November 19 news

MINNESOTA - A sentencing hearing for a serial bank robber known as the “Man in Black” was canceled Monday after the defendant requested to have his six guilty pleas withdrawn. Mark Edward Wetsch is accused of holding up 31 banks, including the bank in Brewster, in a 2012 robbery spree, averaging one bank every eight days over an eight-month period. He ultimately pocketed more than $108,000.

He changed his name in July from Wetsch to Sheik Bilaal Muhammad Arafat, and has previously maintained he is being persecuted because he sympathizes with the terrorist group al-Shabab.

Monday, he handed a motion to the judge’s clerk just minutes before the sentencing was supposed to take place. The motion claims Arafat had been coerced into pleading guilty. He was expected to receive a 14-year prison sentence as part of a plea deal.
Prosecutors have until Dec. 9 to respond.

WORTHINGTON - Following an Oct. 26 state quarterfinal football game in Brainerd, an incident occurred between the Minnesota West and Central Lakes teams, as well as in the parking lot between some Bluejay players and opposing fans which prompted the Minnesota College Athletic Conference (MCAC) to put the entire Minnesota West athletic program on probation.

Minnesota West Community and Technical College president Richard Shrubb has formally appealed the program-wide probation handed down by the governing conference. Shrubb gave a counteroffer as an alternative, asking that the football team face suspension, but other athletic teams not be placed on probation.

Shrubb has enlisted the services of former Minnesota West president Ron Wood to head a committee designed to create recommendations for the funding and management of football and asked the MCAC to suspend the program for a period of time to allow for the review.

The appeal and counteroffer has been received by the MCAC, but no decision has been made.

WORTHINGTON - A 17-year-old juvenile male arrested on Nov. 10 in conjunction with the Oct. 29 guns burglary in Marshall made his first court appearance Monday in Nobles County District Court. He pleaded not guilty to charges of one count of receiving stolen property, possessing a pistol without a permit and possession of a firearm by a person under 18. An evidentiary hearing has been set for Nov. 26 to determine probable cause for the charges against him.

The juvenile is also still a suspect in the Oct. 29 burglary of Borch’s Sporting Goods, which involved a vehicle stolen earlier that day in Worthington. It was discovered by Marshall police officers that his shoe print was a match to one found at the Borch’s crime scene. Charges against him have not been filed for the burglary.

SIBLEY, Iowa – At the Sibley-Ocheyedan School Board on Monday night superintendent Bill Boer laid out his plans to combat bullying in the district. He wants to review policies, re-organize an existing anti-bullying committee, and find appropriate speakers to discuss the effects of bullying with students. Parents who spoke at the school board meeting aren't convinced the changes will be enough.

Last month, a boy was bullied by teammates on a school bus before a football game. Two boys have been expelled for two months and face assault with sexual intent charges, while a third boy is charged with simple assault and served a five-day school suspension.

Tom and Amber Taylor, parents of the victim, have some suggestions to change the school's environment when it comes to bullying. Amber would like to see a mandatory daily meeting with a guidance counselor for every student. Tom said his idea is more peer-on-peer pressure, but in a good way. Students lose special "perks" or privileges" for misbehavior.

IOWA - A group of Iowa landowners are organizing to oppose plans to build a $2 billion electric transmission line that would provide a boost to wind power in the state. The proposed 500-mile line that a subsidiary of Clean Line Energy Partners wants to build would stretch from O'Brien county in northwest Iowa to Morris, Illinois.

The line is drawing opposition from some farmers along the proposed route. They're concerned the construction of towers for the line and maintenance could disrupt their farms and compact the soil.

Company officials say the transmission line would connect Iowa wind farms with communities in other states that want the electricity, and more wind projects would be possible.

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