State will overhaul child welfare agency

Arizona legislators approved an overhaul of the state’s child welfare agency Thursday, months after revelations that thousands of abuse and neglect reports had gone uninvestigated.

The two bills approved by the House and Senate will create and fund a new Department of Child Safety to replace the old Child Protective Services department. The new agency will be funded at $834 million.

The legislation now heads to Gov. Jan Brewer, who is expected to sign it. The Republican called the Legislature into a special session this week to address the overhaul.

Brewer made a surprise appearance on the House floor as legislators cast their final votes, thanking them for their work.

Brewer proposed the overhaul after revelations late last year that more than 6,500 abuse and neglect reports were closed without investigation by the old CPS.

— Associated Press

Woman sentenced for ‘crush videos’

A Texas woman was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Thursday for her role in making sexual fetish films called “crush videos” that show women using weapons and stiletto high heels to bludgeon and torture animals.

Ashley Richards, 23, of Houston, pleaded guilty to three counts of animal cruelty in the hope of eventually getting probation, according to Camille Hepola, a spokeswoman for the district attorney in Harris County, which includes Houston.

According to the indictment, Richards appeared in several videos. In one set, she was seen slicing a small dog’s neck with a knife and slashing the animal’s leg and neck with a meat cleaver.

The man who allegedly filmed the videos, Brent Justice, 52, also of Houston, has also been charged with animal cruelty and is being held on $50,000 bond. Hepola said Justice has not entered a plea.

— Reuters

Police in shootings must be identified

The California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that police departments in the state must as a general rule disclose the names of officers involved in shootings, despite claims by a police union that doing so would endanger their safety.

The court, ruling 6 to 1 in a case brought by union representing officers in the Los Angeles suburb of Long Beach, said that Californians’ right to assess the actions of law enforcement outweighed the individual officers’ right to privacy.

The case at issue before the court involved a December 2010 shooting by two Long Beach policemen who opened fire on an intoxicated man standing in his front yard after he pointed a garden-hose spray nozzle at them. The man, Douglas Zerby, 35, was struck multiple times and killed.

When a Los Angeles Times reporter sought the names of the officers involved, as well as the identity of all Long Beach officers connected to such shootings over the previous six years, the police officers association went to court to bar release of the name. The city joined in, arguing that it had a policy of reviewing such requests on a case-by-case basis.

— Reuters

South Carolina lifts election-day alcohol ban: South Carolina is poised to allow alcohol to be sold on statewide election days after state lawmakers voted to lift the country’s last blanket ban on such sales at restaurants, stores and bars. The state Senate voted 41 to 1 on Wednesday to repeal the ban, which critics considered an antiquated remnant of an era when saloons sometimes served as polling places. The ban dates back to at least 1882.

Minn. legalizes liquid medical marijuana: Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton on Thursday signed into law a bill legalizing medical marijuana in liquid or pill form for a limited number of residents suffering from severe or fatal illnesses. With Dayton’s signature, Minnesota joins more than 20 states that have approved medical marijuana and cannabis programs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Judge delays Nagin sentencing: Former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin has been granted a delay in his sentencing on federal corruption charges. U.S. District Judge Helen G. Berrigan on Thursday set Nagin’s sentencing hearing for July 2 instead of June 11. The Democrat, who served from 2002 to 2010, including during Hurricane Katrina, was convicted on 20 counts, some carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years.

Airline workers charged with money smuggling: Five airline employees were charged Thursday in a sting operation with using their security clearances to secretly smuggle more than $400,000 in cash through Boston’s Logan Airport. Four ground operations crew members of JetBlue Airways and one Delta Air Lines customer service ramp agent were arrested on charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to defraud the Transportation Security Administration.

Scary moment atop Chicago’s tallest building: Four men had a terrifying few moments when the glass floor they were standing on 103 stories above Chicago in the Willis Tower observation deck appeared to develop cracks. The men were standing in one of the tower’s glass boxes that extend about 4 feet from the observation floor Wednesday night when a protective coating on the floor shattered, building spokesman Bill Utter said. The men were never in danger, he said. The Willis Tower, previously named the Sears Tower, is one of the tallest buildings in the United States and was once the tallest building in the world.

— From news services