Judge to sentence cancer patient in marijuana case
A judge is considering whether to send a dying Iowa man to prison for a drug conviction that he says stemmed from his use of marijuana to treat terminal cancer.
Benton Mackenzie, 48, faces a minimum sentence of three years in prison. Mackenzie suffers from a rare cancer of the blood vessels, and he says any prison term would amount to a death sentence.
Judge Henry Latham has the authority to suspend any prison sentence.
Latham is also expected to sentence Mackenzie’s wife, Loretta Mackenzie, 43, and their son Cody Mackenzie, 23, in a Davenport courtroom.
All three were charged following a June 2013 raid at the Long Grove, Iowa, home where they live with Mackenzie’s parents, Dorothy and Charles Mackenzie. Sheriff’s deputies found 71 marijuana plants, growing equipment, drug paraphernalia and a small amount of marijuana in Cody’s room.
Mackenzie, who uses a wheelchair, said he grew the plants to obtain cannabis oil that he used to treat his angiosarcoma, which causes skin lesions. He said the oil relieved his pain and helped to reduce the size of one lesion.
At trial, Latham repeatedly barred Mackenzie from testifying about his cancer, noting that a medical necessity defense is not allowed in Iowa.
Prosecutor: No charges against trooper in drowning
A Missouri Highway Patrol trooper will not face criminal charges for the death of an Iowa man who drowned while in the trooper’s custody on the Lake of the Ozarks, a special prosecutor said last week.
The prosecutor’s decision followed last week’s conclusion by the jury in a coroner’s inquest that the May 31 death of Brandon Ellingson, 20, was accidental. The finding meant the Morgan County jurors saw no negligence on the part of Trooper Anthony Piercy, who had arrested Ellingson on suspicion of boating while intoxicated.
Ellingson, a college student whose family lives in Clive, Iowa, was handcuffed when he went overboard from the trooper’s boat. A life vest he was wearing came off and he drowned.
Special prosecutor Amanda Grellner said she would follow the findings of the inquest, which was not binding on her. Grellner said the evidence did not support a charge of criminal recklessness against Piercy.
Rehearing sought on Nebraska smoking ban case
The Nebraska Supreme Court has been asked to rehear the case challenging the state’s smoking ban.
The Nebraska Attorney General’s Office filed a motion last week. On Aug. 29 the court declared the ban’s exceptions for cigar bars and tobacco shops were unconstitutional.
The state said the court erred in ruling that the exceptions were contrary to the original intent of the 2008 Nebraska Clean Indoor Air Act.
The original case against the smoking ban was filed by Big John’s Billiards and has already gone before the Supreme Court twice.
Sister gets protection order against lieutenant governor
A judge granted a protection order last week against Nebraska Lt. Gov. Lavon Heidemann after his sister accused him of grabbing her wrists and pushing her out of their mother’s home.
District Court Judge Daniel E. Bryan Jr. approved the order after Heidemann’s sister, Lois Bohling, said in a sworn statement that he acted in a threatening manner and assaulted her during a prolonged dispute over farmland and their elderly mother’s care.
Heidemann, an Elk Creek farmer, is looking to return to his position in state government as the running mate of Republican gubernatorial candidate Pete Ricketts. The two are running against Democratic hopeful Chuck Hassebrook and his running mate, Jane Raybould.
Heidemann said he disputes many of his sister’s statements, but he did not specify which ones.
Representatives for Ricketts and Gov. Dave Heineman said they both were still reviewing the situation.
Heidemann, 55, was appointed to the lieutenant governor’s position in February 2013. He previously served eight years as a state senator, and was elected to the University of Nebraska Board of Regents shortly before he was chosen for his current post.
Judge to decide next step in gay marriage suit
A federal judge is set to decide the future of a lawsuit filed by seven couples challenging the constitutional prohibition on same-sex marriage in North Dakota.
The suit opposes both North Dakota’s ban on gay marriage and its refusal to recognize marriages of same-sex couples who legally wed in other states.
The couples have asked U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson to rule in their favor without oral arguments. The state has filed a separate motion asking Erickson to throw out the suit.
Minneapolis attorney Josh Newville, filed the final brief regarding the two motions, says he’s optimistic the court will “declare marriage equality to be the law of the land.”
