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Legal news from the Midwest region.

Across the Region: Jan. 6


US regulators to depose Wasendorf in prison

An Iowa businessman incarcerated for stealing millions from his brokerage’s customers will get a visit from one regulatory agency that failed to uncover his scheme for years.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jon Scoles granted a request Dec. 30 by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to depose Russell Wasendorf Sr. at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind.

CFTC lawyers will question the founder of Peregrine Financial Group for their lawsuit contending that U.S. Bank mishandled Peregrine customers’ funds while Wasendorf carried out his $215 million fraud over 20 years.

CFTC claims that U.S. Bank unlawfully accepted customer funds as security on loans it made to Wasendorf, and knowingly allowed him to transfer customers’ funds to pay for business dealings and personal expenses.

U.S. Bank denies wrongdoing.

Wasendorf is serving a 50-year term.

Daylong Waukee standoff ends with man’s death

Police say a man has been found dead in his home in Waukee after a standoff that stretched on through the day.

A police tactical team entered the home in the afternoon of Dec. 30 and found a man dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Officials confirmed the man’s death but didn’t release his name until his relatives could be notified.

The incident in the Des Moines suburb began about 12:30 a.m. the same day when a woman called police to say her husband was armed and intoxicated.

Officers were able to help the woman leave but the man refused to come out. Negotiations began about 3:30 a.m. and continued through the day.

Lt. Troy Mapes says neighbors were alerted and a few opted to leave the area.

Board files charges against former UI professor

A former University of Iowa radiology professor who was fired for engaging in harassing behavior toward colleagues faces charges after failing to complete a state-ordered mental and physical evaluation.

The Iowa Board of Medicine says in a statement of charges filed Dec. 20 that 52-year-old Malik Juweid failed to complete the exam within 90 days of Aug. 13. The board first issued the order in November 2011, but Juweid filed an objection.

UI officials accused Juweid of harassing his former co-workers and creating a hostile work environment. He was fired in August 2011 and tried to reverse a decision by the Iowa Board of Regents to uphold his firing. Juweid has a hearing before the board scheduled in March 2014.


Most Nebraska schools to offer same-sex benefits

Nearly all Nebraska school districts and some cities and counties will soon begin offering insurance benefits to legally married same-sex couples.

The changes are being made in response to last June’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that negated part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Blue Cross Blue Shield decided to change its policy effective Jan. 1 because of the high court’s ruling. That company insures all but three of the state’s 249 school districts.

It wasn’t immediately clear how many people would be affected by the change because Nebraska doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage.

The Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for gays and lesbians, says Nebraska lags behind other states in offering benefits to same-sex couples.

That group says 67 percent of Fortune 500 companies offer same-sex partner benefits.

Man accused of 4 Omaha slayings has jail trouble

The Indiana man accused of killing four people with ties to an Omaha medical school has been charged with assaulting jail guards as he awaits his Nebraska trial.

A Douglas County Sheriff’s Office report says 40-year-old Anthony Garcia kicked one guard and punched another in an incident Dec. 28. Garcia had been told to return to his cell. He objected, saying he needed more time to place a phone call to his attorneys.

Garcia, of Terre Haute, Ind., has pleaded not guilty to murder charges in the 2008 slayings of the 11-year-old son of Creighton University pathologist William Hunter and the family’s housekeeper, as well as the May deaths of Creighton pathologist Roger Brumback and his wife.

Brumback and Hunter had fired Garcia.

Omaha police: Naked man attacked 2 officers

Omaha authorities say a man found naked on a street has been accused of attacking two officers.

The Omaha Police Department says 20-year-old Travis Kitkowski was arrested shortly after midnight Dec. 29. Officers had been responding to a radio call about a naked man chasing someone.

Officers spotted a naked Kitkowski and tried to engage him in conversation, but he did not respond. He is accused of then suddenly attacking officers. One officer suffered a concussion and another officer sustained a hand injury after Kitkowski allegedly bit him.

Numerous officers were needed to restrain Kitkowski. He and the injured officers were taken to a local hospital.

Police say Kitkowski will be charged once he is released from the hospital.


Restraining order against councilman dismissed

A judicial referee has dismissed a disorderly conduct restraining order filed by the girlfriend of a white separatist against a Leith city councilman.

Deborah Henderson sought a restraining order against Councilman Lee Cook. She alleged that Cook called her crude names and harassed her by putting up a surveillance system.

Judicial Referee Wayne Goter dismissed a temporary restraining order Dec. 30 and declined to put a permanent order in place.

Goter says he doesn’t know what transpired and doesn’t have enough evidence to say who said what.

Henderson moved to Leith in October with her boyfriend, Kynan Dutton, and their children to join Craig Cobb in an attempt to turn Leith into an all-white enclave.

Dutton and Cobb are in jail on terrorizing charges.


