National Roundup

Florida
Sailor not guilty of distributing nude videos

MAYPORT NAVAL STATION, Fla. (AP) — A military judge on Tuesday found a submarine sailor not guilty of distributing videos of female officers undressing for the shower, making him the first cleared of wrongdoing in the case.

The ruling came in a general court-martial for Petty Officer 3rd Class Samuel Buchner, the fifth sailor charged in the videotaping scandal aboard the USS Wyoming.

The women who were secretly videotaped were among the first to serve on U.S. submarines. The case has highlighted the Navy’s struggles in adding women to its sub force.

Buchner was charged with conspiring to distribute videos using his cellphone and sending the videos to another sailor. His attorney said in an earlier hearing that Buchner didn’t know what he was sending.

“Buchner has asserted from the beginning that he did not know what these files were before he transferred them to another sailor,” said Lt. Tracy Waller, his attorney, in a statement. “We are extremely pleased that he was exonerated today, and we hope that his withheld promotion will be restored immediately.”

Buchner is the first of the sailors to not plead guilty in a case that has sent four others to prison.

Navy prosecutors say the videos were shot by another sailor, Petty Officer 2nd Class Charles Greaves. He was sentenced to two years in prison and a dishonorable discharge after pleading guilty last month.

Three other sailors have also received prison time related to distributing the videos.

Prosecutors accused the men of trading the videos “like Pokemon” cards in exchange for energy drinks and other items.

All three women testified in previous trials, saying the ordeal had ruined or derailed their otherwise promising careers.


Massachusetts
Lawyers for teen seek change of venue for trial

SALEM, Mass. (AP) — Lawyers for a Massachusetts teenager charged with killing his math teacher say their client’s right to a fair trial has been “poisoned” by extensive news coverage not only of the criminal charges against him, but of the numerous tributes to the teacher.

The Salem News reports that in a motion filed Monday ahead of next Tuesday’s hearing on a change-of-venue request, lawyers for 16-year-old Philip Chism asked a judge to move the trial out of Essex County and the Boston area, suggesting western Massachusetts.

Chism is scheduled to stand trial in October on charges that include murder, rape and robbery in the October 2013 death of Colleen Ritzer, a 24-year-old math teacher at Danvers High School. Chism, 14 at the time, has pleaded not guilty.


New York
Settlement in principle in  surveillance suit

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City has reached the outlines of a settlement with Muslims who challenged police surveillance as an unconstitutional and stigmatizing intrusion on their religious rights, a court filing says.

City lawyers said in a letter filed Friday that there’s a “settlement in principle” in a lawsuit filed by mosques, a charity and community leaders. The plaintiffs sued in 2013, saying the New York Police Department’s post-Sept. 11 intelligence-gathering tarnished law-abiding Muslims.

Some details of the potential pact remain unresolved, according to the letter, which says the terms can’t be disclosed because of a confidentiality order. The city Law Department, the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union declined to comment Monday on the potential settlement.

The ACLU and the NYCLU are among the plaintiffs’ lawyers in the federal case filed in Brooklyn. The lawsuit was among legal actions that followed reports by The Associated Press that revealed how city police infiltrated Muslim student groups, placed informants in mosques and otherwise spied on Muslims as part of a broad effort to prevent terrorist attacks.

A similar lawsuit is before a federal appeals court in Philadelphia after a New Jersey federal judge threw it out.

The city has called the intelligence-gathering an appropriate and legal anti-terrorism tactic. Although a senior NYPD official testified in 2012 that the Demographics Unit at the heart of the program never generated any leads or triggered a terrorism investigation, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and other officials said the surveillance helped the nation’s largest police department identify and thwart terror plots.

“Police need to be informed about where a terrorist may go while planning or what they may do after an attack,” city lawyer Celeste Koeleveld said when the suit was filed.

But the plaintiffs said the spying painted Muslim communities with unwarranted suspicion. A charity said fundraising declined because it had been targeted. An imam said attendance declined at his mosque and people were reluctant to speak to newcomers because they feared spies.

“Our mosque should be an open, religious and spiritual sanctuary, but NYPD spying has turned it into a place of suspicion and censorship,” said the imam, Hamid Hassan Raza.

The lawsuit asked a judge to order the NYPD to stop the surveillance and destroy any related records. The plaintiffs also sought a court-appointed monitor to ensure the police department follows the law.

In the meantime, current police Commissioner William Bratton disbanded the Demographics Unit last year, reassigning its detectives. Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio called the move “a critical step forward in easing tensions between the police and the communities they serve, so that our cops and our citizens can help one another go after the real bad guys.”

The potential settlement was first reported by the Daily News.


Mississippi
Inmate questions evidence in bid for a new trial

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Attorneys for a Mississippi death row inmate argue the bite mark evidence that was key to Eddie Lee Howard’s conviction has been roundly discredited.

Howard is seeking a new trial for his conviction on raping and killing a Lowndes County woman in 1992.

Attorney Tucker Carrington with the Mississippi Innocence Project argued to the state Supreme Court Tuesday that evidence discovered since 2009 has rejected the methodology and conclusions that a forensic dentist, Dr. Michael West, presented during testimony in Howard’s trial.

Prosecutors argue justices have already rejected Howard’s challenge to bite-mark evidence.

Howard, now 61, was convicted and sentenced to death in 2000 in the slaying of 82-year-old Georgia Kemp of Columbus. Evidence against him included bite marks on her body. West testified they matched impressions of Howard’s teeth.
 

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