National Roundup

Professor sues over fluorescent light in classroom

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Washburn University professor alleges in a lawsuit that officials required her to teach in a room illuminated by fluorescent light despite knowing she had a neurological disability triggered by that type of light.

The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the suit filed earlier this month in federal court is Leslie Reynard’s second against the school, where she teaches in the communications department. Her other lawsuit alleges that the university retaliated against her after she filed a sex discrimination complaint.

In the second suit, Reynard seeks damages in excess of $75,000. The university has declined to comment.

Lawsuits over gas explosions settled for $143M

LAWRENCE, Mass. (AP) — The utility blamed for a series of gas explosions in Massachusetts last September has settled all class action lawsuits resulting from the disaster for $143 million.

Columbia Gas of Massachusetts and its parent, NiSource Inc., announced the settlement Monday.

Columbia CEO Joe Hamrock said the settlement is “another important step forward” in the recovery effort.

The plaintiffs’ co-lead attorney, Frank Petosa, said the settlement “will provide a full measure of compensation to thousands of residents and businesses.”

The agreement is subject to court approval.

The series of explosions last Sept. 13 in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover killed one, injured two dozen and left thousands of homes and businesses without natural gas service for weeks. The explosions were blamed on over-pressurization in a gas pipeline.

North Carolina
Police: Assault victim kills ax-wielding man

HIGH POINT, N.C. (AP) — Police in North Carolina say an assault victim shot and killed a man who charged at her with an ax.

A High Point Police news release says officers responded to a domestic situation Friday. A caller had reported a woman was being choked and pushed by a man who may have been intoxicated.

Officers set up a perimeter when they learned a gun was in the home, but the man had fled by the time they entered the home.

Less than two hours later, police were called back — this time after a shooting. The assault victim told officers that the man returned and she shot him when he charged at her with an ax.

The man was pronounced dead at the scene. High Point police detectives are investigating.

Grand jury gets case of soldier charged in officer’s killing

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — A grand jury will review evidence in the case of an Alabama soldier charged with killing a police officer and wounding two others.

The Opelika-Auburn News reports court records show 29-year-old Grady Wayne Wilkes didn’t request a preliminary hearing, sending the case to the grand jury.

Wilkes is charged with capital murder and attempted murder in the May shooting that killed Auburn police Officer William Buechner and wounded officers Webb Sistrunk and Evan Elliott.

Court documents say the officers were responding to the call of a woman who said her live-in boyfriend had threatened to kill her.

The shooting started when officers knocked on the door. Wilkes, who led a combat infantry team with the Alabama National Guard, wore body armor and greeted them with a rifle.

Federal appeals court weighs ‘Clear Skies’ ordinance

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A Maine city’s ordinance prohibiting bulk loading of crude oil onto tankers is in the hands of a panel of federal judges in Boston.

A federal judge already ruled that South Portland’s “Clear Skies” ordinance passed constitutional muster, but Portland Pipe Line Corp. took the case to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which heard arguments last week.

The ordinance blocked the company from reversing the flow of its 236-mile underground pipeline.

The pipeline has carried foreign crude from harbor terminals in South Portland to Canadian refiners for decades. But the company wants to reverse the flow to bring oil from Canada.

Critics say they don’t want the coastline to be industrialized. They also say the tar sands oil is a dirty and destructive form of fuel.

Conviction overturned in plot to kill judge

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A federal appeals court overturned the conviction of a Southern California man accused of soliciting the murders and assaults of a federal judge, two prosecutors and two FBI agents.

The Orange County Register reported Saturday that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found last week that John Walthall was improperly denied the right to represent himself at trial.
Walthall was sentenced in 2016 to 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors said he targeted the judge, prosecutors and agents for their involvement in his 2009 conviction in a fraud scheme that duped an elderly couple out of $5.5 million.

Prosecutors say Walthall plotted to kidnap Judge Andrew Guilford and kill him by putting him through a wood chipper.

A new trial has not been set.

Woman accused of cooking up raw beef fraud

HOUSTON (AP) — Authorities are accusing a Texas woman of taking part in an undercooked scheme in which she claimed she was served raw hamburger meat at two different locations of a fast food chain.

Cassandra Brooks, a former lieutenant with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, has been charged with insurance fraud and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Harris County, District Attorney Kim Ogg says Brooks was awarded more than $10,000 as part of an insurance settlement after she claimed that she had been served raw beef at a Sonic restaurant in Lake Charles, Louisiana, in July 2018.

Prosecutors say Brooks made a similar claim at a Sonic in suburban Houston a month later.

Court records did not list an attorney for the 53-year-old Brooks.