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State news briefs
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SF BAGGAGE HANDLER PLEADS NOT GUILTY TO THEFT: REDWOOD CITY  (AP) — A San Francisco International Airport baggage handler accused of stealing items from passengers' bags has pleaded not guilty.

Forty-five-year-old George Reyes of San Francisco entered his plea to two counts of embezzlement and one count of stolen property, all felonies, in San Mateo County Superior Court on Wednesday.

Prosecutors say Reyes, who worked for United Airlines, was found with iPads and purses when he was arrested on May 21. The items had been fitted with GPS trackers as part of a police sting after numerous complaints to the airline from passengers.

District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe says investigators found additional stolen items at Reyes' home. He says Reyes victimized at least 50 people.

OPTIONS OFFERED TO PREVENT SO. CAL FIRE PIT BAN: NEWPORT BEACH  (AP) — A proposed ban on fire pits at Southern California beaches has made more than a few people hot under the collar.

But it may not happen.

Regulations that stop short of a ban will be presented this week to the South Coast Air Quality Management District. A board vote could come next month.

Spokesman Sam Atwood says staffers will offer three options — creating a buffer zone between the fire rings and homes, requiring the pits use propane instead of wood, or enforcing a ban on the use of treated woods and other polluting materials.

The ban is sought by Newport Beach residents who say fire ring smoke drifts over their homes.

Opponents — including neighboring cities — call the rings a beach tradition.

LA SCHOOLS OFFER $17M TO SETTLE MOLESTATION CLAIMS: LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Unified School District has offered $17 million to settle dozens of claims by alleged victims of a former teacher charged with committing lewd acts on children.

The district on Wednesday offered to settle 40 claims by paying the students about $425,000 each.

However, attorneys for the students say they'll reject the offer.

It's lower than one made in March to settle 58 other claims. In those cases, the district agreed to pay around $470,000 per student.

The claims involve former Miramonte Elementary School teacher Mark Berndt, who's accused of blindfolding children and feeding them semen in what he called a classroom "tasting game."

CONVICTED MOLESTER, PSYCHIC SEEKS RELEASE: SAN LUIS OBISPO  (AP) — A California jury couldn't decide whether to free a former television psychic and self-proclaimed karate expert who is being kept in a state mental hospital after serving 17 years in prison for a molestation conviction. Now, 54-year-old James Hydrick can be released if prosecutors don't challenge his petition.

The San Luis Obispo Tribune ( reports Thursday that prosecutors will announce their intent June 17.

Hydrick displayed his mind and martial-arts skills on 1980s television shows like "That's Incredible" and "Ripley's Believe It or Not."

But he went to prison in 1989, convicted of molesting six Orange County boys.

He's served his sentence but is being detained at Atascadero State Hospital under state sexual predator law. A trial to determine whether he can still be held ended in a hung jury.

3 SUSPECTS IN CUSTODY IN DEATH OF OC TRUCKER: ONTARIO (AP) — Police say three men are in custody on suspicion of killing an Orange County trucker whose burned and buried remains were found in the backyard of an Ontario home.

Salvador Maldonado, 37, has been arrested, and two other suspects were already in custody on unrelated drug charges.

Sgt. David McBride says the remains of 29-year-old Oscar Javier Contreras Escobar of Laguna Hills were found in February. He disappeared in August after finishing a long-haul trip.

DNA processing hasn't been completed but investigators say they have evidence that led them to Maldonado, 29-year-old Ivan Isaac Vasquez and 35-year-old Daniel Angel Chavez.

The three are suspected gang members.