American Scene: Killer gets life without parole

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GEORGIA

Killer gets life without parole; victim’s wife now a suspect

DECATUR | A corporate engineer who fawned over a female subordinate was found guilty but mentally ill Thursday of fatally shooting the woman’s husband in an ambush outside a suburban Atlanta preschool.

After a judge sentenced Hemy Neuman to life in prison without parole for killing Russell Sneiderman, prosecutors shifted their attention to the victim’s wife.

They have suggested Andrea Sneiderman was a “co-conspirator” in the slaying, goading a love-struck Neuman into killing her husband, perhaps for a $2 million life insurance policy.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys for Neuman said he was having an affair with Mrs. Sneiderman, though she repeatedly denied those accusations and any involvement in the killing. When pressed about whether charges were imminent, DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James said: “Stay tuned.”

NORTH DAKOTA

State high court hears ‘Fighting Sioux’ case

BISMARCK | North Dakota Supreme Court justices grilled the state Board of Higher Education’s lawyer Thursday afternoon about why the board waited to challenge the Fighting Sioux nickname law in court.

The higher education board is asking the justices to block a vote on a March 2011 state law that requires the University of North Dakota’s sports teams to be called the Fighting Sioux.

Assistant Attorney General Doug Bahr says the state constitution gives the board authority over the nickname.

But Justice Dan Crothers said during arguments Thursday that he wondered why the board was tardy in challenging the law if members thought it was harmful to the university.

The justices did not immediately issue a ruling.

TEXAS

Feds deny state funds for Medicare women’s program

AUSTIN | The federal government is making good on its threat to cut off all funding for the Texas Medicare Women’s Health Program because the state won’t let Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers participate.

Cindy Mann, director of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said Thursday she regretted the move but said her agency had no choice after Texas this week began enforcing a law barring state funding from clinics affiliated with abortion providers.

The Women’s Health Program provides care to about 130,000 low-income participants, and federal funds had covered 90 percent of its costs.

Gov. Rick Perry has instructed state health officials to find funding for the $40 million program without federal support.

Ms. Mann said an end to federal funding will be gradual and that support will continue for several months, or until Texas takes over the program.

NEW JERSEY

No verdict yet in Rutgers suicide case

NEW BRUNSWICK | A jury has gone home without a verdict after the second day of deliberations in the trial of a former Rutgers University student accused of using a webcam to spy on his gay roommate, who killed himself days later.

Twenty-year-old Dharun Ravi faces 15 criminal charges, including invasion of privacy and bias intimidation, a hate crime.

His freshman-year roommate, Tyler Clementi, jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge in September 2010, just days after he had a sexual encounter with another man.

The jurors deliberated for about 9 1/2 hours without reaching a verdict. They didn’t have any questions for the judge Thursday and are scheduled to resume Friday.

PENNSYLVANIA

Philly mayor seeks ban on feeding homeless outside

PHILADELPHIA | Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter wants to ban community organizations from feeding the hungry and homeless in city parks.

Nutter says he wants the homeless to eat indoors, where mental health and medical services can be provided.

But organizations that already serve meals outdoors say the ban is a ploy to get the homeless out of high-traffic areas, like the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, home to many of the city’s museums.

Mr. Nutter says the true aim is to offer better and safer food to the hungry. He says the city will set up a temporary space for serving meals at City Hall’s northwest corner and offer free food-safety classes for organizations that want to serve meals.

The ban will take effect following a 30-day comment period.

NEW YORK

Brooke Astor auction to offer 800 personal items

NEW YORK | A New York auction of the late philanthropist Brooke Astor’s personal items will include designer jewelry and a wide range of furniture and decorative arts.

The highlights include paintings of her favorite subject - dogs.

Sotheby’s said Thursday some 800 items will be offered Sept. 24-25 from Astor’s Park Avenue duplex and a mansion in Westchester County.

The proceeds will benefit her favorite charities. They include the New York Public Library, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Animal Medical Center in Manhattan. Other highlights include Chinese lacquer furniture dating to the Qing dynasty and old master drawings.

Astor died in 2007 at age 105.

NEVADA

1 critical after fire at Golden Nugget

LAS VEGAS | Arson investigators in Las Vegas are probing a fire that critically injured a man on the unoccupied 22nd floor of the downtown Golden Nugget hotel.

Las Vegas fire spokesman Tim Szymanski says firefighters found the unconscious man in a guest room in the hotel’s Rush Tower after fire sprinklers doused flames at about 8:30 a.m. Thursday.

The 22nd floor is among several being renovated, but officials say it’s not clear if the man was a worker or an intruder.

Golden Nugget spokeswoman Amy Chasey says about 60 people evacuated from the 21st floor, and nine left suites on the top floor, the 25th. Three floors in between are unoccupied.

ARIZONA

Ex-Fiesta Bowl exec pleads guilty to conspiracy

PHOENIX | The former chief operating officer of the Fiesta Bowl pleaded guilty Thursday to a felony federal conspiracy charge for her role in a fraudulent campaign-contribution scheme.

Natalie Wisneski entered the plea Thursday in U.S. District Court in Phoenix and could face up to a year in prison when she’s sentenced on June 16. She also could receive probation.

Prosecutors agreed to dismiss eight other felony counts as part of the agreement. Wisneski must cooperate with federal prosecutors and the Internal Revenue Service in continuing investigations into the bowl scandal.

Wisneski resigned from her job at the bowl last March and was indicted by a federal grand jury in November.

Wisneski’s ex-boss, former Fiesta Bowl chief John Junker, pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the scheme earlier this week. Last month, he entered a plea agreement with state prosecutors, entering a guilty plea to a felony charge stemming from a political donations scandal that nearly jeopardized the bowl’s role as a regular host of college football’s national championship game.

NEW YORK

Fatal accident at Jell-O Museum brings lawsuit

ROCHESTER | The estate of an 81-year-old man who died after falling off a lift at the Jell-O Museum in western New York has filed a lawsuit.

Rochester media outlets report that the lawsuit filed in federal court in Rochester earlier this week by Frank LaMont Jr.’s estate names the defendants as the U.S. government; the Le Roy Historical Society, which owns the museum; and the companies that serviced, sold and installed the lift.

LaMont was living at the Canandaigua Veterans Affairs Medical Center in October 2010 at the time he visited the museum. He was fatally injured when the scooter he was sitting on rolled through the back door of the museum’s wheelchair lift.

The lawsuit claims his death was the result of negligence by the VA and the defective design and maintenance of the lift.

MONTANA

Stuck man kept wits by playing Angry Birds

HELENA | A man stranded for three days on a mountain road in Montana says he rationed beef jerky and kept his wits by playing the game Angry Birds on his cellphone.

David Heatherly, of Great Falls, says he took frequent naps and ran his vehicle’s heater 15 minutes out of every hour until the blustery weather cleared and he could walk more than six miles for help.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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