INDICTMENT: SHERIFF LET INMATES SLEEP OUTSIDE JAIL: COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — An indictment charges a veteran South Carolina sheriff let some favored inmates sleep outside jail with access to television and alcohol and that he gave away weapons to people he knew.
Sheriff Sam Parker in Chesterfield County denied charges outlined Wednesday in an indictment that also alleged chosen inmates had unsupervised visits with women.
Parker's attorney, Johnny Gasser, says the sheriff got tripped up by confusing regulations but did nothing criminal.
Parker is charged with four counts of misconduct in office and two counts of furnishing contraband to inmates. Each charge is a misdemeanor, carrying a possible sentence of up to 10 years in prison.
Parker is the fourth South Carolina sheriff in less than three years to face criminal charges. Three of them were accused of misusing state inmates.
LINDH LAWYER TO PUSH FOR 5 DAILY GROUP PRAYERS: INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A lawyer who helped American Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh and other Muslim inmates win the right to hold daily group prayers in a high-security unit said he'll ask a judge to order that they be allowed to pray together five times a day, as Islam requires.
Chris Burke, a Bureau of Federal Prisons spokesman, said that since March 12, inmates of all religions housed in the Terre Haute federal prison's Communications Management Unit have been allowed to pray together three times per day.
American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana legal director Ken Falk, who represented Lindh in his lawsuit against the prison bureau, said U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson's Jan. 11 ruling requires that the prison allow five daily group prayers.
INFLUENTIAL PEDIATRICIANS GROUP BACKS GAY MARRIAGE : CHICAGO (AP) — The nation's most influential pediatrician's group has endorsed gay marriage, saying a stable relationship between parents regardless of sexual orientation contributes to a child's health and well-being.
The American Academy of Pediatrics' new policy, published online Thursday, cites research showing that the parents' sexual orientation has no effect on a child's development. Kids fare just as well in gay or straight families when they are nurturing and financially and emotionally stable, the academy says.
The academy believes that a two-parent marriage is best equipped to provide that kind of environment. Their policy says that if a child has two gay parents who choose to marry, "it is in the best interests of their children that legal and social institutions allow and support them to do so."
The policy cites reports indicating that almost 2 million U.S. children are being raised by gay parents, many of them in states that don't allow gays to marry.
FORT HOOD SUSPECT NOT ALLOWED TO PLEAD GUILTY: FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — An Army psychiatrist will not be allowed to plead guilty to any charges in the deadly 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Maj. Nidal Hasan's attorneys previously said he was ready to plead guilty to the 13 counts of premeditated murder he faces in the worst mass shooting on a U.S. military installation, but Army rules prohibit a judge from accepting a guilty plea to charges that carry the death penalty.
Defense attorneys then asked that Hasan be allowed to plead guilty to 13 counts of unpremeditated murder, which does not carry the death penalty.
No guilty pleas would have stopped his murder trial or possibility of being sentenced to death.
But the judge, Col. Tara Osborn, ruled Hasan cannot plead guilty to those lesser charges or the 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder that he also faces. He still would have been tried on the premeditated murder charges, so pleading guilty to the attempted premeditated murder charges could have been used against him at trial, Osborn said.
COLORADO GOVERNOR SIGNS LANDMARK GUN BILLS: DENVER (AP) — Colorado's governor signed bills Wednesday that place new restrictions on firearms, signaling a change for Democrats who have traditionally shied away from gun control in a state with a pioneer tradition of gun ownership and self-reliance.
The legislation thrust Colorado into the national spotlight as a potential test of how far the country might be willing to go with new gun restrictions after the horror of mass killings at an Aurora movie theater and a Connecticut elementary school.
Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper signed bills that require background checks for private and online gun sales and ban ammunition magazines that hold more than 15 rounds.
DEATH PENALTY RECOMMENDED IN OHIO CRAIGSLIST CASE: AKRON, Ohio (AP) — A jury on Wednesday recommended the death penalty for a self-styled street preacher convicted of killing three down-and-out men lured by bogus Craigslist job offers.
The same jury that convicted Richard Beasley made its recommendation after hearing from his mother and other witnesses who testified on his behalf in the penalty phase of his trial. The judge set his sentencing for Tuesday.
Beasley, 53, was convicted of teaming up with a teenager in 2011 to lure men with offers of farmhand jobs in southeast Ohio and to rob them. Three men were killed, and a fourth who was wounded testified at Beasley's trial.
Prosecutor Jonathan Baumoel said Beasley deserves to be executed.
IDITAROD PLANS CHANGES AFTER SLED DOG DEATH: ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Organizers of Alaska's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race say changes are planned for the 1,000-mile trek after a dog was buried in snow by extreme winds and suffocated.
Race officials said Wednesday they also plan to meet with the owners of 5-year-old Dorado. The dog was found dead at a checkpoint last week, days after it was removed from the race because it was moving stiffly.
Dorado belonged to the team of Iditarod rookie Paige Drobny of Fairbanks. Drobny's husband says the couple asked Iditarod organizers to develop new protocols for the care of dogs withdrawn from the race.
Changes planned included construction of dog shelters at two major checkpoints for dogs and more frequent checks on the animals.