Court Roundup

New York: Lawsuit says Clorox misleads in cat litter ads
NEW YORK (AP) — The makers of Arm & Hammer’s Super Scoop cat litter have sued The Clorox Co. in federal court in New York, saying Clorox’s Fresh Step cat litter is running a disparaging television commercial that will hurt its product.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday seeks unspecified damages and a court order to stop the commercial from airing.

In the lawsuit, Church & Dwight Co. Inc., of Princeton, N.J., says its Super Scoop product is maligned because the advertisement shows multiple cats rejecting and refusing to use its litter box. It says its own research contradicts those results.

The legal fight pits the two leading sellers of cat litter against each other.

Clorox spokeswoman Kathryn Caulfield said the California company had not yet seen the lawsuit and does not comment on litigation.

Pennsylvania: Ex-judge innocent of 1 count, found guilty on 2 counts
MEDIA, Pa. (AP) — A former suburban Philadelphia district judge accused of molesting a teenager has been acquitted of indecent assault but convicted of corruption of minors and endangering the welfare of a child.

Former Magisterial District Judge Gerald Liberace is scheduled to be sentenced March 10 on the two convictions Wednesday night in Delaware County Court.

Prosecutors alleged that the 69-year-old longtime Haverford Township judge inappropriately touched a 12-year-old girl when she was left in his care in 2004. The allegations were reported to law enforcement in July 2009.

In taped conversations that summer, Liberace is heard to say that he meant nothing sexual. Liberace’s attorney questioned the alleged victim’s allegations, saying she acknowledged seeking frequent contact with Liberace for several years.

Alabama: Teenager gets 15 years for robbery with toy gun
DOTHAN, Ala. (AP) — A Houston County judge sentenced a Dothan teenager to 15 years in prison for the armed robbery of a man with a toy gun.

Police arrested 19-year-old Steffon Parresse Tolver last April and charged him with first-degree robbery. Circuit Court Judge Butch Binford issued the sentence on Wednesday.

Defense attorney Matt Lamere asked for a minimum sentence, saying his client didn’t have a weapon and that nothing was stolen during the robbery.

Assistant Houston County District Attorney Banks Smith said Tolver faced 10 to 99 years or life in prison for armed robbery, but because the gun wasn’t real he did not face enhanced punishment.

West Virginia: Suspect’s hearing in murder case disrupted by fight
WAYNE, W.Va. (AP) — Two relatives of a slain Wayne County man are accused of trying to attack the suspect during a court hearing.

The incident occurred Wednesday after a Wayne County magistrate sent a first-degree murder charge against 52-year-old Clinton Douglas Skeens to the grand jury.

Skeens is charged with fatally stabbing former Wayne High School football coach Jess “Scott” Jarrell. A State Police trooper testified Wednesday that Jarrell was stabbed 43 times on Dec. 31.

Wayne County Prosecutor Tom Plymale told The Herald-Dispatch that Jarrell’s son, Scott Jarrell, and son-in-law, Paul Morrison, tried to attack Skeens. Officers subdued both men. Each is charged with misdemeanor willful disruption of a government process.

New York: Man sent to prison for killing girlfriend in 2009
BINGHAMTON, N.Y. (AP) — A Binghamton man has been sentenced to 23 years in state prison for killing his 25-year-old girlfriend after a night of drinking in 2009.

Binghamton media outlets report that 31-year-old Francis Rogers was sentenced Wednesday in Broome County Court.

A jury had convicted Rogers of first-degree manslaughter and other charges for the August 2009 death of Katie Chappell.

Prosecutors say he had a history of physically abusing Chappell. Authorities say Rogers slammed her head against a wall in his home after they’d been out drinking in downtown Binghamton.

Officials say he later drove her to her apartment instead of a hospital. Her body was found the next day. The cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head.

California: Search by female guard ruled unconstitutional
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal appeals court in San Francisco has ruled that a strip search of a male inmate by a female guard was unconstitutional.

