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In brief: Suit stands against ex-Sen. Craig

WASHINGTON – A federal judge refused on Thursday to dismiss a Federal Election Commission lawsuit that accuses former Sen. Larry Craig of misusing $217,000 in campaign funds for his legal defense after his arrest in a 2007 airport bathroom sex sting.

Craig had argued that the airport bathroom trip fell under his official duties as senator because he was traveling between Idaho and Washington for work, and therefore the legal fees could be paid for with campaign money.

But U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson rejected that argument. She wrote in her ruling that the charge against Craig didn’t relate “to his conduct as a legislator, but only actions undertaken in the privacy and anonymity of a restroom stall.” Jackson set a scheduling conference in the case for April 26.

The Idaho Republican was arrested by an undercover police officer at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The officer said Craig tapped his feet and signaled under a stall divider that he wanted sex. Craig pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and paid a fine. After his arrest later became public, Craig tried unsuccessfully to reverse his conviction.

In an email, Craig’s lawyer, Andrew Herman, said, “We will assess the opinion and decide how to proceed after doing so.”

City changes tack in porn shop fight

City officials hope a change in venue will shorten its long fight to close two porn shops in north Spokane.

The city filed a lawsuit in federal court in 2010 against CAWA Corp., claiming that the company’s two Hollywood Erotic Boutiques in the city violate zoning rules.

The Spokane City Council tightened regulations on porn shops earlier this month. Soon after the council’s action, the city asked the federal court to dismiss the case. On Tuesday, the city filed a new lawsuit against CAWA in Spokane County Superior Court.

The city wants a judge to rule that CAWA’s stores violate the city’s zoning ordinance.

Milt Rowland, the attorney representing the city, said federal court is more likely to rule that the city’s law doesn’t violate the First Amendment and may not specifically answer whether Hollywood is following the law.

Rowland said one factor in filing suit in Superior Court is the city of Spokane Valley’s case against a Hollywood Erotic Boutique. A Superior Court judge ruled this month that the Hollywood location on East Sprague is a “public nuisance.”

River Park Square hosting kids event

Although the traditional egg hunt won’t take place in Riverfront Park this year, there’s a new Easter-themed event across the street at River Park Square.

Children 12 and under are invited to the downtown mall atrium Saturday for a morning workout with the Easter bunny, called the Hip Hop Rodeo. The mall’s garage will offer free parking for the event, which takes place from 9:30-10 a.m., and there will be games, prizes and special offers.

In other egg hunt news, an event announced by the Spokane Parks Department to be held at Minnehaha Park on Saturday is a private egg hunt, according to a news release.

A sponsor reserved the park and paid for the space, the release said.

“We apologize for the confusion related to egg hunt activities in our parks,” the release said.

Hat-wearing robber holds up bank

A Banner Bank branch in Hillyard was held up Thursday by a robber reportedly wearing black glasses and a straw farmer’s style hat.

Spokane police said the robber handed a note to the teller demanding cash, but no weapons were seen during the confrontation around 12:40 p.m. The robber fled with an undisclosed amount of cash, Sgt. Brad Hallock said.

The robber was described as a white male with a stocky build wearing a long-sleeve white shirt and blue jeans. He was last seen fleeing north on foot, according to Spokane police officers on the scene.

The robbery happened so fast customers sitting in the coffee area didn’t notice what happened, Hallock added.

Man sentenced for fraud, identity theft

A prolific identity thief was sentenced Thursday to 4  1/2 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to several theft and drug charges.

Superior Court Judge Sam Cozza sentenced Michael A. Clarke Jr., 24, after a lengthy investigation by the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office and Spokane Police Department fraud units.

The case showed that between November 2011 and September, Clarke defrauded credit card companies and other financial institutions by opening accounts under assumed names and using those funds to purchase goods from Spokane-area stores. The losses totaled more than $60,800, sheriff’s spokesman Craig Chamberlin said in a news release.

The investigation continues with more arrests expected, Chamberlin said.


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