Court Digest

Felon sentenced for possessing dozens of firearms, meth

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — A Washington man was sentenced Tuesday in federal court to almost five years in prison for illegally possessing firearms and methamphetamine trafficking.

Daniel Ague Masters, 51, was prohibited from having firearms because of a felony conviction, but officials found two dozen guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition in his underground bunker and garage in Rainer, federal prosecutors said in a press release.

The firearms included a submachine gun and a rifle with a high-capacity magazine, prosecutors said. Sources told law enforcement that Masters traded meth for stolen firearms.

Masters pleaded guilty in 2019 to the firearms charge and possession of meth with intent to distribute, prosecutors said. A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced him to 57 months in prison.

Man sentenced to 5 years in prison for fraud, theft

SEATTLE (AP) — A Seattle man who stole tens of thousands of dollars from a woman in her 70s while she was dying in a hospital was sentenced Tuesday to more than five years in prison, federal prosecutors said.

Dwayne Brooks, 38, was convicted of 10 felony charges after a four-day trial in February 2020. The charges included bank fraud, computer hacking and identity theft, Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa Gorman said in a press release.

“This defendant is a financial predator who ruthlessly exploited anyone he could, including the elderly, infirm, or even medically incapacitated,” Gorman said. “He was relentless in his efforts to open credit accounts, cash stolen checks, and steal from bank and retirement accounts. His victims are still sorting out the damage he did to their financial lives.”

Between 2016 and 2018, Brooks used debit and credit cards, checks and other financial information stolen from mail, cars and homes, according to court records and testimony.

One of the victims, a 78-year-old woman, died in the hospital while Brooks was looting her accounts, Gorman said. Another victim, an 84-year-old woman, is still trying to untangle the fraud against her accounts, Gorman said.

In all, Brooks’ fraud exceeds $120,000. U.S. District Judge James Robart ordered restitution of $128,802.

Ex-death row inmate found guilty of robbery

HONOLULU (AP) — A jury in Hawaii convicted a former death row inmate from Delaware of robbery, more than two years after U.S. prosecutors dropped sex trafficking charges against him.

The jury found Isaiah McCoy, 31, guilty Monday of second-degree robbery in a 2019 robbery in Waikiki. McCoy and an accomplice beat a man and stole his watch outside a bar, Honolulu prosecutors said.

“This verdict sends a strong message that crimes like the one committed by McCoy will not be tolerated in Honolulu,” Prosecuting Attorney Steve Alm said. He added that his office will seek the maximum 10-year prison term when McCoy is sentenced in July.

McCoy walked out of Honolulu’s federal courthouse a free man in 2018 after U.S. prosecutors dropped a 10-count sex trafficking indictment against him because a federal agent admitted that he had withheld evidence and lied. McCoy represented himself in the case.

McCoy was convicted and sentenced to death in 2012. But Delaware’s Supreme Court ordered a new trial, citing errors by the judge and prosecutor at trial. A judge found him not guilty at a retrial.

Less than a year after his release from death row, he was arrested and charged with sex trafficking. Prosecutors alleged he forced, threatened and coerced young women into prostitution in Hawaii.

While awaiting trial, McCoy told The Associated Press at the Honolulu Federal Detention Center that he moved to Hawaii after he was invited to speak at a criminal justice reform rally.

A federal judge last year dismissed most claims in McCoy’s lawsuit that claimed he was wrongfully and maliciously investigated, prosecuted and incarcerated for the murder of 30-year-old James Mumford.

New Jersey
Judge OKs some claims in case of cop who admitted killing his ex-wife

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed some claims but allowed others to go forward in the case of a former police officer with a history of domestic violence who admitted killing his ex-wife in front of their 7-year-old daughter.

In the lawsuit filed in 2017, the family of Tamara Wilson-Seidle alleged that the Monmouth County prosecutor’s office and individual prosecutors should be liable for not disciplining Philip Seidle and for returning his service weapon to him despite his history of domestic violence and excessive force complaints. The suit also named the Neptune police department, which employed Seidle.

Authorities said Seidle chased a car driven by his ex-wife, forcing her to crash before he got out of his own vehicle and fired 12 shots at her. He pleaded guilty in 2016 and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Some of the couple’s nine children gave statements at Seidle’s sentencing, recounting years of domestic violence.

In a ruling published Saturday, U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp dismissed a claim that the prosecutor’s office and individual prosecutors had disciplinary authority over Seidle. But he rejected the prosecutors’ argument that they were immune from liability for authorizing the return of Seidle’s service weapon to him after it had been taken away, which the family claims happened on two occasions prior to the killing.

Shipp also declined to dismiss a claim that, by returning Seidle’s weapon, prosecutors created a danger to Wilson-Seidle.

“The family is pleased to put this part of the case behind them and move ahead with substantive litigation,” said Shelley Stangler, an attorney representing the family.

