National Roundup

Murder convictio­n overturned for demeaning words

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - The 5th District Court of Appeal overturned a man's second-degree murder conviction because of flawed jury instructions and improper comments by a prosecutor who repeatedly called the defendant a "crackhead."

The decision means 57-year-old Jerry Roy Crew will get a new trial on charges that he participated in a robbery that led to the death of 19-year-old Donnell "DJ" Ellis in April 2011.

State Attorney's Office spokesman Spencer Hathaway told The Daytona Beach News-Journal that Crew will remain incarcerated, but now has the right to file a motion for bond.

The justices wrote that the trial judge should've done more to address the improper comments Assistant State Attorney J. Ryan Will made during closing arguments. They say the language degraded and demeaned Crew.


State settles with worker over wrongful firing

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa has settled a case with a state worker who had sued after being fired from the Polk County Clerk of Court's office in 2004.

The Des Moines Register says ( the state agreed Tuesday to pay Tina Lee more than $377,000 in back wages and post-judgment interest.

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled in March that Iowa had violated Lee's rights under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. Lee was fired after she took time off to cope with anxiety. Lee sued, alleging wrongful discharge and retaliation. In 2007 a jury found in her favor and she was awarded lost earnings totaling $165,122, attorney fees and expenses.

The state had argued originally and in appeals that it had sovereign immunity against being sued for damages under the federal act.

Ex-state Rep. Gill Pratt starts 4-year prison term

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A former New Orleans politician has begun a four-year prison sentence for her part in a scheme involving former Congressman Bill Jefferson's family.

Attorney Mike Fawer tells The New Orleans Advocate that Renee Gill Pratt reported Tuesday to the federal prison camp in Marianna, Florida.

The former state representative and former city councilwoman was convicted in July 2011 of racketeering, for plotting with some of Jefferson's relatives to pocket money given to charitable and educational programs.

Jefferson's sisters Brenda and Betty and a niece pleaded guilty.

Mose Jefferson, Jefferson's brother and Gill Pratt's former boyfriend, was convicted of bribery earlier.

Bill Jefferson is serving 13 years for corruption.

District Judge Ivan Lemelle originally sentenced Gill Pratt to seven years but an appeals court said he miscalculated sentencing guidelines.

Child porninvestigations turn up guns

PLYMOUTH, Mass. (AP) - Federal authorities say they found several guns and a handwritten journal entitled "Mass Murder Book" in the home of a child pornography suspect from Plymouth.

Brendan Kessler made an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Boston on Tuesday, and is being held for a detention hearing Thursday.

Prosecutors say the 24-year-old Kessler had been under investigation and a raid of his home and allegedly turned up child pornography on computers and electronic devices.

In addition, authorities found three handguns, three shotguns, eight rifles, detonator cords, remote firing switches and other items. The journal contained "detailed entries describing steps to be taken in an assault," authorities said.

A public defender for Kessler says the weapons did not belong to his client, but to someone else who lived in the home.

Man ch­arged with attacking jogging U.S. marshal

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A Pittsburgh man has been jailed on charges he groped and attacked a U.S. marshal as she jogged on a trail near the Allegheny River.

Online court records weren't listing an attorney for 19-year-old Robert Flynn who was charged with aggravated assault, indecent assault and escape.

The female marshal tells police she was jogging Tuesday evening when Flynn approached, grabbed her buttocks then pulled down her shorts.

As Flynn ran away, the woman identified herself as a marshal and yelled for Flynn to stop while chasing him and yelling for others nearby to call 911.

The marshal tells police she cornered the man on a staircase of a nearby apartment building, where she kicked Flynn in the groin when he lunged at her.

A city magistrate set bail at $500,000 and scheduled a preliminary hearing Sept. 11.

Rhode Island
Convicted ex-CEO seeks $3.6M from medical center

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - A former executive at Roger Williams Medical Center convicted of corruption is seeking nearly $3.6 million in severance pay and legal costs from the Providence hospital.

The Providence Journal reports that Robert Urciuoli (uhr-see-OLE'-ee) is demanding arbitration with the hospital and its owner, CharterCARE Health Partners.

Urciuoli says in papers filed in federal court that he could only be terminated for "cause" under his contract as the hospital's chief executive. He also says evidence shows his lawyers told him a deal to promote the hospital and a nursing home with former state Sen. John Celona was legal.

Urciuoli, who now lives in Florida, served a three-year prison sentence for buying Celona's influence. Celona pleaded guilty and also served prison time.

Man pleads guilty in church van crash, killing two

SEYMOUR, Tenn. (AP) - An East Tennessee man has pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide, drug possession and other charges in a church van crash that killed two people and injured 11 others.

Public Defender Ed Miller told the Knoxville News Sentinel that 23-year-old Tyler James Schaeffer expressed remorse when he entered the plea Tuesday in front of Sevier County Circuit Court Judge Rex Ogle.

A grand jury indicted Schaeffer after his sport utility vehicle hit a Cedar Grove Baptist Church van in 2012 as it returned to Maryville from a youth trip to Gatlinburg on Sept. 16.

The crash killed 16-year-old Courteney Kaliszewski and the van driver, 45-year Jeffrey Trussell.


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