Court Digest

Mother who sued doctor for child’s brain injuries gets $2.6 million

BRANDON, Miss. (AP) — A jury in Mississippi has returned a $2.6 million verdict to a woman who sued a doctor saying his inaction caused her child to have brain injuries.

Court records show that a Rankin County Circuit Court jury awarded the money to Ashley Koenig Williams this month, nearly nine years after her child’s birth. Williams had filed the malpractice lawsuit against Dr. William Bush, an obstetrics and gynecology specialist in Flowood, the Clarion Ledger reported.

Her attorneys said a sonogram in November 2011 showed that the baby had growth restrictions. Bush diagnosed the fetus with poor growth but did not refer Williams to a specialist, and also did not monitor the pregnancy until the baby was born in January 2012, attorney Shane Langston said.

Langston said the doctor later claimed his diagnosis wasn’t real, and it was only done to ensure that he got Medicaid payments. “The jury saw through the lie” before returning the verdict, Langston said.

“The baby suffered a brain bleed and catastrophic, permanent brain injuries including cerebral palsy. The 8 year-old child cannot walk, eat, talk,” he added. “His condition is permanent and he has a life expectancy of 25 years.”

Defense attorney Whit Johnson said there was not a significant concern requiring Bush’s intervention in the pregnancy, and argues the child’s issues were not something the doctor could have prevented. He also said in court documents that the baby suffered issues related to premature delivery.

“We are so thankful the jury believed in our case and held Dr. Bush accountable,” Williams said in a statement. “We are especially grateful to finally get some help so we can put some funds in a guardianship account for Weston’s ongoing needs.”

Suit to keep Confederate statues returns to state courtroom

MACON, Ga. (AP) — A lawsuit in Georgia attempting to prevent the removal of two Confederate statues from downtown Macon is back in a state courtroom.

Federal Judge Hugh Lawson handed the case back to Bibb County Superior Court, ruling Nov. 18 that federal court doesn’t have jurisdiction over the remaining claims.

Plaintiff Martin Bell, the state commander of the Military Order of the Stars and Bars Georgia Society Inc. sued Macon-Bibb County in state court, but included federal claims. After the city-county moved the case to federal court, Bell amended the complaint to remove his federal claims.

“We are still fully committed to improving our downtown green space to make it more welcoming and inviting for all people,” Macon-Bibb County spokesperson Chris Floore tells The Telegraph, saying local government would see the court fight through.

Macon-Bibb commissioners voted 5-4 on July 27 to move two Confederate monuments in downtown Macon. One is a anonymous Confederate soldier statue, while the other is the Women of the South monument.

The commission voted to move both statues to Whittle Park outside of Rose Hill Cemetery to make road improvements.

Bell won a temporary injunction from Superior Court Judge Rucker Smith, who was appointed after Bibb County judges recused themselves. The injunction prevented Bibb County from doing anything to “move, obscure, deface” or let “harm of any kind” come to the monuments.

Bell claims in the lawsuit that “the proposed moving of the Monuments is a racially-motivated action designed for political purposes to placate the mob mentalities current in American society.”

With the case back in Bibb County Superior Court, Floore said he didn’t know which judge would get the case or when the next hearing will be.

The city-county needs at least $500,000 to move the soldier statue, and another $1.5 million to move the Women of the South statue and begin constructing a roundabout where it now stands.
Another $3 million has to be allocated to start Rosa Parks Square improvements.

Floore said the commission has already allocated $200,000 to the project from funds that were for storm water and sewage infrastructure.

The Community Foundation of Central Georgia has started a fund for private donors and has raised around $160,000, Floore said.

The commission rejected allocating another $300,000 to the project on Nov. 17.

Ex-student admits to poisoning roommate

EASTON, Pa. (AP) — A former Lehigh University student on Monday admitted poisoning his roommate’s food and drink with a heavy metal substance.

Yukai Yang, 24, pleaded guilty to attempted murder. Under the terms of a plea agreement, the Northampton County District Attorney’s Office will withdraw other charges in two separate cases against Yang.

Yang, a chemistry major, acknowledged he purchased thallium in March 2018 and began giving it to his roommate, Juwan Royal. Royal testified in an earlier court hearing that he suffered weight loss, headaches and nausea.

Royal was diagnosed with heavy metal poisoning in April 2018. Thallium is odorless and tasteless, and can be fatal in humans. The soft metal is used internationally in electronics manufacturing and for other purposes. It once was used in rat poison in the U.S, but has been banned for that use since the 1970s.

The motive is not known. Months before the attempted murder charge, Yang was charged with ethnic intimidation for allegedly damaging his roommate’s TV and writing a racial epithet on his belongings. Royal is Black.

Yang faces between six to 20 years in state prison when he’s sentenced on Jan. 21. He is not a U.S. citizen, and his student visa was revoked after his arrest. The judge told Yang he will likely face deportation to China.

Lawsuit: Resort development threatens rare butterfly

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Plans to expand a mountain resort outside Las Vegas to offer recreation opportunities during summer months have sparked a lawsuit from conservationists worried about the effects on a rare butterfly and its habitat.

The Center for Biological Diversity filed a federal lawsuit on Nov. 19 to block the expansion of the Lee Canyon Ski Area, a ski resort in the Spring Mountains about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from Las Vegas, claiming proposed mountain biking trails and other development proposals could threaten the area’s endangered Mount Charleston blue butterfly.