The attorney general’s office, which is representing the county prosecutor’s office, declined comment Tuesday.

Chief judge will retire to resolve ethics probe

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Augusta Superior Court Chief Judge Carl C. Brown Jr. gave up his supervisory authority and will leave the bench in June to settle an investigation into allegations of ethics violations, according to an agreement he made with Georgia’s judicial disciplinary board.

The signed order was filed with the state Supreme Court on Monday, court documents show.

Complaints were made about Brown to the Judicial Qualifications Commission for showing nepotism and favoritism, attempting to improperly influence the appointment of judges and inserting himself into plea negotiations, according to the court filing.

While the documents show the misconduct allegations were a factor in his retirement, Brown told WRDW-TV his health was, too.

“I’m at a season where I need to because of some medical challenges to focus on myself and my family,” the judge said. “After 26 years, it’s a good point to do that.”

Under the agreement, Brown — who has presided over Superior Courts in Burke, Columbia and Richmond Counties since 2016 — was required to give up his administrative and supervisory powers as chief judge immediately.

The 72-year-old will continue holding office through June 30, the last day the Augusta Judicial Court is expected to operate before the circuit splits, according to The Augusta Chronicle.

Gov. Brian Kemp accepted Brown’s resignation letter April 27 and Brown signed the agreement April 30, according to documents filed in court with the consent order.

Brown was appointed as a Superior Court judge in 1994 and won elections to remain in office. He was challenged once in 2016. Before that, he served as the judge at the Augusta Municipal Court and practiced law for 21 years.

Rhode Island
Blind teenager alleges restaurant violated her rights

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A blind Rhode Island teen and her family have filed a lawsuit with the Providence County Superior Court against a restaurant they say refused to seat them due to the presence of the teen’s service dog.

Haylee Mota and her family intended to celebrate her 17th birthday at Jacky’s Waterplace and Sushi Bar on September 7, the Providence Journal reported.

According to the complaint, an employee told them they could not be seated inside the restaurant or in the patio area and offered to set a table in the parking lot.

Mota was born with Leber’s congenital amaurosis and is legally blind. She can only see light and shadow. Her golden retriever, Nicky, accompanies her everywhere.

Mota said that after the family protested, pointing out that Nicky is a service dog, the manager told them that she had spoken with the owner, Kin Wah Ko, and that he insisted on no dogs.

Mota alleges that Ko and unnamed employees violated her civil rights by discriminating against her due to her disability. In addition, she alleges that the restaurant and its employees intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon her and that she suffered mental and emotional harm.

“It was frustrating,” Mota said. “I know my rights under the (Americans with Disabilities Act). Any establishment open to the public is open to a service dog.”

Jacky’s and Ko denied the allegations in responding to the suit. They argue that Mota failed to make a claim for which relief could be granted and failed to comply with her duty to mitigate damages.

David Ursillo, the lawyer representing Jacky’s and Ko, did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Ex-educator pleads guilty to child porn counts

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former paraprofessional in suburban Kansas City has pleaded guilty to producing and distributing child pornography after investigators say they found thousands of images and videos at his home of infants and toddlers being sexually assaulted.

Steven Allen, 45, of Independence, pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court to two counts of producing the child pornography and a single count of distributing child pornography over the internet, federal prosecutors for western Missouri said in a news release.

Allen was employed by Blue Springs High School when he was arrested in late 2019 after a raid on his home, and he has been in federal custody since, prosecutors said.

Allen’s arrest came after he exchanged message with an undercover officer in the United Kingdom who was posing as the father of a 10-year-old girl. During that correspondence, Allen sent images of one of the minor victims and said he fantasized about sexually abusing a child, prosecutors said.

Investigators said more than 9,200 images and 89 videos showing child pornography, violent sexual assaults and bestiality were found on electronic devices at his home.

Allen faces a minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison when he’s sentenced at a later date.

Court overturns law capping restitution amounts

PHOENIX (AP) — The Arizona Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned a state law limiting restitution awards for economic losses caused by certain criminal driving offenses that cause another person to be killed or seriously injured.

The 2006 law imposing a $10,000 cap on criminal restitution in those cases violated a right to prompt and full restitution under Victims’ Bill of Rights protections in the Arizona Constitution, the court  ruling.

The justices upheld a Court of Appeals decision that reversed a Maricopa County Superior Court judge’s ruling that set a man’s restitution order at $10,000, down from the over $61,000 amount set by a Phoenix Municipal Court judge.

The case involved a defendant who had appealed the municipal court’s order. Prosecutors then appealed the Superior Court order.

Patel argued that the constitutional provision required prompt restitution but didn’t specify full restitution, but the Supreme Court said that meaning was understood.

The Supreme Court also noted that he Legislature in 2018 increased the $10,000 cap to $100,000 but said that change didn’t affect the basic issue before the court.