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Across The Region: Dec. 1


Both sides want judge to rule on S.D. gay marriage 

A federal judge presiding over a challenge to South Dakota’s gay marriage ban should bypass a trial and rule on the case, the state attorney general’s office argued Tuesday.

The office joined six same-sex couples who are suing the state in petitioning for summary judgment in the case. The state also asked in its filing Tuesday that U.S. District Court Judge Karen Schreier reject the challengers’ July motion that she rule in their favor.

Minneapolis attorney Josh Newville last May filed the federal lawsuit, which challenges a 1996 state law passed by the Legislature and a voter-approved 2006 constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. The lawsuit argues the state’s ban violates equal protection and due process guaranteed in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley said lawmakers and the voters of South Dakota should have the authority to define marriage in the state, not the federal courts.

In mid-November, Schreier rejected the state’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit entirely, allowing the case to proceed, though she threw out one piece of Newville’s claims. Newville said Tuesday that the state was late in filing the motion and response, which frustrated the same-sex couples challenging the ban.

“I had plaintiffs up last night that that were crying waiting for this filing,” Newville said.

Jackley said confusion over a rule — which would have allowed more time — and the court’s order that the response was due on Monday caused the slight delay, calling it “completely irrelevant.”

Newville has two weeks to respond to the newest filings, and the case could be ready for consideration near the end of December. Schreier could deny the motions and move the case to trial, grant either side’s motion for summary judgment in whole or in part, or order a hearing. Jackley said he ultimately believes the issue will be decided by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals or the U.S. Supreme Court. Newville is confident that the ban will be overturned.

“There will be marriage equality in South Dakota within the next eight months,” he said. “One way or the other, it’s going to happen.”


Man charged with Iowa bait shop slaying

A 24-year-old man has been charged with killing a man whose body was found inside a southeast Iowa bait shop.

Authorities say Ricky Davidson was arrested around 1 p.m. Monday, Nov. 24. He’s charged with murder and burglary in slaying of 64-year-old Darrell Teeter, who was found dead in the Main Street Bait Shop in Eldon on Aug. 11. Teeter was shot in the head.

Wapello County Jail records say Davidson remained in custody on Tuesday, pending $525,000 cash-only bail. Online court records don’t list the name of his attorney.

Man with rifle, ammo at White House pleads guilty

An arrested Iowa man who had a hunting rifle, ammunition and a knife in his car near the White House has pleaded guilty.

Prosecutors say R.J. Kapheim, of Davenport, pleaded guilty Nov. 24 in D.C. Superior Court to misdemeanor charges of possessing an unregister firearm and ammunition. He faces up to two years in prison when he’s sentenced Jan. 26.

The 43-year-old Kapheim was ordered to remain held without bond until sentencing. He has been in custody since his arrest last week.

Court documents say Kapheim approached a Secret Service post and said he had an appointment with the president, who Kapheim said called him directly. The officer determined he didn’t have an appointment. Kapheim showed officers to his nearby car and let them search it.


Prison employees won’t face charges 

None of the state employees who were blamed for the early release of hundreds of Nebraska prisoners will face criminal charges, Attorney General Jon Bruning said last week.

Bruning and Lancaster County Attorney Joe Kelly announced the decision as they released the findings of separate investigations into the Department of Correctional Services.

Bruning and Gov. Dave Heineman called for the investigations following news that department officials failed to follow at least two Nebraska Supreme Court decisions that outlined the correct way to calculate sentences. As a result, hundreds of inmates were released early.

State officials looked at charging some current and past employees with official misconduct or obstructing government operations, both misdemeanors. After reviewing the investigations and listening to several of the employees testify at legislative hearings, Bruning said he concluded that prosecutors wouldn’t have enough to make a case.

Bruning pointed to George Green, the department’s top attorney, who resigned in August under threat of being fired. Green later told a committee that he never read a Nebraska Supreme Court opinion that outlined the correct way to calculate sentences.

Bruning said he didn’t believe prosecutors could prove that Green had read the opinion and intentionally ignored it.

Kelly said state officials still rely on hand-written calculations that were in place when he took office in the 1980s.

Shared parenting’ bills to come up in session 

A coalition of fathers and family-law attorneys will once again ask lawmakers to change Nebraska’s parental custody laws, which they argue are unfair to men.

Lawmakers have introduced bills several times in recent years, but none have made it out of committee. With 18 new senators taking office in January due to term limits, supporters are hopeful they can win enough support to change the law.

Noncustodial parents in Nebraska — usually fathers — are given an average of five days a month with their children, according to a decade-long analysis by the State Court Administrator’s office. The state reviewed divorce and child custody cases between 2002 and 2012.


