Court Round Up

Massachusetts: State drops some charges against man with arsenal
SALEM, Mass. (AP) — Prosecutors have dropped the majority of charges against a Manchester-by-the-Sea man who told police when he was arrested for having an arsenal in his home that he was preparing for Armageddon.

A search of Gregory Girard’s home in February uncovered more than a dozen guns, smoke and tear gas grenades, knives, body armor, and stockpiles of food and medicine.

The guns were legally owned, but Girard was charged with being in possession of the grenades and other items.

The Salem News reports that prosecutors in district court on Tuesday dropped those charges.

The remaining charges are discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling and illegal possession of silencers.

Girard’s lawyer asked a judge to reconsider the decision to hold her client without bail. The judge denied that request.

Iowa: Lawmakers close loophole for nude dancing exception

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa is closing a loophole in a state law that was cited in allowing a 17-year-old girl to strip onstage at a club in 2007.

The House on Tuesday gave final approval to a bill that includes an amendment to end an artistic or theatrical exception to nude dancing. The bill goes to Gov. Chet Culver.

It’s against existing Iowa law for anyone under the age of 18 to perform a live act intended to cause sexual arousal, but the law doesn’t apply to artistic or theatrical performances.

A judge in Fremont County ruled in 2008 that the nude dance at the club in Hamburg didn’t violate the law, because prosecutors failed to prove that the club wasn’t a theater.

The Iowa Court of Appeals dismissed the state’s request for a review last month.

California: Fake friar pleads not guilty to molesting teen boy

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (AP) — A convicted sex offender who posed as a Franciscan friar to gain the confidence of his victims has pleaded not guilty to molesting another teenage boy multiple times in Daly City.

Anthony Falco’s attorney entered the pleas in San Mateo County court on Tuesday on behalf of the 73-year-old defendant, who was once convicted of molesting an Aptos teen during a church trip. Falco is in jail with bail set at $1.6 million.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for April 30.

Falco, who was known as Brother Tom by the victim and his family, was arrest in February and charged with 19 counts of child molestation. Nearly a decade ago, Falco was convicted of molesting two teen boys while posing as a monk.

Falco was released from prison in 2003.

North Carolina: Family sues maker of Taser stun guns

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The company that makes the electronic stun gun known as a Taser is being sued by the family of a North Carolina teen killed after he was shocked with one of the guns.

The Charlotte Observer reported the lawsuit was filed Tuesday in federal court and doesn’t list a specific monetary amount. The lawsuit says Taser International didn’t warn its customers that the weapon could be lethal if deployed near the chest.

Seventeen-year-old Darryl Wayne Turner died of cardiac arrest in March 2008 after a confrontation with police at a grocery store where Turner had worked. The city of Charlotte paid $625,000 to Turner’s family last August, although the city didn’t admit wrongdoing.

Taser International, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., did not immediately return a phone message left early Wednesday seeking comment.

Kansas: Businessman defends ad against judge

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Lenexa businessman defends a newspaper advertisement he says he took out to tell the public about Kansas Supreme Court justice Carol Beier’s trip to a California law school conference.

Doug Johnson has been seeking to unseat Beier, but said he didn’t place the ad Monday in the Topeka Capital-Journal in order to arouse anti-gay sentiment or ethical questions about Beier’s recent trip.

At the conference, Beier judged a moot court proceeding over the medical rights of transgender patients.

Her trip was paid for by the conference.

“I’m not saying she was wrong to go in her official capacity,” said Johnson, owner of O-Ring Sales & Services in Lenexa. “I just think the public has a right to know that.”

But two legislators on Tuesday said the ad’s goal was to criticize Beier for what is a common public appearance by justices.

Rep. Pat Colloton, R-Leawood, criticized the ad as an “odd” and ill-advised effort.

“To try to imply scurrilous conduct by the judge because she worked a moot court competition seems pretty far over the line,” she said.

Colloton, also a lawyer, said moot court competitions are known to pick unsettled legal topics on the edge of current law.

Rep. Marti Crow, D-Leavenworth and a lawyer, blasted the “innuendoes” in Johnson’s ad.

“They’re trying to skew it because of the subject matter to make people think there’s something subversive, and I don’t see it that way it all,” she said.

Supreme Court spokesman Ron Keefover said Beier thought it would be inappropriate to comment on a paid political ad.

He said justices routinely accept speaking engagements or work as a guest judge at moot courts.

“It is part of the administration of justice to educate the public about the rule of law,” Keefover said.

Johnson has criticized Beier in the past for her opinion in a 2005 lawsuit that ended with the Legislature appropriating hundreds of millions of new dollars into public schools.

He says that court’s unanimous decision contributed to the state’s current economic problems.

He singled out Beier for her concurring opinion in that case, in which she agreed with the majority opinion but went further to say education is a “fundamental right.”

Tuesday’s ad, however, didn’t mention the lawsuit.

The full-page ad states in big white letters on a black background, “Justice Beier travels to California and...” It then says in smaller letters that Beier was “celebrated” by the gay community for her participation in the moot court competition.

The anti-abortion group Kansans for Life also has announced a “Fire Beier” campaign over her opinions on abortion matters before the court. Johnson said he is acting independent of that group.


South Carolina: Second suit filed in college dispute

GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) — A lawsuit by the chairman of a South Carolina college’s board against the conservative denomination that founded the school has been withdrawn.

The Greenville News reports another lawsuit has been filed by three trustees and the Erskine Alumni Association against the Associated Reformed Presbyterian Church.

The church’s ruling body voted to remove 14 trustees from the Due West school’s board.

The Erskine board’s executive committee said it agreed with the chairman’s lawsuit challenging the appointment of new board members, but withdrew it for church unity.

The other trustees and the alumni association are asking a judge to rule the college, through its board, owns Erskine’s buildings and land.

The clerk of the denomination said it has no comment, but plans to discuss a response Thursday.

Kentucky: Defendant jailed, judge ruled he contacted witness

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — One of eight Clay County people being tried on vote fraud charges has been ordered to jail.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reported that former county school superintendent Douglas C. Adams will remain in jail until the trial ends — likely sometime next week.

U.S. District Court Judge Danny C. Reeves ruled Tuesday that Adams contacted a witness in the trial — a violation of terms of his release.

Testimony revealed Adams had dinner Monday night at a Frankfort restaurant with carpenter Ronnie Owens, who had been recognized in court that day as a witness.

Prosecutors claim Adams and former Circuit Judge R. Cletus Maricle headed a scheme that involved six others to buy or steal votes from 2002 to 2007.

All the defendants deny committing the crimes.

Pittsburgh: Feds subpoena records in art student’s beating

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A federal grand jury has subpoenaed records about the arrest of a teenage arts student who has accused three Pittsburgh police officers of wrongly beating him.

Meanwhile, attorneys for the suspended officers and police union president Dan O’Hara say all three passed polygraph tests about the Jan. 12 confrontation.

A district judge has dismissed prowling and assault charges against 18-year-old Jordan Miles, who says he resisted the plainclothes officers only because they didn’t identify themselves as police.

Police say they believed Miles was acting suspiciously near a residence, but a judge dismissed charges after the home’s owner says Miles was welcome near her home.

The teen contends the white officers assumed he was a troublemaker simply because he’s black.