FINE WHINE? BILLIONAIRE CRIES FOUL IN VINTAGE SALE: NEW YORK (AP) — As experts can testify, super sleuths in the wine business must study the cork, glass, sediment, wrapping, labels and how full a bottle of wine is to ascertain whether it's the real deal. And as two uber-wealthy wine collectors can tell you as they square off in federal court over some questionable bottles, even that sometimes is not enough.
Testimony began Wednesday in a civil trial six years after Florida energy maven William Koch, a yachtsman and collector, sued onetime-billionaire California businessman Eric Greenberg in U.S. District Court in Manhattan over $320,000 he spent in 2005 on two dozen bottles of wine that turned out to be duds.
The trial threatens to pop the cork on the dirty secrets of the wine auction world, which like the art market has been stung in recent years by a proliferation of fakes.
CONN. STUDENT DISABLED ON SCHOOL TRIP WINS $41.7M: NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — A jury on Wednesday awarded $41.7 million to a woman who sued her prestigious boarding school after contracting a tick-borne illness on a school trip to China that left her unable to speak and brain damaged.
The federal jury in Bridgeport ruled in favor of Cara Munn, 20, in her lawsuit against The Hotchkiss School, a private school in Lakeville. The school said it would appeal.
Munn, of New York City, was a ninth-grader at Hotchkiss when she joined a school-supervised trip to China during the summer of 2007, according to her lawsuit. The then-15-year-old suffered insect bites that led to tick-borne encephalitis, her attorneys said.
The school failed to ensure that the students take any precautions against ticks and allowed them to walk through a densely wooded area known to be a risk area for tick-borne encephalitis and other tick- and insect-transmitted illnesses, her attorneys said.
TEXAS MAN GETS NEW TRIAL AMID ARSON FINDING DOUBTS: DALLAS (AP) — A Texas man convicted of setting a fire that killed his two stepsons was granted a new trial Wednesday by the state's highest criminal court, which sided with experts who question the fire investigation used to convict him.
Ed Graf's case is one of several flagged by a new state panel re-examining arson investigations. The Texas state fire marshal is working with criminal justice advocates who say many arson convictions have been won with the help of faulty scientific conclusions.
Graf was given life in prison for the 1986 fire in a backyard shed that killed 9-year-old Joby and 8-year-old Jason. Four reviews of the original fire forensics in Graf's case, including one commissioned by prosecutors, found investigators may have drawn the wrong conclusions from photos of charring and burn patterns and that the fire could have been an accident.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ordered Graf's conviction set aside Wednesday.
MOBILE HOME BLAZE KILLS 5 IN WESTERN ILLINOIS: ST. LOUIS (AP) — A fire swept through a mobile home early Wednesday near a tiny western Illinois village, killing five people — four of them children — and thwarting rescue efforts of a man who escaped with two sons, an investigator said.
The victims of the blaze included an adult woman, and the oldest child killed was 15 years old, Mercer County Coroner Ron McNall said. The ages of the other children and the identities of all of the victims were not immediately released.
"A neighbor said they were having a sleepover, and that's why there were as many children there," McNall told The Associated Press.
The fire was reported around 1 a.m. and happened just outside of Sherrard, a one-time Mercer County coal-mining town 180 miles west of Chicago and just south of the Quad Cities that has 640 residents.
SC WOMAN STABS MAN, THROWS FAKE LEG IN YARD: GREENWOOD, S.C. (AP) — Police say a South Carolina woman stabbed her boyfriend, then threw his prosthetic leg in the yard to prevent him from chasing her.
Greenwood police say 48-year-old Michelle Thomas called them Monday night and said she grabbed a knife and stabbed her boyfriend after he hit her.
Thomas said she swung the knife at him, then pulled off his prosthetic leg and tossed it and a spare leg out the door before calling police.
Authorities say the boyfriend told them Thomas had attacked him for no reason. He was treated at a hospital for cuts to his hands and leg.
Thomas has been charged with aggravated criminal domestic violence and has been released from jail. She declined to comment on her case Wednesday when reached by phone.
HISTORIC EXPULSION VOTE PENDING IN NEVADA ASSEMBLY: CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Members of the Nevada Assembly are poised for a historic vote on whether to oust one of their own — something only contemplated once in the early years of Nevada's statehood but never carried out.
Assembly Majority Leader William Horne, D-Las Vegas, said Wednesday the action on whether to expel troubled Assemblyman Steven Brooks could come late Wednesday or later in the week. After a scheduled midday floor session at midday, Horne said the body would be in recess until the "call of the chair," suggesting a possible Wednesday vote.
Democrats were scheduled to meet in caucus around 6 p.m. A floor vote could follow.
A vote by the full body will decide the political fate of the North Las Vegas Democrat, who in the past two months has been arrested twice, involuntarily hospitalized for a mental evaluation, fired from his day job and banished from the Legislature Building after public displays of bizarre behavior.
ACTRESS ASHLEY JUDD WON'T RUN FOR US SENATE: FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Actress Ashley Judd announced Wednesday she won't run for U.S. Senate in Kentucky against Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, saying she had given serious thought to a campaign but decided her responsibilities and energy need to be focused on her family.
The former Kentucky resident tweeted her decision.
"Regretfully, I am currently unable to consider a campaign for the Senate. I have spoken to so many Kentuckians over these last few months who expressed their desire for a fighter for the people & new leader," Judd wrote.