National Roundup

 California

Jury awards $5M for rape at night club in Hollywood
SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) — A California jury has awarded a woman $5.4 million after finding that she was raped in the restroom of a West Hollywood nightclub by an employee of the establishment.
The woman’s attorney says the civil jury reached the award Friday after a 15-day trial in Santa Monica.
The employee, a 23-year-old bus boy named Victor Cruz, was acquitted in the criminal case. He did not attend the civil proceedings.
The 43-year-old plaintiff, a news producer, alleges she was raped at the Here Lounge in 2009 by Cruz.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the jury rejected claims that the sex was consensual.
Jurors found the nightclub should pay 40 percent of the verdict and Cruz 60 percent.
Cruz has not been seen since he was acquitted.
 
Nebraska
State child porn case against med exec are dropped 
ALLIANCE, Neb. (AP) — A former Alliance hospital executive won’t be tried by the state on child pornography charges.
The case has been dismissed because federal allegations were filed Feb. 21 against 65-year-old James “Jim” Parks. He’s been indicted on charges of receipt and distribution of child pornography between June 9 and Aug. 8 last year.
Parks’ state trial in Box Butte County District Court had been scheduled to begin April 28. He’d pleaded not guilty.
He is a former member of Alliance’s Police/Citizen Advisory Board.
The Nebraska State Patrol says an investigation began after a report from Box Butte General Hospital officials raised questions about information found on Parks’ work computer. Authorities say there was evidence that Parks and another man had exchanged videos and photos that depicted children sexually.
 
Vermont
Man convicted in fatal NH blast seeks release 
LANCASTER, N.H. (AP) — A Vermont man convicted of manslaughter after his New Hampshire gunpowder plant exploded is seeking to get out of prison while he appeals his conviction and awaits a second trial in Maine.
Craig Sanborn of Maidstone, Vt., was sentenced in November to 10 to 20 years in prison for the 2010 explosion that killed two workers at the Black Mag plant in Colebrook.
The Caledonian Record reported that his lawyer recently filed a request to allow Sanborn’s release while the state Supreme Court considers his appeal. The defense argues that Sanborn’s bail should not have been revoked purely on the nature of the crime and the sentence imposed.
Sanborn is set to go to trial in April in Maine, where he is charged with wire fraud. A conviction on that charge could bring another 20 years in prison.
In October, a jury convicted Sanborn on two counts of negligent homicide and manslaughter in connection with the explosion that killed Jesse Kennett, 49, of Stratford, and Donald Kendall, 56, of Colebrook. Prosecutors successfully argued the Sanborn was more concerned with rushing to fill a big contract than he was about the safety of his workers.
At trial, his lawyer countered that the explosion could have been accidental or due to negligence on the part of an employee. He tried to convince the jury that Sanborn couldn’t be held responsible because he was out of state at the time of the blast.
 
Indiana
Man claims he was sleepwalking wh­e­­n he attacked  
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A state court has rejected the appeal of a man who claimed he was sleepwalking when he attempted to strangle his 7-year-old son.
The Indiana Court of Appeals recently voted 3-0 to uphold Joseph Curnett’s 35-year-old prison term resulting from his 2013 conviction on battery charges.
The Star Press reports that Curnett and his son were staying at a relative’s Henry County home in July 2012 when Curnett urinated in the bed they were sharing and the boy criticized him. Curnett allegedly then choked the boy for several minutes. Physicians noticed bruises on the boy’s neck when he was taken to a hospital next day.
The three-judge panel said Curnett introduced no evidence during his trial that he had been sleepwalking.
 
California
Judge says 2 state laws are unconstitutional 
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A federal judge has ruled two California laws enacted through the initiative process are unconstitutional because they retrospectively increase the punishments for crimes committed before the laws came into effect.
U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton of Sacramento issued a 58-page order on Friday, ruling that the so-called “Victims’ Bill of Rights” and another law that allows the governor to reverse approved paroles cannot be enforced.
Voters passed Proposition 9 in 2008, mandating longer periods of time between parole hearings.
The Sacramento Bee reports Karlton found that law “creates a significant risk” of longer sentences for prisoners than those they faced when their crimes were committed. His conclusion, Karlton said, was based on evidence presented at a non-jury trial before him last year as well as evidence submitted by prisoners’ attorneys showing terms that had been lengthened by the law.
His injunction effectively blocks state enforcement of the law. It also instructs the Board of Parole Hearings to revert to a statute in effect before Proposition 9 passed that governs the spacing of parole hearings and guaranteed thousands of prisoners an annual suitability hearing.
In 1988, voters passed Proposition 89, allowing governors to review and reverse paroles in murder cases that the board had already approved by the board.
Karlton’s ruling Friday said that every governor has abused that power since the measure passed by blocking many of the paroles they reviewed.
“In practice,” he wrote, “the governors have used it to tip the scales against parole. Thus, while the governors could use the law to review parole decisions to ensure that they are accurate and fair, they appear to have no such concern about decisions that deny parole.”
The judge also ordered the governor to stop reversing already-approved paroles.
One of Karlton’s previous rulings also had blocked elements of Proposition 9 from going forward, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down his decision.

 

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