Court Roundup

Student president hazing conviction tossed from court

PETERSBURG, Va. (AP) — A Virginia State University student leader who was convicted of hazing has succeeded in having the charge set aside after claiming he only entered the plea because he was threatened that he wouldn’t graduate if he refused.
Media outlets reported Thursday that prosecutors in Petersburg General District Court agreed May 23 to drop the charge against student body president Brandon Randleman, who graduated earlier this month.
Randleman and three other Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity members entered Alford pleas April 8 to a hazing charge, meaning they didn’t admit guilt but acknowledged there was enough evidence to convict them. In exchange, prosecutors agreed to drop the charges in 30 days if they stayed out of trouble.
Weeks later, Randleman hired an attorney and asked that his conviction be tossed, claiming that he was pressured into pleading.
Randleman claimed Petersburg Commonwealth’s Attorney Cassandra Conover threatened that he wouldn’t graduate if he fought the charge. Conover denied threatening Randleman, but she recused herself from further proceedings.
Shawn Gobble, an assistant commonwealth’s attorney in Chesterfield who took over the case, agreed to set the charges aside but told the judge he could charge Randleman again if other evidence came forward or witnesses became cooperative.
Randleman’s attorney, Joseph Morrisseey, filed an affidavit with the court signed by Shakeel Weeks, the 21-year-old junior who was the alleged victim in the hazing incident.
“I want to make it abundantly clear that at no time, ever, has Brandon Randleman ever hazed me in any way, shape or form,” Weeks said in the affidavit. “Further, Mr. Randleman was never, at any time, present when I was allegedly hazed.”
Weeks said he had only met Randleman a few times and described him as “polite, courteous and very professional.” Weeks said he was “shocked” when he saw the warrant.
“I can provide no reasonable explanation as to why my name was used on a warrant charging Mr. Randleman with hazing,” he said.
Charges against the other three fraternity members — Leroy Amankrah, Christopher Barnes-Prevot, and William Nicholson — were dropped in May.
The hazing charges, which stem from alleged incidents from last August to last November, were unrelated to the drowning deaths of two VSU students during an alleged hazing incident in April.
In that case, four men are charged with hazing after two freshmen, Marvell Edmondson of Portsmouth and Jauwan Holmes of Newport News. Edmondson and Holmes drowned while trying to cross the swift, rain-swollen Appomattox River as part of an initiation into a non-campus group called “Men of Honor.”

State high court dismisses lottery name lawsuit

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The state Supreme Court says the Arkansas Lottery Commission can’t be sued by a businessman who said he owns the name of the lottery.
Justices on Thursday reversed a lower court’s ruling that said the lawsuit against the lottery commission isn’t barred under the sovereign immunity doctrine, which prohibits lawsuits against the state. A Pulaski County judge last year denied a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
In a split decision Thursday, the high court dismissed the lawsuit, saying that the lottery commission is entitled to sovereign immunity.
Alpha Marketing says it owned the trademarks for the terms “Arkansas Lottery,” “Arkansas Lotto” and “Lottery Arkansas” long before the state began selling lottery tickets in 2009. Voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2008 creating the games to fund college scholarships.

Mom sues those with porn images of her daughters

BALTIMORE (AP) — A Maryland mother is suing more than 200 people who she says had child pornography depicting her two young daughters.
The woman filed a lawsuit Tuesday in the U.S. District Court in Baltimore. It says that in 2008 the girls, then 4 and 6, were forced to engage in sexual acts with their father. The lawsuit says the girls’ father and another man produced images and video to gain entry into a group of individuals who trade child pornography.
The children’s father and a co-defendant have pleaded guilty to federal charges relating to the production of pornography and are serving decades in prison.
The girls’ mother, who goes by Jane Doe in the complaint, is seeking millions of dollars. The lawsuit names 84 individuals and 182 others as “John Doe.”