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Franken expected to hold slim lead

Brancato (David Greene / The Spokesman-Review)
Brancato (David Greene / The Spokesman-Review)

Democrat Al Franken is poised to hold on to a 48-vote lead over Republican Sen. Norm Coleman as the state Canvassing Board prepares to award a final pile of votes in Minnesota’s unsettled U.S. Senate race.

The board was scheduled to meet today and award votes from a remaining group of about 5,000 challenges that had been withdrawn by both campaigns.

Judging by a draft report released late Monday by the secretary of state’s office, Franken will have earned a total of 48 more votes than Coleman once those votes are allotted. That’s out of almost 3 million votes cast in the race in November.

Once the Canvassing Board restores the votes from the final group of 5,000 withdrawn challenges, Franken will have gained 3,191 votes out of the total pool of challenged votes and Coleman will have gained 2,955 votes. That adds up to a 236-vote advantage for Franken, enough to wipe out the 188-vote lead that Coleman had held before the Canvassing Board started ruling on disputed ballots.


Bar says Stevens unfit to practice

The Alaska Bar Association says that U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens’ plea to keep his law license is based on a faulty reading of the rules and a mischaracterization of the seriousness of his conviction for lying on his Senate disclosure forms.

The bar, in a pleading filed this week, urged the Alaska Supreme Court to reject Stevens’ arguments that he wasn’t really convicted and that his crime was not a crime under Alaska law.

The association said that even as an “inactive” member of the bar, Stevens is a danger to the public and an embarrassment to the legal profession.

Stevens’ license has already been suspended in California and Washington, D.C.


Army head won’t stay under Obama

Army Secretary Pete Geren, who left Fort Worth in 2001 for a stint in the halls of the Pentagon, said Monday that he will not stay on as head of the nation’s largest military service once the Obama administration moves to Washington.

The change won’t be immediate, though. Geren said he has been “asked and have agreed to stay on as secretary until my successor is confirmed,” Geren said. “Beyond that, I do not know what comes next. I will not begin to look for my next job until I have finished here.”

President-elect Barack Obama has not named a nominee for Army secretary.


‘Sopranos’ actor cleared of murder

Lillo Brancato, who played a bumbling aspiring mobster on “The Sopranos,” was cleared Monday of second-degree murder in the shooting death of an off-duty policeman during a drunken, late-night search for drugs.

The jury convicted Brancato of a lesser charge of attempted burglary. He faces from three to 15 years in prison; the actor could get credit for time served because he has been behind bars nearly three years.

Prosecutors say Brancato and accomplice Steven Armento broke into a basement apartment to steal prescription drugs after a night of drinking at a strip club. Officer Daniel Enchautegui, who lived next door, came out to investigate.

Armento blasted the 28-year-old officer with his .357 Magnum, hitting him in the heart. The dying officer fired back, wounding both men. Armento was convicted earlier this year of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Brancato’s sentencing is Jan. 9, and District Attorney Robert T. Johnson said he would seek “the maximum sentence that the law allows.”

From wire reports


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