National Roundup

New Jersey
2 New York poli­ce officers char­g­ed in sex assault

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) - Two police officers from New York have been charged with sexually assaulting a woman in an Atlantic City casino.

Lawyers for both men say the men are innocent and face extradition at hearings scheduled for Wednesday.

Andrei Torres, an officer at the New York Police Department, and Devon Thomas, of the New York state police, were charged Tuesday with aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault by force without injury.

Authorities have not detailed the allegations, and Jay McKeen, a spokesman for the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office, said he would not say anything about the case other than that charges had been filed.

The alleged assault was at the Trump Taj Mahal on April 24 against a woman also from New York state.

"Mr. Thomas is 100 percent innocent," said Thomas' lawyer, Joseph Levine. "He does not engage in any criminal wrongdoing, especially nothing of a sexual nature."

Torres' lawyer, John Zarych said the evidence would prove his client innocent. "This is a mistake, a mistake we will correct as soon as possible," Zarych said. "He's an excellent officer with the NYPD and is just simply innocent of these charges."

Their lawyers said both men served in the U.S. military in Iraq and that Thomas also served in Afghanistan.

Pennsylvania
Coach, 2 players suspended over duct-taped player

NATRONA HEIGHTS, Pa. (AP) - A Pennsylvania high school soccer coach and two players have been suspended for at least five days after an autistic teammate told police the two teens duct-taped him to a goalpost.

Austin Babinsack, 16, told Harrison Township police he was left taped to the goal for 15 to 20 minutes Sunday evening before passers-by heard his screams and freed him.

"I was really shaken," the boy told KDKA-TV on Tuesday. "I thought I was going to be stuck there for a long time."

The Highlands School District, about 20 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, issued a statement saying coach Jim Turner, who was not present at the time, and two 17-year-old players identified by Babinsack have been suspended.

Misty Chybrzynski, a district spokeswoman, said the coach was suspended because of an ongoing investigation. The district declined further comment, saying it was a personnel matter.

The Associated Press couldn't immediately locate the coach's phone number.

"Highlands School District does not take matters such as hazing or bullying lightly," it said in a statement. "The district issues strict disciplinary action on students who think these actions are appropriate or harmless."

Chybrzynski wouldn't say whether the coach or the boy's teammates knew he was autistic.

"We officially cannot discuss the status of any special needs students," she said.

Police may also file juvenile court charges against the two teammates, although Chief Mike Klein did not immediately return a call Wednesday seeking additional comment.

Kristy Babinsack, the victim's mother, said she hopes the coach will be fired and the other players expelled, though she has praised the district's response.

"He was bawling. He was terrified," she said of her son. "He could have died. He could have had a heart attack from being so stressed out. He was screaming at the top of his lungs."

Austin attended the team's game on Monday and became upset and quit the team after some players called him a "snitch," his mother said.

She said the boy loved being on the team.

"There's a sweat suit they all have with their name and numbers. He wears that to bed," she said. "He wears it every weekend."

New York
Man pleads not guilty in lesbian custody case

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - A Virginia businessman has pleaded not guilty to charges he helped a woman flee the country with her daughter to avoid sharing custody with her former lesbian partner.

Philip Zodhiates (zoh-dee-AH'-tihs) declined comment after appearing briefly in Buffalo federal court Wednesday on charges he helped Lisa Miller cross the border into Canada with her daughter, Isabella, in 2009.

Lisa Miller renounced homosexuality after ending the civil union she entered into with Janet Jenkins in Vermont in 2000. She's believed to be in Central America.

Zodhiates, Miller and a Mennonite missionary are charged in a federal indictment with international parental kidnapping and conspiracy. Only Zodhiates is believed to be in the country.

Miller and Jenkins split in 2003. Miller disappeared with Isabella shortly before a Vermont court transferred custody to Jenkins.

New York
Attorney argues that chi­mpanzees have basic rights

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - A New York appeals court is hearing a novel legal effort to have chimpanzees declared "persons" rather than "things" so the animals can be freed from what critics say are inhumane conditions.

Attorney Steven Wise argued Wednesday on behalf of Tommy, who lives alone in a cage in upstate Fulton County. A trial level judge refused a request by Wise and his group, the Nonhuman Rights Project, to have Tommy released to join other chimps at a Florida sanctuary.

Wise argues that animals with human qualities, such as chimps, deserve basic rights, including freedom from imprisonment. His group is also seeking the release of three other chimps in New York.

Tommy's owner, Patrick Lavery of Gloversville, told the Albany Times-Union the chimpanzee is happy and has cable TV and a stereo to entertain him.

Vermont
Cops: Pair put booze in boy's IV, factor in death

ST. JOHNSBURY, Vt. (AP) - A woman and her boyfriend are facing murder charges in court because police say they put alcohol in her disabled 13-year-old son's IV tube, contributing to his death.

Melissa Robitille and Walter Richter III were charged Tuesday with second-degree murder in the August death of Isaac Robitille. They faced arraignment Wednesday afternoon in Caledonia.

Police say Isaac was born with significant medical conditions and disabilities that required the assistance of caretakers, feeding tubes anºd intravenous tubes.

The couple, both 38, were charged with using the IV tube to administer alcohol to the boy, leading to his death. An autopsy found his blood-alcohol content was about twice the legal limit for adult drivers.

Isaac's health conditions included a brain abnormality listed as the cause of death with the alcohol listed as a contributing factor.

 

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