- - Tuesday, June 14, 2011

ARIZONA

Would-be pot shops sue state for right to open

PHOENIX — Arizona attorneys have filed a lawsuit seeking to force the agency that regulates the state’s medical marijuana program to accept applications to operate from would-be pot shops.

The Arizona Department of Health Services was supposed to begin accepting the applications June 1 but refused after the state sued the federal government over the program.

Department Director Will Humble said he won’t accept applications because of uncertainty about the legality of the program, pointing to a state lawsuit filed in May at Gov. Jan Brewer’s request. That lawsuit asks a federal judge to rule on whether Arizona’s voter-approved medical marijuana law can be implemented in the face of federal law, which says pot remains illegal.

Attorneys representing would-be pot shops filed their lawsuit Tuesday in Maricopa County Superior Court to force the department to accept the applications.

CALIFORNIA

Religious relic stolen from church

LOS ANGELES — A 780-year-old religious relic of St. Anthony of Padua has been stolen, and parishioners at a Southern California Catholic church are praying to the patron saint of lost items and missing persons for its speedy return.

The relic was stolen from inside a cabinet beside the altar at St. Anthony Catholic Church in Long Beach on Monday, the feast day of the church’s namesake.

The Rev. Jose Magana said he decided to bring out the relic this year, on the 780th anniversary of the death of St. Anthony, because many of his parishioners have lost hope in the rough economy.

Long Beach Police Lt. Paul Arcala said the relic is housed in a 16-inch-tall reliquary case with angel-shaped handles made of gold and silver on either side. He declined to describe it further because that might jeopardize the investigation.

GEORGIA

Governor: Hire people on probation for farm work

ATLANTA — Gov. Nathan Deal offered a provocative solution Tuesday for farmers who claim workers have been scared away by a crackdown on illegal immigration: Hire people on probation to toil in the fields.

The Republican governor offered his remarks after an unscientific survey showed roughly 11,000 job openings in the state’s agricultural economy. He requested the survey after growers warned that a new Georgia law targeting illegal immigrants was scaring away workers needed to harvest labor-intensive crops like peaches and berries that are easily damaged by machines.

A handful of the more than 15,000 unemployed people on probation statewide were sent to work Monday as part of a pilot program at a South Georgia vegetable farm, said Stan Cooper, the state’s director of probation operations. Most people on probation are nonviolent offenders.

State authorities are finalizing the program details. No farmer will be forced to hire offenders on probation, who generally must seek work unless they are infirm but can turn down job offers. In an extreme case, an offender who continually refuses to take a job could face additional punishment.

NEVADA

Judge’s son admits role in Bellagio heist

LAS VEGAS — The son of a Las Vegas judge has pleaded guilty to being the motorcycle-helmet-wearing gunman who made off in December with $1.5 million in chips from the Bellagio casino on the Las Vegas Strip.

Anthony Michael Carleo told a Nevada judge Tuesday that he went to the craps table, took chips and ran. The judge set sentencing for Aug. 23.

The plea by Carleo, 29, is part of a deal that also will have him plead guilty to a separate robbery in December at the Suncoast casino five days before the Bellagio heist.

Carleo is the son of Las Vegas Municipal Judge George Assad. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that Carleo could face three to 54 years in prison in the two cases.

NEW JERSEY

Court: Megan’s Law killer can continue appeal

TRENTON — The man convicted of killing a 7-year-old girl who became the namesake of Megan’s Laws across the country should be allowed to pursue claims that his lawyers were ineffective, a state appeals court ruled Tuesday.

But the appeals court did not agree with Jesse Timmendequas’ argument that his kidnapping, sexual assault and murder conviction should be overturned and he should be released from prison.

Instead, the appeals court ordered a state judge to consider whether there’s merit to Timmendequas’ arguments, most of which claim faulty representation.

Megan Kanka, a 7-year-old who lived across the street from Timmendequas in Hamilton, N.J., disappeared on July 29, 1994. Nearly 24 hours later, Timmendequas admitted that he had lured the little girl to his home with the promise of showing her a puppy, then sexually assaulted and strangled her before dumping her body in a park.

Timmendequas previously served six years in prison for aggravated assault and attempted sexual assault of another child. He was living with two other convicted sex offenders.

From wire dispatches and staff reports