National Roundup

Massachusetts
Jailing defendants for failing to pay district court fines criticized
BOSTON (AP) - A practice by Massachusetts district court judges of jailing defendants solely for their failure to pay court fines or fees is drawing scrutiny from state lawmakers.

A report released Monday identified 105 instances when defendants were jailed for so-called "fine time" in 2015 in three Massachusetts counties. The report says that in 60 percent of those cases, the defendant had at some point been identified as indigent.

Some of the common costs imposed on defendants include: a fee for a court-appointed lawyer, a fine if a defendant is found guilty of the underlying crime, and a monthly supervision fee if a defendant is put on probation.

State Sen. Mike Barrett says the state needs to lower the charges and come up with alternative sources of revenue for courts and corrections.

Ohio
Judge: Ex-deep sea treasure hunter deceptive about coins

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - An ex-deep sea treasure hunter is faking memory problems and intentionally deceiving authorities about the location of missing coins minted from gold from an 1857 shipwreck, a federal judge has ruled.

Tommy Thompson has been held in contempt of court since mid-December last year, when Judge Algenon Marbley found he violated a plea deal by refusing to respond. Thompson also was ordered to pay $1,000 a day until he cooperates.

Thompson has said he told everything he knew during depositions last fall and argues he couldn't provide more complete answers, in part, because he suffers from a neurological disorder. He also said he could refresh his memory by reviewing documents in 75 boxes held by the U.S. Marshals Service, but that he hadn't been allowed access to that information, according to court records.

Psychiatric evaluations and results of a September court hearing show Thompson isn't suffering from a condition that would prevent him from complying with his plea deal, Marbley said in a Thursday ruling.

A test by a court-ordered psychiatrist turned up minor memory problems, the psychiatrist said in a sealed document, part of which Marbley quoted in his order.

Thompson "routinely made references to things that demonstrated his retention of information from minutes and hours earlier, he remembered things from one day to the next, he recalled aspects of his various cases with great specificity, and he recalled information about his career and business adventures dating back decades," according to the evaluation.

A message was left Monday with Thompson's attorney. Marbley has scheduled an update hearing for Wednesday.

The coins in question were minted from gold taken from the S.S. America, which sank in a hurricane off South Carolina in 1857.

Thompson previously said, without providing details, that the coins were turned over to a trust in Belize. The government, which believes the coins are worth millions of dollars, has doubts Thompson's explanation.

A fugitive from Ohio since 2012, Thompson was apprehended in January 2015 along with his longtime female companion at a hotel where he was living near Boca Raton, Florida.

Thompson pleaded guilty in April of last year to contempt of court for failing to appear before a federal judge in 2012. Part of his plea deal requires him to answer questions in closed-door sessions about the whereabouts of the gold coins.

Georgia
State high court upholds ­conviction  in killing of ex-boxing champ

ATLANTA (AP) - Georgia's highest court has upheld the murder conviction and sentence of life in prison without parole for a man involved in the 2009 killing of former world boxing champion Vernon Forrest.

The Georgia Supreme Court opinion published Monday says there was evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that J'Quante Crews was guilty in the July 2009 slaying.

Prosecutors said Crews was with DeMario Ware and Charmon Sinkfield at a gas station when the former Olympian pulled up in an expensive car. Ware robbed Forrest of a Rolex watch and championship ring and ran. When Forrest chased Ware, Sinkfield confronted him and shot him in the back several times. Crews drove the getaway car.

Crews was sentenced in April 2012. Ware and Sinkfield also got life sentences without the chance of parole.

Pennsylvania
'Entrapped' man appealing ­conviction that he killed yogi

LEWISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A Pennsylvania man contends he was entrapped into pleading guilty to killing a Pennsylvania yoga master in 2010.

The (Sunbury) Daily Item reports 39-year-old Joel Snider is set to have a hearing on his appeal in Union County on Wednesday.

Snider is serving 30 to 60 years in prison for pleading guilty but mentally ill to fatally shooting the yogi named Sudharman while burglarizing his Integral Yoga Center of Pennsylvania in July 2010. The center was located in New Berlin.

Snider contends he has a history of schizophrenia and depression and was held in solitary confinement before his guilty plea and was denied medication and other mental health treatments.

State prosecutors have said in court papers that Snider's appeal is frivolous.

Pennsylvania
Appeals court reinstates ­Muslim inmate's discrimination suit

LORETTO, Pa. (AP) - A federal appeals court panel has reinstated a discrimination lawsuit filed by a Muslim inmate who claims he was ridiculed at a Pennsylvania prison.

The Altoona Mirror reports the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined a federal judge in Johnstown was wrong to dismiss the lawsuit in which 58-year-old Charles Mack contends he lost his job in the prison commissary for complaining about the incidents.

Mack contends one Loretto prison guard put a sticker on his back saying "I love bacon" while another said, "There is no good Muslim, except a dead Muslim" while other guards and inmates laughed.

A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit because Mack was given freedom to practice his religion and wasn't made to eat or have contact with pork products. But the appeals court says he was still harmed for speaking out.

Published: Tue, Nov 08, 2016

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