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Hearing set in Amish girls' kidnapping in NY

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - A woman accused along with her boyfriend of abducting and sexually abusing two young Amish sisters is due in court for a preliminary hearing.

Nicole Vaisey will be in court today. Her lawyer says she's a victim of an abusive relationship with 39-year-old Stephen Howells Jr.

Howells waived his right to a similar hearing. His case will go to a grand jury in St. Lawrence County near the Canadian border.

The couple is in jail without bail. They were arrested and arraigned Friday, accused of abducting the 7-year-old and 12-year-old sisters from the family's rural farm stand.

The sisters turned up the next night at a house 15 miles from their home.

The Associated Press generally does not identify victims of sexual abuse and is not naming the girls.


New York gets $800M in Bank of America settlement

NEW YORK (AP) - New York state is getting $800 million as its share of a national $16.65 billion settlement with Bank of America over its role in the sale of mortgage-backed securities in the run-up to the financial crisis.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced the settlement this morning. He says the bank has agreed to pay the state $300 million in cash and $500 million in the form of direct relief to consumers.

The deal calls for the bank, the second-largest in the U.S., to pay a $5 billion cash penalty and provide billions of dollars to struggling homeowners. Bank of America says its cash payouts will total $9.65 billion.

The settlement is the largest deal the government has reached with a bank over the 2008 mortgage meltdown.


Cuomo: Outlaw gender identity discrimination

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - New York's governor says transgender people should be protected from discrimination and says that if elected to a second term he'll push to include gender identity and expression in the state's civil rights law.

In a letter to the Empire State Pride Agenda, Governor Andrew Cuomo notes that transgender people face significant discrimination and that the state should outlaw discrimination against them when it comes to things like housing, employment and public accommodations.

The state already prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, disability and gender.

Legislation that would add gender identity and expression to the list has passed the state Assembly but not the Senate.

Empire State Pride Agenda, an organization that advocates for gay and transgender rights, announced Cuomo's support Thursday. It also says it's endorsing Cuomo's re-election.


Man charged after boyfriend dies following fight

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) - Police in Syracuse say a 30-year-old man has been charged with manslaughter after his boyfriend died when the two men got into a fight.

Authorities say police and emergency crews were called shortly before 11 p.m. Tuesday for a report of a medical emergency at a home on Wendell Terrace. When they arrived, they found 36-year-old Dale Schantz in cardiac arrest.

Schantz was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital, where he was pronounced dead a short time later.

Witnesses told police that David Davis and Schantz had fought, with Schantz collapsing during the altercation. Police say Davis then left the scene.

An autopsy by the Onondaga County Medical Examiner's Office ruled that the death was a homicide and the altercation contributed to the victim's death.


Ex-guard pleads guilty to running family off road

CANTON, N.Y. (AP) - A former jail guard is facing more than 10 years behind bars for running his family off a northern New York road during a domestic dispute last fall.

The Watertown Daily Times reports that 33-year-old Douglas Matthews Jr. of Canton pleaded guilty Wednesday in St. Lawrence County Court to an assault charge stemming from the October crash on Route 310 in the town of Canton.

Prosecutors say Douglas rammed a car driven by his 65-year-old mother-in-law, causing the vehicle to go off the road and overturn in a cornfield. Inside the car was his 33-year-old wife and their two sons, then 5 and 9. Only his wife was injured. She was released from a hospital the day after the crash.

Douglas was a corrections officer at the county jail. He'll be sentenced Oct. 14 to 10½ years in prison.


Cops: Man had pot, bombs, guns in his upstate home

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. (AP) - State police say a 50-year-old man had homemade explosives and tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition along with the marijuana plants he was growing inside his upstate New York home.

Authorities say a state police task force and local police executed a search warrant Tuesday at the Binghamton home of John Hamilton. Police say inside the house they found 13 marijuana plants along with pot-growing equipment.

Troopers say Hamilton also had three assault rifles, 13 homemade explosive devices, 14 military-grade smoke and riot grenades, and illegal knives. Police say he also had 18 other long guns and more than 45,000 rounds of ammunition.

Hamilton is jailed on weapon and drug charges. He's being held without bail at the Broome County Jail.


Man sentenced for stealing $717K from employer

ELIZABETHTOWN, N.Y. (AP) - A 64-year-old northern New York man has been sentenced to five to 15 years in prison for stealing more than $700,000 from his longtime employer.

The Press-Republican of Plattsburgh reports that Lawrence Jaques (jayks) received the maximum sentence Wednesday in Essex County Court, where he pleaded guilty in June to a grand larceny charge. He was also ordered to repay the money he stole, plus a 10-percent surcharge.

Prosecutors say the former town of Keene council member stole nearly $718,000 over a 10-year period from Torrance Construction, based in the town of North Elba. Authorities say he used the money to buy personal items and take his family on trips.

Jaques was arrested in December 2012 after the Internal Revenue Service raised questions about his income.


Rabies vaccine airdrop underway in western NY

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - Public health authorities in western New York are conducting baited vaccine airdrops this week to reduce rabies in the local wildlife population.

The Erie County Department of Health says fixed-wing aircraft began dropping rabies vaccine baits on Tuesday in areas of Erie and Niagara counties. Airdrops from helicopters are tentatively scheduled to begin Monday and conclude the following Saturday.

Health department personnel will also be distributing baited vaccines on foot and from vehicles.

So far this year, 16 animals in Erie County have tested positive for rabies. Officials say most were bats and raccoons, but some skunks and foxes also had the disease.


Roadkill on menu for zoo's carnivore exhibits

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) - Roadkill is part of the menu when it's feeding time at a zoo in western New York

The Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester reports that the Seneca Park Zoo has been feeding deer carcasses to its carnivores for years. The practice began after a zoo employee hit a deer on the way to work.

The zoo gets the deer after they've been hit by vehicles on Rochester-area roadways. But it won't accept deer that have been dead for more than 10 hours. The zoo also accepts deer killed by bow hunters.

Veterinarians at the zoo inspect each carcass for diseases before approving it for feeding.

The zoo's lions, tigers, wolves, hyenas, ocelots and snow leopards have received deer in the past.

A national zoos group approves of the practice for carnivore exhibits.


168th New York State Fair opens

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) - The New York State Fair has kicked off its 12-day run that features national touring acts and a new operator for the rides on the midway.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo cut a ribbon Thursday morning to officially open the fairgrounds in the Syracuse suburb of Geddes (GEH'-dehs).

Kellie Pickler leads off the fair's entertainment lineup with a free afternoon concert at Chevy Court, followed by the Barenaked Ladies at night. Other acts performing free concerts include Ashanti on Sunday and the Doobie Brothers on Labor Day, Sept. 1.

Country music star Brad Paisley kicks off the concerts in the Grandstand with a Thursday night performance. Other Grandstand performers include Pitbull on Saturday, Kid Rock on Monday and Jason Aldean on Aug. 30.

The fair's midway includes more than 60 rides provided by Wade Shows.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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