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Helicopter crashes off Louisiana coast

Helicopter crashes off Louisiana coast

BATON ROUGE — The US Coast Guard on Thursday spent hours searching the waters off Louisiana for four people who were aboard a helicopter that crashed in the Gulf of Mexico.

The helicopter crashed while exiting an oil platform around 8:40 a.m., said Petty Officer Jose Hernandez, a spokesman for the Coast Guard’s 8th District, which is headquartered in New Orleans.

Crews searching by boat and helicopter had found no trace of them.

“We’re still looking for all four,” Hernandez said. “We haven’t found anyone.”

The helicopter crashed about 10 miles off the coast of Southwest Pass, a shipping channel at the mouth of the Mississippi River southeast of New Orleans.

Hernandez said those missing included the pilot of the helicopter and three oil rig workers.

Helicopters routinely transport workers to and from oil platforms in the Gulf.

Hernandez said the platform will be operated by Houston-based Walter Oil and Gas.

Weather did not appear to be a factor in the crash, Hernandez said, as there were no reports of storms in the area Thursday.

Two weeks ago, the Coast Guard rescued three people after a helicopter crashed off the Louisiana coast while attempting to land on an oil platform. That crash happened on Dec. 15 south of Terrebonne Bay, about 60 miles west of the area the Coast Guard searched Thursday.

Judge dismisses suspect’s Jan. 6 defense

A federal judge in Washington rejected a defense suggestion by a man accused of taking part in the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riots that he was merely following orders from then-President Donald Trump.

In his Wednesday opinion, U.S. District Court Judge John Bates cited the Jan. 6 panel’s finding that Trump knew it would be illegal to stop certification of the 2020 election that day.

It’s the first time a judge referred to the committee’s findings when issuing an opinion on the storming of the Capitol.

“The conclusions reached here — that protesters, even when they believed they were following orders, were not misled as to the legality of their actions and thus fall outside the scope of an official defense — are consistent with the findings of the select committee,” said Bates wrote in a footnote for comment.

Defendant Alexander Sheppard faces six felony charges, with social media posts and videos showing him inside the Capitol confronting police guarding the doors while members of Congress are evacuated from the House chamber, the judge wrote.

Seeking to capitalize on authorities’ defense, Sheppard said his actions were taken with reasonable reliance on statements by Trump. The government refused to allow him to defend himself in court.

That defense is available only when the officer’s statements say or imply that the defendant’s conduct is lawful, Bates said. There is no indication Trump told the protesters what they were doing was legal, the judge said.

Missouri Health Defunding Bill blocked

ST. LOUIS — A judge has rejected efforts by the Missouri legislature to block Planned Parenthood from receiving public funding.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Cole County Judge Jon Beetem ruled Wednesday that the funding restrictions were unconstitutional.

At issue was a bill passed by the Republican-led legislature and signed into law by GOP Gov. Mike Parson in February to stop Planned Parenthood reimbursement for health care for low-income Medicaid patients.

While the state’s Medicaid program does not reimburse abortions, Planned Parenthood has requested reimbursements for other medical procedures. The group said in March, while suing the state, that Missouri was halting reimbursements for birth control, cancer screening, STD testing and other treatments.

Yamelsie Rodriguez, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood for the St. Louis and Southwest Missouri region, celebrated the decision, which Planned Parenthood said upheld a 2020 Missouri Supreme Court ruling.

“The Missouri legislature’s open disregard for precedent and state law has failed again,” she said in a statement.

Migrant boat stopped near Florida Keys

U.S. Coast Guard crews and Customs and Border Protection agents stopped a migrant boat with about 20 people on board off the Florida Keys on Wednesday.

The stop occurred about 3 miles from Boot Key Harbor in the Middle Keys town of Marathon around 2 p.m., said Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Estrada, a Coast Guard spokesman.

According to initial reports, the boat was a “tucker,” or the type of makeshift vessel Cuban migrants often use to make the perilous journey across the Florida Straits. The boats vary greatly in their level of seaworthiness.

The people on the boat will likely be put on a Coast Guard cutter and taken back to their country of origin, Estrada said.

South Florida, particularly the Keys, is the destination of the largest sea escape from Cuba in nearly a decade.

— Compiled by Democrat Gazette contributors from wire reports

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