National Roundup

Kansas
Sister seeks justice for man who died after hitting his head

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The sister of a Wichita man who died after a drunken argument says she wants investigators and prosecutors to take another look at his death now that it has been ruled a homicide.

The Wichita Eagle reports that Rocio Rosales says her family wants “some kind of justice” for her brother, Raul Rodriguez. She says he ended up with a 3-inch (7.62 centimeter) cut on the back of his head in September when he was shoved and fell. She says paramedics bandaged him up and tried to convince him to go to the hospital. But he said no and died the next day.

The Sedgwick County district attorney declined to file charges, noting in part that pre-existing medical conditions, including chronic alcohol abuse, couldn’t be ruled out as substantially contributing to his death.

Georgia
Man sentenced to prison in $80K dating site scam

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (AP) — A man convicted of scamming a Georgia woman he met on a dating site out of thousands of dollars has been sentenced to prison.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports police in Tennessee arrested 34-year-old John Martin Hill in May and accused him of courting a Georgia woman on Match.com before stealing nearly $80,000 from her. The paper reports Hill claimed he was a millionaire and the two agreed to marry after a week. The victim then transferred money to Hill for a down payment on their new home.

Gwinnett Cpl. Michele Pihera said after the transaction, Hill disappeared with the money.

A Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office spokesman confirmed Hill pleaded guilty last week to theft and perjury. He was sentenced to seven years in prison plus 13 on probation.

South Carolina
Rental company wants end to lawsuit alleging bat-filled home

NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (AP) — A rental company wants a judge to dismiss a lawsuit alleging that one of its properties was filled with hundreds of bats, some dead and dying.

The Sun News reports Thomas Real Estate, Incorporated, and property owner James H. Benson Sr. responded to Kennedy Neiderer’s lawsuit last week, denying all allegations and requesting a dismissal. They say any damage suffered by Neiderer was due to her own negligence.

Neiderer sued in October, saying she encountered the bats during a weeklong stay at a North Myrtle Beach rental house in 2017. She said the defendants knew about the bat infestation, which she says was reported to the state by previous renters. Her lawsuit says the encounter forced her to undergo numerous rabies vaccinations, which it notes are painful and disruptive.

Illinois
Man body-slammed by officer charged with battery

CHICAGO (AP) — Bail was set at $5,000 Sunday for a 29-year-old man facing battery and other charges after a Chicago police officer body-slammed him onto a street during his arrest.

The charges against Bernard Kersh, including aggravated battery of an officer, stem from him spitting at and threatening the officer on Thanksgiving afternoon after police approached him at a South Side bus stop on suspicion of drinking alcohol in public, prosecutors said during a hearing Sunday.

A 41-second video posted by a bystander and widely shared online starts with the officer lifting Kersh high off his feet, then slamming his body hard onto the pavement. The back of Kersh’s head appears to strike the curb and he then lies motionless.

Kersh’s lawyers and civil rights activists said the incident illustrates how Chicago police can be overly aggressive, especially in predominantly black neighborhoods.

Prosecutor James Murphy said Kersh had earlier licked the 32-year-old officer’s face, threatened him, then spit in his eye. Murphy said “a substantial amount of spit” got in the officer’s eye and some into his mouth.

Even if that were true, one of Kersh’s lawyers, Andrew M. Stroth, said in a phone interview Sunday that the force the officer deployed was excessive and violated the department’s own use-of-force rules.

“He used a martial arts takedown that could have killed Bernard Kersh,” Stroth said. “He is lucky to be alive.”

Stroth added that Kersh was clearly not armed and the officer had to know he posed no serious threat.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition plan to pay 10% of the bail amount, $500, to secure Kersh’s release, Stroth said. Jackson was at Sunday’s hearing.

Kersh was hospitalized Thursday but was discharged hours later and jailed, his attorney said. Stroth said the family would take Kersh to a doctor for a full examination once he’s released. The officer also went to a hospital for evaluation.

In addition to the aggravated battery count, Kersh also faces charges of resisting arrest, assault and drinking alcohol in public.

Stroth said Kersh has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and, in a condition he had before Thursday, was blind in one eye.

Kersh has been charged at least 25 times previously, mostly for theft, but once for punching an officer and once for spitting at an officer.

The Civilian Office of Police Accountability is investigating the officer’s response and, as is standard procedure, he has been stripped of his police powers as the case is reviewed. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement last week that the investigation “will be comprehensive and expedited.”

Kevin Graham, the Chicago police union’s president, defended the officer in a statement Sunday, saying “his actions were well within department use of force guidelines.”

Virginia
Report: Medical costs are rising in state prisons

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A state report says medical care in Virginia’s prisons accounts for a fifth of operating expenses.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported last week that the information on prison medical costs comes from the Virginia House Appropriations Committee.

The report said the cost of inmate health care grew from roughly $140 million a year to more than $230 million a year during the past decade.

The report also found that 14% of state prisoners are at least 55 years old. That’s an increase of more than 5% since 2012.

One possible way to address the issue is expanding so-called “compassionate release” of prisoners who are terminally ill or permanently disabled physically. State Delegate Mark Sickles of Fairfax said he plans to reintroduce a bill to expand the program.

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