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Feds clear police of post-Katrina misconduct

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- The U.S. Justice Department has cleared Baton Rouge police officers who were accused of harassing African-Americans, using unnecessary violence and conducting illegal searches after Hurricane Katrina.

The move, reported by WAFB-TV on Tuesday, was confirmed by the current and former Baton Rouge police chiefs.

"After conducting a full and thorough review, the Department has closed their investigation," said Justice Department spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa (So-chi E-no-ho-sa).

The accusations came from officers from other states who were in Baton Rouge assisting with law enforcement following the 2005 hurricane, when thousands of victims of the massive storm and the flooding that followed it, escaped to the city about 70 miles northwest of New Orleans

A statement from former chief Jeff LeDuff and current interim chief Charles Mondrick said they were pleased with the conclusion of the investigation, but not surprised.

Public records showed that state police from New Mexico and Michigan reported the alleged behavior when they pulled troopers out after two days of helping local police deal with hurricane evacuees in September 2005.

According to reports obtained through a public records lawsuit by The Advocate, troopers described Baton Rouge officers as being loud and rude to African-Americans but polite to whites. The reports published by The Advocate quoted one as saying Baton Rouge officers referred to black people as "animals" that needed to be beaten down. Troopers also reported that officers said they were ordered to make life rough for New Orleans evacuees so they would leave town, the Advocate reported at the time.

"We were pleased, but certainly not surprised, to learn that the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department has concluded its investigation and found no wrongdoing by our officers in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina," LeDuff and Mondrick said in a statement. "This reaffirms the results of our own thorough internal investigation, conducted over five years ago."

The statement said the investigation found only a handful of incidents of misconduct. Police did not respond immediately to questions of how serious those incidents were.

"Appropriate corrective disciplinary action was taken against the small number of officers involved in those few instances that were substantiated," the statement said.

A telephone message left Tuesday at the Baton Rouge office of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was not immediately returned.


Court overturns part of Neb. man's sentence

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- A former western Nebraska ranch owner who got up to 10 years in prison for 145 counts of animal cruelty can get more animals when he gets out of prison.

The Nebraska Court of Appeals said in a ruling issued Tuesday that Jason Meduna (MED'-nuh) could not be barred from having animals. The court says the Legislature hasn't authorized judges to hand down such sentence provisions.

The court otherwise upheld Meduna's convictions. He was sentenced in February.

Meduna owned the 3-Strikes mustang ranch 22 miles south of Alliance, where many of the 211 horses and 11 burros were found emaciated and suffering from a variety of ailments. A total of 74 horses and burros were found dead at the ranch.

New Jersey

Fort Dix plot

conspirator sues prison officials

CHERRY HILL, N.J. (AP) -- A man convicted of conspiring to kill military personnel at Fort Dix is suing prison officials, claiming they violated his civil rights.

Serdar Tatar (SEHR'-dar tah-TAR'), 27, says federal prison officials failed to stop an attack on him by his cell mate, Dritan Duka, who was also a coconspirator in the plot.

The amended lawsuit, filed Tuesday in federal court in Camden, was first reported by The Courier Post of Cherry Hill. It names administrators and staff at the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia.

Tatar says he was assaulted in the prison in March 2008 by Dritan Duka -- one of three Cherry Hill brothers charged in the case.

He also says he suffered "mental anguish" from hunger and was humiliated by strip searches done in front of video cameras.


Officers indicted for armored car robbery of $400K

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- Three police officers and two other men have been indicted in federal court in Little Rock for conspiring to commit an armored car robbery. One of the civilians is also charged with robbing an armored car of $400,000 in 2007.

Little Rock police officer Jason Gilbert, UAMS police officer Sterling Platt and Veterans Affairs police officer Allen Clark are charged with conspiring with two others since 2005 to carry out a robbery.

Antonio Torel Person is charged with the officers and is also accused of carrying out the 2007 armored car robbery in North Little Rock. Also charged in the conspiracy is 41-year-old Mark Davis of Little Rock.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Little Rock says another two men have pleaded guilty in the case and are awaiting sentencing.

North Carolina

Lawsuit blames home in deadly 2007 assault

PITTSBORO, N.C. (AP) -- A North Carolina woman who suffered brain injuries from a housekeeper who also beat two women to death is suing the assisted-living center where the victims lived.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reported Wednesday that 80-year-old Becky Fisher is suing for negligence by the Galloway Ridge retirement community in Pittsboro.

Fisher blames the owners for allowing housekeeper Barbara Clark to work despite a court order barring her from working with the elderly because of previous thefts.

Clark is serving life in prison for killing 82-year-old Mary Corcoran and 92-year-old Margaret Murta with a cane in 2007.

A Galloway Ridge spokeswoman did not immediately return a call seeking comment Wednesday.

Published: Thu, Jan 6, 2011