Latest Mississippi Headlines From AP

MISSISSIPPI BUDGET

Hundreds protest possible Mississippi budget cuts

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – The chant of “No more cuts!” rang through the Mississippi Capitol rotunda as about 500 people rallied to support funding for education and mental health services.

Legislators are trying to write a budget for the year that begins July 1.

Leaders in the Democratic-controlled House say they oppose some ideas presented by Republican Gov. Haley Barbour and the Republican-controlled Senate, including a proposed reduction in classroom supply money and tight funding for mental health centers.

Lawmakers missed a Saturday night deadline to file a budget outline, and it’s not clear when they’ll finish the job.

Tupelo resident Lori Dickerson said at the budget rally that she was diagnosed 12 years ago with depression and anxiety but state mental health services have helped her live a good life.

GULF OIL SPILL-PROBE

AP sources: Manslaughter charge explored in spill

WASHINGTON (AP) – People familiar with the investigation of the Gulf oil spill say manslaughter and perjury are among the possible violations being explored by Justice Department investigators still in the early stages of their probe.

Those familiar with the inquiry said the Justice Department is not ruling out the possibility of bringing manslaughter charges against companies or managers responsible for the explosion aboard the rig that killed 11 workers last April.

These people added that the department also is examining congressional testimony by company executives, including former BP CEO Tony Hayward, to determine whether their statements were untruthful.

They cautioned that the investigation is still far from complete and they spoke on condition of anonymity about the ongoing investigation.

MORTGAGE FRAUD

Brandon man sentenced in mortgage fraud case

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – A federal judge has sentenced a Brandon man to 33 months in prison for his role in a mortgage fraud scheme.

Shane Rothery pleaded guilty in October to mail fraud. Prosecutors say Rothery fabricated information on residential appraisals and inflated the property values so he and his accomplices could pocket the excess proceeds.

The Clarion-Ledger reports that U.S. Attorney John Dowdy Jr. told the court Tuesday that the loss amount attributable to the scheme, involving seven different properties and spanning less than one year, was $907,837.

Prosecutors say Rothery was not a licensed appraiser but made false documents based on his father’s license.

ATTEMPTED MURDER

Attempted murder bill dies in Miss. Legislature

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – Mississippi won’t enact an attempted murder law this year because a bill died under a Monday deadline.

Mississippi is one of the few states without an attempted murder charge in the law. Prosecutors generally rely on aggravated assault, which carries a lesser penalty than the attempted murder bill filed this year.

The bill would’ve set a punishment of 20 years to life imprisonment for attempted murder. There’s a 20-year maximum for aggravated assault.

Monday was the deadline for House and Senate negotiators to file final versions of general bills. No compromise was reached on the attempted murder bill, so it died.

JOHNSON APPEAL

Johnson loses appeal in effort to win new trial

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – The state Court of Appeals has upheld the dismissal of a post-conviction petition from Christopher Lashon Johnson.

A Monroe County judge in 2009 rejected Johnson’s claims that three of the witnesses in his trial wanted to change their testimony. The Appeals Court’s ruling Tuesday upheld the local judge’s ruling that there was other evidence to convict Johnson.

In a post-conviction petition an inmate argues he has found new evidence – or a possible constitutional issue – that could persuade a court to order a new trial.

Johnson was convicted in 2004 of murder and sentenced to life in prison for firing into a crowd and killing Jermaine Deloach of Mantee at North Mississippi Motor Sports Racetrack in 2002.

ST TAMMANY-FATAL CRASH

Slidell woman killed in car-truck accident

BUSH, La. (AP) – State police say a 27-year-old Slidell woman died in a car-truck accident near Bush.

Trooper say Christina Maddalozza was killed when her car hit a truck shortly after 6 a.m. Tuesday at the intersection of La. highways 41 and 40.

Investigators say Maddolozza was traveling northbound at a high rate of speed when she rear-ended an 18-wheeler that was stopped near the intersection.

The driver of the 18-wheeler, 45-year-old Jana Sanasac, of Pass Christian, Miss., was not injured in the crash.

WRECK-THREE KILLED

La. trucker pleads not guilty in fatal Ill. wreck

CHARLESTON, Ill. (AP) – A truck driver has pleaded not guilty in a wreck on Interstate 57 in eastern Illinois that killed three Mississippi women last year.

The (Mattoon) Journal-Gazette reports that Everett Van Duzee of New Iberia, La., entered his plea Monday in Coles County court in Charleston to reckless homicide, aggravated reckless driving and other charges in the Memorial Day crash.

Police say the 56-year-old trucker was overly tired when his tractor-trailer collided with other vehicles that had slowed down for road construction on I-57 near Mattoon. The location is about 40 miles south of Champaign.

Sixty-one-year-old Sheila Douglas of Batesville, Miss., and 68-year-old Doris Hamblin-Mayo and 80-year-old Juanita Hall of Sarah, Miss., died after their SUV caught fire. Thirteen people were hospitalized.

ENTERGY RATES-MISSISSIPPI

Entergy lowering Miss. rates slightly

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – Entergy Mississippi says electricity rates should drop slightly beginning Friday.

The company says bills for average residential customers – those using 1,000 kilowatt hours per month – will be $1.16 lower for the next three months.

The state Public Service Commission recently voted unanimously to lower the quarterly fuel-rate adjustment Entergy seeks.

Entergy officials said a key factor in bills going down has been the reduction in cost of natural gas, a standard electricity source for the utility.

Entergy spokeswoman Mara Hartmann says the trend seems set to continue, and customers should see the effect of that going forward.

A typical customer’s bill will average $93.19 per month from April through June, compared to $94.35 currently.

HOUSEPARTY COOKBOOK

`Houseparty’ cookbook to be reprinted again

PHILADELPHIA, Miss. (AP) – A third printing of the 1981 “Giant Houseparty Cookbook” is being planned in time for the Neshoba County Fair.

The Neshoba Democrat reports that the Community Development Partnership, the local economic development agency, has to decide funding, sale price and who would sell the books.

Local tourism director Kaye Rowell says the Neshoba County Fair Association has given the CDP permission to reprint 3,000 copies of the cookbook.

She says the cookbooks would be printed before the fair opens on July 22.

The cookbook includes recipes from current and former Neshoba County residents.