Court Digest

New York
Longtime New Yorker cartoonist arrested on child porn charge

RHINEBECK, N.Y. (AP) — A well-known cartoonist for The New Yorker has been arrested on a possession of child pornography charge, police said.

Danny Shanahan, 64, was arrested Wednesday at his home in Rhinebeck, New York, state police said in a news release. He was ordered to appear in court on Jan. 20 on a charge of possession of a sexual performance by a child, a class E felony.

Shanahan is a  longtime New Yorker cartoonist whose work last appeared in the magazine’s Feb. 20 issue. A phone number listed for Shanahan in public records was disconnected. It wasn’t clear if he had an attorney who could speak for him.

Man who fled to Maine sentenced for 1996 rape

DEDHAM, Mass. (AP) — A man already behind bars after being convicted of raping a woman in Massachusetts in 1996 has pleaded guilty to a second rape the same year.

Ivan Keith, 62, who fled to Maine where he lived under an alias for years to avoid prosecution, was sentenced Wednesday in Norfolk Superior Court to up to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to aggravated rape and other charges in connection with a 1996 rape in Quincy, The Patriot Ledger reported.

The sentence will be served at the same as an identical sentence he received in Plymouth County last month after pleading guilty to raping a woman in West Bridgewater in 1996.
The victim in the second case, an administrator at Quincy High School, was bound with her own scarf and raped at gunpoint, prosecutors said.

Keith’s attorney, Melissa Fournier, said her client was remorseful and didn’t want the victim to have to testify.

Keith fled Massacusetts in 2003 and was was arrested in Seal Cove, Maine, in August 2019, in a house that belonged to his ex-wife, authorities said.

He was linked to the rapes in Massachusetts through DNA evidence.

North Carolina
Renters to get nearly $550K in apartment conditions lawsuit

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The former owners and manager of an apartment complex in North Carolina agreed to pay nearly $550,000 to former tenants who claimed they were paying rent despite ongoing health and safety violations.

The settlement money would be divided among 97 former tenants of Charlotte’s Lake Arbor apartments in their class action lawsuit,  The Charlotte Observer reported Wednesday. Charlotte code inspectors had found violations at the apartment complex after tenants complained of pests, unsafe wiring and water damage.

“These landlords kept taking the rent and taking the rent, all the while refusing to fix serious safety problems in tenants’ units, as found by the city,” former tenant and plaintiff Serita Russell said in a statement announcing the settlement.

The property owners also sparked outrage and changes to the city’s code violation policies when they announced last year that they would remove renters for renovations. Housing advocates sounded alarms that the decision could cause homelessness.

The apartment complex was sold in April to a New York-based company, Mecklenburg County property records show.

Defense attorney Erik Rosenwood said the former owners, Lake Arbor Dean TIC LLC and Lake Arbor 80M TIC LLC, and its property manager are not liable. They only settled to avoid time and the cost of a trial, he said.

The settlement money will be awarded after getting approval from the state’s superior court.

State court says deer hunters can use semi-automatic rifles

DOVER, Del. (AP) — A court in Delaware ha ruled that deer hunters can hunt with semi-automatic rifles.

The News Journal reported Thursday that the ruling came from Delaware Superior Court.

The court said that the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control overstepped its authority by preventing hunters from using those weapons.

The Nov. 18 ruling stems from a lawsuit that was filed on behalf of the Delaware State Sportsmen’s Association. It is the local affiliate of the National Rifle Association. The lawsuit was filed after a 2018 change in state law that allowed certain rifles for deer hunting.

The lawsuit pointed to DNREC’s hunting guide. It had left out semi-automatic rifles among the guns that deer hunters use.

Judge: City erroneously excluded immigrants from housing aid

PHOENIX (AP) — A judge has ruled the city of Phoenix erroneously excluded immigrants from receiving coronavirus aid to cover utility bills, mortgage and rental costs.

The city required applicants to its $25 million utility, rent and mortgage assistance program to provide proof of legal status in the United States.

U.S. District Judge Dominic Lanza concluded Wednesday that the city isn’t required to exclude unqualified immigrants from participating because the assistance program falls within exceptions in federal law for “short-term, non-cash, in-kind emergency disaster relief.” The judge said the city’s decision to exclude immigrants was trumped by federal law.

The immigrant advocacy groups that filed the lawsuit argued the federal law cited by the city in excluding immigrants had exceptions. The City argued the funds in question were a federal public benefit and were not subject to the exceptions.

The benefits are “non-cash” because the money isn’t given directly to applicants but instead is sent to landlords, mortgage companies and utility providers, Lanza wrote.

The judge said the city has said its decision to exclude immigrants wasn’t a policy decision but rather based solely on its interpretation of federal law. Lanza said Phoenix has indicated it will begin allowing immigrants to participate in the program in the future.

Lesbian couple settles lawsuit with retirement community

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A married lesbian couple has settled a lawsuit against a St. Louis retirement community that refused to let them live there, an attorney for the couple said Wednesday.

