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Across the Region: Aug 25


Secretary of State rules for, against Libertarian candidates

South Dakota Secretary of State Jason Gant certified one disputed Libertarian candidate for the November election ballot but ruled another ineligible.

The issue was whether attorney general candidate Chad Haber and Public Utilities Commission candidate Ryan Gaddy switched their party affiliation from Republican to Libertarian in time to conform with a state law that requires candidates to be members of the party that nominates them.

Gant ruled last week that Haber complied with the law but Gaddy didn’t. Haber and Gaddy filled out forms to change their party registrations shortly before each won the state Libertarian Party’s nomination on Aug. 9.

Gant said Haber’s party switch was valid because he filled out his form at a recognized voter registration facility the day before the convention. Gaddy filled out his change-of-registration form at the Saturday convention, and it wasn’t filed until later. Gaddy said he will ask a judge to overrule Gant, whose decision he called “the state sticking its nose in the Libertarians’ business.”

Gant intends to start printing ballots for the fall election on Sept. 3, though a judge could order a delay.

Gant received legal advice on the matter from former South Dakota Attorney General Mark Meierhenry, who is now in private practice. Gant’s normal legal adviser, the attorney general’s office, withdrew from the case because of a possible conflict of interest.


Tribal officer’s stun gun use under investigation

Federal investigators are looking into whether an Oglala Sioux police officer improperly used a stun gun on a man who was apparently passed out on the ground.

The officer probably used the stun gun on the drunk man between five and 10 times, trying to get him “to wake up and stand up,” Tribal Public Safety Chief Ron Duke said.

The man was “lying on the ground, probably passed out, clearly intoxicated,” Duke said.

A video shot by a passer-by that purports to show the incident in Manderson shows onlookers eventually helping the female officer put the man in a police vehicle, after some of the onlookers challenged her actions.

There is more than one video of the incident, Duke said. The officer had a camera on her uniform, and that will give a different view than the one captured by the passer-by, he said.

The man who was shot with the stun gun ultimately was arrested for disorderly conduct, trespassing and resisting an officer. He was checked at a hospital after asking for medical attention the next day, and “the hospital determined he was OK,” Duke said. The chief did not name him.


Judge backs ban of Iowa abortion pill system

A Polk County district judge says Iowa regulators had the authority to ban video conferencing to distribute abortion-inducing pills.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland had sued the Iowa Board of Medicine, saying the ban reflected board members’ opposition to abortion. Judge Jeffrey Farrell ruled in favor of the board last week saying the board had authority to regulate such issues and had met legal requirements for making new rules.

The new rules require a doctor to be physically present with a woman when an abortion-inducing drug is provided. The change targeted Planned Parenthood’s practice of enabling doctors to prescribe the drugs while meeting with patients in rural areas through an Internet video connection.

A Planned Parenthood spokeswoman said her agency would file an appeal.


Supreme Court to hear arguments in 4 cities

The Iowa Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in special sessions at four locations across the state during its upcoming term.

The Des Moines-based court said that justices will travel to hear arguments next month in Iowa City, to Storm Lake in October, to Creston in March and Decorah in April.

The visits build on an outreach campaign that Chief Justice Mark Cady instituted after three justices were ousted by voters following the court’s decision to legalize gay marriage in 2009.

In a statement, Cady says the court has visited 13 communities for oral arguments and public receptions in the last three years. He says the visits give justices “a tremendous, first-hand insight into what Iowans expect from their court system now and into the future.”


Pardons Board rejects a sister’s plea

The Nebraska Board of Pardons refused to grant a hearing to a man imprisoned more than 45 years for killing two people.

The three-member board last week rejected pleas from the sister of Brian Adams, 65. Vivian Adams Dennison shared her family’s story with the board as she asked them to grant her brother a commutation hearing. She said their father had beaten her brother, who had been “taught his entire existence that he was worthless.”

Brian Adams was 18 when he fatally shot a gas station attendant twice during a robbery. He shot another gas station attendant who worked at a different location a few days later.

Adams was convicted and began serving two life terms in 1968. He escaped about 10 years later and was caught in Kansas.

His attorney, Stephen Gehring, said Adams understands the “seriousness of the crimes committed.”

Gehring argued his client has served a long time in jail, been punished and rehabilitated. He said Adams became the first director of the prison’s program to transcribe school books and other material into braille. He earned his high school degree and two community college degrees.

Gehring also said Adams had turned 18 only four days before the first fatal shooting.


