In a 4-3 decision, the State Supreme Court dismissed the sexual assault convictions of former Elkins teacher David Paschal, 38, and said a state law that criminalizes sexual contact between teachers and students who are over 18 years old is unconstitutional. "Regardless of how we feel about Paschal’s conduct, which could correctly be referred to as reprehensible, we cannot abandon our duty to uphold the rule of law when a case presents distasteful facts," Chief Justice Jim Hannah wrote in the majority opinion.
Paschal was convicted of four counts of second-degree sexual assault and one count of bribing a witness at a jury trial last year. He was sentenced serve 30 years in prison. One of Paschal's former students testified at that trial that she engaged in a months-long consensual sexual relationship with Paschal when she was 18 and still a student at Elkins.
Read the opinion here.
Associate Justice Robert L. Brown Justice Paul E. Danielson, Associate Justice Courtney Hudson Goodson and Associate Justice Donald L. Corbin made up the majority. Associate Justice Karen Baker, Associate Justice Jim Gunter and Justice Paul E. Danielson Associate Justice Robert L. Brown dissented.
Writing for the majority about the state's case, Hannah argued:
The State misapprehends the issue when it asserts that there is no fundamental right for a public high school teacher to have sex with an eighteen-year-old high school student enrolled in that school. The issue is whether the statute, as applied in this case, infringes on Paschal’s fundamental right to engage in private, consensual, noncommercial acts of sexual intimacy with an adult. We hold that it does.
Little Rock attorney Keith Hall sends along late word that Sherwood judge Milas Hale ruled on Tuesday that criminal charges will not be reinstated against Hall's client Chris Erwin, the man seen getting pummeled on a sidewalk in front of Ferneau restaurant by Little Rock police Lieutenant David Hudson, in the widely-circulated video shot just before Halloween last year.
Erwin, who was beaten by Hudson after Hudson told him to leave a private party at the bar, was charged with resisting arrest, criminal trespass, and disorderly conduct. Judge Hale had dismissed the criminal counts against Erwin in February, but prosecutors asked him to reconsider.
The state Supreme Court ruled today that the use-of-force records prepared by the officer involved in altercation with a man outside Ferneau Restaurant records are a matter of public record, affirming the Pulaski Circuit Court ruling in the case. (The Times reported on the altercation here and here and on the circuit court hearing here.)
Judge Wendell Griffen had previously ordered the Little Rock Police Department to turn over "use of force" documents concerning Lt. David Hudson to attorneys for Chris Erwin. While working as a private security guard at Ferneau, Hudson was filmed on video repeatedly hitting Erwin, a customer, in the face.
The city earlier had contended it had provided Erwin's lawyer all it was required to provide under the Freedom of Information Act and that the use-of-force records were exempt from the state Freedom of Information Act because they were part of an internal affairs inquiry.
Read the Supreme court ruling here.
The Supreme Court ruled that the use-of-force records were prepared not as a result of an investigation into the officer's job performance, but as routine reports all officers are required to make and which may or may not be considered in subsequent job evaluations.
The ruling unseals the use-of-force reports
, which I'll post after I fetch them from the police. Two incidents at Ferneau, including the one involving Erwin and an earlier incident, are here.
The sons of Eugene Ellison, 67, who was shot to death by a police officer last December in his Big Country Chateau apartment on Col. Glenn after a struggle in his home, have filed a federal lawsuit in Little Rock alleging their father's civil rights were violated. Officer Donna Lesher, Officer Tabitha McCrillis, LRPD Chief Stuart Thomas, the City of Little Rock and Big Country Chateau Apartments are named as defendants in a suit seeking damages for Ellison's estate.
Here's the full complaint. It offers a different scenario of events than past official accounts. It says that Officer Lesher, who fired the shot, was not in contact with Ellison and thus not in danger at the time she she fired from outside his apartment. Police have said she fired because he wouldn't stop swinging his cane at officers.
More details on the jump...
Today, the Arkansas Supreme Court said that drug court proceedings cannot be broadcast on TV. The court reviewed the issue following a Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee ruling last year that then Circuit Judge Mary Ann Gunn of Fayetteville requested regarding national broadcast of her drug court. A NWA station had broadcast Gunn's proceedings six years prior.
The three-member panel strongly disapproved, and the Supreme Court responded by organizing a committee of Arkansas media and legal minds — Steve Barnes, Circuit Judge Gary Arnold of Benton, Little Rock City Attorney Tom Carpenter, et al — to consider Administrative Rule 6, which allows broadcasting under certain circumstances.
Gunn left the bench in June, but as Max has reported, continues to move forward with a syndicated TV show, "Last Shot with Judge Gunn." The latest from Fayetteville sources indicates that filming is focusing on the success of past drug court participants.
In today's order, the ad hoc committee weighed the pros of broadcasting (openness, the defendant's ability to object to being broadcast, the potential educational effect, etc.) versus the cons (the potential misuse, the difficulties of reviewing and overseeing the proceedings, etc.), and landed on the con side. And the Supreme Court agreed. You can read the full opinion here.
Sources had suggested that Gunn wanted to pair her success stories with footage from past, locally aired programs. Though today's opinion doesn't specifically mention rebroadcast, that would seem to be a risky move considering the court has said the proceedings should be closed.
Funeral service is 10:30 a.m. Saturday at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Conway. An obituary is on the jump. As I was talking this morning about him with Ernie Dumas, Ernie commented of his service: "He was motivated by justice as well as the law."
From Arkansas Business comes news that Randeep Mann has been ordered to pay $1 million in restitution to Dr. Trent Pierce. In August of 2010, a federal jury convicted Mann of attacking Pierce using a homemade bomb.
