Distractions Cited in crashWASHINGTON — The pilots of two Phoenix news helicopters had so many distractions they lost track of each other, resulting in a midair crash that killed four, a federal safety panel said Wednesday. National Transportation Safety Board said the probable cause of the July 2007 crash was that the two helicopters drifted too close together because the pilots were focused on watching a police car chase and reporting the event for their television stations. COURTS
MAYOR DENIES KATRINA FRAUDJACKSON, Miss. — The mayor of a Mississippi city devastated by Hurricane Katrina pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges he lied to get disaster assistance to repair his damaged beachfront home. Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr is the highest-ranking public official so far to be charged with fraud related to the storm that slammed the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, 2005.
GIRL TAKES DEAL IN TAPED ATTACKBARTOW, Fla. — One of five teenagers accused in the videotaped beating of a Florida girl has accepted a plea deal. Mercades Nichols, 18, pleaded guilty Tuesday to battery and tampering with a witness. The State Attorney’s Office said a kidnapping charge was dropped. Nichols was among a group arrested in 2008 and accused of attacking a 16-year-old classmate. The attack was recorded on video and broadcast. DEATH
Fall injuries claim acrobatSCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — An aerial acrobat has died after falling 15 to 20 feet and landing headfirst during a performance in Scottsdale, Ariz. Authorities were investigating the cause of the incident Tuesday at the FBR Open golf tournament event that killed 33-year-old Jose Angel Vera of San Diego. He says investigators do not suspect foul play or criminal or mechanical issues. CRIME
THIEF STEALS FESTIVAL ATTIREASHLAND, Ore. — Police in southern Oregon are on the lookout for a crook dressed to lead 76 trombonists. Someone broke into the costume shop at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival last weekend. The crook made off with hats and coats designed for "The Music Man” and "Macbeth” productions opening next month. Among the missing items: two of Professor Harold Hill’s jackets and a gray straw boater. The Associated Press ALSO ... ELEPHANT EXHIBIT: The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to finish a $42 million elephant exhibit and keep its lone pachyderm at the zoo, despite pleas by former "Price is Right” host Bob Barker and other celebrity opponents to scrap the project.