National Roundup

California

Man convicted in torture, death of teen

MARTINEZ, Calif. (AP) -- A California man accused of killing an 18-year-old man during a meth high has been found guilty of first-degree murder and torture.

Robert Gardner is facing up to 25 years to life in prison in the December 2009 death of 18-year-old Eric Bean. He was convicted Thursday.

Authorities say Bean was hogtied and tortured for hours before another defendant in the case, Timothy Delosreyes III, put a dagger in his mouth and stepped on it. Bean choked on his own blood.

Also charged were Delosreyes's father and Gardner's wife. Authorities say they were high on methamphetamine and afraid Bean would implicate them in the theft of his father's guns.

The father and son are awaiting trial. The Contra Costa Times reports that the wife accepted a plea deal.

Connecticut

Woman gets 8 years for $6 million bank fraud

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) -- A Naugatuck woman has been sentenced to more than eight years in prison for participating in a scheme to defraud Webster Bank and Bank of America of $6 million.

Susan Curtis was sentenced Thursday in U.S. district court in Bridgeport. She pleaded guilty to bank fraud and tax charges.

Federal authorities say Curtis was working for the property services division of Webster Bank when she duped it into paying $5 million in fees to two companies she and her husband established.

U.S. Attorney David Fein said Curtis stole from her employer to buy luxuries such as cruises and artwork. He said the lengthy prison term is appropriate.

Her husband, Kevin Caffrey, is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to bank fraud and filing a false tax return.

Iowa

Woman loses court case over Super Bowl tickets

NEVADA, Iowa (AP) -- A judge has ordered a northwest Iowa woman to pay more than $360,000 for failing to deliver Super Bowl tickets she sold.

Story County District Judge Michael Moon said in Thursday's ruling that Ranae Van Roekel owed more than $180,000 to Dickson Jensen, of Ames, for tickets to February's game and to other events. The judge also ordered Van Roekel to pay the same amount for punitive damages.

Van Roekel didn't appear at a hearing and didn't file a response to Jensen's civil lawsuit.

A lawyer who previously spoke for her says he didn't represent her in the lawsuit. A phone number listed for her is no longer in service.

Complaints about Van Roekel's ticket-selling business have been forwarded to federal authorities. No criminal charges have been reported.

New York

Judge skeptical about anti-terror law argument

NEW YORK (AP) -- A federal judge said last week that she's "extremely skeptical" a lawsuit can succeed in striking down a law giving the government wide powers to regulate the detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists.

Judge Katherine Forrest opened a daylong hearing on the subject by saying legal precedents seemed to pave the way for the law to be found constitutional.

She also surprised lawyers who brought a lawsuit challenging the law on behalf of journalists, scholars and others by saying the First Amendment didn't seem to be central to the law.

Forrest said she didn't believe all speech is encumbered by the First Amendment. The government said in court papers that fears by those who brought the lawsuit were baseless.

Attorney Carl Mayer argued on behalf of the plaintiffs that the statute provides "no protection for journalists."

"This takes speech right out of the refrigerator, down to the basement and into deep freeze," he said. "It's draconian, a threat to journalists and lawyers."

Mayer noted that even President Barack Obama said he had serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Torrance said the plaintiffs "misread the statute and they misread the case law" in deciding to sue.

He said the law was aimed at anyone who directly supported al-Qaida or the Taliban.

The new law gives the president the authority to waive military custody, if it's in the interest of national security, for foreign terrorism suspects who are linked to al-Qaida or who are believed to be involved in plotting attacks against the U.S.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Harwood said the plaintiffs' fears were unfounded. He said the law codified exactly what the government has done since 9/11.

"Nothing has changed," he said. "This is doing nothing is new."

Another plaintiffs' lawyer, Bruce Afran, said he was surprised by what the judge said about the First Amendment as it relates to the law.

He said the area of speech outside First Amendment protection was very small.

The judge questioned some of the vague language of the law, including what is meant by the phrase "substantially supported" terrorism.

Journalist Christopher Hedges testified that the vagueness made it impossible for him to know what might be illegal.

"You're constantly second-guessing what or what not constitutes terrorist activity under this legislation because it's so amorphous," he said.

West Virginia

Courts to showcase remote interpreter system

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. (AP) -- Court officials from eight states and the District of Columbia will watch two mock trials in Charles Town to see how West Virginia provides language interpreters from afar.

A demonstration of the state's multi-cast videoconferencing unit is set for April 4 at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Charles Town.

Interpreters in North Carolina will appear via live remote broadcast while actors portray witnesses and attorneys in civil and criminal cases.

The demonstration is part of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference of Chief Justices/Conference of State Court Administrators. Other events are occurring at Shepherdstown's Bavarian Inn.

West Virginia, one of the nations' most rural states, provides interpreters at no cost to the user in all criminal and civil settings. That includes all hearings, trials and motions, and in dealings with court personnel.

Published: Mon, Apr 2, 2012

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