National Round Up

Arkansas: State high court vetos permit for coal-fired plant
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Supreme Court has reversed state regulators’ approval of a coal-fired power plant in southwest Arkansas.

In a ruling Thursday, the court reversed a decision by the Arkansas Public Service Commission to grant a permit for the Southwest Electric Power Co.’s $1.6 billion plant near Fulton in

Hempstead County. The ruling sent the case back to the PSC.

In their decision, the justices said the PSC should not have opened a docket on the need for power, separate from the docket on the request for the plant permit.

Chief Justice Jim Hannah wrote in the high court ruling that determining the need for additional power is integral to determining the basis for the need for the proposed facility.

North Dakota: Man accused of  making secret nude videos
FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A male North Dakota State University student faces a misdemeanor charge after allegedly secretly recording nude videos of a female roommate.

Anoop Singh is accused of hiding a cell phone with the video camera running in a pair of pants left in a bathroom. Singh did not immediately respond to an Associated Press request for comment Thursday.

Court documents say the female student was staying temporarily in a unit leased by Singh and three others in the school’s University Village complex. Police confiscated a laptop and four cell phones belonging to Singh.

Singh is charged with surreptitious intrusion, which carries a maximum punishment upon conviction of a year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

Arkansas: Public defender panel must pay expenses for man
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Supreme Court has ruled that the state’s Public Defender Commission must pay for expenses incurred by the defense for a man facing a capital murder charge that accuses him of shooting a soldier outside a recruiting center.

The court dismissed an appeal by the public defender agency, which had challenged a judge’s order to pay expenses for Abdulhakim Muhammad. The defendant’s lawyer, Claiborne Ferguson, has estimated those expenses at $30,000. Ferguson, hired by Muhammad’s family, is not seeking to have his fees paid by the commission.

Justices said state law did not require Muhammad to be represented by appointed counsel in order for a court to authorize the commission to pay some of his expenses.

Pennsylvania: ‘Gothic kittens’ request for new trial denied

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (AP) — A judge has denied a request for a new trial from a Pennsylvania woman convicted of animal cruelty for selling “gothic kittens” online.

Luzerne County Judge Tina Polachek Gartley upheld the guilty verdict against 35-year-old Holly Crawford on Wednesday.

Crawford was convicted of one count of animal cruelty in February after state police searched her home and seized three kittens with ear, neck and tail piercings. She was sentenced to six months of house arrest.

Crawford’s attorney claimed the jury’s verdict was inconsistent because she was found guilty of one charge but not the other two. Defense attorney Jeffrey Conrad says he will appeal.

Indiana: State agency, IBM sue each other over $1.3B deal
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — IBM Corp. and Indiana’s human services agency are going to court over how much the company is owed for work it did to automate the state’s welfare application system before being fired.

Both sides announced that they filed lawsuits Thursday in Marion Superior Court. That comes a day after Family and Social Services Administration Secretary Anne Murphy said the state had rejected some invoices submitted by IBM Corp. and had asked for some money back.

Gov. Mitch Daniels canceled IBM’s 10-year, $1.34 billion contract to run welfare intake last October.

IBM says it is owed nearly $53 million in fees and equipment expenses under the 2006 contract. The state says in its lawsuit that it has paid $437 million to IBM and has received “minimal value” in return.

South Dakota: State wants to join in lawsuits against Wyeth
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — Attorney General Marty Jackley says South Dakota is seeking to join in two whistleblower lawsuits against the drugmaker Wyeth.

The Justice Department and more than a dozen states a year ago joined in the lawsuits filed in federal court in Massachusetts against the Madison, N.J.-based drug company. Now, 17 more states including South Dakota also want to join.

The Justice Department accuses Wyeth of cheating Medicaid programs out of hundreds of millions of dollars by overcharging for a stomach acid drug.

Wyeth has defended its pricing plan.

Missouri: St. Louis man convicted of killing brother
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A St. Louis man has been convicted of stabbing his brother to death.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that 46-year-old Steven Whitmore was found guilty Wednesday of involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action in the death of 45-year-old Thomas Owens.

Sentencing for Whitmore is scheduled for June 25. He faces up to 15 years in prison.

Whitmore claimed he was defending himself when he picked up a knife in a quarrel with his brother last year.

New York: Construction site owner acquitted
NEW YORK (AP) — A Brooklyn construction site owner has been acquitted of manslaughter in connection with a day laborer who was crushed to death while digging a trench.

William Lattarulo also was found not guilty Wednesday of criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment in the 2008 death of Lauro Ortega.

Prosecutors had sought to prove that Lattarulo was aware of the dangers at the site and ignored them. Part of a wall of a building next to the site collapsed, spilling rubble on Ortega, killing him.

Lattarulo still faces two civil lawsuits. One was filed by the victim’s family and another by a family that lived in a house next door to the site that eventually had to be razed.