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American Scene: Possession of pot? Now just a ticket in Chicago

- - Wednesday, June 27, 2012

CHICAGO — The Chicago City Council on Wednesday approved a measure that would allow police officers to ticket people found with small amounts of marijuana instead of arresting them.

Aldermen voted 43-3 in favor of the ordinance, under which anyone in possession of 15 grams of marijuana - roughly the equivalent of 15 marijuana cigarettes - faces a fine between $250 and $500.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy support the ordinance, and a marked jump in Chicago's homicide rate may have given the proposal more steam. Homicides are up by about 50 percent so far this year compared to the same period last year.

States across the country are starting to relax their laws on marijuana possession.

MISSISSIPPI

State's only abortion clinic sues to overturn new limits

JACKSON — Mississippi's only abortion clinic sued Wednesday to stop a law that it says will effectively ban abortion in the state and endanger women's health by limiting access to the procedure.

Jackson Women's Health Organization said in the federal lawsuit that the measure would force the clinic to close, is unconstitutional and will ban abortion in Mississippi "by imposing medically unjustified requirements on physicians who perform abortions." Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican, has said his goal is to eliminate abortions in the state.

The law takes effect Sunday, but the clinic is asking a federal judge in Jackson to issue a temporary restraining order to stop the state from enforcing it.

IDAHO

Judge: U.S. misused law to hold witness for trial

BOISE — A federal magistrate says the United States falsely imprisoned a former Idaho man under a law designed to ensure that key witnesses show up for trial.

The ruling from U.S. Magistrate Mikel Williams in Boise still must be signed by U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge before it may go into effect, and it's possible that lawyers with the Department of Justice will appeal, ask the judge not to sign or simply reach a settlement with Abdullah al-Kidd.

Mr. Al-Kidd, a U.S. citizen, sued the government in 2005 after he was arrested at Washington Dulles International Airport and held as a material witness in a terrorism-related criminal case against another man. He said he was jailed for 16 days, repeatedly strip searched and at times left naked in a jail cell. He was never called to testify.

TEXAS

Saudi man, 22, convicted in bomb-making terror plot

AMARILLO — A Saudi man accused of buying chemicals online and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction was found guilty Wednesday in federal court in Amarillo.

Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, who was legally in the U.S. on a student visa, was arrested in February 2011 after federal agents secretly searched his apartment near Texas Tech University in Lubbock and found bomb-making chemicals, wiring, a hazmat suit and clocks.

Authorities also discovered Aldawsari's journal, handwritten in Arabic, in which he wrote he had been planning a terrorist attack in the U.S. for years and that it was "time for jihad," or holy war, court documents show.

He faces up to life in prison.

Jury weighs penalty in stand-your-ground case

HOUSTON — Prosecutors told jurors Wednesday that a man convicted of murder after claiming Texas' version of a stand-your-ground law allowed him to fatally shoot a neighbor he had confronted about a loud party is dangerous and unpredictable and deserves a life sentence.

But attorneys for Raul Rodriguez, 46, described him as a family man who served his country in the military and as a Houston-area firefighter. They asked that he be sentenced to a minimum term of five years.

Jurors began deliberating Rodriguez's sentence after closing arguments Wednesday.

The retired firefighter went to Mr. Danaher's home to confront him about the noise coming from the party there and shot the 36-year-old elementary school teacher after an argument.

Houston woman indicted in slaying, baby abduction

CONROE — A Houston woman accused of killing a mother and snatching her newborn son has been indicted on a capital murder charge.

Verna McClain, a 31-year-old licensed vocational nurse, is being held without bond in the Montgomery County Jail. Prosecutors have not said whether they will seek the death penalty.

Ms. McClain is accused of fatally shooting Kala Golden-Schuchardt outside a baby clinic in suburban Spring and abducting the woman's days-old son. The baby was found safe with a relative.

Investigators say Ms. McClain had a miscarriage and was desperate to find a baby to pass off as her own to family and friends.

KENTUCKY

Website targeting vets handed over to feds

LOUISVILLE — A California-based company accused of preying on veterans for their education benefits agreed Wednesday to pay $2.5 million to 20 states and turn over its website - GIBill.com - to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The consumer protection settlement between the states and QuinStreet Inc. was filed Wednesday in a Frankfort, Ky., court.

The agreement comes against a backdrop in which military veterans are a lucrative market for colleges.

QuinStreet, an Internet marketing and media company, called the agreement a "significant step forward," and said it didn't view its websites as misleading.

From wire dispatches and staff reports