Court Digest

Man sentenced to life in deaths of mother, daughter

CAMDENTON, Mo. (AP) — A Camdenton man has been sentenced to two life terms in prison without parole for shooting a woman and her daughter after a long dispute over the daughter’s sexual orientation.

Steven Endsley, 59, was sentenced Monday in the deaths of Danielle M. Smith, 27, and her mother, Teresa A. Jackson, 61, whose bodies were found in their burned mobile home in September 2016.

He was convicted in March of two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of armed criminal action and one count of second-degree arson, KYTV reported.

Endsley was the victims’ next-door neighbor and witnesses said he had an ongoing disagreement with Smith about her sexual orientation.


Man pleads guilty to sending threatening emails to Dr. Fauci

GREENBELT, Md. (AP) — A West Virginia man pleaded guilty Monday to sending emails that threatened Dr. Anthony Fauci and former National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins, federal prosecutors in Maryland said.

Thomas Patrick Connally Jr., 56, most recently of Snowshoe, West Virginia, pleaded guilty to making threats against a federal official, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron announced in a news release. Connally also admitted threatening former Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine, a Massachusetts public health official and a religious leader in New Jersey.

Beginning in December 2020 and up to just days before being arrested in July 2021 in West Virginia and charged, Connally used an encrypted email service to send a series of emails to Fauci, threatening the official and his family, according to Connally’s plea agreement.

Fauci is President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of NIH in Bethesda, Maryland. He was appointed to his post in 1984, but his visibility increased amid the coronavirus pandemic. He has been a vocal supporter of vaccines and other preventive measures against COVID-19 and has been lauded for his leadership in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

On April 24, 2021, Connally sent Collins four emails threatening Collins and his family with physical assault and death if Collins didn’t stop speaking about the need for COVID-19 vaccinations, according to the plea. That same night he sent a string of seven threatening emails to Fauci, the court documents show.

Connally admitted in the plea that he intended to intimidate or interfere with the performance of their official duties and retaliate against them for performing their duties, including discussing COVID-19, testing and prevention.

Connally also admitted sending threatening emails to others. Authorities say that in November 2020, Connally sent a series of six threatening emails to Levine, who is now the U.S. assistant secretary of health. They said he also sent a threatening email to a public health official in Massachusetts in August 2020 and emailed four people who work for a religious institution in Newark, New Jersey, in April 2021 threatening physical violence and death to a religious leader at the institution.

Connally faces up to 10 years in federal prison at sentencing on Aug. 4.


Ex-reality star Josh Duggar to be sentenced for child porn

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Former reality TV star Josh Duggar will return to federal court on Wednesday, where a judge could sentence him to up to 20 years in prison for receiving and possessing child pornography.

Prosecutors are seeking a maximum sentence for Duggar, whose large family was the focus of TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting” reality show. His lawyers have asked the court in Fayetteville, about 140 miles (225 kilometers) northwest of Little Rock, to send him to prison for five years.

Duggar was arrested in April 2021 after a Little Rock police detective found child porn files were being shared by a computer traced to Duggar. Investigators testified that images depicting the sexual abuse of children, including toddlers, were downloaded in 2019 onto a computer at a car dealership Duggar owned.

TLC canceled “19 Kids and Counting” in 2015 following allegations that Duggar had molested four of his sisters and a babysitter years earlier. Authorities began investigating the abuse in 2006 after receiving a tip from a family friend but concluded that the statute of limitations on any possible charges had expired.

Duggar’s parents said he had confessed to the fondling and apologized. After the allegations resurfaced in 2015, Duggar apologized publicly for unspecified behavior and resigned as a lobbyist for the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group.

Months later, he publicly apologized for cheating on his wife and a pornography addiction, for which he then sought treatment.

In seeking a 20-year sentence, prosecutors cited the graphic images — and the ages of the children involved — as well as court testimony about the alleged abuse of Duggar’s sisters.

Duggar’s past behavior “provides an alarming window into the extent of his sexual interest in children that the Court should consider at sentencing,” federal prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memorandum.

“This past conduct, when viewed alongside the conduct for which he has been convicted, makes clear that Duggar has a deep-seated, pervasive, and violent sexual interest in children, and a willingness to act on that interest” the court filing said.

Prosecutors also noted that Duggar’s computer had been partitioned to evade accountability software that had been installed to report to his wife activity such as porn searches, according to experts.

“There is simply no indication that Duggar will ever take the steps necessary to change this pattern of behavior and address his predilection for minor females,” prosecutors wrote.

