Ex-cop Nouman Raja guilty in roadside killing of Corey Jones

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Former police officer Nouman Raja is guilty of armed manslaughter and attempted first-degree murder for shooting stranded motorist Corey Jones to death in a roadside encounter, a Palm Beach County jury decided Thursday.

Raja, 41, had no visible reaction to the decision by the panel of four men and two women reached after nearly five hours of deliberations over two days. The moment arrived more than three years after Jones was gunned down at 3:15 a.m. Oct. 18, 2015, in a Palm Beach Gardens highway off-ramp.

“Justice … can be maddeningly slow,” State Attorney Dave Aronberg told reporters. “But it is justice.”

Defense attorneys Richard Lubin, Scott Richardson and Rick King later issued a statement: “The entire defense team is devastated by the jury’s verdict. We believe in Nouman Raja’s innocence and we will continue to stand behind him as his case is reviewed by the judge and, if necessary, the appellate courts.”

Circuit Judge Joseph Marx immediately ordered Raja to be placed in handcuffs and taken to the Palm Beach County Jail to await sentencing on April 26. He faces a minimum term of 25 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life.

Raja, who claimed he acted in self-defense after seeing Jones with a gun, is believed to be the first police officer convicted in an on-duty shooting in Florida in the last 30 years.

— Sun Sentinel

Hearing in Robert Kraft’s prostitution case scheduled for March 28

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — The prostitution case against New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is scheduled for an arraignment March 28, court records show.

A notice filed Wednesday reads that “the defendant must be present at this hearing,” which is set to be at the North County Courthouse in Palm Beach Gardens. However, Kraft’s attorney, Jack Goldberger, said that language is “boilerplate” on notices to appear.

“The lawyer appears for the defendant in a misdemeanor case,” Goldberger explained in an email. “The defendant does not appear.”

Reached by telephone Thursday morning, Goldberger maintained Kraft’s innocence.

Kraft, a 77-year-old part-time Palm Beach resident, through a spokesperson has adamantly denied the allegations that he twice paid for sex acts at a Jupiter day spa. Court records indicate he has formally entered a plea of not guilty in one of the two cases against him.

Kraft is one of 25 men facing charges in the monthslong investigation into Jupiter’s Orchids of Asia Day Spa. Of the men whose cases have been entered into Palm Beach County’s online system — 16 including Kraft — all received similar notices regarding their next court appearances, court records show.

— Palm Beach Post

Slain Illinois deputy chased ‘worst of the worst’; suspect in custody after long standoff

CHICAGO — A McHenry County sheriff’s officer has died after being shot while serving an arrest warrant early Thursday, and the suspected gunman is custody after an hourslong standoff with police off Interstate 55 south of Bloomington, according to authorities.

Deputy Jacob Keltner died around 3:30 p.m., hours after he was shot at a Rockford motel, according to the McHenry County sheriff’s office. He had been a deputy with the office for 13 years.

Keltner leaves behind a wife and two young children, said McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim. He was hired in 2006.

“He was part of a group of officers who chased the worst of the worst,” Prim said at an evening news conference.

The suspected gunman, Floyd E. Brown, fled downstate but crashed his silver Mercury Grand Marquis near Lincoln around 11:30 a.m. after leading Illinois State Police on a chase that reached speeds over 100 mph, authorities said. He had refused to leave the car, and reports from troopers at the scene said he pointed a rifle out of the vehicle.

A SWAT team and negotiators were called in, and all lanes of I-55 were shut down for several hours. Brown was unharmed when he was taken into custody, officials said.

— Chicago Tribune

Fourth-grader’s LGBT essay rejected by principal, who called it unacceptable, lawsuit says

COLUMBIA, S.C. — When a South Carolina fourth-grader wrote an essay for school on LGBT rights, the principal forced her to do a new essay, saying the topic “would create a undesirable situation at the school,” according to a lawsuit filed this week in federal court.

The principal forced the 10-year-old girl to change her essay to be about bullying, according to the lawsuit. The principal said the essay, meant to be combined with others from the class into a booklet, would “make other parents upset,” the court filing states.

The principal told the girl’s mom the topic “was ‘not acceptable’ and that it was ‘not age-appropriate to discuss transgenders, lesbians and drag queens outside of the home,’” the suit says.

The fourth-grader, listed in the suit only by her initials, and her mom, Hannah Robinson, sued the Spartanburg County School District No. 6, Anderson Mill Elementary School and Principal Elizabeth Foster, saying they violated the student’s First Amendment right to free speech and caused both mother and daughter emotional distress.

School district spokeswoman Cynthia Robinson, in a written statement to McClatchy, said, “Based on the fact that this is a legal matter we are limited with the amount of information we can release. However, we do consider the claims in this lawsuit to be inaccurate.”

— The State (Columbia, S.C.)

EU makes new Brexit offer in bid to break impasse

BRUSSELS — The European Union made a new offer in a bid to break the Brexit impasse, though it falls short of what Britain has demanded, people familiar with the EU side of the negotiations said.

Ahead of Parliament’s vote next week on whether to approve the Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, negotiators are racing against the clock to make additions and assurances that everyone can agree on. Talks have been acrimonious as the EU and United Kingdom try to find a way to make the so-called Irish backstop more palatable.

With the March 29 deadline looming, European and British officials were becoming increasingly gloomy about the prospect of a breakthrough, with Britain accusing the bloc of intransigence and European negotiators irritated by the latest negotiator May has sent in to seek concessions, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox.

Talks are expected to continue into the weekend and if they fail, Parliament will likely vote against May’s deal for the second time, plunging the country into political chaos.

It’s unclear if the EU’s new proposal will be enough. But it aims to bolster the review system that’s already set out in the deal, according to the people who spoke on condition of anonymity. These check-ins are scheduled every six months to help track and speed up the process of replacing the backstop with a better solution.

Many U.K. lawmakers say the backstop risks binding the U.K. to EU rules forever, especially since the U.K. cannot exit it unilaterally. Now officials are trying to deliver legally binding assurances to them that it won’t happen.

The EU’s new plan goes further than concessions outlined in a letter to May from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Council President Donald Tusk in January, according to the officials.

But they fall far short of the demands made by Cox this week, which the EU flatly rejected.

— Bloomberg News