National news briefs: 3/22/14

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Agent cleared in Fla. death

WASHINGTON -- The FBI agent who fatally shot a Chechen man in Orlando, Fla., during an interrogation in May about the Boston Marathon bombing suspects has been cleared of wrongdoing by a prosecutor in Florida and by an FBI internal review, according to law enforcement officials.

Another review, by the Justice Department, which is almost complete, is expected to conclude that the agent followed proper guidelines on the use of force when he killed the Chechen, Ibragim Todashev, according to the officials. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to jeopardize their access to classified information.

The FBI agent who shot Todashev was based in the Boston field office, and he and two Massachusetts state troopers had traveled to Florida for the interrogation after investigators uncovered evidence tying him to the bombing suspects, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. During the interview, Todashev, who had lived in the Boston area before moving to Florida, said he and Tamerlan Tsarnaev were behind a 2011 triple homicide in Waltham, Mass. But Todashev said he knew nothing about the bombing plot.

Flights unreported

WASHINGTON -- The agency that tracks federal travel did not report hundreds of expensive personal trips aboard government planes for senior Justice Department officials including Attorney General Eric Holder and former FBI Director Robert Mueller, according to a watchdog report.

Congress's nonpartisan Government Accountability Office determined that the 395 flights cost taxpayers $7.8 million.

The findings, released Thursday, came out nearly 19 months after Republican lawmakers began questioning Mr. Holder's use of an FBI jet for travel unrelated to Justice Department work. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked the GAO to look into the matter.

N.C. pulls pollution deal

RALEIGH, N.C. -- North Carolina regulators said Friday they have asked a judge to withdraw a proposed settlement that would have allowed Duke Energy to resolve environmental violations by paying a $99,000 fine with no requirement that the $50 billion company clean up its pollution.

The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources said in a statement that it would scuttle the proposed consent order to settle violations for groundwater contamination leeching from coal ash dumps near Charlotte and Asheville.

Gay marriage ban rejected

CHICAGO -- Michigan's gay marriage ban was held unconstitutional by a U.S. judge Friday, making it the 21st state where same-sex unions are deemed legal and triggering a bid by its attorney general to freeze the ruling during an appeal.

Michigan's Attorney General Bill Schuette, a Republican, said he would immediately seek a stay.

Hawaii cops to strike out?

HONOLULU -- Hawaii lawmakers Friday vowed to restore a line in a bill that would make it illegal for police to have sex with prostitutes.

Currently in Hawaii, police working within the scope of duty are exempt from all prostitution laws. A line in House Bill 1926 would have removed that exemption if officers have sex with prostitutes, but it was removed when Honolulu police told lawmakers that exemption was an important part of fighting crime.

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