Transgender woman sues over ‘false personation’ arrest

NEW YORK (AP) — A transgender woman is suing New York City and the police officers she says charged her with “false personation” after she provided them with both her previous and current names.
Linda Dominguez says in her lawsuit filed Tuesday that she was placed in pink handcuffs and mocked by the officers after she was arrested in April 2018 for walking through a Bronx park when it was closed for the night.
Dominguez says she gave the officers both her current name and the male first name she used before she legally changed her name to Linda. She says the false personation charge was “bogus.”
Criminal charges against Dominguez were dismissed in August.
A police spokeswoman says the department can’t comment on the lawsuit. She says the department is committed to serving the LGBTQ community with sensitivity.

White supremacist pleads guilty to sword killing

By JIM MUSTIAN, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — A white supremacist pleaded guilty Wednesday to killing a black man with a sword as part of an attack that authorities said was intended to incite a race war in the United States.
James Jackson admitted to fatally stabbing 66-year-old Timothy Caughman in March 2017 after stalking a number of black men in New York City.
Jackson, who is white, told police he traveled from Baltimore to carry out the attack because New York is the media capital of the world. He said the slaying had been practice for further assaults on black people.
Jackson, 30, faces life in prison when he is sentenced Feb. 13 after pleading guilty to six counts, including murder and a hate crime charge.
He spoke in a calm and collected manner as Judge Laura Ward questioned him in Manhattan criminal court, saying “that’s true” when asked whether he was armed with a sword and two knives when he began hunting black people on the streets of Midtown.
The plea came several weeks after Ward ruled that jurors would hear Jackson’s detailed confession if the case had gone to trial. Jackson’s attorneys said he pleaded guilty against their advice, aware he would face a mandatory life sentence.
Caughman, who was remembered as a gentleman and a good neighbor, was alone and collecting bottles for recycling when he was attacked from behind with a sword. He staggered, bleeding, into a police station and died at a hospital.
“This was more than a murder case,” Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan district attorney, said outside the courtroom. “This was a case of terrorism, just as any Islamic jihadist who has come to New York City and sought to kill New Yorkers in an effort to interrupt and destabilize our way of life.”
Jackson is from Baltimore and a veteran who served in Afghanistan. Family friends said previously that the allegations were out of line with how he was raised, in a tolerant and liberal middle-class family.
In a 2017 jailhouse interview with the Daily News, Jackson said he intended the stabbing as “a practice run” in a mission to deter interracial relationships.
He said he would rather have killed “a young thug” or “a successful older black man with blondes … people you see in Midtown. These younger guys that put white girls on the wrong path.”

Alec Baldwin taking anger class in parking dispute plea deal

By MICHAEL R. SISAK, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Days after appearing as President Donald Trump in a “Deal or No Deal” parody on “Saturday Night Live,” Alec Baldwin took a deal of his own Wednesday, agreeing to attend an anger management class to resolve a criminal case stemming from a skirmish over a parking spot.
Baldwin, who was accused of striking another driver in the face during the dispute last fall outside his New York City home, pleaded guilty to harassment and will have his case record sealed once he completes the one-day class. The charge is a violation, the lowest level of offense.
A misdemeanor attempted assault charge was dropped.
Prosecutors offered the compromise after reviewing video of the incident, looking at medical records and talking with the victim and witnesses, Assistant District Attorney Ryan Lipes said. The 60-year-old Baldwin, who’s had various scrapes with the law over the years, has a clean criminal record, Lipes said.
Baldwin — in a sport coat, black top and black framed glasses — only spoke a few words during the brief court hearing, mostly answering short questions from the judge.
The Manhattan prosecutor’s office declined comment.
Baldwin and his lawyer didn’t comment outside court, but the actor wasn’t shy on Twitter, where he criticized the media for staking out his courtroom when there were more serious cases elsewhere in the building and for misreporting the allegations against him.
“The press reported that I punched someone. That is untrue, and that is a serious charge. A man was punched in NY recently and died,” Baldwin tweeted, along with a link to a news article about a fatal bar fight in Queens last November.
“Nothing that resembles justice ever enters or leaves any courtroom in this country,” he added.
Baldwin was accused of trying to punch another driver during a Nov. 2 argument over a parking spot in front of his Manhattan apartment building.
Police said Baldwin claimed he had a family member holding the spot for him as he attempted to park his black Cadillac Escalade when a man driving a black Saab station wagon pulled up and took it.
Police said the men were arguing and pushed each other before Baldwin, got more aggressive. The driver of the station wagon told police that Baldwin hit him with his hand — but wasn’t sure if it was a punch or a slap.
Baldwin told a police officer that the other driver “stole my spot,” used a vulgarity to describe him, and acknowledged pushing him, prosecutors said in court papers.
Baldwin’s lawyer, Alan Abramson, maintained that the former “30 Rock” actor would be vindicated by “incontrovertible video evidence.”
Baldwin said on Twitter after Wednesday’s hearing that there were three security cameras outside his building and that the punch “didn’t happen.”
No video was shown in court.
Baldwin, who got booted off a flight in 2011 for refusing to put his cellphone away, was playing with his phone while waiting for Wednesday’s hearing to start — but he didn’t argue when court officers announced that phones had to be turned off and out of sight.
As it was, the second-floor courtroom was already noisy — with the beeping sound of inmate-transport buses backing up outside, providing a constant, if not annoying, soundtrack for his appearance.
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Follow Sisak at twitter.com/mikesisak

