National Roundup

Ex fire chief’s son gets prison for LAX pot scheme

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The son of a retired chief of the Los Angeles Fire Department was sentenced Monday to a year in federal prison and fined $6,000 for heading a marijuana-smuggling ring in which he bribed security officers to get pot-filled suitcases on flights from Los Angeles to Boston.
Millage Peaks IV, 24, also received three years’ probation, U.S. Attorney’s spokesman Thom Mrozek said.
Prosecutors had recommended a sentence closer to two years for Peaks, who U.S. District Judge Otis Wright called the “brains” of the operation.
Wright said he handed down the shorter sentence because Peaks is the primary caretaker for his ailing grandmother, according to City News Service.
Peaks’ attorney Nina Marino said he came up with the scheme that brought in more than $70,000 so he could help with mortgage payments on his family home.
Co-defendant Randy Littlefield, one of two former Transportation Security Administration officers who have pleaded guilty to conspiracy in the case, received eight months in prison and three years’ probation. The other agent, Dianna Perez, is awaiting sentencing.
Peaks paid between $200 and $500 per piece of luggage to get at least 10 shipments of pot through security checkpoints at Los Angeles International Airport between November 2010 and October 2011, prosecutors said.
Most of the bags were cleared by Perez, prosecutors said. Her friend Littlefield twice allowed bags of marijuana to pass undetected through the LAX screening process for $200.
Perez also gave Peaks instructions on how to pack the pot to circumvent bomb-sniffing dogs and other airport security measures, Wright said, spreading information that could be “quite valuable” to potential terrorists.
“Now there is information out there, out of control, that gives information on how to circumvent explosive checks,” Wright said.
Peaks’ father, Millage Peaks III, was an LA city firefighter for 35 years, spending the last 22 months as the city’s fire chief. He retired in 2011.

Fire marshal is charged after drunk man dies

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — The Great Falls fire marshal is charged with negligent endangerment after an investigation found he was pushing an intoxicated bar patron home in a chair with casters on it when the man was thrown from the chair and landed face-first on the sidewalk, causing a fatal head injury.
Doug Bennyhoff also is charged for obstructing a police officer. He is scheduled to appear in Justice Court on Feb. 4.
The man, Orville “Lee” Jones, was injured Sept. 15 and died six days later.
Court records say after Jones fell, Bennyhoff tried to pick him up and put him back in the chair. Eventually Bennyhoff and others took Jones up to his apartment.
A witness said Bennyhoff called 911, but sought only non-emergency medical response and lied to responders about how Jones was injured.

More are alleging  church hid child sexual abuses

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Five people have joined a lawsuit in Maryland that claims a Kentucky-based evangelical church covered up allegations of sexual abuse against children and failed to alert police.
The new anonymous plaintiffs join three women who filed a civil lawsuit against Sovereign Grace Ministries in October. The church moved its headquarters last year from Maryland to Louisville.
One of the new plaintiffs accuses a co-founder of the church of sexual abuse and assaulting her with “plastic and wooden sticks.”
A message left at the church office Tuesday was not immediately returned. The church said in a statement about the suit last year that it contains “a number of misleading allegations, as well as considerable mischaracterizations of intent.” The church said its lawyers were crafting a response to the complaint.

Motion filed to reinstate jury’s verdict in mistrial

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Attorneys for the city of Council Bluffs and two former police detectives are asking a judge to rule that a jury decided in their favor in a lawsuit filed by two men who claimed they were wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for murder.
A mistrial was declared Dec. 14 in the lawsuit filed by Terry Harrington and Curtis McGhee. The jury returned to the courtroom with a written verdict indicating they had ruled in favor of the city and former police officers Daniel Larsen and Lyle Brown.
When jurors were asked if they agreed with the verdict, three women answered no. A unanimous verdict is required, so Judge Robert Pratt declared a mistrial.
Attorneys for the city and officers filed a motion Friday asking Pratt to reinstate the jury’s written verdict.

ACLU: Pa. woman held overnight as suspected alien

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A Pittsburgh-area woman of Mexican heritage is suing a suburban police department, a federal immigration official and the county where she was jailed overnight after she was arrested on suspicion of being in the country illegally following a traffic stop.
The ACLU claims 28-year-old Angelica Davila, of West Mifflin, was wrongly arrested after a traffic stop by an officer with the Northern Regional Police Department in Pine Township. A friend with her at the time was illegally in the country from Honduras and has since been deported.
But the ACLU says the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement wrongly told police she was in the country illegally, prompting her to be held, too, after the January 2011 traffic stop.
The police chief and ICE officials have yet to comment on the lawsuit.

Arvada pastor settles lawsuit with public radio

ARVADA, Colo. (AP) — An Arvada pastor has changed the name of his radio talk show to settle a lawsuit filed by the creators of “Science Friday” on NPR.
Bob Enyart’s “Real Science Radio” program had been called “Real Science Friday,” which led to a lawsuit for trademark infringement in New York state and federal courts by ScienceFriday Inc.
ScienceFriday Inc. spokesman Christian Skotte said Monday the network spent more than 20 years building a reputation as a trusted source of science news and information and wanted to protect that reputation.
Enyart tells the Denver Post the terms of the settlement are confidential.


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