National Roundup

California

2 officers disciplined for Occupy Oakland actions

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Two Oakland police officers have been disciplined for violating policy during Occupy protests.

One of the officers covered his nameplate with black tape and the other removed the tape with a videographer questioned him about it.

The Los Angeles Times reports officer John Hargraves and Lt. Clifford Wong were punished after a police internal affairs investigation. The lieutenant failed to report Hargraves' conduct.

State law and Oakland policy require uniformed officers to wear a badge or nameplate.

Interim police Chief Howard Jordan won't disclose details about the punishment.

The officers were outside police headquarters when they were approached by a videographer during a November demonstration by Occupy Oakland demonstrations.

The cameraman complained to Wong that Hargraves covered his nameplate. The lieutenant then stripped off the tape.

Rhode Island

Fed court orders school to remove prayer mural

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- A federal judge has ordered the immediate removal of a prayer mural displayed in the auditorium of a Rhode Island public high school.

Teenage atheist student Jessica Ahlquist had sued Cranston city and Cranston High School West officials, demanding they remove the banner because it promotes a religion. She calls it offensive to non-Christians.

City officials claimed the mural is a historical artifact from the school's early days and serves no religious purpose. The prayer encourages students to strive academically. It begins with the words "Our Heavenly Father" and ends with "Amen."

A senior U.S. District Court judge on Wednesday ruled in the atheist student's favor.

The student has 20 days to file counsel fees and costs. City officials will have 10 days to respond. The court will enter judgment after these issues are resolved.

Nebraska

Supreme Court sets execution date for inmate

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- The Nebraska Supreme Court has set a March 6 execution date for a death-row inmate. The execution would be the first in Nebraska since 1997, and its first by lethal injection.

The order came two days after Attorney General Jon Bruning's office filed documents with the high court saying a legal challenge by the inmate's lawyer was frivolous. The lawyer for inmate Michael Ryan had challenged the state's method of obtaining one of three drugs needed to carry out the sentence.

The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services announced in November that it had obtained sodium thiopental, one of three drugs needed to carry out executions by lethal injection, from Swiss company Naari AG. The drug is no longer manufactured in the United States and is in scarce supply worldwide.

North Dakota

Minot man, woman sentenced for killing toddler

MINOT, N.D. (AP) -- A Minot mother and her boyfriend have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms in the beating death of the woman's toddler son a year ago.

The mother also was verbally reprimanded by the judge, who among other things said he was appalled at her request to marry her boyfriend in jail.

Nineteen-month-old Conrad Ayala died Feb. 14. Authorities said the boy had suffered injuries including a fractured skull and broken jaw and was covered "head to foot" in bruises. They said the injuries appeared to have been inflicted over a long period of time, and the state medical examiner determined the child died from a head injury "in battered child syndrome."

The boy's mother, Cassondra Ayala, 21, and her 33-year-old boyfriend, Anthony Robinson, were charged with murder and pleaded guilty in deals with prosecutors last fall. Judge Douglas Mattson on Wednesday went along with the plea deals and sentenced Ayala to serve 22 years in prison and Robinson to 27 years behind bars, the Minot Daily News reported.

Friends and family of Ayala who testified during her sentencing said she was "controlled" by Robinson at the time of the boy's death and had a negligible role in the physical abuse. Her attorney said she also had suffered physical and sexual abuse, and had dealt with mental problems. Ayala read a prepared statement in court.

"I will always miss my son," she said, showing little emotion. "I want to tell him I'm sorry. I made a terrible choice."

Mattson was not persuaded by claims of mitigating circumstances, saying the boy's continuous abuse "is beyond any rational explanation."

"I don't care about any of that other garbage you experienced," he told Ayala. "That in no way excuses you after the very first beating and wounding of the child."

Mattson said he was appalled that Ayala requested permission to marry Robinson while both were incarcerated for Conrad's death.

"I've never had a situation where someone has been so blind," the judge said.

Robinson's sentencing was brief because a condition of this plea deal prohibited him from arguing for any reduction in the sentence called for in the agreement with prosecutors. Mattson told Robinson that he was "lucky" his attorney had negotiated what the judge felt was a lenient deal.

Washington

McCain raps high court's campaign finance ruling

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sen. John McCain says the Supreme Court ruling that led to formation of super PACs was "one of the worst decisions I have ever seen."

McCain, whose name has been synonymous with the push for campaign finance reform, also says, quoting, "I predict to you that there will be huge scandals associated with this huge flood of money."

McCain was referring to Citizens United, the court's 2010 ruling against limits on spending by independent organizations. The justices based their decision on freedom of speech principles.

A super PAC supporting former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney ran negative ads against former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in Iowa. Gingrich says the spots substantially harmed his campaign. And Gingrich now is benefiting from similar spending by a group running anti-Romney ads in South Carolina.

Published: Fri, Jan 13, 2012

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