National Roundup

New York
Lawyers charged with torching police car released on bail

NEW YORK (AP) — Two Brooklyn lawyers have been released on bail pending their trial on federal charges of torching an empty police vehicle during a protest following the death of George Floyd.

Colinford Mattis, 32, and Urooj Rahman, 31, left the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn on Tuesday after an appeals court ruled 2-1 to release them to home confinement with electronic monitoring.

Prosecutors say Rahman threw what they described as a Molotov cocktail  into a police vehicle during a May 30 protest. They said they found a lighter, a beer bottle filled with toilet paper and a gasoline tank in the back of a minivan driven by Mattis. No one was injured in the attack.

Federal prosecutors had argued that “irreparable harm” would result if the attorneys were released before their trial on charges that could put them in prison for nearly 50 years.

But Judge Peter Hall of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals noted that neither lawyer had a criminal record and both had deep ties to the community. “The conditions of release contain provisions that impede defendants’ ability to engage in criminal activity,” Hall wrote in the majority opinion.

Jon O. Newman dissented, saying that Rahman and Mattis “remain a risk to being provoked again to take additional dangerous actions” and that that risk “creates a danger to the community.”

The pair were released after they each posted $250,000 bond. Rahman’s lawyer, Paul Schectman, told the Daily News, “Urooj’s family and hundreds of supporters could not be more pleased with today’s decision that reunites her with her mother. It is the first step on the road to justice in this case.”

Leader of scheme that caused bank collapse set for release from jail

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — The leader of a fraud scheme that precipitated the collapse of Bank of the Commonwealth nearly a decade ago will soon be released from federal prison amid concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, according to court documents.

Ed Woodard, the 77-year-old former bank president, has served less than a third of a 23-year sentence he received in November 2013 for multiple bank fraud and related charges, The Virginian-Pilot reported. Woodard was granted compassionate release last Friday by U.S. District Judge Raymond Jackson, who presided over the 10-week trial and sentencing.

Jackson wrote that Woodard’s age and many health problems — which include heart disease, diabetes and morbid obesity — leave him particularly vulnerable to the virus.

Before he can be released, Woodard must complete a two-week quarantine at Fort Dix, the federal prison in New Jersey where he’s been housed the past several years. Once out, he will be required to spend five years on home confinement.

In February 2019, after years of denying wrongdoing, Woodard confessed to perpetrating the fraud in the hopes of getting a new trial and possibly a shorter sentence. His strategy failed.

Last August, Woodard began asking for a compassionate release after he suffered a series of heart attacks. He later requested release due to the COVID-19 threat. The federal Bureau of Prisons denied them all, noting he hadn’t served at least half of his sentence as is typically required.

Prosecutors objected to his release in a 30-page court document, arguing that while there have been numerous positive coronavirus tests at the medium security camp at Fort Dix, there haven’t been any in the low-security area where Woodard is housed. The medium security section also hasn’t had any positive cases since May 6.

Two other bank officials were found guilty in the conspiracy, including Woodard’s son, Brandon.

Man gets 3 years in prison for spiking ex’s tea with meth

ROANOKE, Va. (AP) — A Virginia man has been sentenced to three years in prison for spiking his ex-girlfriend’s pitcher of tea with methamphetamine.

The Roanoke Times reports that Elvis Jarrett Mullins, 41, of Troutville, was sentenced on Friday.

Authorities said he broke into his ex’s Roanoke house. The woman returned home, consumed the tea and “felt drugged,” prosecutors said.

Hospital tests later showed a positive result for amphetamines. The woman was otherwise not injured.

Mullins has already served about 15 months. He pleaded no contest in November to breaking and entering and to adulterating food or drink.

Mullins also has taken part in a drug rehabilitation program and apologized.

Judge David Carson said Mullins’ actions could have been disastrous if the couple’s young son also drank the tea.

“You can’t tell me you were certain it wasn’t going to be both of them” drinking it, Carson told him. “Can you imagine where you’d be if either or both of them had been hurt?”

Pharmaceutical industry sues to block Minnesota insulin law

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The drug industry is suing to overturn a Minnesota law that took effect Wednesday that requires them to provide emergency and longer-term insulin supplies to diabetics who can’t afford them.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, also known as PhRMA, filed a lawsuit in federal court in Minnesota late Tuesday, just hours before the law took effect, asking the court to declare the law unconstitutional and issue a permanent injunction against enforcement.

The trade group said in a statement that the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act violates the takings clause of the constitution because it forces insulin makers to give their product to Minnesotans for free, without any compensation from the state in return. The group blames health plans and pharmacy benefit managers for the high costs of insulin.

The law is named for Alec Smith, an uninsured 26-year-old Minneapolis man who died in 2017 of complications from rationing his insulin. He couldn’t afford the $1,300 per month he needed for the drug and test supplies after he aged off his mother’s insurance.

The pharmaceutical industry raised the constitutionality issue during the Legislature’s long debate over the act, but supporters expressed confidence then that the law would survive a court challenge.