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Texas ruling blocks ballot drop-box cap

AUSTIN, Texas -- A state judge Thursday blocked Gov. Greg Abbott's plan to limit each county to a single drop-box for mail-in ballots -- regardless of the size or population.

An injunction against the limitation was issued Thursday in Austin by Judge Tim Sulak, who ruled that restricting the number of boxes would put voters at risk during the coronavirus pandemic.

The judge said limiting the number of drop boxes "would likely needlessly and unreasonably increase risks of exposure to Covid-19 infections, and needlessly and unreasonably substantially burden potential voters' constitutionally protected rights to vote, as a consequence of increased travel and delays, among other things."

While a federal judge earlier also had blocked Abbott's Oct. 1 order, which shuttered drop boxes where thousands of ballots in some of Texas's largest counties had already been collected, the limitation was reinstated after a federal appeals court on Monday sided with Abbott.

"Having absentee ballot return sites where voters need them is crucial to holding a fair election, particularly during the pandemic," Cheryl Drazin, vice president of the Anti-Defamation League's Central Division, said in a statement.

Abbott has argued the limitation was needed to prevent voter fraud, echoing a claim made by many Republican officials.

8th suspect is charged in kidnap plot

LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan's attorney general charged an eighth person Thursday in what authorities have described as a foiled scheme to storm the state Capitol building and kidnap officials, including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Brian Higgins, 51, of Wisconsin Dells, Wis., was charged with material support of an act of terrorism, Attorney General Dana Nessel said. If convicted, Higgins could get up to 20 years in prison. Higgins was arrested Thursday in Wisconsin.

Seven men purportedly linked to a paramilitary group called the Wolverine Watchmen were charged in state court last week with providing material support for terrorist acts and possession of a firearm while committing a felony.

Federal charges were filed against six others in the purported conspiracy to kidnap Whitmer.

A Michigan State Police affidavit said Higgins assisted four members of the Wolverine Watchmen who took part in surveillance of Whitmer's vacation home in northern Michigan by provided night-vision goggles and recording equipment, the document said.

The state suspects are accused of planning and training to attack the Capitol in Lansing and target law enforcement officers "to instigate a civil war leading to societal collapse," Nessel said.

Directive targets 'no knock' warrants

BALTIMORE -- Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby has directed prosecutors in her office to no longer authorize "no knock" arrest warrants that are submitted judges, citing the police shooting death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky.

Taylor, a Black emergency medical worker, was shot by white officers who entered her Louisville home during a drug investigation in March.

Police are typically required to knock, but they can request permission to conduct a "no knock" entry from a city judge, The Baltimore Sun reported Wednesday. It's up to the judge to approve or deny the request.

Prosecutors do not have the authority to stop the execution of warrants that are already approved, but Wednesday's directive shows Mosby's office does not support the tactic, said Patricia DeMaio, Baltimore's deputy state's attorney of major crimes.

The directive drew criticism from Mike Mancuso, president of the city's police union, who, in a statement, called on "Baltimore City judges not to get caught up in the agendas of others, but to continue to follow the facts as presented."

Granddad pleads guilty in tot's fatal fall

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- A grandfather accused in the fatal fall last year of his young granddaughter from an 11th-story window of a cruise ship docked in Puerto Rico pleaded guilty Thursday to negligent homicide.

Salvatore "Sam" Anello of Valparaiso, Ind., said earlier this year that he would not drop his innocent plea to end what he called "this nightmare" for his family. Chloe Wiegand, 18 months old, slipped from his grasp and fell about 150 feet from an open window of Royal Caribbean Cruises' Freedom of the Seas ship in July 2019.

While Puerto Rico prosecutor Laura Hernández said Anello would be sentenced Dec. 10, defense attorney Michael Winkleman said in a statement that Anello will not face any jail time and will serve probation in Indiana.

The girl's parents sued Royal Caribbean last year and accused the company of negligence. In response, Royal Caribbean said that surveillance video shows Anello leaning out the window for about 8 seconds before lifting the girl out the open window for 34 seconds before he lost his grip.

The civil case is ongoing.

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