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After 44 Arrests and No Convictions, Man Now Faces 32 Years: Nathan Gorenstein from the Philadelphia Inquirer reports John Gassew, 25, who avoided any sort of a conviction in state courts despite having been arrested 44 times, will now serve at least 32 years in federal prison. The primary reason for the previous lack of convictions is that victims failed to appear in court to testify. In the first of two robberies he was convicted for, Gassew held up a 7-Eleven and beat a store clerk with a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol. Gassew then proceeded to drive a stolen truck into a tree, drawing police attention, and fled the scene, leaving his gun behind in the vehicle. After two days of jury deliberation, Gassew was found guilty of two counts of robbery and two counts of violating the Hobbs Act by carrying a firearm during the commission of a violent crime. Federal prosecutors have used the Hobbs Act to charge robbers who hit gas stations, convenience stores, and other businesses that can be shown to be involved in interstate commerce. He will be formally sentenced in May.

Mississippi Supreme Court to Take Pardons Case: The Associated Press reports the Mississippi Supreme Court said Wednesday it will take up the legal challenge to the pardons issued by outgoing Governor Haley Barbour. State Attorney General Jim Hood wants to invalidate dozens of the 198 pardons Barbour handed out. Hood says only about two dozen of those pardoned followed the Mississippi Constitution's requirement to publish notice about their reprieve in their local newspapers for 30 days. Ten of the people who received full pardons were still incarcerated when they received the reprieves. "It's a core question of separation of powers between the branches of government. It's an important question that the Supreme Court has to answer," said Matt Steffey, a constitutional law professor at Mississippi College. The state Supreme Court set a hearing for February 9.

Teacher Charged With 23 Counts of Lewd Conduct in Classroom Keeps Benefits: Howard Blume of the Los Angeles Times reports former elementary school teacher Mark Berndt, who is charged with 23 counts of lewd conduct in his classroom including spoon-feeding his semen to blind-folded children, will retain his life-time health benefits from his school district in addition to his pension because he technically resigned and was never officially fired. Vivian Ekchian, chief human resources officer for L.A. Unified, says the district is looking at its options for trying to rescind those benefits if Berndt is convicted. His retirement benefits are not at issue, because "a teacher will receive their pension regardless of the reason for their termination" said Michelle Mussuto, a spokeswoman for CalSTRS.

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