Court Digest

Woman charged with manslaughter in death of daughter, 2

BROCKTON, Mass. (AP) — A Massachusetts woman caused the injuries the led to the death of her 2-year-old daughter last year and failed to seek medical help in a timely manner, prosecutors say.

Shaniqua Leonard, 29, of Whitman, was held on $25,000 bail at her arraignment Tuesday in Brockton Superior Court after pleading not guilty to manslaughter in connection with the death of Lyric Farrell on Dec. 28.

Leonard had originally been charged with reckless endangerment of a child but was indicted on the more serious charge.

Leonard told hospital personnel that the girl’s injuries, including bleeding behind her eyes and a hemorrhage inside of her skull, were self-inflicted when she hit her head on the ground.

Plymouth Assistant District Attorney Jessica Kenny said neurologists and other medical experts said the injuries were too severe for that to be the cause.

“The ophthalmologist who observed these injuries to her eyes indicated the type of force necessary to cause those injuries is akin to the type of force in a car accident,” Kenny said.

Leonard’s attorney said there’s no evidence his client caused the girl’s injuries.

Michael Tumposky also defended Leonard for not seeking medical help sooner, because she had six other children to care for.

Woman convicted after 100 dead, sick animals found in home

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) — A Virginia woman accused of having more than 100 dead and sick animals in her home has been convicted of multiple animal cruelty charges.

Lisa Hokaj-Ross, 53, pleaded guilty Tuesday to the 24 counts — one for each of the sick cats and one dog found in her house in March 2019, The Virginian Pilot reported.

She also agreed to undergo mental health treatment, not to own any pets for 10 years and to allow Animal Control officers to make unannounced visits to her home, among other restrictions, the newspaper said.

Animal Control officers executed a search warrant at Hokaj-Ross’ Virginia Beach home last spring, where they had conducted similar searches and discovered dead and live animals in the past, according to court documents entered Tuesday.

In the most recent case, 23 cats had to be euthanized because they had a contagious virus, the documents said. Dozens of other dead animals, including kittens, squirrels, possums, rabbits and a duck were found in her garage.

In 2015, Hokaj-Ross was also accused of trying to break into a Virginia Beach Animal Control building to take cats, officials said at the time.

Her defense attorney said Tuesday that Hokaj-Ross “loves animals” and never intended to harm them.

She could face up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine for each count when sentenced in November.

New York
Lawsuit: Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. raped New York woman in 2013

NEW YORK (AP) — Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. is accused of raping a woman twice in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013, according to a lawsuit that escalates the severity of the growing number of claims against him.

The lawsuit, dated Monday but filed publicly Tuesday in Manhattan federal court, alleged that the Oscar-winning “Jerry Maguire” actor attacked the woman, identified in court papers as “Jane Doe” to protect her privacy, after she met him at a Greenwich Village VIP lounge.

Attorney Mark Heller, who represent the 52-year-old actor, said the “alleged event never took place.”

“And my client is totally innocent of any of these false allegations and we’re confident it will be dismissed,” he said.

“She’s probably just somebody who’s looking for some glory to bask in the publicity and notoriety of Cuba Gooding Jr.’s case,” he added.

Gooding already faces misdemeanor criminal charges of sexual abuse and forcible touching related to claims women have previously made against him. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges.

Heller has called the state court allegations “incredulous” and assailed the prosecution as a waste of taxpayer dollars.

The federal lawsuit said the woman agreed to accompany Gooding to a nearby SoHo hotel, where they were to be joined at the hotel’s ground-floor bar and restaurant by Gooding’s friends and a friend of the woman who was with her when she met Gooding at the VIP lounge.

But when they arrived at the hotel, Gooding convinced her to go upstairs with him to a room, saying he wanted to quickly change his clothes, the lawsuit said.

Instead, he put on music and attacked her, taking off her clothing and holding her arms to pin her down as he sexually assaulted and raped her twice, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit said the woman told Gooding during the attacks “’no’ numerous times but he wouldn’t stop.”

According to court papers, the August 2013 attack has left the woman with “emotional pain, suffering, and a loss of enjoyment of life.” The suit seeks unspecified damages.

Gooding appeared last week in Manhattan state court, where he has pleaded not guilty to six misdemeanor charges of forcible touching and sexual abuse. If convicted, he faces up to a year behind bars.

State prosecutors say more than two dozen women have made claims against Gooding since allegations first arose against him.

2 ex-White Sox ticket sellers plead guilty in ticket scheme

CHICAGO (AP) — Two former Chicago White Sox ticket sellers have pleaded guilty to federal charges for their roles in a scheme where thousands of tickets to the team’s games were fraudulently sold.

James Costello, 67, and William O’Neil, 51, each admitted their crimes during Tuesday hearings in federal court held by videoconference due to the coronavirus pandemic. Costello pleaded guilty to wire fraud, and O’Neil admitted he lied to the FBI, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

A third defendant, ticket broker Bruce Lee, still faces 11 counts of wire fraud and two counts of money laundering. His trial is scheduled for Jan. 25.

Costello and O’Neil’s plea agreements anticipate the men will cooperate with prosecutors and that their sentencing hearings will be delayed until their cooperation is complete.

