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Across the Region: March 23


Petition denied, pastor’s deportation looms

An Iowa pastor and father of four facing deportation for a 17-year-old conviction has been relocated to a Louisiana detention center, where officials say a flight returning deportees to Honduras is scheduled Tuesday.

Forty-one-year-old Max Villatoro informed his wife Monday that he will likely be aboard. Villatoro was among 2,059 people arrested during a nationwide operation targeting convicted criminals living in the country illegally. A 1998 drunken driving conviction classified him as an enforcement priority.

Lawyers say federal immigration authorities denied Villatoro’s stay of removal request, reinforcing his imminent removal. An official with the LaSalle Detention Facility in Jena, Louisiana, confirmed Tuesday’s flight.

Meanwhile, Villatoro’s wife has made one last plea to keep her family together through a YouTube video asking President Barack Obama to block the deportation.


Water supplier files lawsuit over nitrates

Des Moines Water Works has filed a lawsuit against three northern Iowa counties, alleging they are violating federal law by running drainage systems that contribute to high nitrate levels in rivers the utility uses for source water. Details of the lawsuit against Buena Vista, Calhoun and Sac counties were released Monday. The lawsuit was filed Friday and seeks reimbursement after spending $540,000 to operate a nitrate removal facility for 97 days this winter.

Water Works officials say the counties’ 10 drainage districts allow excessive nitrate levels into the Raccoon River, a primary central Iowa water source. In the lawsuit, the utility alleges such systems limit the area’s drinking supply.

The law firm representing the counties didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.


New job training program for inmates launched

A new program will help provide job training to parolees and minimum-security inmates to help reduce the chances of them returning to prison.

The state recently awarded $6.2 million in grants to eight organizations across Nebraska to provide training to nearly 1,500 felons.

About 27 percent of the Nebraska prisoners released in 2011 had returned to prison by June 30, 2014. Corrections Department spokeswoman Dawn-Renee Smith says she hopes the program shrinks that number.

“We’re all hopeful [that] by enabling individuals to obtain and maintain meaningful employment it will increase public safety,” said Smith, who oversees prisoner re-entry for the Corrections Department.

The program is part of a package of prison reforms that lawmakers approved last year. Smith said participants will learn how to sell their skills to prospective employers who might be concerned about their backgrounds.

“Often times when individuals come to prison they’ve not held many, if any, meaningful jobs,” she said.

A nonprofit called Released and Restored will teach participants how to prepare for job interviews and how to apply for jobs and write resumes and cover letters.


Trial begins for teen in jail guard’s death

A trial is beginning for a Nebraska teenager accused of helping plot a fatal attack on a Scotts Bluff County corrections officer.

Seventeen-year-old Guy Eagle Elk, of Lisco, has been charged as an adult with felony aiding and abetting assault in the Feb. 14, 2014, death of jail guard Amanda Baker. A jury was selected on Monday and is scheduled to hear testimony Tuesday in the trial in Scotts Bluff County District Court in Gering.

Eagle Elk is accused of showing 16-year-old Dylan Cardeilhac, of Torrington, Wyoming, how to strangle Baker.

Cardeilhac has been convicted in Baker’s death and has been sentenced to 60 years to life in prison.


Lawmakers look to ban ‘revenge porn’

North Dakota lawmakers are considering legislation that would make publishing or distributing so-called “revenge porn” a crime.

Revenge porn is the term used to describe the practice of posting a nude or sexually explicit photo or video of someone on the Internet without their consent.

Democratic Senate Minority leader Mac Schneider of Grand Forks is the bill’s primary sponsor.

The legislation would make it a misdemeanor to post sexually explicit photos or video of a person online. The penalty is up to one year in jail and a $3,000 fine.

The Senate already has approved the legislation.


House kills ethics commission resolution

North Dakota’s House has killed a resolution that would have allowed voters to decide if a panel is needed to investigate alleged acts of wrongdoing by politicians.

The Republican-led House voted 68-25 against the resolution.

House assistant Democratic leader Corey Mock of Grand Forks has been pushing since 2011 to establish an ethics commission. But legislation to create such commissions was soundly defeated by the Legislature in the past two sessions.

Mock’s resolution that was killed Monday would have let voters decide whether the state Constitution should be changed to form an ethics panel.

Opponents have argued that an ethics commission isn’t required because the Legislature already follows high standards of conduct.


Juvenile justice overhaul is signed into law

Gov. Dennis Daugaard has signed a proposal that attempts to shift juvenile offenders toward community-based services and significantly decrease the number committed to the care of the Department of Corrections.

Daugaard signed the bill flanked by lawmakers and staff who helped pass one of his key policy proposals for the 2015 session.

Daugaard says the proposal aims to increase public safety while holding juvenile offenders accountable at a lower cost.

The plan mirrors 2013 changes lawmakers made to the adult criminal justice system. Daugaard says he’s glad to sign a “major policy initiative that I knew from the outset would be important to South Dakota.”

Daugaard is recommending about $3.2 million for the plan in the next budget cycle. Much of that is to expand access to community services.


Court rejects dozing juror appeal

A Wisconsin appeals court says a former Milwaukee correctional officer was properly convicted of sexual assault even though he claimed one of his jurors dozed off during his trial.

Prosecutors accused Christopher Jackson in 2009 of sexually assaulting an inmate at the Milwaukee Women’s Correctional Center. A jury convicted him in 2010.

Jackson argued on appeal that a juror fell asleep during his testimony, violating his due process rights. The 1st District Court of Appeals rejected that contention on Tuesday, noting a detective in the courtroom believed the juror was fighting to stay awake and wasn’t actually unconscious.


Northwestern Mutual settles class action suit

Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. will pay $84 million to settle a class action lawsuit over changes it made to annuities.

Some 29,000 former owners of the annuities and 4,000 current holders will be eligible to share in the settlement. Northwestern Mutual spokeswoman Betsy Hoylman says the company decided it was in everyone’s best interest to avoid the continued cost of litigation and the “uncertainty of the legal process.”

The lawsuit stems from changes the company made to annuities it sold before 1985. The plaintiffs said Northwestern Mutual improperly changed the way it paid the annuity owners without notifying them or getting permission — and that they lost dividend income over the next 20 years.

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