Two Rappers Sued in ‘Affluenza’ Killer Fallout

October 30, 2015
By David Lee
LOUISVILLE (CN) – Rappers Mack Maine and Birdman used the image of an innocent teenager on an album cover with a rune about “affluenza” killer Ethan Couch, the boy’s parents claim in court.
Mark and Becky English sued the two rappers, Young Money Entertainment and Cash Money Records in Louisville Federal Court on Wednesday.
They claim the defendants misappropriated an image of their son from a social media website, edited it and put on the album cover without permission, falsely attributing Couch’s crimes to their son, who has “no relationship whatsoever” with Couch.
Couch made national headlines in 2014 when a Texas judge sentenced the 18-year-old to 10 years probation and therapy for driving drunk and killing four good Samaritans on the side of a road as they helped change a tire.
Couch was 16 at the time, driving 70 mph in a 40 mph zone and his blood alcohol content of 0.24, on stolen beer, was three times the legal limit for an adult.
Texas state Judge Jean Boyd apparently believed the testimony of defense psychologist Dr. G. Dick Miller, who said Couch and his family felt their wealth bought them such privilege that there was no rational link between behavior and consequences. Ethan Couch became known as the ” affluenza ” killer, amid national outrage.
Miller testified that Couch’s parents gave him “freedoms no young person should have.”
In the new lawsuit, the Englishes say their son, P.E., learned from a friend in June 2014 that his photograph was on the cover of the rap album.
“Thereafter, numerous people became aware of the photograph and brought it to P.E.’s attention,” the complaint states. “Said photo and song, together with the album cover and false identification of P.E. being the one who committed heinous acts, remains readily available for viewing by the general public.”
Cash Money Records could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.
The Englishes, of Kentucky, seek damages for invasion of privacy, defamation, outrage and unjust enrichment. They are represented by Paul J. Schafer with Winters Brewster in Marion, Ill.
Though he avoided jail time, Couch and his family have faced six civil lawsuits filed by his victims and their families. They settled the final lawsuit against them on Oct. 9, filed by Kevin and Alesia McConnell and their son Lucas, who was 13 at the time of the collision. Lucas was riding with youth pastor Brian Jennings in June 2013 when they pulled over. Jennings was killed, along with mother and daughter Hollie and Shelby Boyles and Breanna Mitchell.

From Courthouse News.

Doctor Says Accused Oklahoma Beheader Wants to Die

October 27, 2015
By David Lee
OKLAHOMA CITY (CN) – The Muslim convert accused of beheading a coworker and nearly beheading a second wants to plead guilty and be executed, a psychologist testified Monday at his competency trial.
Jeanne Russell testified Monday that Alton Alexander Nolen, 30, of Norman, wishes to accept the death penalty because of his religious beliefs.
She cited a “major deficit” in his “intellectual functioning” that she noticed in seven hours of interviews and tests conducted on May 28 and June 30.
Nolen scored 62 and 69 on IQ tests and is mentally retarded, Russell testified.
Nolen is charged with first-degree murder, four counts of assault and battery with a deadly weapon, and one count of assault with a deadly weapon.
He is accused of killing 54-year-old Colleen Hufford on Sept. 25 last year at a Vaughn Foods processing plant in Moore; trying to behead a second victim, Traci J. Johnson, 44, of Oklahoma City, cutting her throat and face; then trying to stab a company executive, who shot him.
The attacks allegedly were sparked by a complaint Johnson made about Nolen “not liking white people.”
State District Judge Lori Walkley ordered the competency trial in September, which is expected to take several days. Nolen will stand trial if found competent by a jury – if not, he will be confined at a state mental health hospital.
Russell testified that Nolen believes “death is nothing” and that “we all have to die … this world is something to be enjoyed briefly,” The Oklahoman newspaper reported.
She told the judge that Nolen is not mentally competent to stand trial because he refuses to help his attorneys prepare a defense. She said Nolen has the communication skills of a 6-year-old child.
“He’s not trying to fight it,” Russell said. “He’s saying, ‘I’ll take the death penalty. That’s it.'”
Russell said out that Nolen’s insistence on being punished contradicts the view that he does not see what he did as a crime.
Cleveland County prosecutor Susan Caswell told the judge that Nolen might want death because he expects great rewards for acting in the name of Allah.
She disagreed with the view that Nolen is retarded, saying he graduated 83rd out of 104 students at Idabel High School, in Idabel, Okla., and got As in two college psychology classes before leaving school.

From Courthouse News.

