- Associated Press - Saturday, March 22, 2014
As military sex cases end, more calls for change

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) - At nearly the same time Thursday, sexual assault cases against an Army general and a former Naval Academy football player came to a close, and neither produced a conviction on that charge.

Some members in Congress and advocates for women said the results were more proof the military justice system needs an overhaul.

On the other side of the debate, people say the system worked like it was supposed to because, they say, neither case should have gone to trial in the first place.

Still, no one disagreed the military has a pervasive problem of sexual assaults within its ranks, and the cases served as a reminder that politics was never far away from any decision.

Eugene R. Fidell, who teaches military law at Yale, said military commanders who forged ahead with the trials were mindful of the political climate.

“They are aware, trust me on this. They are aware the Senate will not confirm people to higher pay grade if they are believed to be soft on sexual offenses,” Fidell said.


Judge keeps prison lawsuit moving during FBI probe

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - A federal judge says he won’t put a lawsuit against a major private prison company on hold while the FBI investigates the company for possible criminal fraud charges.

U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge made the ruling this week in a lawsuit brought by a group of Idaho inmates against the Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America. The company had asked the judge to put the lawsuit on hold, contending that if its employees had to testify in the lawsuit, they could be at risk of incriminating themselves in the FBI investigation.

The FBI launched an investigation into CCA earlier this year, looking at whether the company violated federal fraud laws by falsifying reports to the state about staffing levels at the prison.

If the employees pleaded the Fifth Amendment during the civil case, CCA’s attorneys feared it would cause a jury to unfairly infer that the company broke the law.

Eight inmates at the Idaho Correctional Center sued the prison company in 2012, contending they were attacked by a prison gang because there weren’t enough guards on duty. The inmates also contend that CCA understaffed the prison by thousands of hours and then falsified reports to the state to cover up the understaffing. The prison company has acknowledged understaffing the prison by thousands of hours in 2012, but denies the claims in the lawsuit and contends that the housing unit the inmates lived in was not understaffed at the time of the gang attack.

In the Wednesday ruling, Lodge said that CCA’s concerns were entirely speculative. The prison company hasn’t offered any evidence that its employees would likely assert their Fifth Amendment rights, the judge said.


Hamilton County schools to sue city over taxes

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) - The Hamilton County Board of Education plans to sue the city of Chattanooga over more than $11 million the city hasn’t paid in liquor-by-the-drink taxes since 1998.

Board attorney Scott Bennett told The Chattanooga Times Free Press (http://bit.ly/OFFseO) he will file the suit in Chancery Court in the coming days.

Before hearing about the school system’s lawsuit, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke’s Chief of Staff Travis McDonough said he didn’t see the city writing an $11 million check to the school system.

But he said city officials told Superintendent Rick Smith on March 5 that they would be willing to sit down with the school system. McDonough said no one from the school system followed up.

Smith says he was interested in working with Berke, but got no response.



Man pleads guilty to fraud, conspiracy charges

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A former employee of computer giant Dell has pleaded guilty to federal fraud and conspiracy charges.

At a plea hearing in federal court in Nashville, Tenn., Friday, 39-year-old Herbie Morrow of Richmond Heights, Mo., admitted to conspiring with another former Dell employee to defraud Dell by using corporate computers to create fraudulent discounts. Morrow also acknowledged conspiring to access Dell account websites in order to use the fraudulent discounts to purchase more than $293,000 worth of Dell merchandise, including laptop computers and computer accessories, at substantially reduced prices or for free.

Another man, 31-year-old Marcus Culver of Nashville, Tenn., is awaiting trial on similar charges.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge William J. Haynes, Jr. scheduled the sentencing for Morrow, a former Tennessee resident, June 9.

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