Finance officials say Maine state revenues were below estimates in December by $5.2 million as Christmas-season sales did not quite measure up to what was hoped for.But the state’s associate finance commissioner for tax policy, Michael Allen, also says total revenues through the first half of fiscal 2013 are slightly above budget estimates.Allen told the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee on Thursday that Maine continues to work its way through a “challenging economic environment.” Overall consumer purchasing is weak, with the weakest area in building supplies. But Allen says there are also some signs of resurgence, for example in auto sales which are doing better.As for the holiday shopping season, Allen sales weren’t great, but they weren’t as bad as people feared.
There may be a plea deal in the works for the business partner of a Zumba dance instructor charged with running a prostitution business from her Kennebunk studio. A lawyer for Mark Strong Sr. confirmed Wednesday that a conference with prosecutors is scheduled for Friday, where a settlement may be discussed. The 57-year-old Strong is scheduled to go on trial Tuesday in York County Superior Court on 59 misdemeanor charges of conspiring with Zumba instructor Alexis Wright to run a prostitution business. Strong’s attorney, Daniel Lilley, tells The Portland Press Herald, his client wants a deal in which he gets a small fine but avoids jail. Lilley says he’s removing himself from the case because Strong can no longer afford to pay him. Strong and Wright have pleaded not guilty.
A former bus driver for the Scarborough school system has been charged with asking a 16-year-old girl to send him a nude picture of herself. Stephen Mitton of Westbrook was ordered held on $5,000 bail after appearing Wednesday in Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court on charges of sexual exploitation of a minor and unlawful sexual touching. The 47-year-old Mitton was also ordered to have no contact with the alleged victim or her mother. According to court documents, the alleged victim was the daughter of a friend, and the touching involved slapping her behind. Scarborough school officials say Mitton quit on Tuesday, and the charges do not involve Scarborough students. He had worked for the district for a year. Police say the alleged crimes occurred in Westbrook.
A Vietnam veteran from Maine is getting a long-overdue honor. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins on Thursday will present the Purple Heart to Stephen Andrews of Harrison. Collins says Andrews was wounded in battle in Vietnam in 1967, but never received the medal he earned and deserves. After being contacted by Andrews’ family, Collins, a Maine Republican, worked to secure the medal for the 66-year-old veteran. Maine National Guard Chief of Staff Col. John Jansen and representatives from the VFW and Auxiliary will join Collins in the late-morning ceremony.
As far as states go, Maine is the cat’s meow.This year, Maine ranked second in the nation for cat ownership.According to an American Veterinary Medical Association report, more than 46% of Maine households have a cat.That’s second only to Vermont, where 49.5% own cats.
Some teenagers from Brunswick got in trouble for running around with guns. Turns out the guns were fake.They were making an action movie. The guns aren’t real and the effects are computer-generated. Millions of people have watched these action scenes on YouTube, and 17-year-old Paul Kousky, the creator of “USN Films,” says his contract with Google to sell ads is quite lucrative. “I should be set for college if I don’t get any scholarships,” he says.Kousky and friend Angelo Gerardi are both honor students and are working toward becoming Eagle Scouts. The boys and their friends have been producing these movies for a while now. “There is detailed planning going into the videos,” Gerardi added. “There’s extreme processing going on. There’s a lot of acting going on. People are trying, and we’re being safe about it.” However, concerns about safety are what brought these young filmmakers to the attention of Brunswick Police recently. On Friday, police issued criminal trespass warnings to the moviemakers because the teens had shot scenes at Brunswick Landing and the public library, without permission. “We didn’t really try to hide it,” Kousky explained. “We didn’t sneak in and try to film a video and get out. There was a librarian on site who knew that we were filming. The library was open.” Police Chief Richard Rizzo says he’s worried about what could happen if someone calls the cops because of the staged gunplay. “We don’t recognize that the weapons that they have, that are very realistic-looking, are pretend, and we warn them to drop the gun and they don’t do it quickly enough, and the officer feels threatened, and then something tragic happens.” Library officials are now saying almost all of the students are welcome to come back, just without anything that resembles a weapon. 14:14:43-14:14:55 peter lowe/curtis memorial library: “We have great kids in our community,” said Peter Lowe of the library. “We have enterprising kids in our community. We have kids who are being creative. We want to be supportive of that but, in the wake of what happens around us in society, we also have to make sure that we keep people safe.”Paul Kousky has been accepted to the US Naval Academy.Angelo Gerardi is thinking about a career in law enforcement.
