National Roundup

New Jersey
Man admits $185K Social Security theft

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey man has admitted not reporting his great aunt’s death to the government in order to collect nearly $185,000 in Social Security benefits for nearly 20 years.
U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito says 56-year-old Lance Nelson pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court in Trenton. NJ.com reports Nelson, who worked as an assistant zoning officer for Perth Amboy through the end of 2017, faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
He is to be sentenced April 17.
Prosecutors say the Social Security Administration was unaware of Nelson’s great aunt’s death in 1998 and continued sending monthly benefits to a joint account he had access to until February 2016.

Illinois
2 teens get probation in sex assault streamed on Facebook

CHICAGO (AP) — Two teenage boys who pleaded guilty in the sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl that was streamed live on Facebook have been sentenced to five years of probation.
In a plea deal with Cook County, Illinois, prosecutors, the teens pleaded guilty to child pornography in November.
The victim, now 16, and her mother looked on from the rear of the courtroom as Judge Patricia Mendoza sentenced the boys on Wednesday. Both teens were originally charged with aggravated sexual assault and manufacturing and dissemination of child pornography.
At the time of the crime last March, authorities said as many as six males assaulted the victim.
Police said the assault was watched live by about 40 viewers, none of whom called authorities to report the attack.

California
Lead detective in  Zodiac killer case dies at age 86

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Dave Toschi, the San Francisco police detective who led the unsuccessful investigation into the Zodiac serial killing a half-century ago, has died. He was 86.
Toschi died Saturday after a lengthy illness, his daughter, Linda Toschi-Chambers, told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Toschi was put on the Zodiac case after a San Francisco taxi driver was shot to death in 1969. He was removed nine years later when he acknowledged writing and mailing anonymous fan letters to the Chronicle lauding his own work.
Five people were fatally stabbed or shot to death in Northern California in 1968 and 1969, and their killer sent taunting letters and cryptograms to the police and newspapers.
The killer was never caught. He was dubbed the Zodiac killer because some of his cryptograms included astrological symbols and references.
Duffy Jennings covered the killings for the Chronicle and grew close to Toschi.
Jenning said Toschi visited the San Francisco murder scene on the anniversary of the killing for many years in a row to see if he overlooked any clues.
“The Zodiac case gnawed at him,” Jennings said. “He said it gave him an ulcer.”
Actor Mark Ruffalo portrayed Toschi in the 2011 movie “Zodiac.”
Toschi was born in San Francisco and graduated from Galileo High School before serving in the Korean War with the Army. He returned to San Francisco in 1953 and was hired at the Police Department, where he worked until retiring in 1985.
Toschi’s family said the retired inspector enjoyed music and books.
He “could sing with the best of them,” said his daughter. “His greatest pleasure was his loving family, and we will miss his keen sense of humor, his gentle guidance and his unconditional love.”
Toschi is survived by his wife, Carol Toschi of San Francisco; two daughters, Toschi-Chambers of San Francisco and Karen Leight of San Mateo County; and two granddaughters, Sarah Leight of Pacifica and Emma Leight of Los Angeles.

Texas
Court hears case that could end plastic bag bans

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas’ highest civil court is discussing a border city’s ban on plastic bags and could ultimately decide to end such prohibitions statewide.
The Laredo Merchants Association is challenging its city’s ban on distributing single-use plastic bags at grocery stores and other shops.
The association argued before the Texas Supreme Court on Thursday that existing state law on solid waste disposal supersedes the local ordinance designed to prevent litter. Many Texas cities have plastic bag bans, including Austin.
A lower court sided with Laredo, but that was reversed on appeal, prompting state Supreme Court arguments.
Conservatives in the state Legislature have for years tried unsuccessfully to ban all local plastic bag bans.
A Supreme Court decision could undermine all such ordinances, though its nine Republicans justices likely won’t rule for months.

Utah
Man on death row for nearly 30 years appeals execution

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A death-row inmate’s lawyers argued in Utah court Wednesday that their client legally can’t be executed because he is intellectually disabled.
Michael Anthony Archuleta was convicted in 1989 in the brutal torture and killing of 28-year-old Southern Utah State College student Gordon Ray Church.
Archuleta, 55, is one of nine men on Utah’s death row.
Archuleta’s attorney, Charlotte Merril, said her client’s previous counsel was “conflicted, underqualified and underfunded” and failed to see the “red flags” of Archuleta’s disability, the Salt Lake Tribune reported .
Lawyers with the state countered by arguing that Archuleta’s attorneys waited until the last moment to raise the concern in an effort to delay appeals that have stretched for decades.
Aaron Murphy, assistant solicitor general, said it’s a victory for a defense team to delay an execution.
“A guilty person on death row has every incentive to wait until the last possible minute to gum up claims,” Murphy said.
In November 1988, then-parolees Archuleta and Lance Conway Wood drove Church to a remote location in Millard County. There, they attached jumper cables to Church’s testicles, raped him with a tire iron and beat him with a car jack.
Archuleta and Wood each were convicted of capital murder. Wood was sentenced to life in prison, while Archuleta was sentenced to death.
The state Supreme Court is mulling its decision on the appeal and will issue a written ruling. If the high court rejects the arguments, it would be the sixth time state courts have rejected Archuleta’s appeals.

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