Judge: Lincoln man not competent to stand trial

A judge says a Lincoln man accused of killing his wife and decapitating her head is not competent to stand trial, but he could be in the future.

Lancaster County District Judge Paul Merritt Jr. made the ruling last week about Kent Burklund, 41.

Merritt says there is a substantial likelihood that Burklund’s competency can be restored. He was ordered to the Lincoln Regional Center for medical tests.

Merritt said he would review the case in February, or sooner depending on Burklund’s treatment.

Burklund is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Bettina Burklund, 41. She was found dead in the couple’s home in April.


Sushi chef accused of stabbing found not guilty

A sushi chef in Fargo accused of stabbing a fellow chef with a foot-long knife has been found not guilty of aggravated assault but sent to the State Hospital in Jamestown for mental health treatment.

Judge Douglas Herman found Lin Zhong not guilty during a bench trial last week. Herman ruled that the chef from Flushing, New York, lacked criminal responsibility for his actions.

Authorities say Zhong, 31, stabbed another chef in the hip during a fight at Osaka Sushi and Hibachi in late March.

Prosecutor Leah Viste said in court that an evaluation of Zhong determined that he had “a level of psychosis” that impaired his ability to comprehend his conduct.

Zhong will have a hearing in 90 days to review his mental health treatment.


New details emerge in human trafficking case

New details have emerged in the case of a Williston man charged with human trafficking who was featured in a documentary about the oil patch town.

Keith Graves, who’s in jail on $2 million bond for human trafficking and multiple other counts, hasn’t entered a plea. His attorney requested a preliminary hearing for after Oct. 1 but declined to comment on the case.

Graves, 38, was convicted in California in 1999 of a felony charge for lewd acts with a child under the age of 14, according to sex offender records. He was one of the main subjects of “The Overnighters,” a documentary that follows a Lutheran pastor who opened up his Williston church and parking lot to oil workers with nowhere to stay.

A transcript of a police affidavit describes several days in late July when authorities allege Graves recruited one woman to become a prostitute, raped her multiple times and forced her to take drugs.

The woman, identified as Jane Doe, was being held at the correctional and treatment center in Rugby on unspecified charges when she heard about Graves from women who had worked for him, according to the affidavit. Graves met the woman July 25 in Stanley, began driving her to Williston and at one point pulled over near some grain elevators and forced himself on her before continuing driving, the document states.

The woman spent the next few days in two Williston hotels where she was introduced to other women working for Graves, was raped while unconscious and in the backseat of a pickup, according to the affidavit. Graves at one point put a gun to the woman’s head and told another woman to inject her with methamphetamine, the affidavit says.


Suspect in baseball bat death pleads insanity

A Plover man has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the baseball bat beating death of his stepfather.

Andrew Pray, 33, entered his plea last week before Portage County Circuit Judge Thomas Eagon, who ordered a competency exam

Pray is charged with first-degree intentional homicide in the May 26 attack. The victim, Chris Bonnstetter, was removed from life support and died June 3.

Pray’s mother told police Bonnstetter, 77, was laying on the floor in the living room and resting when her son came upstairs and struck him three or four times. She said he “just flipped out.”

Plover Police Officer Michael Tracy testified at a hearing last month that Pray only said “no comment” when Tracy asked him what happened.

Pray is due back in court Oct. 6.


John Doe targets ask court not to unseal documents

Three targets of a secret investigation into possible illegal coordination between Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign and conservative interest groups have asked a federal appeals court not to release sealed documents pertaining to the case.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals planned to make 34 documents public last week. But Wisconsin Club for Growth filed a motion asking the court to keep nine documents sealed. The motion followed a request by two unnamed parties asking the court not to release any of the 34 documents.

Wisconsin Club for Growth argued in its motion that the documents contain four affidavits packed with personal information, including names, addresses, private emails and bank accounts, that prosecutors used to justify searches and issuing subpoenas. The group argued that releasing them would reveal its political affiliations, internal strategies and tactics, subject its associates to threats and harassment and chill the flow of internal ideas.

A coalition of media and open government advocates is pushing for the release of the documents. The coalition’s attorney, Theodore Boutrous Jr., said in an email that he planned to oppose the motions and the documents should be in the public domain.

A group of prosecutors has been conducting a so-called John Doe investigation, in which information is kept secret, into whether Walker’s 2012 recall campaign illegally coordinated advertising and fundraising efforts with conservative groups that backed him.

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

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