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An eastern Iowa county agreed to pay $50,000 to settle a civil rights lawsuit against its top prosecutor last month, days before he applied for a seat on the Iowa Supreme Court.

The payment settled a lawsuit that alleged Muscatine County Attorney Alan Ostergren abused his power during his unsuccessful two-year prosecution of former West Liberty city manager Chris Ward. Ostergen pursued misconduct and fraud charges against Ward that courts later ruled were unjustified.

Ostergen, 46, a Republican considered a strong contender for the Supreme Court vacancy, has been involved in several high-profile cases. He applied for the opening created by the retirement of Justice Daryl Hecht last month and disclosed the lawsuit against him as required in his application .

He and other candidates will interview with the judicial nominating commission next week. Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds will make the appointment from three finalists recommended by that panel. Her choice is expected to tilt the historically progressive court to the right at a time when a major abortion rights case is unfolding.

Ostergren was one of three finalists recommended last year by Republican Sens. Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst to be the top federal prosecutor in southern Iowa but was passed over by President Donald Trump. He narrowly won re-election in November in Muscatine County, where he's been the top prosecutor since 2011.

Ostergen has raised his profile by using his position with an organization representing county attorneys to file several friend-of-the-court briefs with the Supreme Court. Civil liberties advocates have been concerned by some of his actions including his support of limiting the voting rights of felons and his unsuccessful prosecution of an immigrant on identity theft charges.

The lawsuit that prompted the settlement accused Ostergren of filing unsupported criminal charges against Ward and taking actions to interfere with his new job as city manager in Vinton, Iowa. The lawsuit noted that Ward was one of three African-American city managers in Iowa but did not allege race was a factor in the prosecution.


Europe's human rights court on Thursday ordered Italy to pay Amanda Knox financial damages for police failure to provide legal assistance and an independent interpreter during a long night of questioning following the Nov. 1, 2007 murder of her British roommate. But the court said there was insufficient evidence to support claims of psychological and physical mistreatment.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, said in its ruling that Italy hadn't succeeded in proving that "the restriction of Ms. Knox's access to a lawyer ... had not irreparably undermined the fairness of the proceedings as a whole." It said Italy must pay Knox 18,400 euros ($20,000) in damages, costs and expenses.

"Ms. Knox had been particularly vulnerable, being a foreign young woman, 20 at the time, not having been in Italy for very long and not being fluent in Italian," the court noted.

After more than seven years of legal battles and flip-flop decisions, Knox was definitively acquitted of Meredith Kercher's murder by Italy's highest court in March 2015. But a damaging conviction and three-year sentence for falsely accusing a Congolese bar owner of the murder was confirmed, leaving a cloud over her acquittal.


The Supreme Court said Tuesday it will take up its first gun rights case in nine years, a challenge to New York City’s prohibition on carrying a licensed, locked and unloaded handgun outside the city limits.

The court’s decision to hear the appeal filed by three New York residents and New York’s National Rifle Association affiliate could signal a revived interest in gun rights by a more conservative court. The case won’t be argued until October.

The challengers are represented by prominent lawyer Paul Clement, who has been urging the justices to elaborate on the extent of constitutional gun rights the Supreme Court declared in decisions in 2008 and 2010. The court had previously rejected several appeals.

The court may be more willing to take on a gun rights case now that Justice Anthony Kennedy has retired and been replaced by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was President Donald Trump’s second high-court nominee to be confirmed.

Clement says the case “is a perfect vehicle to reaffirm that those decisions and the constitutional text have consequences.”

Joining in support of gun rights, 17 states said the court should break its years-long silence and use the case to define the scope of gun rights under the Constitution and the level of scrutiny, or skepticism, judges should apply to gun laws.

New York’s ordinance allows people licensed to have handguns to carry them outside the home to gun ranges in the city. The guns must be locked and unloaded.

The city residents who filed suit want to practice shooting at target ranges outside the city or take their guns to second homes elsewhere in New York state. Lower courts had rejected the challenge.



With a guilty plea and a huge fine, Cristiano Ronaldo finally put an end to his tax ordeal in Spain.

Nearly four years after an investigation was opened, Ronaldo appeared at a court in Madrid on Tuesday to plead guilty to tax fraud and agree to a fine of nearly 19 million euros ($21.6 million).

The Juventus forward, who was facing charges stemming from his days at Real Madrid, spent about 45 minutes in court to sign the agreement. He was also given a two-year suspended sentence.

Ronaldo will not have to serve time in prison because judges in Spain can suspend sentences for two years or less for first-time offenders.

