National Roundup

Rhode Island
Attorney general proposes changes in ­narcotics cases

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Rhode Island's attorney general is proposing that possession of small amounts of narcotics be charged as misdemeanors instead of felonies.

Attorney General Peter Neronha told The Providence Journal that the proposal is aimed at helping people struggling with addiction to get treatment.

Under the proposal, someone charged with simple possession, without any intent to deal the drug, would face up to one year in prison, rather than up to three years. The bill is being sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey of Warwick.

Neronha is expected to discuss his proposal at an event Monday night.

Stephen Dambruch, chief of attorney general's criminal division, says that of the more than 1,100 felony drug cases brought in 2018, more than 660 involved only a drug possession charge.

North Dakota
Mother gets year of probation in bus driver attack

MANDAN, N.D. (AP) - A mother accused of pushing and yelling at a 73-year-old Mandan school bus driver after her son assaulted him has been sentenced to a year of probation.

Thirty-six-year-old Megan Hernandez, of Bismarck, recently pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts of harassment and disorderly conduct, and prosecutors dropped a criminal trespass count. Her record will be cleared if she successfully completes probation.

The boy was charged in juvenile court with simple assault and other counts after the incident last October. The driver was not seriously injured.

Brothers appeal 1882 Montana water right

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - A legal fight over a Petroleum County water right dating back to 1882 has landed before the Montana Supreme Court.

The Billings Gazette reports that Wilks Ranch Montana, which is owned by billionaire brothers Dan and Farris Wilks, and another water user Dan Iverson have filed a lawsuit over a senior water right along Flatwillow Creek.

They argue that a Water Court judge erred in his June 2018 findings that Gene Klamert's senior water right on Flatwillow Creek had not been abandoned. The Wilkses and Iverson own land upstream of Klamert and contend that Klamert hasn't made use of his water right for 17 years.

Klamert's attorney contends that Iverson and the Wilkses failed to prove that Klamert's water right had been abandoned.

Ex-prosecutor ­mentally fit for trial

HONOLULU (AP) - A former Honolulu deputy prosecutor underwent a mental competency evaluation and was found fit to stand trial for corruption-related charges, according to recently unsealed court documents.

Katherine Kealoha's defense attorney said in a previously sealed filing that her client might be suffering from a mental disease or defect affecting her competency.

A judge Wednesday ordered some of the documents related to Kealoha's competency hearing unsealed. Details about Kealoha's medical condition and treatment remain confidential. The unsealing came in response to a motion filed by the Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest.

"The fact that there was a competency evaluation- that's a significant issue in a criminal case," said R. Brian Black, executive director of the law center. "For that to be conducted entirely in a sealed proceeding was a little surprising."

Opening statements for a trial against Kealoha and her husband, now-retired Honolulu police chief Louis Kealoha, are scheduled for April 1. The Kealohas, along with former and current officers, are accused of framing Katherine Kealoha's uncle for stealing the couple's home mailbox in an attempt to discredit him in a family financial dispute.

Katherine Kealoha is charged with bank fraud, identity theft and obstruction.

A forensic psychiatrist evaluated her in November and hearing was held the following month. During the hearing, a U.S. magistrate judge determined that Kealoha was "focused on the proceedings and did not appear distracted or disengaged." The judge concluded she wasn't suffering from a mental disease or defect and was able to properly assist in her defense.

Since the hearing, Kealoha and her pain physician brother have been indicted on charges they dealt opioids and used her position as a prosecutor to hide their crimes. Kealoha and Dr. Rudolph Puana pleaded not guilty.

Jury selection for the first trial is scheduled for March 18. The judge presiding over the trial is concerned the federal courthouse in Honolulu won't be able to accommodate nearly 400 prospective jurors. He is considering reserving an alternate venue at the Neal Blaisdell Center a few miles away, where concerts, conventions and large events are held.

Gang leader loses appeal in kidnapping of prosecutor's dad

RICHMOND,Va. (AP) - A federal court has rejected the appeal of a gang leader serving life in prison for the botched kidnapping of a North Carolina prosecutor that ended with her father's abduction.

The Fourth Circuit court on Thursday upheld the convictions of Kelvin Melton, who argued that the trial court violated his constitutional rights by allowing the introduction of a statement he made at a pre-trial hearing and by allowing prosecutors to admit certain evidence.

Melton, leader of a group called United Blood Nation, was one of 11 people convicted in the case.

The plan was to kidnap the prosecutor who had put Melton in prison for life as a habitual felon.

The criminals goofed and kidnapped prosecutor Colleen Janssen's father instead. He was rescued when agents stormed the gang's Atlanta hideout.

Court rejects appeal by ex-Navy SEAL in child porn case

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - A federal court has rejected the appeal of a former U.S. Navy Seal sentenced to 27 years in prison for child pornography.

The Fourth Circuit court on Thursday upheld a judge's ruling denying Gregory Kyle Seerden's request to suppress evidence from a search of his cell phone.

Navy officials began investigating Seerden in 2017 after a woman said he had sexually assaulted her in Virginia Beach.

The judge agreed with Seerden that evidence obtained during an initial cell phone search pursuant to a military warrant was inadmissible because it violated military rules of evidence. But the judge allowed evidence obtained during a second search based on a federal warrant.

According to court documents investigators found dozens of images of child pornography, including a video showing Seerden molesting a sleeping girl.

Published: Tue, Feb 26, 2019