In a 6-5 decision, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday said the search of the inmate Charles Byrd at a minimum-security jail in Maricopa County, Ariz., in 2004 was a “humiliating event” that violated his rights.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that a three-judge appeals court panel ordered Byrd’s civil rights lawsuit dismissed in 2009.

In its ruling Wednesday, the court determined that cross-gender searches of intimate areas violate the constitutional ban on unreasonable searches.

New Hampshire: Man held on $100K bail on child porn charges
MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — A 36-year-old convicted New Hampshire sex offender is being held on $100,000 cash bail after he was arrested for having graphic images of child sex abuse on a computer he had pawned.

Jonathan Perfetto appeared in court Wednesday, a day after he arrested. A pawn shop owner alerted police to the images.

Court documents say Perfetto told police that the computer belonged to him and that he was the only user. He said he used public places, such as the libraries in Manchester, because he didn’t have internet access on his own.

Officer Steve Mangone tells WMUR-TV the authorities were hoping to send a message with the high bail.

Perfetto had previously served seven years in prison on a child pornography conviction.

Utah: Court blocks removal of 14 highway crosses
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Denver appeals court has stayed an order that would remove 14 crosses from Utah’s highways intended to honor fallen officers and encourage safe driving.

The ruling gives the Utah attorney general’s office 90 days to file a petition seeking a review of the case by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In August, a three-judge panel of 10th Circuit Court of Appeals said the crosses represent an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.

The Utah Highway Patrol Association, the Utah Department of Public Safety and two other state agencies then sought a rehearing before the full 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That petition was denied in December.

American Atheists Inc. sued Utah over the crosses in 2005.

Louisiana: Judge: former school counselor found not insane
LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — A federal judge has ruled that a former counselor at a Lafayette Episcopal school was not insane when she allegedly had a sexual relationship with a high school freshman.

The Advertiser reports 39-year-old Allison Hargrave, formerly employed at Ascension Episcopal School, was indicted last spring on a charge of enticing a 14-year-old girl to engage in sexual activity.

Hargrave underwent a state-sanctioned medical evaluation after her lawyer filed an intent to plead insanity. The results of the evaluation prompted U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Hill’s ruling Tuesday that Hargrave is mentally competent.

No court date has been set in the case.

New Jersey: Student admits theft of historic documents
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A former Drew University college freshman has pleaded guilty to taking valuable historic documents from the United Methodist Archives Center at the university.

William J. Scott of Longmeadow, Mass., pleaded guilty on Tuesday in U.S. District Court to stealing a number of items while working as a paid student assistant at the archives center. Its collection includes letters from denomination’s founders and United States presidents.

Prosecutors say Scott removed more than 30 letters and sent some to a United Kingdom-based dealer in historical documents. He alerted the archives center.

A university spokesman says nearly all the items have been recovered and Drew has since tightened security procedures at the center.

New Hampshire: State Supreme Court hears home school arguments
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The New Hampshire Supreme Court is hearing arguments on whether a mother’s religious and parenting rights were violated by a court order requiring that her 11-year-old daughter attend public school.

Religious freedom groups are trumpeting the cause of Brenda Voydatch of Meredith, who home-schooled her daughter, Amanda, from first through fourth grade.

But Amanda’s father, who has joint custody, said his ex-wife’s strict Christian teachings were socially isolating the child.

Lawyers for the father say there is no constitutional right to home schooling. They argue the court was forced to rule when the parents could not agree on an alternative to home schooling.

New York: Teen gets 6 years in vicious beating of immigrant
NEW YORK (AP) — A teenager has been sentenced to six years in prison in connection with the vicious beating of a Mexican immigrant on Staten Island last year.

The April 5 assault on Rodolfo Olmedo was the first of a series of suspected anti-Hispanic bias attacks in the borough’s Port Richmond section. But a grand jury declined to indict Rolston Hopson and three other defendants on hate crime charges.

Hopson was sentenced Wednesday. According to court documents, he beat Olmedo with a wooden stick. Olmedo was hospitalized for five days and was briefly in a coma.

The other defendants are scheduled to be sentenced in the next two weeks.