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NATION IN BRIEF: Probation for former NFL player

NEW CITY, N.Y. — The teenage girl at the center of the sex-crimes case against football great Lawrence Taylor made a surprise appearance at his sentencing Tuesday, eager to declare that he should be behind bars.

She was denied the chance to speak in court, and Taylor was sentenced to six years on probation, as agreed when he pleaded guilty in January to sexual misconduct and patronizing an underage prostitute.

The former New York Giants linebacker must register as a sex offender, but a hearing on exactly how that will affect him was postponed to April 12.

The girl arrived with celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred, who described her as “a sex-trafficking victim.” The girl, now 17, has been identified in court and by Allred only by the initials C.F.

Driver talks about NH bus crash

LITTLETON, N.H. — Investigators interviewed the driver of a bus that overturned in the median of a slick New Hampshire highway, injuring 23, and authorities said they haven’t ruled out criminal charges.

The bus was carrying about two dozen Koreans from Quebec to Boston when the driver lost control on Interstate 93 in Littleton, near the Vermont border, at about 8:15 p.m. Monday. A light snow had fallen, bringing with it intermittent fog.

The bus accident was the third in the Northeast this month, including a crash in New York City in which 15 people were killed.

Wind grounds wildfire fight

GOLDEN, Colo. — Air tankers and ground crews battled a wind-whipped wildfire in the foothills west of Denver as officials warned that eastern Colorado’s worst drought in nearly a decade makes that part of the state vulnerable to more burning.

Two helicopters, two aerial tankers and 200 firefighters kept a 2-square-mile blaze from growing substantially Tuesday, officials said.

The tankers dropped 7,000 pounds of fire retardant and the helicopters dropped 9,200 gallons of water before they were grounded when the wind picked up in the afternoon.

Arraignment set for fire suspect

HOUSTON — A woman who was an international fugitive for nearly a month after a fire at her Houston home day care center killed four children returned to Texas on Tuesday ahead of her first court appearance.

Jessica Tata is being held without bond in a Houston jail, said agency spokesman Alfredo Perez.

“We’re very glad that it worked out as smoothly as it did,” Perez said of Tata’s return to the U.S.

Tata was set to be arraigned Wednesday afternoon in state district court on 14 charges, including manslaughter. The Feb. 24 blaze also injured three other children in her care.

Court records did not show Tata had an attorney. Her brother, Ron Tata, did not immediately return a telephone call on Tuesday.

Rape suspect spoke of offenses

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A Connecticut man suspected of rapes along the East Coast since 1997 told investigators he began committing sexual offenses six years before that, two law enforcement officials familiar with the case said Tuesday.

Aaron Thomas pleaded not guilty Tuesday in New Haven Superior Court to a charge of raping a woman in New Haven in 2007 in her apartment in front of her baby. Thomas, who kept his head lowered during the proceedings, pleaded not guilty to first-degree sexual assault, risk of injury to a minor and burglary and is being held on $1.5 million.

Thomas was arrested March 4 in his hometown of New Haven after authorities say DNA confirmed he was the so-called East Coast Rapist responsible for rapes and other attacks on 17 women from Virginia to Connecticut.

SC train driver’s claims disputed

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Officials say no significant maintenance had been needed recently on tracks for the train ride involved in a deadly weekend crash in South Carolina and that the train had recently been refurbished.

Spartanburg County parks spokeswoman Nisha Patel’s comments Tuesday came after The Associated Press raised questions about a blog posting attributed to the train’s driver.

Matt Conrad wrote online the train at Spartanburg’s Cleveland Park hadn’t run for more than five years and that the tracks had been badly damaged.

Six-year-old Benji Easler was killed and 27 others were injured when the train derailed Saturday. Police said Conrad told an officer he knew he had been driving too fast.