Prisoner Who Refused Water During Ramadan Can Sue on Religious Grounds

Categories: Courts, Religion

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In November 2003, prison guards at the Wende Correctional Facility in upstate New York ordered Darryl Holland to take a drug test. He had three hours to provide a urine sample. But the order was not so simple. Holland was Muslim and it was Ramadan and he had not drunk any water all day. The guards gave him water to drink for the sample. Holland refused to drink it and asked if the guards could take the sample after sundown, once his fast was over.

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Upstate Judge Indicted For Lying About Being Beaten With a Toilet Lid

Image courtesy of the Seneca County Sheriff's Department
Judge Barto's mugshot
Waterloo Village isn't the kind of place that makes the news much. It's a tiny place in Seneca County, population just a hair over 5,000, located about 270 miles north of New York City. It's so small and so quaint that one of its only judges, Justice Roger W. Barto, is also the sexton of the local cemetery. (A sexton oversees the graveyard's maintenance. Most towns got rid of theirs a couple hundred years ago.) And he's allegedly tripling up on roles this week, also becoming the town's mastermind criminal. A Seneca County grand jury indicted the judge on five felony and four misdemeanor charges for allegedly lying about being viciously beaten with a toilet lid last fall.

On a Saturday night in September of 2013, Barto was discovered in his courtroom, lying on the floor. He was taken to Rochester Memorial Hospital, where he told police he'd been locking up the courtroom when someone choked him from behind and hit him over the head with the heavy porcelain lid of a toilet tank.

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Bad Legislation in Albany Causes Cyberbullying Law to Violate First Amendment

Categories: Courts, Internet

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In 2010, Marquan Mackey-Meggs, a 15-year-old student at Cohoes High School in Albany County, started a Facebook group called "Cohoes Flame."

On the page, according to court documents, he posted "photographs of high-school classmates and other adolescents, with detailed descriptions of their alleged sexual practices and predilections, sexual partners and other types of personal information."

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Driver Who Killed Pedestrian in Police Chase Was Not "Depraved" Because He Tried to Avoid Collision, Court Rules

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In April 2009, 28-year-old Jose Maldonado hot-wired a mini-van and led police on a car chase through Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Maldonado ran a red light on Manhattan Avenue and hit 37-year-old Violetta Krzyzak, who lived nearby. She died.

Maldonado crashed into parked cars three blocks away and police arrested him. He was convicted of multiple charges. The most serious charge was "depraved indifference murder," which counts as murder in the second degree.

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Cannibal Cop Gilberto Valle's Conviction Overturned, After Judge Rules He's More of an Imaginary Cannibal [Updated]

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Gilberto Valle in 2012
Gilberto Valle, the NYPD officer who was arrested in October 2012 after plotting online to kidnap, torture and cook multiple women, including his wife, has had his conviction overturned by a federal judge. The New York Times was first to report that U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe had acquitted Valle on charges of kidnapping conspiracy, for which he was facing life in prison after being convicted in March of 2013.

Valle's lawyers, both public defenders from the Federal Defenders of New York, had been pushing the judge to grant him a new trial. In his ruling, according to the NYT, Gardephe wrote that the evidence in the case suggests that is "more likely than not" that Valle's online chats, in which he fantasized about spit-roasting various ladies, "are fantasy role-play."

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Bronx D.A.'s Office Opposes Richard Rosario's Actual Innocence Motion

Courtesy Rosario Family
Richard Rosario and his daughter Amanda.
In March, Richard Rosario filed a motion to vacate his murder conviction. The appeal was based on "actual innocence," which essentially means that Rosario sought to prove that new evidence showed that he was innocent beyond a reasonable doubt. Rosario, whose case we detailed in a feature story earlier this month, has claimed that he was in Florida on the day 17-year-old Jorge Collazo was shot and killed in the Bronx in 1996. His motion included testimonies from seven people and newly discovered police documents that supported his alibi.

A Bronx Supreme Court judge gave the Bronx District Attorney's Office 90 days to investigate Rosario's claims and determine whether it would defend the conviction. Those 90 days came to an end last week. And at a hearing on Thursday, the D.A.'s office declared that it opposed Rosario's motion and would fight his appeal.

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Why Courts Have Denied Richard Rosario's Appeal Despite Six Witnesses Claiming He's Innocent

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This week's feature story, about the daughter of a prisoner convicted of murder, details the legal case of Richard Rosario. Rosario has claimed that he was in Florida on the day Jorge Collazo was murdered in June 1996.

He gave his public defender, Joyce Hartsfield, a list of 13 people who could back up his alibi. Hartsfield requested funding to send an investigator to Florida to interview the potential witnesses. The judge, Hartsfield believed, denied the request. As a result, only two witnesses appeared at trial to testify that Rosario had been in Florida. The prosecutor match those alibi witnesses with two eye witnesses, and argued that the alibi witnesses were lying to protect Rosario. The jury agreed.

The judge, however, had actually approved Hartsfield's request. Hartsfield's unfortunate error formed the basis of Rosario's 2004 appeal, citing "inadequate defense representation."

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Former Hacker Hector "Sabu" Monsegur Gets Time Served After "Extraordinary" Cooperation With Feds

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Monsegur in 2012.
In June of 2011, over the course of a single day, Hector "Sabu" Monsegur went from being one of the most prolific hackers affiliated with Anonymous and offshoot group Lulzsec to helping the FBI bring them down. In Federal District Court in Manhattan yesterday, Monsegur, who was potentially facing two years in prison for his own hacking activities, was sentenced instead to time served, in light of what court documents and Judge Loretta A. Preska called his "extraordinary" cooperation with federal authorities.

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New York State To Wrongfully Convicted: It's Kinda Your Fault You Confessed

Categories: Courts, Justice

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In 1996, Daniel Gristwood was convicted of attempted murder. He had been accused of viciously beating his wife in the upstate New York town of Clay. Prosecutors had presented a signed confession and the jury needed just six hours of deliberation before declaring him guilty.

But it turned out that Gristwood did not attack his wife, as state troopers had coerced a false confession. In 2003, another man, Mastho Davis, confessed to the attack, and two years later Gristwood was exonerated. In 2011, a New York Court of Claims judge ordered the state to pay him $5.5 million, citing that the coerced confession had caused the nine-year wrongful imprisonment.

New York state, however, does not think it should have to pay. The attorney general's office appealed the ruling in the Appellate Division of Rochester Supreme Court. The trial began on Wednesday.

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OWS Activist Cecily McMillan Gets 90 Days and Probation for Assaulting Cop

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McMillan's attorney Martin Stolar addresses her supporters after the sentencing Monday.
Two weeks after a jury found her guilty of assaulting a police officer during a March 2012 Occupy Wall Street demonstration, Judge Ronald Zweibel has sentenced Cecily McMillan to 90 days in jail with time served and time off for good behavior, plus five years probation. She'll finish out her sentence at Rikers, where she's been housed since being convicted on Monday, May 5. She's also required to undergo unspecified mental health evaluation and treatment.

The sentence was essentially exactly what the prosecution requested today, minus 5-- hours of community service and a $5,000 fine they had also asked that McMillan be required to pay. Assistant District Attorney Erin Choi, the lead prosecutor on the case, is out on maternity leave. Taking her place, ADA Shanda Strain told the judge that not only had McMillan "intentionally assaulted" Officer Grantley Bovell, but "she falsely assaulted his character both inside and outside this courtroom."

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