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State Briefs

By The Associated Press • Mar 26, 2019 at 8:00 AM

Voluntary statewide tornado drill planned for Wednesday

LANSING (AP) — A voluntary tornado drill is planned in Michigan as officials encourage residents to prepare for the possibility of severe weather this spring and summer.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has proclaimed this week as Severe Weather Awareness Week in the state.

A tornado drill is planned to take place at 1 p.m. Wednesday. Michigan residents, businesses and organizations are encouraged to take part in the effort.

Officials are encouraging residents to learn about severe weather warnings, put together an emergency preparedness kit, make an emergency plan and compile emergency contacts. The safety effort includes the Michigan State Police's Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division.

Details of emergency preparedness tips and other information are posted online at michigan.gov/msp.

Man gets 50-140 years for sex assault against infant girl

BATTLE CREEK (AP) — A judge has sentenced a mid-Michigan man to 50-140 years in prison after he pleaded no contest to two counts of criminal sexual assault against an infant girl.

Matthew Toole, 32, of Battle Creek learned his punishment Monday after entering the plea in January, WWMT-TV reported. A no-contest plea isn't an admission of guilt but is treated as such for sentencing.

Toole was one of several people arrested last August and September as police and prosecutors in Calhoun and Branch counties investigated what they called a child porn ring.

Toole and his girlfriend were arrested last year on charges. She's awaiting trial. They're among four charged with conspiring to kidnap and kill a child in Branch County.

Michigan sorority sorry for prompting false 'shooter' alert

ANN ARBOR (AP) — A University of Michigan sorority whose members popped balloons as part of a team-building event has apologized for triggering an "active shooter" alert on campus.

The balloon popping occurred March 16, at the same time a vigil was being held nearby for victims of the New Zealand mosque attacks a day earlier.

The alpha Kappa Delta Phi chapter issued an apology in a letter published Sunday in The Michigan Daily. Members said they're "truly sorry" and should've been "more cognizant" of their actions.

Alerts issued by the Ann Arbor school told students near Mason Hall to "run, hide, fight." Authorities later said there had been "balloon popping activity" in the area and there was no "malicious intent" behind the activity.

The letter says sorority members stand "in solidarity with our fellow Muslim students and marginalized communities."

2 arrested after guns pulled during fight at birthday party

KALAMAZOO (AP) — Police said two men were arrested after guns were pulled during a fight at a birthday party in southwestern Michigan with children in attendance.

No shots were fired during the fight on Sunday evening in Kalamazoo. A woman at the party had what police described as minor injuries.

Police found a large group of people at the party and witnesses told them at least two people with guns had fled. Police arrested two 31-year-old Kalamazoo men and recovered at least three guns.

Witnesses told police that several others had handguns.

Police are asking anyone with information or cellphone video of what happened to contact them.

Permits available April 1 to cut firewood on Michigan lands

LANSING (AP) — Michigan residents who heat their homes with wood can get permits to cut dead and fallen trees on designated state forest lands beginning April 1.

The Department of Natural Resources said individuals can cut up to five standard cords of firewood for personal use.

The DNR manages 4 million acres of state forest land in the northern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula. Some wood also may be available in state game areas where forests are managed to create habitat.

Fuelwood is for personal use only and cannot be resold or traded. Wood must be dead and down within 200 feet of a road.

Permits cost $20 and are good for 90 days after they are issued.

Cancer doc who mistreated patients will get a hearing

DETROIT (AP) — A doctor sentenced to 45 years in prison for putting cancer patients through needless treatments has persuaded a judge to hold a hearing on his claim that his guilty plea was the result of bad advice.

Farid Fata wants to set aside his 2014 guilty plea. He claims lawyer Christopher Andreoff assured him that he would get a shorter sentence if he pleaded guilty to fraud. But the government didn't seek his cooperation, and he didn't get a break.

Andreoff denies telling Fata that he could get him a 20-year sentence. He says the evidence against Fata was "overwhelming," and the doctor wasn't reluctant to plead guilty.

U.S. Magistrate Judge David Grand said he will hear testimony July 30 about Fata's claim of ineffective legal counsel.

Separately, the government is asking a judge to approve $4.2 million in payments to Fata's victims or their families. About half of that amount is for funeral expenses.

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