Court Digest

Judge tosses statements defendant made in 1972 murder case

JOLIET, Ill. (AP) — A judge has thrown out statements that a 77-year-old Minnesota man charged in the stabbing death of a 15-year-old suburban Chicago girl nearly half a century ago made to police and to his wife.

Will County Judge David Carlson on Wednesday granted two defense motions tossing out statements that Barry Whelpley of Mounds View, Minnesota, made to police when they searched his home and a conversation between Whelpley and his wife that police recorded. Police arrested Whelpley in June last year.

“It’s significant to the defense. And it’s a significant loss to the prosecution,” Whelpley’s defense attorney, Terry Ekl, told the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.

Whelpley is charged with first-degree murder and aggravated criminal sexual assault for the 1972 death of Julie Ann Hanson. The 15-year-old Naperville girl disappeared on July 7, 1972, while riding her bicycle. Her body was discovered a day later in a field. She had been stabbed 36 times, coroners said.

In his motions, Ekl argued that Whelpley was not advised of his Miranda rights during the search of his Minnesota home and that, as a result, police were not allowed to interrogate him during the search. Prosecutors argued that Whelpley was not in custody during the search and that police were allowed to talk to him.

Carlson ruled videos of the search showed seven or eight armed police officers and that the questions asked were directly related to the 1972 murder. The judge also banned the use of statements made at the police station after Whelpley’s second request for an attorney.

Ekl’s motions did not go into detail about what Whelpley said to police or his wife, and he declined to elaborate after Wednesday’s ruling.

The Will County state’s attorney’s office declined to comment on Carlson’s ruling.

The girl’s murder remained unsolved for decades. The breakthrough in the case came through technological advancements in DNA and genetic genealogy analysis, police said. From that came the scientific evidence that pointed to Whelpley, a 1964 graduate of Naperville High School who lived about a mile from the girl’s house when she was killed.

Whelpley remains in the Will County jail on $10 million bond.

Family of Black man killed by deputies files federal lawsuit

VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) — The family of a Black man killed by deputies has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court against Clark County in southwest Washington, alleging that its law enforcement has a “policy, custom and established practice” of allowing officers to wrongfully wield deadly force.

The lawsuit comes after prosecutors declined to charge the Clark County deputies who shot and killed Kevin Peterson Jr. during a drug sting in 2020, KOIN-TV reported.

Detective Robert Anderson, deputy Jonathan Feller and detective Jeremy Brown fired 34 rounds at the 21-year-old as he ran with a handgun from a planned drug sale of 50 Xanax pills between him and a confidential informant. He died outside a motel in Hazel Dell, near Vancouver, on the evening of Oct. 29.

His death sparked demonstrations and raised questions about the circumstances that led to the shooting,

Last year, the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office deemed the shooting to be “justified and lawful.” The prosecutor said there was no legal requirement for the officers to wait until Peterson opened fire, and that it was reasonable for officers to believe deadly force was necessary.

A sheriff’s office spokesperson told KOIN 6 News said officials will not make comments on ongoing litigation.

The federal lawsuit filed Thursday cites two other deadly shootings by Clark County deputies and an alleged “unwarranted use of force:” Jenoah Donald, who was shot and killed by Clark County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Sean Boyle following a traffic stop, and the shooting death of off-duty Vancouver police officer Donald Sahota.

Man pleads guilty to failing to pay $1.3M in taxes

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A Virginia man pleaded guilty Thursday to charges that he failed to pay $1.3 million in taxes to the IRS by withholding payroll taxes from three different companies owned by his family, a federal prosecutor said.

U.S. Attorney Jessica Aber said in a news release that David Corey Warren, 47, of Chesterfield was responsible for withholding the required Medicare, Social Security, and federal income taxes from his employees’ wages, and paying that amount over to the IRS.

Court documents show Warren served as director of operations for three companies that provided group homes, home care nurses and daycare center services for mentally disabled adults in Chesterfield and Richmond.

Warren also had an obligation to file an employer’s quarterly federal tax return. He used a third-party payroll company for various payroll services, but prosecutors said he underreported the true value of the employment taxes, the documents said.

Warren used the withheld taxes to pay for things like travel to the Caribbean, golf club memberships, private basketball lessons, luxury clothing and accessories, prosecutors said.
Warren is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 13, when he faces up to five years in prison.

Judge considers motion to dismiss public defender lawsuit

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — A judge is considering a motion by the state to throw out a lawsuit over the system that provides attorneys to those who can’t afford them.

The class-action lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine contends there’s a failure to train, supervise and adequately fund a system to ensure the constitutional right to effective counsel for defendants.

But an assistant attorney general told the judge Thursday that the ACLU of Maine failed to show that rights were violated.

