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State news briefs
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CONGRESSMAN WANTS REVIEW OF MOJAVE WATER PROJECT: LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Republican congressman is echoing Sen. Dianne Feinsteins calls for a federal environmental review of a plan to pump water from Mojave Desert aquifers for cities across California.

A letter U.S. Rep. Paul Cook of Yucca Valley wrote to the U.S. Interior Secretary in June was released Thursday by the National Parks Conservation Assn.

In a rare show of bipartisan agreement, Cook writes that the project is likely to affect San Bernardino County, ranchers, rural communities and other local entities.

Cook also expresses concern that the Mojave National Preserve could be harmed by the project, and asked the U.S. Geological Survey to update its analysis of pumping effects.

The company helming the project, Cadiz Inc., says federal reviews are unnecessary, wasteful and redundant.

WOMAN AWARDED $21.7M IN WATERCRAFT ACCIDENT:  LOS ANGELES (AP) — Lawyers for a woman injured in a personal watercraft accident on the Colorado River say she has been awarded $21.7 million by a Los Angeles jury in her lawsuit against the watercrafts' drivers and a manufacturer.

In a release Wednesday, attorney Lawrence Grassini says client Fabiola Esparza was 15 when she suffered permanent brain injury in the 2008 accident near Blythe, Calif.

Grassini says the watercraft Esparza and two others were riding became impossible to control through a defect the maker, Polaris, knew about.

In a statement, Polaris sympathized with Esparza but disagreed with the jury, saying their vehicle was safe and the accident was caused by excessive speed, alcohol and reckless driving.

About half the award will be paid by Polaris, with the rest paid by the drivers.

TEEN PLEADS IN MISSING GRANDMOTHER MURDER CASE: RIVERSIDE   (AP) — A Riverside County man who helped buy machetes and cleaning supplies to cover up a killing has pleaded guilty to being an accessory to a felony.

The Riverside Press-Enterprise says 18-year-old Neil Erickson made his plea Wednesday. The Wildomar man faces up to three years in prison.

Erickson and 21-year-old Kyle McLean were charged in connection with the killing of McLean's 71-year-old grandmother, whose remains haven't been found.

Prosecutors claim McLean killed Catharine Sutton earlier this month at her Murrieta home.

Erickson told police that McLean showed him a body with a belt around the neck in the trunk of a car. They later were seen buying machetes, gloves, bleach and beer at a Walmart.

McLean has pleaded not guilty to murder.

COURT SAYS DISNEYLAND CAN KEEP SEGWAY BAN: ANAHEIM  (AP) — A California appeals court says Disneyland Resort can keep a ban on Segways at its parks.

The court ruled last week against a woman with muscular dystrophy who sued for discrimination four years ago because she couldn't use a Segway at Disneyland.

The 4th District Court of Appeal says Disney showed that the stand-up, two-wheeled scooter was unsafe to use inside the crowded Anaheim park.

Disney has since developed its own four-wheel standing scooter for use in the park.

LA DEPUTY KILLS MAN HE SAYS BIT HIS ARM: COMPTON  (AP) — A Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy has shot and killed a suspected drunken driver in Compton after the man allegedly bit his arm and tried to take his gun.

The motorist died at the scene shortly before 12:30 a.m. Thursday. His name hasn't been released.

Sheriff's officials say the man became combative after a deputy pulled over his car.

The deputy was treated at a hospital for a bite to his left arm.

It's the second deputy-involved shooting in Compton in two months. In May, deputies killed a man they say pointed a gun at them following a car chase.

MAN, 65, TELLS DISPATCHERS HE STRANGLED HIS WIFE: SANTA ROSA  (AP) — A 65-year-old man was taken into custody after calling 911 and informing dispatchers that he had strangled his wife in their Northern California trailer home.

Dean "Sonny" Eliason said he would be waiting for police by the front door of their home in Rincon Valley Mobile Estates, and that's where officers found him.

Sgt. Dave Linscomb said the body of 64-year-old Virginia Caetano was found on the floor of the couple's living room with a ligature around her neck.

Linscomb told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat that Eliason was expected to be booked into the Sonoma County Jail late Wednesday on suspicion of murder.

The homicide investigation is the first in Santa Rosa this year.

FRESNO AUTHORITIES ARREST SERIAL MAILBOX BOMBER: FRESNO  (AP) — A man suspected of setting off a series of pipe bombs in Fresno-area mailboxes is under arrest, Fresno County Sheriff's spokesman Chris Curtice said Thursday.

Cody Frederick Bewarder, 27, was arrested on charges of possessing an explosive device in a public place, use of an explosive device, possession of bomb making materials and being armed in the commission of a felony.

After detectives investigated a residential mailbox bombing at a home in June, Curtice said, they learned of two other mailbox bombings in the previous months that had used the same unique bomb making materials.

The materials could only be obtained at one Fresno hardware store, Curtice said, leading detectives to identify Bewarder as a suspect.

Officials declined to say what unique materials were used to make the pipe bombs.

No one has been injured as a result of the explosions, Curtice said.

Judge says Palmdale violates voting rights


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Palmdale's method of electing City Council members by a citywide vote rather than through individual districts is keeping black and Hispanic candidates out of office, a judge has ruled.

The high desert city violates the California Voting Rights Act by using an election format that dilutes the influence of minority voters, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mark V. Mooney wrote in his interim decision this week.

In the ruling, Mooney said he didn't consider voter turnout or the effectiveness of past campaigns, only voting patterns. He pointed out that intent to discriminate is not required to prove a violation.