Mary Walsh and Bev Nance sued Friendship Village in Sunset Hills in July 2018, alleging they were not permitted to move in because the community’s cohabitation policy defined marriage as being between a man and a woman.

Tony Rothert, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, which helped handle the case, declined to disclose the terms of the settlement, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

A lawyer for Friendship Village declined to comment on the settlement, which was filed Tuesday.

A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit last year, ruling that the Fair Housing Act does not protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

But the 8th U.S. Court of Appeals remanded the case in July, citing a U.S. Supreme Court ruling from June that said sexual orientation was protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Rothert said after that ruling, “we hope not to see policies like we were challenging here in the future.”

Court upholds death sentence for man who killed 5

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The death sentence of a man who was convicted in the killing of five women and the abduction and rape of a sixth over a 10-year period was upheld Thursday by the Ohio Supreme Court.

Shawn Grate is on death row for the killings of two of the women in Ashland County in north-central Ohio. Grate, 44, is also serving three life sentences for killing the other three women.

The court’s unanimous ruling upheld the sentences in the deaths of Stacey Stanley, 43, and Elizabeth Griffith, 29, whose bodies were found during a 2016 search of a vacant house in Ashland where Grate had been living.

The court rejected arguments that Grate’s attorneys were ineffective during his trial and found the nature of the crimes outweighed any evidence presented on Grate’s behalf.

“These are horrific crimes that lack any mitigating features,” wrote Justice Judi French.

While upholding Grate’s convictions and death sentences, Justice Michael Donnelly said he was concerned about the lack of evidence that Grate’s attorneys presented during the sentencing phase of the trial in an attempt to spare Grate.

The lawyers left the jury “with an incomplete view of Grate’s mental health,” Donnelly said.

That opinion demonstrates that Grate “really didn’t know the wrongfulness of what he was doing,” Donald Gallick, one of Grate’s appeals’ attorneys, said Thursday.

“It really appears that Shawn Grate does not realize ... that murdering women is against the law,” Gallick said.

However, French noted in her opinion that there’s no “evidence that at the time of the offenses, Grate was suffering from a severe mental disease or defect that prevented him from knowing the wrongfulness of his acts.”

Grate faces years of federal appeals before he might be executed. And earlier this week, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine cast doubt on the future of capital punishment in the state by saying lethal injection was no longer an option and lawmakers would need to choose a new method before executions could continue.

The state’s last execution was July 18, 2018, when Ohio put to death Robert Van Hook for killing David Self in Cincinnati in 1985.

For the non-death penalty cases, Grate is serving life in prison terms for killing a woman in Marion County in 2006, another woman in Ashland County in 2015 and another woman in Richland County in 2016. He was also convicted of kidnapping and raping a woman whose escape from the Ashland County house in 2016 led to Grate’s arrest.

Also this week, the state moved closer to banning the execution of the severely mentally ill. The Senate approved a measure Wednesday that would spare killers diagnosed with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder or delusional disorder at the time of their crimes.

DOJ studies Kansas City’s contract practices

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Justice Department is investigating whether Kansas City’s practice of setting aside about 30% of its public contracting and procurement contracts for small businesses owned by minorities and women is discriminatory.

“All government in this free country must treat all persons with equal dignity and respect and without dividing people into racial and ethnic blocs for the purpose of labeling certain people winners and others losers because of their race,” Eric Dreiband, an assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division, said Wednesday in the news release.

Mayor Quinton Lucas responded in a statement that President Donald Trump’s administration has investigated several affirmative action-related policies for “so-called ‘reverse race discrimination.’”

Lucas said extensive studies have shown that small businesses owned by minorities and women receive “significantly fewer” contracts and dollars than would be expected given their availability in the market.

He said Kansas City would continue its efforts to remedy discrimination in procurement and contracting, The Kansas City Star reported.

“Let us be clear: these are unfair claims of non-allegiance by an administration in its final hours to diminish extensive and well-researched disparity and equity studies conducted by the city,” the mayor said.

Las Vegas man gets probation after bus attack on ex-Marine

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A Las Vegas man was sentenced to up to five years of probation after the man punched a military veteran on a public bus last year, causing him to lose his right eye, a judge said.

District Judge Kathleen Delaney sentenced Nathaniel Graves Jr. on Nov. 30 for the attack on 64-year-old Roger Conant, a former U.S. Marine. Graves, who spent 240 days in jail before posting bond in August, pleaded guilty in July to battery resulting in substantial bodily harm on a victim 60 years or older.

The encounter occurred on a Regional Transportation Commission bus on Dec. 13, 2019 around 5:15 p.m., authorities said. The attack was captured on bus surveillance video.
Conant boarded the bus and told police he asked Graves, who was then 26, to move his legs, which were propped on a seat against the aisle, so he could sit down, police said. Police then reported Graves initially complied before propping his feet up on Conant’s lap and punching Conant after he pushed his feet off.

Graves was arrested in January and spent eight months in custody while awaiting his sentencing. Graves’s attorney Garrett Ogata previously lost a bid to have Graves released from jail without bail.