What’s news in the Northwest today:
LEWISTON — A former Lewiston pharmacist has been sentenced in federal court for stealing hydrocodone pills from the pharmacy where he was employed last year. Thirty-six-year-old Jason Jungert was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court to five years of probation for taking between 200 and 300 hydrocodone pills from Orchard’s Pharmacy. Terms of his probation also prohibit him from working as a pharmacist and require him to undergo intensive treatment and drug testing. Investigators say an audit revealed a significant number of the hydrocodone pills were found missing from the store during Jungert’s tenure at the pharmacy. Investigators say Jungert filled out several hydrocodone prescriptions without requests from patients last April and May. The judge also said Jungert must pay more than $800 in restitution as a part of his plea agreement.
UI faculty senate opposes guns on campus
MOSCOW – The University of Idaho’s faculty Senate voted Tuesday to send a resolution to lawmakers encouraging opposition to a controversial House bill. HB 222, dubbed the guns on campus bill, would allow just that – higher education institutions would be prohibited from banning firearms, either carried openly or by people with concealed weapons permits, anywhere on campus except undergraduate dormitories. Senate chairperson Dan Eveleth said the focus is not to put forth an opinion about gun rights, but rather emphasize that those decisions should be made on a local level. The bill proposes one size fits all, he said, meaning regardless of the size, location or other qualities of the institution, all would have to follow the same rules. It would be best to allow individual institutions to make their own decisions. Currently, Idaho allows the State Board of Education to make decisions about guns on campuses, and it has delegated those powers to each individual institution. And the faculty senate wants it to stay that way.
Doubts cast on biomass power in Washington
SEATTLE — Biomass power — burning tree trimmings and scrap lumber to generate electricity — enjoys political support and public subsidies. That comes from the belief that the practice is carbon neutral — that the carbon dioxide released is equal to the carbon absorbed during the tree’s growth. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas blamed for climate change. But, The Seattle Times reports, new calculations are casting doubts on biomass power. Some researchers say it could be more polluting in the short term than coal. Washington is among the nation’s leaders in biomass power with a dozen plants and four proposed projects. The Simpson Tacoma Kraft paper mill in Tacoma is one of the oldest. It burns sawdust, bark and wood shavings to generate electricity it sells to California.
Bill to get Idaho Legislature new attorneys fails
BOISE — A lawmaker’s effort to get the Idaho Legislature to stop consulting the state attorney general’s office and get its own lawyers has failed. Republican Rep. Vito Barbieri, of Dalton Gardens, wanted the Legislature to hire two attorneys for a new “Office of Legislative Counsel.” But the bill was killed today by the House State Affairs Committee at Barbieri’s request, after drawing lawmaker criticism. Priest Lake Republican Rep. Eric Anderson called the bill “a very bad piece of legislation,” saying he was glad Barbieri saved him the trouble of arguing against it. Barbieri was irked with the attorney general’s office over an opinion on a previous bill he sponsored to nullify the federal health care overhaul. His latest measure paid for new attorneys by shifting money from the attorney general’s budget.
4 middle schoolers charged, meth found at school
BILLINGS, Mont. — Four students at a Billings middle school face charges in Youth Court after one student reportedly brought methamphetamines to school and three others tried to help cover it up. Sgt. Kevin Iffland says a 14-year-old boy is charged with felony criminal possession of dangerous drugs after police say he brought five small baggies of meth to Castle Rock Middle School last week. Another boy is charged with felony criminal possession of dangerous drugs by accountability for reportedly helping conceal three of the baggies in the boys’ bathroom. Two 14-year-old girls are charged with misdemeanor obstruction of justice after two of those baggies were flushed down a toilet. Principal Shaun Harrington says the students were placed on emergency suspension pending administrative meetings.
Boise man gets 15 years for pool hall shooting
BOISE — A 29-year-old Boise man who pleaded guilty to killing a man outside a pool hall two years ago has been sentenced to at least 15 years in prison. Fourth District Judge Timothy Hansen sentenced Jeremy Hobbs on Tuesday to 30 years with the right to ask for parole after serving 15. Hansen gave Hobbs credit for the two years he’s spent in jail since his arrest in the March 2009 death of Ahmed Cepalo, who was shot five times. Hobbs was charged with second degree murder, but a trial ended with a hung jury. He pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter last month. Hobbs told police he was acting in self-defense after Cepalo attacked him as he fought with another man. Prosecutors argued Cepalo was trying to break up the fight.
