Court Digest

 South Dakota

Woman given 25 years for fatally striking friend
RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — A Rapid City woman accused of driving drunk and fatally hitting her friend with her vehicle during an argument has been sentenced to 25 years in prison. 
According to Pennington County prosecutors, 51-year-old Rochelle Seminole had a blood alcohol content of more than three times the legal limit in May of 2019 when she argued with 37-year-old Kimberly Clifford in the parking lot of a Rapid City Walmart. 

Witnesses said Seminole attempted to run over Clifford, but missed and then backed up and struck her. 

Originally charged with first-degree murder, Seminole pleaded guilty last month to vehicular homicide and aggravated assault in Clifford’s death, KOTA-TV  reported. 

Seminole’s attorney, John Murphy, said Seminole was not the instigator in the argument with Clifford. Murphy said Seminole did not hit her with the car intentionally but takes full responsibility for what happened. 

But, Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Lara Roetzel said most of the 23 witnesses to what happened said they felt the act was intentional. 

Seminole told Clifford’s family that she was sorry, saying she never meant for this to happen and that she would never run over somebody. She asked them to forgive her. 

Judge Craig Pfeifle on Wednesday sentenced Seminole to consecutive sentences of 15 years each on the vehicular homicide and assault charges, suspending five years of the assault sentence.
Woman pleads not guilty in slaying of off-duty cop
CLEVELAND (AP) — The woman charged in the fatal shooting of an off-duty Cleveland police officer pleaded not guilty during her arraignment Thursday in a Cleveland courtroom.
Tamara McLoyd, 18, of Garfield Heights, was indicted this week on charges that include aggravated murder. She also has been charged in connection with several armed robberies in November.

Authorities have said McLoyd admitted to police that she shot Shane Bartek, 25, on Dec. 31 as the two struggled during a carjacking in the parking lot of a Cleveland apartment building. A gun that authorities said was used in the slaying was found on McLoyd when she was arrested.

Bartek joined the Cleveland police department in 2019. He was remembered as an officer who embraced community policing at his funeral service on Tuesday.

Messages seeking comment were left with the two attorneys assigned on Thursday to represent McLoyd.

A judge continued McLoyd’s $5 million bond and added a $500,000 bond for the robbery charges.
Judge dismisses challenge to religious exemption elimination
A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging a law passed last year that eliminated Connecticut’s long-standing religious exemption  from childhood immunization requirements for schools, colleges and day care facilities, saying the state has an interest in protecting the health of Connecticut’s students.
In a 33-page decision, U.S. District Court Judge Janet Bond Arterton said the plaintiffs failed to prove state’s decision to end the exemption was “motivated by any religious animus,” noting concerns raised publicly by state legislators about the growing number of religious exemptions being sought by families and declining vaccination rates.

“Connecticut has chosen to protect the safety of schoolchildren by requiring all students who may be safely vaccinated to be vaccinated, exempting those in grades kindergarten through twelve with existing religious exemptions, and this same interest is not advanced by an overarching religious exemption which jeopardizes the community immunity,” Arterton wrote. The decision was released late Tuesday.

The lawsuit was filed by the groups We The Patriots USA, Inc., the CT Freedom Alliance, LLC, and three parents of Connecticut schoolchildren. Brian Festa, founder of CT Freedom Alliance, said in an online statement that the plaintiffs expected the judge’s decision.

“We have said from the very start that we believe strongly that this case will be won at the United States Supreme Court, not in the District Court, or at the Second Circuit,” wrote Festa, an attorney. He said the plaintiffs plan to swiftly appeal the decision in hopes of the case ultimately reaching the nation’s highest court.

“Quite frankly, that’s where we want the case to land, so that when we emerge victorious (as we fully expect we will), a new day will dawn in this country, when no state anywhere will ever be able to deny a child an education on the basis of the child’s sincerely held religious beliefs,” he wrote, urging supporters to “never lose faith.”

Attorney General William Tong, a Democrat, praised Arterton’s ruling, which dismissed all five of the plaintiffs’ claims on various grounds.

“Vaccines save lives. The legislature’s action was fully lawful and necessary to protect public health,” he said in a written statement released Wednesday. “The plaintiffs threw a laundry list of claims against the state, and every single count was dismissed.”

The list of required vaccinations required by the state does not include the COVID-19 vaccines.

Man going to prison for stalking a justice of the peace
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A Tucson landlord has been sentenced to 1 1/2 years in prison for stalking a Pima County justice of the peace last year.
Prosecutors said 39-year-old Fei Qin was credited with 20 days already served, but was ordered to pay more than $1,700 in restitution.

