Ex-cop Nouman Raja seeks freedom while appealing sentence in death of motorist

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Nouman Raja, sentenced last week to 25 years in prison for the fatal shooting of Corey Jones, wants to return home to his family.

Lawyers for the former police officer argue he is eligible for a bond and a return to house arrest while appealing his attempted first-degree murder and manslaughter convictions and punishment.

In a request filed Wednesday with Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Joseph Marx, Raja’s legal team noted that he never violated the conditions of his pretrial $250,000 bond for nearly three years.

“His time on (house arrest) was remarkable for its total lack of any failure to comply with the stringent requirements of the program,” attorney Steven Malone wrote on behalf of Raja’s defense.

Prosecutors will have an opportunity to file a response before Marx convenes a hearing. And family members of Jones, the 31-year-old stranded motorist killed by Raja in 2015, will be able to share their thoughts.

Raja’s request notes that the 41-year-old former Palm Beach Gardens cop meets the conditions under Florida law that make bond possible in his case. Among them are his lack of criminal history, his longstanding ties to the community, and his “fairly debatable issues to be raised on appeal.”

The first is that Marx made a mistake by not allowing Raja’s defense to argue to the jury that the shooting was “a justifiable use of deadly force by a law enforcement officer.”

The attorneys say Raja is not a flight risk, has a job lined up if he’s released, and would live with his wife of 16 years and their two young children, including one who has special needs.

It’s up to the judge’s discretion whether to grant an appellate bond.

— Sun Sentinel

Autopsy results confirm S.C. fifth-grader died of natural causes after school fight

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Authorities released the autopsy results this week for Raniya Wright, the 10-year-old Walterboro girl who died following a classroom fight.

The results confirmed Wright died of “natural” causes.

The medical examiner’s report stated “there is no evidence of injury.”

Speculation that Wright had died because of injuries from a March 25 fight at Forest Hills Elementary School circulated through Walterboro and on social media.

Those rumors were addressed on April 19 when Solicitor Duffie Stone said Wright died of a congenital condition called an arteriovenous malformation, a tangle of abnormal blood vessels in the brain.

“In this case, the science is clear,” Stone said, adding that no criminal charges would be filed.

Colleton County Sheriff R.A. Strickland said the fight lasted only a few seconds before the teacher broke it up.

“This was a five-second slap fight that occurred in the front right corner of the classroom. Within seconds they were pulled apart,” he said.

The autopsy results also showed Wright had no injuries to her neck.

Still, according to police reports, some students said the other student in the fight had Raniya “in a headlock and was striking her in the head with her fist.”

Several students said Raniya hit her head on a bookshelf during the fight.

Wright’s mother, Ashley Wright, and her attorneys are continuing their own investigation into what led to the fight and Raniya’s death.

— The State (Columbia, S.C.)

Koch brothers, no fans of Trump, boost lobbying spending

WASHINGTON — The famously conservative Koch brothers, Charles and David, were among those libertarian-minded conservatives who sat out the 2016 presidential election out of distaste for Donald Trump.

They’ve since bristled at his policies on trade and immigration, as they prefer freer trade and looser borders.

But the brothers’ fortune comes from their Wichita, Kansas, industrial conglomerate, which does a lot of business with the government. And among major spenders on lobbying, their firm, it turns out, boosted its outlays the most this year.

Koch Cos. Public Sector was the eighth-highest spender on lobbying during the first quarter of 2019, spending $4.6 million.

But as a percentage of spending in first quarters of the past five years, the Kochs led the way, spending 27.6 percent of their five-year total this year.

By contrast, the biggest overall spender, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, actually spent a bit less than it typically does on lobbying in the first quarter. Its tally was 19.8 percent of its five-year total.

Two other firms spending much more than they have in years past were Northrop Grumman and United Technologies, both major defense contractors heavily reliant on government contracts.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the trade group for the drug industry, also is spending more, surely the result of pressure from Trump and Congress to lower prices for medicine.

— CQ-Roll Call

Vulgar words found on standardized tests for Texas fifth graders

DALLAS — Some Texas fifth graders taking state-mandated reading tests received a version that had included vulgar words within images presented in the tests, officials said.

Texas Education Agency spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said some versions of the STAAR tests had images of a graffiti park and two of those pictures included vulgar words in small lettering.

“This is in no way acceptable or appropriate, and we deeply regret that these images appeared on the test,” Culbertson said. “We apologize to all our parents and students, and in the spirit of continuous improvement, we pledge to ensure this issue never occurs again.”

Fifth graders took the reading portion of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness on April 10.

Of about 413,000 tests for that subject, 15,697 booklets had the version that included the graffiti park pictures.

Officials said they were notified about the concerning images after the tests were administered.

— The Dallas Morning News

Government declares cholera outbreak in cyclone-hit Mozambique

JOHANNESBURG — The government of Mozambique on Thursday declared a cholera outbreak in its cyclone-hit Cabo Delgado province.

Fourteen cases had been reported so far, 11 in the town of Pemba and three in Mecufi, according to the government.

Earlier, the World Health Organization warned that more than 188,000 people are in need of health assistance or at risk of disease in the province.

“Due to lack of accessibility, the full extent of damage to the health system and the heightened health risks are not yet known,” a statement said.

Cyclone Kenneth, which landed last week, was the second major storm to hit the southern African nation in just over a month, after Cyclone Idai devastated Sofala province in March.

Cyclone Idai left hundreds dead and tens of thousands displaced in Mozambique. So far Kenneth is known to have killed 41 people.

The WHO said it was redeploying a team of health professionals — who had originally been sent to the town of Beira in the wake of Idai — to Cabo Delgado.

The WHO is also sending water purification tablets and body bags among other items.

Rains over the past few days have caused flooding in some areas, the WHO said.

— dpa