Gault Pleads Guilty; Facing 50 Years In Prison

Court Watch 2008/03/06 04:03   Bookmark and Share

A former dog trainer who was accused of hiding a runaway girl in his West Harford home for nearly a year pleaded guilty Wednesday in Superior Court in Hartford to eight felony charges which are expected to net him a lengthy stay in prison.

Adam Gault, 41, entered guilty pleas to two counts of first-degree kidnapping, four counts of second-degree sexual assault, risk of injury to a minor and conspiracy to commit first-degree kidnapping.

Assistant State's Attorney David Zagaja said the state is recommending a 50-year prison term for Gault, which would be suspended after 30 years incarceration. He would then spend 20 years on probation.

Sentencing was set for May 19. If he had chosen to go to trial, he would have faced a maximum of 160 years.

Judge David Gold told the defendant he was considering imposing 50 years, suspended after 25 years, but that he would consider increasing the term at the time of sentencing after getting a pre-sentence report.

Gold gave Gault the option of accepting a higher sentence, or withdrawing his guilty plea at that time.

Gault was found competent to stand trial in February. He had faced nearly 40 charges. The bulk of the charges, including kidnapping, unlawful restraint, risk of injury to a minor, reckless endangerment and sexual assault, were in connection with the Bloomfield teenager who was found in his home. The girl, who was 14 when she disappeared is now 16.

A second complaint brought by a second woman was lodged subsequent to his arrest.

At Wednesday's 90-minute hearing, Gault appeared clean-shaven, with a short-cropped hair. On several occasions, when the judge asked him how he pleaded, he responded with "I'm guilty"

His other responses were limited to "Yes sir" or "no sir."

Marc Needelman, the attorney who represents the family of the 14-year-old, said he expected his clients to appear at Gault's sentencing and also make recommendations for appropriate sentences against his co-defendants, Ann Murphy and Kimberly Cray.

Gold said they would attempt to accommodate the family by having the two women appear that day.

Gault, who lived on Newington Road in West Hartford, was arrested last June when Bloomfield and West Hartford police discovered the teenager, who had been reported missing for almost a year, in a locked storage closet behind a dresser in his home.

Gault and the girl's mother and stepfather, who operate a dog day care and kennel in Bloomfield, knew each other professionally. The girl had worked for Gault in his dog training business.

The police were executing a search warrant for Gault's house and his DNA on June 6 when they came across the locked, hidden storage space and found the girl inside. At the time, investigators believed they were searching for evidence linking Gault to the girl's disappearance and possible demise.

According to court documents, DNA testing on a fetus that the victim aborted in May showed Gault impregnated the girl.

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Judge Rejects Murtha Deposition Request

Court News 2008/03/06 03:01   Bookmark and Share
Attorneys for a Marine officer facing court-martial on charges he mishandled the aftermath of the deaths of 24 Iraqis may not force a Pennsylvania congressman to testify in the case, a military judge ruled.

Attorneys for Lt. Col. Jeffrey R. Chessani want to question Rep. John Murtha over his public statement that the Marines killed "in cold blood" during the attack in Haditha. Murtha said he had been briefed by the highest levels of the military about the case and that officers covered it up.

Chessani's attorneys, who released the ruling Wednesday, said they will appeal if the judge doesn't reconsider.

Chessani is the highest-ranking U.S. serviceman to face a combat-related court-martial since the Vietnam War.

"When the congressman said he was briefed by the highest levels, we need to know who they are," said Brian Rooney, Chessani's civilian defense attorney.

Rooney said Murtha's deposition would "confirm what he said to the press is accurate."

Murtha's spokesman, Matthew Mazonkey, said the congressman had no comment. A telephone call to a Marine Corps spokesman was not immediately returned.

Chessani has been charged with dereliction of duty and violation of a lawful order on allegations that he mishandled the aftermath of the Nov. 19, 2005, shooting deaths in Haditha.

He faces court-martial on April 28. If convicted on all counts, he faces up to three years in prison.

Four enlisted Marines were initially charged with murder in the case and four officers were charged with failing to investigate the deaths. Charges against several of the men have been dropped, and none will face murder charges.

