Court Roundup


Appeals court hears murder-for-hire case

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- A federal appeals court is considering the case of a Prince William County man whose murder-for-hire conviction was overturned.

A lawyer for the state on Thursday urged a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse a judge's decision tossing out Justin Michael Wolfe's conviction and death sentence. Wolfe was convicted in the 2001 slaying of his marijuana supplier, Daniel Petrole.

Last year, a judge ruled that prosecutors had suppressed evidence and knowingly used false testimony from the shooter, Owen Barber, who later recanted. Wolfe's lawyer told the appeals court that the judge acted properly after assessing the credibility of witnesses at an evidentiary hearing.

The case exposed a multimillion-dollar drug ring run by young people barely out of high school in the northern Virginia suburbs.

New Hampshire

Arrest made in 2001 cold case slaying

CANDIA, N.H. (AP) -- A New Hampshire man is being held without bail in connection with the shooting death of a businessman over 10 years ago.

Arthur Collins of Manchester was arraigned Thursday on second-degree murder charges in the death of 50-year-old George Jodoin of Auburn.

Collins and his wife were in a car in Manchester when police pulled them over and arrested him on Wednesday, the first arrest in the case.

The 43-year-old Collins was arraigned in district court in Candia. His wife, Dorothy, said he is a good-hearted person who couldn't have committed the crime.

Jodoin, a real estate broker and auctioneer who co-owned a pawn shop in Manchester, was found shot multiple times in the head and neck on Dec. 26, 2001.

Collins's family offered a $50,000 reward last year.


Appeals court lengthens man's sentence

SALEM, Mass. (AP) -- A man convicted of attacking and robbing three men in 2006 asked a state appeals court last week to reduce his 10- to 15-year prison term.

Instead, in an unusual move, the court increased his sentence to 15 to 20 years.

Paul Cucinelli was convicted in three separate attacks in Beverly. In one, he got away with $1.50 and a pack of cigarettes. The third attack, Cucinelli took $5 and left the victim permanently disabled.

A spokeswoman for the Essex district attorney's office says the now 26-year-old Cucinelli wanted his sentence reduced to six to 10 years, which would have made him eligible for parole almost immediately.

Spokeswoman Carrie Kimball Monahan tells The Salem News the appeals court usually reduces sentences or leaves then unchanged.

Washington, D.C.

Prosecutor: Marine slaying in DC was hate crime

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A government attorney says the fatal stabbing last month of a Marine in the District of Columbia was a hate crime.

The fellow Marine accused in the man's death, Michael Poth, was in court Wednesday for a preliminary hearing. Prosecutor Michael Liebman said the stabbing occurred minutes after 20-year-old Poth saw Philip Bushong hug an openly gay friend and that Poth used a gay slur.

Poth's attorney said the stabbing was the result of self-defense.

Before the hearing, two Marines entered the court and told attorneys that Poth had been given an other-than-honorable discharge for his conduct before last month's stabbing. Liebman said the Marines had been working on Poth's discharge since November, when he tested positive for using synthetic marijuana. He said Poth had also verbally assaulted other soldiers.


Runner sues Richmond race organizers over accident

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- A runner is suing organizers of the Filthy 5K Mud Run in Richmond over an accident during the 2010 race that that left him partially paralyzed.

Robert A. Fecteau II's lawsuit seeks $30 million in damages. Fecteau refiled it in Richmond Circuit Court last week; it was originally filed in Arlington County.

The lawsuit says runners were required to crawl through a shallow mud pit near the finish line. Fecteau was fatigued and weakened when he reached the pit and jammed his hands and arms as he went down to crawl through it.

Fecteau's lawyer, John C. Shea, tells The Richmond Times-Dispatch his client is partially paralyzed from the chest down and has minimal use of his arms.

The lawsuit acknowledged that Fecteau didn't register for the race, which includes signing a liability waiver. Instead, he used a friend's race number. The lawsuit also said he asked race officials if he needed to re-register as himself but was told he did not.

The defendants' lawyer, Stanley P. Wellman, denies that allegation and says the suit lacks merit.


Family sues mortuary over switched bodies

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A family is suing a mortuary over a body switch that resulted in a grandmother being buried in another woman's clothes in a California cemetery instead of an above-ground crypt in Nicaragua.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday by the 88-year-old woman's family seeks unspecified damages.

Mercedes Adilia Rodriguez died in 2010. The grandmother of 11 wanted a closed casket funeral and a final resting spot above-ground in Nicaragua rather than the chilly earth of a cemetery.

But Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier told the family they confused her with someone else.

The Los Angeles Times reports Rodriguez was put in an open casket wearing another woman's clothes and she was buried in the Whittier cemetery. She was exhumed days later and sent to Nicaragua.

Published: Fri, May 18, 2012