Recently in Local News Category

Tom Petters found guilty on all 20 counts

      Almost exactly one year after his indictment on 20 counts including conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering, Tom Petters was found guilty by a federal jury in St. Paul on Wednesday, the Pioneer Press said.

      The Minneapolis salesman who engineered a $3.65 billion Ponzi scheme from 1995 to 2008 pleaded his innocence until the end, blaming grief over his son's murder five years ago that he said rendered him unable to run his businesses, The Star Tribune said.

      The statutory maximum for Petters' crimes is 350 years, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Dixon, part of the prosecution team. A more realistic estimate is that Petters will receive 30 years to life in prison, Dixon said, according to The Star Tribune

To see the Star Tribune's "Petters Timeline" click here

Minnesota ranked sixth in nation for high college debt

Last year, college students in Minnesota graduated with an average of about $25,000 in debt, The Star Tribune said.

This means the state has the sixth highest debt in the nation, according to a report issued by the Institute for College Access and Success in Berkeley, California.

The figures are even worse for graduate students. Over 70 percent of graduate students at the University took out loans, The Star Tribune said.

An ex-student in New York was denied his professional license as a lawyer because of "heavy student debt" in excess of $400,000, said Lynn O' Shaughnessy, author of The College Solution Blog, in an article for CBS's

Reasons for skyrocketing debt may include high tuition, demographic spread of a graduating class, and sub-par financial aid programs for lower income students, said the President of the Institute for College Access and Success, Lauren Asher.

To access a pdf of the report on student debt for the class of 2008, click here.

Twin Cities police search for YouTube attackers

      Eight young men identified themselves by full name and nickname on a YouTube video they posted publicly, showing themselves attacking passersby of all ages in the Twin Cities.

      The video, which has since been removed, shows twelve instances of the boys pushing children down a hill, knocking over bicyclers, throwing something at a store cashier and other similar pranks. During parts of the clip, the boys hold up gang signs, wear masks and laugh at one another's antics.

      Police in both Minneapolis and St. Paul were alerted to the videos on Tuesday and began investigating.  St. Paul police have arrested a 17-year-old high school senior on suspicion of gross misdemeanor assault, riot and simple robbery, the Pioneer Press said.

      A 19-year-old, Mohamed Abdi, has also been arrested on suspicion of aiding and abetting simple robbery.  In the video, Abdi tackles an elderly man walking in a suburban neighborhood and knocks a cyclist over around Grand Avenue, the Pioneer Press said.

      Police are still searching for other suspects. St. Paul police Sgt. Paul Schnell said they want to find and talk to the boys so that no one else gets hurt. "Whether criminal charges are brought will be dependent upon our ability to match the incident with actual reports from the victims," Schnell told a reporter from The Star Tribune.


Gophers on trial

      The day before Thanksgiving, Gopher basketball freshman Royce White will go to court on charges of shoplifting and fifth-degree assault, the Pioneer Press said.

      The incident occurred on Oct. 13 in a Mall of America parking lot, where White was arrested by Bloomington police, The Star Tribune said.

      White joins teammate Trevor Mbakwe on the sidelines. Mbakwe may redshirt for the rest of the season due to repeatedly delayed trial dates for a felony assault charge, The Star Tribune said.

      To complicate matters, White has been identified as a potential suspect in a computer theft at Territorial Hall, although he has not been charged nor arrested, the Pioneer Press said.  Both his lawyer and the police are investigating tapes showing his entry and exit from the residence hall.

      White's attorney, F. Clayton Tyler, says he wants to resolve his client's legal issues quickly. Tyler told the Pioneer Press, "Being away from the sport that he loves is difficult."
After Dutch authorities have held a man in custody for several days, sources in the Twin Cities Somali community say that the man is Muhamud Said Omar, a wanted criminal in the U.S., The Star Tribune said.

The FBI recently confirmed that the arrest is related to an investigation involving 20 men who went missing in 2007. Omar is under suspicion for assisting these men to become fighters in Somalia, Minnesota Public Radio said.

Dutch officials told the Star Tribune Omar petitioned the Netherlands for asylum on Christmas day 2008, and was arrested per the request of the U.S. on Sunday. The U.S. is currently seeking his extradition.

