Court Digest

Man who stalked ex-wife and kids gets 10 years

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A federal judge has sentenced a man convicted of stalking his ex-wife and two daughters from New Mexico to Oregon after they moved, changed their names, obtained protective orders and guns to protect themselves.

U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mosman sentenced Oscar Adrian Marquez Monday to 10 years in prison, describing him as unusually unhinged, unusually obsessed with his victims and manipulative, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

Marquez, 47, also was convicted of cyberstalking and three counts of interstate violation of a protective order after a November trial.

When his wife ended the marriage, which she testified at trial was marked by physical and emotional abuse, she said her fear of Marquez didn’t subside. Although they traveled more than 1,000 miles to get away from Marquez and start a new life, it was not enough, prosecutor Ashely R. Cadotte told jurors at trial.

About 11 a.m. on July 29, 2019, she spotted him driving in front of her their new home in Oregon.

Portland police arrested Marquez after he drove by a third time. Inside the car police found gloves and a mask in the driver’s door panel and a replica BB gun under the driver’s seat.

Marquez denied he wanted to threaten anybody, said he didn’t remember passing by the home and was in Portland because he was thinking of starting a tattoo shop, according to his trial testimony.

New York
Ghislaine Maxwell’s July trial is postponed until the fall

NEW YORK (AP) — The July trial for Ghislaine Maxwell on charges that she aided ex-boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein in the sexual abuse of teenage girls was postponed to the fall on Monday.

U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan said a delay of a trial scheduled for July 12 of a few months was reasonable as she directed defense lawyers and prosecutors to settle on a date by next week.

She urged “the earliest possible date this fall.”

“No additional delay is necessary or in the interests of justice,” she wrote in an order.

Maxwell, 59, sought a trial delay  after prosecutors added sex trafficking charges to the case against her in late March.

The new charges in a superseding indictment added a fourth accuser and stretched the timeline of the allegations from three years to a decade.

Maxwell’s lawyers had requested at least three additional months to prepare for trial but urged a date early next year because of the difficulty of investigating the new charges during a pandemic and meeting with a client who remains jailed without bail under conditions they say are onerous.

Prosecutors opposed the request, saying the rewritten indictment did not require a lot of additional work by the defense.

Maxwell, arrested last July, has pleaded not guilty to all charges and her lawyers filed numerous arguments challenging them. So far, Nathan has denied efforts to dismiss some or all charges.

Nathan has denied bail three times, finding Maxwell to be a risk of flight, and the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld her decision to reject a $28.5 million bail package that would include 24-hour armed guards to ensure Maxwell made it to court.

Judges on the appeals court expressed concern that Maxwell was repeatedly awakened at night by guards who make sure she’s still breathing every 15 minutes. They questioned why she wasn’t given an adequate face mask to aid her sleep.

Nathan has ordered the government to explain the sleep disruptions. Maxwell’s lawyers maintain their client is being unjustly treated because prison officials are embarrassed that Epstein took his own life in a federal Manhattan lockup in August 2019 as he awaited a sex trafficking trial.

Judge to rule next week in NRA bankruptcy trial

DALLAS (AP) — Are the leaders of the National Rifle Association abusing the legal system to duck accountability for their mismanagement? Or are they making a legitimate move to reorganize in the face of an attack from politicians bent on dismantling the powerful gun-rights group?

A federal judge in Dallas was left to weigh those competing narratives following closing arguments Monday in the NRA’s bankruptcy trial. Judge Harlin Hale said he expects to issue a written ruling early next week in the case over whether the NRA can move its incorporation from New York to Texas.

Lawyers for the NRA and the state of New York clashed on how to interpret the case, but they broadly agreed its outcome will define the future of an organization that has long dominated America’s gun debate.
The NRA filed for bankruptcy in January, five months after New York’s Democratic attorney general sued in a separate effort to disband the group over alleged financial abuses.

The trial closed Monday after 11 days of arguments and testimony that laid bare the NRA’s inner workings and offered a rare window into the work of its embattled and notoriously secretive leader, Wayne LaPierre. The competing sides left Hale with a variety of ways to resolve the Chapter 11 proceeding.

Lawyers for New York and Ackerman McQueen, an Oklahoma City-based advertising agency that says the NRA owes it more than $1 million, cast the case as a desperate but clumsy abuse of federal bankruptcy law to stymie the work of New York regulators and law enforcement. They asked that it be dismissed or that Hale appoint a trustee to oversee the NRA.

A lawyer for the U.S. trustee’s office, which is part of the Justice Department, also asked Hale to dismiss the case or appoint an outside monitor.

The NRA’s attorney portrayed dismissal or the appointment of a trustee as potential death blows to the 150-year-old organization and asked the judge to let it proceed with reorganizing. He argued that the allegations of financial abuse were exaggerated and that the NRA has gone through a “course correction.” He said the case would facilitate a legitimate move to a state where the group is supported and was not an effort to duck New York’s suit.

Though headquartered in Virginia, the NRA was chartered as a nonprofit in New York in 1871. Moving its incorporation to Texas would complicate New York’s case against the group.

