Court Digest

Court denies 2 appeals in Charlottesville rally beating

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — The Supreme Court of Virginia has denied the appeals of two men convicted in the brutal beating of a Black man in a Charlottesville parking garage the day of a violent white supremacist rally.

The court denied Jacob Scott Goodwin’s petition for appeal Wednesday and denied Alex Michael Ramos’ petition for appeal in early May, according to Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring’s office. Both were convicted of malicious wounding for their roles in the 2017 beating of DeAndre Harris, which was captured in photos and videos widely shared online.

Goodwin was sentenced in 2018 to serve eight years in prison and Ramos was sentenced to serve six for their roles in the attack by a group of men. Harris was punched and hit with weapons and left with a spinal injury, a broken arm and head lacerations that required eight staples.

Prosecutors said Ramos hit Harris in the back of the head and bragged about the attack on Facebook.

Hundreds of white supremacists gathered in Charlottesville in August 2017 in part to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. They clashed with counterprotesters during a day of violence in which a white supremacist rammed his car through the crowd of people, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

“The violence, mayhem, injury, and death caused at the hands of the racists and white supremacists who descended on Charlottesville for the Unite the Right rally can never be forgotten, but we can make sure that the individuals who broke the law or incited violence are brought to justice,” Herring said in a statement.

Two other men were also charged and sentenced to prison for the attack on Harris.

Doctor accused in opioid trafficking ring

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Southern California doctor is one of 10 people charged with selling opioid prescriptions for cash through medical clinics that authorities labeled as shams, federal prosecutors said.

Federal grand jury indictments accuse Dr. John Michael Korzelius and others working under his guidance of prescribing more than 439,000 pills of high-dose oxycodone in an alleged drug trafficking ring over two years, the U.S. Department of Justice said Wednesday.

Patients paid in cash for the medically unnecessary prescriptions at a Santa Ana pain management clinic, the Ventura County Star reported.

Korzelius, 68. and nine others face charges including conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, possession with intent to distribute oxycodone, distribution of fentanyl and money laundering, prosecutors said.

Korzelius, who lives in Camarillo, couldn’t be reached for comment and it wasn’t known if he has an attorney.

The other defendants range in age from 23 to 69 years old. Seven are under arrest and two are fugitives.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents reported seizing 20,737 oxycodone pills, and $177,610 in cash in the two-year investigation. Authorities said they intercepted a mailed parcel containing a teddy bear stuffed with two bags of pills.

Man who threatened professor sent to prison for 21 months

BOSTON (AP) — A Rhode Island man who sent a series of threatening emails to a Massachusetts college professor who spoke in favor of abortion rights and was critical of President Donald Trump has been sentenced to nearly two years in prison, prosecutors say.

Matthew Haviland, 30, of North Kingstown, was sentenced Wednesday in federal court in Boston to 21 months in prison and three years of probation.

Haviland pleaded guilty last September to stalking and transmitting a threat in interstate commerce.

Haviland in March 2019 sent the professor 28 emails containing threats such as, “I will rip every limb from your body and eat it, piece by piece,” and “I will bite through your eyeballs while you’re still alive, and I will laugh while you scream,” according to prosecutors.

Haviland also sent 12 threatening emails to the professor’s university including one that said “You should be Murdered in cold blood,” and another that said someone should bomb the school, according to prosecutors.

Neither the professor’s name nor the college was disclosed.

Cop killer’s father convicted on witness intimidation counts

NEW KENSINGTON, PA. (AP) — The father of a man convicted in the fatal shooting of a western Pennsylvania police officer has been found guilty of intimidating a potential witness in his son’s trial.

A Westmore­land County jury convicted Gregory Baucum, 49, on two misdemeanor counts Wednesday but acquitted him on a felony charge. The former Arnold resident faces up to four years in state prison when he’s sentenced later this year.

Authorities have said Baucum threatened the witness on social media, labeled her a snitch and published details online of her cooperation with law enforcement. The woman testified that Baucum sent her messages in which he called her a “cheese-eating rat snitch” and sent emojis of a block of cheese and a casket, which made her fear for her safety.

Baucum admitted sending the messages but testified that he did so as free speech and to alert other community members about her police cooperation.

The woman did not testify at the trial of Baucum’s son, Rahmael Sal Holt. He was sentenced to death after being convicted last year of first-degree murder in the November 2017 shooting death of New Kensington Police Officer Brian Shaw.

Feds: Man pleads guilty to threatening to burn Black church

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — A North Carolina man has pleaded guilty to threatening to burn down a Black church in Virginia days after one of the church’s leaders took part in a vigil for George Floyd, a Black man who died in police custody in Minnesota.

John Malcolm Bareswill, 63, entered the plea Wednesday, nearly two months after he was arrested on charges related to his alleged threat, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia said in a news release.

