Former Louisiana Democratic Party leader Karen Carter Peterson, who resigned from the state Senate last year year citing depression and a gambling addiction — and later pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud — was sentenced on Wednesday to 22 months in prison.
Peterson, who served in the Louisiana Legislature for more than 22 years, admitted in August to taking more than $140,000 in funds from her reelection campaign and from the state Democratic Party. The ex-lawmaker spent a “substantial amount” of that money on casino gambling, according to court documents.
Although the felony charge of federal wire fraud carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years, U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance sentenced Peterson to significantly less, The Advocate reported.
“People trusted me and I breached that trust,” Peterson said in court, WDSU-TV reported.
At the sentencing, Peterson cried at the podium and repented for her criminal wrongdoing — apologizing to her constituents, family and friends.
Ahead of the sentencing, Peterson’s lawyers implored U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance to consider an alternative to prison — such as probation or home confinement.
They said her gambling addiction resulted in “diminished mental capacity,” which can qualify a defendant for a reduced sentence, according to court filings obtained by The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate. In addition, they pointed to her Christian faith, her acceptance of responsibility for the crimes and her participation in Gamblers Anonymous.
A woman who brought a wild raccoon into a bar earlier this year will spend a year on probation.
On Tuesday, Erin Christensen of Maddock, 38, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of providing false information to law enforcement, tampering with evidence and unlawful possession of a live furbearer, reported the Bismarck Tribune.
Northeast District Judge Donovan Foughty gave her a suspended six-month jail sentence and a year on probation. He also ordered her to pay $1,100 in fines and fees.
She faced a maximum sentence of about two years in jail and $7,500 in fines.
According to court documents, Christensen said her family found the raccoon, nicknamed Rocky, on the side of a road and was nursing it back to health when she brought it into the bar on Sept. 6. A bartender said Rocky didn’t got loose nor did he bite anyone but state health officials still issued a warning about potential rabies exposure.
Authorities arrested Christensen on Sept. 14 after serving several search warrants in and around Maddock to find her and the raccoon. According to court documents, she wouldn’t disclose Rocky’s location.
Keeping a wild raccoon as a pet is illegal under state law — as is keeping a bat or skunk because they are known carriers of rabies, according to North Dakota’s Game and Fish website. Authorities ultimately euthanized the racoon, who tested negative for rabies.
Christensen has said Rocky’s fate has left her family traumatized.
An American woman who left the U.K. after killing a teenager in a road accident was given an eight-month suspended prison sentence on Thursday, though she declined to come to Britain for the court hearing.
Anne Sacoolas, 45, was sentenced over an August 2019 accident in which 19-year-old Harry Dunn was killed when his motorcycle collided with a car outside RAF Croughton, an air base in eastern England that is used by U.S. forces. Sacoolas was driving on the wrong side of the road at the time.
Sacoolas and her husband, an American intelligence officer, returned to the U.S. days after the accident. The U.S. government invoked diplomatic immunity on her behalf, prompting an outcry in Britain and causing tensions between the governments in London and Washington.
Sacoolas admitted causing death by careless driving, which carries a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment. Justice Bobbie Cheema-Grubb said Sacoolas’ actions were “not far short of deliberately dangerous driving,” but she reduced the penalty because of Sacoolas’ guilty plea and previous good character.
The suspended sentence means that Sacoolas faces jail if she commits another offense within a year — though the judge acknowledged the sentence could not be enforced if she remains in the U.S.
The sentencing follows a three-year campaign by Dunn’s family, who met with politicians on both sides of the Atlantic in a campaign to get Sacoolas to face British justice. American authorities refused to extradite her.
Sacoolas entered a guilty plea in October, but the U.S. administration advised her not to come to Britain for sentencing. She attended the hearing at London’s Central Criminal Court by video link.
Lawyer Ben Cooper said Sacoolas had not asked for the diplomatic immunity asserted on her behalf by the U.S. government. He read a statement from Sacoolas in which she said she was “deeply sorry for the pain I have caused.”
“There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about Harry,” the statement said.
The judge said the “calm and dignified persistence” of Dunn’s parents had led Sacoolas to acknowledge guilt and appear before the court.
Dunn’s mother Charlotte Charles said in a victim impact statement that her son’s death “haunts me every minute of every day and I’m not sure how I’m ever going to get over it.”
“As a family we are determined that his death will not have been in vain and we are involved in a number of projects to try to find some silver lining in this tragedy and to help others,” she said. “That will be Harry’s legacy.”
Abortion rights supporters secured another win Thursday as voters in Montana rejected a ballot measure that would have forced medical workers to intercede in the rare case of a baby born after an attempted abortion.
The result caps a string of ballot defeats, months after the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade galvanized abortion-rights voters.
Michigan, California and Vermont voted to enshrine abortion rights in their state constitutions, and Kentucky voters rejected an anti-abortion amendment in a tally that echoed a similar August vote in Kansas.
Abortion rights groups said the outcomes show that voters across the political spectrum support access to abortion, even after a dozen Republican-governed states legislatures adopted near-total bans in the wake of the Roe decision. Anti-abortion groups, on the other hand, say they were outspent in the state races and point out anti-abortion candidate victories.
Like voters nationwide, only about 1 in 10 voters in California, Michigan, Montana Kentucky or Vermont said abortion should generally be illegal in all cases, according to AP VoteCast.
The Montana ballot measure would have raised the prospect of criminal charges carrying up to 20 years in prison for health-care providers unless they take “all medically appropriate and reasonable actions to preserve the life” of an infant born alive, including in the rare case of a birth after an abortion.
Doctors and other opponents argued the law could keep parents of babies born with incurable diseases from spending peaceful moments with their infants if doctors were forced to attempt treatment.