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Verdicts and Settlements of Note: Week of Feb. 10, 2020

Law and Justice concept. Mallet of the judge, books, scales of justice.
By Richard Dahl on February 19, 2020 3:21 PM

We've pulled together a few of the more interesting verdicts and settlements in the legal world from last week. These cases include a Confederate statue without a home, a bank that didn't keep its employees safe from a harassing rich customer, and an agreement that will make it easier for Native Americans in North Dakota to vote.

An 'honest mistake' at Mar-a-Lago

A jury in West Palm Beach, Fla. found that Chinese national Jing Lu committed an "honest mistake," and not a crime, when she walked onto President Donald Trump's part-time residence late last year and began snapping photos. After an hour of deliberation on Feb. 11, the jury found Lu not guilty of trespassing following a warning but guilty of resisting arrest.

Not so fast, Silent Sam.

A judge has nixed a controversial deal between the University of North Carolina and the Sons of Confederate Veterans over a Civil War statue called Silent Sam. After the statue was toppled by protesters in 2018, the university put it into storage; then in November 2019, the school announced that it had reached a deal to give the statue to the Sons of Confederate Veterans along with $2.5 million for its preservation and display.

On Feb. 12, Orange County Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour said no to the deal.

Bank must pay for customer's bad behavior

The older man — white and wealthy —was a regular customer at a New Jersey bank branch where he seemed to enjoy sexually harassing the black female employees. His name was Patrick Pignatello and one day in 2013, he allegedly followed wealth manager Damara Scott to her car, harassing her and grinding his groin into her buttocks.

Scott reported the incident and police arrested Pignatello, but before he was arraigned he died of a heart attack while shoveling snow. Scott subsequently sued the bank, saying it had failed to provide a safe workplace, and on Feb. 10 a jury agreed, awarding her $2.4 million.

Settlement eases voting for North Dakota Native Americans

Shortly before the 2018 midterm election, many Native Americans in North Dakota learned that a new Voter ID law had made it difficult or impossible for them to vote. The new law, which went into effect in early October 2018, required voters to have state- or tribal-issued ID cards with street addresses.

The problem: Many tribal members don't have street addresses; they use IDs with Post Office box addresses. Many did not vote due to this requirement, and the result was a lawsuit. On Feb. 13, North Dakota officials announced that the lawsuit had been settled. From now on, tribal citizens will be allowed to identify where they live on a map, and state and county officials will be obligated to determine a proper address for the voter.

Drowning during PE class results in $8M settlement

In 2018, high-school freshman Benjamin Curry drowned during a physical-education swim class where he was one of 57 students. His family sued the school, San Ramon Valley, California, Unified School District, for wrongful death, and on Feb. 10, a settlement deal that will pay the Curry family $8 million was announced. The trial had been set to go trial Feb. 18.

Settlement reached in Minneapolis Police shooting of unarmed black man

The details surrounding the killing of an unarmed 22-year-old black man by Minneapolis Police in 2013 have always been murky. Police say they used lethal force because the man, Terrance Franklin, had grabbed a submachine gun from one of the officers and fired it, hitting two of the officers. A federal lawsuit provided a different account of what happened, as did a bystander video. In the end, on Feb. 14, city officials announced that the family's lawsuit against the police had been settled. The family will receive $795,000.

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