The butterflies are less than an inch long and live at high elevations. The U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife listed the species as endangered in 2013, setting the stage for struggles with developers hoping to expand the resort to keep pace with population growth and demand in southern Nevada.

Powdr Corp., the resort’s owner, is seeking approval to add mountain biking trails, zip lines and a roller coaster to its current offerings, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.  Some of the proposed infrastructure lies on land that belongs to the U.S. Forest Service.

Conservationists have long argued that the development will threaten the tree canopy openings the butterflies flutter between in their habitat.

In the lawsuit, they challenge a June biological assessment and October Environmental Impact Statement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Forest Service, respectively. Both are cited in the Nov. 9 U.S. Forest Service draft decision that approves a proposal in the Lee Canyon Ski Area Master Development Plan.

“It’s outrageous that the government would allow the most important remaining habitat for this beautiful little butterfly to be turned into a downhill-sports amusement park,” said Patrick Donnelly, the center’s Nevada director. “The Mount Charleston blue butterfly hangs by a thread, and we don’t intend to sit idly by while the Forest Service lets a multinational corporation destroy what remains of the species.”

Lee Canyon General Manager Dan Hooper believes the expansion is an example of responsible growth, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported.

“A part of Lee Canyon’s core values and Play Forever commitment is to be stewards of the mountain and to ensure our community that when they recreate at Lee Canyon, they’re doing so responsibly,” he said. “The authorization of improvements at Lee Canyon is a win for local outdoor recreation and the environment.”

The butterfly, which lives less than a month and is a luminous blue-gray color, has been threatened in recent years by wildfires, invasive species and climate change.

Former teacher sentenced for fondling student

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A former high school teacher in Mississippi who was found guilty of fondling a student has been sentenced to prison.

Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Faye Peterson on Monday sentenced Reginald Barnes to 15 years in prison with three years suspended for two counts of gratification of lust, WAPT-TV reported.

Barnes, a former teacher at Province High School in Jackson, was convicted on both of those counts earlier this month, about two years after his arrest. He was originally charged with sexual battery, as well as gratification of lust.

Defense Attorney Carlos Moore said the female student was 17 at the time.

“He made a temporary lapse of judgement, some temporary bad decisions that are going to reverberate for decades, for the rest of his life,” Moore said.

Barnes had worked as a teacher and a principal for more than 20 years, Moore said. He was being held at a Jackson facility Monday, WLBT-TV reported. It is not clear where he will serve his prison sentence.

Inmate dies at Nebraska prison; grand jury to investigate

TECUMSEH, Neb. (AP) — An inmate has died at the state prison in Tecumseh, and a grand jury will be convened to investigate.

Todd Shade, 47, died at the prison on Sunday, the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services said in a news release. The cause of Shade’s death has not been determined, but prison officials said he was being treated for a long-term medical condition.

Shade was serving a 100-year sentence on two counts of first-degree sexual assault of a child. He began serving his sentence in 1995.

State law requires a grand jury investigation anytime someone dies in state custody.

Judge allows bond for trooper facing murder charge

SYLVANIA, Ga. (AP) — A judge has granted bond to a Georgia state trooper charged with murder for shooting a man to death after trying to pull over his car for a broken tail light.

Jacob Thompson is charged with felony murder and aggravated assault in the Aug. 7 death of Julian Lewis.

Thompson in Monday was granted a $100,000 bond after seven witnesses, including four law enforcement officers, testified for him at an earlier court hearing. He must have no contact with any witnesses in the case or relatives of the victim, Judge F. Gates Peed wrote in his order granting bond.

Thompson was on duty with the Georgia State Patrol when he tried to pull Lewis over for a broken tail light in rural Screven County. When Lewis refused to stop, the trooper chased him and forced his car into a ditch, then shot Lewis in the head.

Thompson wrote in his incident report that he shot Lewis as Lewis was revving his engine and turning his steering wheel, as if he trying to ram the trooper. But Georgia Bureau of Investigation Agent Dustin Peak testified in September that was impossible, because Lewis’ car battery disconnected when it hit the ditch, leaving the vehicle inoperable.

Peak testified that dash camera video shows one second elapsed between the time the trooper exited his patrol vehicle and fired the shot that killed Lewis.

State denies most claims sought for sheep deaths

SAVERY, Wyo. (AP) — The state of Wyoming has denied most of a damage claim submitted by ranchers who say black bears killed an estimated 145 lambs and ewes last spring.

Ladder Livestock Co. in south-central Wyoming sought almost $29,000 in restitution. The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission recently awarded the ranch $1,355.80 for the deaths of two ewes and six lambs, the Billings Gazette reported Sunday.

Wyoming compensates people for livestock losses caused by trophy game animals including black bears, grizzly bears, mountain lions and wolves.

Investigators determined one or more bears killed the two ewes and estimated six lambs but couldn’t verify that bears killed the dozens of other lambs and ewes lost.

Predators are “out of control” in the Savery area west of Medicine Bow National Forest and more needs to be done, ranch owner Pat O’Toole told the commission.

Finding out what happened when lambs go missing on the range can be very difficult, Game and Fish Commissioner Gay Lynn Byrd said.