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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court will struggle this week with the validity of an Arizona law that tries to keep illegal immigrants from voting by demanding all state residents show documents proving their U.S. citizenship before registering to vote in national elections.

The high court will hear arguments Monday over the legality of Arizona's voter-approved requirement that prospective voters document their U.S. citizenship in order to use a registration form produced under the federal "Motor Voter" voter registration law that doesn't require such documentation.

This case focuses on voter registration in Arizona, which has tangled frequently with the federal government over immigration issues involving the Mexican border. But it has broader implications because four other states - Alabama, Georgia, Kansas and Tennessee - have similar requirements, and 12 other states are contemplating similar legislation, officials say.

The Obama administration is supporting challengers to the law.

If Arizona can add citizenship requirements, then "each state could impose all manner of its own supplemental requirements beyond the federal form," Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. said in court papers. "Those requirements could encompass voluminous documentary or informational demands, and could extend to any eligibility criteria beyond citizenship, such as age, residency, mental competence, or felony history."

A federal appeals court threw out the part of Arizona's Proposition 200 that added extra citizenship requirements for voter registration, but only after lower federal judges had approved it.

Arizona wants the justices to reinstate its requirement.

Kathy McKee, who led the push to get the proposition on the ballot, said voter fraud, including by illegal immigrants, continues to be a problem in Arizona. "For people to conclude there is no problem is just shallow logic," McKee said.

Opponents of Arizona's law see it as an attack on vulnerable voter groups such as minorities, immigrants and the elderly. They say Arizona's law makes registering more difficult, which is an opposite result from the intention of the 1993 National Voter Registration Act. Proposition 200 "was never intended to combat voter fraud," said Democratic state Sen. Steve Gallardo of Phoenix. "It was intended to keep minorities from voting." With the additional state documentation requirements, Arizona will cripple the effectiveness of neighborhood and community voter registration drives, advocates say. More than 28 million Americans used the federal "Motor Voter" form to register to vote in the 2008 presidential elections, according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. An Arizona victory at the high court would lead to more state voting restrictions, said Elisabeth MacNamara, the national president of the League of Women Voters. Opponents of the Arizona provision say they've counted more than 31,000 potentially legal voters in Arizona who easily could have registered before Proposition 200 but who were blocked initially by the law in the 20 months after it passed in 2004. They say about 20 percent of those thwarted were Latino. Arizona officials say they should be able to pass laws to stop illegal immigrants and other noncitizens from getting on their voting rolls. The Arizona voting law was part of a package that also denied some government benefits to illegal immigrants and required Arizonans to show identification before voting. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the voter identification provision. The denial of benefits was not challenged. Opponents "argue that Arizona should not be permitted to request evidence of citizenship when someone registers to vote, but should instead rely on the person's sworn statement that he or she is a citizen," Arizona Attorney General Thomas C. Horne said in court papers. "The fallacy in that is that someone who is willing to vote illegally will be willing to sign a false statement. What (opponents) are urging is that there should be nothing more than an honor system to assure that registered voters are citizens. That was not acceptable to the people of Arizona." The Arizona proposition was enacted into law with 55 percent of the vote. This is the second voting issue the high court is tackling this session. Last month, several justices voiced deep skepticism about whether a section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a law that has helped millions of minorities exercise their right to vote, especially in areas of the Deep South, was still needed. This case involves laws of more recent vintage. The federal "Motor Voter" law, enacted in 1993 to expand voter registration, allows would-be voters to fill out a mail-in voter registration card and swear they are citizens under penalty of perjury, but it doesn't require them to show proof. Under Proposition 200 approved in 2004, Arizona officials require an Arizona driver's license issued after 1996, a U.S. birth certificate, a passport or other similar document, or the state will reject the federal registration application form. This requirement applies only to people who seek to register using the federal mail-in form. Arizona has its own form and an online system to register when renewing a driver's license. The court ruling did not affect proof of citizenship requirements using the state forms. State officials say more than 90 percent of those Arizonans applying to vote using the federal form will be able to simply write down their driver's license number, and all naturalized citizens simply will be able to write down their naturalization number without needed additional documents. Former Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce, a leading Republican proponent of Proposition 200, strongly disputed claims that Arizona doesn't have voter fraud problems. "They turn a blind eye," Pearce said of the state's election officials. But Karen Osborne, elections director for Maricopa County, where nearly 60 percent of Arizona's voters live, said voter fraud is rare, and even rarer among illegal immigrants. "That just does not seem to be an issue," Osborne said of the claim that illegal immigrants are voting. "They did not want to come out of the shadows. They don't want to be involved with the government." The main legal question facing the justices is whether the federal law trumps Arizona's law. A 10-member panel of the 9th Circuit in San Francisco said it did. The appeals court issued multiple rulings in this case, with a three-judge panel initially siding with Arizona. A second panel that included retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who from time to time sits on appeals courts, reversed course and blocked the registration requirement. The full court then did the same, and that decision will be reviewed by the justices in Washington. The case is 12-71, Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc.
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STEUBENVILLE, Ohio (AP) -- Two members of the high school football team that is the pride of Steubenville were found guilty Sunday of raping a drunken 16-year-old girl in a case that bitterly divided the Rust Belt city and led to accusations of a cover-up to protect the community's athletes.

Steubenville High School students Trent Mays and Ma'Lik Richmond were sentence to at least a year in juvenile jail, capping a case that came to light via a barrage of morning-after text messages, social media posts and online photos and video. Mays was sentenced to an additional year in jail on a charge of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material, to be served after his rape sentence is completed.

