Court Roundup

Tennessee

14 plaintiffs join suit seeking to stop mosque

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (AP) -- A lawsuit that seeks to stop construction of a mosque near Murfreesboro has added 14 new plaintiffs.

The complaint claims the public was not properly notified about the meeting where the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro's planned new building was approved last May.

It also raises constitutional claims, which attorneys for Rutherford County have asked the judge to dismiss.

County attorney Josh McCreary told The Daily News Journal late Wednesday afternoon he had not had a chance to review the amended complaint, which was submitted earlier that day.

Plaintiffs' attorney Joe Brandon Jr. has repeatedly used the suit to push a conspiracy theory that Muslims are trying to take over America. But six days of testimony during last year's hearings on the issue failed to provide any proof.

Arkansas

Court strikes down law barring gay adoptions

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- The Arkansas Supreme Court has upheld a decision to strike down a state law barring gay couples and other unmarried people living together from serving as adoptive or foster parents.

The state's high court wrote in an opinion Thursday that the law burdens the privacy of unmarried couples who live together.

A state judge struck down the law last April because he said it forced unmarried couples to choose between their relationships and becoming adoptive parents.

The attorney general later asked the Supreme Court to reverse that decision, arguing that fostering or adopting a child is not a constitutionally protected right.

Voters approved the measure in 2008 after the state Supreme Court, in 2006, overturned a Human Services Department policy preventing gay men and lesbians from serving as foster parents.

North Carolina

Man sentenced to life in cheerleader death

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- A Charlotte man has been sentenced to life in prison on the shooting death of his ex-girlfriend, a high school cheerleader and track star.

A judge sentenced Gary Daniels on Wednesday. Jurors deliberated for 17 hours over five days before finding the 21-year-old guilty of first-degree murder.

Authorities say Daniels shot 18-year-old Charney Watt with a shotgun in March 2009. Prosecutors say the teen was trying to end her relationship with Daniels when she was killed and had packed her belongings.

Daniels did not testify during the trial and apologized to Watt's family in court on Wednesday. His attorney told jurors the shooting was an accident.

Utah

Charges dropped in slaying of homeless man

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Criminal charges have been dropped against a 52-year-old homeless man in the death of another homeless man during a scuffle in downtown Salt Lake City.

Third District Court Judge Judith Atherton dismissed the case Wednesday against Reuben Jones Cesspooch Jr. after prosecutors failed for the second time to produce key witnesses in the Oct. 2 death of 50-year-old Roy Jackson.

The judge said prosecutors can re-file the case if witnesses are found.

Cesspooch had faced a felony homicide by assault charge in the altercation outside the Salt Lake City-County Building.

Authorities say Jackson suffered fatal head injuries when he fell and struck his head on the pavement. Police initially called the scuffle a fistfight.

Defense lawyer Ron Yengich told the judge that Cesspooch pushed Jackson away in self-defense.

Washington, D.C.

D.C. man convicted in 2004 cab driver killing

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A Washington man has been found guilty in the fatal 2004 shooting of a cab driver, a year after his first conviction was overturned.

A jury on Tuesday found 28-year-old Eric Gardner guilty of charges including felony murder while armed in the shooting death of a cab driver outside a northwest motel. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Last summer, the D.C. Court of Appeals overturned Gardner's previous conviction after ruling that a judge erred in allowing DNA evidence because Gardner's attorneys weren't allowed to question the DNA expert about the findings.

In a new trial last week, prosecutors made their DNA expert available for cross-examination. The expert linked a bloodstain on Gardner's jacket to the cab driver.

New Hampshire

Man gets 6-1/2 years in federal child porn case

DOVER, N.H. (AP) -- A 34-year-old New Hampshire man is going to prison for 6 1/2 years for a conviction on federal child pornography charges.

Peter Santulli of New Durham pleaded guilty in federal court in December to a charge of possession of child pornography. He was sentenced Wednesday.

Santulli was arrested after an investigation by Bow police, the New Hampshire Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and the U.S. Secret Service.

Bow police started investigating after they were told of several MySpace chat sessions that raised concerns about child exploitation.

Foster's Daily Democrat says several computers were seized from Santull and several images were round depicting the sexual assault and torture of young children.