Murder Charge in Oklahoma State Homecoming Deaths

October 27, 2015
By David Lee
STILLWATER, Okla. (CN) – The woman accused of killing four people by driving her car into Oklahoma State University’s homecoming parade is being held on $1 million bond and must submit to a psychological evaluation, a state judge ruled Monday.
State District Judge Katherine Thomas ordered Adacia Avery Chambers, 25, held on four preliminary counts of second-degree murder. Appearing in for the hearing via video, Chambers was silent other than saying “yes” when asked if she could hear what was said. Prosecutors asked Judge Thomas for more time before formally charging Chambers. She could face up to 10 years in state prison for each count.
In setting the high bond, the judge cited details from a probable cause affidavit filed Monday in Payne County Court. The 3-page document states that a gray Hyundai Elantra struck a police motorcycle at the Saturday morning parade, then plowed into a crowd near a crosswalk at an intersection.
Killed at the scene were Marvin Lyle Stone, 65, Bonnie Jean Stone, 65, and Nikita Nakal, 23. Nash Lucas, 2, died later of his injuries.
Chambers “admitted to having a history of suicidal attempts” when she was booked, and said “she was suicidal at the time of the incident but not at the time of booking,” the affidavit states.
Chambers’ attorney, Tony Coleman in Oklahoma City, said Sunday that he “absolutely” rules out alcohol as a cause of the crash. He said Chambers “doesn’t remember a whole lot” about what happened and may have “blacked out.”
“I did not smell alcohol on her body,” he told reporters at his law office. “She did not come off as someone who was coming off of a drunken stupor.”
Coleman said that when he met with his client for an hour, he was “not satisfied that I was communicating with a competent” person. He cited “some history” of mental illness in Chambers’ past.
“I am not a psychiatrist or psychologist; however, I am currently representing several [clients] with mental illnesses and in my opinion, Ms. Chambers suffers from a mental illness,” he said. “Exactly what type has yet to be determined.”
Coleman filed a motion for psychological evaluation Monday, which the judge granted. Payne County District Attorney Laura Thomas asked for a two-week continuance, as a fifth victim is in a “fragile state,” which may result in additional charges, Tulsa World reported.
“The evidence indicates Chambers consciously drove through a red light, around a police barricade, over a police motorcycle and further into a large crowd of highly visible, innocent people enjoying OSU homecoming day festivities,” Thomas said. “The acts alleged in the affidavit suggest this was a purposeful criminal act committed upon a large gathering of innocent men, women and children.”
Michael Brose, executive director of Mental Health Association Oklahoma, wrote to attorneys on both sides Monday, asking them to “refrain from language” that may stigmatize people with mental illnesses or other health issues.
“It is important in this early stage of your investigations for all public statements to refrain from language which may ultimately be false, inaccurate, stigmatizing or erroneous,” Brose wrote. “Any rush to judgment regarding causes, whether they be attributed to physical health, mental health, and/or substance abuse in the absence of actual facts obtained from toxicology reports and/or from qualified professionals is inappropriate, and could have negative impact to people living and working in recovery from diabetes, mental illness, substance abuse and/or other forms of health issues or disability.”

From Courthouse News.

Bail Futile Thanks to ICE Holds, Inmates Say

October 27, 2015
By David Lee
DALLAS (CN) – Dallas County unconstitutionally refuses to release inmates who have bonded out for months, due to hold requests by federal immigration officials, 16 Hispanic plaintiffs claim.
Lead plaintiff Arturo Mercado sued the county and Sheriff Lupe Valdez in Dallas Federal Court Monday evening. The plaintiffs say they should have been held for only 48 hours at the request of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials after they posted bond, not for several more months.
“Freedom from pretrial detention is a fundamental right protected by the United States Constitution,” the 13-page complaint states. “Defendants held plaintiffs in Dallas County jail for months pending trial, even for purported misdemeanors, without allowing immediate release on bond.”
The plaintiffs say posting bond in Dallas County has become a “futile exercise for those with immigration holds,” because it will not result in immediate release.
“The scheme has predictable effects,” the complaint states. “Because Dallas County will not immediately release those on bond, individuals with immigration holds generally do not attempt to post bond, and Dallas County maintains pretrial detention over almost all individuals with immigration holds.”
Mercado and the other plaintiffs contend the Texas Constitution is being violated as well, because ICE hold requests are not warrants – which are required for all arrests in the state.
They seek actual damages for violations of their Fifth, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. They are represented by Anthony M. Garza with Charhon Callahan and Eric Puente with Puente Hindieh, both in Dallas.
Sheriff’s spokesman Raul Reyna declined to comment on the lawsuit Tuesday morning, citing the “active litigation.” He previously said ICE officials are “familiar” with the agreement in Dallas County and will not submit holds for inmates in the wrong categories.
The timing of the lawsuit is noteworthy as it was filed over a month after Valdez decided to no longer honor ICE hold requests for inmates accused of minor offenses. The policy change resulted in Gov. Greg Abbott admonishing Valdez for enacting “sanctuary-city policies” that he will no longer tolerate.
“Your decision to not fully honor ICE’s requests to detain criminal immigrants poses a serious danger to Texans,” Abbott wrote in a letter Monday. “These detainers provide ICE with the critical notice and time it needs to take incarcerated immigrants into federal custody.”