Duggar has maintained that he’s innocent and that he intends to appeal, his attorneys wrote in their sentencing memorandum.

“Duggar accepts that he is before this Court for sentencing and that this Court must impose a penalty,” his attorneys wrote. “That is justice. But Duggar also appeals to this Court’s discretion to temper that justice with mercy.”

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Timothy Brooks — who will sentence Duggar on Wednesday — denied Duggar’s request for an acquittal or a new trial.


After killer’s reversal, motion for quick execution tossed

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A convicted Mississippi killer’s effort to get his execution quickly scheduled has been dismissed by the state’s Supreme Court, weeks after the condemned man changed his mind.

Blayde Nathaniel Grayson, 46, filed a handwritten letter to the high court in December requesting that his execution for a 1996 killing be set immediately.

“I ask to see that my execution should be carried out forthwith,” Grayson’s letter said.

Days later, Grayson’s lawyer moved to withdraw that request, noting that Grayson still had a federal appeal pending.

The Supreme Court ordered a state district court to get a statement from Grayson as to whether he wanted to waive appeals and have his execution date set. In April, Grayson told a judge, under oath, that he wanted to continue his appeals.

In a ruling dated Friday, the Supreme Court formally dismissed his motion for a quick execution.

Grayson was convicted of capital murder in 1997 for the stabbing death the previous year of 78-year-old Minnie Smith during a home burglary in south Mississippi’s George County.

9 guns seized from man charged with cyberstalking

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Police seized an arsenal of guns and ammunition from a Northern California man charged with cyberstalking his former co-workers after being fired from his job, it was announced Tuesday.

Bryan Velasquez, 43, of Morgan Hill was charged last week with felony stalking and was released on $50,000 bail. He could face further charges involving illegal weapons, authorities said.

“There’s an individual that has animosity, hatred, anger toward others and that was averted. A mass shooting, I believe, was averted,” Police Chief Anthony Mata said.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Velasquez had an attorney who could speak on his behalf. He declined to comment when contacted Tuesday by KNTV-TV.

Velasquez was fired from a construction company in January. In April, the company called police to say that he had been “engaging in stalking behavior,” a police statement said.

The behavior escalated, police said, and included posting online photos of himself pointing guns and sending threatening, profanity-laced emails to his former supervisors and co-workers.

Some of the emails suggested he was watching the alleged victims and described details about their homes and family members.

One recent email that was sent out “had statements like, I know where you live, I see you installed a pool, I know what your wife is driving,” Marisa McKeown, a supervising attorney for the Crime Strategies Unit of the Santa Clara County County district attorney’s office, told the Bay Area News Group.

Police learned that Velasquez owned several registered firearms and, working with the DA’s office, got an arrest warrant on the felony charge and a gun-violence restraining order. That allowed authorities to seize his weapons pending a June 6 hearing to determine whether he is fit to possess them. Both orders were served at his home on May 19, police said.

Investigators seized at least five rifles and four handguns, according to police photos. The weapons included two assault-style rifles, and several of the guns had illegal modifications including rear pistol grips and detachable magazines, authorities said.

Also seized were “high-capacity magazines, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, tactical body armor and materials to manufacture and assemble ghost guns,” the police statement said.

The announcement came only days before the first anniversary of a shooting at a San Jose rail yard that killed 10 people including the gunman.

Sam Cassidy, 57, a disgruntled employee at the Valley Transportation Authority light rail yard, killed co-workers and then himself in the May 26 attack. It was the deadliest mass shooting in San Francisco Bay Area history.


New York
Trump’s inaugural chair pleads not guilty to latest charges

NEW YORK (AP) — The chair of former President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee pleaded not guilty Tuesday to the latest charges in an indictment accusing him of secretly working for the United Arab Emirates to influence Trump’s foreign policy.

Wealthy businessman Tom Barrack, who was arrested last year and released on $250 million bail, entered the plea during a remote court appearance before a Brooklyn federal court judge.

He pleaded not guilty to conspiracy, obstruction of justice and making multiple false statements at a June 2019 interview with federal agents. An updated indictment had been filed earlier this month.

The trial for the Los Angeles-based private equity manager is scheduled to begin with jury selection in late August.

In 2017, he was a key figure in UAE investments in a tech fund and real estate totaling $374 million.

Prosecutors say Barrack sought to leverage lucrative international business deals with the United Arab Emirates to benefit the political agendas of both the Trump campaign and the UAE.