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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUNDUP: Byron Smith's lawyers file an appeal

LITTLE FALLS, Minn. -- Attorneys for the Little Falls man convicted of shooting two teenagers to death in the basement of his home have notified the state Supreme Court that they intend to appeal the verdict.  65-year-old Byron Smith was found guilty of killing cousins Haile Kifer and Nick Brady when they broke into his home on Thanksgiving day in 2012 and was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole  Smith's lawyers argued that he shot the two teenagers to defend his home during a break-in, which is legal in Minnesota, but the jury agreed with prosecutor's conclusions that Smith broke the law by continuing to shoot the teens after they were already hurt and no longer posed a threat.


Last year warnings were issued that water levels on the upper Great Lakes were too low, but, thanks to late snowfall and a heavy snow melt after an especially brutal Midwest winter, Lake Superior rose double its normal amount in May and is now around six inches above its usual June 1 level.  The International Lake Superior Board of Control says the lake rose eight inches in May, putting the big lake 13 inches above the level at this time last year.  Lake Superior also hit its highest May average level since 1997.  


Potential tragedy was averted Wednesday afternoon at Owatonna High School when a fire broke out in the school auditorium on what would have been the final day of classes for seniors.  All students were successfully evacuated and no one was injured.  Upperclassmen now have to come back to school once more before summer vacation can begin.  Fire Chief Mike Johnson says some students probably aren't happy about that, but he's happy because the school is still there and damage is minimal.  Officials are investigating the cause of the blaze.


What was meant to be a vigil for 17-year-old Nehemiah Steverson turned into a fight last night in north Minneapolis.  Police had to use a chemical spray on the crowd after the fight broke out.  Several people say the chemical irritated their throat, but police defended the action by saying they were there to keep the peace.  Steverson died Sunday after being shot in the abdomen, and no arrests have been made.


Retired Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis Archbishop Harry Flynn says he can't remember the details of clergy sexual abuse cases that came up while he lead the church.  Lawyer Jeff Anderson is representing a man who claims in a lawsuit that he was sexually abused by a priest in the 1970's.  Anderson has released a transcript and video of Flynn's deposition, and in it the former archbishop said more than 130 times that he couldn't recall how he handled such cases, blaming his age for his inability to remember.  He is 81.  Flynn does admit that he never reported allegations of clergy sex abuse to police, and that the archdiocese made special payments to several priests credibly accused of abusing children.  Archdiocese spokesman Jim Accurso says the transcript of the deposition has been posted to the church's website, "As part of our renewed commitment to transparency and disclosure."


A hearing in Washington D-C Wednesday on Senator Al Franken's bill that would make stalking apps for smartphones illegal.  Franken told his colleagues it's already illegal to stalk someone, but it's not clearly illegal to make and to sell a stalking app.  He says his bill would shut down those apps once and for all.  But Lou Mastria with the Digital Advertising Association says self-regulation by the industry is the ideal way to address privacy in on-line and mobile advertising, while still preserving innovation.  He argues companies have a very vested interest in getting it right.


Republican gubernatorial hopeful Marty Seifert is defending his decision to run in the August primary after he was unable to secure the G-O-P endorsement at last weekend's state convention.  Seifert told reporters in Austin Wednesday that Minnesota has a history of electing mavericks for governor -- and that governors Dayton, Carlson and Perpich all did not receive their party's endorsement at some point in their careers.  State G-O-P Chairman Keith Downey blasted Seifert for telling his delegates at the state party convention they were free to go home -- likely an effort by Seifert to keep the G-O-P convention from endorsing *any* candidate for governor.  But shortly after, delegates chose Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson.  


Use of the state's free smoking cessation program has increased dramatically since QUITPLAN Services launched a new website and tools.  Mike Sheldon of ClearWay Minnesota says in the three months since they launched the new services, they've helped more than 54-hundred Minnesotans -- compared to just over 55-hundred in all of 2013.  Sheldon says the new services include text message alerts, email support and a starter kit with two weeks of nicotine patches, gum or lozenges.  Tobacco users can also speak with a quit coach on the QUITPLAN Helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 


More research and more public comment are needed before a vote is held to ban smoking in all city parks in Minneapolis.  The city's Park and Recreation Board tabled the proposal this week, with part of the debate focusing on whether electronic cigarettes should be included in the ban.  The city banned tobacco use within 100 feet of park buildings, playgrounds, pools, and beaches in 2010, but tickets cannot be issued for violating the policy.  


A Bemidji man running for the state House of Representatives says a communication error led his listing as a member of the wrong political party.  The Minnesota Secretary of State's website shows Lavern "Pedie" Pederson as running for the seat as a Democratic-Farmer-Labor party candidate, but he says he repeatedly told officials when he filed his affidavit of candidacy that he wanted to file as an "independent Democrat."  Pederson has cerebral palsy and experiences difficulty speaking, and believes that sparked the confusion.  The Secretary of State's office told Pederson that the listing had to stay "DFL," because Pederson approval stamped the affidavit.  The Bemidji Pioneer is reporting that Pederson plans to appeal to the state.


A Clay County woman is facing a drunk driving charge after police pulled her over for speeding and discovered that 28-year-old Cathy Sanchez of Glyndon had her pockets stuffed with Jell-o shots.  The shooters are essentially a bite-size Jello mold made by replacing the water in the recipe with booze.  The arresting officer says Sanchez had bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and smelled of alcohol.  Not only that, but court documents show Sanchez tried to give a false name before finally admitting to her true identity - presumably because she was previously arrested for driving under the influence five times and her driver's license was canceled because she was considered a threat to public safety.  She is facing a multitude of charges.


 A southeast Minnesota man was arrested and held in jail until he sobered up after repeatedly calling 911 and demanding police give him a ride home.  Austin Police say the 51-year-old man called 911 twice and then called the police department's regular business line six times, asking for a ride. Dispatchers told him to stop calling, and when police tracked him down they found that he was drunk and also had a small amount of pot in his pocket  The man was arrested on charges of making emergency calls with emergency and was held until he was sober at Mower County Jail.


Minnesota is trying to get back into the movie making business.  Last year the state legislature earmarked $10 million over two years to offer rebates to film companies who make their movies here.  Minnesota Film and TV Executive Director Lucinda Winter says it's making a difference.  She says two movies are shooting in northeast Minnesota right now, and at least five more films are scheduled to begin - also in northeast Minnesota - later this year.  She says Five-million-dollars a year to attract film crews is still not much compared to other states.  Winter says, New York for example, has a $300 million a year budget.  The Minnesota Film and TV Board works to attract movies, TV shows, commercials, documentaries, and music videos to be shot and filmed here.