National Roundup

New Jersey
Judge who admits to ­ticket-fixing faces potential ­disbarment

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - A former municipal judge who falsified records as part of a five-year ticket-fixing scheme has been recommended for disbarment.

Richard Thompson, who worked as a part-time municipal judge in nine Monmouth County municipal courts before his suspension in 2015, pleaded guilty to fourth-degree falsifying records in February 2018 after a multiyear investigation. The Asbury Park Press reports the state Office of Attorney Ethics issued a formal motion asking the Supreme Court's Disciplinary Review Board to disbar Thompson.

The state Supreme Court will review Thompson's case and issue an order.

From 2010 to 2015, Thompson converted roughly 4,000 motor vehicle ticket fines to contempt of court sanctions without any legal basis to do so. Thompson has admitted that was done to steer money to the towns he served.

Tennessee
Sheriff must stop jailing some poor offenders

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A federal judge on Thursday ordered a Tennessee sheriff to stop jailing some people simply because they can't afford bail.

The ruling in U.S. District Court in Nashville pertains to misdemeanor offenders in Giles County who are arrested for probation violations and given a predetermined bail amount without consideration of their ability to pay.

In his ruling, Judge William Campbell Jr. cites the case of a man who was held for 22 days before his first in-court appearance because he could not afford to pay a $500 cash bond. Another person was detained 21 days when he could not afford a $210 cash bond.

"Detention of these arrestees, who are otherwise deemed eligible for release, solely due to the inability to pay the secured bail amount on the arrest warrant can result in loss of work, separation from family, undue pressure to plead guilty, and other negative consequences," Campbell writes.

Campbell's order prohibits Giles County officials from jailing misdemeanor offenders accused of violating probation unless a judge first considers whether cash bail is necessary and whether the offender can pay it.

The issue is part of a larger lawsuit and the order is only temporary while that suit is being decided. The lawsuit accuses the county and for-profit probation companies of using the threat of jail and extended probation to squeeze money out of indigent misdemeanor offenders.

The plaintiffs are five women who claim their probation was so onerous that they sold their possessions and diverted money needed for food, utilities, medicine and rent to pay the fees charged by the probation companies in addition to their court costs. Lead plaintiff Karen McNeil became homeless while struggling to pay probation and court debt, the lawsuit claims.

Similar issues have been raised in recent years in other jurisdictions around the country.

Massachusetts
Man convicted of assault on ­Muslim woman

BOSTON (AP) - A Massachusetts man has been convicted of yelling slurs and attacking a Muslim woman who was on her way to prayer services during Ramadan.

Prosecutors say 36-year-old Sean Devlin was convicted by a judge Thursday of charges including assault and battery and civil rights violations. Sentencing is scheduled for Friday.

Authorities say the North Reading man was on an Orange Line train in Boston in June 2017 when he heard 63-year-old Malika Touirtou speaking Arabic on the phone. Police say Devlin struck the train window near her head, breaking it, claimed the woman had a bomb in her bag, and struck her with an umbrella as she exited. He told her to "go back to your country."

Touirtou said outside court she's glad the ordeal is over and "God Bless America."

Montana
Women detained by border agent after speaking Spanish sue

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Two Montana women questioned by a U.S. border agent who overheard them speaking Spanish in a convenience store sued U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Thursday, saying the agent illegally detained them without reason.

The agent held Ana Suda and Martha Hernandez for 40 minutes in a parking lot in the city of Havre in May 2018 without reasonable suspicion or probable cause, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Great Falls.

His only reason for doing so, they said, was because they were taking in Spanish while waiting in line to buy milk and eggs.

Suda took a video of the parking lot encounter with CBP Agent Paul O'Neill in which she asks him why he wanted their identifications.

"Ma'am, the reason I asked you for your ID is because I came in here and I saw that you guys are speaking Spanish, which is very unheard of up here," O'Neill said in the video.

CBP spokesman Jason Givens said Thursday the agency doesn't comment on pending litigation.

The women's ACLU lawyers say O'Neill should have let them go as soon as they identified themselves as U.S. citizens, but he instead detained them in violation of the Fourth Amendment barring unreasonable searches and seizures.

The lawsuit also claims the agent targeted them based on their race in violation of the Fifth Amendment's due process protections.

O'Neill and later his supervisor made it clear through their words and actions that the women weren't free to leave the parking lot, ACLU attorney Alex Rate wrote in the lawsuit.

"Speaking Spanish does not establish reasonable suspicion justifying a stop and detention, much less probable cause for an arrest," Rate wrote.

Suda and Hernandez are asking for an unspecified amount of money in compensation, punitive damages and a judge's order barring border officials from stopping or detaining anyone based on race, accent or language.

Suda was born in Texas and moved to Montana with her husband in 2014. Hernandez was born in California and has been living in Montana since 2010. Both are certified nursing assistants who work at an assisted-living center.

Havre is a city of nearly 10,000 people about 30 miles (48 kilometers) from the U.S.-Canada border and near two Native American reservations. The city's population is mostly white and about 4 percent Hispanic, according to the U.S. Census.

In 2017, border patrol agents in the Havre sector made 39 arrests. Eleven of the people arrested were Mexican.

Published: Mon, Feb 18, 2019

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