Texas

Company added to lawsuit against ministry

TEXARKANA, Ark. (AP) -- A Texas security company has been added as a defendant in a lawsuit against businesses operated by Tony Alamo Christian Ministries of Fouke and people associated with the ministry.

The lawsuit by seven women says they were beaten, denied food and psychologically abused. Six say they were forced as children to marry Alamo and the seventh says she was being groomed as his wife before escaping.

The Texarkana Gazette reports that Robert Gilmore and Associates Security of Wake Village is now accused of knowing about sexual abuse of underage girls and failing to report it.

Robert Gilmore denies the allegation and said if he had known of abuse it would have been reported.

Alamo is in prison after being convicted in 2009 of taking minors across state lines for sex.

New Jersey

2 chaperones charged with student sex on trip

HACKENSACK, N.J. (AP) -- Two Roman Catholic school workers from New Jersey have pleaded not guilty to charges of having sex with female students during a high school's class trip to Germany.

Thirty-one-year-old Artur Sopel was vice president of operations at Paramus Catholic High School and 27-year-old Michael Sumulikoski was a substitute teacher and assistant football coach until they were suspended last month.

Sumulikoski is accused of have sex with one female student on the February trip.

Sopel is accused of engaging in sexual activities with two female students in Germany and having sex with another female student in 2010.

Both are charged with sexual assault, child endangerment and hindering apprehension.

Sumuliksoki's lawyer told The Record newspaper he's investigating whether New Jersey has jurisdiction over acts that allegedly occurred in Germany.

Authorities have not released the girls' ages.

New York

Grandma gets 3 years in voodoo ritual case

NEW YORK (AP) -- A New York City grandmother of a 6-year-old girl severely burned in a voodoo ritual has been sentenced to three years in prison.

Sylvenie Thessier, of Queens, was sentenced Wednesday. She had pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a child.

Prosecutors say the child's mother, Marie Lauradin, sprayed the child with rum and set her on fire in June 2009 to rid her daughter of evil spirits. They say the 71-year-old grandmother later doused the girl with water and put her to bed without seeking medical help.

The judge told Thessier at the sentencing that the girl deserved to have her wounds treated.

The girl's mother is set to go on trial on charges of assault and endangering the welfare of a child.

Washington

Feds resist eff o r ts to unseal Spo k ane bomb records

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) -- A federal prosecutor is trying to block an effort to unseal court records related to the arrest of a man accused of planting a bomb at the Jan. 17 Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in Spokane, Wash.

In court papers filed Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Harrington said the danger of impairing an ongoing investigation, the risk of "prejudicial pretrial publicity" and the privacy interests of third parties are sufficient reasons to keep the documents sealed.

The Spokesman-Review says the issue is expected to be argued Thursday before U.S. District Judge Justin Quackenbush.

Kevin Harpham has been indicted on federal charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and possession of an unregistered explosive device. The bomb was disabled before it could explode.

North Dakota

Bismarck man faces separate trials in murder case

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) -- A Bismarck man will face separate trials on allegations he killed his wife and left his stepson alone with the boy's dead mother afterward.

Derek Bollinger, 28, is charged with murder and abuse or neglect of a child stemming from the March 12, 2010, death of his wife, Jessica Lea Bollinger. According to autopsy reports, she died from "multiple blunt force injuries to the head, neck and torso."

He also is accused of leaving Jessica Bollinger's son, 3 years old at the time, alone in the home after the murder.

Bollinger is set to stand trial May 23 for felony murder, and he'll face a separate trial on the felony child abuse or neglect charge on Aug. 9, the Bismarck Tribune reports.

Bollinger's attorney, Jodi Colling, sought separate trials, arguing it would be prejudicial to have the alleged offenses tried together.

Prosecutors argued one trial should be held because the charges are based on the same alleged actions, evidence and witnesses.

District Judge Donald Jorgensen ruled that although two trials may be a modest inconvenience to the state, that point is secondary to Bollinger's right against self-incrimination.

"Here in, should the Defendant exercise his right to waive his Fifth Amendment rights and testify concerning one charge, he must necessarily subject himself to examination concerning both charges that are pending," Jorgensen wrote in an order filed last week.

Jorgensen denied two other motions filed by Colling in which she sought to move the trial from Burleigh County and to suppress statements her client made to police the morning after Jessica Bollinger was killed because her client was allegedly high on drugs, fatigued and in shock.

Published: Fri, Apr 8, 2011