SD lawmakers will deal with money, moral issues

The death penalty, health care for poor people and education reform will be among the top issues tackled by the South Dakota legislative session that opens Jan. 14, legislative leaders said.

Many of those issues are intertwined in the state budget, which means final decisions will not be made until lawmakers pass the next state budget as the session winds down in March.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard set the stage for the legislative session when he unveiled his proposed state budget in early December. He said more than $100 million available on a one-time basis, including some reserves and a windfall of unclaimed bank accounts and other property receipts, can be used to pay off debts and other obligations early. That would free up ongoing revenue to give 3 percent increases in state aid to school districts, reimbursements to heath care providers in the Medicaid program, and pay raises for state employees.

House Republican Leader David Lust of Rapid City said lawmakers will discuss whether 3 percent increases for those priorities are feasible and advisable.

House Democratic Leader Bernie Hunhoff of Yankton said many lawmakers will seek to boost state aid to school districts by more than the governor recommended. He supports a legislative study committee’s proposal to boost school aid by 3.8 percent to restore funding per student to where it was before budget cuts in 2011.


Racine County courts say interpreter demand is up

Court officials in Racine County say they’re seeing more demand for interpreters who speak Spanish, as well as those who speak certain European and Asian languages.

Fourteen foreign languages were used in Racine County courts in the first half of this year, up from 11 two years ago.

The biggest demand is for interpreters who speak Spanish, but the court also needs experts in Portuguese, Polish, Korean and Urdu, a language spoken in Pakistan, Bangladesh and parts of India.

“Whether you’re innocent or guilty, you have the right to understand the court process, Judge Charles Constantine said.

He said language can be a barrier for all sorts of court interactions, not only those in criminal courts. People in divorce court or small-claims court also need to understand the proceedings and have the ability to communicate, he said.

It’s not clear whether the increase in demand can be traced to an increase in the number of non-English speakers, he said. For example, some lawyers might have started requesting interpreter services more often for clients who understand a little English but still get lost when the conversation turns to complex legal matters.

Wis. Senate unlikely to vote on abortion bills

The leader of the Wisconsin Senate said votes are unlikely next year on two anti-abortion bills that were originally scheduled to be taken up in November but hastily pulled after a Democratic senator promised “all out hell” if they were debated. Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said he didn’t know if there was enough support among Republicans to bring the bills back.

One of the pending bills would prohibit public workers’ health insurance plans from covering abortions and exempt religious organizations from providing insurance coverage for contraceptives. The other would ban abortions based on whether the fetus is male or female, also known as sex selection. Democrats say the measure is unnecessary because few, if any, abortions are done for that reason.

The Assembly passed both bills in June, but they’ve run into difficulty in the Senate, where Republicans have an 18-15 majority. They must pass the Senate and be signed by Gov. Scott Walker before becoming law.

Wis. man not guilty in Social Security fraud case

One of three Wisconsin residents accused of cashing the Social Security checks of a relative who’s presumed dead has been found not guilty by reason of mental defect.

Charles Jost of Amherst will undergo a state evaluation. A Portage County judge ruled Monday that the 67-year-old wasn’t able to understand to a reasonable degree that his actions violated the law.

Jost and two others are accused of cashing his mother’s Social Security checks. Marie Jost would be over 100 years old if she were still alive, but authorities now suspect she died about 30 years ago.

A medical expert testified that Jost probably didn’t know he was breaking the law.

Jost’s defense attorney, Michael D. Hughes, declined to comment.

Bill would ban high-potency alcohol like Everclear

Jeff Wielichowski drowned in his family’s pool after drinking a combination of 190-proof grain alcohol Everclear, Gatorade and Red Bull.

Now the 22-year-old’s mother is working with Wisconsin lawmakers on a bill that would ban the sale of such high-potency liquor. Luanne Wielichowski says she hopes it passes in 2014 so no one else dies like her son did.

Changes to liquor laws are a tough sell in alcohol-friendly Wisconsin, a state with the third lowest beer tax nationwide and a strong booze lobby. While support is building for the ban, at least one powerful group plans to try to stop it.

Wisconsin Grocers Association president Brandon Scholz says the group will likely oppose the bill out of concerns it would open the door to other products being banned.

Wis. judge sets $1M bail in double homicide

A judge has set bail at $1 million for a man accused of killing his elderly parents in northwestern Wisconsin.

Prosecutors have charged 44-year-old Jim Crain Jr. of Iron River will killing his father and mother, 79-year-old Jim Crain and 76-year-old Eunice Crain, in the couple’s Iron River apartment on Dec. 7.

Bayfield County Circuit Judge John P. Anderson set Crain’s bail at $1 million cash during a hearing Dec. 30.

Crain is due back in court for an initial appearance on Jan. 14. His attorney, listed in online court records as Aaron Marcoux, didn’t immediately return an email message.

Across the Region is compiled from Associated Press wire, staff reports and news releases.

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