National Roundup

Fund set up to repay victims of hermit burglar

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — A lawyer for the Maine man who lived in the woods as a hermit for 27 years has established a fund to repay people who think they may have been his victims.
Authorities say Christopher Knight, known as the North Pond Hermit, may have committed as many as 1,000 burglaries over the years for food and other supplies that allowed him to live at a camp in Rome.
The 47-year-old Knight was arrested earlier this month while allegedly breaking into a camp for people with special needs to steal food. He is being held on $25,000 bail.
Knight’s lawyer, Walter McKee, tells the Kennebec Journal his client wanted to set up a restitution account “to make things right.” People who want to contribute to the fund can send donations to McKee.

New Mexico
Bribe case linked to ex-governor is back in court

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The allegations against retired state New Mexico District Judge Michael Murphy were startling, even in a state known for its political scandals.
The judge told a potential judicial candidate she would need to make payments to a Democratic political activist if she wanted a seat on the bench, a report from prosecutors said. The money would then be funneled to former Gov. Bill Richardson, he said.
It was one of a string of investigations into alleged pay-to-play activities with ties to Richardson, whose 2008 nomination to a Cabinet post in President Barack Obama’s administration was scuttled by a federal probe of state investment activities.
It was the only case that resulted in criminal charges. And after two years, it appears to have collapsed into a plea bargain that will reduce four felony charges to a single misdemeanor count of conduct unbecoming a public official.
The agreement would end a high-profile case that shocked the judiciary two years ago when prosecutors implied the bribes were part of a long-running practice under which Murphy and other judges worked with southern New Mexico Democratic activist Edgar Lopez to choose new judges for the district.
Richardson has called the accusations “outrageous and defamatory.” Lopez called them “absurd.” Murphy was suspended from the bench, and then retired, but has always maintained his innocence.
Special Prosecutor Matt Chandler, an ally of Gov. Susana Martinez and a rising star in GOP, promised the indictment was just the beginning of an aggressive investigation.
Attorneys in the case have declined comment on a change-of-plea hearing scheduled Thursday afternoon on the charges pending against Murphy. But documents filed with the court show prosecutors and the defense have agreed to have a new charge filed against Murphy — this one a misdemeanor count of misconduct by a public official.
A motion filed after the plea hearing was set says Murphy agrees not to contest the misdemeanor charge “contingent upon the state agreeing to certain conditions.”
The allegations date to 2007, when potential judicial candidate Beverly Singleman said she sought advice from state District Judge James Martin on how to get her name on the list for appointment to a vacancy on the bench. During a lunch with Martin and Murphy, Singleman said that Murphy told her she needed to make weekly contributions to Lopez, who funneled the money to then-Gov. Richardson.
Singleman reported the conversation. Martinez was Dona Ana County district attorney at the time and running to replace Richardson when she appointed Chandler, district attorney for Curry and Roosevelt counties, as special prosecutor to investigate the case.
Richardson was not running for re-election because of term limits, but Martinez campaigned hard on cleaning up corruption in state government and made Richardson the poster child for everything that was wrong in New Mexico.

Man describes night wife cut off, destroyed penis

SANTA ANA, California (AP) — The estranged husband of a woman charged with severing his penis said it was as though his life ended the evening of the attack.
“She murdered me that night,” the man said Wednesday on the first day of the trial of Catherine Kieu, 50.
Orange County Deputy District Attorney John Christl said in his opening statement that Kieu, angry because her husband was dating a former girlfriend, laced his food with sleeping pills on July 11, 2011, then tied him to a bed, severed his penis and put it in the garbage disposal.
“I will never have a sex life again,” said the husband, who had surgery that allows him to urinate. The penis could not be reattached. “My mental state is improving, but it may never be what it was before,” he said.
The man is going only by his first name in court and is not being named by The Associated Press because of the sexual nature of the attack.
The husband said he remembered waking tied to the bed. “All of a sudden I felt a very sharp pain,” he said.
In his opening statement, Deputy Public Defender Frank Bittar told jurors that Kieu’s traumatic childhood in war-torn Vietnam caused mental illness that should prevent her from conviction on the charges of aggravated mayhem and torture.
Bittar said Kieu met the victim at a gym, and after they married he subjected her to sexual and verbal abuse, and filed for divorce while they continued to live together in his Garden Grove home.
Prosecutors played audio in court that was captured by a voice-activated recorder Kieu had hidden in the bedroom, according to Christl. She is heard yelling “you deserve it” three times before the attack on the recording.

New Jersey
Suit: Phrase that mocks Asians on  CVS photo ticket

BELMAR, N.J. (AP) — A woman of Korean descent who claims a worker at a CVS in southern New Jersey used a phrase mocking Asians to identify her on a store receipt has filed a federal discrimination suit against the pharmacy chain, according to her lawyer.
Attorney Susan Lask said her client, Hyun Lee, was picking up photos Feb. 7 at a CVS in Egg Harbor City when Lee noticed an employee had identified her as “Ching Chong Lee” on the ticket.
Lee said through her attorney that she complained to CVS customer relations and was allegedly told the worker would be “counseled and trained.”
“Store counseling cannot correct intolerable discrimination,” Lask said in a written statement, adding they were demanding the worker be fired.
CVS Spokesman Mike DeAngelis said the company does not comment on pending litigation but has a firm non-discrimination policy.
“CVS/pharmacy is committed to treating all of our customers with dignity and respect,” he said.
The suit, which Lask said was filed April 16 in federal court in Camden, is seeking $1 million.h