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October 30, 2007

Charges Filed in Nanny Shooting

Second-degree murder charges have been filed today against a 19-year-old accused of shooting and killing a nanny answering an online classified.
Michael John Anderson allegedly shot Katherine Ann Olson, 24, in the back with a .357 magnum handgun, according to the Star Tribune.
Olson's body was found inside the trunk of her car at Warren Butler Park, five blocks from Anderson's home.
Bloody towels and a broken cell phone were also found inside a nearby trash can, according to the charges.
The Star Tribune says Anderson initially denied his involvement in the crime.
Anderson later changed his story when faced with overwhelming evidence, including phone records and email accounts confirming he had contact with the victim prior to the shooting.
Anderson claims he was present at the shooting, but his friend pulled the trigger, the Star Tribune reports.
To read the full Star Tribune article, go to: http://www.startribune.com/462/story/1517285.html

October 24, 2007

Judge Says Church Demolition OK

A 100-year-old church building is closer to coming down after a Hennepin County district judge rejected a request to save it.
According to the Star Tribune, the Olivet Methodist Episcopal Church occupies a space bought by the Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, who are looking to build a parking ramp there.
Judge Herbert Lefler rejected a proposal made by the Alliance of Historian Activists who asked that the church be spared, the Star Tribune writes.
Lefler said it's unlikely the city failed to follow regulations when obtaining construction permits.
To read the entire Star Tribune article, go to this link: http://www.startribune.com/10241/story/1501415.html

No New Trial For Terror Suspect

Mohamed Elzahabi's request for a new trial over immigration charges has been denied by a federal judge.
Elzahabi allegedly paid an exotic dancer to marry him in 1984 so he could obtain documents to work in the country.
He was convicted in August on three counts of using fraudulent documents to get jobs in Minnesota.
U.S. District Judge John Tunheim wrote in his ruling Tuesday the evidence against Elzahabi is enough to prove him guilty, so the court has no reason to give him another trial.
Elzahabi was also arrested three years ago for his alleged ties with terrorists.
According to an FBI affidavit, Elzahabi told interviewers he fought for al-Qaida in Afghanistan in the early 1990s.
The Minneapolis AP story can be found here: http://wcco.com/minnesotawire/22.0.html?type=local&state=MN&category=n&filename=MN--TerrorSuspect.xml

October 18, 2007

$130 Million For Airport Noise-Proofing

The Metropolitan Airports Commission approved a $130 million dollar settlement this Monday in a lawsuit filed by the cities of Eagan, Minneapolis, and Richfield over airport noise.
According to the Pioneer Press, the settlement will be under review today.
The lawsuit filed two years ago claims the MAC left out thousands of homes in their noise-insulation plan.
The Pioneer Press says the proposal will offer soundproofing improvements which include central air conditioning installation, wall and attic insulation, and chimney treatments.
Most of the $130 million will finance these repairs and reimburse home-owners who already had improvements installed.
The MAC intends to pay the money through airline fees and airport revenue from parking and concessions, according to the Pioneer Press.
The Federal Aviation Administration and the Hennepin County District Court must approve the proposal.
To read the full article, go to: http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_7188304?source=email

_______________________________________________

Analysis:

The Pioneer Press article on the multi-million dollar settlement was written by Maricella Miranda. It is extremely detailed in terms of the settlement's provisions and even includes specific dollar amounts. Obviously the reporter did a lot of research to get the data. She also presents opinions from both the MAC and city administrators to maintain balance in the story. There is a lot of information to digest, and the writing is very dense because of this, but overall, the article does a good job of informing the reader about the past, present, and future of the Minneapolis airport noise issue. I called Maricella to ask about her approach in writing local government stories, but I got her voicemail instead. I will try to get her response posted as soon as she calls back.

October 15, 2007

Sen. Larry Craig Moves to Appeals Court

Today, Sen. Larry Craig asked the Minnesota Court of Appeals to take another look at his case concerning an airport sex-sting.
Craig wants the court to overrule a decision made by Hennepin County District Judge Charles Porter who refused Craig's request to withdraw his guilty plea from the case.
Judge Porter made his decision on grounds that the senator plead guilty voluntarily and with full knowledge of the consequences.
According to the Star Tribune, the Court of Appeals may take a while before coming to a final decision because preparing legal briefs is a long process usually lasting more than 100 days.
Even with the preparation, Craig's outlook is bleak, according to Steve Simon, a legal defense expert at the University of Minnesota Law School.
The Star Tribune quotes Simon saying Craig's chances for appeal are even less likely than they were in winning over Porter in the county court.
The full article can be read here: http://www.startribune.com/crime/story/1485927.html


October 11, 2007

U Students Robbed at Gunpoint

Two U of M students were robbed at gunpoint outside of University Village, according to a public safety alert released late this morning by University Police.
The incident happened late last night around 11:45 p.m.
One gun shot was fired at the victims while the suspects fled the scene.
No one was injured but the students had their wallets and cell phones stolen.
The following descriptions of the suspects are from the police alert:

Suspect #1: East African or Somali male, thin build, wearing a dark
blue or black sweat shirt, dark jeans and a Minnesota Twins baseball
cap.

