Court Roundup

Kansas: Man gets life in prison for deaths of neighbors
ULYSSES, Kan. (AP) — A northwest Kansas man who admitted killing a couple who lived next door has been sentenced to life in prison.

Twenty-four-year-old Marcos Lomas pleaded guilty in June to one count of capital murder in the Aug. 30, 2008, stabbing deaths of Marcos and Hilda Garcia. Their 4-year-old son survived.

Lomas, who was sentenced last week in Grant County District Court, avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty.

The Garden City Telegram reports that during interviews with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, Lomas admitted that he killed Marcos and Hilda Garcia. He returned to the home to try to find and kill the boy.

Georgia: Lawyers: Police erased data in raid of gay bar
ATLANTA (AP) — Lawyers have accused Atlanta police of erasing e-mails, text messages and cell phone photos that could shed light on a police raid on a gay bar that triggered a lawsuit.

Lawyers for the Atlanta Eagle Bar and several patrons said in court filings that the evidence was deliberately destroyed. Attorneys said the cell phone data was erased just days after U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Batten ordered that the information be turned over.

City Attorney Cathy Hampton told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the city government takes the allegations seriously and will investigate.

A national gay rights group filed the federal lawsuit on behalf of 19 people who say they were illegally searched and detained during Sept. 10, 2009 raid.

New York: Gay marriage foes: Law blocks free speech right
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — An anti-gay marriage group is heading to court seeking the right to run ads in New York’s governor’s race without complying with election law.

The Washington, D.C.-based National Organization for Marriage is a major financial backer of campaigns opposing same-sex marriage and has filed similar suits in other states.

On Thursday, the group’s lawyers were in federal court in Buffalo to argue that New York election laws requiring it to register as a political committee and reveal contributors’ names violates free speech rights.

The Buffalo News reports the group wants to run ads supporting Republican candidate for governor Carl Paladino.

Attorneys for the state Board of Elections say the group wants preferential status to avoid naming its contributors.

Iowa: Trucker sentenced to 24 years for sex with 13-year-old
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — A trucker has been sentenced to more than 24 years in prison after pleading guilty to driving a 13-year-old girl from Iowa to Kansas to have sex with her.

U.S. District Court Judge Linda Reade sentenced 28-year-old Brandin Christian Hagen of Fredericksburg, Iowa, on Wednesday to 24 years and five month after he pleaded guilty in April to one count of transporting a child in interstate commerce with intent to engage in unlawful sexual activity. There is no parole in the federal system.

In a plea agreement, Hagen admitted that in fall 2009 he drove the girl from Iowa to Bonner Springs, Kansas, and had sex with her in the truck’s sleeper compartment.

Illinois: Teenager draws 45-year prison term for murders
PEORIA, Ill. (AP) — A Peoria County judge has sentenced a teenager to 45 years in prison for last March’s fatal shooting of a pregnant 19-year-old girl.

In passing sentence Wednesday on 18-year-old Preston Marizetts, Circuit Court Judge James Shadid told people assembled in the courtroom that he found the shooting totally senseless.

Police say the victim, Jasmine Brittine, was killed accidentally when she was caught in crossfire while trying to convince two groups of young men to stop fighting.

The (Peoria) Journal Star says 45 year sentence was the minimum allowable as jurors in September found he used a handgun, which added 25 years onto the 20- to 60-year prison range. Under state law, Marizetts must serve 100 percent of his sentence, meaning that he will likely be in his early 60s when he is released from prison.

Louisiana: Lead attorneys in Vioxx settlement get $315.3M
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The federal judge overseeing the thousands of lawsuits filed over withdrawn painkiller Vioxx has ruled that the lead lawyers in the case will get $315.3 million, while other lawyers who sued Merck & Co. will share $1.2 billion.

U.S. District Judge Eldon J. Fallon, in a ruling Tuesday, wrote that the lead lawyers deserve 6.5 percent of the $4.85 billion settlement. That’s less than the 8 percent they initially sought.

Merck withdrew Vioxx from the market on Sept. 30, 2004, after its own research showed the once-blockbuster arthritis pill doubled the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Illinois: Judge finds lawyer insane in mother’s strangulation
CHICAGO (AP) — A judge in Chicago has found lawyer Paul Castronovo not guilty by reason of insanity in the strangling death of his mother, whom he reportedly believed was possessed by the devil and intended to harm his children.

After issuing his ruling Wednesday, Cook County Circuit Court Judge James Linn remanded the 45-year-old Castronovo to the Department of Human Services for evaluation and set Nov. 23 for the hearing on a proposed treatment plan.

The (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald reports that Castronovo could be ordered under DHS care for as long as 60 years.

Castronovo was charged with strangling his 76-year-old mother, Mary, in December 2008 at the Mount Prospect home where the family lived. Mount Prospect police say Castronovo admitted strangling his mother and then hiding her body in the basement under a pile of carpet remnants.

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