- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 15, 2009

CALIFORNIA

Woman arraigned in girl's death

STOCKTON | The neighbor of an 8-year-old Northern California girl whose body was found in an irrigation pond made her first appearance in court to face a murder charge.

Melissa Huckaby, 28, was led into a San Joaquin County courtroom in a red jumpsuit and shackles for the Tuesday afternoon arraignment. She cried as a judge read the charges: one count of murder with the special circumstances of rape with a foreign object, lewd or lascivious conduct with a child under 14 and murder in the course of a kidnapping.

She did not enter a plea.

Authorities have not said how Sandra Cantu was killed, nor discussed a motive.

The Sunday school teacher was arrested Friday, four days after the girl's body was found stuffed in Miss Huckaby's suitcase in the pond.

FLORIDA

Judge: Travel law unconstitutional

MIAMI | A judge said a Florida law that would make it more expensive for travel agents to book trips to Cuba is unconstitutional because it interferes with foreign policy.

U.S. District Court Judge Alan S. Gold threw out the 2008 Sellers of Travel Act, which requires agencies that sell trips to Cuba to post a $250,000 bond with the state. Agencies that don't book Cuba trips only have to post a $25,000 bond.

Companies argued the measure would force them to increase prices and could put them out of business.

Judge Gold, a 1997 appointee of President Clinton, said in his ruling that Florida can't interfere with the federal government's right to set foreign policy, nor can the state set its own foreign policy.

The judgment comes as the Obama administration is easing restrictions for Cuban-Americans to travel to the communist island.

MICHIGAN

Ewe gives birth to quintuplets

VEVAY TOWNSHIP | A Michigan farmer whose ewe gave birth to twins found himself carefully counting sheep when he later discovered three more lambs.

The Lansing State Journal reported Tuesday that one of Paul Oesterle's Suffolk-mix ewes gave birth to quintuplets last week. Michigan State University sheep expert Alan Culham said the chance of that breed bearing the multiple litter is one in 10,000.

Mr. Oesterle said he thought the ewe had given birth to twins but he found three more lambs when he checked the next day.

He said the ewe can't produce enough milk for all five babies so he has to help feed them every six hours.

MONTANA

Man found guilty in cattle-theft case

WOLF POINT | A northeastern Montana man was convicted of stealing 39 head of cattle in what appears to be the state's biggest cattle-rustling case in decades.

Richard D. Holen, of Wolf Point, was convicted last week in Roosevelt County of eight counts of felony theft, one for each neighboring rancher he was accused of stealing from.

Roosevelt County Attorney Ryan Rusche, who prosecuted the case, said Tuesday that it's been a long time since Montana has seen cattle rustling on this scale.

Holen faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $50,000 fine for each of the eight counts.

NEW YORK

Sale of Madoff's Mets tickets OK'd

NEW YORK | A federal bankruptcy judge signed off Tuesday on a plan to raise tens of thousands of dollars for victims of the Bernard Madoff fraud by auctioning off pricey New York Mets season tickets owned by the disgraced financier's investment firm.

Before signing an order allowing a court-appointed trustee to sell the tickets at the Mets' sparkling new ballpark to the highest Internet bidder, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Burton Lifland playfully suggested that the team needed to rebound from its mediocre start to help the cause.

Madoff, 70, pleaded guilty last month to charges that his investment advisory service actually was a massive Ponzi scheme that paid longtime clients with money from new ones. He is jailed, awaiting a June sentencing for charges that carry a sentence of up to 150 years in prison.

TEXAS

Permanent custody of FLDS child sought

AUSTIN | A 14-year-old girl purportedly married to polygamist group leader Warren Jeffs when she was 12 may be placed permanently in Texas state custody.

Family and Protective Services Commissioner Anne Heilingenstein said during a legislative hearing on Tuesday that Child Protective Services would seek permanent custody of the girl because efforts to reunite her with her parents have failed.

The girl is the only one of the 439 children taken from the Yearning For Zion Ranch last year still under court oversight. She has been in temporary foster care since August.

Jeffs leads the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He was convicted in Utah as an accomplice to rape and awaits trial on charges in Arizona and Texas related to underage marriages.

VERMONT

'Sexting' penalties may be removedhttps://www.washingtontimes.com/admin/news/story/373645/#

MONTPELIER | Parents, school districts and law enforcement have been grappling with what to do about teenagers who take sexually explicit photos of themselves and send them to friends.

Vermont legislators are moving to get rid of one option: child pornography counts with harsh sentences.

Legislation passed by the Vermont Senate and pending in the House would remove the most serious legal consequences for teenagers who engage in “sexting.” The bill would carve out an exemption from prosecution for child pornography.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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