the military
Officer imprisoned for sex assaults dies

The first Air Force instructor convicted of rape and sexual assault in a massive sex scandal at one of the nation’s busiest military training centers has died while in prison, officials said Tuesday.

Staff Sgt. Luis Walker, a former instructor at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, was found unresponsive Friday at the federal military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Denise Haeussler, a spokeswoman for the fort, said Walker was taken to a hospital, where he died Sunday night.

Haeussler said the cause of death was being investigated and that no further details would be available until Army criminal investigators have completed their work in the case. It was unclear how long that would take.

Walker had been serving a
20-year prison sentence. In July 2012, a military court found Walker, then a married father with two sons, guilty of 28 counts of rape, aggravated sexual assault and aggravated sexual contact.

Lackland is where all Air Force recruits go through basic training, and Walker’s was the first case tried after a massive sex scandal in which dozens of instructors were accused of preying on female recruits.

— Associated Press

$1.4 billion fine for
utility after blast

California regulatory judges issued a $1.4 billion penalty on Tuesday against the state’s largest utility for a lethal 2010 gas pipeline explosion that engulfed a suburban San Francisco neighborhood in flames, killing eight people and prompting national alerts about the oversight of aging pipelines.

The California Public Utilities Commission said the figure reached by two administrative law judges against Pacific Gas & Electric in the San Bruno pipeline explosion represented the largest safety-related penalty it had ever imposed.

The amount of the penalty is meant to “send a strong message to PG&E, and all other pipeline operators, that they must comply with mandated federal and state pipeline safety requirements, or face severe consequences,” Judge Timothy J. Sullivan wrote in his order.

The largest share of the penalty — $950 million — is a fine to be paid directly to the state. The amount drew objections from city officials in San Bruno and from the utility that the money should be spent on improving the security of the pipeline network.

PG&E said in a statement it fully accepts that a penalty is appropriate, and a spokesman said the company is reviewing the ruling. The judges’ recommended penalty becomes final in 30 days if no party involved lodges an appeal.

— Associated Press

Court affirms law on unions in companies

The validity of an Indiana state law that bars companies from requiring workers to join a union and pay union dues was affirmed on Tuesday by a U.S. appeals court in a win for “right to work” advocates.

The Indiana law does not violate the U.S. Constitution or federal labor statutes, a three-judge panel of the Chicago-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit said, agreeing with a lower court’s decision to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the law.

A local division of the International Union of Operating Engineers, which represents about 4,000 workers in northwest Indiana, had sued over the Indiana Right to Work Act. The law was adopted by Indiana’s legislature in February 2012 after a fight that drew hundreds of protesters to the statehouse in Indianapolis.

— Reuters

Grimm trial set for December: A federal judge on Tuesday set Dec. 1 as the start of the tax-
evasion trial of Rep. Michael G. Grimm (R-N.Y.), one month after an election in which he seeks a third term in the U.S. House of Representatives. Grimm, a former FBI agent who represents parts of New York City, appeared before Judge Pamela Chen in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn. A lawyer for Grimm had asked Chen to schedule the trial in January, saying jurors could be prejudiced by negative attack advertisements from Democrats.

Tenn. teens escape from detention center: Thirty teenagers “overwhelmed” their minders at a juvenile detention center in Tennessee by simultaneously breaking out of four dormitories and then crawling under a weak spot in a chain-link fence. By late Tuesday, eight were still on the run. Police caught up with some walking along roads or coming out of the woods. Some turned themselves in. And some were swiftly returned to the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center by their families.

— From news services