National Roundup

Cemetery owned by convicted coroner handed to receiver

GRAY, Ga. (AP) — Georgia’s secretary of state has handed control of a middle Georgia cemetery to a court-ordered receiver.

Former Jones County Coroner Jerry Bridges was sentenced to 20 years in prison in December after being convicted on dozens of fraud charges related to taking money for prepaid funerals and burial expenses and using it for other purposes.

In addition to prison time, Bridges was sentenced to pay more than $200,000 in restitution to victims, and he had to allow the state to seize and sell his cemetery.

WMAZ-TV reports the Jones County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday identified the receiver of Cedar Ridge Cemetery as Don Roof with Examination Resources, LLC in Atlanta.

The receiver will distribute assets to the people Bridges defrauded as defined by a court-approved plan. Money from the sale of Cedar Ridge will go back into the perpetual care and pre-need accounts.

Each of the 43 counts in Bridges’ plea represented a person or family that he took money from while operating as a funeral home operator and the cemetery.

Group to pay $10K to car attack survivor

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — An Ohio-based neo-Nazi group will pay $10,000 to the survivor of a car attack that had occurred during the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The Daily Progress reported Monday that the group is called the Traditionalist Worker Party.

A lawsuit was filed against the group on behalf of William “Bill” Burke in the Southern District of Ohio U.S. District Court. Burke was among those injured in 2017 when James Alex Fields Jr. drove his car into a crowd of counter-protestors.

Fields was convicted in the death of Heather Heyer, a counter-protestor who died. The rally focused on the city’s planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. And it drew many counter-protesters.

Burke was at the rally to protest against racism. Burke’s lawsuit alleges the rally was meant to send a message of white supremacy.

The $10,000 judgment is not a settlement. But it means the group will pay the sum and be dismissed as a defendant from the lawsuit.

Most of the defendants in Burke’s case have been dismissed or agreed to pay a financial judgment. For instance, a judgment against former KKK leader David Duke ordered him to pay $5,000 to Burke.

State’s 9 lawsuits mark Trump’s final day in office

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Attorney General Xavier Becerra sued the Trump administration nine times on Tuesday, a fitting send-off from a state known for its frequent feuds with the president over the environment and health care.

Altogether, Becerra —- who is President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services —- has taken the Trump administration to court 122 times in four years, his office said.

The latest actions were part of an attempt to block a flurry of environmental rule changes in recent weeks, including moves Becerra said would weaken protections for migratory birds, exempt some clothes washers and dryers from energy efficiency standards, loosen regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas industry, and relax rules on toxic air pollutants.

“We have held the Trump Administration accountable time and again for their failure to follow the rules or respect our nation’s environmental laws,” Becerra said.

Becerra took office in California four days after Trump moved into the White House in 2017. Becerra filled a vacancy after Kamala Harris was elected to the U.S. Senate and before she was elected vice president.

California quickly developed a reputation as a center of resistance against the Republican administration, much like Texas had been during the years when Democrat Barack Obama was in office.

But Becerra far outpaced his counterpart in Texas, who sued the Obama administration at least 48 times, according to an analysis by the Texas Tribune.

More than half of Becerra’s lawsuits were about public lands, natural resources and the environment. But he perhaps got the most attention in his role defending the federal Affordable Care Act after the Trump administration declined to defend the Obama-era law from a lawsuit brought by Republican-led states.

That case featured prominently in U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearings, as it was one of the first cases she heard after getting confirmed by the Republican-led U.S. Senate.

While Becerra has been eager to challenge Trump, the president seems to have hardly noticed him. Trump has had plenty of things to say about California but focused his Twitter insults on Gov. Gavin Newsom and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. According to an exhaustive catalogue of Trump’s Twitter insults published by the New York Times on Tuesday, Becerra is never mentioned.

The Biden administration will likely try to undo many of the environmental rule changes Trump approved in his final days in office, a bureaucratic process that could take months. Becerra’s lawsuits could help speed up matters by enticing a federal judge to block the rules from ever taking effect.

“It will take time to unwind the havoc the Trump Administration has wrought. That’s why the nine lawsuits we filed today are so important,” Becerra said in a news release.

New Mexico
Jailed Cowboys for Trump leader urged to quit county office

ALAMOGORDO, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico county official who runs the group Cowboys for Trump and was arrested in connection with the riot at the U.S. Capitol is facing calls to resign.

Otero County Commissioners Gerald Matherly and Vickie Marquardt demanded in a statement Tuesday that fellow district commissioner Couy Griffin step down immediately.

They say his arrest Sunday by the FBI is a culmination of an endless series of investigations and lawsuits stemming from his promotion of Cowboys for Trump.

Griffin faces charges of illegally entering the U.S. Capitol. He did not immediately respond to a text message seeking comment.

According to court documents, Griffin told investigators that he was “caught up” in the crowd, which pushed its way through the barricades and entered the restricted area of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. But he said he never entered the building and instead remained on the U.S. Capitol steps.

A video posted to Griffin’s personal Facebook page shows Griffin in the restricted areas, according to the affidavit.

During an Otero County Board of Commissioners meeting last Thursday, Griffin said he planned to travel with firearms to Washington, D.C., for Biden’s inauguration.