National Roundup

Same-sex rape case brought by homophobic deputy dropped

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Prosecutors are dropping same-sex rape charges in a case investigated by a homophobic deputy who gave sermons as a Baptist church pastor calling for the execution of gay people.

Assistant District Attorney General Sean McDermott tells the Knoxville News Sentinel that former Knox County sheriff’s detective Grayson Fritts’ involvement factored in the decision, as they wouldn’t have him testify. Other cases involving Fritts also are being reviewed after his hate-filled sermons came to light this summer.

Shawn Lee Smith was indicted on rape and sexual battery charges in a 2015 attack at a hotel. He was accused of luring the victim there by hiring him to work in a massage therapy business. A mistrial was declared on the sex-related charges. He was convicted of impersonating a licensed professional.

Defamation suit over Haiti sex abuse claim ­is settled

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A defamation lawsuit against an activist who accused an orphanage founder in Haiti of being a serial pedophile has been settled, ending a lawsuit that has dragged on for six years, an attorney said.

Paul Kendrick’s insurance companies agreed to pay $3 million to Hearts With Haiti, but nothing to orphanage founder Michael Geilenfeld, attorney Mark Randall, who represents Kendrick, told The Associated Press.
Hearts With Haiti and Geilenfeld dropped their defamation claims, he said.

The settlement ends a case that has dragged on since 2013. Kendrick said the effort was worth it because he believes children are now safer.

Kendrick, who stands by his claims against Geilenfeld, said he’s satisfied because the lawsuit aired the accusations and because Geilenfeld gets nothing from the settlement. The money will be used by the charity to help disabled children in Haiti, he said.

“It does not mean the brave victims coming forward have done so in vain,” Kendrick said. “The testimonies in evidence against Geilenfeld belong in a criminal investigation.”

Attorneys who represented Hearts With Haiti and Geilenfeld didn’t immediately return calls and emails seeking comment. The whereabouts of Geilenfeld, a U.S. citizen, are unknown. The former Catholic brother previously testified that the abuse allegations were “vicious, vile lies.”

Kendrick said he’s spoken to 16 young men who have said Geilenfeld abused them in Port-au-Prince years ago, when they were boys. Geilenfeld founded the St. Joseph’s Home for Boys in Port-Au-Prince in 1985.

North Carolina-based Hearts with Haiti and Geilenfeld contended Kendrick ruined Geilenfeld’s reputation and cost the charity millions with an email campaign that raised unsubstantiated claims. Geilenfeld also blamed Kendrick’s campaign for his 237-day imprisonment in Haiti.

In 2015, a federal jury awarded $14.5 million to Geilenfeld and Hearts with Haiti, despite testimony from seven men who said they were sexually abused as boys. The case was refiled in state court after a U.S. appeals court ruled that a federal courtroom in Maine was the wrong jurisdiction.

Kendrick, of Freeport, Maine, became an outspoken voice during the New England church abuse scandal and co-founded the Maine chapter of the Voice of the Faithful. He said he began targeting Geilenfeld after hearing from men who said they’d been victimized by him in Haiti.

If the lawsuit had gone before another jury, Kendrick said there would have been more victims willing to testify.

Randall said Geilenfeld’s willingness to drop the defamation claim paved the way to the settlement and the lawsuit being withdrawn. He said it’s a victory for the children who benefit from the settlement — and for Kendrick because claims of wrongdoing have been dropped.

“The end result is that children are safer,” he said. The victim’s allegations are now in the hands of law enforcement officials, he said.

South Carolina
Man gets 12 years for beating wife to death

NEWBERRY, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina man accused of beating his wife to death has pleaded guilty to voluntary man­slaughter.

The State reports Curtis Brian Varner faced life in prison on a murder charge in the slaying of 63-year-old Cathy Varner. His plea to the lesser charge was part of a deal in which he was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment, less than half the maximum sentence for manslaughter. The 58-year-old also got credit for the 14 months he was jailed after being arrested.

Newberry police were called to check on Cathy Varner last summer and found her unresponsive. An autopsy determined she died from blunt force injuries as a result of being beaten. Police Chief Roy McClurkin has said officers had previously responded to the couple’s home for domestic disturbance calls.

Former federal agent gets 7 years for child porn

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A former special agent for the State Department whose work included investigating child pornography cases has been sentenced to seven years in prison for possessing child pornography.

U.S. District Judge Susan Watters sentenced 49-year-old Shawn Thomas Conrad of Billings on Friday.

The case began when Billings police were investigating a report that Conrad tried to videotape a 12-year-old girl in the shower. Conrad was working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and his employer seized an agency vehicle. He left a hard drive in the vehicle and asked several times for it to be returned.

The Billings Gazette reports investigators recovered images of child pornography from the hard drive and a laptop even though Conrad had installed data wiping programs on both.

Conrad asked for supervised release, saying he’d already lost his job and retirement benefits.

West Virginia
Lawsuit: City ­violated woman’s rights in order to protect officer

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (AP) — A West Virginia city is accused of violating the due process rights of a woman in order to protect the identity of a police officer who shocked her with a stun gun.

Rosa Lee Butcher was awarded $5,000 by a jury that found “John Does” on the Clarksburg police force used excessive force on her in 2015. The city still hasn’t paid up, appealing instead.

So now her lawyer Tim Gentilozzi is accusing the city’s former manager, police chief and “other John Doe(s)” on the force of conspiracy.

Gentilozzi notes that the judge said all police trial testimony conflicted with each other, and state police should have investigated Butcher’s complaint before the lawsuit was filed.

Interim City Manager Annette Wright told The Exponent Telegram that the city received the lawsuit.