National Roundup

Supreme Court enters battle over suburban Chicago hospital

CHICAGO (AP) - The Illinois Supreme Court has stepped into a battle over the fate of a suburban Chicago hospital.

Early Thursday, the Illinois Appellate Court reversed a lower court ruling barring the closing of Westlake Hospital. The appeals court ruled the village of Melrose Park had no grounds to request a temporary restraining order against hospital owner Pipeline Health.

On Thursday evening, the Supreme Court stayed that order, leaving the temporary restraining order in place. The Supreme Court qualified its ruling, saying Melrose Park must move to appeal the lower court's ruling by Friday afternoon.

Earlier this week, Cook County Circuit Judge Moshe Jacobius said Pipeline Health must restore services at the 225-bed hospital by Thursday or be fined $200,000 a day.

Pipeline Health said staffing issues caused it to suspend services.

The state Health Facilities and Review Board is scheduled later this month to consider Pipeline's application to close the hospital.

Ex-sheriff gets 6 years in prison over drug dealer bribes

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) - A former Mississippi sheriff who admitted to extorting bribes from a drug dealer was sentenced Thursday to six years in prison.

U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills also ordered former Tallahatchie County Sheriff William Brewer to forfeit $42,000 and serve three years of supervised release.

"William Brewer violated his oath, dishonoring himself, his badge, and every honest lawman who wears a badge," U.S. Attorney William "Chad" Lamar said in a statement. "The citizens of our state and Tallahatchie County deserved better.

Brewer, 58, pleaded guilty in November to one count of extorting a bribe relating to $6,500 in cash he took from the drug dealer in June. The FBI converted the unnamed drug dealer into an informant and recorded the informant telling Brewer of fake plans to rob a methamphetamine dealer. The informant later delivered $3,500 more in FBI-tracked bribes.

But prosecutors have said that was far from Brewer's only illegal act and accused the lawman of having a 15-year illegal partnership with the unnamed drug dealer. They said the dealer robbed other dealers of drugs and money, giving stolen money and proceeds from drug sales to the sheriff of the rural Mississippi Delta county, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of Memphis, Tennessee.

The informant estimated he robbed drug dealers at least 50 times over the years, taking and later selling methamphetamine and various forms of cocaine. The informant told the FBI that Brewer continued to shelter his illegal activities when he found out a few years ago that the informant had gone into a more traditional form of drug dealing, selling meth bought from illegal suppliers. During this stage of the relationship, the FBI said the informant was paying Brewer $500 to $600 every two weeks from his drug-dealing profits.

Once the informant was working for the FBI, he planned one last deal with agents listening in. The FBI alleges the informant told Brewer of a fictional plan to rob someone of 9 to 10 kilograms (20 to 22 pounds) of methamphetamine, discussing the plan with Brewer in person and in recorded telephone calls in June. At the FBI's direction, after falsely claiming he had completed the robbery, the informant paid Brewer $10,000 in cash bribes. The FBI says the informant made three trips to Brewer's house in Oakland between June 21 and July 26, each time leaving FBI-photographed $10, $20 and $100 bills in a bucket in Brewer's barn at the sheriff's direction.

Brewer has been jailed in Mason, Tennessee, since October, when federal officials alleged he was trying to intimidate a witness. Defense attorney Kevin Horan wrote in a motion filed Thursday that Brewer was cleared of those charges, but Mills denied Horan's request to let Brewer out of jail for at least three weeks before he goes to federal prison.

Brewer's wife, sister and stepdaughter were among those who made written pleas to Mills seeking leniency.

New trial ordered for Arkansas man convicted in son's death

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Arkansas Supreme Court ordered a new trial Thursday for a death row inmate who was convicted in the killing of his 6-year-old son, whom investigators say died from an infection caused by the father sexually assaulting him with a stick.

Justices overturned the 2016 capital murder conviction of Mauricio Alejandro Torres. Investigators say Mauricio Alejandro Torres assaulted his son Isaiah during a family camping trip in Missouri in 2015. Torres' attorneys have said his actions were intended as punishment, not sexual gratification, and the father didn't know they could kill the boy.

But Thursday's 4-3 ruling centered on the fact that the assault occurred in Missouri. The justices ruled that meant Arkansas authorities couldn't use rape as a justification for the capital murder conviction. The boy died at an Arkansas hospital a day after the assault. A medical examiner said chronic child abuse was a significant contributing factor to his death.

"If Torres could not have been charged in this state, that necessarily means that the elements of rape could not have been met in this state," Justice Karen Baker wrote. "If the elements of rape cannot be met, rape cannot serve as an element of capital murder."

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge criticized the court's ruling.

"I am extremely disappointed in the Supreme Court's decision to give a new trial to this monster who brutally sodomized his 6-year old son with a stick which lead to the youngster's death," Rutledge said in a statement issued by her office. "I am determining next steps to ensure justice is served for these despicable, evil acts."

Torres' wife, Cathy, pleaded guilty in 2017 to capital murder for her role in the boy's death and was sentenced to life without parole.

A justice who split from the majority's ruling said that the boy's death gave Arkansas jurisdiction to convict Torres of capital murder.

"An essential part of the crime, Isaiah's death, has clearly occurred in Arkansas," Justice Shawn Womack wrote in a dissenting opinion. "Under both our precedent and the controlling statute, jurisdiction clearly lies in this state."

Prosecutors had presented two alternative theories for convicting Torres of capital murder, one because of the rape claim and another because of child abuse. The high court said it couldn't determine which theory the jury used for its conviction.

"It's an important decision because it should impact how other trials are conducted in the future when a defendant is charged alternatively," Jeff Rosenzweig, an attorney for Torres, said.

Published: Mon, Apr 22, 2019