High Court Stays Out of Voter-Intimidation Case

     (CN) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected an eleventh-hour request from Ohio Democrats to reinstate a voter-intimidation restraining order against Donald Trump’s campaign.     The Ohio Democratic Party filed an emergency request for the nation’s high court to lift a decision from the Sixth Circuit, which on Sunday granted the Trump campaign’s request to block a federal judge’s temporary restraining order.     The lower court ruled Friday in Ohio Democratic Party v. Donald J. Trump for President that anyone engaging in intimidation or harassment inside or near polling places would face contempt of court charges.     Democrats said the restraining order was needed to prevent voter intimidation.     But the Sixth Circuit stayed the lower court’s order and said the Ohio Democratic Party did not show a likelihood of success on its claims.     The Supreme Court’s one-page order filed late Monday denied the Democrats’ application to vacate the Sixth Circuit’s stay, without an explanation.      Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in a brief statement that she voted to deny the stay because she is “mindful” that Ohio law already “proscribes voter intimidation.”

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Indiana Dems Seek Exam of Voting Machines

     (CN) — The local Democratic Party for one Indiana county claims in court that the county’s electronic voting machines were left unsecured after a test and are susceptible to manipulation.     The Harrison County Democratic Party claims in a two-page complaint for an emergency hearing that electronic voting machines in the county “were left unsecured in violation of Indiana law” after a Sept. 20 public test, making them “vulnerable to tampering.”     “Given the heighten [sic] political rhetoric of ‘rigged election,’ and the current Indiana State Police investigation of election fraud, in this current campaign season, this failure to properly secure the voting machines has directly undermined the public’s confidence, and the Harrison County Democratic Party’s confidence, in the integrity of this election,” the complaint states.     The defendants named in the Nov. 3 complaint are the Harrison County Election Board and Sally Whitis, the county clerk.     The Harrison County Democratic Party seek an emergency hearing and a court order requiring the county “to have the machines examined by a voting machine expert acceptable to both parties,” before Tuesday’s election.     The group is represented by Nicholas Siler in West Baden Springs, Ind.     Whitis did not immediately respond to a request for comment emailed Friday afternoon.

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Former Vandy Player Gets 17 Years Behind Bars

     NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CN) — Former Vanderbilt University football player Brandon Vandenburg was sentenced Friday to 17 years in prison for the rape of an unconscious female student in his dorm room.     Vandenburg, 23, was convicted in June after a retrial. His previous convictions in the case, along with those of co-defendant Cory Batey, were set aside when Judge Monte Watkins declared a mistrial last year, after finding that a juror failed to disclose that he was the key witness and named victim in an unrelated statutory-rape case.     Vandenburg and Batey, as well as two others yet to face trial, were accused of raping a female Vanderbilt student in Vandenburg’s Gillette House dorm room in the early morning hours of June 23, 2013. All four men were kicked off the Vanderbilt Commodores football team after the allegations.     Prosecutors told jurors that Vandenburg passed out condoms to the other players, videoed the rape and sent footage to friends as it was happening.     Vandenburg’s defense team had maintained that he was drunk and should not be held responsible for what players he didn’t even know did to the woman.     At the end of his retrial, Vandenburg was found guilty of all five counts of aggravated rape, two counts of aggravated sexual battery, and one count of unlawful photography.     Vandenburg said at Friday’s hearing that he was ashamed of what happened and asked for mercy.     Judge Watkins handed down the 17-year sentence, which is just above the minimum of 15 years the former football player was facing.     Batey was convicted in April following his retrial, and was sentenced to 15 years in July.     The two others charged in the case, Jaborian “Tip” McKenzie and Brandon Banks, have not had their trials scheduled yet. They both agreed to testify for the state but only McKenzie actually did.

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Sex Offenders Take Social Media Ban to High Court

     (CN) — The Supreme Court agreed Friday to decide whether North Carolina can ban registered sex offenders from using social media websites and other sites that allow minors to have accounts.     The North Carolina General Assembly enacted a law in 2008 that bans the use of “commercial social networking websites” by registered sex offenders.     Lester Packingham had been convicted six years earlier of a sexual offense and was a registered sex offender under state law.     In 2010, a Durham, N.C., police officer began investigating whether sex offenders in the state were using social media, and found a Facebook profile page belonging to Packingham, according to court records.     In one post, which the cop found, Packingham celebrated the dismissal of a traffic ticket: “Man God is Good! How about I got so much favor they dismissed the ticket before court even started? No fine, No court costs, no nothing spent….Praise be to GOD, WOW! Thanks JESUS!” (Emphasis in original.)     Packingham was indicted later that year for violating N.C.G.S. 14-202.5, the law banning social media use for sex offenders, and a jury found him guilty in May 2012. The trial court gave Packingham a suspended sentence and he was placed on probation.     He appealed, and in 2013 the North Carolina Court of Appeals vacated Packingham’s conviction for accessing a social networking website as a registered sex offender, finding that the law at issue is unconstitutional.     The state appeals court found that the statute “is not narrowly tailored, is vague, and fails to target the ‘evil’ it is intended to rectify,” and that it “arbitrarily burdens all registered sex offenders by preventing a wide range of communication and expressive activity unrelated to achieving its purported goal.”     A divided North Carolina Supreme Court reversed the appeals court a year ago, ruling 4-2 that N.C.G.S. 14-202.5 “is constitutional in all respects.”     “[The law] is narrowly tailored to serve a substantial governmental interest, and leaves available ample alternative channels of communication. Defendant has failed to meet the high bar necessary to mount a successful facial challenge,” Justice Robert Edmunds Jr. wrote for the state’s high court.     Packingham appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in a petition for writ of certiorari filed in March of this year.     “The statute singles out a subclass of persons, who are subject to criminal punishment based on expressive, associational, and communicative activities at the heart of the First Amendment, without any requirement that their activity caused any harm or was intended to,” Packingham’s petition states.     According to the petition, the North Carolina law bans registered sex offenders from accessing “a wide array of websites—including Facebook, YouTube, and nytimes.com—that enable communication, expression, and the exchange of information among their users, if the site is ‘know[n]’ to allow minors to have accounts.”     The Supreme Court agreed Friday to decide whether N.C.G.S. 14-202.5 is constitutional, both on its face and as applied to Packingham.     Per its custom, the nation’s highest court did not comment on its decision to hear the case.

