National Roundup

Rhode Island

Man's 1974 traffic violation dismissed in Mass.

ATTLEBORO, Mass. (AP) -- A Rhode Island man has finally settled a warrant issued for a traffic violation in Massachusetts nearly four decades ago.

Michael Young, of Warwick, R.I., asked a judge in Attleboro District Court on Tuesday to dismiss a driving to endanger charge issued in September 1974.

He was 23 at the time. The now 60-year-old told the court he found out about the warrant recently when he went to conduct business at the Rhode Island Registry of Motor Vehicles.

The Sun Chronicle of Attleboro reports that Judge Daniel O'Shea noted that half the people in court had not even been born at the time of the traffic violation. He granted Young's request, dismissing the case with payment of $100 in court costs.

Prosecutors agreed with the dismissal.

Minnesota

Widow sues hog farm in death of worker

EYOTA, Minn. (AP) -- The widow of a worker who died last year at a Minnesota hog farm has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the operation.

Yesenia Sevilla (yeh-SEEN'-ee-ah sev-IL'-ah) says in her lawsuit filed in Olmsted County District Court that Schoenfelder Farms failed to leave fans on in the barn to clear methane gas. Carlos Ramierez-Perez died Feb. 17, 2010 while cleaning the barn in Eyota.

The complaint says the Eyota Fire Department took air quality samples of the hog barn the day Ramierez-Perez died and determined there was a high level of carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide in the barn.

The Post-Bulletin says Sevilla is seeking damages in excess of $50,000. Schoenfelder Farms did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Nebraska

Trial to begin over changes to Neb. petition rules

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- A federal trial is scheduled to begin Thursday in a constitutional challenge to Nebraska laws governing petition signature requirements for ballot initiatives and independent candidates.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska said in the 2009 lawsuit that changes made in 2007 and 2008 to state law unfairly burdens independent candidates and residents trying to get initiatives on the ballot, thus violating protected political speech. It seeks to have those changes thrown out.

The non-jury trial will be held in U.S. District Court in Omaha.

Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale, whose office oversees state elections and who is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, has defended the state's requirements as being constitutional.

Alabama

DA rejects no-jail deal in Auburn tree poisoning

OPELIKA, Ala. (AP) -- The lawyer for a University of Alabama fan charged with poisoning landmark trees at Auburn's Toomer's Corner says prosecutors are rejecting a plea deal where his client would have avoided serving additional time in jail.

Defense attorney Glennon Threatt Jr. says he made what he calls a "low-ball" offer to the district attorney's office on behalf of Harvey Updyke Jr., but prosecutors refused. Threatt says he expects Updyke to be in court for a hearing scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, but it's unclear exactly what will happen.

Threatt says he expects to waive a preliminary hearing where some evidence could be presented. Prosecutors haven't commented.

Updyke is free on bond after being charged with first-degree criminal mischief in the poisoning of the trees, where Auburn fans traditionally celebrate sports victories.

Oklahoma

Murder defendant warned to behave in court

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A man charged with murder in the death of a would-be robber of an Oklahoma City pharmacy has been warned to behave in court.

Emmanuel Mitchell was warned during jury selection Tuesday after deputies told the judge that Mitchell threatened his attorney. Defense attorney Jay Trenary told The Oklahoman later that the issue is behind them.

Mitchell is charged in the death of 16-year-old Antwun Parker during the attempted robbery. He's accused of coercing Parker and another teenager into attempting the robbery. He's charged under a law allowing for a conviction if an accomplice dies during a crime.

Pharmacist Jerome Ersland is also charged with first-degree murder. Prosecutors say he went too far by shooting after Parker was knocked unconscious. Ersland says he acted in self-defense and is scheduled for trial in May.

Pennsylvania

Woman faces drug trial despite burned evidence

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- A federal judge says a Pittsburgh woman can stand trial on drug charges even though police mistakenly burned her change purse and the heroin it contained.

Tiona Jones' attorney had argued her defense depended upon showing the jury the purse could have been zipped closed with the drugs in it, which Jones claims it was during a May 2008 traffic stop.

The 32-year-old woman faces drug and weapons offenses because a city police officer says he saw the drug sticking out of the open purse. That led to searches of her vehicle and home that yielded nearly four ounces of heroin and two weapons charges.

Senior U.S. District Judge Gustave Diamond ruled Tuesday that police didn't purposely thwart the defense by burning the items after cleaning out an evidence room due to a ventilation problem.

Ohio

High court to weigh greed vs. public right to know

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Timothy Rhodes says he was wronged by New Philadelphia's destruction of the 20 years of 911 tapes he requested from the city police department in 2007. The city says he didn't really want the records, he just wanted to collect the financial penalty.

The Ohio Supreme Court will decide after oral arguments Wednesday whether Rhodes was "aggrieved" under state public records law by the city's failure to retain the thousands of daily tapes it made between 1975 and 1995. They were routinely recycled every 30 days.

If the high court decides in Rhodes' favor, he could collect $84,000 or more in penalties. His lawyer says it would also be a victory for government transparency.

New Philadelphia says a ruling in his favor could have financial devastating consequences for Ohio governments.

Published: Thu, Apr 21, 2011