National Roundup

Nebraska
Prosecutor says convict to be charged in deaths

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A man recently released from prison will be charged with murder for the shooting deaths of four people last month in Omaha, including a woman who was shot while leaving work and found dead in an intersection, authorities said Wednesday.
Authorities said similarities in the crimes and tips from the public helped link 26-year-old Nikko Jenkins to the homicides.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said Jenkins will be charged Wednesday afternoon with four counts of first-degree murder and an assortment of related weapons charges in connection with three different shootings around Omaha since he was released from prison in late July.
The killings crossed racial and gender lines, and some appeared to be random, Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said.
“Mr. Nikko Jenkins was an indiscriminate killer who wreaked havoc on the Omaha area since being released from prison on July 30,” Schmaderer said.
Police said the most-recent homicide was the Aug. 21 death of 33-year-old Andrea Kruger. Kruger was heading home from work at local Omaha nightclub when she was shot in an intersection just northwest of the city. Her vehicle was later found in north Omaha.
The other victims were Curtis Bradford, whose body was found outside a garage in the northern part of the city on Aug. 19, and Jorge Cajiga-Ruiz and Juan Uribe-Pena, who were found dead inside a pickup truck near a city pool in southeast Omaha on Aug. 11.
Court records show Jenkins was released from prison on July 30, after serving a decade for robbery and assault.
Police said Jenkins was arrested last Thursday after threatening his girlfriend. He was charged with making terroristic threats and being a felon in possession of two firearms. Court records detailing the threats and the types of guns Jenkins stands accused of having have been sealed at the request of Omaha police.
Jenkins is being held on $500,000 bond on the threat and weapons charges.
He is scheduled to make his first court appearance on the murder charges Thursday.

Delaware
Former soldier gets 10 years for heroin smuggling

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — A former Army captain who pleaded guilty to smuggling heroin into the U.S. while working as a contractor in Afghanistan has been sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.
Thirty-six-year-old Saleem Akbar Sharif of Johns Island, S.C., was sentenced Wednesday by a federal judge in Delaware. He pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute heroin.
The defense blamed Sharif’s criminal conduct on post-traumatic stress disorder from the violence he saw after being deployed to Iraq in 2004.
Prosecutors suggested that Sharif was motivated by profit, and the defense acknowledged that Sharif knew what he was doing was wrong. Court records show Sharif and his accomplices concealed the heroin in DVD cases.

New Mexico
Judge to decide horse slaughter case this month

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A federal judge in Albuquerque says she will decide by the end of next month whether a New Mexico horse slaughter plant can open.
The attorney representing Valley Meat Co. of Roswell says U.S. District Judge Christina Armijo put the case on an expedited schedule Tuesday.
Attorney Blair Dunn says both sides will file briefs over the next month and Armijo says she’ll issue a final ruling by the end of October.
Armijo last month issued a restraining order blocking Valley and an Iowa company from proceeding with plans to become the first plants to slaughter horses domestically in more than six years.
But the Humane Society of the United States and other groups sued the Department of Agriculture, contending it failed to do the proper environmental studies before issuing the companies permits.

Massachusetts
Family fights school in Pledge of Allegiance case

BOSTON (AP) — A family asked Massachusetts’ highest court Wednesday to ban the daily practice of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools, arguing that the words “under God” in the pledge discriminate against atheists.
In arguments before the Supreme Judicial Court, a lawyer for an atheist Acton couple who sued on behalf of their three children argued that the reference to God suggests that “good patriots are God believers” and nonbelievers are less patriotic or unpatriotic.
David Niose, an attorney representing the family and the American Humanist Association, rejected the argument that because the pledge is voluntary, it does not discriminate against atheists.
“The exercise itself still discriminates. It defines patriotism a certain way,” Niose told the seven justices.
A lawyer for the Acton-Boxborough Regional School District argued that the pledge is not mandatory and students can opt out by either leaving out the reference to God or by not reciting the pledge.
Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, told the justices that the phrase “under God” has a long history as an expression of a “political philosophy” and is not a religious declaration.
“It’s always been used to limit first the power of the king and now the power of government,” Rassbach said after the hearing. “It’s not a religious statement ... no one is getting up there and saying a prayer when they say the Pledge of Allegiance.”
Last year, a Massachusetts judge found that the words “under God” in the pledge did not violate state law or the school’s anti-discrimination policy. Judge S. Jane Haggerty found that including “under God” in a voluntary patriotic exercise does not “convert the exercise into a prayer.” The family appealed the ruling.
The case stems from a lawsuit filed by the couple in 2010. Their name was not disclosed.
Niose said the family is seeking a ruling that declares unconstitutional the current daily classroom recitation of the pledge.
The original pledge was adopted by Congress in 1942 and did not contain the words “under God.” The phrase was added in 1954.
The justices peppered Niose with questions about how far the ban on the pledge should extend, noting that the pledge is recited at sporting events and other public gatherings. Chief Justice Roderick Ireland noted that there are other references to God made in public places, including at state courthouses where court officers include “God save the Commonwealth of Massachusetts” in a daily recitation.
Niose said those references are “ceremonial” and not recited on a daily basis by children for their 13 years in public school.,

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