National Roundup

Court hearing set for suspect in church bomb plot

MIAMI, Okla. (AP) — An Illinois man who has received a mental health examination in connection with an alleged plot to attack dozens of northeastern Oklahoma churches with Molotov cocktails will be back in court next month.
Ottawa County Assistant District Attorney Becky Baird said Thursday that 23-year-old Gregory Arthur Weiler II of Elk Grove Village, Ill., will return to court on Jan. 8 for a hearing that will determine whether he is mentally competent to go to trial.
Weiler is charged with threatening to use an explosive or incendiary device and violating Oklahoma’s Antiterrorism Act. He was arrested in October after police say they discovered a plan to bomb area churches.
An affidavit claims investigators found instructions for making Molotov cocktails, a list of 48 churches and a written outline of Weiler’s plan.

Indictment in 1998 killing of sister dismissed

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Court of Appeals has thrown out the indictment against one of two brothers accused of killing their sister in 1998 at their home near Bagley in northwestern Minnesota.
The court this week dismissed the second-degree murder charge against Troy Martin. It said the grand jury would not have indicted him if not for improperly admitted evidence and prosecutorial misconduct.
Investigators were stymied by the killing of 31-year-old Leisa Martin, whose body was found in the woods in Mahnomen County, for 11 years until her other brother, Todd Martin, confessed during a drunken driving arrest. The brothers were accused of unintentionally causing her asphyxiation death while holding her during a night of drinking and arguing.
The Star Tribune of Minneapolis reports charges against Todd Martin are still pending.

Lawmaker wants $60M Penn State fine kept in state

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A high-ranking state senator on Thursday proposed a new law that would keep Penn State’s $60 million NCAA fine over the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal within Pennsylvania.
Republican Sen. Jake Corman, who represents State College, said much of the money was generated within the state, so he believes the child abuse prevention grants it is earmarked for should be distributed for “the betterment of Pennsylvanians.”
Corman said he hoped lawmakers would act quickly on his proposal, as the school has already made its first $12 million payment. He also plans to ask a court to prevent any of that initial payment from being released to organizations outside Pennsylvania.
“I don’t think this is going to be a hard sell, to keep the money here locally,” he said.
Gov. Tom Corbett said he was supportive and accused the NCAA of overstepping its authority with what he called “harsh, unjustified and unprecedented punishment.”

Legal counsel to gov. nominated to state high court

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Thursday nominated his legal counsel and longtime friend from Stamford, former state Sen. Andrew McDonald, to Connecticut’s State Supreme Court.
If confirmed by the General Assembly, where he served eight years, the 46-year-old McDonald would be the state’s first openly gay appellate jurist, Malloy said.
“In my estimation, Andrew possesses an exceptional ability to understand, analyze, research and evaluate legal issues,” said Malloy, who called McDonald a thoughtful person who is “highly principled and ethical.”
Shortly after his nomination was announced, Republican leaders in the state Senate announced their support of their former Democratic colleague.
McDonald recalled on Thursday being humbled by the experience of first arguing before the state Supreme Court.
“The notion that one day I might sit as a member of that court is something I couldn’t have imagined,” he said, thanking Malloy for the nomination.
Malloy officiated at McDonald’s wedding three years ago after the state’s highest court legalized gay marriage in Connecticut. McDonald is married to Charles Gray, who sat in the audience during Thursday’s announcement in the Old Judiciary Room at the state Capitol. The couple lives in Stamford.
McDonald is expected to replace Justice Lubbie Harper Jr., who has reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 for state judges. Malloy said he will name a replacement for Justice C. Ian McLachlan, who has also reached the retirement age, in the coming weeks.

Tow-truck firms sue over city’s cap on tow fees

SEATTLE (AP) — Tow-truck operators aren’t happy about efforts by Seattle to cap fees.
In a lawsuit filed in King County Superior Court, the Towing and Recovery Association of Washington argues the city cannot adopt regulations that are inconsistent with state law regulating towing and impound fees.
The City Council in September unanimously approved an ordinance to cap towing and impound fees. Mayor Mike McGinn and Councilman Nick Licata introduced the legislation in response to reports about tows that exceeded $800.
The law set a limit of $183 per hour for the first hour of an impound tow off private property and $130 per hour for any additional time.
The lawsuit asks the court to stop the city from enforcing the cap on towing fees, which went into effect Nov. 1.
“The big problem with what the City Council did is that it’s pre-empted by state law. What the city should have done is go to the state and change the law,” said Phil Talmadge, the lawyer representing the towing association.
The Seattle Times reports the city did try to lobby the state Legislature in the 2012 session to cap towing rates at a flat $250, but the towing industry succeeded in killing the bill.
State law requires tow companies to post their rates with the Department of Licensing, but the state has no power to disapprove them. The highest rate posted is $650 an hour.
“We worked with the City Attorney’s Office to craft legislation that would stand up in court,” Licata said. “I’m not surprised by the lawsuit, since representatives from the towing industry had expressed this belief (that the Seattle ordinance is contrary to state law) while we lobbied the state Legislature. It’s unfortunate that some in the towing industry will oppose this reasonable and fair approach to regulating their industry.”
The city Department of Finance and Administrative Services, which administers towing regulations, said similar legal arguments were made unsuccessfully after Portland in 2003 restricted towing charges.