National Roundup . . .

West Virginia
Court upholds suspensions of seven jockeys

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The West Virginia Supreme Court says the state Racing Commission didn’t engage in improper rule-making when it suspended the permits of seven jockeys for improper weigh outs before races.

The court on Wednesday overturned a Kanawha County Circuit Court ruling that reversed the commission’s 2009 decision.

The commission’s order said the jockeys acquiesced to improper weigh outs conducted by a former clerk of scales at Charles Town Races and Slots, now called Hollywood Casino at Charles Town.

In its order, the commission gave definitions to two undefined words in a state racing rule — connive and corrupt. The circuit court said giving the words definitions constituted improper rule-making.

The Supreme Court said an administrative body can give an undefined term in a rule its common and accepted meaning.

Audit faults court over communication

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An audit of Topeka’s municipal court has found a lack of respect has caused a rift between the court and the prosecutor’s office, although city and court officials say that issue has been resolved.

The audit also blamed the court for a high staff turnover rate in the clerk and prosecutor offices, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

“Interviews confirmed a long-standing lack of professional respect existed between” the prosecutor’s office and the court that compounded or caused problems, according to the audit, which was conducted for the city by the law office of Thomas and Means.

Administrative Judge Vic Miller said the auditor’s weeklong visit this summer “came at a bad time” and that it doesn’t reflect the court’s daily workings.

“We had some problems this summer that I can’t explain,” he said. “We didn’t have those problems before and we don’t have them now.”

Miller said communication between parties has been restored since Charles Kitt took over as chief prosecutor in early October. Kitt said any lack of communication likely stemmed from younger prosecutors not understanding what judges expected.
“Prosecutors not feeling like their voices are being heard or judges feeling like prosecutors weren’t voicing opinions — I think that was just a breakdown in communication,” Kitt said. He also said he has drafted policies and procedures for members of his staff to follow that make communication more consistent.

Auditors also noted staffing issues in the court clerk’s office and the prosecutor’s office that left staff in both departments with multiple responsibilities.

2 men indicted for having nearly a full ton of pot 

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) — Two men have been indicted on federal charges after authorities found nearly a full ton of marijuana at a property near Cedaredge.

The Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction reports that 33-year-old Luis Adolfo Garcia and 23-year-old Luis Rios-Cortes were indicted Tuesday on one count of conspiracy to manufacture with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana and one count of manufacturing and possession with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana.

Rios-Cortes, who has a Mexican identification card, was also indicted on a separate charge of being an alien illegally in the United States in possession of a firearm.

According to court documents, federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents seized 1,860 pounds of harvested and drying marijuana during a raid on Friday.

New Hampshire
Plea planned for man accused of killing parents

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — A plea and sentencing hearing has been scheduled for a Manchester man who was captured in Florida 15 months after his parents were found strangled in their burning New Hampshire home.

Prosecutors say 40-year-old Matthew Dion beat his parents and strangled them with a wire in March 2014, then set the house on fire several days later. He was arrested in June at a hotel in Orange Park, Florida.

Jury selection was scheduled for January. Following a court appearance Tuesday, the plea and sentencing were scheduled for Dec. 3 at 9 a.m. in Hillsborough Superior Court. Details weren’t immediately available.
Dion has been held without bail on two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder, one count of arson and three counts of possessing child sexual abuse images.

State high court race TV ads cost $11.5 million

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A new analysis shows spending on air time for campaign ads on broadcast TV in Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court race totaled more than $11.5 million.

The Washington, D.C.-based Center for Public Integrity center analyzed political advertising data from media tracking firm Kantar Media/CMAG and released the results Thursday.

The analysis shows spending by the Democrats who won all three open seats on the state’s highest court accounted for about half of the total. They paid for more than 10,000 airings of their commercials through Monday, out of a total of nearly 20,000 airings by candidates and others throughout the campaign.

The analysis showed two outside groups spent more than $3.5 million on their ads. Those groups are the Democratic-leaning Pennsylvanians for Judicial Reform and the Washington-based Republican State Leadership Committee.

51 farm workers files lawsuit over recruitment fees

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Dozens of Hondurans hired to pick strawberries in the Tampa Bay-area say they were forced to pay illegal recruitment fees.

Fort Myers-based Florida Rural Legal Services filed a lawsuit this week in Tampa federal court on behalf of 51 workers who picked strawberries two years ago for Fancy Farms in Plant City.

The workers’ attorney, Gladys Andrea Ortega, says the farm failed to protect workers from exploitation. She tells The Tampa Tribune that the recruiter threatened to harm the workers and their families if they complained about the fees.

David Stefany, the attorney for the farm’s owner, says his client is cooperating in an ongoing investigation of the recruiter.

The workers are seeking reimbursement for the recruitment fees and up to $4,000 each in additional damages, as well as attorney and court fees.