National Roundup

Minnesota: Man unsuspecting getaway driver in robbery
JANESVILLE, Minn. (AP) — A 26-year-old man thought he was doing a good deed when he gave a 70-year-old woman a ride to a Minnesota bank.
But police say the woman robbed the bank, and the man was her unsuspecting getaway driver.

The man told The Free Press of Mankato that he thought the woman, who rents an apartment from his mother, was going to the bank to withdraw cash to pay her rent.

Instead, employees of the Elysian State Bank reported Wednesday that an “elderly woman” told the teller she had a gun, demanded money and left with an undisclosed amount.

Police stopped the car and took both into custody before determining the woman acted alone.

The Star Tribune reported the woman had a hammer but no gun. She’s in jail, pending charges.

New York: 2nd NY group home slaying suspect in court Dec.22
LOCKPORT, N.Y. (AP) — A judge will hear arguments this week in the case of a teen who wants to withdraw his plea in the bludgeoning death of a western New York group home worker.

Eighteen-year-old Robert Thousand was scheduled to be sentenced Friday after pleading guilty to manslaughter in the death of 24-year-old counselor Renee Greco (GREH’-koh).

But the hearing’s been postponed until Dec. 22. That’s when a Niagara County judge will hear Thousand’s reasons for wanting to withdraw his plea. If the motion’s denied, he’ll be sentenced.

Last week, 19-year-old Anthony Allen was sentenced to 25 years to life for the 2009 killing at Avenue House in Lockport, north of Buffalo.

Authorities believe Thousand threw a blanket over Greco’s head and Allen beat her with a wooden table leg.

Vermont: Man shot by police after assault found insane
BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (AP) — A Vermont man wounded by a Brattleboro police officer after refusing to drop a knife has been found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Court records say 20-year-old Brendan Houston of Montpelier is a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic.

He had been a patient at a Brattleboro residential mental health treatment facility on Sept. 28 when he took a knife from the facility and assaulted a police officer in a parking lot. Houston was shot in the hand.

In court Thursday, Judge David Suntag said after the insanity ruling, Houston’s case is “over forever.”

Washington: Former cop charged with sex crimes in Kennewick
KENNEWICK, Wash. (AP) — A former Portland police officer has been accused of approaching girls in a Kennewick park and offering them money to perform sex acts.

The Tri-City Herald reports 35-year-old Ryan Graichen was charged Thursday in Benton County Superior Court with five counts of sexual abuse or sexual exploitation of a minor.

Prosecutors say he approached teens in Columbia Park last June and offered them money, alcohol and marijuana if they would go back to his house and be filmed while he performed a sex act.

Graichen resigned from the Portland police force in 2007 while under investigation for filming high school girls at dances and basketball games and zooming in on their private areas. He was a school resource officer at the time.

California: San Francisco man’s murder conviction overturned
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A judge has overturned the murder conviction of a San Francisco man who was accused of a 1990 drug-related killing.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Charles Haines ruled Thursday that 47-year-old Maurice Caldwell did not receive an effective defense at his trial.

Caldwell was sentenced in 1991 to 34 years to life in the fatal shooting of Judy Acosta in a San Francisco public housing project a year earlier. Authorities say Acosta was shot in a drug deal gone bad.

The District Attorney’s office tells the San Francisco Chronicle it is reviewing the decision. It can appeal, dismiss the charges or seek a retrial.

Caldwell is the second man this week to have his murder conviction in San Francisco overturned.

Minnesota: Gang strike force victims receive settlement money
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A federal court has approved a $3 million settlement for victims of the defunct Metro Gang Strike Force.

About 100 people have filed claims so far, saying they were victimized by the multi-jurisdiction police agency disbanded in July 2009. The force was the target of numerous investigations and legislative hearings after it was accused of seizing property from people who weren’t charged, among other wrongdoing.

The deadline for claims is Dec. 30. The Star Tribune says the settlement and lawyers fees will be paid by the League of Minnesota Cities Trust Fund.

Suntag ordered that Houston be sent to the Vermont State Hospital.

Nebraska: Man suspected of writing bad checks to churches
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Authorities say a 44-year-old Omaha man is suspected of writing checks on a closed account to buy gift certificates from local churches.

Omaha police say Devin Qualls had bought hundreds of dollars’ worth of certificates from at least three churches.

The victims shared news of their losses with other churches. Police say that led to the arrest of Qualls on Thursday when he tried to buy gift certificates from St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in northwest Omaha.

A Douglas County jail spokeswoman said Qualls remained in custody on Friday. Online court records don’t list the name of his attorney.

Connecticut: Judge: ICE agents not immune to prosecution
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed the government’s argument that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials are immune from lawsuits brought on constitutional grounds.

The ruling advances a civil rights suit brought by 11 suspected illegal immigrants picked up by ICE agents in June 2007 in New Haven.

Lawyers for the men tell The New Haven register that the decision has wide-ranging implications.

U.S. District Court Judge Stefan Underhill refused to dismiss the charges against the agents, as well as their supervisors, including former agency head Julie Myers.

The suit was brought by student law interns and their supervisors at the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at the Yale Law School.