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COURT-PEN BAN

Detroit’s 36th District Court drops ban on pens, pencils

DETROIT (AP) — Michigan courts soon must allow visitors to carry phones. A Detroit court is lifting a ban on something even simpler: pens and pencils. Chief Judge William McConico erased the ban on writing instruments at 36th District Court. It was adopted in 2017 under a different chief judge, apparently for security reasons. McConico said the policy was an “unnecessary hardship on the public.”  The Detroit court is one of the busiest in the U.S., serving a city of nearly 700,000 residents.

NURSING HOME DEATHS

Woman released decades after Michigan nursing home deaths

WALKER, Mich. (AP) — A woman who spent 30 years in prison for the deaths of residents at a Michigan nursing home has been released on parole. Relatives of victims had sued to keep Catherine Wood locked up, but a judge in October said he wouldn’t block the parole board’s decision. Five people were suffocated at the Alpine Manor Nursing Home in Walker, Michigan, in the late 1980s. Wood cooperated with investigators and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and conspiracy. She had been housed at a federal prison in Tallahassee, Florida, to separate her from a co-defendant, Gwendolyn Graham. Graham is serving a life sentence.

COUNSELOR-TEENS EXPLOITED

Counselor gets 17 years in prison; coerced teen girls online

PORT HURON, Mich. (AP) — A man who worked at a Port Huron counseling center for decades was sentenced to 17 years in prison for using internet chat rooms to sexually exploit girls while posing as a teenager. Jackie Woodburn was charged with seven crimes before pleading guilty to producing child pornography. The government said he coerced girls into certain acts on camera. The 65-year-old Woodburn had served as director of Colonial Woods Christian Counseling Center. He resigned in 2018.

WATER BILL-OFFICIAL

‘Oversight:’ Detroit-area county leader pays $558 water bill

FERNDALE, Mich. (AP) — Oops: The leader of Michigan’s second-largest county didn’t pay his water bill for more than a year. The Detroit News reports that Oakland County Executive David Coulter paid $558 after the newspaper raised the issue Monday. He last paid a water bill in Ferndale in November 2018. Coulter says it was an “oversight.” He says he hadn’t set up an automatic payment for water like his other bills. Coulter, a Democrat, is the former mayor of Ferndale. Oakland County commissioners appointed him to the executive’s job last summer after the death of L. Brooks Patterson.

CHEMICAL CLEANUP-FREEWAY

Cleanup of contaminated site is expected to cost millions

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Officials of Michigan’s environmental agency says the cleanup of an industrial site in suburban Detroit from which contaminated water leaked last month will likely cost millions of dollars. Tracy Kecskenmeti of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy on Wednesday told Michigan lawmakers efforts to contain the leak at the Electro-Plating Services Inc. site in Madison Heights has cost at least $200,000 over 24 days. She said the presence of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances could triple the cost of removing contaminated water and soil from the site.  

AP-US-MICHIGAN-LAWMAKER-OFFENSIVE-COMMENT

Michigan lawmaker faces probe over comment to reporter

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Legislative leaders say a Republican state lawmaker will be subject to a sexual harassment investigation for telling a young female reporter she could have “a lot of fun” with a group of high school boys visiting the Michigan Capitol. State Sen. Pete Lucido issued a brief apology Wednesday, after Allison Donahue published a report detailing their interaction outside the Senate chamber on Tuesday. The 22-year-old Michigan Advance journalist reports that Lucido said: “You could have a lot of fun with these boys, or they could have a lot of fun with you.” Senate leaders have requested a sexual harassment investigation.

IRAQI IMMIGRANTS-ARRESTS

Man who challenged deportation to Iraq wins, can stay in US

DETROIT (AP) — A Michigan man who was locked up for months and became the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit challenging U.S. deportations to Iraq has won his immigration case. Usama Hamama’s lawyer says he’s now on a path to U.S. citizenship. The deportation case was dismissed Tuesday by an immigration judge, who found that Hamama had rehabilitated himself since an assault conviction decades ago. The crime was also erased with a pardon by Gov. Rick Snyder in 2018. In 2017, the U.S. government began arresting hundreds of Iraqi nationals to enforce deportation against people with criminal records. The American Civil Liberties sued on behalf of Hamama and others. 

DETROIT RIVER SPILL

Detroit fines company for illegally storing limestone

DETROIT (AP) — A Detroit official says a company has been fined $10,000 for illegally storing tons of limestone for months. David Bell, the city’s director of Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department, said Revere Dock LLC stored 40,000 tons (36,287 metric tons) of limestones on its dock along the Detroit River without a permit since July 2019. The Detroit News reports that the company owns the site where a dock collapsed Nov. 26 and sent construction aggregate material into the river. Federal officials found uranium, lead, several chemicals and heavy metals after the collapse.

AP-WHITE-SUPREMACISTS-ARRESTED

FBI arrests 3 white supremacists ahead of pro-gun rally

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — FBI agents have arrested a former Canadian Armed Forces reservist and two other men who are linked to a violent white supremacist group. The men were believed to be heading to a pro-gun rally next week in Virginia’s capital. A Justice Department news release says the three men are members of The Base. They were arrested Thursday on federal charges in a criminal complaint unsealed in Maryland. A law enforcement official says the men were believed to be planning to attend a pro-gun rally planned for Monday in Richmond. The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss an active investigation. 

BC-PRO-GUN RALLY-VIRGINIA

Gun groups want firearms ban at Virginia rally overturned

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Gun-rights groups are asking a judge to block the Virginia governor’s ban on firearms at a massive pro-gun rally scheduled for next week. Gov. Ralph Northam on Wednesday announced a state of emergency and banned all weapons from the rally at the Capitol. He cited threats that armed militia groups were planning to attend. The Virginia Citizens Defense League and Gunowners of America filed a lawsuit Thursday seeking an injunction against the ban. Richmond Circuit Court Judge Joi Taylor said she would issue her ruling later Thursday.