MINNESOTA NEWS ROUNDUP: Judge throws out most serious charge against Waseca school bombing plotter
WASECA, Minn. -- A judge in Waseca County has dismissed premediated attempted murder charges against a teenager that authorities say plotted to blow up his high school. The Star Tribune reports Judge Gerald Wolf, however, let stand six charges that 17-year-old John LaDue was in possession of explosive devices. The judge wrote there is no doubt LaDue was preparing to commit some of the alleged crimes, but at no point did he threaten his family or the school liason officer, shoot a firearm toward them or transport necessary materials to locations in his plan. The LaDue family has said their son needs help for mental illness, not a prison term.
First court appearance today (Tues) for a suburban Minneapolis man charged with criminal vehicular homicide for allegedly running over his wife while he was drunk. According to the criminal complaint, 57-year-old David Meder told police he and 57-year-old Diane Meder were returning home last week when he stopped the car to get the mail. Meder said he was not sure when his wife got out of the car. As he made a left turn into their driveway he heard her yell that he was running over her. When medics arrived she said it was an accident. Diane Meder died later that night. The complaint says Meder had a blood-alcohol content of point-one-five-five.
Public information meetings tonight (Tues 5-7pm) in Rochester, tomorrow in Inver Grove Heights and Thursday in Kenyon on a proposed high-speed passenger rail line between the Twin Cities and Rochester. The plan lost momentum when federal officials decided on a Mississippi River route for the Twin Cities-to-Chicago line, but MN-DOT's Dan Krom contends Rochester is not out of the mix. Krom says it's an opportunity to build tracks that can handle higher speeds than current AmTrak service. Officials are talking about trains traveling 150- to 200-miles-per-hour.
A couple 20-person crews from Minnesota are in Idaho to assist with wildland firefighting efforts there. Jean Goad with the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center says the crews, who flew out Saturday, have been in a staging area making preparations. Goad says there's been a lot of thunderstorm activity out west and they're expecting an increase in fire activity over the next few days. The crews will be on assignment in Idaho for about two weeks. Minnesota already has two teams working on wildland fires in Leavenworth, Washington.
A couple from Lamberton in southwest Minnesota are among 15 "Champions of Change" for agriculture that the Obama administration is honoring in Washington D-C today (Tues 9am). Ryan and Tiffany Batalden are fifth-generation beginning farmers in Cottonwood County, where they grow certified organic corn, oilseeds and small grains plus raise a small number of livestock -- and have a direct-market popcorn business dubbed "Patriot Pops." The White House says the Bataldens are among those "doing extraordinary things to build the bench for the next generation of farming and ranching."
An outbreak of the Ebola virus has caused one local nonprofit health group to cancel a trip to West Africa. The Children's Surgery International group says they cannot risk taking volunteers to that region. The group has gone to West Africa in the past and performed hundreds of surgeries. No plans have been announced to reschedule the trip.
A lawsuit filed on behalf of Save Mille Lacs Sportfishing (SMLSF) and Proper Economic Resource Management (PERM), challenging the DNR on its fishing rules for Mille Lacs, is moving forward. Attorney Eric Kaardal says the court ordered response shows DNR failed to consider cultural heritage protections in the Minnesota Constitution and the public-trust doctrine. PERM President Doug Meyenburg says anyone that voted in favor of the 1998 Constitutional Amendment affirming that hunting and fishing are a valued part of the cultural heritage of many Minnesotans is, "left out by the way DNR makes all its hunting and fishing rules." Kaardal also says that the DNR, "failed to show that they have not mismanaged the Mille Lacs Lake walleye population in violation of these protections."
A Minnesota lawmaker says all of the details haven't been shared, but he's pleased that House and Senate negotiators have agreed on a compromise version of the Veterans Access to Care Act - reforms proposed in the wake of the poor care some have received at V-A hospitals nationwide. Congressman Rick Nolan says the bill will allow veterans who live in rural areas to receive outside care if they live more than 40 miles from a VA facility, as well as provide greater VA transparency by requiring outside independent assessment, allow for the hire of more doctors and nurses at existing VA clinics, and make VA physicians' credentials publicly accessible. Nolan says the legislation will also result in the addition of 27 new VA facilities across the nation, and the hiring of new staff to improve both care and service.
A Fergus Falls man has been sentenced to 21 months in prison after pleading guilty to stealing cash from ATM's in Minnesota and North Dakota. Federal prosecutors say Christopher Diestler stole more than 184-thousand dollars while he worked as an armored truck driver. The money was taken from ATM's in Alexandria, Breckenridge, Detroit Lakes, Fergus Falls, Morris and Wahpeton. Diestler was also ordered to pay back the stolen money and serve three years of supervised release. Diestler has until September 9th to report to the federal prison camp in Yankton, South Dakota.
Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is back from a weekend trip to the United States-Mexico border to assess the current immigration crisis, and placing the blame squarely on the president. She claims, "The real problem is the President's lack of political will to enforce the laws on the books and do whatever it takes to secure our border." The outgoing Congresswoman says the United States generously welcomes new immigrants, but they must come through the legal channels and the government must start sending a message that the rule of law matters and illegal behavior will not be rewarded. She is calling on lawmakers to complete the border fence, amend current law, and end deferred action of childhood arrivals.
One person is dead and another hospitalized after a power line accident in Renville County Monday morning. The sheriff's department received a 911 call that two people had been electrocuted at a CAPX 2020 power line work site northeast of Fairfax. Emergency responders arrived at the site, found the two victims, and tried to resuscitate them. The two workers were employed by Donovon Construction of Ham Lake. A spokesman says the worker who died is from the Twin Cities metro area, and the worker who was injured is from Osseo, Wisconsin. No names have been released pending notification of family. The incident is under investigation by The Renville County Sheriff's Department and the Minnesota office of OSHA.
What do you do, when you see an obviously confused older person looking lost on the street? That question is one of many that is addressed when a community becomes "dementia friendly." 32 cities and groups throughout Minnesota are getting grants, funded by a group called ACT, to educate volunteers about Alzheimer's and other dementias. Spokeswoman Emily Farah-Miller says volunteers are trained to help build community awareness The ACT grants are funded by Blue Plus, an H-M-O affiliate of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, the Medica Foundation and the Greater Twin Cities United Way.