A small group of NRA board members who have been skeptical of LaPierre’s leadership also weighed in, asking the judge to appoint someone to investigate the management and workings of the NRA and to report their findings to the 76-member board.

Charges raised to capital murder in toddler’s death

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama grand jury has upgraded charges to capital murder against a father accused of involvement in his 2-year-old son’s blunt force trauma death, according to recently released court documents.

Demetric Hampton Sr., 27, was initially charged with murder in Demetric Hampton Jr.’s death almost exactly one year ago, news outlets reported. A Jefferson County grand jury increased the charges last month and added an aggravated child abuse charge, reported Monday, citing unsealed court documents.

The boy’s stepmother, Terrica Harris, was also indicted on an aggravated child abuse charge.

Authorities in Center Point were called to a home in May 2020 on a report that a child was not breathing, officials have said. When law enforcement arrived, Hampton and Harris told officers the child began to choke while eating, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Joni Money told news outlets Friday.

The 2-year-old was taken to a Birmingham hospital, where doctors discovered he had multiple injuries and burns that were not consistent with the initial explanation, Money said. The toddler died about an hour later.

Last week, two Birmingham attorneys filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the child’s estate against the Alabama Department of Human Resources alleging the agency returned the child to his father and stepmother after they had been involved in a separate April 2020 domestic violence and child endangerment case.

According to the lawsuit, Hampton had prior offenses before Demetric’s death and the department had previously taken custody of his oldest daughter. The attorneys argued that the department was aware of the history and violated policy by placing the child back with his father and stepmother.

The agency has refused comment, citing pending litigation.

Hampton has been held in Jefferson County Jail since his May 2020 arrest.

It was not immediately clear where he or Harris had attorneys who could comment for them.

Family seeks $1M after man died in police custody

BELLINGHAM, Wash. (AP) — The son of a man who died while in Bellingham police custody has filed a precursor to a lawsuit with the city over his father’s death.

Documents obtained by The Bellingham Herald say Joshua Eldard filed a claim in March seeking $1 million in damages for the death of Robert Eldard, also known as Robert Gagnon.

As of Thursday, the city had not responded to Joshua Eldard’s claim but city officials said they plan to respond, the newspaper reported.

In the claim, it says on March 14, 2018, less than eight minutes transpired from the time Eldard was restrained on the ground by Bellingham Police officers to the time he lost consciousness. Police had responded to a call at a former homeless center for a man who was exhibiting signs of mental and medical crises and appeared to be suffering from delusions and paranoia.

The Whatcom County Medical Examiner said cardiac complications caused by acute methamphetamine use led to Robert Eldard’s death.

“Video evidence establishes that while Mr. Eldard indicated he could not breathe, three police officers continued to detain him on the ground, handcuffed, until he lost consciousness. Instead of immediately rendering aid, the officers did not notice Mr. Eldard’s condition, and he died,” according to a statement provided by Dan Fiorito, the Eldard’s attorney, on behalf of Robert Eldard’s family.

$6M settlement for men abused at Kiwanis boys home

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — Insurance companies are paying $6 million to settle a lawsuit brought against Kiwanis International and local Kiwanis clubs by seven men who were sexually abused at a Centralia group home for boys decades ago, attorneys for the men said Monday.

Washington state placed 11- to 17-year-old boys who had trouble adjusting to their foster families at the Kiwanis Vocational Home, which operated from 1979 to 1994. The facility proved a nightmare for many.

Boys were molested by other boys, by staff and by directors, and in some cases they were sent to do odd jobs at homes in the community where they were further abused. Reports of the abuse date to the early 1980s, when one boy called police for help only to have the executive director of the home interrupt the call to downplay the report, records cited in the lawsuit show.

Attorney Darrell Cochran said that in recent years, Washington state has paid $29.6 million to settle claims brought by 54 former residents. The state similarly paid out tens of millions of dollars to former residents of the O.K. Boys Ranch operated by the Olympia Kiwanis club after allegations there prompted news stories and legislative hearings in the 1990s.

“The evil that existed at the Kiwanis Vocational Home is impossible to overstate,” Cochran said Monday.

The most recent settlement was reached Friday, shortly before opening statements were to begin in a trial in Pierce County Superior Court. There were 10 plaintiffs originally; three were dismissed from the case earlier.

Kiwanis is a nonprofit organization devoted to helping children around the world. In court documents, the defendants argued that the area’s Kiwanis clubs had no role in the day-to-day operation of the boys home, which was established by an entity called Lewis County Youth Enterprises. That entity’s board members were required to be Kiwanis members, and Kiwanis granted the home permission to use its name.

It was the job of Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services — now known as the Department of Children, Youth and Families — to oversee the facility, the Kiwanis argued.

“Plaintiffs have not brought claims against their actual abusers. Instead, they seek to hold various non-profit Kiwanis entities liable for the alleged criminal acts of third parties,” the defendants wrote in a trial brief filed last month.

The lawsuit alleged that Kiwanis knew of allegations of abuse — as well as mismanagement that included embezzlement — but allowed the facility to remain open.