National Roundup

North Carolina
Bergdahl chooses to have trial heard by judge, not jury

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has decided be to tried by a judge — not a military jury — on charges that he endangered comrades by walking off his post in Afghanistan.

Bergdahl’s lawyers told the court in a brief filing last week that their client chose trial by judge alone, rather than a panel of officers. He faces charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy at his trial scheduled for late October at Fort Bragg. The latter carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Defense attorneys declined to comment on the decision. But they previously questioned whether Bergdahl could get a fair trial by jury because of negative comments President Donald Trump made on the campaign trail.
Earlier this year the judge, Army Col. Jeffery R. Nance rejected a defense request to dismiss the case over Trump’s criticism of Bergdahl.

Potential jurors had already received a questionnaire including questions about their commander in chief, but defense attorneys weren’t allowed to ask jurors if they voted for Trump.

Rachel VanLandingham, a former Air Force lawyer not involved in the case, said defense attorneys likely felt limited in how they could probe juror opinions.

“They lost their ability to ask all the questions they wanted to ask, one of those being: ‘Did you vote for President Trump?’” said VanLandingham, who teaches at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles. “They felt that was very important ... for fleshing out whether a panel member could be fair.”

Beyond concerns about jurors, she said Nance has so far demonstrated his objectivity.

“His pretrial rulings have shown that he’s fair,” she said.

Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban shortly after he left his remote post in 2009. The soldier from Idaho has said he intended to cause alarm and draw attention to what he saw as problems with his unit.

Bergdahl was freed from captivity in 2014 in exchange for five Taliban prisoners. Former President Barack Obama was criticized by Republicans who claimed the trade jeopardized the nation’s security.

Judge shot near courthouse; suspect killed

STEUBENVILLE, Ohio (AP) — A judge was shot and wounded Monday morning as he walked toward his county’s courthouse, and a suspect was killed after a probation officer returned fire, officials said.

Jefferson County Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr. was shot near the courthouse in Steuben­ville, just across the Ohio River from West Virginia’s northern panhandle, roughly 30 miles (48 kilometers) west of Pittsburgh.

Steubenville City Manager James Mavromatis tells WTOV-TV that Bruzzese was talking after being wounded. He was flown to a Pittsburgh-area hospital.

Investigators didn’t immediately release further information about the judge’s condition or the suspect.

Local media reported that the suspect’s body could be seen lying next to a car at the drive-thru of a neighboring bank. Police said a man who was in the car with the suspected shooter was taken into custody.

The courthouse was closed for the day as local and state authorities helped to secure the scene. Jefferson County Commissioner Thomas Graham told WTOV that some courthouse workers witnessed the “tragic situation” and that people would need time to process what had happened.

The 65-year-old Bruzzese hears general and domestic relations cases as one of two judges serving in Jefferson County Common Pleas Court.

Bruzzese has served on that court since 1997, according to Ohio Supreme Court records. He was most recently re-elected in 2014 for another six-year term.

Teen pleads guilty to lesser charge in attack

WAUKESHA, Wis. (AP) — One of two teenagers charged with repeatedly stabbing a classmate to impress a fictitious horror character called Slender Man has decided to plead guilty to a lesser charge.

Fifteen-year-old Anissa Weier  pleaded guilty Monday to attempted second-degree homicide as a party to a crime, with use of a deadly weapon.

She initially faced a charge of attempted first-degree intentional homicide in the 2014 attack on Payton Leutner in Waukesha.

The plea means her trial next month will look only at whether she is legally responsible for the crime or not guilty because of mental illness. She could face 10 years in prison if she’s found guilty. If not, she’ll spend three years in a mental hospital.

Weier’s co-defendant, Morgan Geyser, also is due in court Monday for a status hearing.

Ex-school aide gets 75 years in child porn case

GREENBELT, Md. (AP) — A former elementary school volunteer in the Maryland suburbs of Washington who pleaded guilty to 15 federal child pornography offenses has been sentenced to 75 years in prison.

Media outlets report that former Prince George’s County school aide Deonte Carraway was sentenced Monday in federal court. The Washington Post reports that Carraway said he is not the “monster” that people are portraying him to be.

He pleaded guilty in January to 15 counts of counts of sexual exploitation of a minor to produce child pornography.

Authorities say Carraway abused or recorded children performing sexual acts at Judge Sylvania W. Woods Elementary School or at the Glenarden Community Center, where he directed a youth choir. According to indictments, Carraway also recorded children performing sexual acts inside their homes.

Call about sex act in Jeep leads to ID theft busts

BETHLETHEM, Pa. (AP) — Police say a call reporting two people engaged in a sex act in a vehicle outside a Pennsylvania Wal-Mart led them to jail the New York couple on identity theft charges.

Colonial Regional police say they found several forged credit cards in the Jeep Wrangler when they responded to the initial call Thursday about 4:30 p.m. in Lower Nazareth Township.

Police say they smelled marijuana coming from the vehicle so the driver, 22-year-old Ceon Gordon, was also charged with drug possession.

He and 21-year-old Ashley Thompson, both of Brooklyn, remained in the Northampton County jail unable to post bond Monday.

Police say they found a device used to create the forged cards under the driver’s seat.

Online court records don’t list an attorney for the couple who face a preliminary hearing Aug. 31.