Somali sources said that Omar went by the nickname "Sharrif" and may have lived in the Cedar-Riverside apartment complex where thousands of Somali refugees live, The Star Tribune said.

Pfc. Kham Xiong, 23, husband, father, and oldest of 10 siblings, was standing in line for a flu shot  and vision test when he was killed, the Pioneer Press said.

Kham was preparing to deploy to Afghanistan in January and had recently moved his wife, Shoua Her, and their three children from St. Paul to Fort Hood, Texas, the Pioneer Press reported.

Both Kham and his wife, Her, graduated in 2004 from Community of Peace Academy, a charter school in St. Paul.  As Kham was the sole provider for his family, a memorial fund is being created to help support them, The Star Tribune said.

"Kham was just a person of sound character, and his greatest attribute was his ability to make everybody smile," said Kham's eighth-grade teacher, Tim McGowan, in a phone interview with The Washington Post.

To see an AP photo of Kham Xiong, click here.

Delayed anti-gang funding frustrates top police officials

As the U.S. Justice department continues to investigate the discovery of malpractice in Minnesota's Metro Gang Strike Force, the state has delayed anti-gang funding for its two largest counties, the Pioneer Press said.

Despite Public Safety Commissioner Michael Campion's statement last week that "our goal is not to have any interruption in funding," the state-funding task forces in Ramsey and Hennepin counties remain at a standstill, the Pioneer Press said.

At a meeting of the Gang and Drug Oversight Council in St. Paul, the city's Police Chief John Harrington walked out in apparent protest of the exclusion of his county from such funding requests, The Star Tribune said.

One Ramsey County undersheriff criticized Campion for not appearing at the meeting to explain the Legislature's decision to withhold funding at this time, The Star Tribune said.  

The undersherrif pointed out that gangs and drugs would not go away, The Star Tribune said.

Coleman re-elected in St. Paul

Chis Coleman won a clear victory in the polls on Tuesday, gaining a second term as St. Paul mayor, The Star Tribune said.

He collected 67 percent of the vote to Republican opponent Eva Ng's (pronounced "ing") 37 percent.

Coleman plans to connect the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis with a $1 billion Central Corridor light-rail line.

He considers his election victory an affirmation of his fiscal policies in the last four years, which included property tax increases, The Star Tribune said.

Ng highlighted such property tax hikes in her campaign, promising to put a freeze on taxes and fees, the Pioneer Press said.

The city saw record lows in voter turnout, which was at 17 percent, according to an elections manager for Ramsey County, The Star Tribune said.  

Allegations of molesting pile on Burnsville scoutmaster

After six felony charges were filed last week, four new victims claimed they too were victims of juvenile sex abuse by a Burnsville scoutmaster, police said Thursday, The Star Tribune said.

Peter Robert Stibal, 44, a leader of youth activities at Mary, Mother of the Church Catholic parish, led Troop 650 from 2003 until his removal two weeks ago, when the accusations surfaced, The Star Tribune said.

An official spokesman for the Northern Star Council, which oversees Boy Scout troops in 21 Minnesota counties, said their "two-deep" rule states that a leader should never be alone with a child, the Pioneer Press said.

The Boy Scouts of America has released more than 5,000 of its one million plus leaders since 1946, according to the Seattle Times, the Pioneer Press said.

Police are examining the four most recent allegations and will soon pass on any valid accusations to the Dakota County attorney's office, the Pioneer Press said.

Delta pilots who forgot to land distracted by...computers

Last week, the pilots of Flight 188 missed their target, the MSP airport, by 110 miles.

Federal investigators thought they might have been sleeping, but both the captain, Timothy B. Cheney, and the first officer, Richard I. Cole, insisted they were just discussing airline policy.

A recent interim report from the National Transportation Safety Board indicates that the two veteran pilots lost track of time while immersed in- their computers, The New York Times said.

"The controllers should have notified NORAD (The North American Aerospace Defense Command) more quickly that the plane was not responding," said a Federal Aviation Administration official in a statement on Wednesday, The Star Tribune said.

This lack of speed in notifying the military may result in the Obama administration cracking down on the dangers of distracted flying in the same way it would distracted driving, The Star Tribune said.

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