Nation - National Round Up

Louisiana

DA's trial waits on cases before U.S. Supreme Court

MONROE, La. (AP) -- A district attorney, a legislator's brother and an engineer won't be tried on mail fraud and conspiracy charges until the U.S. Supreme Court rules in a challenge to the indictment of an Alaska legislator.

Like 5th Judicial District Attorney Billy Coenen, former reservoir district director Mike Thompson, and Denmon Engineering company president Terry Denmon, former Alaska state Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch is accused of breaking the federal "honest services" law.

The 28-word law makes it illegal to scheme to deprive others of "the intangible right to honest services."

The high court heard Weyhrauch's appeal and that of former newspaper mogul Conrad Black, who has served about two years of a 6?-year prison term, together in December.

During those arguments, the justices seemed to be in broad agreement that the law is vague and has been used to make a crime out of mistakes, minor transgressions and mere ethical violations.

U.S. District Judge Robert James agreed Nov. 3 to delay the case until after a decision in Weyhrauch's case.

However, the justices are unlikely to decide the two cases argued in December before that of former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling, to be heard March 1. Skilling, serving a 24-year conspiracy term, also contends that the law is unconstitutionally vague.

"If these cases are decided the way we hope, it will be declared unconstitutional," said Mike Small, who represents Coenen. In that case, he said, the alleged violation would not rise beyond state ethics conduct.

In addition to the conspiracy charge, Coenen, Thompson, the brother of state Sen. Francis Thompson, and Denmon are charged with eight counts each of wire fraud.

The conspiracy charge alleges that they plotted to enrich themselves by hiding the purchase of land that is worth 14 times as much because of work paid for by the Poverty Point Reservoir District on adjacent land.

They allegedly hid their interest in five acres of land bought before the reservoir was created, next to where the reservoir was planned. The indictment alleges that they paid $16,800 for five acres, and that six of eight lots there have sold for a total of $250,000.

All three have pleaded innocent.

Massachusetts

Cape Cod bank robbery suspect had baby in car

CHATHAM, Mass. (AP) -- Police say a Cape Cod bank robbery suspect had a baby in his car when he was pulled over shortly after the heist.

Police say the TD Bank branch in Chatham was robbed at about 12:30 p.m. on Sunday.

A car matching the description of the getaway vehicle was pulled over less then 10 minutes later in Harwich. Police say a little girl younger than 1-year-old was in the vehicle. The suspect's relationship to the baby was not made public.

Joshua R. Law was charged with unarmed robbery and child endangerment. Police say the 29-year-old Law was held overnight on $50,000 bail.

Alabama

Ex- chancellor's sentencing on 15 charges delayed

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- Sentencing has been delayed for the former chancellor of Alabama's two-year college system.

The former official, Roy W. Johnson, pleaded guilty to 15 federal charges almost two years ago.

Johnson was scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Birmingham. An order issued Friday postponed the hearing until April 27.

Matt Hart, an assistant U.S. attorney, said sentencing was delayed because Johnson is still cooperating in the prosecution of other cases.

Johnson pleaded guilty in March 2008 to 15 federal charges of bribery, conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit money laundering and witness tampering.

Earlier this month, Johnson was ordered to forfeit about $18.2 million and his home in Opelika.

Mississippi

Judge asked to remove church pews from court

SOUTHAVEN, Miss. (AP) -- An Olive Branch man says church pews with engraved crosses in courtroom of Southaven Municipal Court violate the First Amendment.

Carroll Roberson tells The Commercial Appeal that he noticed the church pews -- and the 62 crosses engraved on them -- when he went to court for a trial date on disorderly conduct charges.

Roberson says the crosses endorse a religion he does not believe in.

Southaven Mayor Greg Davis said when the court reopened last year after a renovation, the city opted to use old church pews it already owned as courtroom seating. He described it as a cost-saving measure.

Roberson wants Southaven officials to remove the pews.

Oregon

Father, son face hearings in fatal bank bombing

SALEM, Ore. (AP) -- A father and son accused of a bank bombing that killed two Oregon police officers are scheduled to begin a weeklong hearing in Salem to lay out details of their aggravated murder trial.

Bruce Turnidge and his son, Joshua, are both accused of planting a bomb at the West Coast Bank branch in Woodburn in December 2008 that killed a Woodburn police captain and an Oregon State Police trooper.

Defense attorneys are expected to enter a series of motions for rulings by a Marion County Circuit Court judge before the trial can be scheduled.

Prosecutors have said they would seek the death penalty if the two men are found guilty.

The blast also seriously injured Woodburn Police Chief Scott Russell, who returned to work last year after undergoing several surgeries.

Pennsylvania

Brothers to be sentenced in Boeing loan scam

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- A former Boeing credit union executive and his brother are facing prison time after pleading guilty in a loan kickback scam at the suburban Philadelphia plant.

Anthony Forte Jr. and his brother David are scheduled to be sentenced in federal court in Philadelphia on Monday morning. Both men pleaded guilty in November to taking part in a scam involving the Boeing Helicopters Credit Union.

Prosecutors say Anthony Forte used his job as a credit union vice president to obtain $1,000 kickbacks on $20,000 loans given to unqualified applicants. David Forte was one of several middlemen who steered applicants to his brother.

Anthony Forte is the current president of the United Aerospace Workers Local 1069.

Attorneys for both men say their clients are remorseful.

Published: Tue, Feb 23, 2010

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