Court Digest

Supreme Court makes it easier to sue for job discrimination over forced transfers

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Wednesday made it easier for workers who are transferred from one job to another against their will to pursue job discrimination claims under federal civil rights law, even when they are not demoted or docked pay.

Workers only have to show that the transfer resulted in some, but not necessarily significant, harm to prove their claims, Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the court.

The justices unanimously revived a sex discrimination lawsuit filed by a St. Louis police sergeant after she was forcibly transferred, but retained her rank and pay.

Sgt. Jaytonya Muldrow had worked for nine years in a plainclothes position in the department’s intelligence division before a new commander reassigned her to a uniformed position in which she supervised patrol officers. The new commander wanted a male officer in the intelligence job and sometimes called Muldrow “Mrs.” instead of “sergeant,” Kagan wrote.

Muldrow sued under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion and national origin. Lower courts had dismissed Muldrow’s claim, concluding that she had not suffered a significant job disadvantage.

“Today, we disapprove that approach,” Kagan wrote. “Although an employee must show some harm from a forced transfer to prevail in a Title VII suit, she need not show that the injury satisfies a significance test.”

Kagan noted that many cases will come out differently under the lower bar the Supreme Court adopted Wednesday. She pointed to cases in which people lost discrimination suits, including those of an engineer whose new job site was a 14-by-22-foot wind tunnel, a shipping worker reassigned to exclusively nighttime work and a school principal who was forced into a new administrative role that was not based in a school.

Although the outcome was unanimous, Justices Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas each wrote separate opinions noting some level of disagreement with the majority’s rationale in ruling for Muldrow.

Madeline Meth, a lawyer for Muldrow, said her client will be thrilled with the outcome. Meth, who teaches at Boston University’s law school, said the decision is a big win for workers because the court made “clear that employers can’t decide the who, what, when, where and why of a job based on race and gender.”

The decision revives Muldrow’s lawsuit, which now returns to lower courts. Muldrow contends that, because of sex discrimination, she was moved to a less prestigious job, which was primarily administrative and often required weekend work, and she lost her take-home city car.

“If those allegations are proved,” Kagan wrote, “she was left worse off several times over.”

The case is Muldrow v. St.Louis, 22-193.

New York
Ex-Piston sentenced to 18 months in prison in NBA insurance fraud scheme

NEW YORK (AP) — Will Bynum, who played for the Detroit Pistons for six seasons, was sentenced Tuesday to 18 months in prison for his conviction in a scandal involving NBA insurance fraud.

Bynum, 41, of Bensenville, Illinois, was sentenced in Manhattan federal court, where a jury convicted him in November of conspiring to make false statements related to NBA players who submitted false dental and medical claims to the NBA Players’ Health and Benefit Welfare Plan.

More than 20 people have been convicted in the case, many of them onetime NBA players.

Bynum, who averaged 8.1 points and 3.3 assists in 360 games during his career, was also ordered to forfeit $182,000 and pay restitution of $182,000 when he was sentenced by Judge Valerie E. Caproni.

According to court papers, Bynum joined several other former NBA players, including Terrence Williams and Keyon Dooling, from 2018 to 2019 in a scheme to defraud the plan. Williams and Dooling, who pleaded guilty to charges, already were sentenced to 10 years and 30 months in prison, respectively.

Authorities said Bynum received from another former NBA player fake invoices purporting to show $200,000 in medical services Bynum had received at a Los Angeles-area chiropractor even though the services never occurred.

At trial, Bynum testified. Prosecutors said he committed perjury and obstructed justice.

Man charged in transport of Masters golf tournament memorabilia

A man has been charged in federal court in Illinois in the transport of millions of dollars’ worth of Masters golf tournament merchandise and memorabilia stolen from Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia.

A document filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois accuses Richard Globensky of transporting the items across state lines to Tampa, Florida, “knowing the same had been stolen, converted and taken by fraud.”

The items were taken from the famous golf club and other locations beginning in 2009 through 2022, according to the government.

Upon conviction, Globensky would have to forfeit any property and cash attained from proceeds traced to the stolen items, the government said.

The Associated Press was unable Wednesday to reach Globensky by phone using numbers listed in public records. Lawyer Tom Church, who’s listed in online court records as representing Globensky, did not immediately respond Wednesday to a voicemail and an email.

A message was also left Wednesday seeking comment from Augusta National.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office said he did not have any information on why the case was filed in Illinois.

Court records do not say whether Globensky worked for the golf club.

Augusta National is the home of the legendary Masters golf tournament, which was held over the weekend and won by Scottie Scheffler.

