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State news briefs
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POSTAL WORKER SENTENCED IN MAIL THEFT: SAN CARLOS, Calif. (AP) — A San Francisco Bay area postal worker accused of stealing thousands of pieces of mail to obtain credit cards has been sentenced to 18 months in jail.

Attorneys said that 39-year-old Romeo Natan has credit for about 10 months in jail and will likely serve the rest of his sentence in a residential drug treatment program. He was sentenced on Tuesday.

Natan pleaded no contest in January to one felony count each of identity theft, fraud and burglary. Attorneys say he targeted credit cards and mail going through San Carlos to feed a methamphetamine habit.

A telegram from 1938 was among the thousands of pieces of mail Natan was caught with. A Daly City police detective helped get the telegram to its rightful owners.

LAUSD TO PAY $1.4M FOR SEX ABUSE BETWEEN STUDENTS: LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jurors say Los Angeles Unified School District officials must pay a special needs fourth-grader $1.4 million after she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by a male classmate in Chatsworth.

Santa Monica jurors decided on the sum Tuesday night, following an eight-day trial that found poor program supervision at Superior Street Elementary was to blame.

The boy assaulted the girl behind a shed and tree in spring 2010, at a supervised after-school program.

Court records say one staffer supervised as many as 100 students, giving the 10-year-old boy opportunity to take the 9-year-old girl to locations on campus and force her to submit to and perform sex acts.

They were caught the fifth time after a teacher heard them.

DEATH VALLEY WILDFIRE CLOSES SCOTTY'S CASTLE: DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK (AP) — A wildfire in Death Valley National Park has forced the closure of popular Scotty's Castle.

The fire erupted Monday and the visitor center has been closed, tours have been canceled, and power and phone service is out.

Park spokeswoman Cheryl Chipman says the structure wasn't threatened because winds blew the flames away.

Forty-five firefighters are doing mop-up on the 26-acre blaze in Grapevine Canyon and full control is expected in a day or two.

Scotty's Castle is a sprawling but unfinished Spanish-style mansion built in the early 20th century in an oasis in the far northern end of what is now the national park. It got its name from Walter Scott, a local desert character who was a friend of the original builder.

REPUBLICAN WINS CENTRAL VALLEY STATE SENATE RACE: SACRAMENTO  (AP) — A Republican has won a hotly contested state Senate contest in the southern San Joaquin Valley, with his top Democratic rival conceding Wednesday that the race will not go to a runoff.

The special election victory by Hanford cherry farmer Andy Vidak will have no practical effect on the state Senate, where Democrats retain a supermajority.

Democratic Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez, of Bakersfield, and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, both ceded the 16th Senate District race to Vidak.

Adding another Republican senator increases the hurdle for Democrats to reach the two-thirds majority needed to pass tax hikes and puts the GOP in a stronger position heading into next year's elections, said Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar.

UNION POWER AT ISSUE AS GARCETTI ELECTED LA MAYOR:  LOS ANGELES (AP) — The next mayor of Los Angeles was able to defeat a fellow Democrat by depicting her as a pawn of utility union bosses in the city long friendly to labor, an outcome expected to echo beyond California as unions nationwide face threats to their clout.

With all precincts reporting Wednesday, city Councilman Eric Garcetti defeated city Controller Wendy Greuel, 54 percent to 46 percent.