Case of mother charged with murder delayed 

Trial for a Kenmare woman accused of starving her teenage son to death likely won’t happen until next spring, at the earliest.

Officials are still awaiting the results of a mental health evaluation that Jessica Jensen, 36, underwent at the State Hospital in Jamestown in October. Defense attorney Tyler Morrow said he also might request an independent evaluation if the first examination deems Jensen fit to stand trial.

“Depending on that outcome, there actually is already, through the indigent defense council, an independent evaluator lined up,” he said during a court hearing last week.

Jensen pleaded not guilty to murder, child neglect and failure to report the death of a child in the January death of her 13-year-old son, who authorities say weighed just 21 pounds when he died. The nurse practitioner who declared the boy dead at the Kenmare Community Hospital said he appeared to be only 2 or 3 years old.

State Medical Examiner William Massello concluded in his autopsy report that the boy died of chronic starvation due to untreated juvenile appetite disorder. He listed the manner of death as homicide.

Another attorney for Jensen, Bob Martin, argued during a May hearing that Jensen might have neglected her son’s medical condition but that she did not deliberately starve him.

Feds give N.D. $344K for traffic safety measures 

North Dakota Department of Transportation will be receiving $344,000 in federal funds for traffic safety measures.

The state’s congressional delegation on Monday announced the funds, which were awarded by the National Highway Safety Administration.

The programs the federal dollars will fund are meant to reduce crashes as a result of impaired drivers, as well as deaths and injuries caused from individuals riding unrestrained or improperly restrained in vehicles. The money will also fund improvements to traffic safety information systems.


Authorities identify victims of Sisseton shooting 

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley on Monday identified the victims of a fatal shooting over the weekend in Sisseton, an Indian reservation town in the northeast corner of the state.

Jackley said Vernon Renville Jr., 31; Candace Labelle, 29; and Angela Adams, 25, were killed. All three were from Sisseton. The surviving victim, 22-year-old Karissa Dogeagle, also of Sisseton, remains in a hospital in Fargo, North Dakota, where she is being treated for gunfire injuries.

Dogeagle’s family has asked that Sanford Health does not release any information about her condition. A Sisseton hospital where Dogeagle was initially treated described her condition last week as stable.

The attack happened early Saturday, Nov. 22 in Sisseton, a town on the Lake Traverse Indian Reservation. Jackley has identified the suspected shooter as 22-year-old Colter Richard Arbach, who authorities believe then shot and killed himself. Authorities have not said whether Arbach knew the victims.

Arbach’s body was found among the dead after authorities initially thought he may have fled.

Jackley’s spokeswoman, Sara Rabern, said details of the shooting, including the motive, aren’t expected to be released soon. Autopsies are still being conducted.


Woman killed by officer subject of probe

Authorities say a woman fatally shot by a police officer in western Wisconsin earlier this month was under investigation for embezzling from her employer.

Menomonie police were investigating claims that Shonda Mikelson, 33, stole more than $100,000 from DKS Construction, where she worked as an office manager, at the time of her death, the (Eau Claire) Leader-Telegram reported. Mikelson was accused of embezzling the money by using company credit cards for personal spending, cashing a check made out to the company’s owner, and paying herself unauthorized overtime, according to police records.

Boyceville police say Mikelson died after she displayed a rifle and a replica handgun to an ununiformed officer, who was responding to a domestic disturbance call. The officer fired his gun and struck Mikelson in the chest. The officer wasn’t injured and is currently on standard administrative leave.

Justice preps for big jump in DNA testing 

The state Department of Justice has hired nearly 20 more workers and begun a pricey renovation of its Madison crime lab so that it will be able to handle tens of thousands of additional DNA samples when new collection requirements take effect next year.

Wisconsin currently takes DNA samples from anyone convicted of a felony and certain sex-related misdemeanors. A Republican-backed law set to take effect on April 1 dramatically expands the grounds for collection.

The measure requires local police to take DNA from anyone arrested for a violent felony and to ship the samples to the DOJ, although the agency won’t be allowed to process them until a judge finds probable cause that a crime was committed in each case. The law also requires anyone convicted of any misdemeanor to submit a DNA sample.

The law’s supporters say collecting DNA samples will help solve more crimes. Civil liberties advocates, though, contend the expanded collection is an invasion of privacy.

The law means the DOJ will have to handle tens of thousands of additional samples. The agency already collects about 12,000 DNA samples from convicted felons annually and expects to receive 25,000 samples from felony arrests and 40,000 samples from misdemeanor convictions next year.

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