NEW ORLEANS — A federal judge will decide whether to approve an agreement for BP PLC to plead guilty to manslaughter and other charges and pay a record $4 billion in criminal penalties for the company’s role in the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance today will either accept the deal and impose the sentence negotiated by BP and the Justice Department, or reject the sentence and allow the company to withdraw from the agreement.
Before ruling, Vance is expected to hear testimony from relatives of 11 workers who died when BP’s blown-out Macondo well triggered an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.
BP agreed in November to plead guilty to charges involving the workers’ deaths and for lying to Congress.
State Farm denied rate hike
BATON ROUGE — State insurance regulators have rejected a request by State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. to raise homeowners’ rates by 16.6 percent,
The rate revision would have affected more than 300,000 policyholders and generated an estimated $71.2 million in additional premiums to the company.
Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon said Monday he declined the company’s request after a review found the rate revision not to be actuarially justified.
State Farm spokesman Gary Stephenson said they were disappointed by Donelon’s decision.
“This rate need is a real one. We all know the threat of severe coastal damage is ever present, but the on-going cost of hail, thunderstorm, wind, fire and other types of claims across the state is significant,” Stephenson said.
State Farm is the largest homeowners policy provider in the state. As of December, state officials said the company had a market share of 28 percent of all Louisiana homeowners’ policies.
Boy arrested in phone threat
BATON ROUGE — Authorities say a 10-year-old Iberville Parish boy has been arrested on one count of terrorizing after investigators determined he left a threatening voice mail at St. Joseph’s Academy in Baton Rouge over the weekend.
Lt. Don Kelly, a Baton Rouge police spokesman, said the boy, who had no known connection to the school, was released to his parents’ custody on Monday.
Kelly says the motive for the threat is unclear.
Law enforcement and school officials declined to discuss the nature of the threat, which drew a heavy police presence on Monday.
Girl dies crossing highway
EUNICE — State police are investigating a fatal crash on U.S. 190 near Eunice which claimed the life of a 7-year-old Church Point girl.
The accident happened around 7:15 p.m. Monday.
Trooper Stephen Hammons says a truck driven by 67-year-old Vincent Fruge of Eunice was traveling west on U.S. 190 and an SUV driven by 22-year-old Ryan Godeaux of Eunice was traveling behind Fruge. Hammons says Kendessa Castile was attempting to cross the westbound lanes when she was struck by both vehicles.
Castile was pronounced dead by the St. Landry Parish coroner.
The accident remains under investigation.
Man enters guilty plea
in child prostitution case
BATON ROUGE — A Baton Rouge man has admitted that he sold a 15-year-old girl into prostitution two years ago.
Erick Jermaine Banks, 31, pleaded guilty Monday to one count of conspiracy to traffic a child in the commercial sex trade.
U.S. Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux Jr. says the crime carries a possible penalty of life imprisonment.
U.S. District Judge James J. Brady did not immediately schedule a sentencing date for Banks.
Baton Rouge police arrested Banks before dawn Jan. 30, 2011, as he was checking out of a hotel. Officers then rescued the girl from a hotel room.
Lafourche Parish could see tougher fireworks law
THIBODAUX — It could prove more difficult to get and use fireworks in Lafourche Parish.
The Parish Council recently upped fees vendors must pay to sell fireworks, set new rules for where stands can be located and is promising to enforce existing restrictions more vigorously than in the past.
Councilman Jerry Lafont is leading the campaign, complaining that fireworks stand owners are primarily out-of-state residents who unfairly take advantage of Lafourche residents while contributing little to the tax base.
Parish President Charlotte Randolph said there will be a greater effort to enforce restrictions that Lafont claims were regularly ignored regarding firework stands’ distance from homes.
Lafont said the parish has the right to rescind a permit if the rules are not followed.
Child dies in Ascension crash
BURNSIDE — State police say a 5-year-old Sorrento boy was killed after he was partially ejected from his father’s pickup in a crash in Ascension Parish.
Trooper Jared Sandifer Child says 30-year-old Anthony K. Andrews lost control of his truck while traveling north on La. 44 near Burnside.
Sandifer says Andrews failed to negotiate a left-hand curve, and his vehicle ran off the roadway to the right. After leaving the roadway, Andrews attempted to steer his vehicle back onto the roadway, causing it to roll.
Makell Andrews was partially ejected and died at the scene.
Ex-cop seeks new judge
for retrial over shooting
NEW ORLEANS — A former New Orleans police officer asked a federal judge Monday to disqualify himself from presiding over his retrial on charges he fatally shot a man without justification in Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath before the man’s body was burned in a car.
A court filing by lawyers for the former officer, David Warren, said U.S. District Judge Lance Africk made comments on the case that could call his impartiality into question.
During Warren’s sentencing, Africk said Warren’s testimony about his shooting of Henry Glover, 31, was “contrived and fabricated.”
“For you to suggest ... that Glover caused you to fear for your life by feigning the fact that he had a weapon in his hand is farcical,” the judge said. “Henry Glover was not at the strip mall to commit suicide. He was there to retrieve some baby clothing.”
In another instance, Africk said, “The Federal Bureau of Investigation, Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office can be commended for unmasking your deceit.”
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a new trial for Warren last month, ruling that Africk should have separated his trial from four other officers charged in Glover’s 2005 death.
Unlike the other officers, two of whom were acquitted at trial, Warren wasn’t charged with participating in a cover-up of Glover’s death. The 5th Circuit judges agreed with Warren’s argument that the “spillover effect” from other evidence unrelated to the shooting, including the burning of Glover’s body, prevented him from getting a fair trial.
Africk last week set a March 18 trial for Warren, who was a rookie when prosecutors say he shot Glover on Sept. 2, 2005. He sentenced Warren to more than 25 years in prison for the shooting outside the strip mall.
From The Associated Press.