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Driver in deadly immigrant smuggling case gets life sentence

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In this July 24, 2017, file photo, James Matthew Bradley Jr., left, arrives at the federal courthouse for a hearing in San Antonio, Texas. Bradley, the driver of a big rig involved in the deaths of 10 smuggled immigrants in Texas last year has been sentenced to life in prison. (Associated Press: ERIC GAY)

SAN ANTONIO — The driver of a big rig involved in the deaths of 10 smuggled immigrants in Texas last year was sentenced April 20 to life in prison.

James Matthew Bradley Jr. pleaded guilty in October to a count of transporting the immigrants resulting in death and a conspiracy count.

If he had gone to trial and been convicted, he could have faced the death penalty.

The life term Bradley received from senior U.S. District Judge David A. Ezra doesn’t include the possibility of parole.

At least 39 immigrants, most from Mexico and Guatemala, were inside the sweltering trailer found by San Antonio police last July in a Walmart parking lot.

Its refrigeration system wasn’t working and outside temperatures that day reached 101 degrees. Eight people died inside the trailer and two others died after being hospitalized.

Bradley, 61, was identified by prosecutors as hailing from Louisville, Kentucky, but he also had lived in Florida.

“I am so sorry it happened,” Bradley said in a video statement that his lawyers played in court Friday, the San Antonio Express-News reported. “There’s not a day or night that goes by that I don’t relive this scene.”

Ezra called Bradley’s actions “extreme by any measure,” according to the newspaper.

Bradley initially denied knowing anyone was inside the trailer, telling investigators he was transporting it for his boss from Iowa to Brownsville, which is on Texas’ border with Mexico.

But he raised suspicions by saying he had driven to another border city, Laredo, Texas, and stopped twice there before driving back to San Antonio, in the opposite direction from Brownsville.

Those who survived the ordeal described hellish conditions , saying they were reduced to crying and pleading for water due to the stifling heat. They eventually had to take turns breathing through a single hole in the side of the trailer.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security this week announced the “Operation Big Rig Campaign,” which aims to discourage immigrant smuggling by distributing informational materials at 15 truck stops and other locales in South Texas.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Nation

9 semis involved in accident on I-80 in Nebraska

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Of the 30 crashes reported to the Nebraska State Patrol Wednesday morning, the biggest took place near Aurora, Nebraska where 11 vehicles, nine of the big rigs, were involved in a large-scale accident on Interstate 80 (Courtesy: NEBRASKA STATE PATROL)

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — At least three people were injured in a large-scale accident on Interstate 80 Wednesday morning that involved nine semi-trucks and two passenger vehicles, The Grand Island Independent reported Thursday.

The vehicles were involved in multiple crashes on I-80 between Giltner and Aurora.

The paper’s report said five vehicles took part in a chain-reaction crash and that because of the pileup, I-80 was closed to eastbound traffic for about three hours while emergency crews worked at the scene and cleared the road.

Weather conditions were a factor in the crashes.

The paper said that at about 9:10 a.m., Hamilton County received a 911 call that two semi-tractor/trailers had crashed and jackknifed, blocking eastbound traffic near mile marker 328. As troopers and officers were en route to the scene, additional vehicles became involved in a chain-reaction crash. The first crash scene involved four semis and one passenger vehicle, a Jeep Cherokee.

After the initial incident, a pair of semis that were traveling together came upon the scene and were unable to stop. One struck the other, pushing it into the Jeep Cherokee.

Both occupants of the Cherokee were transported to the hospital in Aurora, but the passenger, Jason Palmer, 29, of Indiana, was flown to Kearney with life-threatening injuries. The driver was evaluated and has been released from the hospital.

One of the semi drivers, Jeffrey Clark, 56, of Colorado, was also transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

The paper reported that as traffic was stopped for the first crash scene, another semi jackknifed while attempting to avoid the stopped traffic. Moments later, another crash occurred a short distance to the west involving two more semis and a minivan. No injuries were reported in those crashes.

In total, there were nine semis and two passenger vehicles involved in the incidents near mile marker 328.

The State Patrol said within 24 hours after the storm began, troopers handled 166 motorist assists, responded to 30 crashes and assisted other agencies with 17 incidents. Motorist assists can include slide-offs, flat tires, etc.

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The Nation

White House ends California talks on mileage standards

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Democratic Sen. Tom Carper said the Trump administration's negotiations with the State of California over fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards have been "superficial and not robust at best, or duplicitous and designed to fail at worst." (Courtesy: U.S. Senate)

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration broke off vehicle mileage standards talks with California on Thursday, moving the two closer to a possible court battle that threatens to unsettle the auto industry.

The White House said in a statement that the administration, which wants to freeze mileage standards, would now move unilaterally to “finalize a rule later this year with the goal of promoting safer, cleaner, and more affordable vehicles.”

