National Roundup

Massachusetts

Court upholds harass claim against sheriff

DARTMOUTH, Mass. (AP) § The state's Appeals Court has upheld a lower court's decision that the Bristol County sheriff's office was liable in a sexual harassment case involving a female former employee.

Sheriff Thomas Hodgson tells The Standard Times the department will not appeal the judgment, leveled against the department and one of its officers, who has since retired.

Lori Gonsalves had alleged that not only had she been sexually harassed by a male coworker, but that senior officers failed to intervene when she complained.

Gonsalves, who resigned before charges were filed, was awarded $61,700 in back pay and $100,000 in punitive damages.

The court rejected department arguments that the sheriff's office wasn't liable because it had no knowledge of the complaints.

New York

NYS: Spraypark not at fault for 2005 illnesses

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) § New York officials say an upstate spraypark wasn't at fault for the illnesses suffered by several thousand visitors in 2005.

The Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester reports Tuesday that attorneys for the state have filed court documents asserting that the Seneca Lake State Park in Geneva followed industry standards for chlorine filtration at the park's sprayground.

Lawyers for 2,500 park visitors claiming they were sickened by a parasite in spraypark's recycled water are seeking unspecified damages in a class action lawsuit filed against the state.

The state health department said nearly 3,300 cases of cryptosporidiosis were reported after the bacterial outbreak in August 2005. The park was closed and reopened the following August.

Crypto lives for long periods of time in water and can be passed on through human or animal feces.

Lancaster, who is also known as Tina Kondo-Broski, pleaded guilty in May.

She is the former co-director and president of the Idaho Children's Academy and Therapy Center. Court records show she illegally billed Medicaid between January 2005 and April 2006 for a variety of services the agency never provided.

U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson says the case underscores the priority her office is giving to fraud cases in Idaho.

California

Oil co. may seek environmental law exemption

RICHMOND, Calif. (AP) § Oil giant Chevron may be seeking California environmental law exemptions for its Richmond refinery rebuilding project.

The San Jose Mercury News is reporting Wednesday that Chevron lobbyists in Sacramento have been quietly trying to craft a deal to give the petroleum company an exemption from rules on environmental studies of major projects.

Chevron has been trying to rebuild and upgrade its Contra Costa County refinery for five years. But environmentalist sued, saying Chevron was concealing plans to process highly polluting heavier grades of crude oil.

A judge agreed last year and construction work was halted. An appeals court also ruled against Chevron in April, saying the company's environmental impact report failed to clearly explain refinery emissions.

Mississippi

Appeals court denies appeal by condemned man

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) § A federal appeals court panel has denied condemned inmate Robert Simon Jr.'s claim that he could have avoided a death sentence had his sentencing jury been told of his abusive childhood.

A federal judge in Mississippi had dismissed Simon's ineffective counsel claims in 2008. A panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision on Tuesday.

Simon was sentenced to death for the killings of Carl Parker, his wife, Bobbie Jo, and their son Gregory, 12, on Feb. 2, 1990. The killings occurred a few hours after the family had returned to their rural Quitman County home from church services.

He also was sentenced to life in prison for the killing of Charlotte Parker, 9, the slain couple's daughter.

The Mississippi Supreme Court upheld Simon's conviction and in 2004 denied Simon's arguments that he had found evidence to justify a new trial.

Carl Parker's truck was found in Clarksdale. After an investigation, Simon and Anthony Carr were arrested in Clarksdale. Carr was convicted on four counts of capital murder and sentenced to die.

U.S. District Judge W. Allen Pepper denied Simon's request for a certificate of appealability in 2008. A certificate of appealability is similar to a post-conviction petition, in which an inmate argues he has found new evidence § or a possible constitutional issue § that could persuade a court to order a new trial.

Simon argued that had his attorney looked into his background, he would have found a history of abuse at the hands of Simon's father. Simon claimed his counsel's failure to uncover this history of abuse resulted in a weak challenge to the prosecution's case for a death sentence.

The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled Simon's attorney couldn't investigate something that Simon hadn't told him about. The Mississippi court also held that even if the sentencing jury had been told about the abuse it would still have likely returned a death penalty.

The 5th Circuit panel on Tuesday said it agreed with the ruling by the Mississippi court.

The panel said prosecutors' case in support of the death penalty was very strong, and the evidence of Simon's childhood abuse would not have swayed a jury.

Arkansas

Death penalty sought for man in death of tot

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) § Pulaski County prosecutors say they'll seek the death penalty for a man charged in the burning death of a nearly 2-year-old girl and the shooting death of the girl's father.

Twenty-year-old Robert Gatrell is charged with capital murder in the December deaths of Hannah Dowdie-Palmer and Michael Palmer. Gatrell's 17-year-old cousin § Daniel Gatrell § is also charged with capital murder § but is too young to be eligible for the death penalty.

Both have been found competent to stand trial by state doctors. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports attorneys for both say they're considering challenging the competency ruling and the attorney for Daniel Gatrell says he'll ask that his case be moved to juvenile court.

Authorities say the girl was burned alive in a pickup truck with her father's dead body in the back.

Published: Thu, Sep 9, 2010