- - Monday, December 19, 2011

ARIZONA

Immigration agents to screen jail inmates

PHOENIX — The Homeland Security Department will use 50 immigration agents to screen jail inmates in Arizona’s most populous county after it revoked the sheriff’s authority to access its systems, the agency said Monday in a letter to Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican.

The letter from Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Nelson Peacock and obtained by the Associated Press said that the 50 dedicated agents will “screen, identify, apprehend and remove criminal aliens” found in Maricopa County jails.

The agents will replace county officers who had special training and the authority to perform the task in Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s lockups. Homeland Security Secretary Janet A. Napolitano revoked that authority last week after a Justice Department investigation concluded that Sheriff Arpaio’s office engaged in a pattern and practice of civil rights and constitutional violations and discriminated against Hispanic inmates in its jails.

Sheriff Arpaio strongly disputed the Justice Department findings and said Monday that the ICE agents won’t come close to replacing the 91 officers who had been doing the work. He said agents won’t be in the jails and won’t deport all illegal immigrants.

“They’re going to have people answering telephones and deciding what levels they’re going to deport,” he said. “This is just to pacify the public that they aren’t going to be released. And they are going to be released.”

LOUISIANA

Shell shuts down offshore drilling rig after fluid leak

NEW ORLEANS — Royal Dutch Shell says it has shut down a drilling rig off the coast of Alabama after about 7,600 gallons of synthetic and biodegradable drilling fluid leaked.

Shell says the leak was not from a well on the ocean floor. That is what happened in the massive 2010 BP oil spill. This drilling site was in the same Mississippi Canyon region as the BP spill and is some 7,300 feet deep.

The Coast Guard says the problem was reported Sunday and that the leaking line was connected to a vessel supplying the drilling fluid. It says more than half of the leaking fluid was oil.

The Southern Environmental Law Center says the drilling is part of an exploration plan challenged in federal court.

Shell says federal environmental officials approved a plan to temporarily stop drilling and make repairs.

CALIFORNIA

Teen sentenced for killing gay student

VENTURA — A Southern California teenager was sentenced on Monday to 21 years in state prison for killing a gay student during a computer lab class, capping an emotional and tumultuous case that drew widespread attention and raised questions about how schools should deal with sexual-identity issues.

Superior Court Judge Charles Campbell sentenced Brandon McInerney, 17, based on a plea agreement reached with prosecutors that will send him to prison starting next month after he becomes an adult. McInerney, dressed in a white T-shirt and blue pants, didn’t speak at the hearing, but his attorney, Scott Wippert, said his clients was sorry for killing 15-year-old Larry King.

McInerney pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, as well as one count of voluntary manslaughter and use of a firearm. The plea spared him a retrial. A mistrial was declared in September when jurors couldn’t reach a unanimous decision on the degree of guilt. Several jurors said after McInerney’s trial that he shouldn’t have been tried as an adult.

Unlike other incidents of teen violence, the McInerney case had an unusual twist: Prosecutors contended the teen, who had just turned 14, shot King at E.O. Green Junior High School in a fit of anti-gay rage because he was offended by the victim’s feminine clothing and his unwanted sexual advances.

CONNECTICUT

Feds claim bias by city’s police department

NEW HAVEN — The police department in suburban East Haven engaged in a pattern of discrimination against Hispanic residents, according to investigators from the U.S. Justice Department, who said Monday that their probe was complicated by efforts to interfere with witnesses and a “blue wall of silence.”

The investigation by Justice’s Civil Rights Division examined traffic stops from 2009 and 2010 and found a “failure to remedy a history of discrimination and a deliberate indifference to the rights of minorities.”

Nearly half or a third of the drivers pulled over by certain officers were Hispanic, and the number of Hispanics pulled over by certain squads was “extraordinarily high,” said Roy Austin Jr., deputy assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division. Hispanics who were stopped for minor violations were subjected to harsher punishments, such as arrest or vehicle towing, than were non-Hispanics.

The coastal community was 88.5 percent white and 10.3 percent Hispanic in 2010, compared with 4.4 percent Hispanic in 2000, according to census figures.

The Justice Department will reach out to the police department, town officials and the community in the coming weeks to work on reforms, Mr. Austin said. If the police department or town officials do not cooperate, Justice can seek relief from federal courts.

TENNESSEE

Muslim men kicked off flight sue two airlines

NASHVILLE — Two Muslim men who were kicked off an airplane in May are suing Delta Air Lines Inc. and a regional carrier that operated the flight from Memphis to Charlotte, N.C.

The suit was filed Monday in federal court against Delta and Atlantic Southeast Airlines Inc. It said the men — Masudur Rahman and Mohamed Zaghloul — went through several security checks. It claims the pilot wanted them off the plane because he thought their presence would make other passengers uncomfortable.

The men are described in the suit as having beards and “traditional Arabic clothing.” It seeks compensation for losses and injuries as well as punitive damages.

Calls to the airlines were not returned.

The men were traveling to attend a conference on how to deal with anti-Muslim discrimination.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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