Foreign events leave United States’ wheat market unscathed
MOSCOW – Despite violent riots and chaos in the Middle East, Randy Suess said events in Egypt and Yemen will not greatly affect American wheat producers. “They’re swing customers,” Suess, a Washington Wheat Commission and U.S. Wheat Associate board member, said. “They buy when we’re cheap.” Suess presented observations of the culture and market in all three countries Tuesday at the Whitman County Library in Colfax. Suess traveled to Yemen, Egypt and Eritrea in 2007 with other Wheat Commission members. Suess said the Egyptian market and surrounding areas typically buy from the cheapest producers, which isn’t always American grain growers. Egypt only recently turned to U.S.-produced wheat because the historically cheaper producer, Russia, has an embargo on its wheat. Nearby German wheat growers experienced a poor harvest and larger European wheat producer, France, sold a majority of its crop elsewhere. Suess exuded just as much confidence about the Japanese wheat import market, despite the continuing tragedy in the country following a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami. As a country, Japan buys more U.S.-produced wheat than any other. About 20 percent of the wheat imported in Japan is grown on Washington soil, Suess said.
Prosecutor says Tacoma police shooting justified
TACOMA — The Pierce County prosecutor says a fatal police shooting of a transient last September in Tacoma was justified. Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said the death of 64-year-old Richard Sims was unfortunate, but two officers acted lawfully when they responded to a report of a man with a knife talking to himself and behaving oddly at a bus stop. Officials say as one officer attempted to control Sims with a kick he raised the knife. Both officers fired. Sims was hit three times and died at a hospital.
Pasco gang member gets 7-year sentence for assault
PASCO, Wash. — A 16-year-old gang member who pointed a gun at a Pasco police officer was sentenced Tuesday to seven years in prison. Tri-City Herald reports Alejandro “Alex” Leon will be in a juvenile facility until he’s 18 and then serve the rest of his time in prison. He pleaded guilty in Franklin County Superior Court to assault with a firearm. He was running from the officer in June when he dropped a revolver. He picked it up and pointed it at the officer, then ran off without firing.
Gang shooting in Yakima kills man, 27
YAKIMA, Wash. — Police are looking for suspects in a fatal drive-by shooting in Yakima. Two brothers were walking down a street Monday night when a car pulled up next to them. Witnesses told police there was an argument and then gunfire. The shots fatally wounded 27-year-old Alejandro Baldavinos. Eighteen year-old Luis Baldovinos was treated at a hospital for his wounds and released. Lt. Mike Merryman told KAPP the shooting victims wore blue gang colors and are considered to be Sureno members. The suspects are described as Nortenos or the Reds. Family members of the victims say they are not gang members.
House leader pitches sales tax proposal for Montana
HELENA, Mont. — The Republican House Majority leader is proposing a plan to do away with Montana’s income tax and replace it with a sales tax. Rep. Tom McGillvray says House Bill 596 would boost the state’s economy by eliminating the time and cost of income tax filing. Other supporters say states with a sales tax instead of an income tax attract workers and increase wages. No opponents spoke at the bill’s hearing today but a recent poll conducted by Lee Newspapers found that only 25 percent of Montanans support replacing the income tax with a sales tax. McGillvray’s measure would repeal the state’s income tax but does not provide an exact plan for a sales tax. The bill asks for a study of how best to craft a tax plan.
Girl Scout cookies for soldiers stolen in Gresham
GRESHAM, Ore. — Some Girl Scouts in Gresham are dipping into their allowances to replace stolen cookies for soldiers in Afghanistan. KPTV reports the girls from Troop 40853 had collected five cases during their annual cookie sale. They were ready to go and sitting in troop mom Lisa Sablan’s car last Friday when the car was stolen. When police found the car two days later, its stereo was gone — and so were the cookies. The girls started over, hoping to get more cookies to send to soldiers.