- The Washington Times - Friday, January 16, 2009


Suspect in anchor’s death denies charges

LITTLE ROCK | A man accused in the slaying of a Little Rock television news anchor pleaded not guilty and said police have the wrong person.

Curtis Lavelle Vance, 28, appeared in court Thursday. Through his lawyer, he entered the plea to capital murder and rape charges in the October death of Anne Pressly, 26.

As Mr. Vance left the courtroom he told reporters that police have the wrong person. His family shouted “we love you” as deputies escorted him back to jail.

Circuit Judge Chris Piazza set a Sept. 9 trial date.

Miss Pressly was an anchorwoman for KATV’s “Daybreak” program and had a small role in the Oliver Stone movie “W.”


Budget deficit soars past $40 billion

SACRAMENTO | Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday called California’s massive budget deficit a “rock upon our chest” and said the state can address no other policy issues until the crisis is resolved.

“The truth is that California is in a state of emergency. Addressing this emergency is the first and greatest thing we must do for the people,” he said in his State of the State address before a joint session of the Legislature. “The $42 billion deficit is a rock upon our chest and we cannot breathe until we get it off.”

California faces a $42 billion budget deficit over the next year and a half, partly because the financial and construction industries have been decimated by the housing collapse and unemployment is on the rise.


7 states sue over health workers’ rule

HARTFORD | Seven states sued the federal government Thursday over a new rule that expands protections for doctors and other health care workers who refuse to participate in abortions and other medical procedures because of religious or moral objections.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal filed the lawsuit in federal court in Hartford on behalf of the states.

They claim the federal rule, issued by the Bush administration last month and set to take effect Tuesday, would trump state laws protecting women’s access to birth control, reproductive health services and emergency contraception.

Under long-standing federal law, institutions may not discriminate against individuals who refuse to perform abortions or provide a referral for one. The administration has said the new rule is intended to ensure that federal funds don’t flow to providers who violate those laws.

California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island joined Connecticut in the lawsuit, which seeks a court order blocking the new rule.


Deputy in Anthony case reassigned

ORLANDO | A Florida sheriff’s deputy who first responded to calls about searching woods where the remains of a missing Florida girl were discovered has been reassigned.

Orange County Deputy Richard Cain was removed from patrol duty Thursday while he is investigated for his response to repeated calls in August from a utility worker.

Roy Kronk told authorities they should search woods near missing toddler Caylee Anthony’s home. The girl’s mother, Casey Anthony, is charged in the girl’s death after failing to report her daughter missing for a month.

The same worker later came across a child’s skull in the same spot four months later. Mr. Kronk now says the deputy didn’t take the report seriously in August. The woods were flooded in August but dry in December.


All analog sets become digital

HONOLULU | At noon sharp, a message appeared on analog TV sets across the islands: “All full-power Hawaii TV stations are now digital.”

The state on Thursday shut down old-fashioned broadcast signals more than a month before the rest of the country is set to make the now-contentious switch.

Even before the change, residents lit up special TV help center phone lines set up by the Federal Communication Commission.

On home screens, the shutdown message flashed for about a minute in white text on a blue background. Then, a seven-minute announcement video began a broadcast loop that will continue for several weeks on major island stations.

Technicians are calling it the “analog night light.”

The FCC center got 300 calls for help Wednesday and braced for more after the switch.


Cousins plead guilty in terror case

TOLEDO | Two cousins from the Chicago area have pleaded guilty in Ohio to taking part in a plot to recruit and train terrorists to kill American soldiers.

Federal prosecutors said the men had been training and planning to go overseas so that they could kill U.S. soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Authorities said the men were recruited by three Toledo men organizing the plot. All three were convicted last summer and are awaiting sentencing.

Khaleel Ahmed of Chicago and Zubair Ahmed of suburban North Chicago pleaded guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court to conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.

Each faces a maximum of 15 years in prison.

Prosecutors said the men received training in firearms and counter-surveillance so that they could join the insurgency against U.S. troops.


Gunman robs students during class

MEMPHIS | A man disguised in a wig burst into a classroom and robbed students at gunpoint at a small private college in Memphis, authorities said.

LeMoyne-Owen College President Johnnie Watson said 18 students were in the English classroom when the man barged in Thursday.

Mr. Watson said the man, who had a handgun, ordered students to toss their purses and wallets on the floor. He then fled the campus. No shots were fired and no one was hurt.

Police searched the campus and the surrounding, inner-city neighborhood but made no arrests. The campus was temporarily locked down and classes were canceled for the rest of the day. The school has about 800 students.


Exonerated men drop lawsuits, seek new law

DALLAS | A group of exonerated men freed by DNA evidence after decades in Texas prisons have dropped a series of lawsuits while they seek a new law to increase compensation from the state that wrongly imprisoned them.

In the past week, at least six exonerated men have had their federal civil rights lawsuits dismissed or settled. West Texas attorney Kevin Glasheen, who represents 12 wrongly convicted men, said all the lawsuits are on hold.

Advocacy groups are pushing the Legislature for a bill that would increase payments to $250,000 per year of imprisonment, with half paid in a lump sum and the other half paid in annuities. The state now pays a lump sum of $50,000 per year of imprisonment.

The exonerated men will be able to refile their lawsuits if the Legislature does not pass a new bill, which Mr. Glasheen estimated would cost between $15 million and $20 million.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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