National Roundup

Attorneys want trial moved in missing Chinese scholar case

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Attorneys for a man accused of killing a University of Illinois scholar from China are asking a judge to dismiss a main charge against him and change the location of his trial.

The (Champaign) News-Gazette reports that 28-year-old Brendt Christensen’s attorneys filed 12 pretrial motions Monday, including six to exclude evidence they say was improperly obtained.

Christensen faces charges including kidnapping resulting in the death of 26-year-old Yingying Zhang. Her body has not been found. His attorneys argue that charge should be dismissed because prosecutors lack evidence Zhang was coerced or forced into Christensen’s car.

Christensen’s attorneys are asking that the Feb. 27 federal trial be moved from Urbana to Rock Island or Chicago. They cite what they call “inflammatory and inherently prejudicial pretrial publicity” about the case in the Urbana area.

Man sought for 16 years is captured across state line

METHUEN, Mass. (AP) — A man wanted by New Hampshire authorities for 16 years has been captured just across the state line in Massachusetts.

Police investigating reports of possible drug activity at a Methuen home earlier this month arrested 39-year-old Eric Rivera-Velez.

Rivera-Velez was detained until his identify was verified.

Police tell The Eagle-Tribune that he had several fake names, altered fingerprints, and was listed on Rockingham County, New Hampshire’s, most wanted list where he’d been sought by police since 2002. He had several outstanding warrants for narcotics offenses in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

He’s charged with trafficking 18 kilograms or more of cocaine near a school or park, being a fugitive from justice, and conspiracy to sell a narcotic drug. It was not immediately clear if he has a lawyer.

Police arrest 80-year-old man in armed bank robbery

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Police in Arizona have arrested an 80-year-old man they say robbed a credit union at gunpoint.

Tucson police said Sunday that a tip led to the arrest of Robert Francis Krebs after authorities circulated surveillance photos of him entering the Pyramid Credit Union and at a teller’s window. They say Krebs had a handgun, demanded money from the teller and was given cash before running out of the bank.

Police released the photos after Friday’s robbery. A local hotel clerk called police Saturday to report a man that looked like the one in the photos had tried to cash a check.

Police began checking nearby hotels and located Krebs. He was booked into jail on two counts of armed robbery.

It’s unclear if he has an attorney.

Vet sues VA over scalpel left in body after surgery

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — An Army veteran who says someone left a scalpel inside him after surgery is suing a veterans affairs hospital.

Bridgeport resident Glenford Turner says the scalpel was only discovered years later, after he suffered from long-term abdominal pain. He sued the VA in U.S. District Court last week, seeking unspecified compensatory damages.

Court papers say Turner had surgery at the VA hospital in West Haven in 2013. Nearly four years later, he went back to the VA with dizziness and severe abdominal pain. An X-Ray showed there was a scalpel inside his body.

Turner had to undergo surgery to remove the scalpel. His lawyer, Joel Faxon, said doctors confirmed it was the same one.

North Carolina
Court: Judges must offer chance to object to attorney fees

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina court says convicted criminals can dispute the cost for their court-appointed attorney with a judge if they’re told to pay up.

The state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that trial judges must tell defendants they can challenge their attorneys’ fees.

The court said defendants are told to let their lawyer do their talking during the trial, so they might not know they can voice objections if they think their attorney is charging fees that are unreasonable for the time or effort involved in the case.

The decision comes in the case of Charles Friend, who was convicted in Catawba County of burglary and stabbing a friend. He was told to pay $1,750 for his lawyer and is serving a sentence of more than five years.

Supreme Court rejects appeal from suspended Florida judge

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is leaving in place the suspension of a Florida judge for using a 20-year-old newspaper endorsement on a flier during her campaign in 2014.

The justices offered no comment Tuesday in rejecting an appeal from Judge Kim Shepard. She was suspended without pay for 90 days by the Florida Supreme Court.

Shepard said the suspension violated her right to free speech.

She was punished for using an endorsement she received from the Orlando Sentinel during her 1994 campaign for re-election to the Florida House of Representatives when she successfully ran for election as an Osceola County judge in 2014.

The newspaper had endorsed candidate Norberto Katz in the 2014 race.

Shepard is now a judge in Orange County.

New York
Supreme Court won’t take case of ex-NY speaker

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has cleared the way for a re-trial of ex-New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

The high court declined Tuesday to get involved in the case. That allows for a re-trial tentatively set for April to proceed.

Silver was sentenced to 12 years in prison after he was convicted of public corruption charges in late 2015. But the U.S. court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit overturned that conviction last year and sent the case back to the trial court.

The appeals court said that the trial judge would need to instruct jurors on the law in a different manner to conform with a 2016 Supreme Court decision that reversed the public corruption conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.