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MASSACHUSETTS

Banks sued over foreclosures

Massachusetts sued five major banks Thursday over deceptive foreclosure practices such as the "robo-signing" of documents, potentially undermining negotiations between lenders and state prosecutors across the nation over the same issue.

The lawsuit names Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Co., Citigroup Inc. and GMAC. It was filed in Massachusetts by Attorney General Martha Coakley.

The lawsuit also names Mortgage Electronic Registration System Inc. and its parent company as defendants. The company, a mortgage registry database, has been accused of shoddy record-keeping in large numbers of foreclosure proceedings.

The complaint claims the banks violated Massachusetts law with "unlawful and deceptive" conduct in the foreclosure process, including unlawful foreclosures, false documentation, robo-signing and deceptive practices related to loan modifications.

In October 2010, major banks temporarily suspended foreclosures following revelations of fraudulent documents processed by banks. The talks between prosecutors and the banks have been designed to institute new guidelines for mortgage lending nationwide. It was anticipated to be the biggest overhaul of a single industry since the 1998 multistate tobacco settlement.

Mrs. Coakley said banks have had more than a year to "show accountability for this economic mess" and have failed to do so. "It's taken too long," she said.

CALIFORNIA

Lawmakers give up taxpayer-financed vehicles

SACRAMENTO | California lawmakers are giving up a perk that had been unique among state legislators nationwide - taxpayer-subsidized vehicles.

The program ended Thursday after the state's Citizens Compensation Commission voted in spring to do away with the benefit.

Lawmakers will now seek reimbursement for the number of miles they drive on official business, at a rate of 55 cents a mile.

The decision was prompted by California's ongoing budget deficits and a series of stories by the Associated Press and other media.

The National Conference of State Legislatures says California was the only state that provided vehicles to its rank-and-file lawmakers for unlimited use.

FLORIDA

4 students connected to band member's death dismissed

ORLANDO | Florida A&M University said it's dismissing four students for their role in the death of a marching-band member last month, while audio of an emergency call released Thursday showed that the drum major had vomit in his mouth in the moments before he died.

University President James Ammons referred to the dismissals in a memo he sent earlier this week to members of the FAMU Board of Trustees but didn't specify what the four students had done. Authorities say hazing played a role in the death of Robert Champion, but they have not released any specifics as they continue to investigate.

Mr. Champion, 26, was found unresponsive Nov. 19 on a bus parked outside an Orlando hotel after the school's football team lost to a rival.

TENNESSEE

1 killed in foggy crash involving 179 cars

HENDERSONVILLE | A small car plowed into the back of a mail truck early Thursday, killing one person in one of several chain-reaction collisions of 50 cars on a fogbound highway near Nashville.

It appeared the car struck stopped traffic during the morning commute, said Ray McLaughlin, a district chief with the Hendersonville Fire Department. As the fog lifted, damaged vehicles could be seen along a mile of the Vietnam Veterans Parkway in Hendersonville.

Mr. McLaughlin said emergency workers counted 179 vehicles stopped at the crash scene, 50 of which had collided.

Paul Warren, 28, of Hendersonville, was killed, said Shawna Zodi, a spokeswoman for Hendersonville Medical Center. She said eight people were released after treatment for minor injuries.

The Sumner County Emergency Management Agency said ambulances took 17 people to the hospital.

Other than the one death, most of the injuries were neck and back complaints, Mr. McLaughlin said.

PENNSYLVANIA

State takeover challenged in federal court

HARRISBURG | The state takeover of Pennsylvania's financially troubled capital city received a fresh challenge Thursday as three Harrisburg residents filed a federal lawsuit calling it an unconstitutional violation of their rights and asking for it to be stopped.

The suit names Gov. Tom Corbett, who signed a law on Oct. 20 enabling an unprecedented takeover of Harrisburg, and the Corbett appointee who, if confirmed, would have broad authority to force the city to pay down a massive debt tied to its trash incinerator.

The lawsuit was filed by a former mayoral candidate, a firefighters union president and a religious leader. It alleges that the law and the state's takeover violate the plaintiffs' constitutional rights to due process and equal protection.

A Corbett administration spokeswoman said she had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment.

NEW YORK

Man arrested in college student's death

NEW YORK | A man claiming to be under an evil spell went to the home of an acquaintance, a college student from Italy, and stabbed and choked her to death, then made a cryptic 911 call to authorities about the body, police said Thursday.

Bakary Camara, 41, was arrested on a murder charge Wednesday evening in the death of Rita Morelli, 36, of Spoltore, Italy.

Miss Morelli's live-in boyfriend found her body in a pool of blood on Nov. 23. Miss Morelli, who was studying at Hunter College and also waiting tables, had been stabbed twice, and her throat was slashed.

There was no sign of forced entry. The killer had left the door ajar, ransacked her apartment and taken off with some of her belongings, police said.

Two days after the body was found, police received a 911 call from a man talking about the killing. Detectives traced the number to Mr. Camara, and when they arrived at his Bronx home, he had a knife to his chest.

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said Mr. Camara told officers he had committed the crime and then stabbed himself in the chest. He was taken to a hospital and is in stable condition, he said.

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