This Hour: Latest Mississippi news, sports, business and entertainment

This Hour: Latest Mississippi news, sports, business and entertainment

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SENATE-MISSISSIPPI

Sept. trial likely for Miss. election challenge

LAUREL, Miss. (AP) - A judge presiding over a lawsuit that challenges Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran's victory in a Republican primary runoff says he intends to finish the case before the November general election.

Retired Chancellor Hollis McGehee of Lucedale held a status conference Wednesday in Laurel.

In a lawsuit filed last week, state Sen. Chris McDaniel demands that a judge declare him the Republican nominee or order a new runoff between him and Cochran.

Certified results of the June 24 runoff show that Cochran, a six-term incumbent, defeated the tea party-backed McDaniel by 7,667 votes. McDaniel claims voting irregularities tainted the runoff.

McGehee will hear arguments on pre-trial motions Aug. 28. He says he's considering Sept 15 or Sept 22 as possible trial start dates.

Neither McDaniel nor Cochran was in court Wednesday.

MDMR INVESTIGATION

Federal charges dropped against Shumate

GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) - Federal prosecutors, apparently satisfied with a guilty plea in state court, are dismissing charges against a former Mississippi Department of Marine Resources manager.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerry Rushing made the filing Wednesday in federal court in Gulfport to dismiss the indictment on conspiracy and fraud charges against Tina Shumate.

Shumate pleaded guilty earlier this month in Harrison County Circuit Court to signing false travel documents and receiving reimbursement for expenses she didn't incur.

The former manager of the department's coastal resource office is already serving a two-year prison sentence on that state conviction, which will be followed by four years of probation. Circuit Judge Roger T. Clark has also ordered Shumate to pay $14,091 in restitution.

Four other state charges were dismissed as part of that plea agreement.

SEC-FANS

SEC: Schools take steps to improve fan experience

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - The Southeastern Conference says all 14 members have taken steps to improve the fan experience at league football stadiums.

Commissioner Mike Slive said Wednesday that SEC schools "have made it a priority to engage their fans in a way that will enhance their in-game enjoyment and satisfaction."

SEC athletic directors approved forming a working group in June 2012 to review attendance trends and recommend ways to improve fan experience.

The league says 57 of 100 games played at SEC venues in 2013, including the SEC championship game, were filled to capacity. Average attendance climbed more than a 1,000 to 75,674 last season.

A study showed that the areas of most concern to fans are availability of concessions and restroom conditions.

The changes include showing in-game highlights on stadium video boards.

GOPHER FROGS

Bench trial in endangered frog habitat suit

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A federal judge is considering the claim that federal wildlife officials made an illegal land grab by listing 1,500 acres of private land in Louisiana as critical habitat for an endangered burrowing frog: the dusky gopher frog.

District Judge Martin Feldman told lawyers for landowners, the U.S. government and an environmental group Wednesday that he'll rule as soon as possible.

Feldman told the lawyers his biggest concerns include whether the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service followed proper procedures, and the agency's estimate that the designation could cost landowners up to $33 million.

Justice Department attorney Mary Hollingsworth says that's an unlikely extreme if the owners wanted to develop the timberland.

Weyerhaeuser Co. attorney Zach Hiatt says that's not out of the question, since the land is near a developed area.

NATCHEZ SLAYING

Judge delays liquor store murder trial

NATCHEZ, Miss. (AP) - The trial of one of three men charged in the 2013 murder of a Natchez liquor store employee has been delayed pending results of a mental examination.

An Adams County grand jury indicted Kenneth J. Carver Jr. in November on charges of armed robbery and murder.

The Natchez Democrat reports Carver's trial was scheduled for this week, but Circuit Court Judge Forrest Johnson said Tuesday the court granted a delay of the trial to allow Carver to receive a mental examination.

Johnson said he would call Carver back to court once the examination is complete, but didn't have a timeline.

Natchez police alleged that Carver was one of three Natchez residents who ambushed Tyrone Bernard while he was closing up DD's Package Store on Jan. 3, 2013.

HATTIESBURG BREWERY CLOSES

Gordon Creek Brewery closes

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) - One of Hattiesburg's two craft beer breweries has ceased operations.

Gordon Creek Brewery owner and brewer Sam Sorrells said Tuesday he made the decision to close the doors mainly because of financial reasons. The brewery released its first batch of beer in May 2013.

Sorrells tells The Hattiesburg American other factors, such as a lack of seasonal sales and production issues, factored into the decision as well.

While production of Gordon Creek beer - which was produced only in kegs - has ceased, Sorrells said a little of the supply remains.

In the meantime, Sorrells says he will turn back to the consumer side and pursue home brewing.

BEACH CLOSED

Section of Biloxi beach ordered closed

BILOXI, Miss. (AP) - The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality has issued a beach closure because of a sewage overflow at Brady Drive in Biloxi.

The closure applies to the section of the beach from Beauvoir Road to the east end of Sadler Beach Drive.

MDEQ advises residents not to enter the water or consume any seafood collected from these near-shore waters until further notice.

MDEQ says it will monitor the water and lift the closure when bacteria levels indicate conditions are safe for water contact.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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