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Across the Region: June 30


Storm Lake man pleads guilty to gun violations

A Storm Lake man has pleaded guilty to illegally possessing firearms that he purchased using Facebook.

William Kurtz, 21, pleaded guilty last week in Buena Vista County District Court to being a felon in possession of a firearm and acquiring a pistol without a permit. Two counts of felon in possession of a firearm were dismissed as part of a plea agreement.

Kurtz was prohibited from owning guns because of a felony conviction.

Court documents show Kurtz used Facebook to buy the guns. Police arrested him Feb. 17 after an undercover officer exchanged a gun with Kurtz and took money as a down payment on a second gun.

Police found another gun and ammunition in Kurtz’s home.

Sentencing is set for Aug. 18.

Judge rejects challenge to arbitrator’s ‘hearing’

A judge says a company wasn’t deprived of a fair hearing in an Iowa construction dispute by an arbitrator accused of having hearing problems and falling asleep.

U.S. District Judge Linda Reade last week rejected a challenge by Dustex Corp. to an arbitration award in favor of the municipal utility in Cedar Falls.

Kennesaw, Georgia-based Dustex argued that it was prejudiced by the poor hearing and occasional napping of arbitrator Marshall Young.

Young chaired a three-member panel that heard a dispute over upgrades that the utility made to a power plant. The utility contracted with Miron Construction, and Miron hired Dustex to supply a piece of emission-reducing equipment called a baghouse. The utility claimed the baghouse didn’t work.

The panel ordered the companies and an insurer to pay $3.4 million.


Lincoln police, Slate settle rape report lawsuit

Lincoln police have settled a lawsuit filed on behalf of the web-based magazine Slate to secure access to reports on the investigation into an alleged rape in 2004, the American Civil Liberties Union said last week.

The lawsuit said Lincoln police violated the state’s public records law by refusing to turn over the case reports. Emily Bazelon, a Slate senior editor, requested the records after writing a series of stories about the lack of prosecutions in cases alleging rape by college athletes.

The lawsuit said the alleged victim told Lincoln police she had been raped by a Nebraska athlete and that he may have been subject to favorable treatment. No one has been arrested in the case.

Under the settlement, Slate agreed to drop the lawsuit and Lincoln police agreed to allow the woman access to the findings of the police investigation, including the results of her rape test, the ACLU of Nebraska said.

Lincoln police had released a brief public incident report and some other documents, but said additional information would be excluded from public record.

Nebraska jail testing suicide detection system

The Gage County jail in southeast Nebraska is testing a system that its creators say will reduce inmate suicides.

The system is called AliveLock and was developed by Pacific Place Enterprises LLC, which is based in Lincoln.

A special bracelet placed on an inmate wirelessly transmits vital signs to a central location. An alarm is triggered and jailers are notified if the inmate’s vital signs become unstable.

The device doesn’t prevent suicide attempts, but Gage County Sheriff Millard Gustafson says the alarm will give jailers the precious seconds that could mean the difference between life and death for the inmate.


Coalition formed to combat sex trafficking

Five North Dakota organizations are coming together in a coalition aimed at better combatting sex trafficking in the state.

The coalition will be made up of Prevent Child Abuse North Dakota, First Nations Women’s Alliance, North Dakota’s Women’s Network, the National Association of Social Workers-North Dakota and CAWS North Dakota. The coalition is called A Force to End Human Sexual Exploitation and is known by the acronym FUSE.

State and local officials in the oil patch identify human trafficking as a major problem that has been an unwelcomed byproduct of North Dakota’s oil boom.

Minot man convicted of firearm violation

A Minot man has been convicted by a federal jury on a charge of felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.

U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon says 47-year-old Brian Sweeney was found guilty last week. Sentencing has not been set. He faces up to 10 years in prison.

Authorities say Sweeney was stopped for a traffic violation last year in Minot. After smelling the odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle, a law enforcement search resulted in the discovery of a loaded handgun.

Purdon says Sweeney was prohibited from possessing either a firearm or ammunition because of past felony convictions. The crimes include possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia, aggravated assault, and another charge of felon in possession of a firearm.


Officials deny causing Missouri River floods

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shouldn’t be blamed for causing major flooding along the Missouri River that has affected five states regularly since 2006, the federal government says in its initial response to a lawsuit.

More than 200 landowners claimed in their March lawsuit that they should be compensated for the extensive damage they experienced — particularly during the extended 2011 flooding that devastated hundreds of thousands of acres of mostly farmland in South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri.

When the Corps decides how to manage the Missouri River’s reservoirs, officials balance flood control and other potential uses of the river, including barge traffic, hydropower, recreation and providing habitat for fish and wildlife. The landowners say the government is putting less emphasis on flood control because of efforts to restore habitat for endangered species.

Government lawyers deny that in a 56-page response filed last week. They argue that authorities never promised to stop all flooding on the Missouri River, and that providing habitat for endangered species didn’t exacerbate flooding.

The landowners argued that the recurring flooding along the Missouri River has improperly deprived them of their land, so they should be compensated because the government improperly took it.

Man sues in 2013 beating that cause brain trauma

A man left unconscious and bleeding on a stranger’s kitchen floor after a pub crawl in Brookings last year is suing the man who punched him, the men who helped drag him into the house and the roommates who failed to call for help.

Neil Hedeen, 24, sustained permanent brain trauma as a result of the attack in March. He is seeking unspecified damages.

Authorities say Hedeen was drunk when he wandered into the rented home of three South Dakota State University students and fell asleep in the entryway on the night of March 23.

Three men visiting the students — Aaron Crisp, Mike Mailey and Dustin Welbig — allegedly threw Hedeen out of the house. After a brief altercation in which Hedeen threatened the men with a shovel, Mailey punched the victim, which knocked him out and caused him to hit his head on the concrete.

Instead of calling police, the three men brought Hedeen back into the house and left him on the kitchen floor, where he was bleeding from the ears. The men wrote a note on a pizza box telling Hedeen he had fallen on the ice.

The suit said the three roommates — Evan Leeben, Garrett Kommes and Tyler Morris —are liable for failing to call authorities.


Exotic dancer sues western strip club

An exotic dancer is suing a Fountain City strip club, accusing owners of violating state and federal labor laws by failing to pay dancers hourly wages and overtime.

Elizabeth Mays claims the owners of 4 Mile Gentlemen’s Club charged a “stage fee” of $5 to $27 and forced dancers to perform, even when the club was near empty and the customers weren’t tipping.

The complaint filed May 30 also says the four owners exert “substantial control” over dancers’ work schedules, what clothing they wear and the types of dancing allowed.

The complaint says Mays was fired this year, after demanding receipts for the fees she paid.

Restitution for travel scam could take a while

It could take up to two years before hundreds of Wisconsinites lured into a travel scam will recover any of their losses.

The elaborate travel scheme shut down this year by the state Department of Justice scammed 884 people in Wisconsin. Outagamie County Circuit Judge Dee Dyer ordered the scammer, “Going Places Travel,” to pay a penalty of $3.8 million.

The company mailed postcards to hundreds of thousands of people inviting them to a presentation in exchange for free trips. Participants are urged to buy a travel club membership. The “free” trips are handled by a third party and generally never materialize.

Dee Mosher, of Neenah, she and her husband charged $4,000 to their credit card for a membership, a move that caused them headaches with six collection agencies over four years.

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

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