Maine is the only state in the nation without a public defender’s office for people who cannot afford to hire a lawyer.

The state relies on private attorneys who are reimbursed by the state. And the number of lawyers willing to take court-appointed cases has dropped from 410 in 2019 to 236 today, a decline of 41%, said Justin Andres, executive director of the Maine Commission for Indigent Legal Services.

The commission is seeking more funding for supervision and to nearly double defense attorney fees from $80 to $150 an hour to attract attorneys and achieve parity with prosecutors.
“We have to provide that parity. Our people need to be paid at a rate that allows them to have staff, benefits, to take a reasonable amount of time off,” Andrus said.

New Jersey
Ex-veterans hospital worker sentenced in theft of HIV meds

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A former pharmacy technician involved in the theft of more than $8.2 million worth of prescription HIV medication from a Veterans Affairs hospital in northern New Jersey has been sentenced to nearly five years in federal prison.

Lisa Hoffman, 50, of Orange, had pleaded guilty last November to theft of government property. She worked at the hospital in East Orange, where she was responsible for ordering drugs and supplies for the site’s outpatient pharmacy and maintaining its inventory.

From October 2015 through November 2019, prosecutors said Hoffman used her position to steal prescription HIV medication from the hospital. She placed large orders for the medication, purportedly on behalf of the hospital, then stole it after it was delivered.

Hospital surveillance footage captured Hoffman regularly taking dozens of bottles of HIV medications from the pharmacy shelves and eventually putting them in her bag, then leave the hospital with the stolen medication, prosecutors have said.

Hoffman would routinely meet with another conspirator and sell him the stolen medications for cash. The conspirator would then sell the medications to other people.

Hoffman received a 57-month sentence Thursday. She must pay $8.29 million in restitution and will have to forfeit of $450,000.

South Dakota
Federal judge: State is violating voter registration act

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A judge ruled Thursday that South Dakota is violating federal laws by failing to make it easier to vote.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Piersol of South Dakota sided with two American Indian tribes, the Rosebud Sioux and the Oglala Sioux. The tribes argued in a 2020 complaint that the South Dakota secretary of state’s office was not adhering to the National Voter Registration Act.

The law requires state agencies to help residents register to vote when they interact with government agencies for other services.

Piersoll wrote in his opinion that secretary of state’s office had not provided adequate information to county auditors and the other state agencies that would help them comply with federal law.

The secretary of state, as the chief elections officer responsible for implementation of National Voting Registration Act, “contributed to these failings through inadequate training and oversight,” Piersol wrote.

Secretary of State Steve Barnett did not immediately respond to an email from the Sioux Falls Argus Leader seeking reaction to the ruling.

Licensing and public benefits are managed by the state department of public safety and the state department of social services. Piersol said the secretary of state’s office was not providing enough oversight to ensure those offices were fulfilling those duties.

Piersol also found that while the department of public safety was responsible for transmitting voter registrations to the county auditor, numerous errors were stopping that process from happening. He added that the department of social services was not complying with the act because it was not changing voter registration addresses when those who receive food stamps or other aid change their addresses over the phone.

In addition, the judge found that state employees have mistakenly declined to provide registration services to convicted felons who are eligible to vote.

New Jersey
Sergeant convicted in Paterson police corruption case

PATERSON, N.J. (AP) — A Paterson police sergeant accused of leading a group of city officers who illegally stopped and searched numerous people and vehicles and stole thousands of
dollars from them has been convicted of falsifying a police report.

Michael Cheff was also found guilty Thursday of conspiring to deprive an individual of civil rights, according to federal prosecutors. He now faces up to 30 years in prison.

Prosecutors said Cheff led a group of five officers who illegally stopped and searched people in the city on a routine basis and stole money from them. Some of the officers also routinely gave Cheff a portion of the funds they stole.

All five of the officers have pleaded guilty to various charges and testified against Cheff, claiming he took part in the thefts that occurred from 2016 to 2018. They said Cheff approved their false reports and helped them log evidence to make it appear they were doing legitimate police work. They also said he ensured complaints against the officers went nowhere.

Man pleads guilty to starting St. Paul warehouse fire

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Golden Valley man has pleaded guilty to starting a fire that consumed four vacant warehouses in St. Paul last year.

The Pioneer Press reported Thursday that 19-year-old Luis Adrian Rodriguez was sentenced Wednesday to three years of probation after entering his plea to a charge of starting a negligent fire-value of property $2,500 or more. Prosecutors dropped a felony arson charge against him.

According to court documents, Rodriguez told police he and his friends were exploring the buildings and he used a lighter to set an envelope and a box on fire and the flames quickly spread out of control.

Nearly 90 firefighters needed almost an entire day to extinguish the blaze.