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Attorney: Patti LaBelle had bodyguard beat cadet

HOUSTON (AP) - An ex-West Point cadet's attorney has told jurors that veteran R&B singer Patti LaBelle ordered her bodyguard to beat up the cadet, who was waiting outside a Houston airport terminal for a ride home.

The attorney said Tuesday during opening statements in a civil trial in Houston federal court that the attack resulted in a brain injury that forced cadet Richard King to withdraw from the U.S. Military Academy.

In his lawsuit, King alleges that he was attacked without provocation by LaBelle's bodyguard and two others while waiting outside a Bush Intercontinental Airport terminal in 2011.

But Geoffrey Bracken, one of LaBelle's attorneys, told jurors that King threw the first punch.

LaBelle's attorneys have said King also hurled racial insults at the singer.


Man sentenced for smuggling weapons into Mexico

McALLEN, Texas (AP) - A 27-year-old South Texas man has been sentenced to more than six years in prison for smuggling munitions such as barrels for grenade launchers into Mexico.

Federal prosecutors announced Tuesday that Eric Perez-Bazan of Hidalgo was sentenced in federal court in McAllen. He pleaded guilty last month to violating a federal law against exporting munitions.

Prosecutors say that for at least five years he was smuggling the grenade launcher barrels. He also acknowledged recruiting others to move firearms across the border.

At one point Perez-Bazan became aware investigators were monitoring him and fled into Mexico. He later was taken into custody when he tried to cross back into Texas.


Third man arrested in slaying of off-duty officer

SAN ANTONIO (AP) - Authorities say a third man has been arrested in the slaying of an off-duty police officer outside a San Antonio tattoo parlor in May.

Twenty-five-year-old Jesse Santibanez was apprehended Tuesday in San Antonio. Two other men, 33-year-old Jerry Idrogo (uh-DROH'-goh) and 36-year-old Alfred Cardona, previously were arrested and charged with murder in the case.

The killing of Balcones (bal-KOH'-nays) Heights officer Julian Pesina (puh-SEE'-nuh) is being investigated as a possible gang slaying.

An arrest affidavit contends Idrogo, who was apprehended last month in Toledo, Ohio, organized a meeting with Pesina at the parlor and then signaled for two others to shoot the officer. The affidavit alleges Idrogo then served as the getaway driver for the gunmen.

Santibanez also is charged with murder in the case.


Hidalgo clinics separate from Planned Parenthood

MCALLEN, Texas (AP) - Five women's health clinics in Hidalgo County have severed ties with Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

As of Monday, the clinics will operate through a new independent nonprofit called Access Esperanza Clinics Inc. in an effort to provide services to more women, men and teens. The split was recently approved by Planned Parenthood Association of Hidalgo County board.

The five clinics may also be able to accept a state insurance program covering 113,000 low-income women by next month. The Texas Women's Health Program helps to provide birth control and other family planning services to women who couldn't otherwise afford them through private health insurance.

In 2011, the state Legislature passed a bill that cut funding for clinics affiliated with abortion, causing half of the Planned Parenthood clinics in South Texas to shut down.


History books spark latest Texas classroom battle

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - As Texas mulls new history textbooks for its 5-plus million public school students, some academics are decrying lessons they say exaggerate the influence of Christian values on America's Founding Fathers.

Conservative activists, meanwhile, are complaining about what they see as liberal biases in the same books.

Those objections and dozens more were on display Tuesday at an hours-long, often tense Board of Education public hearing on more than 100 proposed new textbooks.

It's the latest ideological battle over what gets taught in the classrooms of America's second-largest state.

But this time, the right and left are both criticizing the books, though for very different reasons.

Despite high emotions, the board won't vote to approve new books until November. They won't go into classrooms until next year.


American Airlines agents approve union

DALLAS (AP) - Customer-service agents at American Airlines are voting overwhelmingly to join a union and reverse a "no" vote in 2013.

Federal labor officials announced the results Tuesday in voting that covered about 14,000 employees at airports and reservations centers and home-based agents.

About 86 percent of those voting are favoring representation by the Communications Workers of America and the Teamsters. The CWA lost a previous election in January 2013 by about 150 votes.

CWA President Larry Cohen says the difference in the outcome is that unlike previous management, American's current executives did not campaign against the union.

Negotiations on a contract covering wages and other items are expected to begin this fall.


Man pleads in Houston guilty to tax fraud scam

HOUSTON (AP) - A man living in Houston faces more than 20 years in prison for running a tax returns scam in which at least 600 people had their identities stolen.