Authorities said Bareswill, who lived in Catawba, North Carolina, also made racist remarks when he called the Baptist church in Virginia Beach to make the threats in June. He could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison during his hearing in November, the release said.

Floyd died on May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes as he pleaded for air. His death sparked global demonstrations against racism and police brutality.

County approves $775,000 settlement on traffic cases

DECATUR, Ga. (AP) — A Georgia county’s commissioners have approved a settlement for a lawsuit that alleged residents were wrongfully arrested due to erroneous information that was given to state officials regarding their driver’s licenses.

The $775,000 settlement approved Tuesday by DeKalb County commissioners comes nearly five years after a federal lawsuit was brought by 17 residents, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

The residents allege they were arrested after personnel from the county’s Recorder’s Court inaccurately told the Georgia Department of Driver Services that their driver’s licenses had been suspended, or neglected to tell officials the licenses were reinstated.

The lawsuit said the court had a “documented history of institutional ineptitude,” and gave examples of the plaintiffs getting arrested or being booked in jail due to alleged errors by the court.

Several other lawsuits filed around the same time as the 2015 lawsuit also challenged how traffic offenses were handled at the Recorder’s Court. The state Assembly disbanded the court in 2015, and traffic cases are now managed in DeKalb State Court.

William Atkins, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said he will not comment on the settlement since it has not been finalized.

Top court hears arguments over ‘gut and replace’ laws

HONOLULU (AP) — Attorneys argued before the Hawaii Supreme Court on Wednesday over how much lawmakers should allow the public to weigh in on legislation as laws are being drafted and voted on.

The justices listened to lawyers over a video link that was streamed live on YouTube. They were considering a lawsuit challenging the Legislature’s practice of stripping bills of their original content and substituting something entirely different.

The League of Women Voters of Honolulu and Common Cause Hawaii sued the state in 2018 over the tactic, which is often called “gut and replace” in Hawaii. Similar maneuvers in other states are called “gut and stuff” or “gut and amend.”

The lawsuit specifically challenges a law that started out as a bill about recidivism but ended up being about building hurricane-resistant schools. A state Circuit Court judge upheld the Legislature’s procedures, and the plaintiffs appealed to the state’s highest court.

Justice Michael Wilson asked Attorney General Clare Connors how the public is allowed to participate if lawmakers can completely change the contents of a bill when they meet during conference committee after hearings and public testimony have wrapped up.

Connors replied the state Constitution mandates that the lawmakers meet only two requirements: that a bill have a broad enough title that encompasses the changed content and that the bill be in its final form when it goes up for its last vote.

She said the Legislature needs flexibility to be able to substitute bill content to allow it to respond to unforeseen emergencies, like when it passed measures to respond to flooding on Kauai last year and this year when it passed legislation to address the coronavirus pandemic.

She said the plaintiffs want to be able to participate more in lawmaking, but whether they should be able to do so is a question of politics and not one for the courts.

“What this plaintiff’s argument does is it creates a confrontation, unresolvable, between two coequal branches of government,” Connors said.

Brian Black, an attorney with the Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest who represented the plaintiffs, said people respect the law when they have a right to engage in the legislative process. He compared it to people’s willingness to consume processed meat.

“People will eat sausage because there are rules that govern how it’s made. Similarly, people will respect the law because there are rules governing the legislative process that protect the public,” Black said.

Black told the justices, “We want to see the sausage made. The legislative process is not supposed to be a shell game that can only be followed by those in the know.”

Former Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, who is also an attorney and a candidate for Honolulu mayor, appeared before the court on behalf of the Legislature. She said online technology gives the public more access to the legislative process than before by allowing people to sign up for automatic notices on changes to bills.

Those without computers can use the Capitol’s Public Access Room, which has computers and staff to assist the public, and libraries, Hanabusa said.

She told the justices “you are interjecting yourselves into the legislative process” if they were to rule on what form or substance would be allowed in a bill.

Such a decision would open the door to lawsuits challenging bills on the grounds the contents didn’t match a bill’s title, she said.

“That means that every piece of legislation or every law that is passed, if anybody doesn’t like it, they come to the court and say, this wasn’t germane,” she said.

Father charged in crash that killed daughter

GLASGOW, Ky. (AP) — A Kentucky man involved in a crash that killed his daughter has been charged with murder and driving under the influence, authorities said.

Christopher M. McCoy, 32, of Glasgow was arrested this week in connection with the May crash that killed the girl, who was a passenger in the vehicle he was driving, news outlets reported, citing Kentucky State Police. It was McCoy’s second DUI offense, police said.

McCoy was driving a pickup truck in Glasgow and failed to negotiate a curve, police said. The truck dipped off the right shoulder and McCoy overcorrected and struck several trees, police said. The girl was pronounced dead at the scene. Her named hasn’t been released.

McCoy remains jailed at the Barren County Detention Center. Online jail records don’t list an attorney.

His arraignment was scheduled for Sept. 10 in Barren District Court.