The two teens broke down in tears after the verdict was read and later apologized to the victim and to the community. Both were emotional as they spoke, and Richmond struggled at times to talk through his sobs. Richmond's father, Nathaniel, also asked that the victim's family "forgive Malik and Trent for the pain they put you through."

Mays, 17, and Richmond, 16, were charged with digitally penetrating the West Virginia girl, first in the back seat of a moving car after an alcohol-fueled party on Aug. 11, and then in the basement of a house.

The case roiled the community amid allegations that more students should have been charged and led to questions about the influence of the local football team, a source of a pride in a community of 18,000 that suffered massive job losses with the collapse of the steel industry. Their arms linked, protesters who sought guilty verdicts stood outside the courthouse Sunday morning, some wearing masks. The trial opened last week as a contest between prosecutors determined to show the girl was so drunk she couldn't have been a willing participant that night, and defense attorneys soliciting testimony from witnesses that would indicate that the girl, though drunk, knew what she was doing. The teenage girl testified Saturday that she could not recall what happened the night of the attack but remembered waking up naked in a strange house after drinking at a party. The girl said she recalled drinking, leaving the party holding hands with Mays and throwing up later. When she woke up, she said she discovered her phone, earrings, shoes, and underwear were missing, she testified. "It was really scary," she said. "I honestly did not know what to think because I could not remember anything." The girl said she believed she was assaulted when she later read text messages among friends and saw a photo of herself taken that night, along with a video that made fun of her and the alleged attack. She said she suspected she had been drugged because she couldn't explain being as intoxicated as defense witnesses have said she was. "They treated her like a toy," said special prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter. Evidence introduced at the trial included graphic text messages sent by numerous students after the night of the party, including by the accuser, containing provocative descriptions of sex acts and obscene language. Lawyers noted during the trial how texts have seemed to replace talking on the phone for contemporary teens. A computer forensic expert called by the state documented tens of thousands of texts found on 17 phones seized during the investigation. In sentencing the boys, Judge Thomas Lipps urged everyone who had witnessed what happened in the case, including parents, "to have discussions about how you talk to your friends, how you record things on the social media so prevalent today and how you conduct yourself when drinking is put upon you by your friends." The girl herself recalled being in a car later with Mays and Richmond and asking them what happened. "They kept telling me I was a hassle and they took care of me," she testified. "I thought I could trust him (Mays) until I saw the pictures and video." In questioning her account, defense attorneys went after her character and credibility. Two former friends of the girl testified that the accuser had a history of drinking heavily and was known to lie. "The reality is, she drank, she has a reputation for telling lies," said lawyer Walter Madison, representing Richmond. The two girls testified they were angry at the accuser because she was drinking heavily at the party and rolling around on the floor. They said they tried unsuccessfully to get her to stop drinking. Nathaniel Richmond urged during the sentencing that parents speak to their children about "the dangers of alcohol and how it can lead to bad decisions that will affect the rest of your life." He said he himself was an alcoholic. The accuser said that she does not remember being photographed as she was carried by Mays and Ma'Lik Richmond, an image that stirred up outrage, first locally, then globally, as it spread online. Others have testified the photo was a joke and the girl was conscious when it was taken. The photograph led to allegations that three other boys, two of them members of Steubenville High's celebrated Big Red team, saw something happening that night and didn't try to stop it but instead recorded it. The three boys weren't charged, fueling months of online accusations of a cover-up to protect the team, which law enforcement authorities have vehemently denied. Instead, the teens were granted immunity to testify, and their accounts helped incriminate the defendants. They said the girl was so drunk she didn't seem to know what was happening to her and confirmed she was digitally penetrated in a car and later on a basement floor. Ohio's attorney general planned to announce later Sunday whether additional charges will be brought against others in the case. Mays and Richmond were determined to be delinquent, the juvenile equivalent of guilty, Lipps ruled in the juvenile court trial without a jury. The length of their sentence beyond the minimum one year will be determined by juvenile authorities; they can be held until they're 21. Lipps said that "as bad as things have been for all of the children involved in this case, they can all change their lives for the better." The Associated Press normally doesn't identify minors charged in juvenile court, but Mays and Richmond have been widely identified in news coverage, and their names have been used in open court. The AP also does not generally identify people who say they were victims of sex crimes.
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) -- A Springfield woman is suing her former landlord over a fire that killed her three children.

The Springfield News-Leader reports that Violet Watson is asking in excess of $25,000 in damages in the suit filed this month in Green County.

The March 2010 fire killed 7-year-old Alexis Watson, 5-year-old Kelsey Watson and 4-year-old Devin Watson. The children's grandfather was seriously injured.

Initially, Violet Watson's then-fiance was charged with setting the fire. But the charge was dropped after laboratory tests found no trace of an accelerant. The cause of the fire is listed as undetermined.

The lawsuit says the landlords failed to maintain a safe property for the home's residents. The suit says there were smoke alarm issues and that the house had "faulty wiring."
Sunday, 17 March 2013 10:20
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) -- An evangelical Christian college located near the southwest Missouri resort town of Branson is making it difficult, if not impossible, for students to obtain any loans.

The Springfield News-Leader says the College of the Ozarks has stopped certifying private student loans. It's barred state and federal loans since the 1990s.

Longtime President Jerry C. Davis says "the driving force behind this is that debt is bad."

Of the school's 1,350 students, 250 to 300 of them currently receive a loan, often from a hometown bank. The college is taking steps to help students adjust. They include expanding summer work opportunities and freezing room-and-board costs.

The college itself is debt free. It makes sure it has cash in hand before doing things like building a residence hall.
Sunday, 17 March 2013 10:13
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