National Roundup

Connecticut
Woman attacked by chimpanzee looks to sue state


HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — An out-of-control chimpanzee that mauled a Connecticut woman in 2009 escaped from his cage five months earlier, prompting his owner to ask that he be shot with a tranquilizer gun, legal papers show.

Marcella Leone, owner of a private zoo in Greenwich, testified in a deposition that Sandra Herold, owner of Travis the chimpanzee, called to tell her he needed to be restrained, according to The Hartford Courant.

Nobody got hurt in that incident. But lawyers for Charla Nash of Stamford, who was blinded in the attack and has had several surgeries including a face transplant, say the 2008 phone message was one of several warnings ignored by state officials. Police fatally shot the chimpanzee during the Feb. 16, 2009, attack.

A hearing is scheduled for Friday on whether Nash may sue the state for $150 million in claimed damages. Nash plans to attend.

Leone said in her deposition that she was so concerned about Herold’s 2008 phone message that she called a state Department of Environmental Protection official, Elaine Hinsch, whose responsibilities included regulating ownership of wild animals.

“To show her how serious the situation was, I played the answering machine recording so she could hear it,” Leone said.

Hinsch wrote a memo to two other DEP officials about a month later, saying that the chimp was “an accident waiting to happen” if he remained at Herold’s home. The situation remained unchanged before the 2009 attack.

State Attorney General George Jepsen says the state should not be held liable for the mauling. He has acknowledged Hinsch’s warning about the chimp but said state law on the issue was ambiguous and difficult to enforce, and there was no guarantee a court hearing would have led to a seizure order.


California
Report: Boy Scout files show repeat child molestation


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Internal documents from the Boy Scouts of America reveal more than 125 cases in which men suspected of molestation allegedly continued to abuse Scouts, despite a blacklist meant to protect boys from sexual predators.

A Los Angeles Times review of more than 1,200 files from 1970 to 1991 found suspected abusers regularly remained in the organization after officials were first presented with sexual misconduct allegations.

Predators moved from troop to troop because of clerical errors, computer glitches or the Scouts’ failure to check the blacklist, known as the “perversion files,” the newspaper said.
In at least 50 cases, the Scouts expelled suspected abusers, only to discover they had re-entered the organization and were accused of molesting again.

In other cases, officials failed to document reports of abuse in the first place, letting offenders stay in the program until new allegations came to light, the Times reported.

One scoutmaster was expelled in 1970 for sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy in Indiana. After being convicted of the crime, he went on to join two troops in Illinois between 1971 and 1988. He later admitted to molesting more than 100 boys, was convicted of the sexual assault of a Scout in 1989 and was sentenced to 100 years in prison, according to his file and court records.

In 1991, a Scout leader convicted of abusing a boy in Minnesota returned to his old troop shortly after getting out of jail.

In response to the Times’ findings, the Scouts issued a statement that said in part:

“The Boy Scouts of America believes even a single instance of abuse is unacceptable, and we regret there have been times when the BSA’s best efforts to protect children were insufficient. For that we are very sorry and extend our deepest sympathies to victims ... We are committed to the ongoing enhancement of our program, in line with evolving best practices for protecting youth.”

The “perversion files” naming suspected child molesters include admissions of guilt as well as unproven allegations. They are used to vet applicants for volunteer and paid positions. The confidential documents have come to light in recent years in lawsuits by former Scouts, accusing the group of failing to detect abuses, exclude known pedophiles or turn in offenders to authorities.

Scouting officials say they’ve used the files to prevent hundreds of men who had been expelled for alleged sexual abuse from returning to the organization. The Boy Scouts have fought in court to keep the records from public view, saying confidentiality was needed to protect victims, witnesses and anyone falsely accused.

Many of the files will soon be made public as a result of an Oregon Supreme Court decision. The Associated Press, the New York Times, the Oregonian and other media outlets petitioned for the release of 1,247 files from 1965 to 1984 that had been admitted as sealed evidence in a 2010 lawsuit.

The Times analyzed a set of files that were submitted in a California court case in 1992. Their contents vary but often include biographical information on the accused, witness statements, police reports, parent complaints, news clippings, and correspondence between local Boy Scout officials and national headquarters, according to the newspaper.


Mississippi
Bite mark expert now says analysis is not reliable


JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi dentist who has testified dozens of times about bite marks linking suspects to crime victims now says investigations should rely on DNA instead.

Since the 1980s, Hattiesburg dentist Michael West has testified in dozens of cases in which he said bite marks on victims matched certain suspects. He compared these bite marks to fingerprints, describing their unique characteristics to jurors. Most suspects he testified against went off to prison.

Now The Clarion-Ledger has obtained a 2011 deposition in which West rejects the science he relied on to help put so many behind bars.
He says in the deposition that bite-mark analysis shouldn’t be used in court.


Pennsylvania
2 men charged with staging  reality TV robbery


INDIANA, Pa. (AP) — Police have charged two out-of-state men with robbing two other men in western Pennsylvania by claiming they were recording video for a reality TV show called “You Just Got Robbed.”

Police in Indiana, Pa. tell The Associated Press the incident happened about 1:20 a.m. and that the suspects apparently attend a nearby technical school. They’re identified as 21-year-old Randall Smith, of Templehill, Md. and 18-year-old Artie Goodwine, of Memphis, Tenn.

Police say one of the men put the victims into headlocks while the other recorded the robbery — in which $20 was taken from one of the victims — on a cell phone.
Online court records don’t list attorneys for the men. Smith has posted bail but Goodwine remained in the Indiana County Jail on Monday, about 45 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.?

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