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story.lead_photo.caption Prestige Limousine company operator Nauman Hussain is escorted into court in Cobleskill, N.Y., for arraignment Wednesday.

Limo service operator charged in crash

LATHAM, N.Y. -- A limousine service operator was charged Wednesday with criminally negligent homicide in a crash that killed 20 people, while police continued investigating what caused the wreck and whether anyone else will face charges.

Nauman Hussain, 28, showed little emotion as he was arraigned Wednesday evening in an Albany-area court, and he ignored shouted questions from reporters as he left after posting $150,000 bond. A judge had entered an innocent plea for him.

Earlier, his lawyer said that Hussain was innocent and that police were rushing to judgment in investigating Saturday's stretch limo wreck.

But State Police Superintendent George Beach said Hussain hired a driver who shouldn't have been behind the wheel of such a car, and the vehicle shouldn't have been driven after state inspectors deemed it "unserviceable" last month.

"The sole responsibility for that motor vehicle being on the road on Saturday rests with Nauman Hussain," Beach said, though he noted that investigators continue looking into whether anyone else should be held accountable in the crash.

The company, Prestige Limousine, has come under intense scrutiny since Saturday's crash killed two pedestrians and 18 people in a super-stretch limo. In the crash, the 19-seater limo ran a stop sign and plowed into a parked SUV at the bottom of a long hill in Schoharie, about 25 miles west of Albany.

Californian sentenced in vote meddling

WASHINGTON -- A California man on Wednesday was sentenced to six months in prison for unwittingly helping the Russian effort to disrupt the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich sentenced Richard Pinedo to six months' imprisonment followed by six months of home detention for selling bank account numbers to Russian operatives. According to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, the Russians used that information to set up PayPal accounts and purchase advertisements on Facebook.

Pinedo bought and sold stolen identifications and bank account numbers that would allow people to bypass and deceive the verification requirements of PayPal, Facebook and elsewhere. Prosecutors estimate that the 28-year-old earned $40,000 to $95,000 over a three-year period.

Pinedo pleaded guilty to identity fraud and went to Washington to testify before a grand jury. Prosecutors acknowledged that Pinedo had cooperated fully with Mueller's investigation and that his testimony had helped shine a light on important details of the Russian election conspiracy.

Teen's killer makes stalking-case deal

SANFORD, Fla. -- Former neighborhood-watch volunteer George Zimmerman will plead no contest to resolve a misdemeanor charge accusing him of stalking a private investigator working for a documentary filmmaker, Zimmerman's attorney said in court Wednesday.

Zimmerman fatally shot black teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012 in the central Florida city of Sanford. Zimmerman, who identifies as Hispanic, was acquitted of all charges in a case that raised questions about race and Florida's "stand your ground" self-defense law, which allows people to use force without retreating if they feel threatened.

In the stalking case, Zimmerman was accused of sending threatening messages to a private investigator who had contacted him about a documentary series on Martin. The documentary was produced by rapper Jay-Z.

Zimmerman will enter a written plea next month and serve some probation, though the length of probation and other terms won't be disclosed until the plea is entered, said Zimmerman's attorney, Zahra Umansky.

Prosecutors wouldn't comment as they left the courtroom after a brief hearing.

Laws waived for Texas border barriers

HOUSTON -- The Department of Homeland Security Wednesday posted another waiver of environmental laws so it can build new border barriers in south Texas, this time for roughly 17 miles cutting through the National Butterfly Center and other sensitive areas.

The agency's waiver lists six sections where it plans to build "physical barriers and roads" in the Rio Grande Valley at the southernmost point of Texas. It comes after another waiver posted Tuesday to build new gates to seal gaps in existing fencing, as the government moves forward with plans to fulfill President Donald Trump's campaign pledge to build a border wall.

Homeland Security has the authority under existing laws to waive reviews and regulations under the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and other laws that might otherwise delay or prevent wall construction.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in the waiver that there was an "acute and immediate need" for construction "to prevent unlawful entries into the United States in the project area."

Congress has already funded construction of about 33 miles of wall in the Rio Grande Valley.

A Section on 10/11/2018

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