National Roundup

Georgia: Top court OKs dismissal of murder charges
ATLANTA (AP) — The Georgia Supreme Court has upheld a Fulton County court’s dismissal of murder charges against two men because the state violated their constitutional right to a speedy trial.

The case involves the killing of Kenneth Kemp in 2005 at an apartment complex in Atlanta. Witnesses identified Maurice Gleaton as the person who shot Kemp in the back and Antonio Clark as the other shooter.

Two of the three witnesses recanted their testimony, and the third was in Florida and unwilling to return to testify.

Last year, the district attorney obtained indictments against Gleaton and Clark. Their attorneys filed for dismissal, alleging a violation of the right to a speedy trial.

In a 4-3 ruling Monday, the Supreme Court upheld the lower court, which ruled that the delay impaired the defense.

Texas: Judge says list shouldn’t have been released
DALLAS (AP) — A federal judge believed that prosecutors should not have publicly released a list of unindicted co-conspirators in the terrorist financing case of North Texas’ Holy Land Foundation, but declined one group’s request to be removed, according to an appeals court ruling.

U.S. District Judge Jorge Solis ruled last year that the release violated the Fifth Amendment due process rights of the North American Islamic Trust, which has argued its inclusion on the list of 246 individuals and groups amounted to guilt by association.

Prosecutors released the list three years ago, and copies have since been circulated on the Internet.

After Solis sealed the order in 2009, NAIT asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to unseal the order, and sought to overturn his ruling that kept the group on the government’s list.

A three-judge appeals panel ordered on Oct. 20 that Solis’ ruling be made public, but upheld his finding that NAIT remain on the list.

NAIT’s offices were closed Sunday and a messages left by The Associated Press were not immediately returned. The group has denied any links to terrorism.

Solis’ ruling has not yet been released, but details were included in the appeals court’s order. Court officials told The Dallas Morning News for a story Sunday that, to allow for appeals, it could be weeks before Solis’ ruling is released.

A jury convicted five leaders of Holy Land, a former Richardson-based organization, and Holy Land itself in 2008 on counts related to giving more than $12 million to schools and social welfare programs controlled by Hamas, the Palestinian militant group. Holy Land’s defense team last month filed appeals in case.

Prosecutors declined to comment. The government has not appealed Solis’ rights violation finding.

In legal filings, prosecutors said their decision to publicly file the unindicted co-conspirator list before the 2007 trial was an “unfortunate oversight.”

Solis found that the list, which allowed introduction of certain statements and documents by co-conspirators, would have been just as effective filed outside public view.

Wisconsin: Man gets 25 years for killing ex-girlfriend
MILWAUKEE (AP) — A Wisconsin man who strangled his ex-girlfriend in front of their young child, then hid her body before fleeing to Colorado, has been sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Thirty-two-year-old Benjamin Germano, of Wauwatosa (wah-wah-TOH’-sah), tearfully apologized in court Friday for killing 24-year-old Sarah Rosio.

Their volatile relationship ended for good Jan. 13 when Rosio showed up at his apartment, demanding to see their 19-month-old girl.

The defense says Rosio hit Germano with a pan and threatened him with a knife, and that he tried to defend himself but took it too far.

Her body was discovered eight days later in a storage locker, after he kept it in the trunk of his car for four days. He was arrested Jan. 27 in Colorado and later pleaded guilty.

Utah: Lawyer: Disqualify Utah prosecutors from drug case
PROVO, Utah (AP) — The lawyer for a man facing drug charges is seeking to disqualify the Utah County attorney’s office from prosecuting his client over claims that the defendant won’t be treated fairly.

At the center of the allegation is a so-called wall of shame at the county attorney’s office that shows mug shots of defendants who won’t get a plea bargain because prosecutors say they should already be in prison.

The pyramid of photos was once topped by Osama bin Laden, but he was demoted to a lower spot after one defendant complained about being compared to the al-Qaida leader.

The public defender for Tracy Valdez, who recently shared the top spot with bin Laden, now claims the change makes his client worse than bin Laden.

Richard Gale also said the wall of defendants in county attorney Jeffrey R. Buhman’s office is inappropriate and can be seen by judges, lawyers, and probation and parole agents.

The list is known as the PNG list — for “persona non grata” — and according to the county prosecutors’ website, it’s for defendants who “should have already gone to prison but keep getting off of their charges or getting sentences that are too light with regard to their criminal history.”

Gale said Valdez was stopped on his bicycle in Provo and found in possession of a few milligrams of methamphetamine. The charge was enhanced to a first-degree felony because Valdez had prior offenses and was biking through a drug-free zone, he said.

Valdez is scheduled to go on trial Nov. 18 but is willing to plead guilty to a second-degree felony, Gale said.

“Presumably, if Osama bin Laden were charged with a crime in Utah County, he would receive more lenient consideration than Valdez since he is below Valdez in the ‘persona non grata’ pyramid,” Gale wrote in a court motion seeking to disqualify the prosecutors.

Utah County prosecutor Sam Pead responded in court papers by saying Valdez has been fairly treated and isn’t owed an explanation for his placement on the list.

“No defendant is entitled to a plea offer, nor can any defendant make a claim of a right to a plea offer,” Pead wrote.

Pead also told the Daily Herald of Provo that the list    isn’t illegal or improper, and is for the information of prosecutors only.

The county’s website says in keeping the list, prosecutors “are careful to only place someone on our PNG list who has earned that distinction through a long track record of breaking the law. Once we place someone on our PNG list, we severely limit their cases’ plea bargaining and the assigned prosecutor puts their cases right on a trial track.”


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