National Roundup

Pennsylvania
Robber who used sex toy as fake bomb gets prison

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A Pittsburgh man who robbed a bank with a fake bomb made out of phone wires, duct tape and a sex toy has been sentenced to 1 1/2 to 3 years in prison.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports an Allegheny County judge sentenced 36-year-old Aaron Stein on Tuesday after rejecting requests for leniency, including house arrest.

The judge says he couldn’t tell the community Stein’s case warranted only house arrest. He says, “It can’t be that simple.”

Stein pleaded guilty in March. He says he robbed the PNC Bank in Crafton last June because he was desperate after losing $9,000 he’d invested to cover his approaching honeymoon.

His attorney says desperation drove him to don an Iron Man mask and use the fake bomb to threaten tellers.

Illinois
Blind man sues McDonald’s over drive-thru policy

CHICAGO (AP) — A blind Louisiana man is suing McDonald’s for the right to get served at the chain’s drive-thru windows.

The Chicago Tribune reports the lawsuit filed in Chicago federal court on behalf of Scott Magee claims McDonald’s is violating the American with Disabilities Act by refusing to serve customers at its drive thru windows who aren’t in a vehicle.

Many McDonald’s locations only serve customers at the drive-thru window during late night hours. Magee’s lawyer, Roberto Costales, tells the Tribune that getting a late night snack at McDonald’s is “a quintessentially American activity that should not be denied to someone because of their disability.”

Ohio
State to pay legal fees in Planned Parenthood suit

CINCINNATI (AP) — Ohio will pay more than $45,000 in legal bills for Planned Parenthood as part of a dispute involving the disposal of aborted fetuses.

The Dayton Daily News reports that the move comes as part of a settlement reached after Planned Parenthood sued the state last year. At issue was a state rule requiring that fetuses be disposed of in a “humane manner.” It does not further define “humane.”

A federal judge had temporarily blocked Ohio health officials from taking legal action against Planned Parenthood, which had accused the state of changing the interpretation of the disposal regulation and then unfairly targeting the organization.

The state ultimately said it wouldn’t enforce the regulation as lawmakers seek to clarify disposal procedures. Several bills are pending in the Ohio Legislature.

North Carolina
Former coach pleads guilty to spanking players

HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. (AP) — A former North Carolina Little League baseball coach has pleaded guilty to spanking the bare bottoms of four boys at his home without their parents’ permission.

The Asheville Citizen-Times  reports that 33-year-old Jonathan S. Russell of Hendersonville was sentenced Tuesday to 60 days in jail after pleading guilty to four misdemeanor counts of assault on a child under 12.
Arrest warrants say Russell pulled down the victims’ pants and underwear and spanked them multiple times between August 2014 and January 2015. The victims were between 8 and 9 years old at the time.

District Attorney Greg Newman says the victims were on Russell’s baseball team and friends with his son.

Russell apologized in court, saying he was following a child-rearing book but should have realized the children were not his own.

Ohio
Cops: Thrift shop finds rape photos in donated bag

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Police say a central Ohio man was arrested and charged after several photos of him sexually abusing a child were found inside a tote bag that was donated to a thrift store.

Police say Salvation Army employees in Columbus found dozens of Polaroid pictures in a plastic donation bin that showed a man molesting a child.

Police say they identified Gary Sovie because the bag also contained pieces of his mail. Grove City police say Sovie admitted he was in the photos and that they were taken about 16 years ago.

The 48-year-old Ashville man is charged with raping a child under 13.

New Jersey
3 brothers’ life sentences upheld in terror plot

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) — Three immigrant brothers sentenced to life in prison for plotting to kill U.S. soldiers at Fort Dix will not have their life sentences overturned.

U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler said in his ruling made public Tuesday that he didn’t buy the arguments from Dritan, Eljvir and Shain Duka that they were wrongly convicted in 2008 because their lawyers kept them from testifying.

Kugler ruled Friday that he found testimony from their defense attorneys at a January hearing more credible.

The Albanian-born brothers were convicted with two others of plotting an attack at military sites at Fort Dix in New Jersey and elsewhere. Supporters believe the FBI entrapped them and exaggerated the case, but the Dukas have exhausted their appeals.

Dritan “Tony” Duka, 37, said at a January hearing that his lawyer thought he would come across as a Muslim extremist and therefore didn’t put him on the stand.

Their trial lawyers denied the accusations and testified for the government. Dritan Duka’s trial lawyer, Michael Huff, said he feared his client’s desire to express religious views and his suspicion that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks might be “an inside job, in order to persecute Muslims” would prove damaging.

Huff, along with fellow trial lawyers Troy Archie and Michael Riley, said they worked vigorously on the case and were prepared to put their clients on the stand, if it came to that.

The Dukas have been in prison since May 2007.

The case has been cited by Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as one of the two “biggest terrorism cases in the world” during his time as U.S. Attorney. But critics believe an FBI informant entrapped the men and say the sentence reflects overzealous efforts to protect the country after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The men were charged in 2007 with conspiring to kill U.S. military personnel at Fort Dix. (A sixth was charged with weapons offenses.) Authorities had been alerted initially after a store clerk saw a video of the men shooting guns at a firing range and yelling “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is great.” Jurors heard hours of secretly recorded audio that included one defendant saying how they could “kill at least 100 soldiers by using rocket-propelled grenades.”

Defense attorneys at trial claimed the men may have made anti-American statements but had no plans to attack anything until paid informant Mahmoud Omar infiltrated the group and spent months goading and manipulating them.

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