National Roundup

Vermont

Man pleads guilty to meth conspiracy charge

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) -- The first of 13 defendants charged after a November raid on an alleged Island Pond methamphetamine lab has pleaded guilty in federal court and faces between five and 40 years in prison.

The Caledonian-Record of St. Johnsbury reports that 29-year-old Frank Santaw of Island Pond, signed a plea agreement admitting he conspired to make five grams or more of the drug.

Authorities say Santaw bought pseudoephedrine, an ingredient used in making meth, from pharmacies in Vermont, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Twelve other defendants continue to deny their involvement in an alleged meth-making ring that was shut down after the raid. Santaw is to be sentenced in November.

New Jersey

ACLU, Camden fight over leaked data

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) -- Camden officials are trying to get a court to prevent a lawyer from releasing information about an internal affairs probe of police officers who have since been convicted of corruption.

Court documents say the secret material contained on a disc was mailed anonymously to American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Alexander Shalom's office in Newark in May.

The ACLU wants to use the material in a lawsuit brought by nearly 100 convicts who claim they were illegally targeted by the officers.

Authorities dropped charges in more than 200 drug cases in 2010 after learning that the officers were stealing from suspects and planting evidence.

Shalom tells The Philadelphia Inquirer that the disc contains relevant information.

No date has been set for a ruling.

Massachusetts

$7.5M settlement in deadly Mass. propane explosion

BOSTON (AP) -- The family of an electrician who died in a 2010 propane explosion has settled a lawsuit against a propane distributor and a plumbing company for $7.5 million.

A lawyer for the family of William Nichols says the family and two other people who suffered permanent injuries in the blast in Norfolk settled last week for a total of $22.5 million.

The lawsuit alleged that EnergyUSA under-filled a new propane tank causing the chemical odorant which had been added to fade. This made the leaking propane odorless and undetectable.

Smolinsky Plumbing and Heating allegedly failed to tighten a connection that led to the leak.

Investigators said the propane had "virtually no odorant."

Nichols, of Blackstone, suffered burns over 80 percent of his body.

The explosion led to new regulations for propane.

New Mexico

Suit filed over licensing decision on medical pot

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- New Mexico officials have been sued by an applicant for a medical-marijuana dispensary and cultivation site that accuses the state of arbitrarily denying some operating licenses.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the lawsuit by Medical Gone Green Inc. of Hobbs alleges that the state failed to provide due process and equal protection in its licensing program for the production of medical marijuana and caused the plaintiff's business attempt to fail.

The lawsuit said the plaintiff had applied for a license to produce and distribute medical marijuana in October 2009 and was denied by the Department of Health on Feb. 28.

The lawsuit says only 23 licensees are available to serve about 6,000 New Mexicans who have been approved to use medical marijuana.

Montana

Man's 2011 death still under investigation

HELENA, Mont. (AP) -- Detectives continue to receive and pursue leads in the death of a western Montana man who disappeared a year ago and was confirmed dead after his remains were found in black trash bags on MacDonald Pass last October.

John Michael Crites of Birdseye was last seen in June 2011 and his death is being investigated as a homicide. Crites was part of an ongoing land dispute and had been involved in lawsuits with neighbors regarding access to land near his house.

"With the land dispute, there are lots of people who have motive," said Sgt. Dave Peterson, the lead detective in the case. "But, we don't have anything concrete."

A year after Crites disappeared, no one has been charged in his death, though authorities say a recent incident may uncover new details. A neighbor who was arrested Friday on a felony charge of evidence tampering has information that is pertinent to the case, said Sgt. Dave Peterson told the Independent Record.

Peterson wouldn't elaborate on what information had been gathered, saying it was still under review by investigators.

John Raymond Mehan is accused of taking down trail cameras that were owned by another neighbor and being used by authorities investigating Crites's death, prosecutors said. Mehan remains jailed in lieu of $250,000 bond and authorities declined to speculate on his motive for removing the trail cameras.

New Jersey

Dentist convicted in wife's murder loses appeal

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- A New Jersey dentist convicted of murdering his wife was not entitled to use money from her estate to cover his legal fees, a state appellate court has ruled.

Roy Rambo claimed his constitutional rights were violated when he was forced to represent himself at trial after firing several public defenders. Rambo said his inability to access funds from the estate prevented him from choosing an attorney.

But in a ruling reported by The Express-Times of Easton, Pa., the appellate court cited the state's "Slayer Statute" in rejecting Rambo's claims. It bars a person responsible for the death of a spouse from inheriting their estate.

"To permit defendant to use the proceeds of the marital estate to pay the cost of private counsel would be a perversion of justice and in direct violation of the public policy expressed by the Legislature," the appellate court wrote in its decision, which was issued June 4 and recently made public.

The ruling also affirmed a $6.3 million award to the couple's son, Bruce Rambo, in a wrongful death and survivorship lawsuit.

Rambo's wife, Linda Ann Rambo, was fatally shot in the back in August 2002 at their Pohatcong Township home in Warren County, which doubled as Roy Rambo's dental office. He was convicted in 2005, and won't be eligible for parole until 2035.

Rambo first appealed the conviction and sentencing in 2008, unsuccessfully arguing that his claims of self-defense were inadequately considered by the court and that he didn't have the right to the counsel of his choice.

Published: Tue, Jul 10, 2012

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