Two accused of taking Amish sisters

A man and woman have been arrested in the kidnapping of two young Amish sisters from their family farm stand near New York’s border with Canada, the county district attorney said on Friday.

Stephen Howells II, 39, and Nicole Vaisey, 25, were taken into custody and each face two counts of first-degree kidnapping, St. Lawrence County District Attorney Mary Rain said.

The girls, Fannie Miller, 12, and Delila Miller, 6, were returned home in good health Thursday after their disappearance Wednesday night.

The girls’ captors dropped them off in front of a stranger’s home in the hamlet of Bigelow and then fled, Rain said. The man living inside recognized the pair as the missing girls and drove them to their family farm stand in the rural Amish community of Oswegatchie, some 10 miles from the Canadian border, she said.

— Reuters

No new elections in disputed areas in fall

Florida’s secretary of state said Friday it would not be possible to hold special elections this fall in congressional districts that were invalidated by court order.

March is the earliest date special primary elections could be held in the affected districts, Secretary of State Ken Detzner said in a court filing.

Seven congressional districts were affected by the redistricting maps passed this week by the state legislature.

Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis ruled in July that two of the state’s 27 congressional districts were unconstitutional because of gerrymandering. He found state Republican leaders improperly conspired to rig the boundaries to protect the party’s majority in the House.

Lewis is scheduled to hear court arguments Aug. 20 about whether to order special elections in the affected districts. Republican legislative leaders and Detzner (R) oppose delaying the November general elections, noting that early voting has begun for the Aug. 26 primaries.

— Reuters

Ex-cop sentenced in Katrina case — again

For a second time, a former New Orleans police officer was sentenced Friday to more than 17 years in prison for burning the body of a man shot to death by another New Orleans police officer in the chaotic days following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Gregory McRae already is imprisoned for burning Henry Glover’s body. However, an appeals court had ordered a recalculation of his original 17-year sentence after one of his original convictions was thrown out.

In giving the same 17-year, three-month sentence, U.S. District Judge Lance Africk said that McRae was guilty of covering up an unlawful killing by fellow officer David Warren. Africk’s assertion comes despite the fact that a jury eventually acquitted Warren in the case.

Africk rejected defense motions for departures from federal sentencing guidelines, including arguments regarding McRae’s mental state following Katrina. He also rejected defense lawyer Michael Fawer’s argument that there was no evidence that McRae actually knew Glover had been shot by a police officer when he set fire to a car containing Glover’s body on Sept. 2, 2005.

— Associated Press

Woman pleads guilty to threatening Obama

A Houston woman who goes by the name of Teddy Bear Paradise pleaded guilty Friday to threatening to assassinate President Obama, prosecutors said.

The woman, formerly known as Denise O’Neal, 56, told a court that she sent a letter in November threatening to kill the president, and about a month later she told two Secret Service agents of her intention to assassinate him.

Sentencing has been set for Nov. 7 and she faces up to five years in a federal prison, U.S. prosecutors said. A lawyer for the woman was not immediately available for comment.

This is the second time O’Neal has been charged with threatening to assassinate a president. According to the court documents, O’Neal pleaded guilty to sending letters in 2008 threatening to kill President George W. Bush.

— Reuters