The Pulaski County Bar Association has sent out a notice that Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Adkisson died this morning. Funeral will be at 10:30 a.m. Friday, May 20.
Adkisson was elected chief justice in 1980 and served until 1984. Prior to that he was a Pulaski County Circuit Judge and a prosecutor.
A funny note we turned up: Politics Daily reminded us in an article about Arkansas, the Hogs and politics that Adkisson printed an endorsement of 27 former Razorback lettermen in his campaign advertising in 1980.
I expect more pertinent information from those who knew the judge in comments here.
David Koon passed this along to me and I thought it was worth posting here. Coal Cares, a new website aimed at poking fun at Missouri-based coal company Peabody Energy, has drawn that attention of some mainstream news outlets. The site spoofs the coal company, offering free inhalers to families living within 200 miles of a coal plant. The site also offers printable games for kids including "Asthmaze," where tykes are instructed to help a choking child find his inhaler.
On a serious note, for those wondering about the status of the Turk plant in Hempstead County, I asked the Sierra Club's Glen Hooks about the latest on the plant. The SC also has a good rundown of the history of legal battles over Turk on their website. From Hooks:
In this long and tortured path of litigation, we were in US district court a few months ago and won. That is on appeal to the 8th circuit. Judge Wilson, during a U.S. District Court case — posed or “certified” three questions to the Arkansas Supreme Court, basically asking whether or not SWEPCO could go through the whole PSC process and get their license yanked and then revert to a merchant plant status. Those have been fully briefed now. There will be oral arguments on those questions May 19. It’s really important what happens there because we’ve made the argument, and the hunting club has made it too, that SWEPCO can’t go through the whole PSC process and then go to a merchant plant. So the SC will decide that question. If they decide that SWEPCO cannot do that, I don’t see how they’ll be able to go on any more.
Gov. Mike Beebe today appointed Deborah Knox of Mountain Home to serve as a special associate justice on the Supreme Court case in which a hunting club and others are challenging the SWEPCO power plant under construction in Hempstead County. Justice Courtney Henry disqualified from the case.
David Goins, of Fox 16 fame, tweets that the capital murder trial for Abdulhakim Muhammad, charged in the 2009 shooting death of a soldier outside of a military recruitment center, has been delayed until July 18.
Abdulhakim Muhammad, a defendant in a capital murder case, won an Arkansas Supreme Court decision last year saying that the state would have to pay for a lawyer that had been hired for him. Subsequent indigent defendants will find it harder to do what Muhammad did, if the legislature approves HB 1004 by Rep. John Edwards of Little Rock.
Muhammad is charged in the June 2009 shooting of William Long, a soldier, at a military recruiting station in Little Rock. Rather than being represented by a state-paid public defender, he wanted the Arkansas Public Defender Commission to pay for his retained lawyer. He won before the Supreme Court. The Commission says it will need more money if it has to pay for retained attorneys.
HB 1004 would prohibit state payment of privately retained attorneys for indigents unless the attorneys meet certain requirements to be established by the Public Defender Commission. Edwards said he'd worked closely with the Commission on the bill, which is now in the House Judiciary Committee. Muhammad is still awaiting trial.
Amy Russell is creeping closer to being nominated for a federal judgeship though many Arkansas Democrats are unhappy about it. Russell is being put forward by Sen. Mark Pryor, a nominal Democrat. She is the wife of Bob Russell, Pryor's former chief of staff.
Now a law clerk to District Judge Jim Moody, she contributed money to George W. Bush when he was the Republican presidential nominee.
The White House is now vetting Russell for possible nomination, and reportedly she'll meet with President Obama himself next week.
If there are Arkansas Democrats who have special influence with Obama, this would be a good time to use it.
Richard Bain, 49, of Rogers, was sentenced today to 720 months in prison and fined $25,000 in the U.S. District Court for Western Arkansas after Bain pleaded guilty to producing child pornography. He was arrested Sept. 21, 2009, after victims — one of them a boy who'd been fostered by Bain — told police he'd made nude photographs of them and abused them on a camping trip.
Press release from the Department of Justice on the jump.
Bain's conviction brings to mind the 2007 case of Brian John Bergthold of Bella Vista, who made and sold pornographic videos of four foster boys in his care. He'd told the state Department of Human Services that he wanted to give a boy a good Christian home. The fact that he had video cameras all over the house, including in his bathroom, apparently didn't strike caseworkers as odd. Bergtholdt was sentenced in 2007 to 70 years in prison.
Representatives of Homeland Security, the U.S. Attorney's office, the DEA and numerous other agencies were on hand today in Conway to announce indictments and arrests of "numerous individuals" in two big drug trafficking cases out of Conway and Jonesboro, known as Operation Pied Piper and Operation Ice Princess respectively.
In the 27-count "Pied Piper" indictment in the Conway case, law enforcement said that suspect Marcelino Ahumada-Vargas ran a high volume meth operation out of Conway involving several others who had entered the country illegally. In a series of arrests, law enforcement seized over four pounds of meth, $16,000 in cash, powder cocaine, vehicles and a number of weapons, including assault rifles and a sawed-off shotgun.
The "Ice Princess" indictments are related to a Jonesboro-based smuggling operation that officials say distributed cocaine and meth through cells in Independence, White, Faulkner, Craighead and Van Buren Counties, moving
"multiple pounds of methamphetamine ice, as well as multi-kilogram quantities of powder cocaine."
The full release with details of the investigations and indictments from U.S. Attorney Jane Duke is on the jump...
Google is your friend people
Check out the picture of Joe Arpaio in this article:
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