A jury found Qin guilty of a felony charge of stalking last month and he was sentenced Wednesday.

Prosecutors said Qin was accused of dumping garbage on the lawn of Adam Watters in February and slashing the tires of the family’s truck twice. 

Qin reportedly was upset because Watters refused to evict some tenants of the landlord who had fallen behind on rent.

A Santa Cruz County judge presided over Qin’s trial and sentencing and a prosecutor was brought in from Cochise County.
$5M bond set for woman whose dead 6-year-old was dumped
WAUKEGAN, Ill. (AP) — Bond was set at $5 million Wednesday for an Illinois woman whose 6-year-old son died after being placed in a cold shower as punishment for misbehavior, a prosecutor said.
Jannie Perry, 38, of North Chicago, was charged  Saturday with first-degree murder in the death of Damari Perry. She appeared in bond court Wednesday after being released from a hospital where she was treated for an undisclosed illness.

A $5 million arrest warrant was issued for Perry while she was hospitalized, and Assistant Lake County State’s Attorney Lindsay Hicks asked that Perry’s bail remain at that amount. Lake County Judge Raymond Collins granted that request, Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart said in a news release.

“We believe that the court made the right decision with respect to this defendant’s bond and custody status,” Rinehart said after the bond hearing.

When asked by the judge if she planned to hire a private attorney, Perry replied “eventually,” but that for now she needed representation by the Lake County Public Defender’s Office.

Perry also faces charges of concealing a homicidal death and obstructing justice.

One of her sons, Jeremiah Perry, 20, was charged with aggravated battery causing great harm to a child under 12, concealing a homicidal death, and obstructing justice. His bond was set at $3 million Sunday, Rinehart said.
The Lake County, Indiana, Coroner’s Office said Tuesday in a pending cause of death that Damari died of hypothermia.
New York
Man found guilty in robbery-related killing
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A Manhattan man has been convicted of first-degree murder and five other counts in the shooting death of a man during an attempted robbery.
A Riley County jury on Wednes­day found Richard Goens, 31, guilty of killing Tanner Zamecnik , 24, on Nov. 1, 2019, in Manhattan.

Prosecutors said Goens and three others set up a drug deal with Zamecnik with the intention of robbing him of drugs and cash. They said Goens shot the victim during the robbery. 

Goens’ defense team contended during the trial the suspects never intended to rob Zamecnik and Goens’ gun went off accidentally when he was thrown from the car as Zamecnik tried to drive away, The Manhattan Mercury reported. 

Two other men have pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the case and the third is awaiting trial on first-degree murder and other charges. 

Goens will be sentenced March 3. 
Ex-bookkeeper gets prison, ordered to pay $3M in restitution
LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — A Louisiana woman who pleaded guilty to illegally taking more than $3 million from the company she worked for has been sentenced to five years in prison.
Chief U.S. District Judge S. Maurice Hicks Jr. also sentenced Karen Duhon, 67, of Berwick, to three years of supervised release and ordered her to pay $3.3 million in restitution, federal authorities announced Wednesday.

Duhon pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud on Aug. 12. She worked as a bookkeeper at Capital Management Consultants, Inc., a family-owned company in Morgan City, from 1973 until August 2014. Beginning in January 1999, Duhon began writing checks to herself in amounts over her allowed salary, which the company’s treasurer would then sign, U.S. Attorney Brandon B. Brown said in a news release.

Duhon deposited the checks in various accounts owned by her and her husband. She would then make false accounting entries in the company’s records to disguise the payments. 

She’s also accused of using a brokerage account connected with one of the business’ owners to pay $127,920 in expenses on her personal American Express cards, Brown’s office said. 

Inmate gets more than 12 years for assaulting prison guard
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A federal inmate who pleaded guilty to assaulting a prison guard has been sentenced to more than 12 years in prison, federal authorities said.
U.S. District Judge Liles C. Burke on Tuesday sentenced Lemond Burns, 22, of Alpine, to 150 months in prison on the charge.

“Corrections officers perform a difficult and sometimes dangerous job to ensure that inmates are housed safely,” U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona said in a news release. “My office will not hesitate to prosecute any inmates who violate the law by attacking and injuring corrections officers.” 

Burns was in custody at the Morgan County jail last April awaiting sentencing on a previous conviction when he assaulted a female corrections officer. He punched the woman twice and knocked her to the ground. The guard sustained injuries to her face and teeth and was transported to a hospital for treatment. 

“Corrections officers work tirelessly in a profession that many would never attempt,” said Morgan County Sheriff Ron Puckett. “The senseless, brazen assault on (the officer) was unacceptable and today’s sentence reinforces that sentiment.”