New England in brief

Houses passes tougher sex-offender bill

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June 5, 2008

The House has passed legislation supporters say would strengthen protections of children from sex offenders. The bill, modeled after Florida's Jessica's Law, creates three criminal charges that carry mandatory minimum sentences. It also increases penalties for using a weapon in a crime and for using a position of authority to assault a child. It also allows prosecutors to subpoena Internet service providers to help track online sexual predators. The legislation, which now goes to the Senate, was unveiled last month by House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi and the state's top law enforcement officials. (AP)

Gang member guilty in kidnap case
A 20-year-old gang member has pleaded guilty to charges of assault and battery and kidnapping, according to a statement from Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley. Eduardo Ramirez was sentenced Tuesday by Judge Frank Gaziano in Suffolk Superior Court to three years in state prison for his role in the 2007 abduction of a 17-year-old girl who was held against her will in Revere. After his release, Ramirez will be remanded to federal authorities and deported to his native El Salvador. The prosecution said they had five witnesses who would have taken the stand against Ramirez and his 28-year-old former codefendant, Jorge Granados, who pleaded guilty last year.

House approves state ban on trans fats
House lawmakers have approved what would be the nation's first statewide legislation banning trans fats restaurants. The bill now moves to the Senate. Its sponsor - Representative Peter Koutoujian, Democrat of Waltham - said trans fats are responsible for as many as 4,000 premature deaths annually in Massachusetts. The bill would require restaurants to remove oils, shortenings, and margarines containing trans fat used for frying or in spreads within a year. Oils or shortenings used for deep frying doughnuts would be phased out over 18 months. (AP)

Sunken trawler's hull design reviewed
The head of a firm that performed engineering work on a trawler that sank in the Bering Sea, killing five people, says the Alaska Ranger had a design feature that should have protected the vessel in case its hull punctured. Herbert Roeser told a federal investigative panel in Boston yesterday that he was surprised to learn that the rudder room was where the vessel took on water, because the ship had a double-walled hull below the room. The panel is focusing in part on the hull's design because of testimony the vessel had gone through pack ice that could have damaged the hull. The Seattle-based ship went down March 23. (AP)

Inmate charged anew after victim's death
A man serving a prison sentence for stabbing a man in Weymouth in 2001 is now facing a murder charge after the victim, who was paralyzed, died last year. Nicholas M. Cirignano, 27, was indicted yesterday by a Norfolk County grand jury, the Norfolk district attorney's office said. Prosecutors said that on July 3, 2001, Cirignano stabbed Matthew R. Nagle, who was 22 at the time, in the neck, severing his spinal cord and paralyzing him. In 2005, Cirignano was found guilty of assault with intent to kill and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and was sentenced to 9 to 10 years in prison. Nagle died July 23, 2007.

State panel sought to oversee school funds
A $1.1 million school budget deficit has prompted the Town Council to call for a state control board to oversee School Department finances. The council voted this week to file legislation to create the control board, which would consist of several state officials and Mayor Christine Forgey. Councilor Timothy Farrell said the move is necessary to restore public confidence in the school system. The legislation would also allow the city to borrow up to $1 million to help stabilize school finances. (AP)

Man admits posing as ex-NBA player
A Somerville, Mass., man who has been passing himself off as a former NBA player and Sonics front-office employee told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that he is an impostor. Ronnie Craven went by the name Jeff Turner. When contacted by the Seattle paper, he said he misrepresented himself on an online dating site and lied to women for sex. A Sonics spokesman, Tom Savage, says Turner has never been an employee. The team says it is working with NBA security. An NBA spokesman, Tim Frank, said the league is investigating. Craven said he has received a cease-and-desist order from a lawyer for the Sonics. (AP)

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