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News Brief: Week of Feb. 17-23


Jussie Smollett arrested

After claiming last month to be a victim of a hate crime, actor Jussie Smollett was arrested early Thursday, Feb. 21, on felony charges of falsifying a police report.

Smollett, who plays a supporting role in the Fox television drama Empire, told police he was assaulted early Jan. 29 in downtown Chicago by two men in ski masks. The men shouted racial and homophobic slurs while also saying “this is MAGA country,” according to Smollett, who is black and openly gay.

According to police, Smollett orchestrated the attack with the assistance of two Empire crew members. Smollett was dissatisfied with his salary and believed he could command higher pay through the attack, police said.

A day after his arrest, Fox announced Smollett would be written off from the final two episodes of the upcoming season of Empire.

Cargo plane crashes near Houston

An Amazon cargo plane carrying three crew members and several hundred parcels crashed 30 miles outside the Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston on Sunday, Feb. 24, killing all on board.

Witnesses say they saw the plane take a sharp turn before nose diving into the Trinity Bay just north of Galveston, TX.

According to meteorologists, showers and thunderstorms were in the area, meaning severe turbulence could be to blame for the crash.

Tornado in Southeast kills one

An early-season tornado ripped through the town of Columbus, MS, late Saturday, Feb. 23, killing one and injuring several others.

According to Columbus Mayor Robert Smith Sr., a 41-year-old woman died when the home she was renovating collapsed on top of her. Elsewhere in the city, at least a dozen were injured and major damage was sustained at a school and community center, Smith said.

The tornado arrived as part of a massive storm system, which brought severe storms and flooding rains to the Southeast and blizzard conditions to the Northeast.

High profile figures arrested

Two high profile sports and entertainment figures were charged with sexually-based offenses on Friday, Feb. 22.

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was charged with soliciting prostitution at a spa in Juniper, FL. The criminal allegations came as part of a larger investigation into human trafficking, according to police.

Singer and songwriter R. Kelly was arrested and charged with 10 counts of criminal sexual abuse. Prosecutors say Kelly, who has a long history of alleged sexual misconduct, sexually abused four victims as young as 14 from 1998 to 2010. His bond was set at $1 million.


$1,200 teacher pay raise passes House

Looking to reverse a recent trend of Oklahoma educators taking jobs in nearby states, the Oklahoma House of Representatives approved a $1,200 a year statewide teacher pay raise on Wednesday, Feb. 14.

The raise, which is now expected to be approved by the Oklahoma State Senate and Gov. Kevin Stitt to become law, would take effect next fiscal year and raise the minimum teacher salary in Oklahoma to $37,801.

Prior to the teacher walkout one year ago, the starting salary for an Oklahoma teacher was $31,600.

Stitt first proposed giving teachers the $1,200 raise during his State of the State address Feb. 4.

Medical marijuana regulations to be considered  

The Oklahoma House of Representatives will consider legislation designed to regulate the medical marijuana industry this week.

House Bill 2612 would set stricter guidelines on medical marijuana taxing, seed-to-sale tracking and employment restrictions. According to House Majority Leader John Echols, R-Oklahoma City, the bill is designed to address problems which have arisen since medical marijuana became legal last July.

More than 52,000 Oklahomans have applied for a medical marijuana license since last year.


Spring Sing this weekend

After weeks of practice and preparation, Spring Sing week on the Oklahoma Christian University campus is officially here.

Tickets for the Friday night and Saturday afternoon shows are still available online. Students may also receive a free ticket for the Thursday night staff show.

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