Latest Michigan news, sports, business and entertainment at 3:20 a.m. EST

RECENT CANDIDATE-CHARGE

Senate candidate’s campaign literature charge dismissed

(Information from: The Ann Arbor News, http://www.mlive.com/ann-arbor)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — A misdemeanor charge related to campaign literature has been dismissed against a recent Michigan Senate candidate.

The Ann Arbor News reports that Ann Arbor District Judge Elizabeth Hines issued an opinion Thursday that the state law under which Anuja Rajendra was charged with falsely representing herself as an incumbent is an unconstitutional infringement of free speech.

Rajendra, an Ann Arbor businesswoman, lost a four-way Democratic primary race in August.

She was defended by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.

Rajendra said after Thursday’s hearing that “words cannot describe the trauma of being thrown into the criminal justice system when you did nothing wrong.”

The Washtenaw County prosecutor’s office says it hasn’t decided yet whether it will try to appeal Hines’ decision.

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ELECTRIC VEHICLES-MICHIGAN

Michigan approves Consumers Energy EV charging program

JACKSON, Mich. (AP) — Michigan’s Public Service Commission has approved Jackson-based Consumers Energy’s PowerMIDrive electric vehicle charging program.

The three-year, $10 million pilot program supports the state’s growing electric vehicle market through new rates, rebates and customer education.

The program includes a Nighttime Savers Rate to encourage drivers to charge their electric vehicles between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. Residential drivers who sign up for the nighttime rate will be offered up to a $500 rebate for each electric vehicle charging station. Consumers Energy also will offer up to $5,000 in rebates for chargers installed in public areas such as workplaces and multi-unit dwellings.

Natural Resources Defense Council senior attorney Mark Nabong says the “program can help more people access electric cars as a clean, cheaper alternative to gasoline cars.”

SENIOR HOUSING-KILLINGS

Man charged in 2 slayings referred for competency evaluation

DETROIT (AP) — A registered sex offender charged in the fatal shootings of two people and an attempted rape inside a low-income senior complex in Detroit has been referred for a competency evaluation.

James Fleming appeared Thursday in district court in Detroit. His next court date is scheduled for April 10.

The 69-year-old Fleming was arrested Nov. 19 in Richmond, Virginia. Fleming is charged with murder, assault with intent to murder, kidnapping and criminal sexual conduct in the Nov. 13 slayings of an unarmed security guard, 50-year-old Kenneth Hall, and 66-year-old resident Bernice Clark at the Phillip Sims Senior Housing complex.

The shootings followed the attempted rape of a 30-year-old female acquaintance in the east side building.

Michigan’s Public Sex Offender Registry lists Fleming being convicted in 1988 of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.

HEALTH DIRECTOR-WHITMER

Whitmer names testing exec, ex-Obama official to lead DHHS

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — An executive with the nonprofit that owns the SAT will lead the largest department in Michigan government.

Robert Gordon was named director of the Department of Health and Human Services by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Thursday. He’s senior vice president of finance and global strategy for The College Board.

He previously worked in the Obama administration, in the Education Department and Office of Management and Budget. He also clerked for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Gordon, who has a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and a law degree from Yale University, starts Monday and will make $175,000 annually.

Whitmer says Gordon brings a “unique set” of skills and will work to improve public health and deliver essential services to residents. The appointment stands unless rejected by the Republican-controlled Senate.

HUMAN WASTE SPILL-FREEWAY

Freeway closed after human waste spills from truck

ERIE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — A freeway in southeastern Michigan just north of the state line with Ohio has been closed after a truck hauling human waste rolled over and spilled its contents along the roadway.

The crash happened about 9:40 a.m. Thursday on northbound Interstate 75 near Monroe County’s Erie Township.

The Detroit Free Press reports that Michigan State Police Sgt. Rod Goss said the spill initially was “reported as tar, then it was reported as human waste.”

Crews have been called in to clean up the mess.

One of the freeway’s three lanes had been reopened by noon.

MOTOWN 60-ARTIFACTS

Motown Museum unveils artifacts to mark 60th anniversary

DETROIT (AP) — Pieces of Motown’s origin story that haven’t been seen by the public will go on display in Detroit as part of the label’s 60th anniversary celebration.

The Motown Museum says it will display several items, including documents that show label founder Berry Gordy Jr.’s repayment of the $800 family loan that helped launch the company with a recording in 1959.

The museum plans to unveil the artifacts Friday afternoon on its Facebook page . The official display will open to the public Saturday at the museum.

Officials say the museum plans more displays throughout the year.

The Motown Museum is located where Gordy launched his music empire. Scores of stars, including the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and the Miracles, recorded hits there before Motown decamped to California in 1972.

CONVICTIONS VACATED

Judge erases convictions of 2 men after years in prison

DETROIT (AP) — A man who spent more than 20 years in prison cried as a judge erased his conviction for sexually assaulting a child.

Kevin Lackey publicly thanked his family for “never giving up” on him and believing in his innocence. The Wayne County prosecutor’s office asked that his 1993 conviction be thrown out after concluding it was based on unreliable evidence from a police tracking dog.

A judge on Thursday also threw out the second-degree murder conviction of Michael Powels, who has been in prison since 2008. Prosecutors say a key witness gave false testimony.

Lackey was released from prison in 2014. Lackey and Powels could be eligible for compensation from the state.

Separately, prosecutors say Lackey faces gun and assault charges in a new case. His lawyer, Todd Perkins, says there will be a “vigorous defense.” He calls it “rain on victory day.”

FORD-EUROPE

Ford to shake up European business, cut jobs

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Ford Motor Co. says it is cutting jobs in Europe in a wide-ranging restructuring as it focuses on its most profitable models and shifts production towards electric cars.

In a statement, the company said Thursday that “structural cost improvements will be supported by a reduction of surplus labor,” both hourly and salaried.

The Dearborn, Michigan-based company didn’t reveal how many jobs would be cut and said reductions would be achieved as far as possible through voluntary departures negotiated with unions and employee representatives.

The move follows plans announced last year to reduce white-collar jobs across the company’s global business.

INFORMATION BREACH-MICHIGAN

Breach exposes some Michigan patients’ personal information

MEMPHIS, Mich. (AP) — Officials say a security breach at a Michigan provider of HIV/AIDS care services and substance abuse treatment has compromised some patients’ personal and medical information.

Sacred Heart Rehabilitation Center says a “limited number of patients” were notified about the breach linked to a phishing scheme that affected an employee’s email account last April. The organization says affected information included Social Security numbers, full names and addresses.

Letters were recently sent to affected patients.

Those with Social Security numbers that were compromised are being offered free credit monitoring and identity theft-restoration services. Sacred Heart says it’s working to ensure that a similar breach doesn’t happen in the future by adding more employee training and security measures.

SNOWMOBILER DEATH

Missing snowmobiler found dead in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

(Information from: WLUC-TV, http://www.wluctv6.com)

MCFARLAND, Mich. (AP) — Authorities say a snowmobiler who had been missing since the weekend in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has been found dead.

Marquette County Sheriff Greg Zyburt tells WLUC-TV that the body of Dennis Pellinen of Ishpeming was found Wednesday by sheriff’s deputies at the scene of a crashed snowmobile.

The station reports deputies determined Pellinen was last seen in the Delta County community of Rock early Sunday. His disappearance prompted days of searching after he didn’t show up for work Monday and family members filed a missing person’s report. Heavy snow made the search more difficult.

The crash is being investigated by the Delta County sheriff’s office.

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