- - Friday, January 30, 2009

CALIFORNIA

Judge upholds state furloughs

SACRAMENTO | A judge ruled on Thursday that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger can force tens of thousands of state workers to take days off without pay to help close a multibillion-dollar budget gap.

The two-day-a-month furloughs are scheduled to start Feb. 6 and would apply to all 238,000 state workers, although many of those would be exempt.

Two employee unions challenged Mr. Schwarzenegger’s executive order, saying he did not have authority to order furloughs.

Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Patrick Marlette disagreed. He said the governor has “express authority to make the challenged order.”

COLORADO

Man indicted in Obama threat

DENVER | A Colorado man has been indicted on charges of threatening to kill President Obama and blow up the Mall of America in suburban Minneapolis.

A federal grand jury in Denver handed up the indictment Tuesday against Timothy Ryan Gutierrez, 20, of Cortez in southwestern Colorado.

The U.S. attorney’s office said Thursday that Mr. Gutierrez wasn’t in custody, and authorities declined to discuss his whereabouts. Mr. Gutierrez had no listed phone number and it was not known whether he had an attorney.

Mr. Gutierrez faces one count each of transmission of threats and falsely threatening to use explosives.

GEORGIA

Wrestler’s doctor pleads guilty

NEWNAN | The personal doctor to a professional wrestler who killed himself, his wife and their 7-year-old son in 2007 pleaded guilty Thursday to illegally distributing prescription drugs to patients, one of whom died.

Phil Astin, 54, pleaded guilty to a 175-count federal indictment charging him with illegally distributing prescription drugs and conspiring to distribute prescription drugs.

Astin also admitted that prescriptions he issued resulted in the overdose death of a female patient in 2007, though attorneys did not specifically name any patient or link the physician to World Wrestling Entertainment’s Chris Benoit.

More than 50 of the counts carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The others carry a lesser sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, said Patrick Crosby, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney David Nahmias.

HAWAII

Council passes text-and-drive ban

HONOLULU | The Honolulu City Council has passed a bill banning Oahu motorists from text-messaging on their cell phones and playing video games while driving.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann said he had not decided whether to sign the bill and was concerned that the measure may be difficult for police to enforce.

Council member Charles Djou introduced the bill after a city bus driver was suspended for playing a video game while driving a bus.

The council passed the bill by a 7-1 vote Wednesday.

MASSACHUSETTS

Police cleared in fan’s death

BOSTON | A prosecutor said he won’t file criminal charges against police in the case of a man who died 11 days after he stopped breathing while in police custody.

The state medical examiner ruled in December that David Woodman’s death was brought on by heart arrhythmia and that he died of “natural causes.”

Mr. Woodman, 22, was arrested June 18 during the Boston Celtics championship celebrations on a charge of public drinking.

MICHIGAN

Icy body removed after 2 days of calls

DETROIT | It took three calls to Detroit authorities over two days before they recovered the body of a man frozen in ice in the elevator shaft of a vacant warehouse, a newspaper reported Thursday.

A reporter for the Detroit News said it received a tip and found the body Tuesday in a former Detroit Public Schools warehouse.

The reporter called 911 Tuesday and told a female operator about the body, the newspaper said. It said a man returned the call to the newsroom about 20 minutes later and said the body would be retrieved.

But the next day, the News said the body was still trapped in the ice. The reporter made two more calls to 911, one of which was disconnected, and a fire department employee arranged to meet the reporter and to get the body, the paper said.

Authorities used saws to extricate the body Wednesday afternoon, the Detroit Free Press and WDIV-TV said. Investigators said they think the body had been in the elevator shaft for several months.

The body was taken to the Wayne County medical examiner’s office. The man’s name and the cause of his death weren’t known.

MISSISSIPPI

State to sell jet on eBay

JACKSON | Mississippi is the latest state trying to unload pricey property because of the economic meltdown.

The state House voted Thursday to sell an eight-seat jet valued at $3.7 million that has been used to transport Gov. Haley Barbour and other officials. The plan needs Senate approval.

The jet can be sold by competitive bid or on eBay. It costs about $1,600 an hour to operate.

NEW JERSEY

Ex-carrier accused of stealing papers

PHILLIPSBURG | Police said a man stole stacks of newspapers and delivered them to unsuspecting customers for years.

Phillipsburg police said Michael Farrell, 53, was delivering copies of the Express-Times of Easton (Pa.) for the past three years. The problem was, police say, he was stealing the papers from boxes.

Newspaper officials said the Lopatcong Township man worked in the past as a carrier for the paper.

NEW YORK

9/11 memorial set for 10th anniversary

NEW YORK | The head of the agency that owns the World Trade Center site says the Sept. 11 memorial will open on the 10th anniversary of the attacks, and will remain open.

But that doesn’t mean the memorial will be completed by then.

Executive Director Chris Ward said the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is determining exactly how much public access will be allowed while the construction continues.

Two reflecting pools over the Twin Towers’ footprints and the victims’ names will be engraved by Sept. 11, 2011.

Mr. Ward spoke at a state Assembly committee hearing Thursday.

TEXAS

Ex-sheriff pleads guilty to sex assault

WICHITA FALLS | A former North Texas sheriff has pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a woman, telling her sex was the only way to avoid going to jail for drug possession.

Former Montague County Sheriff Bill Keating entered his plea Thursday in a Wichita Falls federal court. He faces up to 10 years in prison at his sentencing in May.

The magistrate judge said Keating won’t be detained because he’s not considered a threat to society. However, the judge said he must surrender his weapons and meet other conditions.

Keating, 61, served one term after being elected in 2004. He was defeated in a runoff after the March primary election. The assault took place in November, before his replacement was sworn in.

From wire dispatches and staff reports