National Roundup

 Utah

Men avoid jail time in ancient rock toppling 
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Two Utah men removed from their Boy Scout leadership positions after a viral video showed them toppling an ancient rock formation pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges Tuesday and avoided jail time.
Glenn Taylor, 45, and David Hall, 42, appeared in Utah’s 7th District Court to enter their pleas under a deal with prosecutors. The two men from Highland were sentenced to a year of probation and ordered to pay fines and restitution, which has not yet been determined, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
State prosecutors are still trying to put a price on the amount of damage caused in October to the mushroom-shaped sandstone pillar, which park officials said had been standing for much of human history, if not longer. The formation was estimated to be about 170 million years old.
A video shot by Hall and posted on YouTube shows Taylor dislodging the formation at Goblin Valley State Park in central Utah that’s filled with thousands of the pillars called “hoodoos.”
Hall, Taylor and a third man were seen cheering and high-fiving after the formation toppled.
The men claimed it might have been ready to fall and kill a visitor. Both were later stripped of their Boy Scout positions.
Scott Card, an attorney for Taylor, told the Tribune that the restitution will be thousands of dollars and will go toward putting up signs in the park to warn others against damaging the formations.
Both men were originally facing felony mischief charges. If Taylor and Hall meet the requirements of their probation, the offenses will later be removed from their records.
 
Ohio
Po­licy that bans riot interviews defended in court
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Allowing prisoners convicted for their role in Ohio’s deadly 1993 prison riot to conduct face-to-face media interviews could give them too much “notoriety and influence” among fellow prisoners and cause problems throughout the correctional system, the state argues in a new court filing.
The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction calls a lawsuit seeking such interviews frivolous and wants a federal judge to throw it out.
The interviews are banned because of the state’s concern “regarding safety and security and the fear that these prisoners would thereby gain a disproportionate degree of notoriety and influence among their fellow inmates,” according to documents the state filed Monday in a Columbus court.
That influence could lead “to substantial disciplinary problems that could engulf large portions of the prisons,” the filing said.
The Ohio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union sued the state in December, arguing the prison system’s policy is inconsistent, especially when the backgrounds of other high-security prisoners granted access to reporters is reviewed.
The only plausible reason for granting interviews to other prisoners while denying access to the Lucasville ones “is the desire to stifle public discussion of the 1993 Lucasville prison uprising,” according to the ACLU.
Under recent policy changes, Lucasville riot prisoners may make telephone calls of up to an hour, including to reporters. But the prisoners have argued that in-person meetings captured on video are a more powerful way to tell their side of the story.
The ACLU lawsuit was brought on behalf of Noelle Hanrahan, director and producer of Prison Radio in Philadelphia; Christopher Hedges, an author and former New York Times reporter in Princeton, N.J.; Derrick Jones, a former Bowling Green State University professor now at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colo.; and James Ridgeway, co-editor of a website, “Solitary Watch” in Washington, D.C.
The lawsuit was also brought on behalf of death row inmates Siddique Abdullah Hasan, George Skatzes, Keith Lamar and Jason Robb, and prisoner Gregory Curry, who is serving a life sentence for the Lucasville riots.
 
California
14 teens charged in $1 million mansion break-in 
POMONA, Calif. (AP) — Authorities have filed criminal charges against 14 teenagers who allegedly broke into a Southern California mansion and held a party that caused more than $1 million in damage and losses, including the theft of a stuffed snow leopard.
Los Angeles County prosecutors announced the charges Tuesday.
Authorities say the party promoted on social media in November brought more than 100 teens to the La Habra Heights mansion while the owner was away.
According to investigators, partygoers entered through a window, trashed the place and stole several pricey items including designer suits, medieval armor, jewelry and the mounted leopard. Much of the loot was later recovered.
The teens, who are 15 to 18 years old, face misdemeanor and felony charges ranging from trespassing to burglary and theft.
 
Arkansas
Hitchhiker faces  murder charge in deputy’s death 
TEXARKANA, Ark. (AP) — Prosecutors say an Arkansas deputy was performing a good deed when he was killed in a traffic wreck this week while driving a hitchhiker to a homeless shelter.
Prosecuting Attorney Carlton Jones says Lafayette County Chief Deputy Pete Richardson was “just trying to do the right thing” when he offered to drive Michael Ackart to a shelter in Texarkana, Texas.
According to an affidavit, Ackart, of Tulsa, Okla., told police that he grabbed the steering wheel while Richardson was driving, causing the deadly crash.
Ackart has been jailed on suspicion of second-degree murder.
The Texarkana Gazette reports that Ackart made his first appearance Tuesday in court, where he told a judge he did not have an attorney. He’s next due in court April 4.
 
South Dakota
Superinte­ndent resigns af­ter paternity suit 
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — The superintendent of the Miller School District has resigned his post and a seat on the state high school activities board less than a month after a paternity suit was filed by a former student.
Circuit Judge Jon Erickson ordered Michael Ruth to take a paternity test.
Jacqueline Maria St. John filed a lawsuit in Hand County on Feb. 26. St. John said in an affidavit that she met Ruth when he was her superintendent at Miller High School, and the two began a sexual relationship after she graduated. She said Ruth denied being the father and refused testing.
St. John said she has medical expenses from the pregnancy and wants the court to determine past and future child support.
A message left for Ruth’s attorney was not immediately returned.

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