National Roundup

Climate change lawsuit filed by Alaska youth goes to court

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The state has argued in court that a climate change lawsuit filed by 16 young Alaska residents should be thrown out because climate policies must be decided by the state Legislature and the executive branch, not the courts.

The state and plaintiffs argued their cases on Monday before an Anchorage judge in a hearing to decide if the lawsuit should advance, Alaska’s Energy Desk reported.

The plaintiffs, ranging from children in elementary school to college students, say the state is violating their constitutional rights by failing to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Assistant Attorney General Seth Beausang asked the court to dismiss the case, citing the Alaska Supreme Court’s dismissal of a similar climate change case in 2014 setting precedent.

“The court said that weighing all those interests was a policy decision entrusted to the political branches, and not to the courts,” Beausang said.

The 2014 case and the current one were both filed with help from an Oregon-based nonprofit, Our Children’s Trust, which has filed legal actions on behalf of young people across the country demanding action on climate change.

The plaintiffs said that in the years since the 2014 Supreme Court ruling, Alaska has implemented a de facto climate policy by continuing to encourage activities like oil and gas production.

“The state’s climate and energy policy is causing catastrophic harm to Alaska’s climate system and endangering plaintiff’s lives and liberties and their very futures,” Our Children’s Trust attorney Andrew Welle said. “These claims are squarely within the authority of the court.”

Attorneys for both sides said they expect a ruling within the next six months.

Municipal court judge found dead in his car

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia investigators are looking into the death of a lawyer and judge whose body was found in his car.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation says 53-year-old Griffin Municipal Court Judge William Johnston left his home Monday evening, saying he planned to meet a client in a nearby county. Family members contacted police the next morning because they had not heard from him.

Two utility workers discovered Johnston dead in his vehicle the following day.

Johnston was a partner in the Johnston & Owen law firm in Griffin.

The firm’s website says Johnston’s law practice focused primarily on general business litigation, banking and corporate litigation, contract disputes and other business matters.

In Georgia, many municipal courts are served by part-time judges.
Griffin is about 40 miles (64 kilometers) south of Atlanta.

Attorney gets 25 months for U.S. tax evasion

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A Reno attorney has been sentenced to more than two years in federal prison for tax evasion.

A jury convicted Delmar Hardy in U.S. District Court in September of falsifying his individual tax returns for three tax years ending in 2010.

U.S. prosecutors say Hardy failed to report $400,000 in cash income received by his law practice from 2008-2010. They say he also failed to report cash receipts dating back to at least 1999, resulting in a total tax loss of more than $250,000.

In addition to a 25-month prison sentence, U.S. District Judge Miranda Du ordered Hardy on Monday to pay a $10,000 fine and placed under supervision for a year following his release from prison.

Bill requires female inmates to be checked for pregnancy

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut lawmakers want to make sure the Department of Correction is assessing female inmates to determine whether they’re pregnant before being incarcerated.

The Senate on Tuesday voted unanimously for a bill ensuring pregnant inmates get proper treatment. Among other things, it requires at least one health care provider at the York Correctional Institution, the state’s only prison for women, has specialized training in pregnancy and childbirth.

The bill stems from the birth of an infant inside a cell at York in February.

Republican Sen. John Kissel says there “wasn’t a clear policy as to the appropriate and humane treatment” of the inmate.

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy pushed for the legislation, which also requires free feminine hygiene products for female inmates. The bill moves to the House.

Fingerprint left in Play-Doh leads to theft suspect

LEICESTER, Mass. (AP) — A Massachusetts police department says a fingerprint left in a hunk of Play-Doh led them to a shoplifting suspect.

Leicester police responded to Walmart on Dec. 11 after an employee found several electronic anti-theft devices that had been covered in the malleable clay-like toy in an apparent attempt to neutralize them.

The attempt to disable the spider-wrap devices failed, and the suspect had fled.

He did, however, leave a fingerprint impression in the Play-Doh.

Police announced Monday the Connecticut Forensics Laboratory helped find a match for the print.

Police charged 55-year-old Dennis Jackson with unlawful removal of an anti-theft device. Police say he has a long criminal record and faces arrest warrants in at least two other states.

Jackson is jailed and it’s not clear if he had a lawyer.

Judge sentences man to death for young girl’s rape and murder

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — A man has been sentenced to death after a jury convicted him of abducting, raping and murdering an 8-year-old girl in Florida.

According to news reports, a judge issued the death sentence against 62-year-old Donald Smith on Wednesday, weeks after a jury recommended unanimously that he be executed for the crimes.

The jury in February took less than 15 minutes to convict Smith in the 2013 death of Cherish Perrywinkle. She was abducted from a Walmart store in Jacksonville after Smith befriended her mother.

During Smith’s sentencing phase, experts testified that he is a psychopath who lacks control over his impulses. Doctors also described Smith as callous, uncaring, manipulative and lacking empathy.