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NEW ORLEANS | A judge presiding over more than 300 lawsuits arising from the Gulf Coast oil spill said the first federal trial involving damage claims could be held next summer.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier said the first “test trial” for claims filed against energy giant BP PLC by individuals and businesses under the 1990 Oil Pollution Act could start as early as June.

A BP attorney objected to scheduling a trial that soon. But Judge Barbier said if he were to accept the company’s timetable, the first trial wouldn’t begin until 2013 or 2014.

Judge Barbier has scheduled a separate trial in February 2012 to assign percentages of fault to BP and other companies sued in connection with the rig explosion and fire that led to millions of gallons of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico.

MARYLAND

Suspect arrested in police death

BALTIMORE | A man was accused Sunday of fatally striking an off-duty Baltimore police detective in the head during a dispute over a parking space in a crowded nightlife district.

Sian James, 25, was charged with first-degree murder in the Saturday night death of Detective Brian Stevenson. Mr. James fled the scene and was caught hours later at a nightclub, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.

Mr. Stevenson, an 18-year police veteran who would have turned 38 on Sunday, was out with a friend Saturday night celebrating his birthday and pulled into parking spot. Mr. James approached the officer after he got out of his vehicle and threw a stone or piece of concrete, hitting the detective in the head, Mr. Guglielmi said.

Mr. James, who has a history of domestic violence, left the scene with a woman companion, but was arrested hours later at Mosaic, a downtown nightclub, after police quickly gathered and interviewed witnesses, Mr. Guglielmi said.

NEW YORK

World War II officer given Bronze Star

NEW YORK | The U.S. government has recognized the Serbian-American architect of a World War II mission to rescue more than 500 U.S. bomber fliers shot down over Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia — the largest air rescue of Americans behind enemy lines in any war.

George Vujnovich, a 95-year-old New Yorker, is credited with leading the so-called Halyard Mission in what is now Serbia.

On Sunday, he was awarded the U.S. Bronze Star Medal, presented by Rep. Joseph Crowley, New York Democrat, at Manhattan’s St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Cathedral. Mr. Vujnovich received a standing ovation from a crowd of several hundred church members, supporters, friends and officials.

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