National Roundup

Sentencing for former trial judge set for April 10

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Attorneys for a former Knoxville trial court judge and the federal government have filed final briefs as a court prepares to sentence him.
Richard Baumgartner was convicted on five counts in October of lying to judicial officers to cover up his mistress’ involvement in a drug conspiracy.
According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, both sides agree a term of 24 months is appropriate punishment for Baumgartner, who also pleaded guilty in state court to official misconduct.
The lawyers differ on whether Baumgartner should go to prison or be placed on probation.
The state has granted new trials to a half-dozen defendants after Baumgartner admitted he was buying prescription pain pills from a felon on probation.
A federal judge will sentence Baumgartner April 10.

Federal appeals court reinstates disability lawsuit

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal appeals court has reinstated the lawsuit of a disabled California woman who accused an airline of refusing to provide her a wheelchair in several airports.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday said an airline that violates federal standards could be found negligent under state law for not treating a passenger with reasonable care. Michelle Gilstrap of Los Angeles, who suffers from osteoarthritis, said United Airlines denied her requests for wheelchairs at terminals during two flights in 2008 and 2009.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports Gilstrap said airline employees questioned her need for a wheelchair.
A federal judge had dismissed Gilstrap’s damage suit, citing a 2003 federal law, which requires airlines to assist disabled passengers but does not expressly allow them to sue for violations.

Pastor told girl Jesus approved of their sex activity

HAMMOND, Ind. (AP) — The former pastor of a northwestern Indiana megachurch awaiting sentencing for a sexual relationship with an underage parishioner allegedly told the girl Jesus Christ approved of their tryst.
Federal prosecutors included letters former First Baptist Church pastor Jack Schaap wrote to his victim in their sentencing memorandum filed Wednesday in federal court in Hammond.
The Times of Munster reports the 55-year-old Schaap wrote in the one letter to the 17-year-old girl that their relationship “is exactly what Christ desires for us.”
Schaap was fired by the 15,000-member Hammond church in July and later pleaded guilty to taking a minor across state lines with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.
He’s scheduled to be sentenced Thursday morning and is seeking the minimum 10-year sentence under his conviction.

County settles lawsuits over strip searches

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Woodbury County officials in northwest Iowa have decided to settle lawsuits filed over strip searches at the county jail.
The Sioux City Journal reports that Woodbury County Board Chairman Larry Clausen says the board settled rather than risk trial and possibly pay more to complainants and their attorneys.
Three women arrested on misdemeanor charges say they were forced to take off their clothes in view of male jailers during incidents in 2006 and 2007.
In the settlement, Maureen Rattray, of South Sioux City, Neb., was paid $335,000. Lori Mathes received $40,000 and Lisa Lambert $10,000. Dismissal papers were filed Tuesday.
In 2011 a U.S. District Court jury awarded Rattray more than $250,000, but that verdict was overturned and a retrial ordered because of inconsistencies in the verdict form.

Feds to make arguments over immigration law

PHOENIX (AP) — A federal court is allowing lawyers from the U.S. Department of Justice to participate in arguments on April 2 over Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s bid to overturn a ruling that bars police from enforcing a minor part of the immigration law.
Brewer is appealing a decision by a lower-court judge who ruled in favor of civil rights groups that sought to block the law’s prohibition on harboring illegal immigrants.
The Justice Department had filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to reject the appeal and asked to participate in the April 2 arguments.
Brewer’s lawyers say the harboring ban is aimed at confronting crime and doesn’t conflict with federal policies.
Opponents say the ban is trumped by federal law.

Judge overturns verdict to ‘Price is Right’ model

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A judge has overturned an $8.5 million verdict awarded to a former “Price is Right” model in a pregnancy discrimination case and ruled a new trial is necessary.
Judge Kevin Brazile ruled Tuesday that he didn’t properly instruct the jury that ultimately came to a 9-3 decision in Brandi Cochran’s favor last year, City News Service reported. He based his ruling on new legal guidance from the state’s Supreme Court.
Cochran convinced jurors that the show’s producers discriminated against her after she became pregnant and they refused to allow her to return to the show.
Her attorney, Carney Shegerian, said Wednesday that Brazile’s ruling was proper and he expects the damages to go higher in the case.
“I think on re-trial I’ll get triple or quadruple that,” he said.
Brazile determined he should have instructed the jury to decide whether pregnancy discrimination was a substantial factor in the producers’ decision to keep Cochran from rejoining the cast after her child was born. He cited the divided verdict as a factor warranting a new trial, which will likely occur later this year.

Acquittal in Philly tavern fight that cost man his eye

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A Philadelphia jury has acquitted a man of assault in a bar parking lot fight that cost another man his left eye.
The Philadelphia Inquirer says the Common Pleas panel on Wednesday acquitted Matthew Brunelli of aggravated assault.
Prosecutors alleged Brunelli punched John Huttick in the eye with an object that may have been a key in the August 2011 fight in the parking lot of the New Princeton Tavern.
Earlier proceedings ended in a mistrial after Huttick’s $3,000 prosthetic blue eye popped out as he was testifying, startling jurors. The judge called that an “unfortunate” incident and granted the defense’s mistrial motion.n