The Portugal star smiled broadly after leaving court despite the unwanted trip back to Madrid, where he played until last summer.

“It’s done,” he said briefly as he walked past some of the hundreds of journalists outside the court house.

He later posted a photo on Twitter of himself smiling while apparently taking a selfie inside an airplane. The picture was accompanied by emoticons that included a “thumbs-up.”

Ronaldo arrived in court in a black van and was wearing sunglasses, a black sports coat, black pants and white tennis shoes. He stopped to sign an autograph before walking up some stairs leading to the court house. He was accompanied by his lawyers and his partner, Georgina Rodriguez. Police officers escorted him.

The court had dismissed Ronaldo’s request to enter the building directly from the parking lot, which would have allowed him to avoid the media. The request was made for security reasons, but the court said it didn’t think the measure was needed despite the player’s notoriety.

Court officials said Ronaldo didn’t make any comments while in the courtroom to sign the agreement.

On his way out of the court house, he again stopped to sign autographs for a few fans who were wedged among the journalists. He also made a thumbs-up sign as people gathered near the court.

Ronaldo made the deal to plead guilty with Spain’s state prosecutor and tax authorities last year.

The investigation reportedly began in 2015, and two years later a state prosecutor accused Ronaldo of four counts of tax fraud from 2011-14 worth 14.7 million euros ($16.7 million). Ronaldo was accused of having used shell companies outside Spain to hide income made from image rights.


The Supreme Court is rejecting an appeal from a former Seattle-area football coach who lost his job because he refused to stop praying on the field.

But four conservative justices say Tuesday that they are interested in former Bremerton High School Coach Joe Kennedy's case and the legal issues it raises.

Lower courts said Kennedy was not immediately entitled to get his job back. Courts rejected Kennedy's claim that the school district violated his speech rights by putting him on paid leave after he continued to pray at midfield following games.

Justice Samuel Alito says the high court is right to reject the appeal for now, but says he is troubled by lower courts' handling of the case. Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas joined with Alito.


The Trump administration can go ahead with its plan to restrict military service by transgender men and women while court challenges continue, the Supreme Court said Tuesday.

The high court split 5-4 in allowing the plan to take effect, with the court's five conservatives greenlighting it and its four liberal members saying they would not have. The order from the court was brief and procedural, with no elaboration from the justices.

As a result of the court's decision, the Pentagon can implement a policy so that people who have changed their gender will no longer be allowed to enlist in the military. The policy also says transgender people who are in the military must serve as a member of their biological gender unless they began a gender transition under less restrictive Obama administration rules.

The Trump administration has sought for more than a year to change the Obama-era rules and had urged the justices to take up cases about its transgender troop policy immediately, but the court declined for now.

Those cases will continue to move through lower courts and could eventually reach the Supreme Court again. The fact that five justices were willing to allow the policy to take effect for now, however, makes it more likely the Trump administration's policy will ultimately be upheld.

Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said the department was pleased with the court's decision.

"The Department of Defense has the authority to create and implement personnel policies it has determined are necessary to best defend our nation," she said, adding that lower court rulings had forced the military to "maintain a prior policy that poses a risk to military effectiveness and lethality."

Groups that sued over the Trump administration's policy said they ultimately hoped to win their lawsuits against the policy. Jennifer Levi, an attorney for GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, said in a statement that the "Trump administration's cruel obsession with ridding our military of dedicated and capable service members because they happen to be transgender defies reason and cannot survive legal review."

Until a few years ago service members could be discharged from the military for being transgender. That changed under the Obama administration. The military announced in 2016 that transgender people already serving in the military would be allowed to serve openly. And the military set July 1, 2017, as the date when transgender individuals would be allowed to enlist.



A lawyer for the family of an incapacitated Arizona woman who gave birth in a long-term care facility said she is not in a coma as previously reported.

The Arizona Republic reported Friday that attorney John Micheaels said the 29-year-old woman has “significant intellectual disabilities” and does not speak but has some ability to move, responds to sounds and is able to make facial gestures.

Phoenix police have said the woman was the victim of a sexual assault and have disclosed little other information.

A Jan. 8 statement by San Carlos Apache Tribe officials said the woman, a tribal member, gave birth while in a coma. News media outlets have reported that the woman, who has not been publicly identified, was in a vegetative state at the facility where she spent many years.

“The important thing here is that contrary to what’s been reported, she is a person, albeit with significant intellectual disabilities. She has feelings and is capable of responding to people she is familiar with, especially family,” Micheaels told the newspaper.

He responded to a request Saturday by The Associated Press for comment by saying in an email that the information reported in the Republic is correct. He did not comment further.

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