National Roundup

Florida
Safe found in mansion once owned by Escobar 

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A locked safe has been found in the debris of a Miami Beach mansion once owned by Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar.

Demolition began last week on the waterfront property now owned by Chicken Kitchen founder Christian de Berdouare. On Monday, excavators found the metal safe as they knocked down the last walls.

Excavator operator Miguel Mato tells El Nuevo Herald that the 2-foot-by-2-foot safe weighs up to 700 pounds. Mato says he noticed it when the floor sank beneath some rubble.

De Berdouare and his wife say the safe will remain locked in a bank vault until they finish filming a documentary about Escobar’s link to the property.

U.S. authorities seized the property in 1987. De Berdouare bought it from a private owner in 2014 for $9.65 million.

Missouri
U.S. Senator McCaskill to serve on jury

ST. LOUIS (AP) — U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri will be spending the next few days on a St. Louis County jury hearing a civil case.

McCaskill, a Democrat, posted several messages on Twitter throughout the day Monday as she waited to find out if she would be selected for the jury.

The senator, a former prosecutor, said early in the day that she didn’t expect to be chosen.

But after a day of tweeting about the television shows the jury pool was watching, what she wore and what was for lunch, the senator was surprised to be chosen.

McCaskill tweeted: “HOLY X@#(asterisk)! I am on the jury” then stopped using social media.

Details of the case McCaskill was chosen for were not immediately available.

New York
Ex- state Senator  seeks new trial after conviction

NEW YORK (AP) — Ex-New York state Senate majority leader Dean Skelos and his son are seeking a new trial six weeks after they were convicted of federal corruption charges.

They were convicted of bribery, extortion and conspiracy charges on Dec. 11. Prosecutors said the Long Island Republican used his influence to arrange payments and jobs for his son, Adam.

Their lawyers filed a motion Monday in Manhattan federal court seeking acquittal on all the counts and a new trial, arguing the trial evidence failed to prove the crimes beyond a reasonable doubt.

The presiding trial judge denied the lawyers’ motion for acquittal after the trial ended but before the verdict was announced.

The Skeloses’ sentencing is set for March 3.

Their lawyers and the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office declined comment on the motion.

Georgia
Deputies: Woman faked cancer, got $25K in charity

CUMMING, Ga. (AP) — A Georgia woman is accused of pretending to have terminal cancer and accepting thousands of dollars in donations and trips.

Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Epifanio Rodriguez tells news outlets that 29-year-old Mary Bennett of Cumming was arrested earlier this month and charged with felony first-degree forgery and misdemeanor theft.

Rodriguez says Bennett went skydiving, rode in a hot air balloon, took a free trip to New Orleans, went fishing in the Gulf of Mexico and received signed letter from members of the Atlanta Braves.

Overall, authorities say she received donations, free trips and gifts valued at about $25,000.

Authorities believe Bennett started claiming to have Stage IV ovarian cancer in 2010.

It is unclear whether Bennett has an attorney.

California
Hot yoga founder ordered to pay in harassment suit

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The founder of a popular hot yoga method on Monday was ordered to pay more than $900,000 to a lawyer who said she was fired for investigating allegations of sexual harassment against the guru.

A Los Angeles jury ordered Bikram Choudhury to pay the attorney $924,500 in compensatory damages after finding he had subjected her to harassment and retaliation. The jury is considering whether to award the attorney, Minakshi Jafa-Bodden, with punitive damages on Tuesday.

“It’s an enormous vindication,” said Jafa-Bodden’s attorney, Carla Minnard.

She said Choudhury sexually harassed Jafa-Bodden, inappropriately touched her, and tried to get her to stay with him in a hotel suite. Choudhury fired her in June 2013 when she began investigating claims from other women of sexual abuse, Minnard said.

Choudhury’s attorney, Robert Tafoya, did not return a call for comment.

Choudhury, 69, has built an empire around Bikram yoga, a rigorous, 90-minute routine performed in a room that can reach more than 100 degrees. The technique is taught at more than 650 studios worldwide and has drawn a throng of devoted followers.

Monday’s verdict is just the latest bad news for Choudhury.

In October, the guru lost a court appeal to copyright his sequence of 26 poses and two breathing exercises. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the sequence used in hot yoga classes is a process intended to improve people’s health, so copyright law does not cover it.

Choudhury is also facing lawsuits by six women who claim he sexually assaulted them, the first of which is set for trial in April.

The most recent lawsuit, filed Feb. 13, accuses Choudhury of raping a Canadian woman who had she used $10,000 from her college fund to pay for a nine-week class so she could teach Bikram yoga to others.

Choudhury’s lawyers have said he never sexually assaulted any of the women suing him and that prosecutors had declined to bring charges in their cases.


Wisconsin
Police recover stolen cheese worth $70,000

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Police have recovered about $70,000 worth of cheese stolen from a suburban Milwaukee trucking company.

Germantown police say on their Facebook page that the cheese was found in Milwaukee Friday evening. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that no one has been arrested.

A 54-foot long trailer containing the cheese was stolen early Friday from D and G Transportation in Germantown, which is northwest of Milwaukee.

A semitrailer used to steal the trailer was recovered. Police said the empty trailer, which was found around 10 a.m. Friday in the Milwaukee area.
It’s not clear exactly where in Milwaukee the stolen cheese was found.

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