Texas Digest: Paxton’s request for new judge is rebuffed


COURTS

Paxton’s request for new judge rebuffed

A judge has rebuffed Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s request that he step aside before the Republican stands trial on criminal securities fraud charges in September.

A spokeswoman for state District Judge George Gallagher confirmed Monday that he will stay on the case. Paxton had asked for a new judge after his trial was moved from his hometown in suburban Dallas to Houston.

Melody McDonald Lanier said Gallager doesn’t need to formally rule on the motion to remove him. Gallagher had sided with prosecutors who argued that they couldn’t get a fair trial in Collin County because of the publicity that has surrounded the case for two years.

Paxton was indicted in 2015 after being accused of misleading investors in a tech startup. He has pleaded not guilty.

COURTS

Mom accused of recording child’s abuse

Court records show a Houston-area woman is accused of placing a plastic bag over the head of her 1-year-old son and sending video of the abuse to relatives because she was upset that the child’s father had a new girlfriend.

Jamelle Peterkin, 23, of Humble appeared in court Monday on a charge of endangering a child.

The boy’s aunt, Ra’Neicha Broadnax, told KTRK-TV in Houston that in recent days she had received videos and pictures from Peterkin also showing the child being slapped.

Broadnax said Peterkin indicated she was angry about the father’s girlfriend.

Peterkin is also accused of placing a plastic bag in the child’s mouth.

The current condition of the child is not detailed in the report.

Online records don’t indicate whether Peterkin has an attorney.

COURTS

Woman gets $760K for skydiving incident

A Texas woman has been awarded $760,000 after she was badly injured in a skydiving accident in Oklahoma.

Mackenzie Wethington was 16 in January 2014 when her parachute malfunctioned and she fell more than 3,000 feet to the ground in Chickasha. Her injuries included damage to her liver and a kidney, some bleeding in her brain, and a broken pelvis, lumbar spine in her lower back, shoulder blade and several ribs and several teeth.

Court records show the now-19-year-old Wethington, of Joshua, was awarded $760,000 last week.

Robert Swainson, the owner of now-closed Pegasus Air Sports in Chickasha, has said he believes Wethington panicked and didn’t follow instructions. The lawsuit said that the teenager wasn’t properly trained and that her parachute was inappropriate for her skill level.

WEST TEXAS

Nearly weeklong tire fire finally out

A fire in which an estimated 100,000 tires were burning for nearly a week at a West Texas disposal facility finally is out, authorities say.

West Odessa Volunteer Fire Chief Jimmy Ellis told the Odessa American that a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency team covered the flames with dirt at the 3-acre site. He said some flames might be deep inside the rubble but there’s no sign of smoke.

No injuries were reported, and no structures were affected. A cause for the fire, which began April 9, has not been determined, and an investigation is continuing.

Ellis said every volunteer fire department in the area responded and firefighters were helped by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality but there weren’t enough resources immediately to put it out. The tires have been used for a land reclamation project.

WEST TEXAS

Energy group backs softer lights near observatory

Some oil and gas drillers in West Texas could make lighting less harsh during 24-hour drilling operations in deference to the McDonald Observatory.

The Midland Reporter-Telegram reported Monday that such changes are meant to protect darkness for the observatory, which is near Fort Davis and is operated by the University of Texas.

The Permian Basin Petroleum Association, working with the observatory, recently issued recommended lighting practices. Concerns were raised about a surge in oil and gas production and the glare and glow from work lights.

Association President Ben Shepperd said the group’s board approved the recommendations involving lighting type, coloring and direction. Officials hope to keep work-related lights pointed below the horizon to help mitigate light pollution, and they also want to reduce glare at job sites to encourage safety.



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