Nation roundup for February 20


Sports betting ban is challenged

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey is swinging for the fences in a long-shot effort to overturn a federal ban on sports betting in all but four states, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to declare the ban unconstitutional.

With a federal appeals panel ruling against the state, New Jersey is appealing to the nation’s highest court to consider two legal questions: Does the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act usurp state authority, in violation of the 10th amendment? And does its granting permission to only four states to conduct sports betting violate the principal of equal sovereignty?

The panel ruled New Jersey law allowing sports betting conflicts with the federal law, which limits sports betting to states that legalized it before a 1991 deadline — Delaware, Montana, Nevada, and Oregon. At the time, New Jersey was given the chance to become the fifth state but failed to act during a prescribed window.

But New Jersey says in its appeal, filed Feb. 12, that the federal law is unconstitutional because it treats states differently.

There is no guarantee the Supreme Court will even agree to hear the appeal. The state’s best chances may be the way the federal law is written.

No federal law directly prohibits individuals from betting on sports, the state argues. Rather, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act makes it unlawful for a “governmental entity” to license or authorize sports wagering activity.

Ex-soldier guilty in killings dies

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A former soldier sentenced to life for raping and killing a teenage Iraqi girl and using a shotgun to gun down her family died in an Arizona prison over the weekend in what officials suspect was a suicide.

Steven Dale Green was the first American soldier charged and convicted under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act — a law signed in 2000 that gives the federal government jurisdiction to pursue criminal cases against American citizens and soldiers for acts committed in foreign lands.

The federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman John Stahley said staff members at the federal penitentiary in Tucson, Ariz., found the 28-year-old Green, of Midland, Texas, unresponsive in his cell on Saturday. Stahley said Green’s death is being investigated as a suicide.

Green was a private in the 101st Airborne Division based at Fort Campbell on the Kentucky-Tennessee state line when he deployed to Iraq. Green and three other soldiers went to the home of an Iraqi family in Mahmoudiya, Iraq, near a traffic checkpoint in March 2006. At the home, Green shot and killed three members of the al-Janabi family before becoming the third soldier to rape 14-year-old Abeer Qassim al-Janabi before killing her. He was convicted and sentenced in 2009.

Three other soldiers. Jesse Spielman, Paul Cortez and James Barker, are serving lengthy sentences in the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., for their roles in the attack. Each is eligible for parole in 2015.

Green was discharged from the military in May 2006.

US Border Patrol agent kills man

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A U.S. Border Patrol agent fatally shot a man Tuesday after the agent was struck in the head with a rock, authorities said, fueling debate over whether the agency overreacts to rock assaults by suspected smugglers and migrants.

The agent was trying to stop a group of people suspected of crossing the border illegally from Mexico when the man who threw the rock at the bottom of a 75-foot ravine was shot, San Diego County sheriff’s Lt. Glenn Giannantonio said. The man was pronounced dead at the scene after first-aid efforts failed.

The agent declined to be treated at a hospital for an injury that the sheriff’s lieutenant described as minor. The agent and the man who was shot were not immediately identified.

The Border Patrol said in a statement that the agent feared for his life.

Two other people in the country illegally were arrested, the Border Patrol said. Kelly Thornton, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in San Diego, said they will not be charged with a crime.

Two Border Patrol agents on foot had separated to cut off the group, and one of the agents was hit in the face with the rock, prompting him to fire, Giannantonio said. He didn’t know how many times the man was shot.

The Border Patrol said the agent was attacked with rocks.

including one that hit him in the head.

The shooting, which took place about 6:30 a.m. four miles east of San Diego’s Otay Mesa border crossing, occurred amid debate over whether lethal force is justified as a response to rock attacks. The Border Patrol has long maintained that rocks are deadly weapons.

The Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit group that led a government-commissioned review, has recommended that the Border Patrol and its parent agency, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), prohibit deadly force against rock-throwers and assailants in vehicles, Border Patrol Chief Mike Fisher told The Associated Press last year. CBP rejected the proposed curbs, which Fisher called “very restrictive.”

Under current policy, agents can use deadly force if they have a reasonable belief that their lives or the lives of others are in danger.

Agents were attacked with rocks 339 times in the 2011 fiscal year, more than any other type of assault, according to the Department of Homeland Security inspector general. They responded with gunfire 33 times and with less-than-lethal force — a category that includes pepper spray and batons — 118 times.

Rock attacks fell to 185 in the 2012 fiscal year, becoming the second-most common type of assault. Agents fired a gun 22 times and responded 42 times with less-than-lethal force.

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department is leading the investigation into Tuesday’s shooting.

A spokesman for the union representing Border Patrol agents said he was confident the investigation would find the agent did nothing wrong.

“The easiest way to stop these incidents from happening is to stop attacking Border Patrol agents,” said Shawn Moran of the National Border Patrol Council.

Mitra Ebadolahi, an attorney for the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial counties, said there wasn’t enough public information to say if the agent was justified but that the episode raised familiar questions about whether the Border Patrol can respond to rock attacks with nonlethal force.

She said she was troubled that there appeared to be no independent witnesses.

“It’s imperative for the agency to behave honestly and transparently,” Ebadolahi said.

U.S. inspectors shutter California slaughterhouse

HANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Federal inspectors shut down a central California slaughterhouse that supplies beef to the National School Lunch Program because of unsanitary conditions.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service said in a statement Tuesday that the conditions prompted it to withdraw inspectors and suspend operations at Central Valley Meat Co. in Hanford, about 30 miles south of Fresno.

“The plant’s suspension will be lifted once we receive adequate assurances of corrective action,” the agency said.

Company representatives didn’t immediately return a phone message left by The Associated Press on Tuesday evening.

In 2012, Central Valley Meat Co. shut down for a week after Compassion Over Killing, an animal rights group, sent videos to federal officials showing workers torturing cows with electric prods and spraying hot water on the animals, the Los Angeles Times reported (http://lat.ms/1m8qZU8).

The abuse led to the end of the company’s relationship with In-N-Out restaurants. The national lunch program and McDonald’s also suspended purchases.

Federal inspectors didn’t find that the animals’ treatment affected food safety.

The facility reopened after submitting a plan of action that included training its workers to use electric prods correctly and banning taking in cows not able to walk or stand.

Last September, Central Valley recalled 58,000 pounds of beef for the school lunch program after federal officials said the meat possibly contained pieces of plastic. There was no recall in Tuesday’s announcement.

 

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