MINNESOTA NEWS ROUNDUP: Lawyer charged with setting girlfriend on fire
BURNSVILLE, Minn. -- An Twin Cities attorney has been charged with pouring hair spray and nail polish remover on his long-time girlfriend and then setting her on fire in his Burnsville condominium. The victim suffered burns to her scalp, face, neck, legs and hand, and lost an ear to the February incident. She remains hospitalized. 60-year-old David Gherity is charged with assault and arson. Gherity has a history of violent behavior; in 2001, he was convicted of assault for kicking a girlfriend and assaulting a neighbor who tried to stop the attack on the woman. He was disciplined by the state Office of Lawyers' Professional Responsibility at least four times before his law license was suspended in 2004.
Two members of the USHL's "Lincoln Stars" hockey team are involved in a criminal sexual conduct investigation in Moorhead. Court documents say the 18-year-old hockey players had sex with a 15-year-old girl in a Moorhead hotel room on feb. 15th. A search warrant affidavit says the team was in town for a game against the Fargo Force. The affidavit also says one of the players took a 10-second video of the encounter, which was being circulated among the league's hockey teams. Lt. Tory Jacobson can say little about the case but confirms that a Moorhead detective traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska, where both players were interviewed. The players' cell phone were seized as evidence. Charges have not been filed.
A 23-year-old St. Paul man is headed to prison for the murder of a St. Paul bar owner last summer. Cheng Vang pled guilty earlier this year to second-degree murder for shooting and killing Vone Moua in an argument over a 20-dollar pool table fee at Malina's Sports Bar in St. Paul. He also pled guilty to two charges of attempted second-degree murder for shooting two other men in the incident. Vang was sentenced to 41 years in prison yesterday.
Minneapolis police have two 25-year-old woman in custody following a high-speed chase Monday on Interstate 494 and Highway 169. Diana Chosa and Collette Hanson were in a car that had been reported stolen. The chase began when an officer saw what appeared to be a suspicious vehicle in an alley and the driver took off. Officers recovered a bag of suspected narcotics that were tossed out the window during the chase.
State officials say a convicted serial rapist has destroyed sexually explicit journals that could have been placed into evidence by those who oppose his release. 58-year-old Thomas Duvall's lawyer admitted in a court hearing yesterday (Mon) that his client had destroyed the fantasy logs that he kept as part of his therapy in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program. Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson and a court-appointed psychologist wanted copies of the journals in order to oppose his release from the program. Duvall committed a string of assaults on teenage girls in the 1970s and 1980s. The Star Tribune is reporting that a hearing on his proposed discharge has now been pushed back to September to give psychologists time to evaluate the treatment Duvall has received. GOP lawmakers blasted Governor Mark Dayton last year when he didn't oppose Duvall's possible release.
The state Court of Appeals has overturned the sexual misconduct conviction of a Catholic priest from a St. Paul. In 2011, Christopher Wenthe was convicted of one count of clergy third-degree sexual misconduct, and the appeals court outlined three trial errors in overturning the conviction; jurors should have been told that they had to unanimously agree that the sexual misconduct occurred at a single meeting in which the alleged victim sought spiritual aid from Wenthe. The jurors also should have been required to determine that Wenthe knew the victim was seeking spiritual aid at that meeting. His lawyer should also have been allowed to question the alleged victim's assertions that she was a virgin and sexually inexperienced. Ramsey County Attorney John Choi says he's disappointed with the ruling because he is now required to prove intent. Choi hasn't decided whether he will try to appeal the case to the state Supreme Court or schedule a retrial.
A Plymouth man will pay 44-hundred dollars in fines and restitution for vandalizing a sandstone wall at Pompeys Pillar National Monument in Montana. According to the U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Land Management, Cole Randall accepted responsibility for carving his and his newlywed wife's name into the rock. The monument is where explorer Captain William Clark etched his name into the historic rock over 200 years ago, and Randall's vandalism was done within a few feet of Clark's etching.
Former State Representative Steve Smith was found dead Monday at the age of 64. Cause of death has not been determined but Smith had battled alcoholism. He was the longest-serving Republican in the Minnesota House before suffering a defeat in the 2012 primary election. The House observed a moment of silence Monday afternoon as Republican Representative Mary Liz Holberg announced Smith's death. Holberg says Smith worked tirelessly on child support issues during his time in the legislature.
2013 income tax returns are due one week from today (Tues). Minnesota IRS spokeswoman Karen Connelly says if you haven't filed your taxes and need to, now is a good time to get started. She says people who don't believe they can meet the deadline can file for a six-month extension using Form 4868. Connelly says around 1.5 million of the estimated 2.6 million Minnesotans have already filed their 2013 returns.
A state Senate committee last night (Mon) gave the final okay to proceed with construction of a new 76-million-dollar Senate Office Building across the street from the State Capitol -- all eight Democrats voting "yes" and all five Republicans voting "no." The panel accepted a plan modified by the House last Friday that puts all senators' offices in the new building -- rather than leaving some in the State Capitol -- and scraps plans for a public parking ramp. Senate Republican Minority Leader David Hann wanted the building put on hold until lawmakers understand more completely what the plan is for the State Capitol renovation, current State Office Building, and the new Senate Office Building. Democrats say plans for the new building must move forward so major renovation of the State Capitol can continue.
The Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless is among the groups praising Minnesota lawmakers' agreement on raising the minimum wage. The Coalition's Kenza Hadj-Moussa (HODGE-moo-suh) says people don't realize that many homeless Minnesotans have jobs. She says about one in four homeless people work part-time and another handful work full-time -- and "it really means something if workers can afford a place to live based on their wages." Hadj-Moussa says the agreement is a huge step forward for thousands of families. Backers say about 360-thousand Minnesotans should get a pay raise through the bill, which indexes the minimum wage to inflation.
Minnesota Senate Democrats bring a bill up for a floor vote today (11am debate start) that would spend about one-fourth of the state's one-point-two-billion-dollar budget surplus. The legislature already passed and the governor signed a bill returning about 400 million dollars of the surplus to taxpayers through various tax credits, and about 100 million dollars in additional tax relief is pending. The bill on the Senate floor today (Tues) would spend about 200 million dollars on a variety of programs. The high points: Those providing home- and community-based services to Minnesotans with disabilities would receive a five-percent wage increase, pre-kindergarten programs get a bump in state funding, there's money for homeless youth prevention, mental health support systems and programs to end sex-trafficking of youth. There's also money to repair potholes. The House passed its version of the bill late last week.