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American Scene

- - Tuesday, August 16, 2011

CALIFORNIA

Transit agency chief defends cell shutoff

SAN FRANCISCO — The head of the Bay Area Rapid Transit agency is defending the system's move to cut wireless service to thwart a planned protest last week. But he says the tactic likely won't be used again.

BART board president Bob Franklin says cellphone service was left on during a second demonstration Monday night because the tactic was unlikely to prevent protesters from gathering at San Francisco's Civic Center station.

Four days earlier, the agency turned off the service in its stations after protest organizers said they would issue last-minute instructions through social media and text messages. The demonstration had been planned in response to a fatal BART police shooting.

Mr. Franklin says BART lawyers had signed off on the plan, but says he expects the agency will be sued.

LOUISIANA

Man accused of cutting off son's head gets lawyer

NEW ORLEANS — A man accused of decapitating his disabled 7-year-old son has been assigned a lawyer experienced in death-penalty cases.

Kerry Cuccia says his appointment Tuesday doesn't mean prosecutors will seek the death penalty for 30-year-old Jeremiah Lee Wright.

He says the Capital Defense Project of Southeast Louisiana tries to get involved whenever anyone is booked with first-degree murder, which can bring a death sentence.

Police say Mr. Wright confessed to killing Jori Lirette, who had many medical problems and very limited speech.

Uniformed Lafourche Parish deputies held hands with mother Jesslyn Lirette as she walked into the parish courthouse Tuesday.

Mr. Wright was escorted by two male deputies.

Police officials said Monday that motive in the slaying was unclear.

NEW JERSEY

Commuters sound off on city toll hikes

JERSEY CITY — New York commuters are complaining they're getting stuck with the bill for the new World Trade Center and post-9/11 security projects as authorities moved to double the cost of entering New York City from $8 to $17 per car.

At crowded hearing rooms on both sides of the Hudson River on Tuesday, angry commuters traded turns at the microphone with labor union members who are eager to keep toll money flowing into ground zero and other construction projects managed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Entering New York City would cost motorists $17 by 2014, up from $8 now, if the toll increases are approved. The fare for the PATH trains would rise from $1.75 to $2.75.

Much of the money is going to fund the $11 billion World Trade Center.

The Port Authority's board is to vote on the plan on Friday. Either New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, or New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, could veto it within 10 days.

OHIO

Court rejects appeal in Iraq rape, slaying

CINCINNATI — A federal appeals panel has upheld the conviction of a former U.S. soldier serving five consecutive life sentences after being found guilty of crimes committed while he was on active duty in Iraq.

Three judges on the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday in the case of former Pfc. Steven Dale Green.

A federal district court jury in Paducah, Ky., convicted Green in 2009 of sexually assaulting and killing a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and murdering three of her family members while serving with Fort Campbell's 101st Airborne Division three years earlier.

Green was discharged from the Army with a personality disorder in May 2006, before the full scope of the crime became known to the Army. He is being held in a federal prison in Tucson, Ariz.

PENNSYLVANIA

Target of Facebook hit fatally shot

PHILADELPHIA — A Philadelphia man whose former girlfriend is said to have offered $1,000 on Facebook for someone to kill him was fatally shot after a judge upheld felony charges against his ex and the teen who purportedly offered to kill him.

Police say 22-year-old Corey White was shot Monday evening in West Philadelphia, but investigators aren't sure why he was killed.

Earlier Monday, a city judge approved murder solicitation and murder conspiracy charges, respectively, against his ex-girlfriend and the 18-year-old who is said to have responded to her post in June.

Authorities say 20-year-old London Eley made a post offering "a stack" to kill her baby's father. They say Timothy Bynum said he'd do it.

Miss Eley's attorney says she was venting after an argument.

The Philadelphia Inquirer first reported Mr. White's death.

From wire dispatches and staff reports