Environmental conservation kicks off state budget hearings

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A top Cuomo administration official says New York state’s environment is being threatened by Donald Trump’s policies.
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos testified during a state budget hearing Wednesday in Albany that the Republican president’s roll backs of environmental rules are an “unprecedented assault on the environment.”
Seggos was the opening witness for the first of 13 public hearings scheduled by the Assembly and Senate on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s state budget proposal for the next fiscal year.
The third-term Democrat last week released a $175 billion spending plan for the fiscal year that begins April 1.
Among Cuomo’s environmental conservation proposals: banning plastic bags given to store customers and expanding the state’s bottle bill to include sports drinks and other containers currently not required to have a 5-cent deposit.

Witness: El Chapo’s wife was in on plans for prison escape

NEW YORK (AP) — A witness at the U.S. trial of the Mexican drug lord known as El Chapo has implicated the kingpin’s wife in his 2015 prison escape.
Damaso Lopez Nunez told the jury Emma Coronel Aispuro was in on the plan that resulted in Joaquin Guzman escaping through a mile-long (1.6 kilometer-long) tunnel dug to the shower in his cell.
Lopez testified Wednesday that the spouse of Joaquin Guzman helped him trade messages with his sons before the infamous breakout. Aispuro was in the courtroom, but had no immediate reaction.
Guzman was recaptured in 2016 and sent to the U.S. to face drug trafficking charges that his lawyers say are being fabricated by cooperators like Lopez.

State senator to seek US House seat held by Gabbard

HILO (AP) — A Hawaii state senator plans to run for the U.S. House seat held by Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

Democrat Kai Kahele announced his plans Monday. Kahele, a Native Hawaiian, is the Hawaii Senate’s majority floor leader and a major in the Hawaii Air National Guard.

He was appointed in 2016 to the seat held by his father, the late Gil Kahele, who died while in office. Kai Kahele later was elected to the seat. He represents Hilo, a small city on the mostly rural Big Island of Hawaii.

Kahele said he wanted to carry on the dream of his father, to build a better Hawaii for all.

Gabbard, who represents the 2nd Congressional District that includes Maui County has said she intends to seek the Democratic nomination for president. She hasn’t said if she’ll give up her seat to run.

Benson questions GOP law making it harder for ballot drives

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson on Tuesday called into question the constitutionality of a Republican-enacted law that makes it harder to put proposals on the Michigan ballot, asking the state’s attorney general for an opinion on a major move in the recent lame-duck legislative session.
Benson made the request to Attorney General Dana Nessel, a fellow Democrat, who also signaled her concerns with the law. Nessel’s opinion, while not the same as a legal ruling, would bind the Department of State unless it was reversed by a court.
The law, which Gov. Rick Snyder signed before leaving office , imposes a geographic requirement on groups trying to gather hundreds of thousands of voter signatures to qualify for the ballot. No more than 15 percent of signatures can come from any one of Michigan’s 14 congressional districts, a restriction that could prevent ballot committees from solely targeting the most heavily populated areas.
“I am proud that, for more than a century, Michiganders have exercised core constitutional rights in the circulation of initiative, referendum and constitutional amendment petitions,” Benson, who took office this month, said in a statement. “I am deeply concerned that the new restrictions enacted late last year in Public Act 608 of 2018 may potentially violate those constitutional rights by adding new burdens and restrictions on the process.”
In a letter , she asked Nessel to determine the constitutionality of the geographic limit but also other provisions, including one that requires paid signature collectors to file an affidavit with the state. She said it could present “unique difficulties” for the organizers of referendums, who must file their signatures no more than three months after the close of a legislative session in which a challenged law is passed.
Benson said she needs to be able to provide appropriate guidance to potential ballot drives because the 2019-20 election cycle is already underway. Nessel welcomed Benson’s request, saying the law “puts a limit on the people’s voice and that is cause for great concern — something a rushed lame-duck Legislature failed to regard.”
Republicans, who still control the Legislature while Democrat Gretchen Whitmer is governor, approved the business-backed law in December — a month after voters passed three Democratic-backed proposals to legalize marijuana for recreational use, curtail the gerrymandering of congressional and legislative districts, and expand voting options.

