ENCOURAGING SUICIDES Prosecutors: Encouraging suicide not free speech MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Prosecutors say a former Minnesota nurse convicted of going online and encouraging two people to kill themselves was not exercising his right to free speech. Fifty-year-old William Melchert-Dinkel was convicted in 2011 of two counts of aiding suicide. His attorney is asking the Minnesota Supreme Court to overturn those convictions, saying Melchert-Dinkel’s actions were protected, and that he did not directly participate in the suicides of an English man and a Canadian woman. In documents filed Tuesday, Rice County prosecutors say Melchert-Dinkel played an integral role, giving the victims detailed instructions. Prosecutors also argue the state’s statute barring assisted suicide is constitutional. They say the direct harm to victims and the state’s interest to protect vulnerable people warrant that the law be upheld. Melchert-Dinkel is free pending appeal.
CHURCH DAY CARE-EXPLOSION No one hurt in explosion at Minn. church day care (Information in the following story is from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com) BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. (AP) – No one was hurt when an explosion blew out a wall in the day care wing of a church in Brooklyn Center. Police say the blast was reported about 4:15 p.m. Tuesday in a two-story classroom wing of Brookdale Christian Center. A CenterPoint Energy spokeswoman tells the Star Tribune the church’s boiler apparently exploded. She says the boiler has had maintenance issues in the past. Six preschoolers were in a nearby classroom. A teacher escorted the children safely outside. Medics checked the children and found they were not hurt. Brooklyn Center Fire Chief Lee Gatlin says the blast partially collapsed the second floor of the wing and caused about $200,000 in damage. Gatlin says the wing was roped off and declared unsafe pending further investigation.
UNDERGROUND FIRE-MINNEAPOLIS Fire forces part of downtown Mpls. to evacuate (Information in the following story is from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com) MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Smoke pouring from an underground fire has forced some businesses to evacuate in part of downtown Minneapolis. The fire was burning Tuesday afternoon inside a manhole in a mostly commercial area. A spokeswoman for Xcel Energy tells the Star Tribune the fire probably was caused by overheated electrical cables or equipment, but the cause remains under investigation. Assistant Minneapolis Fire Chief Cherie Penn says five businesses were evacuated after the fire was reported. No injuries were reported. Some power was lost to a handful of locations near the fire.
PROSTITUTION STING-COACH Minn. prep coach quits after prostitution arrest (Information in the following story is from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com) MAPLEWOOD, Minn. (AP) – A Minnesota high school football coach has resigned after his arrest in a prostitution sting. A spokeswoman for Hill-Murray High School says 54-year-old Mark Mauer resigned Tuesday as head coach and as a major-gifts officer for the Maplewood school. The spokeswoman tells the Star Tribune (http://bit.ly/WpxHqC) Mauer was not a teacher at the school. Mauer was one of 19 men and four women arrested last week in a two-day undercover sting at a Fridley hotel. The men are cited with a misdemeanor of solicitation and the women with a misdemeanor of prostitution. A message left on Mauer’s home phone was not immediately returned Tuesday. Mauer is a cousin of Minnesota Twins star Joe Mauer.
TEACHER-SEX CHARGES-MINNESOTA Bail set for ex-Minn. teacher in student sex case (Information in the following story is from: Faribault Daily News, http://www.faribault.com) FARIBAULT, Minn. (AP) – A former teacher at a Faribault prep school has appeared in a Minnesota court, more than four months after he was charged with sexual misconduct involving students. Former Shattuck-St. Mary’s drama teacher Lynn Seibel appeared Tuesday in Rice County. Seibel faces 17 felony counts, including second-degree criminal sexual conduct and using a minor in a sexual performance. Bail was set at $200,000 with no conditions or $100,000 with conditions. The incidents allegedly happened from 1996 through 2003, and involved male students ages 15 to 18. Seibel, now 71, was charged in Minnesota in October. He was being held in Los Angeles on an unrelated charge, but a prosecutor in Los Angeles County tells the Faribault Daily News that charge was dropped so the Rice County case could be prosecuted.
MINNESOTA-TAX SCAM Minn. tax department warns of refund scam ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) – State officials are warning of a scam by a group posing as the Minnesota Department of Revenue that uses claims of tax refunds as bait to obtain personal data. The department said Tuesday that the scammers are seeking personal or banking information of taxpayers. According to the department, callers going by “Minnesota Revenue” suggest they are seeking the information to process a larger tax refund. The state agency says it doesn’t call people about the size of their refunds. Officials say they should report official emails or phone calls to the Department of Revenue.
MAYO EXPANSION Tighter financial controls in Mayo expansion bill ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) – A bill paving the way for a significant expansion of Rochester’s Mayo Clinic has picked up more accountability features as it steams ahead. The House Government Operations Committee on Tuesday advanced the measure after adding provisions intended to better track a proposed public contribution. Mayo is seeking state and local financing for almost $600 million of a multibillion dollar expansion. The public dollars would pay for infrastructure upgrades associated with the private build-out. One change requires that consulting arrangements and other contracts using the public money are subject to state audits. Another would give the state revenue commissioner a bigger role in determining whether the development is meeting promised benchmarks. The bill heads next to the House Taxes Committee, where it is likely to face its biggest test yet.