse case against the school’s former defensive football coach Jerry Sandusky.

McQueary was awarded more than $12 million last year after his civil suit trial. The university had been filing a series of appeals in an attempt to overturn the verdict.

Neither side has disclosed if a settlement has been reached.