Good afternoon, Mississippi editors.
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JACKSON — The Justice Department says officials in east Mississippi operate a "school-to-prison pipeline" that incarcerates students — mostly black and disabled — for school disciplinary infractions. The department said in a letter Friday that Meridian students are routinely arrested without assessment of probable cause when police are called to a school. The students are then allegedly denied due process in Youth Court and later while on probation. The department threatened to file suit against Lauderdale County Youth Court, the Meridian Police Department and the Mississippi Division of Youth Services if the practices aren't halted. The letter does not cite wrongdoing by the school system. By Holbrook Mohr.
JACKSON — Authorities have searched a house in central Mississippi for a man suspected of fatally stabbing his ex-girlfriend and wounding her adult daughter in Tennessee in 2005. The U.S. Marshals Service was acting on a tip on Tuesday and searched a home in Terry, Miss., for Robert Lee King. King, 47, is on the agency's most wanted list and has been featured on the television show America's Most Wanted. He's suspected of fatally stabbing Dorothy Smith and wounding her daughter in Memphis, Tenn., on Dec. 1, 2005. He's wanted on charges of first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder. By Holbrook Mohr.
KATRINA HERO-MURDER PLOT
NEW ORLEANS — A Syrian-born man who became the hero of a best-selling nonfiction chronicle of the flooded aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is accused in an alleged murder-for-hire effort to have his wife, her child and another man killed. Abdulrahman Zeitoun, whose last name was also the title of Dave Eggers' book, faces charges of offering $20,000 to a man he was sharing a jail cell with in exchange for the killings. Zeitoun also faces charges of striking the windshield of Kathy Zeitoun, his wife, with a tire iron and choking her in July. Zeitoun, who ran a successful contractor's business before and after the 2005 hurricane, was the focus of a book by Eggers that chronicled Zeitoun's arrest and monthlong imprisonment on false charges of looting. In the book, Zeitoun was described as a compassionate man who paddled his canoe through the flooded landscape of New Orleans helping people and animals. By Cain Burdeau. With AP Photo.
COLD CASE KILLINGS-VEGAS
LAS VEGAS — A judge postponed arraignment for a 65-year-old ex-convict who was arrested in Mississippi and returned to Las Vegas to face charges in two rape-slayings dating from 1978 and 1994. A white-haired Nathaniel Burkett sat shackled in a wheelchair Friday and said nothing while a deputy public defender, Clark Patrick, told a judge his office needs to check whether it has a conflict or can represent Burkett. By Ken Ritter.
MISSISSIPPI IN BRIEF
HATTIESBURG — Court records say a man has pleaded guilty to a federal charge of possessing more than an ounce of crack with intent to distribute the drug. Alfredric Antwain James pleaded guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court in Hattiesburg. The indictment in the case says James possessed the drugs in Marion County in November 2009
GULFPORT — A federal grand jury has indicted a man for trying to buy at least 20 pounds of marijuana in south Mississippi. A DEA agent's affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Gulfport says Raldo Booth discussed with an informant buying as much as 500 pounds of marijuana in April. The affidavit says Booth brought $20,000 to a subsequent meeting in July in Gulfport and as attempted to buy 50 pounds when he was arrested. Booth allegedly told the informant that he would bring more money and buy a larger amount the next time.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The American Queen steamboat is docked in Memphis, unable to paddle on down the Mississippi River because of low water. A trip that began Aug. 3 at Louisville, Ky., was cut short well before the steamboat's destination of Vicksburg, Miss.
KENTWOOD — State police say a teacher on her way to the first day of school in Tangipahoa Parish was killed in a car wreck on Interstate 55. Troopers say 43-year-old Rhonda Davis-Strickland, of Osyka, Miss., and a teacher at Kentwood's O.W. Dillon Elementary, was about three miles north of the Kentwood exit headed south Thursday when her car ran off the road and struck a bridge rail on a small interstate overpass.
NEW ORLEANS — University of New Orleans researchers are getting federal money to study shrimp and crab populations over the 120 miles of coast between Lake Borgne in Louisiana to Mobile Bay in Alabama. On Thursday, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced funding the $1.2 million five-year study of blue crabs, brown shrimp and white shrimp.
JACKSON — A man charged in the 2010 death of Jackson Police Officer Glen Agee has pleaded guilty. Latwan Smith pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of manslaughter and being a felon with a firearm. He had been facing a capital murder charge in connection with Agee's death.
BENTON CO-FATAL CRASH
ASHLAND — The Mississippi Highway Patrol is still investigating a two-vehicle accident that claimed the life of a Ripley man. Troopers were dispatched to the late Wednesday night accident on Mississippi Highway 370 in Benton County near the Tippah County line.
NATCHEZ SCHOOL TAXES
NATCHEZ — The Natchez-Adams School District Board of Trustees has approved a resolution for an increase in ad valorem tax funding of $565,000, which will be given to the Adams County Board of Supervisors to be converted into a millage. The funding was included in the district's $39.8 budget for the next fiscal year that was adopted in July, but the resolution had to be approved and sent to the Board of Supervisors before Aug. 15.
