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State Briefs

By The Associated Press • Jan 11, 2019 at 8:00 AM

Whitmer names testing exec, ex-Obama official to lead DHHS

LANSING (AP) — A former Obama administration official who is an executive with the nonprofit that administers the SAT will lead the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which is the state's largest agency.

Robert Gordon was named director of the 14,400-employee department on Thursday by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who took office last week.

The sprawling agency accounts for nearly 45 percent of the $56 billion state budget. It handles welfare, food assistance, Medicaid, child protection and other services.

Gordon, an education policy expert, has been senior vice president of finance and global strategy at The College Board for nearly four years. He previously held jobs in the federal Department of Education and the Office of Management and Budget during Barack Obama's presidency.

Gordon will start Monday and make $175,000 a year, the same as former director Nick Lyon, whom former Gov. Rick Snyder kept at the helm despite Lyon facing manslaughter and other charges related to Flint's water crisis. 

Gordon's appointment will stand unless it is rejected within 60 days by the Republican-led Senate.

Freeway closed after human waste spills from truck

ERIE TWP. (AP) — A freeway in southeastern Michigan just north of the state line with Ohio was closed Thursday morning after a truck hauling human waste rolled over and spilled its contents along the roadway.

The crash happened at about 9:40 a.m. on northbound I-75 near Monroe County's Erie Township.

The Detroit Free Press reported that Michigan State Police Sgt. Rod Goss said the spill initially was "reported as tar, then it was reported as human waste."

Crews were called in to clean up the mess. One of the freeway's three lanes had been reopened by noon.

Judge erases convictions of 2 men after years in prison

DETROIT (AP) — A man who spent more than 20 years in prison cried as a judge erased his conviction for sexually assaulting a child.

Kevin Lackey publicly thanked his family for "never giving up" on him and believing in his innocence. The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office asked that his 1993 conviction be thrown out after concluding it was based on unreliable evidence from a police tracking dog.

A judge on Thursday also threw out the second-degree murder conviction of Michael Powels, who has been in prison since 2008. Prosecutors say a key witness gave false testimony.

Lackey was released from prison in 2014. Lackey and Powels could be eligible for compensation from the state.

Separately, prosecutors say Lackey faces gun and assault charges in a new case. His lawyer, Todd Perkins, said there will be a "vigorous defense." He called it "rain on victory day."

State Senate candidate's campaign literature charge dismissed

ANN ARBOR (AP) — A misdemeanor charge related to campaign literature has been dismissed against a recent Michigan Senate candidate.

The Ann Arbor News reported that Ann Arbor District Judge Elizabeth Hines issued an opinion Thursday that the state law under which Anuja Rajendra was charged with falsely representing herself as an incumbent is an unconstitutional infringement of free speech.

Rajendra, an Ann Arbor businesswoman, lost a four-way Democratic primary race in August 2018. 

She was defended by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.

Rajendra said after Thursday's hearing that "words cannot describe the trauma of being thrown into the criminal justice system when you did nothing wrong."

The Washtenaw County Prosecutor's Office says it hasn't decided yet whether it will try to appeal Hines' decision.

Lawsuit seeks to keep Michigan property as pet cemetery

HOWELL (AP) — Several people whose pets are buried at a shuttered Michigan pet cemetery are suing to make sure remains of an estimated 74,000 animals there won't be disturbed.

The Livingston Daily Press & Argus reported attorney Mike Olson filed the civil lawsuit Tuesday on their behalf in Livingston County Circuit Court. They're seeking more than $25,000 in damages and an emergency restraining order to prevent any change to the property, which is for sale.

Olson said those with pets buried there were "tricked" and "feel betrayed."

The Associated Press sent a message seeking comment Thursday to Shari Pollesch, an attorney representing Carol Street Park Ridge LLC, which is listed as currently owning the property.

Heavenly Acres pet cemetery in Livingston County's Genoa Township closed after its lease expired Sept. 30, 2018.

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