NATION IN BRIEF: Trial begins for cops charged in sex attack

Trial begins for cops charged in sex attack

NEW YORK — Lawyers defending three police officers charged in a subway station baton sex attack case portrayed the accuser as a scam artist who made up the story to get money from the city.

In opening statements Thursday, defense lawyer John Patton said tattoo parlor employee Michael Mineo was not sodomized and there was no evidence to prove Mineo's statements that he was attacked with a police baton in 2008.

Pelosi: House lacks votes to OK health bill

WASHINGTON — Democrats' last-ditch approach to saving President Barack Obama's sweeping health care overhaul — prodding House members to pass a Senate version vastly unpopular with them — isn't working.

So lawmakers are talking about more modest health legislation that could have bipartisan appeal, though even that may prove more complicated than many suggest.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that she lacks the votes to move the Senate's bill through the House and to Obama's desk. Under a plan backed by the White House, the new law would be followed by a separate measure making changes sought by House members, such as easing the Senate's tax on higher-cost health plans.

Va. killing suspect has history of mental problems

APPOMATTOX, Va. — The security guard accused of killing eight people in a rampage had a history of mental problems and may have imagined his sister wanted to kick him out of the house they shared, a possibility that preoccupied him, relatives and people who knew him said.

Police said Christopher Speight, 39, killed his sister, brother-in-law, niece, nephew and four other people early Tuesday before firing on a police helicopter, fleeing into the woods and finally surrendering nearly a day later.

Speight had struggled since his mother died from brain cancer in 2006, uncle Thomas Giglio said Thursday.

Prosecutors: NY mom repeatedly abused kids, pets

RIVERHEAD, N.Y. — A Long Island woman pleaded not guilty Thursday to abusing her children and family pets, sometimes forcing the children to witness her torturing animals to death, prosecutors said.

‘‘This is a case where a mother subjected her children to the most unimaginable and horrific living conditions that I have ever seen,'' Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said.

Sharon McDonough, 43, killed numerous kittens and dogs, stashing the dead cats in the trash, and burying 42 dead dogs in the backyard of her Selden, Long Island, home, Spota said.

Pilot diverts jet over teen's in-flight prayer

PHILADELPHIA — A teenage airplane passenger using a Jewish prayer object caused a misunderstanding that led the captain to divert a Kentucky-bound plane to Philadelphia and prompted a visit from a bomb squad.

A 17-year-old boy on US Airways Express Flight 3079 from New York to Louisville was using tefillin, a set of small boxes containing biblical passages that are attached to leather straps, said Philadelphia police Lt. Frank Vanore.

When used in prayer, one box is strapped to the arm while the other box is placed on the head.

Goldman earns record $4.79B in fourth quarter

NEW YORK — Goldman Sachs Group Inc. responded to intense criticism of big Wall Street paychecks by putting less money into its bonus pool, a move that helped it earn a record $4.79 billion fourth-quarter profit.

The big bank said Thursday it rewarded employees with $16.2 billion in salaries and bonuses for 2009. That's up 47 percent from the previous year but much lower than many expected.

Ohio woman alleges rape along city street

TOLEDO, Ohio — A woman who said she was raped along a street in daylight as motorists drove past is upset that no one came to her rescue.

The 26-year-old woman told The Blade newspaper in an interview published Thursday that she yelled for help and noticed at least two cars drive by. Police arrested a teenage boy who lives nearby in the alleged attack and said he confessed.

‘‘I'm ticked off because people were doing nothing. Just driving by. What kind of humans are we becoming?'' she said.

— From wire reports