GULFPORT — Prosecutors say a 62-year-old man with a history of violence has been sentenced to life without parole for stabbing a woman and beating her with other objects after the knife blade broke. James Marco Ferguson of Ocean Springs faced a maximum penalty of 20 years for aggravated assault, but was sentenced as a habitual offender in a trial that ended Thursday.
VICKSBURG — Vicksburg Mayor Paul Winfield has resurrected his plan for a sports complex and wants to put it before the voters on the June 2013 ballot. in a meeting last week on the budget for fiscal year 2012-13 fiscal year budget Winfield said he will introduce the issue to the three-member Board of Mayor and Aldermen soon.
TULLAHOMA GUARD DEPARTURE
TULLAHOMA, Tenn. — More Tennessee National Guard members are heading to Afghanistan. State military officials in Nashville said 39 soldiers of the guard's 1175th Transportation Company, based in Tullahoma, will depart the armory there Saturday morning for training at Camp Shelby in Mississippi.
HATTIESBURG — A Vietnam veteran who lost his Purple Heart and other service medals in Hurricane Katrina has had them replaced. U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo helped get replacement medals for Navy veteran Michael Risley Risley was presented with the Military Order of the Purple Heart at Camp Shelby on Thursday.
JACKSON — The Mississippi Supreme Court has ordered a new trail for a man convicted of raping his girlfriend's teenage daughter. Matthew Miller was convicted in 2010 of forcible rape and aggravated assault and sentenced to 50 years in prison.
GULFPORT — Two men have pleaded guilty to charges related to a south Mississippi methamphetamine investigation. Gavin Miles Meranto and Vincent Joseph LeBlanc pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court in Gulfport. The indictment in the case says they conspired with several other men to possess and distribute more than 50 grams of the drug in July 2011 in Hancock County.
OLIVE BRANCH-CREDIT CARDS
OLIVE BRANCH — Olive Branch has begun accepting credit card payments on utility bills. Mayor Sam Rikard says it's a service the people have asked for.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A record 29 contestants from five countries are in Memphis to vie for the title of Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist. Each had to win a preliminary round to make it into the contest, which begins Friday. It's part of Elvis Week, the commemoration of the 35th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley.
MISSISSIPPI RIVER MUSEUM
VICKSBURG — A grand opening ceremony for the Lower Mississippi River Museum and Riverfront Interpretive Site in Vicksburg is scheduled for Aug. 24.The Army Corps of Engineers' Vicksburg District and the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau are planning the ceremony.
BILOXI VISITOR CENTER
BILOXI — The Biloxi Lighthouse Visitors Center, which opened a year ago on U.S. Highway 90, attracted almost 56,000 people in its first year. The center has been the site for weddings, business receptions and a live radio broadcast, manager Beth Poss said. Poss said at least 6,500 people toured in July, averaging more than 200 a day. Tours of the lighthouse are given only in the mornings because its cast-iron shell heats up later in the day.
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — The Tennessee Valley Authority has shut down it's a hydroelectric power plant on Raccoon Mountain after cracks were found in rotors. The plant near Chattanooga has provided hydroelectric power for 34 years, but was taken out of service in March. TVA Vice President John McCormick said the utility hopes one of the four generators can be repaired within two years. He referred to the other three as "900,000 pounds of scrap."
GREENWOOD — Greenwood and Leflore County are exploring the possibility of selling their jointly-owned hospital. The city council and board of supervisors voted in separate meetings Thursday to advertise for bids for Greenwood Leflore Hospital. They have a right to reject the bids.
BUSINESS IN BRIEF
US RIG COUNT
HOUSTON — The number of rigs actively exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. rose by one this week to 1,931. Houston-based oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. reported Friday that 1,432 rigs were exploring for oil and 495 were searching for gas. Four were listed as miscellaneous. A year ago, Baker Hughes listed 1,959 rigs. Of the major oil- and gas-producing states, Louisiana gained four rigs, North Dakota three, Texas and West Virginia two each and Arkansas one. New Mexico and Pennsylvania each declined by three rigs, Colorado and Wyoming dropped two apiece and Alaska and Oklahoma were down one each. California was unchanged. The rig count peaked at 4,530 in 1981 and bottomed out at 488 in 1999.
HORN LAKE SANITATION
HORN LAKE — Horn Lake is privatizing its sanitation service beginning Nov. 1 to save on costs. Arrow Disposal Service Inc. of Abbeville, Ala., signed a five-year contract with the city this week. The company was one of five to submit bids.
NEW ORLEANS — A judge has heard arguments on the NFL's motion to dismiss Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma's lawsuit seeking to overturn his bounty suspension without making a ruling. U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan on Friday urged all parties to work toward a settlement. The judge could potentially rule on Vilma's request to be allowed to temporarily return to the Saints while the case proceeds. When Vilma left the courthouse, quarterback Drew Brees gave his teammate a hug and pat on the back. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has suspended Vilma for the entire 2012 season, saying the Saints linebacker was among the ring leaders of a program that offered Saints defenders improper cash bonuses for injuring opponents. By Brett Martel.
LORMAN, Miss. — Alcorn State's Jay Hopson is the first white football coach in Southwestern Athletic Conference history. He's aware of the SWAC's storied history — and why it's a story simply because he's standing on the sidelines — but is more interested in turning around a program that has struggled in recent seasons. By David Brandt. AP Photos.
— The Associated Press, Jackson