State Roundup

Kalamazoo
29th annual Black Arts Festival runs through Sunday

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) - The exhibit "Going Back in Time" is on display as part of the weeklong Black Arts Festival in Kalamazoo.

The Kalamazoo Gazette reports the 29th annual festival is organized by the Black Arts & Cultural Center. It started Monday and runs through Sunday.

Murphy Darden's exhibit included models of black churches that once stood in the Northside neighborhood as well as historical artifacts and paintings depicting significant local moments of the civil rights movement. The Kalamazoo man says: "We've got to tell it, we've got to preserve it."

Yolonda Lavender, executive director of the Black Arts & Cultural Center, says the hope is that Darden's collection "empowers the community."

Lansing
Officials: State's seat belt use rate remaining steady

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Officials say Michigan's seat belt use rate is remaining steady from a year ago.

The Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning says Wednesday that a direct observation survey conducted statewide by the Wayne State University Transportation Research Group found the rate was 93 percent. The state's record was 98 percent in 2009.

Law enforcement officers from police departments, sheriff's offices and Michigan State Police posts from across the state have been increasing seat belt enforcement this year. One effort around the Memorial Day holiday period led to thousands of traffic stops.

State officials say that Michigan's official seat belt use rate for 2015 will be determined after a second survey in September.

Ann Arbor
Power company helps to boost osprey population

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - A nonprofit group is working with an electricity transmission company and Ann Arbor park officials to install osprey nesting platforms along the Huron River.

Two 16-foot-high platforms will be built this month under the partnership with Novi-based ITC Holdings Corp., the Huron River Watershed Council said. The platforms will be constructed with recycled materials from decommissioned ITC power structures.

"This project ... will enhance the diversity of the river ecosystem while providing recreational enjoyment for the public," Laura Rubin, executive director of the Huron River Watershed Council, said in a statement.

Michigan's osprey population has been rebounding after a decline the mid-20th century attributed to DDT and other pesticide use. The project is part of a broader effort involving Osprey Watch, the Audubon Society and the city of Ann Arbor to increase the number of osprey in southeastern Michigan.

The nesting platforms will be placed in Furstenberg Pond and Gallup Park's South Pond. The watershed already is home to some osprey nests.

"ITC is committed to sustainability efforts," said Luba Sitar, manager for ITC's customer relations and community education. "This partnership is an example of how we work with others who are making positive impacts in our communities."

ITC Holdings, the nation's largest independent electricity transmission company, supports the work of other watershed groups in Michigan, including Friends of the Rouge, the River Raisin Watershed Council, the Clinton River Watershed Council and Huron Pines.

Clio
District wants lawsuit over open-carry in school dismissed

CLIO, Mich. (AP) - A Michigan school district wants a lawsuit dismissed that was brought by a man who openly carried his pistol to an elementary school.

The Flint Journal reports Clio Area Schools filed a motion asking a Genesee County judge to dismiss the lawsuit filed by Kenneth Herman and gun rights advocacy group Michigan Open Carry.

The district says the case is based on a "fundamental misunderstanding" of Michigan law. A hearing is Aug. 10.

Herman sued in March, saying he was denied access to Edgerton Elementary multiple times while attempting to pick up his daughter because he was openly carrying a pistol. State law allows people with concealed pistol licenses to openly carry their firearms in schools.

The newspaper says the district declared all of its properties weapon-free zones, however.

Cutlerville
Manager of trailer park faces hate crime charges

CUTLERVILLE, Mich. (AP) - The manager of a mobile home park in western Michigan is accused of putting a 14-year-old boy in a chokehold and using an anti-black slur against him.

The Grand Rapids Press reports 46-year-old Terry Ray Brooks Jr. has been charged with ethnic intimidation in connection with the June 8 incident at Green Meadow Village Mobile Park in Cutlerville. A judge said during a Monday hearing there's enough evidence to go to trial.

Skylar Toris testified that Brooks confronted him and a friend after they climbed a fence. Toris said he tried walking away when Brooks grabbed him from behind and said he would kill him.

Brooks, who was fired, said the confrontation started when Toris slapped his cellphone out of his hand when he threatened to call police.

The hate crime charge is the first this year in Kent County.

Lapeer
Nearly 5 years in prison for owners in fatal mauling

LAPEER, Mich. (AP) - A man and his wife were sentenced to nearly five years in prison Tuesday for failing to control dogs who killed a cancer survivor as he jogged on a rural road.

Lapeer County Judge Nick Holowka said he couldn't imagine a more "gruesome" death, although he also acknowledged that the owners didn't intend to have the dogs kill Craig Sytsma.

Sytsma, 46, of Livonia, was mauled by two cane corsos who were loose while he was jogging a year ago in Metamora Township, 45 miles northwest of Detroit. He worked nearby as a metallurgist for a German company.

"He felt safer than running in the city," his mother, Jacque Sytsma, told reporters. "He felt if he stayed in shape it would keep the cancer away."

Sebastiano Quagliata, 46, and Valbona Lucaj, 45, had been charged with second-degree murder but pleaded no contest to owning a dangerous dog causing death. The couple apologized before being sentenced Tuesday in a courtroom packed with weeping friends and relatives from all sides.

"My thoughts and prayers go to the family," said Lucaj, who was in Boston when the attack occurred.

Her husband told the judge: "I try to be a model citizen, work all my life."

The judge sentenced them to between four years and nine months and 15 years in prison.

Lucaj, a native of Albania, and Quagliata, a native of Italy, will get credit for about a year spent in custody since their arrest, which means they'll be eligible for parole in 2019. They could eventually be deported.

The judge said the dogs were dangerous and had attacked people at least twice before the encounter with Sytsma. They were euthanized along with another family dog after the death. Eight puppies were seized.

"Something that could have been so easily prevented was not. ... Our only hope is by prayer, time and guidance, people can hopefully move on," Holowka said.

Defense attorney Sanford Schulman said the "heavy" sentence was not anticipated by the couple.

At an earlier hearing, a veterinarian testified that she wrote "DWB!!" for "dogs will bite" on their files after Tony and Princess tried to bite her during routine examinations.

Published: Thu, Jul 16, 2015

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