- - Monday, February 27, 2012


Voters to decide on recreational pot plan

DENVER — A plan that would legalize marijuana for recreational use will be on Colorado ballots this fall.

Voters will be asked whether adults older than 21 should be allowed to use pot even without a doctor’s recommendation, making Colorado the second state in the nation, after Washington state, to put such a proposal on ballots this year.

The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office said Monday that the legalization initiative cleared the needed 86,000-signature threshold to be put to a statewide vote.

Legalization supporters in Colorado were given additional time to collect signatures because too many were recently deemed invalid. The initiative was given a second, smaller window to produce additional signatures.

Colorado voters rejected a recreational legalization measure in 2006. California voters rejected a similar plan in 2010.


Man pleads not guilty to running over lover

HACKENSACK — A New Jersey man accused of running over his estranged girlfriend several times has pleaded not guilty to murder.

Charles Ann entered the plea Monday during a brief court appearance, where he was represented by a public defender. He remains jailed on $3 million bail.

Mr. Ann is charged in the Feb. 20 death of 25-year-old Aena Hong, who was killed on a Fort Lee street.

Witnesses say the couple had been arguing before Mr. Ann drove away. Witnesses say he then turned around and rapidly accelerated before running over Hong as she was crossing an intersection. Investigators say he then put the car in reverse and ran over her body three times.

Prosecutors say Mr. Ann abandoned the car and fled to New York City, where he was arrested the next day.


Room change request at issue in webcam case

NEW BRUNSWICK — A jury will hear about a Rutgers University student’s request for a room change days before he committed suicide, but not that he told university officials his roommate used a webcam to spy on him.

The issue came up Monday in the trial of Dharun Ravi, who is charged with invasion of privacy, bias intimidation and other crimes.

A judge said roommate Tyler Clementi’s online request for a single room can be presented to jurors. But they won’t hear that Clementi also wrote that Mr. Ravi used a webcam to spy on him.

Clementi jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge days after the alleged spying on his gay encounter in September 2010.


Cleveland neighbors rescue bedridden man from fire

CLEVELAND — A bedridden Cleveland man was rescued by neighbors who saw smoke pouring from his two-story home and knew he wouldn’t be able to get out.

The man was not injured but was taken to a local hospital to be sure he was all right.

The Plain Dealer newspaper of Cleveland reported Monday that Lawrence Davis had just gotten home from work when he saw smoke at the house across the street.

The 33-year-old Mr. Davis rounded up neighbors to help the bedridden man, knowing he couldn’t get out on his own.

Firefighters are continuing to investigate the cause of the blaze, which caused heavy damage to the house and left its occupants without a place to live.


New trial denied for ex-security chief

CHARLESTON — A federal judge has denied a new trial for an Upper Big Branch mine-security chief convicted of lying to investigators after the worst U.S. coal mine disaster in four decades.

U.S. District Judge Irene Berger ruled on the request Monday in Beckley.

Hughie Elbert Stover’s sentencing is scheduled for Wednesday. He faces up to 25 years in prison.

Stover was convicted of lying to investigators and ordering a subordinate to destroy thousands of documents after the 2010 disaster that killed 29 men in southern West Virginia.

Stover’s attorney says his client deserves no prison time.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin plans to call witnesses Wednesday, including Mine Safety and Health Administration coal administrator Kevin Stricklin, along with others who will testify about Stover’s Army background and as a police officer.


Judge denies monsignor’s request to drop case

PHILADELPHIA — A Philadelphia monsignor will go on trial on child-endangerment charges despite new defense evidence that he says shows an archbishop was calling the shots.

Monsignor William Lynn says the now-deceased Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua had a list of accused, still-active priests destroyed in 1994 - a decade before the sex-abuse scandal exploded.

Father Lynn asked a judge to dismiss the felony child-endangerment and conspiracy charges he’s facing. He says a grand jury might not have pursued him if it had seen the memo about the cardinal ordering his aides to destroy the list.

Judge M. Teresa Sarmina refused Monday to drop the case against Father Lynn. Prosecutors had blasted the last-minute defense filing Friday.

The first potential jurors were being questioned Monday. Testimony is set to start March 26.


Report: Safety device disabled on elevator

NEW YORK — Investigators say an important elevator safety mechanism was turned off when an advertising executive was crushed to death at a Manhattan office building.

The city investigation and buildings departments released the findings Monday.

Suzanne Hart was killed when an elevator started rising with its doors open Dec. 14. She was dragged between the car and the wall.

Workers had adjusted the elevator that morning. A mechanic told investigators he’d temporarily overridden a system that prevented the elevator from moving with its doors open. He told investigators the mechanism was back online before Hart arrived.

But the report says the mechanism “was apparently bypassed at the time of the fatal incident.”

The mechanic’s attorney says he’s been completely cooperative with the investigation.

There was no immediate response from Transel Elevator Inc.


Sharks culprit in otter death spike

SANTA CRUZ — Officials say sharks are killing and injuring California’s endangered sea otters in record numbers.

U.S. Geological Survey wildlife biologist Tim Tinker told the Los Angeles Times that shark bites accounted for 15 percent of the sea otter deaths in the late 1990s.

Nearly a third of otter deaths were blamed on sharks in 2010 and 2011.

Mr. Tinker, who is with the USGS Western Ecological Research Center in Santa Cruz, says sharks seem to favor breeding-age female otters.

The USGS says 335 dead, sick or injured otters were found last year.

The most recent official sea otter population report said there were 2,711 otters, which is 379 short of the threshold that would begin consideration for removing otters from the federal endangered-species list.


Cause of strange odor appears to be propane

PHOENIX — Phoenix fire officials say they think they know what caused a big stink that prompted 250 calls over two hours, with some people complaining of nausea and headaches.

Investigators think the late Sunday night odor in a west Phoenix neighborhood was caused by a purged propane line at a storage facility.

One resident, Debra Hill, says the smell was similar to strong onions and garlic. She says it gave her a runny nose and burned her sinuses and eyes, and she says she saw one neighbor vomit.

The Phoenix Fire Department has ruled out natural gas as the cause of the odor.


Riverbanks Zoo offers its waste for planting

COLUMBIA — Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in Columbia, S.C., is offering lucky gardeners a chance to put in orders for its famed manure produced by elephants, giraffes and zebras.

Zoo spokeswoman Susan O’Cain says one cubic yard of the manure will be available for $43 a load. The manure sells out quickly, and each order is limited to two loads.

Zoo animals produce about 1,500 pounds of manure every day. For those interested in small amounts, pint-size and two-gallon buckets are placed at zoo entrances throughout the year.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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