National Roundup

Journey guitarist sues ex-mother-in-law for libel

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The lead guitarist for the rock band Journey has filed a federal lawsuit in Minneapolis that accuses his former mother-in-law of libeling him in her blog posts.
Neal Schon says Judy Kozan, the former mayor of Waseca, has “attacked and harassed” him for years through Internet postings and comments in the media. Schon’s lawsuit says Kozan suggested that he has failed to support his ex-wife and their two daughters.
The Star Tribune says the lawsuit references a Hennepin County family court judge who determined that Schon has exceeded his required payments to his ex-wife, Amber Schon, and their children.
Kozan denies ever mentioning Schon or her daughter in her blog postings. She blames a British tabloid for incorrectly concluding that she considered her former son-in-law a deadbeat dad.

Zumba defendant seeks maximum of 2 weeks in jail

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Lawyers for a Maine man convicted in a prostitution scandal are asking the judge to impose a sentence of no more than two weeks in jail, the same penalty he previously rejected under a proposed plea deal.
Mark Strong’s defense team has asked Justice Nancy Mills to invalidate 12 of the 13 guilty verdicts. They said Wednesday that if the verdicts stand, the maximum sentence should be no greater than the plea deal.
The 57-year-old insurance agent was convicted on 12 counts of promotion of prostitution and a separate conspiracy count.
With the plea deal rejected, prosecutors intend to seek consecutive sentences when Strong is sentenced Thursday.
Strong acknowledged helping fitness instructor Alexis Wright open her Kennebunk dance studio but contends he didn’t profit from prostitution.

Football players face charges of  sexual assault

TORRINGTON, Conn. (AP) — Two members of the Torrington High School football team have been charged with sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl, who has been taunted on social media sites in recent weeks by dozens of classmates upset at the allegations.
The Register Citizen reports the two 18-year-old football players, Edgar Gonzalez and Joan Toribio, have been charged with felony second-degree sexual assault and other crimes in an investigation that began last month. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Details of the allegations have been sealed from public view.
The newspaper reports social media posts by classmates taunting the accuser have included vulgar language and have blamed her for ruining the players’ lives.
The case mirrors one in Steubenville, Ohio, where two football players were convicted this week of raping a girl who was later threatened online.

Sheriff defends his joke about assassination 

PLYMOUTH, Mass. (AP) — A Republican sheriff in Massachusetts is defending a joke he told at a St. Patrick’s Day breakfast in which Abraham Lincoln visits President Barack Obama in a dream and suggests he go to the theater.
Lincoln was assassinated in a theater and Democratic critics say even a joke suggesting the current president might get shot was inappropriate, especially from a public safety official.
Plymouth County Sheriff Joseph D. McDonald Jr. made the joke Sunday at the heavily Republican breakfast.
He told the Patriot Ledger of Quincy on Tuesday the uproar over an old joke is “absurd.”
He says it was no different than Democrats joking about former President George W. Bush going hunting with former Vice President Dick Cheney, who accidentally wounded a hunting partner in 2006.

Man charged in NY $8M Facebook shares fraud

NEW YORK (AP) — A Florida investment adviser was charged Tuesday in an $8 million securities fraud scheme that federal prosecutors say capitalized on enthusiasm for Facebook shares.
Craig L. Berkman was arrested at his home in Odessa, Fla., and held after a court appearance  until a hearing Thursday.
The 71-year-old businessman was charged with two counts each of securities fraud and wire fraud, accused of claiming to own Facebook shares before the company went public in May when he didn’t directly own shares. Prosecutors said he pocketed much of the $8 million he received from more than 50 investors. If convicted, he could face up to 80 years in prison.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Berkman “seized on the interest in a highly coveted investment opportunity to swindle investors out of millions.”
The Securities and Exchange Commission announced separate civil charges.
Prosecutors said Berkman, a one-time Oregon GOP gubernatorial candidate, falsely claimed to investors in December 2010 that he owned shares of Menlo Park, Calif.-based Facebook Inc. The government said he used a private company he controlled called Ventures Trust II LLC to cheat investors, arranging for a lawyer as recently as August to write to investors that the fund was “not a Ponzi scheme” and that it still owned Facebook stock. The claims caused investors to send about $5.5 million to various accounts controlled by Berkman, the government said.
Rather than use investor money to acquire shares of Facebook, he transferred the money to his personal account and misappropriated a substantial amount of it for his own benefit and the benefit of others, prosecutors said. They added that he transferred several million dollars of investor funds to lawyers representing him in bankruptcy proceedings.
In a separate but related fraud, Berkman convinced at least 14 investors to send $2.5 million to a company, Face Off Acquisitions LLC, which he claimed held more than 1 million Facebook shares, prosecutors said.
The businessman’s lawyers did not immediately return messages for comment.

North Dakota
Fargo judge under scrutiny after complaint

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — The North Dakota Supreme Court’s Judicial Conduct Commission is looking into whether a state district court judge in Fargo violated judicial ethics.
KFGO radio reports that the commission plans to hold a hearing on accusations against East Central District Judge Wickham Corwin. The hearing has not yet been scheduled.
A female court reporter has claimed that Corwin sexually harassed her and created a hostile work environment.
Corwin says the complaint is the result of a misunderstanding, and he’s asked that it be dismissed.