California officials and the Trump administration each accused the other of failing to present any good compromise proposal in the mileage dispute, which comes as President Donald Trump feuds with the Democrat-led state over his proposed border wall and his threats to take back federal money.

The administration announced last year it wanted to freeze what would have been tougher, Obama-era mileage standards for cars and light trucks. It would be one of a series of rollbacks targeting Obama administration efforts against pollution and climate change.

Under the administration proposal, the standards would be frozen after slightly tougher 2020 levels go into effect, eliminating 10 miles per gallon of improvement to a fleet average of 36 miles per gallon in 2025.

As part of the proposed mileage freeze, the administration threatened to revoke California’s legal authority to set its own, tougher mileage standards, a waiver granted that state decades ago to help it deal with its punishing smog. About a dozen states follow California’s mileage standards.

Lawmakers and automakers have urged the two sides to settle, warning that a split could divide the auto market, bring years of court battles and raise costs for automakers.

“This administration’s negotiations with the State of California over fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards have been superficial and not robust at best, or duplicitous and designed to fail at worst,” Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, the top Democrat in the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement late Wednesday, as the formal negotiations breakdown loomed.

“Litigation is not the best option here. It wastes time, money, creates uncertainty for American automakers, and harms the environment,” Carper said.

California officials say the administration never offered any compromise and that it broke off any contacts around December.

“We concluded at that point that they were never serious about negotiating, and their public comments about California since then seem to underscore that point,” said Stanley Young, spokesman for the state’s air board.

It’s the latest shot by the White House in its escalating feud with California. The Trump administration earlier in the week said it planned to cancel nearly $1 billion for California’s high-speed rail project and would seek the return of $2.5 billion more. Gov. Gavin Newsom said it was political retribution for the state’s role in leading a 16-state lawsuit against Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to get funds for his proposed wall at the southern border.

Since it takes several years to design vehicles, automakers have been planning to meet higher mileage requirements under Obama-era standards, as well as those in other countries.

For now, “essentially the industry is ignoring what Trump wants to do,” auto-industry analyst Sam Abuelsamid of Navigant Research said. “We know at least until this thing gets settled in the courts, we have to deal with California and the other states and have product that can sell there as well as products that can sell overseas.”

 

 

 

 

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Ohio governor’s administration proposes gas tax increase

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Ohio's Department of Transportation director, Jack Marchbanks, introduced the governor's $7.43 billion transportation budget proposal to the House Finance Committee. (Courtesy: OHIO DOT)

CINCINNATI — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s administration on Thursday recommended increasing the state gas tax by 18 cents a gallon beginning July 1 and annually adjusting that tax for inflation to provide sufficient funding for maintenance of roads and bridges.

Ohio’s Department of Transportation director, Jack Marchbanks, introduced the governor’s $7.43 billion transportation budget proposal to the House Finance Committee. The gas tax included in the two-year budget would be adjusted annually with the consumer price index to ensure sufficient funding going forward, Marchbanks said.

He said revenue raised the first year, by increasing the current 28-cent tax to 46 cents, equates to roughly $1.2 billion and will be split between the department and local governments.

Marchbanks told legislators that without more revenue in the face of the “impending transportation crisis,” there will be no funds for any highway improvement projects in the state and roads will deteriorate. Statistics show that deteriorating road conditions lead to more crashes, which lead to more fatalities, he said.

“Governor DeWine understands that maintaining the integrity of our roads and bridges is not only important to our economy; it is important to the health and welfare of our citizens,” Marchbanks said.

If the Legislature approves the recommendations, the proposal would provide the department in fiscal year 2020 with $750 million additional dollars in revenue to pave roads, fix guardrails, fill potholes, clear snow and ice, maintain bridges, and improve safety, Marchbanks told the committee. He said it also will provide local governments with a significant increase in the funding, including $1.6 million for every county in the state.

Marchbanks has previously said that contracts for road maintenance that totaled $2.4 billion in 2014 may drop to $1.5 billion in 2020, and a $1 billion gap remains in the department budget.

A transportation crisis is looming despite “all of ODOT’s multi-million dollar cost-saving efforts to make our agency leaner and more efficient,” he told committee members Thursday.

The department realizes that asking Ohioans to pay higher fees for roadway use is “no small task,” but hopes that most will understand the importance of responsible and sufficient transportation funding, the director said.

The Columbus Dispatch reported that Tom Balzer, president of the Ohio Trucking Association, and Grace Gallucci, president of the Ohio Association of Regional Councils, commented on a potential tax increase in testimony to legislators this week.

Balzer said that the state and local governments have immediate transportation needs, and the gas tax raises immediate revenue.

Gallucci pointed out that while questions remain about whether the gas tax is the fairest way to assess users of Ohio roads, it is a way to get needed money right away.

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