Member of cartel sentenced to 17 years

A member of a violent international drug cartel was sentenced Monday to 17 years in prison for his role in trying to expand the empire’s reach into the United States.

Rafael Humberto Celaya Valenzuela, who was part of the Sinaloa cartel run by Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, was sentenced in federal court in New Hampshire. He is the last of four defendants to be sentenced in the case.

At trial, secret video and audio showed Valenzuela conspiring with other cartel members and undercover FBI agents, who pretended to be members of a European criminal syndicate, to expand the gang’s cocaine empire into the United States and Europe. Valenzuela and others in the cartel promised to deliver 2,200 pounds of cocaine as well as methamphetamine and heroin. One of the meetings between cartel members and agents took place in April 2011 in New Hampshire.

Valenzuela, 40, of Hermosillo, Mexico, had faced more than 30 years in prison. Three others — Samuel Zazueta Valenzuela, Jesus Gonzalo Palazuelo Soto, and a cousin of “El Chapo,” Jesus Manuel Gutierrez Guzman — have already been sentenced.

Guzman escaped from prison in 2001 and ran the cartel from hideouts and safe houses across Mexico. He was recaptured in February 2014 but escaped in July.

— Associated Press

Judge recuses self from deputy’s case

A second judge removed herself Monday from the case of a former Oklahoma volunteer sheriff’s deputy charged with second-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of an unarmed man.

Judge Sharon Holmes’s recusal came after she met privately in her chambers with attorneys for former Tulsa County volunteer deputy Robert Bates and prosecutors.

Bates had pleaded not guilty and said he confused his stun gun and handgun in the shooting of Eric Harris during an April gun-sales sting.

A clerk in Holmes’s office said she didn’t know the reason for the judge’s recusal. Neither prosecutors nor defense attorneys asked Holmes to step down.

Bates is set to go on trial in February, but it is unclear whether Holmes’s recusal will delay that. A new judge is expected to be announced at a Jan. 5 hearing.

Judge James Caputo removed himself from the case in October after prosecutors cited his close ties to the sheriff’s office.

— Associated Press

Diocese of Duluthfiles for bankruptcy

A Roman Catholic diocese in northeastern Minnesota has filed for bankruptcy protection after a jury found it partially responsible in a sexual-abuse case.

The Diocese of Duluth filed for Chapter 11 reorganization Monday.

The diocese said the move was necessary after efforts to reach a resolution with all abuse victims were unsuccessful.

In November, a Ramsey County jury awarded $8.1 million to a man who said he was molested by a priest in northern Minnesota in 1978 when he was a boy. The diocese was held responsible for $4.8 million.

The diocese’s vicar general, the Rev. James Bissonette, said the bankruptcy filing safeguards the diocese’s limited assets while allowing the church’s day-to-day operations to continue. The diocese has more than 56,000 Catholics in 10 counties of northeastern Minnesota.

— Associated Press

Norovirus outbreak at Seattle building: As many as 200 people have become ill in a norovirus outbreak at a downtown Seattle office building. King County health officials are still investigating the outbreak that began last week. Illness at the Russell Investments Center grew exponentially after a catered event in the building, but several cases were reported before the event last Tuesday.

— Associated Press