What’s news in the Northwest today:
OLYMPIA — A Kittitas County judge is set to hear arguments on a lawsuit over the state’s decision to raise the minimum wage by 12 cents to $8.67 on Jan. 1. It is uncertain whether the judge will make a ruling in the case after today’s 11 a.m. hearing. A coalition of business groups sued the state last month over the decision to raise the minimum wage. The groups argue that the minimum wage can’t be increased in 2011 because this year’s Consumer Price Index does not reflect a net increase in the cost of living since 2008. A voter initiative tied the state’s minimum wage to the index. The coalition opposed to the increase includes the Washington Farm Bureau, the Washington Restaurant Association and the Washington Retail Association.
Pair enter pleas in pictograph vandalism case
LEWISTON — Two of the three Lewiston men charged with defacing American Indian pictographs earlier this year have been released from custody after pleading innocent to the charges in federal court. Tyler J. Carlson, 22, and Jerad Bovencamp, 23, entered “not guilty” pleas in Idaho’s U.S. District Court to charges they allegedly spray-painted over ancient images at the Red Elk Rock Shelter near Hells Gate State Park. A jury trial for both men is scheduled for Feb. 22 before U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge in Coeur d’Alene. A third man, Freddie M. Bernal, 19, was arrested in Asotin on Monday and was scheduled to appear in court Tuesday afternoon in Coeur d’Alene. An indictment charging all three with the felony count of willful injury or depredation of property alleges the three aided one another in spray-painting marijuana-themed words and images over the pictographs last February.
Hearing for man charged in hammer attack delayed
BAYVIEW — A judge has postponed a preliminary hearing for a northern Idaho man who police say attacked a family with a hammer and kitchen knife, killing one and injuring three others. Larry W. Cragun of Bayview, made an appearance Tuesday in Idaho’s 1st District Court, where Judge Clark A. Peterson ruled a preliminary hearing scheduled for Thursday would be delayed at least a month. The 31-year-old has been charged with first-degree murder, two counts of first-degree attempted murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault and burglary. Police say Cragun was acting erratically in the weeks before he burst into his neighbors’ home on Dec. 19. Patricia Heath, 43, died of head trauma a day after the attack.
Man pleads guilty in Everett I-5 crash, shooting
EVERETT, Wash. — A 24-year-old man has pleaded guilty and will serve a 20-year prison sentence for causing a crash that shut down Interstate 5 and shooting at a sheriff’s deputy during a high-speed chase. The Herald of Everett reports that Theodore Ohms could have been looking at twice as much time behind bars if he didn’t accept the plea deal Tuesday in Snohomish County Superior Court. The crash he caused on Sept. 1 left a woman severely injured. She nearly lost her left arm. He said he fled from police because he didn’t want to go back to jail. At the time, Ohms was wanted for failing to report to the state Department of Corrections. He was being supervised because of a drug conviction. The pursuit, crash and manhunt stranded thousands of drivers on I-5 near Everett.
BLM lifts suspensions on oil, gas leases in MT
BILLINGS, Mont. — The Bureau of Land Management has lifted suspensions on 45 Montana oil and gas leases that got tied up in a dispute over climate changing gases emitted by oil field operations. The suspensions were lifted Tuesday on leases totaling more than 25,000 acres. Six additional leases remain under suspension due to wildlife concerns, and two leases remain under partial suspension. The suspensions were imposed in March while the federal lands agency completed environmental studies into oil field emissions. That followed a settlement agreement with environmentalists who had sued the agency for not considering emissions from oil field equipment and industry practices such as venting natural gas.
Talks aim at keeping Safe Boats at Bremerton port
BREMERTON, Wash. — The Port of Bremerton is hoping to keep its biggest tenant from leaving. The Kitsap Sun reports that talks are underway between the port and Safe Boats International, and they could result in the port building a new or bigger facility for the company. Safe Boats makes security boats and hopes to double its work force to about 600. The problem is that it operates in cramped facilities at the Olympic View Industrial Park. Rep. Norm Dicks tells the newspaper that he’s met with the company’s new ownership and he’s hopeful they’ll stay.
Homicides dip, suicides rise in King County
SEATTLE — Homicides and traffic deaths dipped last year in Washington’s most populous county, but the number of suicides rose. The King County Medical Examiner’s Office released its annual report Tuesday, detailing data from 2,137 death investigations. The Seattle Times reports that the investigations included 199 cases in which a patient died at Harborview Medical Center after sustaining injuries outside the county. The number of homicides dropped to 63 in 2009, down from 85 in 2008 and a recent high of 93 in 2002 and 2003. Shootings accounted for 65 percent of homicides last year, followed by stabbings, which accounted for 17 percent. There were 141 traffic deaths in 2009, down from 163 in 2008. The 253 suicides investigated last year represented the highest rate in nine years.
Inmate brain dead after suicide attempt
GREAT FALLS, Mont. — Cascade County officials say a 30-year-old man facing sentencing for kidnapping and rape is brain dead after hanging himself in his cell at the regional jail in Great Falls. Capt. Dan O’Fallon says Phillip J. Humeyumptewa was found unconscious and hanging from a bed sheet Monday, about eight minutes after a jail guard had checked on him. His heart stopped, but detention center staff and emergency responders were able to restart his heart. On Tuesday, Humeyumptewa was hospitalized in critical condition. On Tuesday, the county attorney’s office filed a motion to reduce Humeyumptewa’s bail and release him on his own recognizance so his family can make any end-of-life decisions and so the county isn’t responsible for his medical bills.
Pasco teen OKs plea agreement in park shooting
KENNEWICK — A Pasco teen who turns 18 on Thursday gained his first conviction as an adult after accepting responsibility for his role in a gang shooting at Pasco’s Chiawana Park. Jose Contreras-Gomez pleaded guilty Tuesday in Franklin County Superior Court to unlawful possession of a firearm, a felony, and three counts of second-degree reckless endangerment, gross misdemeanors. As part of a plea agreement, charges of first-degree assault and rioting were dismissed. Contreras-Gomez’s case was automatically moved from juvenile court to adult court because of the assault charge. Contreras-Gomez presented a written statement to Judge Bruce Spanner and apologized in court for making the families who were spending a sunny summer Sunday at the park “horrified for their children” when the shots rang out.
NTSB says pilot error, pot contributed to crash
EUGENE, Ore. — A National Transportation Safety Board report says a Eugene, Ore., pilot’s flying errors and marijuana use contributed to the plane crash that killed him on Aug. 23, 2009. The NTSB report says the accident was caused by Benjamin Scott Henderson’s failure to maintain control of the aircraft during takeoff for a glider tow operation. The report adds that the tow pilot’s impairment due to recent marijuana use and the flight’s low altitude were contributing factors. The single-engine Piper Pawnee crashed in a field near the Creswell airport and burst into flames. The student glider pilot managed to disconnect the tow rope and land safely. The NTSB ruled out mechanical reasons for the crash. The report says toxicology tests showed marijuana levels that suggest the 41-year-old Henderson used the drug within three hours of the accident.