Suspect #2: East African or Somali male, medium build, small beard,
wearing a dark sweat shirt, dark jeans and a blue baseball cap.

The alert also provided these helpful tips:
* When threatened with a weapon, it's best not to resist. Your
personal safety is more important than a lost wallet or cell
phone.
* Always be aware of your surroundings
* Walk in well lit areas and don't walk alone. If you can't find
someone to walk with, call the Campus Escort service at
612-624-WALK for a free security escort.
* Carry minimal amounts of valuables
* Keep written records of valuables, including model and serial
numbers, in a safe place
* Call 911 immediately if you are the victim or witness to a crime
* Document information about the suspect for police (i.e. clothing
description, facial features, pierces or tattoos, speech, etc)

Anyone with information is being asked to contact the University Police at 612-624-COPS (2677).
For anonymous tips call 612-626-TIPS (8477).

Man Sentenced to Life in Prison

Eugene Fort was sentenced to life in prison on Monday for murdering an 11-year-old back in 1990.
Fort was convicted in May for the crime, but he claims to be innocent.
The victim, Marcus Potts, was stabbed more than 44 times and nearly decapitated.
Fort was suspected of the crime for several years, but recent advances in DNA allowed prosecutors to make their case against him.
According to the Star Tribune, Fort's lawyer, Michael Colich, had this to say in his client's defense:
"...if Fort were the killer, he would have been covered in blood or suffered some injuries himself , but neither was the case."
District Court Judge Jay Quam gave consoling words to both the victim's family and the convicted killer.
This is what Qaum told Fort according to the Star Tribune:
"Whatever you were in December 1990, I know as you stand here, you are a person whose life has meaning and value."
For the full article go to http://www.startribune.com/467/story/1471162.html

October 2, 2007

Mortgage Broker Pleads Guilty

A Twin Cities mortgage broker pleaded guilty today at the U.S. District Court in Minneapolis as part of a plea agreement in an equity skimming case.
According to the Star Tribune, Michael Fiorito, 39, pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud, but avoided four additional charges including conspiracy.
The terms of the deal also give Fiorito a reduced prison term and a promise from the government not to charge his wife, Marion Glatzmaier, in exchange for cooperation in future investigations.
Other details of the agreement like damages and number of victims have yet to be worked out.
The Star Tribune reports Fiorito admitted to helping a woman refinance a home owned by her mother using documents with the mother's forged signature.
Fiorito collected between $12,000 and $13,000 from the refinancing, the Star Tribune reports.
According to the same article, Fiorito faced charges for taking more than $160,000 in equity from six homeowners in Mound, Duluth, Vadnais Heights and Shoreview.
Continuing investigations may turn up more victims and larger dollar figures.

Here is the article from Star Tribune's website: http://www.startribune.com/467/story/1459904.html
________

Analysis:
I managed to contact Dan Browning who wrote the Star Tribune story. Here are the main points of our phone conversation:

Dan talked a lot about the background of the case (mortgage brokers
pleading guilty) and some of the strategies he used for enterprising. He
talked about using court dockets which are public records that outline
everything that happens in a courtroom. He also pointed out that the quotes
he used in the story were not necessarily from an interview with the
sources, but what he heard them say while he was at the hearing. Dan
explained he was more comfortable using documents than face-to-face
sources, which I thought was interesting. He did say that getting US
attorneys to talk is difficult. When covering the courts, he recommends
reading widely, using journals like the IRE and National Law. Dan's only
been on the beat for 1 year , so it was nice to hear some of the challenges
he's been through.

Man Grabs Woman at the "U"

University of Minnesota Police sent out a campus alert Monday afternoon about a man who tried to attack a woman inside Wilson Library.
According to the alert, the female victim entered the library around 1:15 p.m.
The suspect followed her inside and offered to help her find library materials.
The man led the victim to a remote staircase where he grabbed her against her will.
The woman yelled and several witnesses came and chased the man out of the building.
He was last seen running in the Riverside Plaza apartment complex.
Here is the description of the suspect from the campus alert:

* White male
* Mid 20's to Mid 30's
* Stocky build
* Height 5'10" to 5'11"
* Receding light blonde hairline
* Unshaven
* Wearing a light colored T-shirt, baggy blue jeans, a dark colored
leather jacket with light stripes on the sleeve, and white shoes
with green soles

Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the U of M police at 612-624-COPS.

UPDATE

The University of Minnesota Police Department has named the suspect who allegedly grabbed a woman in Wilson Library.
Matthew Pengra, 35, is wanted on three offenses, including criminal sexual conduct-molestation, according to the Minnesota Daily.
The UMPD received phone calls identifying the suspect after the alert was released last Monday.