Court Roundup

Massachusetts

High court rules private needle exchange ­programs are legal

BOSTON (AP) - The highest court in Massachusetts has ruled that privately-run hypodermic needle exchange programs can be operated without state or community approval.

The Supreme Judicial Court in its ruling Wednesday said the nonprofit AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod is allowed to operate in the town of Barnstable.

The organization since 2009 has been providing clean syringes to stem the spread of HIV and hepatitis C.

The town in 2015 issued a cease-and-desist order saying the organization needed board of health approval. The town made its own public health argument, saying discarded needles endanger the public.

The high court agreed with the nonprofit, which said a 2006 state law that decriminalized the possession and distribution of hypodermic needles overrode a 1993 law that required needle exchange programs to have state and municipal approval.

South Carolina

@ROUND UP Briefs Headline:Hearing set in lawsuit over inmate access to attorneys

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - A hearing has been scheduled in a lawsuit accusing a South Carolina jail of violating inmates' constitutional rights by preventing them from meeting with lawyers from a civil liberties group.

Court documents filed Tuesday show a hearing is scheduled for June 22 in federal court in Greenville.

The American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina sued last month, saying the Spartanburg County jail's inmate visitation policy violates the First Amendment. The lawsuit says county officials denied ACLU attorneys' request to interview inmates as part of the organization's investigation of jailed inmates' constitutional rights.

The civil rights group wants the policy suspended while the lawsuit is ongoing. Jail officials say their officers are immune from the legal challenge because they were doing their jobs, in accordance with laws and regulations.

Pennsylvania

@ROUND UP Briefs Headline:Man gets prison for $372K theft to impress ­girlfriend, son

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) - A man will spend 27 months in prison for stealing $372,000 from a Pennsylvania company, most of which he spent in an effort to impress his girlfriend and 16-year-old son.

A federal judge in Allentown on Tuesday sentenced 40-year-old Douglas Sofranko.

Prosecutors say Sofranko racked up the expenses on company cards belonging to Olympus Corp. of the Americas. The mail fraud charge stemmed from steps Sofranko took to get Olympus to cut a check to cover most of the charges last year.

Sofranko has already repaid $17,000 - his entire savings - and will continue repaying the debt at a rate of at least $150 monthly once he's out of prison.

Sofranko told the judge he used the money to start a business and attend law school to "make myself more attractive to my girlfriend and my son."

North Dakota

Former deputy U.S. marshal ­sentenced in store peeping case

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - A former deputy U.S. marshal in North Dakota has been sentenced to three years in prison for spying on young women in Bismarck dressing rooms.

Thirty-year-old Michael Rivera was convicted in February of misdemeanors including surreptitious intrusion and creating and attempting to create sexually expressive images. He was found not guilty of more serious felony charges.

Rivera was sentenced in state court Tuesday, and ordered to get sex offender treatment while in prison.

Rivera was sentenced in May in federal court to seven years in prison on child pornography charges. Authorities say the images were found on Rivera's computer as police were investigating the dressing room allegations.

Rivera will serve the federal sentence first.

Washington

@ROUND UP Briefs Headline:Suspect in 2008 Seattle slaying extradited from Mexico

SEATTLE (AP) - A suspect in the 2008 killing of an 18-year-old has been extradited from Mexico to Seattle.

The Seattle Times reports 29-year-old Jose Angel Ruiz-Antonio is being held in connection to the killing of Ivan Hernandez-Vazquez, who was found dead in an alley after telling his roommate he was going to the bank.

Authorities say Ruiz-Antonio was with Hernandez-Vasquez in May 2008 when he was last seen. Ruiz-Antonio was questioned by police shortly after the death, and then disappeared. Court documents say that about a month after the killing, blood in Ruiz-Antonio's abandoned vehicle was matched to Hernandez-Vasquez.

Ruiz-Antonio was originally charged with second-degree murder. Amended charges of first-degree murder while committing or attempting to commit robbery in the first- and second degree were filed in 2013.

He was arrested in Mexico in 2014 and held pending extradition proceedings.

Pennsylvania

@ROUND UP Briefs Headline:Convicted burglar wins $25K in excessive force lawsuit

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) - A Pennsylvania burglar has settled his excessive force lawsuit against a police department and prosecutor's office stemming from his 2011 arrest.

Jose Torres is serving seven to 15 years in prison for an unrelated 2012 burglary conviction but sued Allentown police and the Lehigh County District Attorney's Office over his 2011 arrest.

Torres claims he was wrongly beaten and demeaned as he was pulled from a vehicle that smashed into a van driven by an undercover police officer. That happened as Torres was meeting with an undercover informant who sought to buy a gun from him.

Torres sued saying he panicked when an armed undercover officer rushed at him with a gun, saying he crashed trying get away from a what he thought was a "crazy guy."

The (Allentown) Morning Call obtained the settlement though a Right-to-Know request.

Published: Thu, Jun 15, 2017

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