Court Roundup

 Nevada

Justices rule vs. man who ran medical pot co-op 
CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — The Nevada Supreme Court ruled that a man must stand trial on charges of illegally running a Las Vegas medical marijuana dispensary three years ago, though a new state law will make such operations legal.
The court’s ruling, handed down Friday, overturns Clark County District Judge Donald Mosley’s 2012 dismissal of the case against Leonard Schwingdorf.
He was arrested in 2011 after an undercover police officer joined the Sin City Co-Op and made a $110 donation for pot. Schwingdorf was indicted on charges of illegal drug sales and trafficking of a controlled substance after prosecutors claimed the donation was really a payment for the drug.
Mosley, who has since retired, called the old medical marijuana law absurd and unconstitutional because it allowed no legal way for patients with state-issued cards to obtain the drug.
But justices, in their five-page decision, said they did not want to address its constitutionality unless absolutely necessary, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
Before the issue can be addressed, the justices said, a jury must first address whether the exchange of medical marijuana for a donation was illegal. The justices added they would consider the constitutionality argument in a post-conviction appeal.
The state high court might not have to consider the issue because the Legislature last year passed a new medical marijuana law that makes it legal for patients to buy the drug at dispensaries.
Schwingdorf’s attorneys told the Review-Journal they hope prosecutors will dismiss the case because of changes to the law. But defense lawyers are prepared to take the case to a jury, they said. If convicted, Schwingdorf could face up to life in prison.
Assistant District Attorney Christopher Lalli declined to comment on the case.
Although Nevada voters approved a constitutional amendment allowing medical marijuana in 2000, patients had no legal way to get the drug until the legislation passed last year.
The 2013 Legislature approved a bill setting up a taxing and regulatory structure to allow cultivation, processing and distribution of marijuana to card-holding patients.
State officials say they intend to meet the Legislature’s April 1 deadline to adopt medical marijuana regulations but it could be months before the state begins accepting applications from providers and growers.
The state high court dismissed the case against Schwingdorf’s co-defendant, Nathan Hamilton, after his suicide in 2012. Hamilton owned the co-op.
 
Connecticut
Appeals court hears same-sex custody case 
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A federal appeals court is making a rare appearance in Connecticut to hear several cases, including one involving a Virginia pastor convicted of helping a woman and her child flee the country and avoid a custody dispute with her former lesbian partner.
Three judges on the New York City-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals are scheduled to hear cases Monday at the University of Connecticut Law School, under an occasional practice to hold court across its territory of Connecticut, New York and Vermont.
Pastor Kenneth Miller of Stuarts Draft, Va., is appealing his 2012 conviction in Vermont federal court for aiding in international parental kidnapping. His 27-month prison sentence is delayed while he appeals.
Authorities say the woman and daughter Miller helped are still believed to be in Nicaragua.
 
Pennsylvania
Trooper acquitted in 2013 domestic violence case 
YORK, Pa. (AP) — A central Pennsylvania state trooper has been acquitted of domestic violence charges.
The York Dispatch reports that court records indicate that a jury on Friday acquitted 44-year-old Trooper Patrick Kelly of Dover Township of simple assault and harassment.
State police said Kelly was suspended in November after he was charged following a fight between the couple, which officials said occurred as they were driving home after having drinks in Harrisburg.
Defense attorney Chris Ferro said after the verdict that testimony indicated that his client never harmed the woman.
He said a ruling on a pending drunken driving charge has been deferred so that Kelly can apply for the county’s accelerated rehabilitative disposition program, which allows first-time offenders to clear their records eventually.
 
Connecticut
Federal appeals court to hear Vt. appeal in CT. 
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A federal appeals court is traveling from home base in New York City to the campus of a Connecticut law school to hear arguments in a Vermont case involving a same-sex custody dispute.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is sending a three-judge panel to the University of Connecticut School of Law in Hartford Monday. The court occasionally hears cases at locations across its territory of Connecticut, New York and Vermont.
One of the appeals the judges will hear is that of a Pastor Kenneth Miller — convicted in Vermont in 2012 of helping a woman and her child flee the country to avoid a child custody dispute with her former lesbian partner.
Miller, of Stuarts Draft, Va., is appealing his conviction for aiding in international parental kidnapping.
 
South Carolina
March sentencing set for Lexington lawyer in fraud
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Sentencing has been scheduled for a high-profile South Carolina attorney accused of extorting $1 million from his clients.
Court papers show Lexington lawyer Richard Breibart will be sentenced in Columbia on March 5.
Breibart pleaded guilty last year to a federal charge of mail fraud. He was arrested in 2012 on charges of extortion, mail fraud and wire fraud.
Prosecutors said Breibart told clients they were facing Internal Revenue Service penalties or possible criminal charges unless they put hundreds of thousands of dollars into his law firm’s trust account. Authorities say Breibart then took the money and used it to pay for unspecified personal and business expenses.
Breibart faces $250,000 in fines and up to 20 years in prison, but prosecutors have agreed to recommend a lower sentence.

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