National Roundup

West Virginia
Teen pleads not guilty in stabbing death of ex-friend 

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — A West Virginia girl indicted in the 2012 stabbing death of her onetime best friend has pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges in Morgantown.
Seventeen-year-old Shelia Eddy was arraigned Tuesday in Monongalia County Circuit Court.
Star City teen Skylar Neese was lured out of her house in July 2012, then stabbed to death. Her body was hidden under some branches in woods just across the Pennsylvania border.
Prosecutors say Eddy and friend Rachel Shoaf plotted the murder, though a potential motive hasn’t been revealed.
Eddy’s name became public this month, when prosecutors transferred her case from juvenile to adult court.
Shoaf has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and is awaiting sentencing.

Massachusetts
Man gets nearly 27-year term in child porn case

WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) — A Massachusetts man who chatted online about kidnapping, raping, killing and eating children has been sentenced to nearly 27 years in prison.
Geoffrey Portway, of Worcester, was sentenced Tuesday in federal court to 26 years and eight months behind bars, just a few months shy of the 27 years prosecutors sought.
Authorities say they found a dungeon, homemade coffin, butchering kit and other tools in the basement of Portway’s home.
In a court filing, prosecutors say online chats recovered from Portway’s computer show he solicited people for help to kidnap a child with the intent of raping, killing and eating the child.
Portway’s attorney asked for a shorter sentence, saying his client did not touch or photograph any children.

Virginia
Ex-prison camp guard certified for extradition

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A former Bosnian prison camp guard living in Virginia has been certified for extradition to his native country to face war-crimes charges pending approval by the State Department.
Almaz Nezirovic of Roanoke County is charged with torturing Serbians at the Rabic prison camp in 1992 during the civil war in the region of the former Yugoslavia now known as Bosnia-Herzegovina. Bosnian officials charge that Nezirovic beat, humiliated and traumatized unarmed civilian prisoners.
In an opinion issued late Monday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert S. Ballou said he found sufficient evidence supporting the allegations. He certified Nezirovic as eligible for extradition and passed the request along to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who will decide whether Nezirovic will be returned to Bosnia for trial.
“Almaz Nezirovic stands charged with horrific acts of torture by the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy said. “Today’s ruling moves this matter one step closer to ultimate resolution in that country.”
According to court papers, in 1992 Nezirovic joined a paramilitary group, the HVO, and became a prison guard. Bosnian authorities allege that he beat civilian detainees with a baton and a rifle and forced some prisoners to crawl on the ground naked and eat grass on which others had urinated.
Nezirovic’s attorney, public defender Fay Spence, did not immediately return a telephone message. However, she had argued in court papers that the alleged offenses did not amount to “crimes against humanity” as defined by international law.

Louisiana
New trial ordered in post-Katrina bridge killings

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal judge on Tuesday ordered a new trial for five former New Orleans police officers convicted of civil rights violations stemming from deadly shootings on a bridge in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt ruled Tuesday that the “highly unusual, extensive and truly bizarre actions” of prosecutors warrant throwing out the officers’ convictions.
“The public must have absolute trust and confidence in this process,” he wrote in a 129-page order. “Re-trying this case is a very small price to pay in order to protect the validity of the verdict in this case, the institutional integrity of this Court, and the criminal justice system as a whole.”
Less than a week after Katrina’s 2005 landfall, police officers shot and killed two unarmed people and wounded four others on the Danziger Bridge. Five former officers cooperated with a Justice Department investigation and pleaded guilty to engaging in a cover-up designed to make the shootings appear justified.
Attorneys for five other former officers convicted at trial in 2011 had asked for a new trial, saying that a series of leaks to news organizations were part of a “secret public relations campaign” by the government that deprived their clients of a fair trial.
Former Sgts. Kenneth Bowen and Robert Gisevius and former officers Anthony Villavaso and Robert Faulcon had been convicted of charges related to the shooting and cover-up. Retired Sgt. Arthur “Archie” Kaufman, who was assigned to investigate the shootings, wasn’t charged in the shootings but was convicted of orchestrating the cover-up.
The former officers’ attorneys also cited a series of anonymous online posts by senior prosecutors. Former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten resigned in December 2012 after two of his top deputies acknowledged they had been posting anonymous comments on nola.com, The Times-Picayune’s companion website, about cases their office had handled, including the Danziger Bridge investigation.
Several months before his resignation, Letten had told Engelhardt he didn’t authorize anyone from his staff to leak information about Lohman’s case and was furious when the reports were published.
During a hearing in June 2012, Engelhardt said it appeared federal prosecutors didn’t conduct a “full-blown investigation” after The Associated Press and The Times-Picayune published articles about former New Orleans police officer Michael Lohman’s guilty plea while his case was under seal. Lohman pleaded guilty to participating in a cover-up of the shootings.
Hurricane Katrina struck on Aug. 29, 2005. Levee breaks flooded much of the city and created a climate of chaos as rescuers attempted to save people stranded on rooftops. Violence and looting also were reported.

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