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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Freehold, N.J. sues over God in pledge

From USA TODAY Family sues district over 'under God' in pledge FREEHOLD, N.J. — A family is suing the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District and its superintendent, seeking to have the phrase "under God" removed from the Pledge of Allegiance that students recite every day. A lawsuit filed in Superior Court in Monmouth County on behalf of the family, who wish to remain unidentified, and the American Humanist Association claims that the practice of acknowledging God in the pledge of allegiance discriminates against atheists, in violation of New Jersey's constitution. But the school district's attorney says the district is simply following a state law that requires pupils to recite the Pledge of Allegiance daily. Get USA TODAY on your mobile device:

Detroit Apes stand trial

A Detroit judge has said four men accused in a mob beating of a driver who hit a young child will stand trial for attempted murder.

Police say Latrez Cummings, 19, Wonzey Saffold, 30, James Davis, 24, and Bruce Wimbush Jr, 17, have all acknowledged a role in the beating of Steve Utash.

The 54-year-old was unconscious for several days after the attack. The young boy he hit suffered a leg injury.

Defence lawyers for the accused say the attempted murder charge is too severe.

But Judge Thomas Jackson disagreed, while noting the threshold for moving the case along is lower than proving the case at trial.

"One or two may not be enough to kill anyone," he said of the alleged blows from the four men, "but a combination may be enough to cause one's death."

'I lost it'

In court on Monday, witnesses to the attack described a chaotic scene after Mr Utash hit the boy and left his lorry to check on the 10-year-old.

"They were hollerin' and screamin', 'Oh, my God, get him, get him'," witness Deborah Hughes said.

Ms Hughes, who is credited with intervening and ending the beating, said Mr Cummings kicked Mr Utash at least 10 times.

Another witness, Ashley Daniels, said the 54-year-old tree-trimmer had stumbled after some early blows and was dared to pick up his hat, which had fallen off.

"He fell. He got up again," she said. "It was like he was almost accepting it."

Prosecutors say the four accused men have acknowledged some role in the beating
One witness refused to testify during the hearing on Monday and was jailed, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Prosecutors also showed statements by the accused made to the police after their arrest. Three of the four men allegedly told investigators they recognised the hurt boy.

"I saw the little boy on the ground... and I lost it," Mr Saffold told investigators.

Mr Cummings also allegedly acknowledged a role, prosecutors said, telling police he "prayed for the man every day. I hope him and the boy are going to be OK."

The Utash family sat in the front row of the court while relatives of the accused sat directly behind them, according to the Associated Press news agency, which reported several spectators were ejected from the courtroom after several loud comments.

Mr Utash's son has told a local radio station he believed the attack was racially motivated. The 54-year-old is white and the alleged attackers are black.

Outside court, Mr Utash's brother-in-law Max Mohr said his family member is struggling and disoriented.

"He's not the Steve I know - not even close," Mr Mohr told the Associated Press news agency, adding Mr Utash had tried to walk with the help of nurses but only moved a few steps.

A 16-year-old has also been charged with assault and ethnic intimidation in connection with the case.

Detroit, a sprawling but increasingly empty city which recently filed for bankruptcy, has seen a 40% reduction of police staffing in the past 10 years. The city's police chief told residents earlier this year that arming themselves could help deter crime.

Animals steal car and drives in to Fox River in South Elgin

No one was found inside a stolen car spotted submerged in the Fox River in Elgin this morning, officials said.

The Elgin Fire Department received a call around 6:10 a.m. and discovered the car just south of I-90 near Duncan Road along the river, officials said.

Elgin and South Elgin fire department divers reached the car as crews worked to tow it to shore.

Elgin Assistant Fire Chief Dave Schmidt said no one was found inside, and the car had been reported stolen from out of town.  He had no other details.

Flossmoor chimp was brought back to his cage after shooting 2 teens in South Chicago

A south suburban Flossmoor man has been charged in the fatal shooting of two teens Saturday morning on the South Side.

Justin Hamilton, 23, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder. He’s accused of killing 16-year-old Jordan Means and 18-year-old Anthony Bankhead, according to a statement from Chicago Police.

Police found Bankhead and Means shot to death in the basement of a building in the 8200 block of Houston Avenue shortly after 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

Both died of gunshot wounds to the head, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.

Hamilton is scheduled to appear in bond court Tuesday.

On Saturday, Means’ mother, Camille Cochran, told the Chicago Sun-Times that the shooter and her son had exchanged words on Facebook.

“An argument led to this, that’s crazy,” said Cochran, 42. “Now, I don’t have my son no more.”

Chicago Police did not confirm the details provided by Cochran.

According to the medical examiner’s office, Bankhead lived in the home he was killed in, and Means lived less than two blocks away.

Chicago gun grabbing Ape shoots up South Shore to show he is king gorilla of the wild

Two teenage boys were wounded — one critically — in a shooting Monday night in the South Shore neighborhood.

The boys, ages 14 and 16, were standing on the sidewalk in the 1600 block of East 69th Street about 9:35 p.m. when they were shot, police said.

They were taken to the University of Chicago’s Comer Children’s Hospital. The 14-year-old, who was shot in the back, was listed in critical condition, and the 16-year-old suffered a gunshot wound in his upper right thigh, police said.

No one was in custody. Area Central detectives were investigating.

Skokie man sues over denial of concealed carry permit

A 69-year-old Skokie man filed a lawsuit Monday in federal court claiming the state unconstitutionally denied him a permit to carry a concealed gun.

John Berron applied for a concealed carry permit on Jan. 5. He got a letter on March 19 that said that the Illinois Concealed Carry Licensing Review Board received an objection to his application and found he was ineligible for a permit. The Illinois State Police denied his application on that date.

Berron wasn’t told why his permit was denied, said his attorney, J.D. Obenberger.

Court records show he was arrested in 2000 for resisting a police officer and criminal damage to property, both misdemeanors. He was convicted and received court supervision.

In 2006, he was arrested once again for resisting a police officer and criminal damage to property. He was convicted and received conditional discharge for resisting a police officer and was ordered to pay a $200 fine and more than $1,400 in restitution for the property damage, records show.

Berron claims the state violated his right to due process in denying his concealed carry application without allowing him to present his case to the licensing board. He’s asking the court to overturn his denial and give him a concealed carry permit.

“This isn’t a privilege, it’s a constitutional right,” Obenberger said.

Obenberger said the state began issuing concealed carry permits only after a federal appeals court ruled the constitution includes the right to carry handguns outside the home for the purpose of self-defense.

Obenberger called the rules surrounding Illinois’ issuing of concealed carry permits an illegal “smell test.”

“If the police chief doesn’t like you, he can object to you,” Obenberger said.

Berron is suing the state licensing board, the state police and the village of Skokie.

Berron holds a state firearm owner’s identification card, which allows him to own a gun.

To receive a FOID card, an applicant can’t have any felony convictions or have been institutionalized for mental illness. Concealed carry permit applicants must have a FOID card.

The concealed carry law took effect in early January. The law allows law-enforcement agencies to file objections to applications — and the Illinois Concealed Carry Licensing Review Board decides whether those objections should result in the rejection of a permit.