- - Wednesday, June 22, 2011

CALIFORNIA

Lawsuit seeks to block vote on circumcision ban

SAN FRANCISCO — A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Jewish and Muslim families in an effort to block a San Francisco ballot measure that would ban the circumcision of male children.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday asks a San Francisco judge to remove the initiative from the November ballot. The plaintiffs argue that California law bars local governments from restricting medical procedures.

San Francisco is set to be the first city to hold a public vote on banning circumcision.

The supporters say male circumcision is a form of genital mutilation that parents should not be able to force on their young child. Opponents say a ban on a religious rite considered sacred by Jews and Muslims is a violation of constitutional rights.

CONNECTICUT

Feds won’t deport immigrants in civil rights cases

NEW HAVEN — Federal immigration officials say they will not deport immigrants pursuing legitimate civil rights claims, a move hailed by advocates as a way to protect a vulnerable population while critics say it encourages abuses.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Friday that “absent special circumstances,” it is against the agency’s policy to deport immigrants in the midst of a legitimate effort to protect their civil rights. ICE officials said the memos were designed to provide guidance on exercising appropriate discretion.

A Yale University professor representing an immigrant in a civil rights case said the move was made after he and other advocates urged such a policy. He said the policy could help hundreds and eventually thousands of immigrants.

A critic said it would encourage lawyers to file claims to stop deportations.

MASSACHUSETTS

Mom of dead baby says thief stole her only photos

FAIRHAVEN — A Massachusetts woman says the cellphone stolen from her car as she visited her infant daughter’s grave contains the only pictures she has of the little girl.

Samantha Melanson and her mother, Cathy Melanson, were visiting the Fairhaven cemetery Sunday to plant flowers on the first anniversary of her child’s death.

They noticed someone they thought was a jogger near the car, just yards away. But the man reached in, grabbed Samantha Melanson’s phone and ran off.

A suspect named Shaun W. Davis, 26, of New Bedford was arraigned Wednesday on charges of larceny and breaking into a motor vehicle. A defense attorney says Mr. Davis denies taking the phone, which remains missing.

NEW YORK

Suspect arrested in pharmacy killings

MEDFORD — State officials say a 33-year-old man has been arrested in the shooting deaths of four people inside a pharmacy during a botched weekend robbery.

David Laffer was arrested Wednesday after an intense manhunt that had officials chasing down hundreds of tips and offering a $5,000 reward for information on the shootings at Haven Drugs in Medford, N.Y.

Jack Eddington, chairman of the Suffolk County Legislature’s public safety committee, confirmed Mr. Laffer’s arrest.

Police on Monday released clear surveillance footage of a gaunt man wearing a beard, baseball cap and hooded sweatshirt. He stole painkillers and killed everyone in the shop before fleeing with a black backpack.

OHIO

Woman sentenced in terror funds case

TOLEDO — A federal judge is sentencing an Ohio woman to more than three years in prison after she and her husband pleaded guilty in a plot to ship money to a Middle Eastern terrorist group.

Amera Akl of Toledo told the judge Wednesday that she knew that up to $1 million would be going to Hezbollah, the Lebanese group the U.S. government lists as a terrorist organization.

But her attorney maintained that she took part because she needed the money and that she had no political motives.

Prosecutors say she agreed to send the money overseas after an FBI informant approached her.

The judge’s sentence of three years and four months is six months short of the maximum. Akl agreed to a plea deal to avoid a possible 40-year sentence.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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