- Associated Press - Friday, February 13, 2015
Teen pleads guilty for role in Woodbury synthetic drug death

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A Woodbury teenager has pleaded guilty for her role in the death of a 17-year-old girl who overdosed on a synthetic drug.

The teen admitted Friday to a felony charge of conspiring to sell and deliver a controlled substance to someone under 18. The Associated Press is not naming her because she was 17 at the time of Tara Fitzgerald’s death.

She was sentenced to serve 18 weekends in jail and 200 hours of community service. She also received a 57-month prison sentence, but won’t serve that as long as she follows the law until age 21.

Fitzgerald died in January 2014 after ingesting what she believed was LSD. The substance was the synthetic drug 25i-NBOMe.

Two adults have been convicted of third-degree murder and two other teens face charges.


With smaller uninsured pool, MNsure boosts outreach

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - The smell of fresh cilantro, baked goods and noodle soup wafts over a group of nearly a dozen people, all waiting their turn for help signing up for health insurance.

This outpost - laptops stationed on fold-up tables, tucked away inside the noisy Hmong Village market in St. Paul - and others like it scattered across Minnesota are critical to the state health exchange’s efforts to get residents signed up for coverage.

With the end of year two’s open enrollment coming Sunday, it’s crunch time for MNsure. Having already picked the “low hanging fruit” of uninsured Minnesota residents in its first year, the exchange is putting in extra effort to root out the enrollments it needs to stay on a sound financial track.

MNsure hosted more than 250 sign-up events in the last week of enrollment, including the Hmong American Partnership registration blitz in St. Paul Friday. The exchange has targeted a younger crowd with advertisements through online radio services. And it leaned on insurance agents and brokers, forking over advertising dollars in exchange for a promise that they would sign up their clients through MNsure.

“We have to work that much harder to reach people who didn’t come in during year one. Those people are really hard to find,” MNsure spokesman Joe Campbell said.


Judge allows snowmobile route near Boundary Waters

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A proposed snowmobile route bordering the Boundary Waters Canoe Area will not violate the Wilderness Act, a federal judge ruled Friday in a decision that disappointed environmental groups that have claimed the route would disrupt the area’s pristine peace and quiet.

U.S. District Judge John Tunheim’s ruling comes after a nine-year battle between snowmobile enthusiasts and environmental groups. The Star Tribune reported (https://strib.mn/1Dpsas9https://strib.mn/1Dpsas9 ) Tunheim acknowledged his ruling was a “close one,” but said the increased sound from snowmobiles would not be significant enough to violate federal law.

The route to be built by the U.S. Forest Service would connect McFarland Lake to South Fowl Lake, where ice fishing is better. Tunheim said the noise would be no louder than a “moderate rainfall” and would affect only a small portion of the wilderness.

The proposed route would come within about 400 feet of the BWCA.

“We are deeply disappointed in the judge’s ruling and we believe this new snowmobile trail will definitely impact the wilderness,” said Kevin Proescholdt, conservation director for the national organization Wilderness Watch. “Our fear is this will be another cut in the death of a thousand cuts to the Boundary Waters.”


Official: Funding limits big changes in sex offender program

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Limited funding has kept state officials from making broad changes to Minnesota’s sex offender treatment program, the state’s human services commissioner testified Friday in a federal lawsuit over the program’s constitutionality.

Attorneys for more than 700 people civilly committed under the program say it’s unconstitutional because release is nearly impossible. They have argued the program is understaffed and ineffective in rehabilitating sex offenders.

Department of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson said Friday that she’s made some improvements to the program in her four years on the job, including moving more patients through treatment to the point where they can petition for provisional release.

But Jesson said her department would need more funding for bigger adjustments, like contracting with the private sector to provide less-restrictive facilities for some patients.

Gov. Mark Dayton has proposed about $6.8 million in additional state spending over the next two years to evaluate patients more often and move some of them to facilities less restrictive than the program’s Moose Lake and St. Peter locations.

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