From Courthouse News.

Indicted Texas AG Recuses Self from Some Tasks

October 23, 2015
By David Lee
FORT WORTH (CN) – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has recused himself from some duties as he faces criminal securities charges that could send him to prison for 99 years.
Paxton’s spokeswoman Cynthia Meyer told Texas Lawyer on Wednesday that the attorney general’s office followed its policy and state rules and laws to screen Paxton from participating in matters in which he may have a conflict of interest.
Meyer said Paxton’s participation is screened for anything related to the charges against him, any of the five law firms hired to represent him in the criminal case, and anything that involves the State Securities Board or the Texas Ethics Commission.
“The OAG will revise this screening procedure as needed to continue to avoid any conflicts,” Meyer said. “Any recusal under this policy is intended to go beyond the letter and spirit of the governing law and rules.”
Paxton was indicted in July by a Collin County grand jury on two first-degree felony counts of securities fraud and a third-degree felony count of failing to register with the securities board. The charges date back to 2011, when Paxton was a member of the Texas House of Representatives.
Paxton, 53, is a Republican attorney from McKinney, north of Dallas. He served in the Texas House from 2003 to 2013 and in the Texas Senate from 2013 until he became attorney general in January.
The securities board fined Paxton $1,000 last year after he admitted he had solicited clients for a friend’s investment firm, Mowery Capital Management, while he was a state senator and without being registered as an investment adviser. Paxton paid the fine and was reprimanded.
The new charges came from a Texas Rangers investigation that began after the board’s findings. The securities fraud charge is punishable by 5 to 99 years or life in state prison, the failure to register charge by 2 to 10 years.
Paxton is accused of fraudulently selling more than $100,000 in Servergy stock to two investors in July 2011 without disclosing that he would be paid commissions on it. He also failed to disclose that he had been given 100,000 shares in the company but had not invested in the company himself, according to the indictment.
One of Paxton’s criminal defense attorneys, Bill Mateja with Fish Richardson in Dallas, told Texas Lawyer the recusals make sense.
“That’s a good thing, because what that indicates is that he either has, or may have, or may perceive to have a conflict of interest, and you actually don’t want him presiding over matters in which he may have real or perceived conflicts of interest,” Mateja said.
Paxton’s first recusal became public in September, when he recused himself from signing a nonbinding opinion asking if it was legal for a county to reimburse the criminal defense costs of a county commissioner who was indicted, but found not guilty in a jury trial. Paxton explained in a letter that “staff members involved in the opinion process must recuse themselves from matters in which there may exist an actual or perceived conflict of interest.”
The opinion was signed by First Assistant Attorney General Chip Roy, not by Paxton.
“Any such recusal is intended to go beyond the letter and spirit of the governing law and rules in order to avoid even the appearance of impropriety and to demonstrate our ongoing commitment to the highest ethical standards,” Roy wrote in a Sept. 28 letter.
Paxton has denied the criminal charges against him and told citizens he is still on the job. He sued the federal government on Tuesday in Wichita Falls Federal Court, claiming that Obamacare regulations that force states to pay a health insurance providers fee or risk losing Medicaid funding impose a coercive and unconstitutional tax.

From Courthouse News.

