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Across the Region: July 21

IOWA

Inmate Rasberry Williams released from prison

Iowa officials say a Waterloo man whose life sentence for murder was commuted by the governor has been released from prison.

Rasberry Williams was paroled effective July 14. The state Department of Corrections confirmed the information. Williams’ release comes after the Iowa Board of Parole granted his parole in April.

Williams was convicted of first-degree murder in the 1974 shooting death of a man outside a Waterloo pool hall. Over the decades, supporters argued that Williams had been a model inmate.

Gov. Terry Branstad commuted Williams’ sentence last year to life with possibility of parole. That helped move his case to the parole board. Williams will be paroled to a care facility.

Man faces 3rd trial in death of pregnant wife

An Iowa man charged with killing his wife and unborn child went on trial last week for a third time after two prior juries could not agree on whether he’s guilty.

Seth Techel, 23, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and nonconsensual termination of a human pregnancy in the May 2012 death of 23-year-old Lisa Techel, who was five months pregnant with a baby girl. He faces life in prison.

Prosecutors say Techel shot his wife while she was sleeping in their trailer in Agency, in rural southeastern Iowa near Ottumwa. They say he wanted her dead because he was unhappy with their relationship and pursuing an affair with a coworker with whom he was swapping sexually-tinged text messages.

Techel claims that he was in the shower when he heard a gunshot, and ran out to find his wife dead. His defense argues that she was likely killed by a mentally ill neighbor who has since died. Techel has downplayed his relationship with the other woman, saying it wasn’t serious.

Investigators say they found the alleged murder weapon in tall grass on a neighboring property a day after Lisa Techel’s death. They say she was killed by a single shot fired from the foot of the bed.

NEBRASKA

Nebraska association wins rural lawyers grant

The American Bar Association is helping Nebraska steer law students toward practicing in rural communities, where the number of attorneys is dwindling as the market base of potential clients shifts with the rural migration to more urban areas.

The national group has awarded the Nebraska State Bar Association a $15,000 grant to pay some of the costs of placing 10 law students as law clerks in rural towns for five weeks in 2015. The state bar association hopes a summer clerkship will encourage law students to live and work in small towns, researching cases and preparing documents for law firms or solo practitioners.

The state bar association started the clerkship program in 2013 as part of its Rural Practice Initiative to help increase the number of small-town lawyers. Of Nebraska’s 93 counties, 22 have three or fewer lawyers. Twelve have none.

Most of the ABA grant money will be split among the attorneys or law firms that hire the clerks. Each clerk’s employer will receive $1,000 as a recommended one-third of the clerk’s salary for the five weeks. Each clerk will receive $500 toward living expenses.

Lancaster County board to consider settlement

The Lancaster County Board of Commissioners is considering paying $75,000 to settle a lawsuit filed over the suicide of a 16-year-old in county custody.

The settlement was reviewed by commissioners at a recent meeting

The lawsuit was filed by the father of Jonathan Kennedy. The boy hanged himself in the county’s Youth Services Center on Feb. 26, 2012, and died later at a Lincoln hospital.

The lawsuit argues that staffers should have realized the boy had mental problems and should have more effectively supervised him. He had been a state ward since April 2011 and had been sent to the center because of drug usage and self-harming behavior.

NORTH DAKOTA

Lawsuit settled over treatment center allegations

The director of a former youth chemical dependency center in Jamestown recently settled a civil lawsuit over accusations of misconduct among staff members, one of whom allegedly had sex with residents and showed them how to cook up methamphetamine, according to court documents.

The complaint was filed six years ago against Fargo-based Drake Counseling Center Inc. and Charles Drake on behalf of 11 minors who were residents at the inpatient center, which closed suddenly amid an investigation by Jamestown police. Documents in the case remained sealed until earlier this month.

Drake in his response to the original complaint denied the allegations and said any “alleged loss, damage or injury” was caused by the negligence or fault of the 11 minors who filed the suit.

No criminal charges have been filed.

The complaint said the North Dakota Department of Human Services initially suspended Drake’s license in March 2008, at which time Drake engaged in “legal maneuvers” to cover up the failed operations, according to the defendants. That resulted in “non-disclosure to the public, insurance companies, referring agents or residents themselves,” the suit states.

Drake is also licensed to operate a youth center in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, similar to the Jamestown facility.

AG says commission violated records laws

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem says the state Industrial Commission violated open records laws when it failed to provide meeting minutes in a timely fashion.

Stenehjem sits on the commission along with Gov. Jack Dalrymple and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring. The group manages various business ventures for the state.

The request for nearly five years of meeting minutes came from a campaign volunteer for Democrat Ryan Taylor, who’s running against Goehring for agriculture commissioner.

The request was submitted on March 5. The executive director of the commission sent the minutes in stages and ultimately completed the task by April 28.

Stenehjem says the request required more than 2,500 of pages to be reviewed for confidential information, but that did not justify the nearly two-month delay in finishing the job.

SOUTH DAKOTA

Board of Pardons and Paroles hears Ramos case

The South Dakota Board of Pardons and Paroles held a parole hearing for a man serving prison time for the 1994 killing of his pregnant girlfriend.

Joaquin Jack Ramos pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter for the 1994 shooting of 27-year-old Debbie Martines in Rapid Valley.

Ramos’ son and uncle say the 45-year-old man has served his time and is not the same man he was two decades ago.

Martines’ family says Ramos is a danger to women and children and should remain behind bars.

Former Gov. Mike Rounds in his final term in 2010 commuted Ramos’ sentence from life to 150 years, making Ramos eligible for parole. Rounds later wrote the board saying he opposes parole.

The board denied Ramos parole during his first hearing in November.

X-ray center worker pleads guilty on embezzlement

A former employee at Medical X-Ray Center in Sioux Falls has pleaded guilty to embezzlement charges.

Gerald Larson worked as business manager for the closed health care company. Larson appeared in federal court last week.

He was federally indicted last year on charges of bank fraud, embezzlement and money laundering.

Court documents show that Larson deposited business checks into his personal bank account. They don’t say how much money was embezzled. He could serve 10 years in prison in addition paying fines and restitution.

WISCONSIN

Supreme Court: Prison for repeat drunken drivers

The Wisconsin Supreme Court says state law requires repeat drunken drivers to spend at least three years behind bars.

Monroe County Circuit Judge J. David Rice sentenced Clayton Williams of Warrens to three years in prison and three years of extended supervision in 2011 for seventh-offense drunken driving. Rice said the sentencing statutes for seventh, eighth and ninth offenses are murky but he felt they required him to impose a bifurcated sentence with at least three years in prison.

A state appeals court reversed Rice, saying the statues don’t require a judge to impose a bifurcated sentence.

The Supreme Court ruled 7-0 last week that the statutes are ambiguous but the history of their development shows they’re meant to impose mandatory minimum confinement.

Court upholds conviction for elderly slaying

A state appeals court has upheld the homicide conviction of a man who stabbed a 93-year-old woman to death in northern Wisconsin.

The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals last week rejected the argument of Christopher Roalson. He was convicted in 2012 of first-degree intentional homicide in the 2009 death of Irena Roszak in Sawyer County. Roalson was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Prosecutors say Roalson shouted satanic references as he stabbed Roszak and she begged for her life.

Roalson argued on appeal that his constitutional rights were violated when the state failed to produce a DNA analyst who first analyzed the evidence.

But the appeals court in affirming Roalson’s conviction says there was nothing wrong with another DNA analyst testifying in place of the original analyst.

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

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