For many fans, the chance to buy exclusive merchandise that’s not officially sold online is a key part of the Masters experience. In recent years, gnome garden statues that debuted in 2016 have been a hot-ticket item. Even logo-etched cups — once emptied of beer or other drinks — are a prized souvenir fans pile up through the tournament.

In 2017, the Georgia company that owns Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters golf tournament sued to stop a golf memorabilia company from auctioning off a Masters champion’s green jacket and other items it says were never supposed to have left the club’s grounds. Augusta National Inc. filed the federal lawsuit against the Florida-based auction company seeking to stop it from selling a champion’s green jacket and two member green jackets, as well as silverware and a belt buckle bearing Augusta National’s map and flag logo.

Bond denied for 4 ‘God’s Misfits’ defendants in the killing of 2 women

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma judge ordered public defenders to represent four members of an anti-government group who appeared in court Wednesday on charges of kidnapping and killing two Kansas women.

The judge also entered not-guilty pleas and denied bail for Tifany Adams, 54, and her boyfriend, Tad Cullum, 43, both of Keyes, Oklahoma, as well as Cole and Cora Twombly of Texhoma, Oklahoma.

Texas County Associate District Judge Clark Jett assigned the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System to represent all four defendants, OIDS Executive Director Tim Laughlin told The Associated Press. Laughlin declined to comment about any details of the case or the defendants, citing his agency’s policy.

“The reason we don’t comment is to protect our client’s privileges and our client’s interest throughout the trial process,” Laughlin said.

All four are charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping and conspiracy in the killing of 27-year-old Veronica Butler and 39-year-old Jilian Kelley of Hugoton, Kansas, who disappeared on May 30 while driving to Oklahoma to pick up Butler’s children and attend a birthday party.

During an interview with investigators, Adams, the children’s grandmother, admitted she was responsible for the deaths of Butler and Kelley, according to a prosecutor’s motion for the defendants to be held without bond.

“Adams, Cullum, Cora and Cole have resources sufficient to organize and execute a complex murder,” OSBI Lt. Amie Gates wrote in an affidavit. “Therefore, they also have the resources to flee if given the opportunity.”

Adam and Cullum also own numerous firearms, and Cullum had a rifle, ammunition, body armor and a “go-bag” prepared at his home, the affidavit says.

Authorities say Adams and Butler were in the middle of a bitter custody battle. Kelley, a pastor’s wife, went along with Butler as a court-approved observer to supervise the visit. They never showed up for the party, setting off a two week search that ended with the two couples’ arrests on Saturday and the discovery of the bodies on Sunday.

Arrest affidavits painted a gruesome picture of the scene where the women’s car was found, not far from the rural highway intersection where Butler had arranged to pick up her son and daughter from Adams. Investigators found blood on the road and Butler’s glasses near a broken hammer.

According to a witness who spoke to Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agents, all four suspects were part of “an anti-government group that had a religious affiliation.” The affidavits said they called themselves “God’s Misfits” and held regular meetings at the home of the Twomblys and another couple who Adams said watched the children the day the women disappeared.

Relatives of Tad Cullum and the Twomblys have not returned phone messages seeking comment. Tifany Adams’ stepmother, Elise Adams, said she had no information to share.

Charges dropped against suspect in 2016 cold case slaying of man

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Authorities have dropped charges against a suspect in the 2016 cold case slaying of a 25-year-old Tulane University graduate who was visiting New Orleans to plan his wedding.

“Serious issues” with a critical witness’s availability arose and led the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office to ask on Tuesday that charges be dismissed against Ernest Weatherspoon, the DA said, without elaborating, in a news release.

Thomas Rolfes, of St. Louis, had come back to the city on a Mother’s Day weekend to meet with his fiancée and scout wedding venues. He was found May 7, 2016, shot to death at an intersection after leaving a bar.

Weatherspoon, 46, was arrested and indicted in December 2021 by a special grand jury on one count each of armed robbery and second-degree murder.

District Attorney Jason Williams said his office has been in close contact with Rolfes’ family, who agreed that dismissal was the best course of action at this time.

“Our office is committed to exhausting all avenues to ensure justice for Mr. Rolfes and this family, who have endured a tremendous loss,” Williams said in the news release.

Weatherspoon had been in jail since his arrest.

John Fuller, Weatherspoon’s defense attorney, told The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate that prosecutors earlier this month offered his client a plea deal that would have handed him a guaranteed 10-year-prison sentence. Weatherspoon declined, and was scheduled to go to trial on Tuesday.