Google self-driving spinoff Waymo to put factory in Michigan

LANSING (AP) — Google’s self-driving car spinoff Waymo said Tuesday it will bring a factory to Michigan, creating up to 400 jobs at what it describes as the world’s first plant “100 percent” dedicated to the mass production of autonomous vehicles.
The company plans to spend about $13.6 million to retrofit a to-be-determined manufacturing facility in the Detroit area. In exchange, it will get a state incentive grant worth up to $8 million that was approved Tuesday by the Michigan Strategic Fund Board.
Waymo spokeswoman Alexis Georgeson said the company plans to hire up to 400 people to work at the factory, including engineers, operations experts and fleet coordinators. She said Waymo is looking for a site and hopes to open the plant in the middle of this year. A memo from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. says Waymo will create 100 jobs, with the potential for up to 400, and it chose Michigan despite a “high level of interest” from states in the Midwest, South and Southwest.
The company integrates its self-driving system into vehicles it buys from automakers and is currently testing autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivans in a preferred rider program for passengers in the Phoenix area, but with human backup drivers on board. It plans to expand the service to the San Francisco area but has not given a time frame. Waymo previously announced plans to buy 62,000 Pacificas and 20,000 I-Pace electric SUVs from Jaguar.
Waymo, which has a 20-employee facility in the Detroit suburb of Novi where it tests vehicles in snowy weather, will put the new factory in Wayne, Oakland or Macomb counties, where the auto industry dominates the economy with thousands of jobs from U.S. and foreign-based automakers as well as parts supply companies.
“As we begin to commercialize our business and vehicle supply grows, we’re laying the foundation for a scalable, robust vehicle integration plan, starting in Michigan,” the company said in a blog.
Bryant Walker Smith, a University of South Carolina law professor who studies autonomous vehicles, said the announcement shows that Waymo, which was spun off from Google and is part of parent company Alphabet Inc., has plans to integrate itself into the existing auto industry.
“You can’t reinvent everything. Coming to Michigan in some ways is your complete recognition of that,” Smith said. “Michigan is where you go in the United States to be fully immersed in automotive culture and industry.”

GVSU to have woman president

ALLENDALE, Mich. (AP) — Grand Valley State University has selected a woman as the western Michigan school’s president for the first time in its history.
The appointment of Philomena Mantella as the school’s president was unanimously approved Tuesday during a special board meeting at the university’s Allendale campus. She says in a statement that the school is among those helping to “carry the promise of a degree and a path to prosperity for learners from all backgrounds.”
Mantella is currently senior vice president and chief executive officer of the Lifelong Learning Network at Northeastern University in Boston. She has a Ph.D. in college and university administration from Michigan State University and degrees in social work from Syracuse University.
She’ll replace Thomas Haas, who earlier announced plans to retire this year as the school’s president.

Tigers agree to minor league contract with Beckham

DETROIT (AP) — Infielder Gordon Beckham agreed to a minor league contract with the Detroit Tigers and was invited to major league spring training.
If Beckham is added to the 40-man roster, he would get a one-year contract paying $700,000 while in the majors and $138,000 while in the minors. Beckham played in only 33 major league games over the past two seasons with the Seattle Mariners.
Catcher Hector Sanchez also agreed to a minor league deal.
Pitcher Casey Mize, taken by the Tigers with the No. 1 pick in last year’s amateur draft, also was among 20 players invited to major league camp, the Tigers said Tuesday.