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AP News in Brief at 6:04 p.m. EDT

Prosecutors dismiss Alec Baldwin charge, citing new evidence SANTA FE, N.M.

Prosecutors dismiss Alec Baldwin charge, citing new evidence

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Prosecutors have formally dismissed an involuntary manslaughter charge against Alec Baldwin in the fatal 2021 shooting of a cinematographer on the set of the Western film “Rust, ” citing new evidence and the need for more time to investigate.

In a stunning turnaround for the 65-year-old A-list actor, special prosecutors Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis filed the notice to dismiss the only remaining criminal allegation against Baldwin on Friday in state District Court in Santa Fe. Prosecutors say the investigation is ongoing.

An involuntary manslaughter charge against Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the weapons supervisor on the film, is unchanged.

An online status hearing was scheduled for Friday afternoon in state District Court in the case against Gutierrez-Reed. Baldwin's involvement in the hearing was called off with no charge pending against him.

Friday's court filing echoed early statements from prosecutors that new facts had been revealed in the investigation that demand further investigation and forensic analysis, with little time left before evidentiary hearings scheduled to start on May 3.


Montana transgender lawmaker silenced: What to know

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The latest high-profile example of state legislative leadership deciding who can be heard during statehouse debates is playing out in Montana where a transgender lawmaker was silenced by Republican leaders for a second day Friday.

Rep. Zooey Zephyr, who was deliberately referred to using male pronouns by some conservative lawmakers demanding her censure, has said she will not apologize for saying lawmakers would have “blood on their hands” if they passed a ban on gender-affirming health care. Montana is among a wave of states passing legislation that opponents say could put transgender teens in jeopardy.

Montana’s House speaker said he won't let Zephyr speak on the chamber floor until she apologizes.

Here's what you need to know about the situation:



Music to Trump's ears: Whitewashing Jan. 6 riot with song

WASHINGTON (AP) — The song is simple and tinny, but that hasn’t stopped it from being embraced by former President Donald Trump and his allies in their campaign to rewrite the history of the deadly Capitol riot.

The tune, “Justice for All,” is the Star-Spangled Banner, and it was sung by a group of defendants jailed over their alleged roles in the January 2021 insurrection. Recorded over a prison phone line, the national anthem sounds more like a dirge than celebration and is overlaid with Trump reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

Despite its low fidelity, “Justice for All” has garnered a lot of fans. Trump, a Republican, played it at a recent rally in Waco, Texas, as images of Capitol rioters flashed behind him on a big screen, and the $1.29 song last month briefly vaulted to No. 1 on iTunes, supplanting such recording artists as Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift.

Experts on extremism and propaganda say the song is another example of how Trump and his most ardent allies are trying to gloss over an avalanche of evidence proving the Capitol riot was anything but an act of patriotic resistance.

And it shows how such revisionists have dug deep into authoritarian playbooks that rely heavily on the use of national identity to sway public opinion. In this case, Trump and his allies are ironically relying on America's most patriotic song in their efforts to whitewash an insurrection that contributed to five deaths and left more than 120 police offices injured, experts said.


Supreme Court set to decide on abortion pill access

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is facing a self-imposed Friday night deadline to decide whether women's access to a widely used abortion pill will stay unchanged or be restricted while a legal challenge to its Food and Drug Administration approval goes on.

The justices are weighing arguments that allowing restrictions contained in lower-court rulings to take effect would severely disrupt the availability of the drug, mifepristone, which is used in the most common abortion method in the United States.

It has repeatedly been found to be safe and effective, and has been used by more than 5 million women in the U.S. since the FDA approved it in 2000.

The Supreme Court had initially said it would decide by Wednesday whether the restrictions could take effect while the case continues. A one-sentence order signed by Justice Samuel Alito on Wednesday gave the justices two additional days, without explanation.

The justices are scheduled to meet for a private conference Friday, where they could talk about the issue. The additional time could be part of an effort to craft an order that has broad support among the justices. Or one or more justices might be writing a separate opinion, and asked for a couple of extra days.


Judge stays on Catholic bankruptcy despite church donations

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal judge refused Friday to recuse himself from the New Orleans Roman Catholic bankruptcy after an Associated Press report that he donated tens of thousands of dollars to archdiocese charities and consistently ruled in favor of the church in the contentious case involving nearly 500 clergy sex abuse victims.

U.S. District Judge Greg Guidry told attorneys in the high-profile case that a panel of federal judges he asked to review the possible conflict determined no “reasonable person” would question his impartiality despite his contributions and longstanding ties to the archdiocese.

Guidry read from the opinion of the Washington-based Committee on Codes of Conduct, which noted that none of the charities he donated to “has been or is an actual party” in the bankruptcy and that Guidry’s eight years on the board of the archdiocese's charitable arm ended more than a decade before the bankruptcy.

“Based upon that advice and based upon my certainty that I can be fair and impartial, I have decided not to recuse myself," said Guidry, who oversees the bankruptcy in an appellate role.

