Court Digest

Mom sent to prison for role in teen son’s death

WAUPACA, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin woman was sentenced to 15 years in prison Monday for her role in the fatal shooting of her 18-year-old son during a dispute with a man over stolen reptiles.

Tiffany Powell was also ordered to discuss the incident with authorities on each anniversary of Ryelee Manete-Powell’s death, WLUK-TV reported.

Manete-Powell was fatally shot in Waupaca, 65 miles west of Green Bay, in October 2020 when confronted with the theft of several reptiles worth nearly $30,000.

A first-degree homicide case is pending against Bill Zelenski, who owned the reptiles. Police said Powell handled a shotgun at one point and was present when her son was killed.

“At no point did you say, ‘Don’t hold that gun on my son. Don’t give me this gun. I’m a convicted felon. I can’t hold onto a gun,’” Judge Vicki Clussman said.

“The only thing you weren’t thinking about was Ryelee,” the judge said.

Powell acknowledged that “irrational decisions” were made.

“I wish I could see him here and ask for forgiveness, but to ask for that would mean I would have to forgive myself,” she said.

Powell was convicted of first-degree recklessly endangering safety and illegally possessing a firearm.


Disbarred lawyer Girardi pleads not guilty to client thefts

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Disbarred lawyer Tom Girardi had not guilty pleas entered on his behalf Monday on charges he embezzled millions of dollars from some of the massive settlements he won for clients during a once prominent career.

Girardi, 83, is charged in Los Angeles federal court with wire fraud for allegedly stealing more than $15 million from clients that included an Arizona widow whose husband was killed in boat accident, a Los Angeles couple injured in a car wreck that paralyzed their son and a man who was severely burned in the 2010 San Bruno gas pipeline explosion.

As one of the nation’s most prominent plaintiff’s attorneys, Girardi took on powerful corporations, movie studios and Pacific Gas and Electric in a case that led to a $333 million settlement, which was portrayed in the 2000 Julia Roberts film “Erin Brockovich.”

But Girardi’s law empire collapsed and he faces mounting legal problems.

He lost his law license last year because of client thefts, creditors of his bankrupt Girardi Keese firm are seeking more than $500 million and he’s in divorce proceedings with Erika Jayne, who starred on “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.”

He’s gone from living in a mansion in Pasadena to an assisted living facility memory care unit, where attorneys say he has Alzheimer’s and is under a court conservatorship.

Girardi also faces federal wire fraud charges in Chicago, where he is accused of stealing about $3 million from family members of victims in a 2018 Lion Air crash that killed 189 people.

Public defenders in LA are seeking a mental competency evaluation for Girardi that will determine if he can stand trial.

Girardi, wearing a purple V-neck sweater and blue shirt, appeared to be frail as he walked slowly into a federal courthouse in front of cameras. He was released on a $250,000 bond.

Girardi is charged in California and Illinois alongside his firm’s chief financial officer, Christopher Kamon, 49, who did not appear in court Monday. He is jailed on a separate wire fraud case in which he’s accused of embezzling law firm funds to renovate two LA-area homes, pay for shopping sprees and hire an escort.

Kamon is due in a Chicago court Tuesday. Girardi’s arraignment there is scheduled for March 3.

Girardi’s son-in-law David Lira, 62, also faces charges in the Chicago case and is scheduled for arraignment Friday. His lawyer said he will plead not guilty.


Man gets life for deadly North Dakota shooting

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A Minnesota man was sentenced Monday to life in prison after he pleaded guilty to three counts of murder in the deaths of two co-workers and their unborn child at a North Dakota factory.

A judge sentenced Anthony Reese Jr. to life in prison without the possibility of parole for shooting to death the couple and their unborn child in November 2021 at Composite America in Fargo, according to KVLY-TV. Reese pleaded guilty in November.

Reese, of Moorhead, Minnesota, admitted to killing 43-year-old Richard Pittman and 32-year-old April Carbone, who was eight months pregnant. Carbone died at the factory and Pittman was declared dead at a hospital.

Reese, Pittman and another employee were involved in an altercation on the factory floor before the shooting. Managers ordered Reese to leave but he returned with a handgun and shot Pittman and Carbone.


Man gets 5-year prison term in Planned ­Parenthood fire

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) — A man who was inspired by a church sermon to set fires at a Planned Parenthood clinic in southwestern Michigan was sentenced Monday to five years in prison.

