Panel says Maryland’s congressional district map is unconstitutional, must be redrawn for 2020

BALTIMORE — A three-judge federal court panel ruled Wednesday that the state unconstitutionally drew the boundary lines for Maryland’s 6th congressional district to benefit Democrats, and banned the state from using that map in elections moving forward.

Because the congressional district maps are interconnected, the decision effectively requires the state to redraw all the district boundaries.

The panel ruled in favor of seven Republican plaintiffs in the redistricting case who argued that their influence in the 6th District was diluted in violation of their First Amendment rights.

The court barred the state from using the 2011 redistricting plan — which established the current map — in the future and ordered it to adopt a new plan for use in the 2020 congressional elections.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan hailed the opinion. “This is a victory for the vast majority of Marylanders who want free and fair elections and the numerous advocates from across the political spectrum who have been fighting partisan gerrymandering in our state for decades,” he said in a statement.

“With this unanimous ruling, the federal court is confirming what we in Maryland have known for a long time — that we have the most gerrymandered districts in the country, they were drawn this way for partisan reasons, and they violate Marylanders’ constitutional rights,” the governor said.

— The Baltimore Sun

Abortion clinics on edge after woman who shot Kansas doctor is released from prison

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Abortion clinics across the country were taking extra precautions Wednesday after the anti-abortion activist who shot Wichita, Kan., physician George Tiller in 1993 and committed a string of clinic attacks in several states was released from prison.

Rachelle “Shelley” Shannon, the Oregon woman whose actions once triggered a federal investigation into the possible existence of a national conspiracy of anti-abortion terrorists, had been living in a halfway house in Portland, Ore., since May. She has spent 25 years in custody.

“We’re extremely concerned,” said Katherine Spillar, executive director of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “We’re alerting providers, briefing them and making sure they have enough security precautions in place.

“We know by her own writings and the writings of those who went on to commit violence that this is a woman who inspired three murders.”

Shannon’s release was confirmed Wednesday by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. She will be on supervised release for three years, but the conditions of her release are not public information, the bureau said.

“She’s going on probation,” said the Rev. Donald Spitz, an anti-abortion activist who has remained in regular contact with Shannon. “She said the conditions of release are going to be very strict.”

— The Kansas City Star

Charges: Driver, passenger fought for control of steering wheel before truck hit Scouts on Wis. highway

CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. — The driver and passenger of a Wisconsin pickup truck fought for control of the vehicle seconds before it veered into a ditch Saturday morning and struck a group of Girl Scouts and adults cleaning up litter along a rural highway, killing four.

The two men were inhaling Dustoff, a computer keyboard cleaner they “huffed” to get high, and as the truck veered across the centerline they each took the wheel before the crash, according to formal charges filed Tuesday.

Driver Colten R. Treu, 21, faces 11 criminal counts that carry a combined maximum sentence of 281 years and nine months in prison. He surrendered hours after a Chippewa County Sheriff’s Department deputy followed a trail of fluid from the crash scene to a garage on Joseph Street in Chippewa Falls that belonged to Treu and his roommate and passenger, John Stender Jr.

The charges against Treu include four counts of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle, five counts of hit and run and intentionally abusing a hazardous substance. Treu also faces one count of felony bail jumping because he was under court orders to stay law abiding after he was released from custody in nearby Rusk County on Oct. 2 over a felony count of methamphetamine possession.

The 11:40 a.m. crash Saturday along County Road P near the Hwy. 29 overpass in Lake Hallie, roughly 95 miles east of Minneapolis, killed Jayna S. Kelley, 9, and Autumn A. Helgeson, 10, both of Lake Hallie, Wis; and Haylee J. Hickle, 10, and her mother, Sara Jo Schneider, 32, both from Lafayette, Wis.

A 10-year-old girl, Madalyn Zwiefelhofer, remains hospitalized at Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

— Minneapolis Star Tribune

Ecuadorian ex-president ordered to stand trial over kidnapping

QUITO, Ecuador — An Ecuadorian judge Wednesday opened a criminal trial against former President Rafael Correa and three others in connection with the attempted kidnapping of a former lawmaker.

However, Judge Daniella Camacho suspended the beginning of the trial against Correa until he surrenders or is apprehended as he cannot be tried in absentia. The former head of state has resided in Belgium since 2017.

Correa, who was president from 2007 to 2017, is suspected of involvement with the attempted kidnapping of former lawmaker Fernando Balda in Bogota, Colombia, in 2012.

The preliminary hearing for the trial lasted more than three hours and was confidential; it was only attended by the parties’ attorneys, prosecutor Ruth Palacios and Balda.

The judge’s ruling came in response to a prosecutor’s office request in September to summon Correa and three others to stand a criminal trial, after it found elements for a conviction.

The former head of Ecuadorian intelligence agency Senain, Pablo Romero, and police officers Raul Chicaiza and Diana Falcon are the other three defendants summoned to stand trial.

— dpa