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American Scene: Prosecutor calls bank a slumlord in lawsuit
Question of the Day
LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles City Attorney's Office has renewed its call to blame mortgage lenders for urban blight sparked by the collapsed housing market, saying in a lawsuit that US Bank is a slumlord that illegally evicted homeowners and then neglected the abandoned properties.
The suit filed Monday marks the second time in just over a year that prosecutors have brought such a claim, mirroring a similar complaint against Deutsche Bank.
The city attorney's office contends the lenders destroyed neighborhoods by wrongly evicting people from homes and leaving hundreds of properties to become trash-strewn crime magnets. City officials say banks that helped fuel a housing boom by dealing in securities backed by risky loans should be responsible for the blight caused by foreclosures that came when the market soured.
"The fraud committed on Wall Street, turns into blight on Main Street," said City Attorney Carmen A. Trutanich on Tuesday.
US Bank and Deutsche Bank officials have both said they are not responsible for the decline, arguing that loan servicers that collect payments and manage properties are to blame.
Prosecutors called Deutsche Bank the city's largest slumlord in a suit in May 2011.
Both suits claim the banks violated federal, state and local laws.
Jury awards $60 million to programmer's children
HAYWARD — A Northern California jury has ordered a noted computer programmer to pay his children $60 million because he killed their mother.
The Alameda County jury delivered its verdict Tuesday in the wrongful death lawsuit filed against Hans Reiser by his children, 12-year-old Rory and 11-year-old Niorline.
Reiser was earlier sentenced to 15 years to life for the 2006 murder of his wife and the children's mother, Nina Reiser. He represented himself during the four-day wrongful death trial, arguing that he killed his wife because she was making up illnesses for the children. The children live with their grandmother in Russia.
It's not clear whether they will be able to collect any money. Reiser claimed during the civil suit that he was representing himself because he couldn't afford an attorney.
Carjacker will be state's first one-drug execution
HUNTSVILLE — An inmate who once bragged about the headlines generated by the carjacking and murder that sent him to death row will be noted in Texas history for a different reason: Yokamon Hearn will be the first prisoner executed under the state's new single-drug procedure.
Hearn, 33, is slated to die Wednesday for the March 1998 fatal shooting of Frank Meziere, a 23-year-old suburban Dallas stockbroker who was abducted at gunpoint while he cleaned his car at a self-service car wash in Dallas. Meziere was driven to an industrial area and shot 10 times before his body was dumped on the side of a road.
Hearn will be the sixth Texas prisoner executed this year, but the first since the Texas Department of Criminal Justice announced its switch to single-drug lethal injections amid a drug shortage that has left states scrambling for acceptable alternatives.
Texas said last week it will now use a single dose of pentobarbital, instead of using the sedative in combination with two other drugs. Ohio became the first state a year ago to use a single drug, and several other states have since made the switch. Courts have upheld the practice, despite death penalty opponents' claims that prisoners take longer to die with one drug.
Ex-Navy SEAL gets nearly 18 years in weapons case
LAS VEGAS — A former U.S. Navy SEAL was sentenced Tuesday to 171/2 years in federal prison for heading a scheme to sell machine guns, explosives and military hardware from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Nicholas Bickle, 34, made a brief plea for leniency before U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt in Las Vegas imposed the sentence.
"I just hope and pray the court affords me an opportunity to start over and be a productive member of society," he said.
The judge noted that Bickle wore his Navy uniform during trial, but he said he considered it a bid to impress the jury.
"The court recognizes and commends Mr. Bickle for his service to our country," Judge Hunt said before adding that Bickle's time in the military didn't justify committing crimes.
Bickle, convicted in Las Vegas in October of 13 federal conspiracy and arms-trafficking charges, appeared Tuesday in mustard yellow jail garb with the word "detainee" on his back and shackles on his ankles.
He surrendered to federal authorities in December after returning home to San Diego and receiving an "other than honorable" military discharge that stripped him of retirement benefits, health care and military honors including the Bronze Star. Officials say he served eight years in the Navy, including two deployments to Iraq.
Man sues hospital over surgical scars
SIOUX FALLS — A lawyer for an American Indian man who claims the letters KKK were carved into his stomach during surgery has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the South Dakota hospital where the operation was done, the hospital's board of directors and others.
YouTube videos featuring Vern Traversie, 69, a Lakota man who lives on the Cheyenne River Reservation, went viral in American Indian communities earlier this year. In them, Mr. Traversie talks about being mistreated at the hospital and shows his abdomen. Though he himself is blind, Mr. Traversie says he was told by others that the scars left after his heart surgery form the letters.
A May rally in support of Mr. Traversie drew hundreds of people, many of whom said his story exemplifies the racism American Indians experience in Rapid City. But others say they can't make out the letters, including police who investigated his allegations and hospital officials. No criminal charges have been filed in the case.
Chase Iron Eyes, a lawyer for Mr. Traversie, filed a lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court in South Dakota against Rapid City Regional Hospital, its board of directors, physicians and TRS Surg Assist Inc. The lawsuit alleges a civil rights violation based on race and cites the scarring from Mr. Traversie's double-bypass surgery done in August 2011 as evidence. It seeks a jury trial and damages.
"Defendants injured, carved, burned, and/or cared for Plaintiff's abdomen in such a manner that scars resembling three letters 'K' were permanently placed on Plaintiff's abdomen for no medically necessary purpose or reason, and in the process injured, carved, burned, and/or cared for other portions of Plaintiff's body to cause injury, specifically his abdomen and back," the lawsuit stated.
A hospital spokeswoman did not comment on the lawsuit. Mr. Traversie's attorney declined to comment.
Mr. Traversie said he hadn't been aware the lawsuit was filed Monday, although he knew a lawyer was planning to file one at some point on his behalf.
• From wire dispatches and staff reports
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