National Roundup

South Carolina
Man awarded nearly $20K after pit bull attack

BLUFFTON, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina woman has been ordered to pay nearly $20,000 to a man who was attacked by her pit bull.

The Island Packet reports a jury determined Maria Rivera failed to restrain the dog as it attacked Alfredo Cerrato-Ardon outside a complex in Bluffton in February 2016. The verdict in Cerrato-Ardon’s lawsuit against Rivera came May 19 in the Beaufort Court of Common Pleas.

The lawsuit says the attack caused serious injuries to several areas of Cerrato-Ardon’s body, including his right upper extremity and right lower extremity, causing pain, medical expenses, lost wages and other damages.

Rivera said Cerrato-Ardon was not attacked, but that her dog bit him on the wrist when Cerrato-Ardon struck him and that she restrained the pit bull.

She was ordered to pay $19,200.

California
Feds seek to seize property in visa fraud scheme

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Federal authorities have filed a series of lawsuits that seek to seize property bought with proceeds from an alleged visa fraud scheme by a Los Angeles-area business.

The U.S. attorney’s office said in a statement Thursday that the lawsuits seek the forfeiture of nine properties across Southern California by the California Investment Immigration Fund in San Gabriel. They include one commercial property, five houses and three parcels of land across Southern California.

Last month federal authorities raided the business, alleging it was cheating a visa program to obtain green cards for wealthy Chinese investors, and had used it to raise more than $50 million.

Under the U.S. government program, foreign investors who commit at least half a million dollars to job-creating projects in designated areas can apply to obtain green cards. In this case, the California fund sought green cards for more than 100 Chinese investors for construction projects that were never built, according to federal court filings.

Authorities allege that some of the $50 million raised through the scheme was refunded to investors while their immigration applications were pending or used to buy personal homes for Victoria Chan, an attorney, and her father Tat Chan, who purportedly ran the fund.

The lawsuits filed Wednesday seek to seize that property from the Chans.


Nevada
State mandates body cameras on all police officers

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — All police officers in Nevada must wear body cameras beginning next year under a bill Gov. Brian Sandoval signed Thursday, becoming the second state to respond to calls for transparency of violent police encounters with a camera mandate for beat officers statewide.

The law makes audio-visual recording devices a standard feature of uniforms for any law enforcement officer who routinely interacts with the public — from contracted town marshals to the 2,600 officers at Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, which has been phasing in body cameras since 2014.

The proposal, led by six black lawmakers, comes at a time of national outrage and reckoning over police killings of black men, women and children.

“Bodycams will protect our law enforcement officials and strengthen the relationship with those in the communities in which they serve,” Sandoval said in a statement.

Law enforcement representatives support the policy, which expands a 2015 law directing Nevada Highway Patrol officers to wear body cameras. It does not apply to other transportation officers, corrections officers or school security.

South Carolina required all police departments with adequate funding to use body cameras in 2015. Their police-cam footage is not accessible to the public. Incidents can only be viewed by family or concerned citizens if the law enforcement agency, attorney general or prosecutors choose to release it.

Nevada footage from police body cameras is already public information, but the new law limits its guaranteed availability to only about two weeks. Agencies will be allowed to delete videos 15 days after their recording.

The bill will take effect on July 1, 2018, although it’s unclear whether it is feasible for every department to have the equipment by then. In South Carolina, it could be years more before the 2015 requirement is fulfilled.

Police departments are expected to largely pay for the cameras from 911 funds and federal grants.


Louisiana
Campus ‘free speech’ bill wins backing of House

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A proposal seeking to protect controversial speakers’ appearances at Louisiana colleges and calling on campuses to punish students who disrupt them won support from House lawmakers on a second try.

Rep. Lance Harris, chairman of the House Republican Delegation, says his bill is a response to university decisions to scrap events like Berkeley’s canceling of conservative commentator Ann Coulter’s speech.

Harris’ proposal would require colleges to establish sanctions for students who interfere with “the free expression of others.” Campuses could be sued if someone feels First Amendment rights were restricted.

Republicans in several states have proposed similar legislation.

Opponents question whether the bill is too far-reaching.

Illinois
Bill would make changing gender on ID easier

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois House has endorsed a plan to make it easier for transgender people to change their birth certificates.

The Democratic-led chamber approved the proposal 63-43 Thursday. It would allow transgender citizens to change their gender designation with authorization from a medical professional confirming they have undergone medically appropriate treatment. Current law requires proof of a surgical operation.

Democratic Rep. Greg Harris of Chicago is sponsoring the measure. He says it would align state law with contemporary medical standards at the federal level.

At least a dozen other states no longer require surgery. Advocates say these updated standards help protect from discrimination transgender people who do not want or cannot afford surgery.

Republicans countered the current law permitting a change following surgery goes far enough.
 

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