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Amy Senser takes the stand

Stadium bill still in doubt; some think session could go another week; fireworks bill vetoed; lawsuit against ‘3 Cups’ author tossed; and more.

Amy Senser on the stand! Following the first maxim of show biz, ‘Give the people what they want,’ the Strib team of Abby Simons and Larry Oakes reports: “In sometimes tearful testimony in her own defense, Amy Senser told a hushed Hennepin County courtroom Monday that she had no clue that she actually struck and killed Anousone Phanthavong last summer as he put gasoline in his stalled car along a Minneapolis interstate exit ramp. … She left [the concert at the Xcel], she said, but decided as she headed west on I-94 that she could just wait for the girls in the car. She said she took the Riverside exit — not knowing the bridge she hoped would take her over to the eastbound side of the freeway was closed. She said she looked at the bridge when she got to the exit to determine whether it was the right one. It was then that she ran over Phanthavong. Senser testified that she then became lost, and was becoming frustrated and tired while the girls were constantly calling.”

Earlier, David Hanners of the PiPress described the scene at the Government Center: “At times, the trial has taken on a circuslike atmosphere at the Hennepin County Government Center in downtown Minneapolis. Twice a day, as they go to court and leave, the Senser and the Phanthavong families must walk past a buzzing hive of photographers. Upstairs on the 17th floor, people wait in line in hopes of getting a seat in the small courtroom. Joe Tamburino is among those who have gotten in to watch the proceedings. The defense lawyer is more than just a casual observer. Last month, in a courtroom just down the hall, he defended Timothy Bakdash in a case bearing some similarities to Senser’s. It involved a motorist accused of striking and killing a pedestrian and speeding away. A notable difference, though, is that Tamburino’s client was accused of acting with intent and premeditation, and he was on trial for first-degree murder. Jurors convicted Bakdash of a lesser charge, second-degree murder.’ ”

Is it that no one wants to say, “yes,” or is it that no wants to say, “no”? The Vikings stadium bill was still stalled as of early afternoon. Tom Scheck at MPR writes: “[T]hat bill is putting Republican lawmakers in a political bind because they want to act on other issues first. It’s not the way top Republicans were expecting this session to play out. GOP legislative leaders were confident coming out of last year’s state government shutdown. They stared down Gov. Dayton, a DFLer, over a tax increase he wanted passed — and they won. With that victory in hand, they appeared ready to be even more aggressive with plans to overhaul state government. But that was before Dayton lobbed a stadium grenade into their laps last fall, when he called for the Legislature to pass a Vikings stadium bill during a special session. Since then, GOP legislative leaders have tried unsuccessfully to put the pin back in. The issue is now set to blow up in their faces as Dayton and Democrats call for a vote on the bill. …The divide among Republicans over the stadium bill is evident in the Legislature. Several GOP members of the Senate tried to kill the bill in committee hearings. They also used procedural motions to slow it down. Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, said he’ll keep trying to kill it. ‘I will certainly use whatever tools that are at my disposal to oppose this thing, just like I respect the proponents’ right to move it forward,’ said Thompson.

The GleanRachel Stassen-Berger of the Strib writes: “Monday morning, Dayton, who has fully backed the bid for a new stadium, took an optimist[ic] stance. Of the stadium’s likelihood, he said: ‘It’s a lot better than it was a week ago tomorrow,’ when a House committee killed the bill. He added, ‘It’s a lot better than it was the week before that,’ when the bill couldn’t get enough votes in a Senate committee to pass.”

By 1:30 this afternoon, Doug Belden of the PiPress was saying: “Both the House and Senate sponsors of the $975 million Vikings stadium bill said Monday … that they don’t expect a vote today. … Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, sponsor of the stadium bill in the House, said he does not expect a vote on the bill Monday and predicted the legislative session would extend at least through this week. ‘I don’t think there’s any question’ the session won’t adjourn today, Lanning said, because lawmakers need time to resolve the key issues. ‘It’s not going to happen today. It’s not going to happen in the next couple days. I fully expect that if we take a break here and come back on Thursday or Monday, that’s a possible scenario,’ Lanning said. ‘I’ve been saying for a long time I expected the session to run through the rest of this week.’ ”

Who’s up for the road trip to Eagleville, Mo? Gov. Dayton vetoed the fireworks bill. The AP story says: “The first-term Democrat admitted to being torn over the issue more than any bill he has received in the past two years. But Dayton said in a letter accompanying the veto that he was swayed by opposition from fire chiefs and other safety officials. Dayton said bill sponsors took pains to work with opponents, but it wasn’t enough.”

What’s the worst they could say? “No?” The Business Week story, by Andrew Harris, on Accretive Health — the debt-collector-in-the-ER company under fire by attorney General Lori Swanson says: “Accretive Health Inc. (AH) asked a U.S. judge to throw out Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson’s lawsuit accusing the company of breaching privacy laws after a laptop containing data on about 23,500 patients was lost. Accretive, which manages hospital billings and collections, filed a motion today with U.S. District Judge Richard H. Kyle in St. Paul, Minnesota, in which it called some of Swanson’s allegations ‘factually baseless and legally indefensible.’ … ‘Rather than litigate this case in the courtroom, the attorney general orchestrated a nationwide media campaign against Accretive Health,’ according to its dismissal request, ‘giving numerous television and print interviews to trumpet her release of a so-called ‘compliance review.’ ” In other words, the real victim here is … Accretive Health.

The riverfront next to Psycho Suzi’s is going to get a nice upgrade. Steve Brandt of the Strib says: “Minneapolis park officials are planning to vote Wednesday on adding another key upper riverfront parcel to their holdings, the first since the Park Board adopted the RiverFirst 20-year plan for developing parks. The proposed $1.37 million purchase of 1720 NE Marshall St. would add 354 feet of riverfront and an area about one and one-third football fields in size. The former factory property is the largest located in a strip alongside the river between the BNSF Railway bridge and Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lodge.”

The AP is reporting that a Montana judge has tossed a lawsuit against Minnesota native and “Three Cups of Tea” author Greg Mortenson: “A federal judge on Monday dismissed a lawsuit against author Greg Mortenson, calling claims ‘flimsy and speculative’ that the humanitarian and his publisher lied in his best-selling ‘Three Cups of Tea’ and ‘Stones Into Schools’ to boost book sales. The civil lawsuit by four people who bought Mortenson’s books said they were cheated out of about $15 each because the books were labeled as nonfiction accounts of how Mortenson came to build schools in Central Asia. The lawsuit by four readers from Montana, California and Illinois was filed after ‘60 Minutes’ and author Jon Krakauer reported last year that Mortenson fabricated parts of those books.”