Court Roundup

Man gets15 years for killing man over rap battle

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - A Virginia man has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for killing another man over a rap battle.

The Richmond Times-dispatch reports that Keith Epps was convicted last week of second-degree murder in the death of Michael Allen, who was killed at a Richmond apartment complex last August.

Prosecutor Brooke Pettit wrote in court documents that the two men squared off in a rap contest that Epps eventually lost. She said Epps took offense to a line in Allen's rap in which Allen made a disparaging comment about a woman Epps was seeing.

Pettit said that Epps fatally shot Allen in the chest later that day.

Epps entered an Alford Plea, meaning that he acknowledged that prosecutors had enough evidence to secure a conviction, but did not admit guilt.

Ex-New Orleans Mayor Nagin loses another appeal

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has lost the latest appeal of his 2014 corruption conviction.

Nagin is serving a 10-year sentence on charges including bribery, fraud and money laundering. The charges relate to crimes that happened before and after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. He was mayor from 2002 until 2010.

After his lawyers lost earlier appeals, Nagin acted as his own attorney when he asked U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo to throw out his conviction. His motion cited multiple reasons. Among them was his claim that the Supreme Court overturned a conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell in what he called a "practically identical" case.

Milazzo rejected the motion Monday. Her order noted that the Supreme Court rejected Nagin's earlier appeal months after its McDonnell decision.

Lawyer sentenced to 5 years for scamming Barkley, others

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - A lawyer convicted of swindling NBA star Charles Barkley and using the name of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to bolster an investment scam was sentenced to five years in prison Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Karon O. Bowdre also ordered Donald Watkins to pay about $14 million in restitution.

Prosecutors had sought a prison sentence of 17½ years for Watkins and 6½ years for his son, Donald Watkins Jr. Both were convicted on fraud and conspiracy charges earlier this year. The two men stole more than $15 million from investors and a bank, prosecutors said.

Bowdre said she took the elder man's age, 70, into consideration in imposing a lighter sentence, but the term was stiffer than the home confinement requested by Watkins.

The younger Watkins was sentenced later Tuesday to 27 months in prison.

During the pair's trial earlier this year, witnesses including Barkley testified about losing money in an investment scheme run by the elder Watkins.

Barkley, who grew up near Birmingham and now works as a television analyst, described himself as a friend of the elder Watkins, who has split time living in both Alabama and Atlanta.

Barkley lost more than $6 million in investments and loans, prosecutors said, and so did other professional athletes including former NFL players Takeo Spikes and Bryan Thomas and former NBA star Damon Stoudamire.

Stoudamire's wife, Natasha Taylor-Stoudamire, spoke at the sentencing and said she couldn't comprehend what Watkins had done.

"I can't even comprehend how Donald Watkins Sr. and Jr. can take money from me or the rest the victims that were trying to have generational wealth for our children's children," she said, according to .

Rice, a native of Birmingham, testified that Watkins wrongly used her name in promoting an energy business at the heart of the case.

Prosecutors said Watkins included Rice's name in an email to investors although she had declined to get involved.

Watkins once served as a city council member in Montgomery and helped successfully defend HealthSouth Corp. founder Rich­ard Scrushy in a massive fraud that nearly bankrupted the company, now known as Encompass Health. He also has worked on civil rights cases.

More than 15 years ago, Wat­kins drew media attention when he attempted to purchase a major league baseball team. More recently he said he was attempting to purchase the NFL's St. Louis Rams before the team moved to Los Angeles.

Although he portrayed himself as wealthy, prosecutors said Watkins had a net worth of only a few thousand dollars.

Writing in a blog post before the sentencing, Watkins Sr. said he would continue to appeal his conviction and claimed he was innocent.

"Jurors try to do the right thing, more often than not. However, my 46-years of active participation in the American judicial system has shown me (and the world) that well-meaning jurors often convict innocent defendants," Watkins wrote.