Guidry's announcement came hours after AP published its report and more than a week after it confronted him with its findings.


Russia's air force accidentally bombs own city of Belgorod

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia's military acknowledged that a bomb accidentally dropped by one of its warplanes caused a powerful blast in a Russian city not far from Ukraine's border, injuring two and scaring local residents.

Belgorod, a city of 340,000 located about 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of the Russia-Ukraine border, has faced regular drone attacks during Russia's current military operation in Ukraine. Russian authorities blamed the earlier strikes on the Ukrainian military, which refrained from directly claiming responsibility for the attacks.

The explosion late Thursday was far more powerful than anything Belgorod residents had experienced before. Witnesses reported a low hissing sound followed by a blast that made nearby apartment buildings tremble and shattered their windows.

It left a 20-meter (66-foot) -wide crater in the middle of a tree-lined avenue flanked by apartment blocks, damaged several cars and threw one vehicle onto a store roof. Two people were injured, and a third person was later hospitalized with hypertension, authorities said.

Immediately after the explosion, Russian commentators and military bloggers were abuzz with theories about what weapon Ukraine had used for the attack. Many of them called for strong retribution.


Confusion as Musk's Twitter yanks blue checks from agencies

CHICAGO (AP) — Twitter has long been a way for people to keep track of tornado watches, train delays, news alerts or the latest crime warnings from their local police department.

But when the Elon Musk-owned platform started stripping blue verification check marks this week from accounts that don't pay a monthly fee, it left public agencies and other organizations around the world scrambling to figure out a way to show they're trustworthy and avoid impersonators.

High-profile users who lost their blue checks Thursday included Beyoncé, Pope Francis, Oprah Winfrey and former President Donald Trump. But checks were also removed from accounts for major transit systems from San Francisco to Paris, national parks like Yosemite, official weather trackers and some elected officials.

Twitter had roughly 400,000 verified users under the original blue-check system. In the past, the checks meant that Twitter had verified that users were who they said they were.

While Twitter is now offering gold checks for “verified organizations” and gray checks for government organizations and their affiliates, it was not always clear why some accounts had them Friday and others did not.


Drive-by shooting wounds 3, kills 12-year-old bystander

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Bullets sprayed out from a speeding car in Connecticut's capital, killing an innocent 12-year-old bystander and wounding three other people who have have rap sheets that include gun crimes, authorities said Friday.

The suspects in the drive-by shooting appeared to target three males who were standing on a sidewalk on a residential street not far from downtown Hartford shortly after 8:30 p.m. Thursday, city police said.

Secret Pierce, a seventh grader at Milner Middle School, became Hartford's seventh homicide victim of the year. She was sitting in a parked car when she was shot in the head, police said. She died Friday morning. The three other victims, males ages 16, 18 and 23, were expected to survive.

“This is a painful day in our community,” Mayor Luke Bronin said at a morning news conference outside police headquarters. “I don’t have the words. I want to say to Secret’s mom and loved ones that we all are so deeply sorry. That we are with them today in grief, in prayer and with love. ... A tragedy like this ripples outward in a community and affects so many."

Police Lt. Aaron Boisvert said Secret was an innocent bystander. “Very tragic. Very unfortunate. Sickening,” he said.


'The Champagne of Beers' leaves French producers frothing

BRUSSELS (AP) — The guardians of Champagne will let no one take the name of the bubbly beverage in vain, not even a U.S. beer behemoth.

For years, Miller High Life has used the “Champagne of Beers” slogan. This week, that appropriation became impossible to swallow.

At the request of the trade body defending the interests of houses and growers of the northeastern French sparkling wine, Belgian customs crushed more than 2,000 cans of Miller High Life advertised as such.

The Comité Champagne asked for the destruction of a shipment of 2,352 cans on the grounds that the century-old motto used by the American brewery infringes the protected designation of origin “Champagne.”

The consignment was intercepted in the Belgian port of Antwerp in early February, a spokesperson at the Belgian Customs Administration said on Friday, and was destined for Germany.


Lyft gears up to make 'significant' layoffs under new CEO

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Lyft is preparing to lay off hundreds of employees just days after new CEO David Risher began steering the ride-hailing service with a eye toward driving down costs to help bring its fares more in line with its biggest rival, Uber.

Risher, a former Amazon executive, informed Lyft's workforce of more than 4,000 employees in an email posted online Friday that a “significant” number of them will lose their jobs. It came at end of his first week as Lyft's CEO.

The note didn't specify how many people would be jettisoned, but The Wall Street Journal reported that at least 1,200 employees will be laid off. The report cited unidentified people familiar with the cost-cutting plans.

San Francisco-based Lyft didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Risher, who had been a Lyft board member before being recruited to replace co-founder Logan Green, cited expense control as one of his top priorities during a interview with The Associated Press shortly after his hiring was announced. By ensuring Lyft is “super efficient,” Risher said the company would be in a better position to lower its fares to lure back passengers who had shifted to using Uber more frequently because that service was offering lower prices for the same trips.

The Associated Press