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Family Says Exploding Scooter Destroyed Home

     (CN) — A Tennessee family claims in a $30 million lawsuit that their decision to buy a hoverboard scooter from Amazon ended with two children jumping from second-story windows to escape their burning home.     Megan and Charles Brian Fox sued the online retailer Wednesday in Davidson County, Tenn., individually and on behalf of their children Hailey, Matthew, Rebecca and Sarah Fox.     According to the 18-page complaint, Megan bought “a self-balancing scooter, more commonly known as a hoverboard,” from Amazon.com in November 2015. The Fiturbo F1 scooter was a Christmas gift for 14-year-old Matthew.     The family used the hoverboard until tragedy struck two weeks later, they say.     “The hoverboard burst into flames inside the Fox house on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016,” the complaint states. “The fire completely destroyed the plaintiffs’ house and virtually all of their personal belongings in a matter of minutes.”     Brian Fox says he was turning into the family’s subdivision when 16-year-old Hailey told him on the phone that the house was on fire.     “Then the phone line went dead. Brian looked up and saw smoking billowing over the trees. He accelerated toward his house, drove his car over the curb, and stopped in the front yard,” according to the lawsuit.     The father “feared that Hailey and Matthew were either dead or dying” inside the house, the complaint states, and he kicked in the front door, trying to locate his two children. He says he saw Hailey banging on her second-story bathroom window and “pleaded with her to break the small window out from the inside.”     “Eventually she was able to break out and, with smoke billowing from behind her, Brian yelled for Hailey to jump out the window to him. Hailey flung herself through the second floor window, and Brian did his best to break her fall,” the lawsuit states.     Brian then ran around the house yelling Matthew’s name, and eventually saw him banging on a second-story window in a room above the garage, according to the complaint.     “Brian grabbed the ladder he kept behind the house and used it to climb up to the window where Matthew was. Brian could see Matthew through the massive fire and smoke and yelled for him to keep trying to break the window,” the complaint states. “Eventually, despite having to inflict significant injuries on his hands and forearms as well as his legs, Matthew was able to break through the glass. Panicked, Matthew dove out of the second story window into his father’s arms. Brian and Matthew fell to the ground from the second floor.”     Megan, meanwhile, “arrived moments later to see her house fully engulfed in flames and multiple fire engines, but her husband and children injured but alive.”     “Brian Fox suffered the unspeakable terror of finding out that his two teenage children were trapped in a burning house and believing that he was going to lose one or both of them to the fire,” according to the lawsuit.     The hoverboard’s lithium battery pack was the cause of the “catastrophic fire,” the Foxes say.     The family brought claims of product liability, negligence and misrepresentation against Amazon. W2M Trading Corp. is also named as a defendant, based on Amazon’s contention that it participated in the sale of the scooter.     “These hoverboards, including the one sold to Mrs. Fox, were extremely dangerous and presented a substantial product hazard,” the complaint states. “The Amazon defendants knew of these product hazards well in advance of the fire at the Fox home.”     The family says the value of their home and personal property lost in the fire is more than $1.9 million.     The Foxes seek $30 million plus punitive damages. They are represented by Steven Anderson of Anderson & Reynolds in Nashville.     An Amazon spokesman told Courthouse News that the company does not comment on litigation.

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Feds to Review Memphis Police Department

     MEMPHIS, Tenn. (CN) — The Justice Department said Wednesday that it will launch a comprehensive assessment of the Memphis Police Department as part of a reform initiative.     Memphis Police Department Director of Police Services Michael Rallings requested the review of the department’s policies, practices and training, according to the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS Office.     Noble Wray, policing practices and accountability initiative chief for the COPS Office, said he applauds “the progressive leadership of the Memphis Police Department for taking steps to improve operations.”     “The COPS Office will identify the strengths and weaknesses of the department and recommend opportunities for change, paving the way for the Memphis Police Department to become a leader in the industry,” Wray said in a statement.     The COPS Office says it uses experts, interviews, direct observations, extensive research and analysis to help law enforcement agencies improve policies and procedures.     After assessing the situation, it will release a report outlining findings and recommendations. For 18 months after that, the COPS Office will help implement the changes before issuing a final report.     The Memphis Police Department has come under fire for its alleged use of excessive force. In March, the Sixth Circuit ruled that former director Toney Armstrong must face claims that he “rubber stamped” police shootings and sent the message that people “are being killed by design.”     The underlying case was brought by the family of Anjustine Vanterpool, a 28-year-old black man who was shot and killed by two Memphis cops at a gas station in April 2013. His family claims Armstrong perpetuated a custom and pattern of exonerating officers who used excessive force.

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