National Roundup

Self-described psychic sentenced to 8 years in jail

PAINESVILLE, Ohio (AP) — A self-described psychic who scammed more than $1 million in cash and valuables from a dozen people she promised to protect from “dark forces” has been sentenced to eight years in prison.

An Ohio judge gave 42-two-year-old Gina Miller the maximum sentence and ordered her to repay $1.4 million.

Before her Thursday sentencing in Painesville, Miller apologized and asked Judge Vincent Culotta for leniency so she could care for her two sons, including one she said has a mental illness.

Defense attorney Louis Carlozzi said Miller’s fortune telling was a part of her Romani culture, and she “took it a step too far.” But prosecutors described Miller as “a con artist.”

An audio tape from a former client who had worn a wire for Mentor police was played in court, and the woman can be heard asking Miller what would happen if she could not make payments. “Your grandson would die,” Miller responds.

Miller pleaded guilty in March to an aggravated theft charge in the scheme prosecutors say operated for 15 years. They say she targeted vulnerable clients, convincing them to pay her in cars, Rolex watches and a diamond ring in exchange for protection.
Another former customer, a 72-year-old woman, told the judge she works two jobs to pay off credit card debt after giving money to Miller.

“She has ruined my life,” the woman said. “I cannot live long enough to pay off the debt.”

On recordings of meetings between Miller and an undercover agent also played in court, Miller can be heard asking for $180 for crystals to improve the agent’s luck.

Judge hears challenge to homemade bakery ban

MILWAUKEE (AP) — A judge in Wisconsin, one of only two states that prohibit the sale of home-baked goods, is considering whether such a ban is unconstitutional.

New Jersey is the only other state that bans the sale of home-baked cookies, muffins and other items to the public.

Current Wisconsin law requires home bakers to obtain a license, which would mean renting or building a commercial kitchen, submitting to inspections and paying numerous fees.

Lafayette County Judge Duane Jorgenson said Thursday he plans to issue a decision May 31 to a legal challenge from three women who say the ban is unconstitutional. The nonprofit Institute for Justice represented Lisa Kivirist, Kriss Marion and Dela Ends in their lawsuit.

A bill currently being circulated for co-sponsors in the state Senate would allow for the limited sale of homemade baked goods without a license. Similar bills have passed the Senate the past two sessions, but have died in the Assembly because of
opposition from Republican Speaker Robin Vos, who says lifting the ban would come at the expense of small businesses already meeting the standards and regulations.

The same rules should apply to all businesses, Vos told reporters on Thursday.

“It seems to me we should focus on guaranteeing that people are treated the same and that we don’t create carve outs,” he said. “We don’t allow some people to just set up a shop on the corner and decide to sell gasoline. That’s not allowed; you have to actually go through a process. They can’t sell 10 gallons and after that it’s more.”

Plaintiff attorney Erica Smith argued the Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled “protecting other businesses from competition is not a legitimate government interest.”

The hearing in Darlington drew a few dozen supporters who favor lifting the ban.

Allowing such sales can add a source of income for farmers who are struggling financially, Ends told the Janesville Gazette. Becoming a fully certified and licensed kitchen in order to sell baked goods is expensive, she said.

Ends used to make and sell cinnamon rolls, until she learned that practice was illegal and that violators could face six months in jail and a hefty fine.

New York
Court: County is making fair housing ‘excuses’

NEW YORK (AP) — A federal appeals court says an affluent county north of New York City is “engaging in total obstructionism” of a plan to build affordable housing that can be marketed to nonwhites.

A three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an appeal by Westchester County on Friday. A lower court had found that Westchester violated a consent decree reached in 2009 with the Department of Justice.

The appeals court acted only a week after hearing arguments. Some rulings in that court are delivered months after arguments occur.

In a seven-page order, the 2nd Circuit said Westchester County should “stop making excuses” and complete its obligations.

Court to hold off ruling on carbon restrictions

WASHINGTON (AP) — At the Trump administration’s request, a federal appeals court agreed Friday to postpone a ruling on lawsuits challenging Obama-era restrictions on carbon emissions.

The Environmental Protection Agency had asked the court to put a hold on the case shortly after President Donald Trump signed an executive order vowing to roll back the Clean Power Plan. Trump has called climate change a hoax, disputing the overwhelming consensus of scientists that the world is warming and that man-made carbon emissions are primarily to blame.

The plan championed by President Barack Obama was challenged by a coalition of states and industry groups that profit or benefit from the continued burning of coal, the dirtiest of fossil fuels. The regulations sought to reduce carbon emissions from existing power plants by about one-third by 2030, a goal in line with the United States’ commitment under the Paris climate accords.

Trump has pledged to reverse decades of decline in a U.S. coal industry under threat from such cleaner sources of energy as natural gas, wind turbines and solar farms. He has also said he plans to “renegotiate” the global climate treaty signed by nearly 200 countries in 2015.

Ten judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard arguments in the case last year and could have issued a ruling at any time. Friday’s order from the court asks the parties whether, after a 60-day postponement, the issue should be sent back to the EPA rather than postponed.

That outcome would be a huge blow to environmental groups, who had vehemently opposed the request for delay and urged the court to rule on the merits of the case, despite the change in administration.

Vickie Patton, a lawyer for the Environmental Defense Fund, vowed that progress toward a clean energy future wouldn’t be stopped by “the litigation tactics of polluters.”