Joshua Brereton, 25, had pleaded guilty to committing arson at the Kalamazoo clinic last July. The clinic was not open at the time.

Planned Parenthood offers abortion services. Brereton has made videos calling abortion a “genocide of babies.”

“This offense was committed impulsively after he had heard a church sermon about ‘making a difference.’ ... In retrospect, Joshua looks at himself every day with great regret,” defense attorney Donald Smith said in a court filing.

U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney ordered a five-year prison term, the mandatory minimum under federal law.

Clinic repairs and lost income due to the arson totaled about $33,000, said prosecutors, who noted that Brereton set three separate fires on the outside of the building.

“While Americans may disagree strongly on matters of law and policy, violence is never an acceptable means to settle our disputes,” U.S. Attorney Mark Totten said.


Prison for woman who admitted statutory rape of young boys

MARTINEZ, Calif. (AP) — A 35-year-old Northern California woman pleaded guilty to the statutory rape of teenage boys and will serve nearly eight years in state prison, prosecutors said Monday.

Jennifer Decarlo last week entered guilty pleas to two counts of lewd acts upon a minor, two counts of statutory rape, and one count of meeting with a minor for lewd purposes, the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement.

The Oakley resident was initially investigated for grooming a single victim for sex, but police eventually located two additional minor victims, according to prosecutors.

“Further investigation resulted in evidence from social media demonstrating how Decarlo groomed and lured young boys to her home for the purpose of committing lewd acts on them,” the DA’s statement said.

Decarlo was sentenced to 7 years and 8 months in state prison. Upon release, she will be required to register for life as a sex offender.


Judge upholds punitive damage award in prison strip search

DOVER, Del. (AP) — A judge rejected a challenge on Monday by Delaware’s Department of Correction of a jury’s $15,000 punitive damage award to an inmate who was mistreated by a former prison guard during a strip search.

The judge upheld the jury’s November decision to award punitive damages to Richard M. Chamberlain, who is serving time following his seventh drunken-driving arrest in 2016.

The jury found that correctional officer George Pyle intentionally made physical contact with Chamberlain during the 2017 strip search that was harmful or offensive and unnecessary to enforce prison procedures. Jurors determined that Pyle engaged in “outrageous conduct” and that he acted in bad faith with “gross or wanton negligence.”

Pyle denied touching Chamberlain, while simultaneously arguing that if he did touch him, it was in accordance with prison rules.

A state attorney representing Pyle challenged the jury verdict, arguing that state law provides immunity from liability for an employee acting in good faith, without gross negligence and within the scope of his duties. According to the state, the only evidence of wrongdoing was that Pyle snapped his gloves, grinned or smirked and said, “It’s strip search time.”

Judge Paul Wallace denied the motion to overturn the jury’s findings and rule that Pyle was immune from liability.

“It appears the jury could reasonably, and did, reject Officer Pyle’s testimony as to both his behavior and his lack of bad faith,” Wallace wrote.

Wallace also refused to reduce or vacate the punitive damage award.

“No argument has been presented that the jury’s verdict was based on passion, prejudice, or misconduct,” Wallace wrote, adding that the award was within “an acceptable range.”


Former police detective ­sentenced to life in prison

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A former Birmingham police detective was sentenced Monday to spend the rest of her life in prison after being convicted of killing a woman she caught with her romantic partner.

A judge sentenced Alfreda Fluker to life in prison without the possibility of parole, court records show. A jury in November convicted Fluker of capital murder for the 2020 shooting death of 43-year-old Kanisha Nicole Fuller and the attempted murder of Mario Theodore White, who was Fluker’s police partner and longtime boyfriend.

Fluker was a 15-year veteran of the Birmingham Police Department and on the force at the time of the shooting.

Fuller’s mother, Janice Andrews, told CBS42 that she was pleased with the sentence. “No matter what your title is you just can’t go around killing people. People got family,” Andrews said. reported that prosecutors and defense lawyers gave differing accounts at the trial of Fluker’s mental state at the time of the shooting.

Prosecutors said that Fluker was “cold, calculated and exact” when she found Fuller and White together in White’s unmarked police vehicle and she intentionally emptied her service weapon into the SUV, reported. Defense lawyers argued that Fluker was overcome with anger when she caught the two being intimate together and fired in the heat of passion, not intending to hurt or kill anyone.

Fluker and White were partners on the Birmingham Police Department’s Crime Reduction Team. They also had been involved romantically for several years and had lived together since 2016, reported.