A Fryeburg man has been sentenced to four years in prison for stealing vintage guitars and jewelry from a Porter home. Zachary Jackson was sentenced Tuesday after pleading guilty to burglary, two counts of theft and receiving stolen property. He was also ordered to pay more than $7,000 in restitution. Prosecutors say the homeowner caught a man and a woman leaving his home in April with jewelry. They were told to drop the items, but instead ran to a car and drove off. They were later identified as the 24-year-old Jackson and 24-year-old Tiffany Loring. The Sun Journal, reports that two of the five guitars missing from the home turned up at a Portland pawn shop. Not all of the stolen items were recovered. Loring’s case is pending.
Bidding for a rare Stephen King has reached $2,800.Meantime, the auction deadline has been moved up.”The Regulators” was written under King’s pen name, Richard Bachman.There are only 500 copies like it in the world.It comes with a limited edition slipcase cover, and it’s signed by King.Money raised from the auction of the book will go to the Emmaus Homeless Shelter in Ellsworth for its fuel fund.The book is on display at Scottie’s Book House in Hancock.You can place your bid in person at the store.You can also call in your bid at 667-6834 or e-mail the store at Scotty Books at www.yahoo.com.Bidding will now end this Friday, January 18th.
Governor LePage wants to build a new prison, with 100 million dollars in bond money.Maine’s medium-security prison in Windham has been added on to in stages through the years.The plans call for eight of the center’s eleven buildings to be torn down.The prison is a minimum and medium security facility.Right now it has about 620 inmates.
Take into account Maine women and their families.That message was delivered loud and clear to lawmakers in Augusta on Tuesday as they consider a new budget.Women from throughout the state turned out for Women’s Day at the State House.Organizers say they want to make sure decisions being made by our elected officials reflect the priorities of Maine’s women.”Many of the decisions that are made here in the State House affect women,” said Eliza Townsend, Executive Director of the Maine Women’s Lobby. “The state budget is one of those in particularly. Last year’s did a terrible disservice to women. So we wanted to remind our policy makers that we are 51% of the population.”Women dressed in red filled the Hall of Flags as a sign of solidarity.
A man accused of being connected to a prostitution ring in Kennebunk is losing his lawyer.Dan Lilley has been representing Mark Strong.Lilley told the judge he hasn’t been paid and doesn’t have the resources to properly prepare for Strong’s trial, so he’s removing himself from the case.Strong is accused of promotion of prostitution, violation of privacy and conspiring with Alexis Wright.Wright is accused of running a prostitution operation from her fitness studio in Kennebunk and will be tried separately.
Police say a Livermore Falls teenager injured in a weekend car crash has died. Chief Larry White Sr. says 17-year-old Megan Baril died at about 11 a.m. Monday at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston of injuries sustained in Sunday’s crash. Police say Baril was a front-seat passenger in a car driven by 17-year-old Alyssa Lamontagne that struck a utility pole. White says Baril was not wearing a seat belt. Lamontagne, and a second passenger, 16-year-old Sheila Jordan, were taken to the hospital with what were described as non-life threatening injuries. All three teens are from Livermore Falls. White tells the Sun Journal, says speed appears to be a factor, but the crash remains under investigation and no charges have been filed.
