American Scene: Beauty queen says she’s shocked by $5M ruling

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PITTSBURGH — A Pennsylvania beauty queen who resigned after alleging that the Miss USA pageant had been fixed says she is stunned by an arbitrator’s ruling that she must pay the pageant organization $5 million for defamation.

Former Miss Pennsylvania USA Sheena Monnin tells the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that the “most logical course” would be to contest the ruling, but she’s considering her options.

Arbitrator Theodore Katz says Ms. Monnin’s allegations that finalists had been selected in advance were false, harmful and malicious and cost the pageant a $5 million fee from a potential 2013 sponsor.

Ms. Monnin points to a Miss USA contract clause giving top pageant officials the power to pick the top five finalists and the winner, but a company official calls that a catch-all that’s never been used.

NEW YORK

Woman accused in subway death to undergo mental-health tests

NEW YORK — A 31-year-old woman accused of shoving a man to his death in front of a subway train because she thought he was Muslim laughed and smiled during a court hearing where she was ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

Erika Menendez was charged Saturday night with murder as a hate crime after she told police she spontaneously pushed Sunando Sen, according to prosecutors.

“There is no reason. I just pushed him in front of the train because I thought it would be cool,” she said, according to the Queens district attorney’s office.

She laughed so hard during her arraignment in Queens criminal court that Judge Gia Morris told her lawyer: “You’re going to have to have your client stop laughing.”

Defense lawyer Dietrich Epperson said Ms. Menendez’s behavior in court was no different from how she had been acting when he spoke to her privately. Ms. Menendez was held without bail and ordered to have a mental health exam.

Prosecutors said she pushed the 46-year-old India native to his death because she blamed “Muslims, Hindus and Egyptians” for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Jet slips off runway into snow; no injuries

ALBANY — A plane has skidded into a snow bank at an upstate New York airport and become stuck, temporarily stranding passengers.

A spokesman for the Albany County Airport Authority says there were no injuries.

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