Scandal at state lab prompts call for new oversight board

Republican lawmakers are calling for creation of a new state board to oversee forensic services facilities after a former chemist was accused of tampering with drug evidence at a state lab.

The proposal announced on Wednesday by the four Republican members of the state Senate would create a five-member oversight panel consisting of the secretary of public safety, the attorney general, the state inspector general, the head of the state police and one gubernatorial appointee.

The scandal involving former chemist Annie Dookhan threatens to unravel thousands of criminal cases and cost the state at least $30 million. Dookhan has pleaded not guilty to obstruction of justice.

Senate Republican Leader Bruce Tarr said the proposed board would oversee all state facilities that perform drug testing or other forensic services for criminal investigations in Massachusetts.


Bishop of Episcopal diocese says he will retire next year

The outspoken bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts says he plans to retire in 2014.

Bishop M. Thomas Shaw, who has stood up for social justice and held the diocese together during the disputes over gay marriage and gay clergy in his nearly two decades of leading the church, announced on the diocese website that he is calling for an election to select a successor in April 2014.

He did not give a specific reason for stepping down, but said he made the decision after “prayer and conversation with my community, friends and family.”

The 67-year-old Shaw has led the diocese since September 1994. The diocese has 68,000 members in 185 congregations in eastern Massachusetts.


Parole board delays ruling on murderer’s early release

The Rhode Island Parole Board has again delayed a decision on the early release of a Woonsocket man imprisoned for a 1999 “thrill killing.”

WPRI-TV reported that a decision in the case of Alfred Brissette Jr. has been pushed back to Feb. 13. The board administrator said the board met with Brissette on Wednesday and wants more information on his release plan.

Brissette in 2004 pleaded no contest to murder for killing Jeanette Descoteaux. He was sentenced to serve 35 years in prison and was supposed to be released in 2034.

The board agreed last year to release him more than 20 years early but his release plan fell through. The board is revisiting the case.

Advocates for victims’ rights have rallied to try to stop Brissette’s early release.


Man’s Facebook photos lead to his arrest for guns, drugs

Providence police say they arrested a city teenager after seeing photos of him with drugs and guns on his Facebook page, along with a posting suggesting that he would deliver marijuana to any buyer.

Police said they got a search warrant and raided 19-year-old Darren Main Jr.’s home in the Manton neighborhood Monday. Officers said they seized two firearms and more than two dozen bags of marijuana.

Main is being held without bail on drug and gun charges. It’s not clear if he has a lawyer.

Authorities said Main called himself “IPlead ThePiff” on Facebook and suggested in postings that he was in a gang. Police said one of Main’s Facebook friends had warned him against showing incriminating photos. The friend said he did the same thing and got busted.


Second child porn conviction gets man 10 years in prison

Federal prosecutors say a West Brookfield man has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for his second conviction of possessing child pornography.

Forty-four-year-old Christopher Boucher pleaded guilty on Tuesday in federal court in Springfield to possession of material involving sexual exploitation of a minor. His sentence includes 10 years of supervised release with special conditions for sex offenders.

Prosecutors said state police found a laptop a year ago at Boucher’s former home in Ware that contained video showing multiple rapes of a young girl. Prosecutors said Boucher told police he used file-sharing programs on the Internet to get images of sex acts involving children 12 to 15 years old.

Boucher was sentenced in 2001 to five years’ probation and six months home detention after pleading guilty to possession of child pornography.


Suspect in bank heist caught hiding in bank across street

Littleton police say a man suspected of robbing a bank in town tried to elude police by hiding in another bank right across the street.

Deputy Chief Matthew King said 25-year-old Christopher Grannis fled Northern Bank & Trust with an undetermined amount of cash just before 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.

A bank employee reported that Grannis was seen sprinting across the street.

King told The Sun of Lowell that it took just minutes for officers to locate Grannis inside the Citizens Bank on the other side of the road. The stolen money was recovered.

Grannis was charged with unarmed robbery, witness intimidation and resisting arrest.


White Mountains museum gets gift of 6,000 volumes

As it prepares to open next month, a museum dedicated to New Hampshire’s White Mountains has received a 6,000-volume collection of books, maps and historical material.

The donation to the Museum of the White Mountains at Plymouth State University comes from Jack and Anne Newton of South Natick, Mass., who said they want the public to enjoy and understand the region’s history.

The couple started collecting White Mountain material in the 1960s, when they acquired an old farmhouse property in Lancaster, which Anne Newton’s ancestors helped settle in 1816. Jack Newton, who served in leadership positions with the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Mount Washington Observatory, said he used to visit book dealers on the lookout for obscure items.


Woman denies accusation that she bit her daughter, 2

A woman accused of biting her 2-year-old daughter in the shoulder because the child had bitten her has pleaded not guilty to charges of assault and child cruelty.

A police officer said he saw distinct teeth marks on the child’s shoulder and asked the mother, 20-year-old Christina Crandall of Bennington, what happened. Crandall denied biting the girl.

The Bennington Banner reported that Crandall’s boyfriend, Michael Darby, said Crandall told him she had bitten the child because the child bit her first and she wanted the child to know how it felt.


Court to hear group’s claim against Vermont Yankee

In a rare legal proceeding, the state Supreme Court is to hear arguments that the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant is continuing to run in violation of a 2002 order by the Public Service Board.

The anti-nuclear group New England Coalition is asking the court to intervene in what it says is plant owner Entergy Corp.’s disobedience of the board order that allowed Entergy to buy Vermont Yankee.

A memorandum of understanding agreed to by Entergy and the state was incorporated into the board’s decision as a condition that Vermont Yankee would shut down if it didn’t have a new state permit by March 21, 2012. The plant continues to run without a new permit.

Entergy has argued it was blocked from getting the new permit by interference from the Legislature.


Governor vows to veto bill raising beer tax by a dime

Gov. Maggie Hassan is pledging to veto a bill to raise New Hampshire’s beer tax a dime if it reaches her desk.

Hassan told reporters Wednesday the discussion should be about jobs and the economy and now is not the time to raise the tax, especially with the New England Patriots possibly headed to the Super Bowl.

The tax currently is 30 cents per gallon and paid at the wholesale level. State Rep. Charles Weed, a Keene Democrat, proposes designating receipts from the increase to alcohol abuse and prevention treatment.