Hostess Brands’ shuttered bakery in Biddeford could soon have a new owner, but it’s not clear whether it would reopen or rehire any laid off employees. Georgia-based Flowers Foods has signed an agreement to buy the plant as part of its effort to acquire some assets of the bankrupt company, which made Wonder Bread, Twinkies and other baked goods. A spokesman for Flowers wouldn’t say Monday whether it would reopen the plant or rehire any of its 370 workers, who were laid off late last year when Hostess Brands Inc. ceased operating. Former employees, however, tell The Portland Press Herald (http://bit.ly/VXWwwH ) that they consider the sale a good sign. A Hostess spokesman said the auction will likely happen in late February and a sale could be completed by mid-March.
A Maine teenager charged with rape who resisted efforts by prosecutors to be tried as an adult has given up his fight. The Portland Press Herald, reports that Mohammed Mukhtar withdrew his objection to the prosecution’s motion to try him as an adult during a hearing Monday. Mukhtar is charged with breaking into a 50-year-old woman’s home in May and raping her. He denies the charge. The case has bounced between adult and juvenile court because of confusion over Mukhtar’s birth date. Prosecutors say the Somali refugee was born Jan. 1, 1994, which made him 18 at the time of the alleged rape. His attorney says the birth date was assigned him by immigration officials and his real birth date is Oct. 25, 1994, which made him 17 at the time.
A section of the new Memorial Bridge connecting New Hampshire and Maine is moving to its new location. The bridge’s new south span is expected to be transported by barge from the State Pier in Portsmouth onto rebuilt piers in the Piscataqua River on Tuesday. Crews will then be adjusting the 300-foot-long span’s elevation with a temporary jacking system onto the bearing on the top of each pier. The barge is expected to be moved out from the under the bridge during low tide on Tuesday night. Workers will then start to assemble the north span which is expected to be put in place in March.
A small earthquake has shaken the ground near Brunswick, Maine. Julie Dutton from the National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colo., says the 2.4 magnitude quake hit at 1:19 p.m. Monday, about 18 miles southeast of Brunswick. She says it was felt in Wiscasset and Bath. There were no reports of injuries or damage. Such small earthquakes aren’t uncommon in Maine. Occasionally, there are bigger ones like a 4.0 magnitude quake in October that rattled southern Maine was felt as far away as Connecticut.
The business partner of a Zumba instructor charged with running a prostitution ring from her dance studio in Maine is seeking a delay of his trial. An attorney for 57-year-old Mark Strong Sr. of Thomaston has asked a York County judge to allow him more time to prepare for the trial that is scheduled to begin next week. Defense attorney Daniel Lilley is seeking a new trial date of Feb. 19. Strong is charged with promotion of prostitution, violation of privacy and conspiring with Alexis Wright, whom authorities say ran a prostitution operation out of her Zumba studio in Kennebunk. Wright is being tried separately.
The owner of Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor has struck a deal to merge with the parent company of Portland’s Mercy Hospital.If approved by regulators, Mercy Health System of Maine will merge with Brewer-based Eastern Maine Health Care.Mercy Hospital would remain non-profit, and would retain its Catholic identity.Besides approval from state and federal regulators, the merger also needs the Vatican’s blessing.It could take up to nine months to seal the deal, which would result in a health care company with nearly ten thousand employees.
Two men accused of being part of a ring that smuggled narwhal tusks from Canada to Maine have pleaded not guilty. Andrew Zarauskas of New Jersey and Jay Conrad of Tennessee each face 29 smuggling and money laundering charges. Prosecutors say two Canadian men smuggled the tusks across the border in a trailer and Zarauskas and Conrad bought the tusks.
A Massachusetts man has been found guilty of killing two people in Maine. A jury found 31-year-old Joel Hayden guilty of shooting and killing the mother of his four children, as well as a longtime friend.Hayden pleaded not guilty to killing his girlfriend, 27-year-old Renee Sandora, and his childhood friend, 28-year-old Trevor Mills, of Massachusetts, at Sandora’s home in New Gloucester in July 2011.Evidence presented at trial included the 911 call in which Sandora can be heard saying “my boyfriend just shot me,” and testimony from the couple’s 8-year-old son, who said he saw his father shoot his mother.Hayden’s attorneys told jurors DNA evidence points to another possible killer.