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State Briefs

By The Associated Press • May 2, 2018 at 9:00 AM

Driver guilty of murder in deaths of 5 Michigan bicyclists

KALAMAZOO (AP) — A reckless driver who was on drugs when his pickup truck crashed into a pack of bicyclists, killing five, was convicted Tuesday of second-degree murder.

Charles Pickett's trial lasted just a few days in Kalamazoo County. There was no dispute that he had swallowed painkillers and other drugs before driving, although his lawyers argued that murder charges were excessive. 

Pickett now faces up to life in prison at his sentencing on June 11.

Pickett's truck plowed into a pack of bicyclists on a rural road in Kalamazoo County’s Cooper Township in June 2016. Nine people were hit, including five who died from their injuries.

Assistant prosecutor Michael Kanaby told jurors that Pickett almost hit a pedestrian before hitting the cyclists.

"He could have stopped there and said, 'Holy cow, I'm not fit to be on the road,'" Kanaby said. "But he didn't do that. He smashed into those people, destroying their bodies, their lives."

Court scratches forgery conviction of Benton Harbor activist

BENTON HARBOR (AP) — The Michigan Supreme Court has thrown out the conviction of an activist who was charged with forgery after submitting petitions to recall a Benton Harbor mayor.

Edward Pinkney was sentenced to at least 30 months in prison in 2014 and has been on parole since last June.

The Supreme Court said Tuesday that Pinkney's conviction in Berrien County must be set aside because he wasn't properly charged under Michigan law. The court says its decision is "unusual" and "not one that we reach lightly."

In a 6-0 decision, the court says Pinkney was charged under a penalty provision of election law.

Pinkney was accused of changing dates on recall petitions so signatures would be counted. The recall election against James Hightower was never held.

Man charged in death of woman struck during target practice

RILEY TWP. (AP) — A man has been charged in the death of a 73-year-old woman after she was struck by a stray bullet fired during target practice in rural Michigan.

Michael Vultaggio, 21, was arraigned last week on charges of careless discharge of a firearm causing death and lying to a police officer. Bond was set at $10,000.

His lawyer, Wayne Tomala, declined to comment to the Times Herald of Port Huron.

Shirley Pfeil died after being shot inside her home March 25 in St. Clair County's Riley Township. Police said Vultaggio was shooting at a berm on his nearby property.

Pfeil's husband reported she collapsed after he heard a loud crack, and she died at a hospital.

A preliminary examination is set for May 15.

Senators push for continued Great Lakes cleanup funding

TRAVERSE CITY (AP) — U.S. senators from states in the Great Lakes region are pushing for continued federal funding of a program designed to make progress on the lakes' most pressing ecological challenges.

A dozen senators from both parties signed a letter of support for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. It was sent Tuesday to leaders of a subcommittee that recommends spending on environmental programs.

The senators requested $300 million for the initiative in 2019. That's roughly the amount it has received annually since 2010.

President Donald Trump proposed eliminating the program's funding last year. His 2019 budget would cut it by 90 percent.

The senators say in their letter the funding cut would reverse progress that's been made on problems such as toxic pollution, invasive species and runoff that causes toxic algae.

Imprisoned ex-Detroit mayor, friends owe another $7.4M

DETROIT (AP) — The amount of money owed by imprisoned former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick continues to grow.

A federal judge has ordered Kilpatrick and friends Derrick Miller and Bobby Ferguson to pay a contractor more than $7.4 million for profits lost to bid-rigging on water department contracts.

The contractor, Willie McCormick and Associates, said city contracts were steered toward Ferguson's companies and that kickbacks were given.

Kilpatrick was ordered in August 2017 to pay $1.5 million in restitution to Detroit's water department related to his 2013 corruption conviction. He was sentenced to 28 years in federal prison.

Kilpatrick has said he's broke. In 2014, he owed $800,000 to Detroit for restitution in another criminal case and $195,000 to the IRS.

Ferguson also is in prison. Miller was sentenced to time in a halfway house.

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