States Sue Feds Over Hidden Obamacare Fee

October 22, 2015
By David Lee
DALLAS (CN) – Obamacare regulations that force states to pay a health insurance providers fee or risk losing Medicaid funding impose a coercive and unconstitutional tax, three states claim in Federal Court.
Texas, Kansas and Louisiana sued the federal government in Wichita Falls Federal Court on Thursday. They say they were first notified of the fee in March and have paid it, but argue the “new regulatory framework poses a myriad of statutory and constitutional” issues.
“Nothing in the language of the Affordable Care Act provides clear notice to the states that a condition of the federal funding for their Medicaid and Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP) managed care organizations was paying the health insurance providers fee and associated costs to the managed care organizations to pay to the federal government,” the 20-page complaint states.
“This notice was not even provided by rule but was ultimately provided by a private entity wielding legislative authority. The statute and regulations governing the health insurance providers fee include no specific language excluding the activities of for-profit managed care organizations providing Medicaid or CHIP services from being included in the fee.”
Managed-care organizations play a crucial role in Medicaid and CHIP in the plaintiff states. They will provide Medicaid services to 87 percent of Texas’ full-benefit population this year and will receive $16.6 billion for health care services – 17 percent of Texas’ budget, according to the complaint.
The states say that under the new regulations, actuarial standards of practice determined by the private Actuarial Standards Board and adopted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services requires states to pay managed-care organizations “an amount sufficient to cover the health insurance providers fee and any amount of additional taxes that the managed-care organizations incur as a result of” Medicaid and CHIP payments.
They disagree with this standard, citing earlier U.S. Supreme Court and D.C. Circuit rulings that ban federal lawmakers from delegating regulatory authority to private entities, that it is “legislative delegation in its most obnoxious form,” according to the complaint.
Without an actuary certifying a managed-care organization’s contract, it will not be eligible to participate in Medicaid or CHIP, the states say.
“In the next decade, the health insurance providers fee is projected to allow the federal government to collect between $13 and $15 billion from the states,” the complaint states. “By functionally requiring that the plaintiff states reimburse managed care organizations for payment of tax liabilities, the United States has imposed those taxes on the states.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Tuesday the regulation “coercively threatens” to cut off Medicaid funding for millions of Texans and over 350,000 children.
“This threat to cut Medicaid funding to Texans unless the state continues to pay hundreds of millions in taxes to Washington amounts to the very ‘gun to the head’ the Supreme Court warned about in earlier rulings on Obamacare,” Paxton said in a statement. “Not only is the federal government threatening the health care needs of millions of Texans, but it is doing so using Texans’ own money, collected from them through taxes. This represents yet another huge overstep of authority for this administration, which once again has demonstrated their willingness to circumvent the Constitution in order to achieve their policy goals.”
Paxton said the adoption of the Actuarial Standards Board’s unconstitutional tax on the states funds “the insolvent Obamacare mandate” and “robs the tax coffers” of citizens.
Texas paid $86 million in 2013 and $140 million a year since.
The states seek an injunction and declaration that the fee is unconstitutional, arbitrary, capricious, coercive and in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.
They are represented by Texas Assistant Attorney General Thomas A. Albright in Austin.

From Courthouse News.

Ahmed Mohamed Moving to Qatar

October 21, 2015
By David Lee
DALLAS (CN) – Hours after meeting President Obama at the White House on Monday, the Texas teenager who was arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school said he is moving to Qatar to further his education.
Ahmed Mohamed, 14, of Irving, was handcuffed and arrested by four police officers at MacArthur High School in September when he brought his homemade device to school to show a teacher. The clock consisted of a circuit board and power supply wired to a digital display inside a pencil case, with a tiger hologram on the front.
Mohamed said the principal threatened to expel him if he did not make a written statement. He was suspended from school for several days but police declined to press charges.
“They were like, ‘So you tried to make a bomb?'” Mohamed said at the time. “I told them no, I was trying to make a clock. He said, ‘It looks like a movie bomb to me.'”
A photo of a bewildered Mohamed in handcuffs quickly went viral, amid comments of Islamophobia and racism.
Mohamed’s father, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, believed his son was mistreated.
“He just wants to invent good things for mankind,” the father said at the time. “But because his name is Mohamed and because of Sept. 11, I think my son got mistreated.”
President Obama quickly stepped into the fray, inviting Mohamed to Washington.
“Cool clock, Ahmed,” Obama tweeted on Sept. 16. “Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It’s what makes America great.”
Mohamed briefly met the president Monday evening at the White House Astronomy Night. The annual event hosted several hundred high school students, teachers, NASA officials and scientist Bill Nye to discuss space exploration and careers in science and technology.
Obama told the group that NASA is working on sending humans to Mars in the 2030s.
“That means some of the young people here tonight might be working on that project,” he said. “Some of you might be on your way to Mars.”
Mohamed returned to Texas after spending the past few weeks on a world tour, visiting Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, among other places. His family said Tuesday that Mohamed has accepted a full scholarship from the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development for his remaining high school and undergraduate education. He will join the “prestigious” QF Young Innovators Program and his family will move with him.
“Earlier this month, we were invited to visit QF and were hugely impressed by the state-of-the-art facilities, community atmosphere and vast array of U.S. and international campuses in Education City,” the family said in a statement. “My son Ahmed is very excited.”
Mohamed said he loved the city of Doha “because it is so modern.”
“I saw so many amazing schools there, many of them campuses of famous American universities,” he said. “The teachers were great. I think I will learn a lot and have fun, too.”
U.S. schools with branch campuses at Education City include Texas A&M, Georgetown, Cornell, Carnegie Mellon and Northwestern.
After Mohamed was arrested, his family hired Dallas attorney Thomas Bowers, but no lawsuit has been filed over his arrest.

From Courthouse News.