National Roundup

Texas
‘Affluenza’ teen’s dad convicted of portraying a cop 

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The father of a Texas teenager who used an “affluenza” defense in a fatal drunken-driving wreck has been found guilty of falsely identifying himself as a peace officer.

Fred Couch, 51, was sentenced Wednesday in a Tarrant County courtroom to a year’s probation. If he violates the terms, he could be jailed for up to 120 days.

In a dashcam video shown to jurors, Couch is seen telling North Richland Hills police officers responding to a disturbance two years ago that he is a reserve officer.

Defense attorney Scott Brown argued to a jury this week that Couch, who carried a badge bearing the words “search and rescue” and “Lakeside Police,” never asserted authority with it.

Couch’s family has been embroiled in one legal drama after another in recent years.

His son, Ethan Couch, was 16 when he killed four people in a 2013 drunken-driving wreck. His blood-alcohol level was three times above the legal limit for adult drivers when the crash occurred. A defense expert invoked the term “affluenza” in arguing during the sentencing phase of the teenager’s trial that Couch’s wealthy parents may have coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility. The condition is not recognized as a medical diagnosis by the American Psychiatric Association, and its use drew widespread derision.

The case of Ethan Couch, now 19, led to a protracted legal battle in which his attorneys argued he should be tried in juvenile court. A judge ultimately moved the matter to adult court and he is now serving a nearly two-year jail term.

The younger Couch’s incarceration was triggered after it appeared he violated terms of his probation for the 2013 wreck when a video surfaced last December that showed him at a party with alcohol.

Couch then disappeared and Tarrant County authorities say he fled to Mexico with his mother, Tonya Couch. They were found a few weeks later in the Mexican resort city of Puerto Vallarta. Ethan Couch appeared to have grown a beard and dyed his hair black.

Tonya Couch subsequently was indicted on charges of hindering apprehension of a felon and money laundering. She was released from home confinement over the summer and was tending bar in suburban Fort Worth.

Fred and Tonya Couch are divorced.


New Jersey
Bid to dismiss  discrimination lawsuit rejected

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — An appeals court in New Jersey turned down a bid to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a former employee who claims she was fired by a Catholic school because she’s married to a woman.

The Archdiocese of Newark challenged a lower court ruling to allow the case to proceed to determine whether state law or church tenets apply.

Kate Drumgoole claims Paramus Catholic High School violated state discrimination laws by firing her as dean of guidance and head coach of the basketball team after learning she had married a woman.

The school said Drumgoole was fired because she’s in a same-sex marriage and it’s lawful for churches to require that employees subscribe to their tenets.

Pennsylvania
Court order can’t stop golf balls from hitting home

EASTON, Pa. (AP) — A couple who live next to a Pennsylvania golf course says errant balls are still hitting their property despite a previous court order.

The (Allentown) Morning Call says Jerzy and Halina Wisniewski returned to Northampton County court Wednesday with 50-some golf balls they say came from the Morgan Hill Golf Course since October.

That’s when the couple got a court injunction, which prompted the course to relocate some tees to keep golfers from hooking balls onto the couple’s property.

The couple’s attorney says the course should have done more to stop the balls.

But course attorney Erv McLain says thick woods already separate the course from the property and suspects the couple has gathered the balls in hopes the course will buy them out.

The judge will rule after both sides submit written arguments.

Pennsylvania
Thief steals cop’s uniform from courthouse

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Police in Philadelphia are searching for the thief who stole parts of an officer’s uniform from a bench outside a courtroom at the city’s Criminal Justice Center.

The 25th District officer took off his uniform jacket, badge and hat while preparing to testify in a courtroom on the Center City building’s fifth floor Wednesday morning.

Police say the officer left his belongings on the bench and found that they were missing when he returned 15 minutes later.

Surveillance video from the courthouse shows a man between 40 and 50 years old stuffing the jacket and hat into a bag before leaving the building.

Investigators say the suspect was only on the floor for about seven minutes. He was last seen heading toward Broad Street.

Ohio
Grandmother of children who ate heroin gets jail

WARREN, Ohio (AP) — The grandmother of two small children who swallowed heroin at her northeast Ohio home has been sentenced to 90 days in jail.

The Warren Tribune Chronicle reports a judge in Warren sentenced 44-year-old Lisa Davis on Wednesday after Davis pleaded guilty in October to a felony charge of allowing drug abuse.

The two children, ages 9 months and 21 months, and their teenage mother were living in Davis’ Warren home in February when they had to be revived with a heroin antidote at a hospital emergency room.

A jury last month convicted the mother, 19-year-old Carlisa Davis, of two counts of child endangering. She awaits sentencing.

Lisa Davis’ mother now has custody of the children.

South Dakota
Opponents ask judge to hold ethics overhaul 

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — Foes of a government ethics overhaul are asking a South Dakota judge not to salvage parts of the law he put on hold while a court challenge moves forward.

A group of Republican lawmakers and others asked the court in a legal filing this week to keep the entire law on hold. The attorney general’s office and the law’s sponsors previously asked the court to reinstate provisions including lower campaign contribution caps.

Circuit Judge Mark Barnett last week issued a preliminary injunction, ruling that an ethics commission, public campaign funding appropriation and legislator gift limitations may be unconstitutional.

But he also invited input on portions that could be “saved.”

The challengers argue that the provisions supporters are trying to save can’t function effectively without the ethics commission.

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