An indictment made public in January alleged that Lee made $868,369 by fraudulently selling 34,876 tickets during the 2016 through 2019 baseball seasons. It alleges that Costello and O’Neil generated thousands of complimentary and discount tickets — without required vouchers — and gave them to Lee in exchange for cash.

Costello allegedly used other employees’ ID codes to avoid detection as he accessed White Sox Ticketmaster computers, and eventually recruited O’Neil to help with the scheme, prosecutors said.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said Costello collected more than $100,000 from Lee. He said O’Neil lied to FBI agents investigating the scam in March 2019, telling them he’d never given tickets to Lee without the knowledge and consent of the White Sox.

DOJ: Storage firm illegally sold deployed sergeant’s items

BOSTON (AP) — The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit Tuesday accusing a Massachusetts storage company of illegally selling the possessions of an Air Force sergeant — including his grandfather’s medals — while he was deployed.

Father & Son Moving & Storage broke the law by failing to obtain a court order before auctioning everything in the technical sergeant’s storage units while he was serving in Qatar, officials say.

Father & Son had sent mail indicating that the man owed money to his previous address at Hanscom Air Force Base, but he didn’t get it in Qatar until almost a month after his possessions had been sold, the lawsuit says.

The items sold include mementos that belonged to a cousin who was killed while serving in the military, his grandfather’s medals, a dresser handmade by his great-grandfather and personal photographs, the lawsuit says.

“This servicemember was called overseas to serve our country and returned home to find his personal possessions, family heirlooms and military awards auctioned off to the highest bidder,” Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said in an emailed statement. “That is unacceptable.”

Prosecutors are seeking damages for the man, a civil penalty, and an order barring the company from illegally auctioning military members’ possessions in the future.

West Virginia
AG sues Walmart, CVS over opioid pill flood

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia’s attorney general sued Walmart and drugstore chain CVS on Tuesday, saying they failed to monitor and report suspicious orders of prescription painkillers to their retail pharmacies in a state ravaged by the opioid epidemic.

Patrick Morrisey’s lawsuits allege violations of the state’s Consumer Credit and Protection Act and conduct that caused a public nuisance.

Morrisey said Walmart and CVS each were among the state’s top 10 opioid distributors from 2006 to 2014. West Virginia by far leads the nation in the rate of drug overdose deaths.

“We must hold everyone accountable for the roles they played in the opioid epidemic and continue to push toward solutions that go after the root cause of the problem,” Morrisey said in a statement.

The lawsuits accuse CVS and Walmart of continuing to sell and ship opioids rather than report suspicious orders and stop pharmaceuticals from being diverted for illicit use.

Morrisey said the companies supplied far more opioids to their retail pharmacies than necessary. The lawsuits say the companies’ individual retail pharmacies had to order additional pills from other distributors to keep up with demand.

In a statement, CVS Health spokesman Mike DeAngelis called the lawsuit “misguided.”

“Opioids are made and marketed by drug manufacturers, not pharmacies,” DeAngelis said in a statement. “We dispense opioid prescriptions written by a licensed physician for a legitimate medical need.”

DeAngelis said CVS stopped distributing hydrocodone combination painkillers in 2014 immediately after the DEA reclassified them as Schedule II drugs, which are considered to have a high potential for abuse and dependence.

“Further, we only distributed them to our own CVS pharmacies, not to pain clinics, independent pharmacies or rogue internet pharmacies,” he said.

Walmart did not return an email seeking comment.

Morrisey filed similar lawsuits against Rite-Aid and Walgreens in June, and last year against opioid manufacturers Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson, Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Endo Health Solutions Inc. and Mallinckrodt LLC.

More than 2,000 state, local and tribal governments have filed similar claims seeking to hold the drug industry accountable for the opioid crisis. Most of the suits have been consolidated under a federal judge in Cleveland.

U.S. state and territorial governments say the opioid epidemic has cost them $630 billion since 2007. That number is based on past and future costs of the opioid-related medical care of state employees and Medicaid recipients; justice and child welfare system costs; prevention programs and other spending. It also includes future opioid abatement programs that advocates say are needed.

Court: On 2nd thought, tax bikini latex clubs

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A state appeals court has overturned its own ruling and decided “bikini latex clubs” are sexually oriented businesses that are subject to a $5-per-patron state tax.

The Houston-based 1st Texas Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday in a 21-page opinion  that latex-clad dancers at such clubs are nude under state law and that therefore the state can tax each patron. In so doing, it vacated its own January ruling that dismissed a lawsuit brought by Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar.

State law requires specific body parts to be covered by “fully opaque clothing” for a club to avoid the levy on sexually oriented businesses. An association of club owners contends the owners are exempt from what has become known as the “pole tax” because their dancers wear bikini bottoms and cover their breasts in liquid latex that turns opaque when it hardens.

Hegar contends the dancers are nude because latex does not meet the law’s definition of clothing, which he said requires the use of cloth or cloth-like material.

The state is still blocked from collecting the tax by a federal judge’s ruling earlier this year that it would be unconstitutional, the Austin American-Statesman reported. The state has asked Senior U.S. District Judge David Ezra to reconsider his ruling. If he doesn’t, the state plans to appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.