Nation Briefs: Conviction of bin Laden driver voided by court

A federal appeals court has thrown out the terrorism conviction of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a former driver for Osama bin Laden who served a prison term for material support for terrorism.

In a 3-0 ruling, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that material support for terrorism was not an international-law war crime at the time Hamdan engaged in the activity for which he was convicted.

Hamdan was sentenced to 51/2 years, given credit for time served and is back home in Yemen, reportedly working as a taxi driver.

CALIFORNIA

Blood from Yosemite workers could advance research

FRESNO — Health officials are set to draw blood from hundreds of Yosemite National Park employees as part of a research project that aims to help scientists better understand a potentially deadly virus carried by deer mice that killed three park visitors and sickened six others this summer.

More than 300 year-round employees will provide blood and answer an extensive questionnaire, as park epidemiologists and doctors with the California Department of Public Health try to determine how many workers might have been exposed to hantavirus pulmonary syndrome over the years, and why some people get sick and others don’t.

 

KENTUCKY

Gay man sues jail, says fellow inmate bit nose

LOUISVILLE — An incarcerated gay man is suing a southern Kentucky jail and a fellow inmate, claiming the prisoner bit off part of his nose after days of harassment.

Brandon Milam said in a lawsuit filed Tuesday that he was disfigured, lost his sense of smell and remains in pain from the July attack in the Warren County Regional Jail.

Milam is seeking unspecified damages. He has sued the jail, its top official, the county and the purported attacker, Timothy Schwartz. He faces an assault charge.

The gay rights group Kentucky Equality Federation is urging federal authorities to pursue the case as a hate crime.

Milam was jailed for violating probation after a guilty plea to felony theft.

MAINE

4.0 magnitude earthquake rattles New England

PORTLAND — An earthquake that hit southern Maine Tuesday night has rattled nearby New England states as far as Connecticut, including the Boston area.

The U.S. Geological Survey at first estimated 7:12 p.m. quake as a 4.6 magnitude, but later downgraded that to 4.0.

The Maine Emergency Management Agency had no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

TEXAS

Man convicted in killing of pastor gets death sentence

FORT WORTH — A convicted felon was sentenced to death Tuesday for killing a pastor and severely beating the pastor’s secretary during a robbery in their North Texas church.

A jury in Fort Worth deliberated for a little more than an hour before deciding the sentence for Steven Lawayne Nelson, 25. He was convicted last week of killing the Rev. Clint Dobson at the North Pointe Baptist Church in nearby Arlington in March 2011.

LOUISIANA

After spat, state to have 1st black chief justice

NEW ORLEANS — The Louisiana Supreme Court has resolved a racially tinged power struggle within its own ranks by ruling that its next chief justice should be Bernette Johnson. She will be the state’s first black chief justice.

The court said Tuesday that Judge Johnson’s years of appointed and elected service give her the seniority to succeed Chief Justice Catherine Kimball early next year. Justice Jeffrey Victory, who is white, had argued that Judge Johnson’s appointed service shouldn’t count and that he deserved to be named chief justice.

Voters elected Judge Johnson in 1994 to a seat on a state appeals court.

TEXAS

Agency probed in death of girl

LUBBOCK — Police have launched a rare investigation of the Texas child protection agency after a 22-month-old girl died and her mother claimed her military husband’s deployment overseas left her too stressed to care for their three children.

Abilene Police Chief Stan Standridge said the department is investigating the local Child Protective Services office after a new supervisor closed the case six days before the child’s death on Aug. 28.

Agency spokesman Patrick Crimmins said a caseworker assigned to investigate allegations of medical neglect against Tiffany Nicole Klapheke closed the case soon after being promoted to supervisor. In doing so, she violated agency guidelines that require a final face-to-face visit and someone else to sign off on the closure, he said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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