News Roundup

Former President Donald Trump was indicted on Monday for the fourth time. A Fulton County grand jury returned a 41-count indictment charging Trump and 18 others with a conspiracy to unlawfully change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that indictment is the culmination of a two-year investigation launched by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis following Trump’s leaked January 2, 2021, phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, during which Trump asked Raffensperger to “find” him 11,780 votes.

Keep reading for more criminal law news.

Texas woman charged with threatening to kill federal judge. The News Roundup has previously noted that Trump faces a litany of charges in other jurisdictions, including charges in federal court in the District of Columbia that are similar to those in Fulton County. This week, a Texas woman was charged with threatening to kill U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who has been assigned to oversee the federal case against Trump. Authorities say that Abigail Jo Shry phoned the court in Washington D.C. on August 5 and left a voicemail informing the judge: “You are in our sights, we want to kill you.” She reportedly also said that “[i]f Trump doesn’t get elected in 2024, we are coming to kill you,” and made a racist comment againt Chutkan, who is black. Shry is said to have admitted making the call after investigators traced her phone number. CNN has the story here.

Canadian woman sentenced for mailing letters laced with poison to then-President Donald Trump. On Thursday, Pascale Ferrier was sentenced in federal court to nearly 22 years in prison and a lifetime of supervised release following her conviction on biological weapons charges. Ferrier will be permanently deported after she completes her prison term.

BBC News reports that Ferrier made the ricin (a deadly poison concocted from castor beans) at her home in Quebec, Canada and, in September 2020, put the poison in threatening letters addressed to Trump at the White House. She also sent similarly tainted letters to eight Texas law enforcement officials. Ferrier insisted at her sentencing hearing that she was a “peaceful person” and that she considered herself an “activist, not a terrorist.”

Seized but not silenced. NPR reports that police in Kansas have returned cellphones, computers and other equipment seized from the news officers of the Marion County Record last week. The raid drew a lot of attention as it, in the words of one reporter, was a nearly unheard of action that “seemed to run counter to long-established press freedoms and guarantees.” First Amendment attorney Lynn Oberlander put it bluntly: “It’s very rare because it’s illegal.”

KMUW in Wichita has the story on how the seven-member newspaper staff managed to send the Wednesday edition of the paper to print anyway, reconstructing the pages housed on confiscated servers and hard drives and finishing their reporting. The leading headline?  Seized . . . but not silenced.

The story behind the raid and seizure – which was carried out pursuant to a search warrant – is convoluted. It appears to be related to the paper’s investigation of whether local law enforcement officers were knowingly permitting a local caterer to drive with a revoked driver’s license. As part of the investigation, the paper confirmed that the caterer’s license was revoked, using a public website. Law enforcement officers obtained a search warrant from a magistrate judge citing a criminal investigation into identity theft apparently related to the paper’s review of the online records. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation took over the case on Monday. Two days later, it announced that it would coordinate the return of the seized items. Marion County Attorney Joel Ensley, who asked the judge to release the items, said he concluded that the warrant application failed to establish a link between the alleged crimes and the places that were searched and the equipment that was seized.

One tragedy after another in Person County. I had to the read this ABC11 Eyewitness News headline twice: Father shoots, kills driver who crashed into and killed son. Chad Woods and his teenage son ran out of gas early Monday morning in Timberlake, N.C. They were walking down the road back toward their house when a Department of Correction truck driven by Jeffrey McKay crashed into and killed Woods’ son. McKay stopped his truck and called 911. The Person County Sheriff’s Office says that Chad Woods then pulled out a gun and shot McKay. Woods allegedly then tossed the gun into a nearby pond, got into McKay’s truck, and drove home.

Woods was later arrested and charged with second-degree murder and larceny of a motor vehicle.

Person County Sheriff Sergeant Kevin Morris said this was a first for him: “I’ve been to people struck by cars and I’ve been to shootings, but I haven’t ever had this happen at the same time. Sad situation all around, for all the families.’” Indeed.

Facebook tagging is communication. Or so said the Texas Court of Appeals (Amarillo) in Boes v. State, decided Tuesday. The issue in the case was whether the defendant violated a protective order prohibiting him from communicating with his wife when he tagged her in Facebook posts. The court reasoned that because a person tagged in a Facebook post is notified when tagged, the posts amounted to prohibited communication by the defendant. Professor Eugene Volokh analyzes the ruling here.

Is there anything cuter than a kitten? The Associated Press reports that police in Connecticut who were searching a stolen car for evidence found the cutest thing ever – a gray and white kitten — under the seat. The kitten appears to have been unscathed by the car’s collison with a police vehicle during a chase. Authorities are looking for the kitten’s owner. Something tells me this little guy is going to find a home.