Amon Rweyemamu Mtaza pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft. Federal prosecutors in Houston say the Tanzanian national was responsible for the $1.8 million tax refund filings scheme.

Investigators say Mtaza, who awaits sentencing, used stolen and unlawfully obtained personal identity information to submit fake returns and get refunds.

Mtaza faces up to 20 years for the conspiracy and wire fraud charges as well as a mandatory two years for each count of aggravated ID theft, to be served consecutively.

Mtaza must also forfeit two luxury cars, including a 2006 Maserati.


Houston police investigate body near reservoir

HOUSTON (AP) - An autopsy has been ordered on a man found dead in a wooded area near a Southeast Texas reservoir.

Houston police say a man walking his dog came upon the body late Monday afternoon near Addicks Reservoir.

Houston police on Tuesday asked for the public's help in identifying the man. Investigators did not immediately release a possible cause of death.

The Addicks Reservoir is in the San Jacinto River basin.


Bill Barrett to sell some properties, pay debt

NEW YORK (AP) - Bill Barrett Corp. has announced several deals that will net the company about $568 million in cash and help lower its debt.

The Denver-based oil and gas company on Tuesday said it's selling properties in the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming, and the Piceance Basin in Colorado. Bill Barrett also said it will acquire some property in the Northeast Wattenberg area in Colorado. The company values the total transactions at $757 million.

Some of the properties Bill Barrett is selling will be bought by Vanguard Natural Resources LLC. Houston-based Vanguard said it plans to buy the Piceance Basin assets from Bill Barrett for $525 million. That deal is expected to close by Oct. 1.

Bill Barrett did not name buyers of its other assets.


Bid withdrawn for large West Texas shelter

CLINT, Texas (AP) - A New York-based company has withdrawn its bid to build a shelter in West Texas that would have been the largest in the U.S. to hold unaccompanied children who enter the country illegally.

Charles McGuire, CEO of Watford Ranch, says federal officials told him there's no longer a need for the shelter southeast of El Paso so he's withdrawn a state application.

He had sought to build a 3,500-bed permanent facility, one that would have been far larger than other shelters. A temporary processing facility in McAllen holds about 1,000 children.

The Houston Chronicle reports ( ) there are 43 shelters in Texas with a capacity of more than 3,700.

Federal officials say more than 57,000 unaccompanied children have entered the U.S. since October but the surge has since subsided.


Delta announces Los Angeles-San Antonio nonstop

DALLAS (AP) - Delta Air Lines has announced plans for twice-daily nonstop flights between Los Angeles and San Antonio starting next spring.

Delta on Tuesday said the flights begin April 7, 2015.

Delta's daily nonstop service from Los Angeles International Airport to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport starts Nov. 3. The carrier also plans a third daily nonstop flight between Los Angeles and Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, beginning Nov. 2.

All flights are operated by Delta Connection carrier Compass Airlines.

Delta says the new flights will provide more options for Texas passengers wanting to connect to destinations in the carrier's trans-Pacific routes from Los Angeles.


Federal court declines to stop woman's execution

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) - A federal appeals court has refused to stop this week's scheduled execution of a North Texas woman for the starvation and torture death of her lover's 9-year-old son a decade ago.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected appeals Tuesday from lawyers for 38-year-old Lisa Coleman.

She's scheduled for lethal injection Wednesday in Huntsville.

Paramedics responding to a 911 call from an apartment in Arlington found Davontae Williams on a bathroom floor and first thought he was about 3 to 5 years old. He weighed only 36 pounds.

Evidence showed the 9-year-old had been restrained repeatedly, kept in a closet away from food and suffered more than 250 distinct injuries.

His mother and Coleman's partner, Marcella Williams, took a plea deal and is serving a life prison term.


Fort Hood soldier sentenced for fatal shooting

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) - A sergeant at Fort Hood has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for fatally shooting another man during a party last year at a home on the Central Texas post.

A plea deal capped the sentence Monday for 27-year-old Brett Wessel if he pleaded guilty to nonpremeditated murder. The Killeen Daily Herald reports ( ) he was demoted to the rank of private and dishonorably discharged.

Testimony before a military judge revealed Wessel was drunk when he left the party last September to retrieve a handgun at his home and returned to shoot Ryan Dickinson in the chest. The two had argued earlier.

Wessel, the father of three children with a fourth due in December, tearfully apologized to Dickinson's family Monday. Dickinson, a retired soldier, had two children.

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

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