National Roundup

New Jersey
Suspected robber of  former mayor pleads not guilty

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A man has pleaded not guilty to charges of robbing the former mayor of New Jersey’s largest city.
Alhafeez Williams is accused of putting 77-year-old former Newark Mayor Sharpe James in a chokehold and stealing a gold chain and cross from him on Thursday afternoon. The former mayor was not injured.
The 20-year-old remains held on $50,000 bail after his court appearance Monday.
James said he will not be pressing charges. James told The Associated Press last week that he thinks Williams should be given a job, guidance and mentoring.
The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office says the case will proceed through the courts.

Skakel blames lawyer in latest murder appeal

VERNON, Conn. (AP) — Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel is trying to get his 2002 murder conviction overturned by arguing his trial attorney failed to competently defend him.
A trial started Tuesday in Rockville Superior Court. Skakel, the 52-year-old nephew of Robert F. Kennedy’s widow, Ethel, is serving 20 years to life in prison for the 1975 golf club bludgeoning of his Greenwich neighbor Martha Moxley when they were 15.
Skakel argues trial attorney Michael Sherman failed to challenge the state’s star witness and obtain evidence pointing to other suspects, did a poor job with jury selection and closing arguments and didn’t hire enough investigators and expert consultants.
Sherman, who is listed as a potential witness, has said he did all he could to prevent Skakel’s conviction.
Prosecutors say many of the issues were rejected in earlier appeals.
Skakel, who lost a bid for parole last year, is hoping to get out of prison through a writ of habeas corpus arguing he was deprived of his constitutional right to effective legal representation when Sherman was his attorney.
Skakel’s current attorney, Hubert Santos, argues that his client’s conviction is based on two witnesses of dubious credibility who claimed Skakel confessed to the crime. He contends the verdict likely would have been different if Sherman had conducted an appropriate investigation, obtained evidence and challenged inappropriate state evidence.
Prosecutor Susann Gill counters that Skakel’s conviction came after more than a dozen witnesses testified that he made incriminating statements, including three direct confessions.
Attorneys for Skakel argue that Sherman failed to challenge the state’s star witness by finding witnesses who later rejected his claim that Skakel confessed to the crime.
Skakel has lost two appeals before the Connecticut Supreme Court.

Man who fatally shot pregnant girlfriend held

DALLAS (AP) — A Dallas man shot and killed his pregnant girlfriend Monday and later shot a police officer during a high-speed chase before surrendering following a four-hour standoff with police, authorities said.
Tyrone Christopher Allen, 26, was being held on a capital murder charge in the slaying of 28-year-old Breshuana Jackson, Police Chief David Brown said at a Monday evening news conference. Police later said Allen is also being held on a charge of aggravated assault of a police officer. Bond had not been set and it wasn’t immediately clear if Allen had an attorney.
Police allege in an affidavit that Allen shot Jackson in a house in Dallas’ Hamilton Park neighborhood, and that a witness told officers that she saw Allen drive off afterward and that Jackson told him “Tyrone shot me” before she was taken to a hospital, where she died.
The witness, whom police didn’t identify in the affidavit, told officers that Allen was Jackson’s boyfriend and was the father of the unborn child, which didn’t survive.
Officers saw Allen driving about 90 minutes after they spoke to the witness and tried to pull him over, but he refused. According to police, he fired on the officers during the ensuing chase, striking Officer Daniel Malouf in the stomach.
Authorities say Allen led police to the Hamilton Park neighborhood, where his car came to an abrupt halt as he hit a curb and the bumper flew off. He fled into a house across the street and barricaded himself inside.
Per policy, police would not say whether Malouf was wearing a protective vest. But the officer was released from a hospital in good condition hours after being taken there for treatment.
A school near the home where the suspect was barricaded was locked down, but a district spokesman later said the school was never threatened and that all students were safe.
Allen is listed in the Texas sex offender list for two convictions of indecency with a child by exposure, one in 2000 and one in 2001. He was sentenced to a year in prison on both occasions.

Judge rules in favor of lesbians suing small B&B

HONOLULU (AP) — A judge has ruled a Hawaii bed and breakfast violated the law when two women were denied a room because they’re gay.
The Hawaii First Circuit Court judge ruled in favor of a Southern California couple who sued Aloha Bed & Breakfast for discrimination in 2011, Lambda Legal announced Monday. In 2007, Diane Cervelli and Taeko Bufford tried to book a room at the bed and breakfast because it’s in Hawaii Kai, the same east Honolulu neighborhood where the friend they were visiting lived.
When Cervelli specified they would need one bed, the owner asked if they were lesbians. Cervelli responded truthfully and the owner said she was uncomfortable having lesbians in her house because of her religious views, the lawsuit said.
The bed and breakfast violated the state public accommodations law and is ordered to stop discriminating against same-sex couples, according to the ruling dated April 11. The public accommodations law prohibits establishments that provide lodging to transient guests from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, race, color, ancestry, religion, disability and sex —including gender identity or expression.
Jim Hochberg, a Honolulu attorney representing the bed and breakfast’s owner said Monday the ruling doesn’t consider her First Amendment rights. “The public needs to be aware of this decision because it has far-reaching consequences,” he said.
The Hawaii Civil Rights Commission joined the lawsuit.
“The court’s decision is based on Hawaii’s strong state civil rights laws which prohibit discrimination,” commission Executive Director William Hoshijo said. “When visitors or residents are subjected to discrimination, they suffer the sting of indignity, humiliation and outrage, but we are all demeaned and our society diminished by unlawful discrimination.”