National Roundup

Virginia
Appeals court: NSA surveillance challenge can move forward

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A federal appeals court says Wikimedia’s case challenging the government’s practice of collecting certain internet communications can move forward.

The three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that Wikimedia has standing to challenge the National Security Agency’s “upstream” surveillance practice. The appeals court reversed a lower-court ruling dismissing Wikimedia’s case.

The case was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union. ACLU Attorney Patrick Toomey praised the ruling in a statement.

The NSA recently said it will limit such collection to internet communications sent directly to or from a foreign target, instead of those that simply mention foreign intelligence targets.

The ACLU says that despite the change, upstream surveillance continues and the NSA hasn’t said it can’t revert to the prior practice in the future.

Connecticut
Rapper sued over concert fatal shooting

WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) — Rapper Meek Mill and a Connecticut theater are being sued over a fatal shooting outside the venue following a concert in December.

The shooting outside the Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford killed 31-year-old Travis Ward and 20-year-old Jaquan Graves, both of New Haven. Two others were injured, including 25-year-old Nathan Mitchell, of Hartford.

Lawyers for Ward’s family and Mitchell filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Waterbury Superior Court accusing the Philadelphia-born rapper and theater of negligence and misconduct for alleged inadequate security measures. The lawsuit says Meek Mill’s lyrics incite violence and there have been shootings at two of his other concerts.

Representatives for the theater and the rapper, whose real name is Robert Williams, did not immediately return messages Tuesday.

The amount of damages sought in the lawsuit wasn’t disclosed.

South Carolina
Condemned church shooter seeks appellate court mercy

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A white supremacist petitioned a court for mercy, asking the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday to overturn his conviction and death sentence for killing nine black worshippers in a racist attack at a Charleston church.

The notice filed by attorneys for Dylann Roof was an expected move in what’s expected to be years of appeals in his federal case. Earlier this month, the federal judge who presided over Roof’s trial rejected his first appeal, ruling that the conviction and death sentence for the June 2015 massacre at Emanuel AME church should stand.

Roof, 23, was sentenced to death earlier this year. Authorities have said the self-avowed white supremacist opened fire during a closing prayer of the Bible study session.

In his initial appeal, Roof argued that his crime didn’t fit the definition of interstate commerce needed to make a federal case because he bought the gun and bullets in South Carolina and did not travel out-of-state to the church.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel ruled that Roof had used a telephone to call the church, GPS to find it and that the bullets and gun were manufactured in a different state.

Roof’s appeals come as no surprise. According to recently released transcripts of hearings to determine his competency to stand trial, Roof told his lawyers that he’d go through the appellate process to drag his case out as long as he could.

With the passage of time, Roof said, he expected white supremacists to take over the U.S. within several years, pardon him for the killings and make him governor of South Carolina.

“He has no intention of waiving his appeals because this will give enough time for the world to turn upside down,” defense attorney David Bruck said, according to a court transcript.

There’s no timeline for Roof’s federal appeal. He remains in custody on federal death row in Terre Haute, Indiana.


Illinois
Police: Student killed by hammer throw wasn’t paying attention

WHEATON, Ill. (AP) — Police say a suburban Chicago college student was not paying attention when he was struck and killed by a hammer thrown at a track and field meet last month.

The Chicago Tribune reports that Wheaton Police Detective Andrew Uhlir says Ethan Roser was watching two other volunteers playing with a stick during warmups of the April 22 event at Wheaton College rather than focusing on the hammer throw event as he had been instructed.

Uhlir says Roser had finished his shift marking where the throws landed but had stayed to cover another volunteer when he was hit by the hammer — a steel wire attached to a heavy metal ball.

The 19-year-old Roser was a freshman transfer from the Cincinnati area.

Louisiana
Man charged with trying to get Trump tax returns

A private investigator in Louisiana unsuccessfully tried to obtain President Donald Trump’s federal tax returns through a government website, and “even sounded proud of what he had done,” authorities said.

Jordan Hamlett was charged with misrepresenting his Social Security number in the effort, prosecutors said. He is accused of using a computer application on a public government website in an attempt to get Trump’s records.

Hamlett did this in September, while Trump was still a candidate for president, by using the Federal Student Aid-Datashare application, prosecutors said.

Trump refused to release his tax returns during the presidential campaign, saying he was under audit, and still has not made the records public.

Hamlett, 31, owns a private investigations agency in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He pleaded not guilty. His lawyer didn’t immediately respond to phone and email messages Tuesday.

It’s not immediately clear what his maximum sentence could be if he is convicted.

In an interview with federal agents in a Baton Rouge hotel lobby, Hamlett expressed pride in the technique he used, prosecutors wrote in court filings.

Hamlett “immediately volunteered that he had committed the crime, and he even sounded proud of what he had done,” they wrote.

The application at the center of the case allowed users applying for financial aid to locate their tax records, and transfer the information to the education website.

In court records, defense lawyer Michael Fiser characterized the interview in the hotel as an “interrogation,” and said his client’s statements were not made voluntarily. Fiser is trying to keep the statements from being used as evidence.

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