North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem says his office has a duty to defend the ban.
Stenehjem bans firm from doing business in state
North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem has barred an advertising company from doing business in North Dakota.
Stenehjem said consumer fraud investigators found that Vladimir Adolphe, who also goes by Vlad Adolph, and company representatives engaged in deceptive practices, including sending invoices for advertising services they did not order. The attorney general said the company that does business as GeneralYellowpages.com and Electronic Media Marketing Group Inc. then threatened legal action if a the bill was not paid.
Adolphe lists addresses in New York and New Jersey and may appeal, Stenehjem said in a statement.
Adolphe claimed to have recordings of individuals authorizing the services but could not provide investigators with those recordings or any proof that the businesses had ever ordered or received the services, Stenehjem said.
Attorney wants teen’s arson case moved
The attorney representing a Rapid City teenager charged with arson as an adult wants his client’s case moved to juvenile court.
Mark Marshall told a judge last week that his request is based on a psychological evaluation of his client, Lothario Kelly, 17.
The teenager is accused of starting an early morning fire outside a Rapid City home in May.
Kelly was charged in June with first-degree arson, intentional damage to property and conspiracy to commit intentional damage to property.
Under South Dakota law, a first-degree arson charge is automatically transferred to adult court if the juvenile is 16 years old or older.
Kelly is being housed at the Western South Dakota Juvenile Detention Center. His next court appearance is Oct. 24.
Supreme Court to meet in Sioux Falls next month
The South Dakota Supreme Court will hold its October session in Sioux Falls as part of ongoing effort to move some hearings out of Pierre.
Chief Justice David Gilbertson says the court will hear oral arguments on three cases each morning of Oct. 6-8 in the Jeschke Fine Arts Center at the University of Sioux Falls.
Booklets containing a short synopsis of each case, biographical information on the justices and a short summary of the appellate procedure will be available for people who attend the sessions, which are free and open to the public.
Judge orders state not to enforce PAC limits law
A federal judge just two months before Election Day has ordered that Wisconsin election officials not enforce the law limiting how much money candidates can collect from political action committees and those run by political parties and legislative campaigns.
U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa issued the ruling in a lawsuit brought by the CRG Network, a political action committee that works to elect conservative candidates. The group argued that the limits were a violation of its free-speech rights. Randa, in granting a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the law, said the group was likely to succeed on that claim.
Kevin Kennedy, director of the Government Accountability Board that oversees elections and campaign finance laws, said he didn’t expect the limits to be restored before the election. Kennedy said GAB was working with the state Department of Justice on limiting the scope of the injunction.
Randa stopped enforcement of the law as it applies to all candidates for state office, rejecting arguments from the state Government Accountability Board, which enforces election law, that CRG Network didn’t have standing to challenge it other than for candidates to the state Assembly.
But Randa went further than the lawsuit was seeking, blocking enforcement of the law that limits contributions from political party and legislative campaign committees as well.
Lawsuit over Walker-related probe to be argued
Prosecutors investigating Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s recall election campaign and conservative groups supporting him hope to convince a federal appeals court to eventually allow them to resume a probe of possible illegal coordination and fundraising.
The arguments before the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago come exactly two months before Walker — a Republican who is seen as a potential 2016 candidate for president — faces re-election against Democrat Mary Burke.
Walker made a national name for himself when he took on public sector unions in 2011 with his measure that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers. That fight led to the 2012 vote to recall Walker, which he won, making him the first governor in U.S. history to defeat a recall.
But he has been hounded by secret investigations, first of aides and associates before he became governor and now on his recall campaign and other conservative groups.
No one has been charged in the latest probe and prosecutors have said Walker is not a target. Walker and Republicans have dismissed the investigation as a partisan witch hunt, while Democrats say it has revealed serious questions about possible illegal activity by Walker and his backers.
Prosecutors, who opened the investigation in 2012, want the appeals court to reverse a preliminary decision halting the investigation in May and dismiss the federal civil rights lawsuit filed by the conservative Wisconsin Club for Growth and its director, Eric O’Keefe.
Across the Region is compiled from Associated Press wire, staff reports and news releases.
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