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Former Judge Z. Mae Jimison dies

Attorney News 2008/03/05 14:20   Bookmark and Share

Z. Mae Jimison, the first black woman to serve as a judge on the Marion Superior Court, died today. She was 64.
 
Jimison was an appointed judge from 1988 to 1990. She was on the City-County Council from 1992-95 and ran as a Democratic candidate for mayor in 1995, losing to Republican Stephen Goldsmith.

Jimison was elected to the bench in 1996, but lost her bid for reelection six years later. Her office had become known for missing records and mistakes. At one point, then-Prosecutor Scott Newman said her court had run “off the rails.”

Jimison is credited with creating the Marion County Drug Court.

Marion Superior Judge Cynthia Ayers today paid tribute to Jimison.

“As the first black woman appointed to the Superior Court of Marion County, she crossed a historic barrier and opened doors for other qualified women to become part of the judiciary in this state,” Ayers said in a statement.

“Her insistence on fairness and impartiality for all litigants, her dedication to justice, and her exemplary service to the court will long be remembered by all.”

Jimison was hopeful as she prepared to leave office in 2002.

“I always believe I should let God order my steps,” she said in a Star interview.

“I also believe that when he closes a door, he always opens a window. I am looking for my windows.”

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District judge given probation in gun incident

Court News 2008/03/05 14:19   Bookmark and Share

A former district judge pleaded no contest yesterday to carrying a concealed firearm without a license following an altercation with his father-in-law.

Senior District Judge Donald H. Presutti, 60, of Kilbuck, was given nine months' probation for the misdemeanor violation. Allegheny County Judge Randal B. Todd ordered him to complete 120 hours of community service and anger management classes. The judge also prohibited him from contact with his father-in-law.

Raymond Billotte, district court administrator for Common Pleas Court, said Mr. Presutti is not currently on call for arraignment judges' roster. He said President Judge Joseph James would be seeking counsel from the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts as to how to proceed with Mr. Presutti's status since his plea.

The former judge admitted to police he had a 9 mm pistol tucked in his suit pocket when he was arrested Nov. 29, 2006, at West View Auto Body on Perry Highway.

He told officials he had the gun loaded, cocked and concealed because he was afraid of his father-in-law, Earl Quillen, whom he said had swung at him and grabbed him by the neck earlier at the auto body shop.

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Judge at Rezko Trial Keeps Jurors Secret

Headline Legal News 2008/03/05 14:16   Bookmark and Share
The judge in the corruption trial of a prolific fundraiser for Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and Gov. Rod Blagojevich (blah-GOY'-uh-vich) says she's keeping the identities of jurors secret.

Twelve jurors and six alternates are to hear opening statements Thursday in Antoin "Tony" Rezko's trial.

U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve says she's not releasing the jurors' names or numbers. She has left the door open to releasing some information later.

The 52-year-old Rezko is accused of shaking down companies hoping to invest teachers' pension money or build hospital expansions. He denies wrongdoing.

Rezko has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Blagojevich and sizable amounts for Obama. Neither politician has been charged with anything.

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US Judge Awards $37M in Peru Massacre

Headline Legal News 2008/03/05 13:43   Bookmark and Share
A federal judge has ordered a former Peruvian army officer to pay $37 million for his role in a 1985 massacre in Peru in which 69 civilians were slain, including elderly people and infants.

U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan ruled Tuesday in a lawsuit filed against former Maj. Telmo Hurtado by two women — Ochoa Lizarbe and Pulido Baldeon — who were 12 at the time and survived the attack.

Jordan had previously found in the lawsuit that Hurtado was had committed torture, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Hurtado, 46, is in federal custody in Miami while fighting deportation to Peru, with a hearing set for March 26. He did not contest the lawsuit, did not have a lawyer and refused to testify last month when he was brought to court for a hearing on damages.

Jordan said the money can be awarded under a 1991 U.S. law allowing torture victims to collect damages in this country for violations if a foreign government refuses to do so. Neither woman has received any compensation from Peru's government.

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