National Roundup

West Virginia
Law authorizes opioid antidotes at public schools

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A new state law authorizes school nurses and other trained and authorized personnel at West Virginia schools to administer drugs to counteract opioid overdoses by students without having to first contact parents.

The bill passed unanimously by the House and Senate and signed by Gov. Jim Justice comes as West Virginia recorded 844 overdose deaths last year, more than 700 involving at least one opioid such as heroin, fentanyl or prescription painkillers.

It also authorizes administering the antidote to school personnel or others during regular school hours or at functions and events on school property.

The law applies to public and private schools. It does not require schools have the drugs available.

It directs the state Board of Education to develop requirements for training, storage and notifying parents after incidents.

Vermont
House passes bills addressing racial bias

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — After studies showed African Americans in Vermont are far more likely to be stopped by police or jailed, lawmakers have passed legislation creating a board that will oversee racial justice issues.

The state House passed the bill creating a 15-member board on a vote of 120-25 Thursday. The House also approved updates to an equality-focused state policing policy.

Vermont Public Radio reports that a lead sponsor of the racial justice bill, Rep. Kiah Morris, said it is intended to be a preventative measure and a way to "find mechanisms for correcting course."

Both bills missed a deadline to cross over to the state Senate, but senators say they will fast-track the legislation in an attempt to get both bills passed before the legislature adjourns.

Tennessee
Sheriff called to defuse disruption involving judge

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee sheriff says he was called to defuse a disruption when a Chattanooga judge on medical disability leave visited the courthouse to find another judge’s belongings in his office.

Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that General Sessions Judge David Bales calmed down after the two chatted and he left the courthouse on his own.

Bales had missed several months for cancer treatments before asking Gov. Bill Haslam in March to name a temporary replacement, saying he was hoping to return "as soon as possible."

Bales told the newspaper he arrived at the courthouse to find another judge had removed his belongings and had put them into her smaller office. He said her desk, lamps and files were in his office.

Bales said the disruption arose when he began returning those items.

Missouri
Prosecutor faces ethics complaint of intimidation

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A county prosecutor who criticized specific residents of a northwest Missouri town for defending a convicted child sex offender is fighting an ethics complaint from a defense attorney who contends the prosecutor’s office threatened and intimidated witnesses.

The issue began in August 2015, when Darren Paden of Dearborn pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a girl for up to a decade. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison, despite efforts by 16 Dearborn residents who wrote letters or testified at his sentencing hearing asking for leniency. Many of the letter writers were relatives or longtime friends who recounted positive things Paden had done for neighbors, his church and the town of 500 residents.

Those residents drew the ire of Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd, who issued a news release after Paden’s sentencing identifying the residents and criticizing them for supporting Paden and shunning the abuse victim.

Defense attorney John P. O’Connor, who represented Paden, filed ethics complaints against Zahnd and Assistant Prosecutor Christopher Seufert last year. Retired Platte County Judge Abe Shafer, who represented one of the letter writers, also filed an ethics complaint against Seufert with the Missouri Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel. The contents of those complaints are sealed, The Kansas City Star reported.

In a separate court motion, O’Connor asked a judge to remove Zahnd’s office from his cases, saying prosecutors treated him differently after he filed the complaint.

O’Connor said he could not comment because the ethics complaint remains under review. But in court documents, O’Connor accused Zahnd and Seufert of threatening to publish the witnesses’ names in local newspapers if they did not withdraw their letters of support.

Zahnd said he did nothing wrong.

"Transparency in our courts to the fullest extent allowed by the law is vital to our democracy," Zahnd said in a statement he first released to KCUR radio in Kansas City. "The truth, as reported over and over by the media, is that Darren Paden is serving 50 years in prison as a confessed child abuser and clinically-diagnosed pedophile."

The prosecutor said he is prohibited by law from discussing his interactions with Paden’s supporters.

"I am firmly convinced that my office handled every aspect of Mr. Paden’s case in a lawful and completely ethical manner that resulted in justice for the victim, the defendant, and the State of Missouri," Zahnd said.

In March, O’Connor’s request to have Zahnd’s office removed from his cases was denied by the Platte County Court and the Missouri Court of Appeals.

Illinois
Vet threatened with deportation seeks pardon 

CHICAGO (AP) — The Illinois Prisoner Review Board is being asked to intervene on behalf of an Army veteran with a green card who faces deportation because of a 2008 drug conviction.

Advocates for Miguel Perez Jr. want the board to recommend that Gov. Bruce Rauner issue a pardon. They hope the Department of Homeland Security will then grant the 38-year-old Perez citizenship retroactively from when he joined the military in 2001.

Perez served two tours in Afghanistan. He’s being held in a Wisconsin detention center where he awaits deportation to Mexico.

Perez pleaded guilty to a drug charge for handing a laptop case containing cocaine to an undercover officer. He served half of a 15-year prison sentence.

Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney Peter Goutos said Thursday that his office opposes clemency for Perez.

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