- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 5, 2014
High court affirms most verdicts in deputy’s death

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday affirmed all but one of the guilty verdicts - including the most serious conviction of first-degree murder - against a man who admitted to shooting Mahnomen County Sheriff’s Deputy Christopher Dewey in 2009.

Dewey died about 18 months after he was shot by Thomas Lee Fairbanks, who authorities say fired at Dewey after a night of drinking and then engaged in a standoff with police. At trial, Fairbanks admitted he shot Dewey, but said he was drunk and high so there was no intent.

A jury found Fairbanks, 37, guilty of multiple counts, including first-degree murder of a peace officer and four counts of first-degree assault, stemming from shots fired during the standoff. Fairbanks received a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole on the murder count.

Fairbanks appealed on several grounds, but the Supreme Court rejected most of his arguments. Defense attorney Theodora Gaitas said in an email she had no comment on the decision.

Mahnomen County Sheriff Doug Krier said it’s been nearly five years since Dewey, 27, was shot, and it’s hard to believe the appeals process is finally over.

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Would-be burglar apparently scared by singing fish

ROCHESTER, Minn. (AP) - Big Mouth Billy Bass apparently got the best of a would-be burglar in Minnesota.

Authorities in Rochester say the motion-activated singing fish apparently scared off an intruder who tried to break into the Hooked on Fishing bait and tackle shop.

The novelty bass had been hung near the door and would start singing “Take Me to the River” whenever someone entered the shop.

The Olmsted County Sheriff’s Office says the fish was found on the floor after the intruder knocked it down while breaking the door to get in late Sunday or early Monday.

Sgt. Tom Claymon tells the Star Tribune (https://strib.mn/1itbp3W) the would-be burglar left without stealing anything, including cash that had been left in “a very visible spot.”

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VP Biden headed to Minn. for Democratic fundraiser

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Vice President Joe Biden is headed to Minnesota for a fundraiser for the national Democratic Party.

Biden is due at a Democratic National Committee event in Minneapolis on Feb. 19, a DNC official said Wednesday. The White House also confirmed that Biden would be in Minnesota that day.

The fundraising trip was first reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune. An invitation obtained by the newspaper seeks contributions of up to $32,400. The fundraiser is being held at the Minneapolis restaurant owned by Gov. Mark Dayton’s sons.

Biden was last in Minnesota in August 2012 during the re-election campaign.

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MNsure enrollment grows, but private plans lag

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Insurance sign-ups through Minnesota’s health care marketplace continued to grow into February to more than 90,000 people, but enrollment continues to be weighted more toward public plans over private insurance.

MNsure released its latest enrollment measures on Wednesday, which covered mid-January through Feb. 1. By that date, more than 28,000 people had enrolled in commercial plans - an increase of about 3 percent from two weeks earlier. That amounts to only about 40 percent of the total private enrollment goal of 70,000 that MNsure hoped to reach by April 1, which is the date where people without insurance coverage start facing federal tax penalties under the health care law.

While commercial enrollment is running behind projections, enrollment is ahead of projections in Medical Assistance, the state’s version of Medicaid. That’s a potential problem, because private enrollments are the main source of money for funding the exchange starting next year.

“Bad news for our budget,” MNsure board chairman Brian Beutner said at a meeting Wednesday, though another board member - state Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson - pointed out it’s good for the people getting insurance.

Beutner said hitting the 90,000 enrollment level was a good thing: “I firmly believe they have something better,” he said. But he added the board would need to figure out going forward “what that means in terms of our sustainability and our budget.”

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