25 years likely for Mexican drug lord

SAN DIEGO — For years, Benjamin Arellano Felix eluded U.S. law enforcement while running a Mexican drug cartel that terrorized rivals and poured hundreds of tons of cocaine into the country. So when the handcuffed kingpin arrived in San Diego aboard a government plane last year, U.S. authorities shared hugs and handshakes as he was handed over to his longtime pursuers.

But the sense of triumph has turned to disappointment in some quarters as Arellano Felix approaches his judgment hour in court today. A judge is expected to sentence him to a maximum prison term of 25 years, much less than what he could have received for his role in heading one of Mexico’s most powerful and ruthless organized crime groups.

Arellano Felix, 60, former head of the Tijuana-based cartel that bears his family name, might be in his early 80s when he is released. He would be sent to Mexico, where he faces more prison time, but that’s cold comfort to critics, among them relatives of victims and law enforcement officers who dedicated their lives to wiping out his criminal empire. Legal observers speculate prosecutors negotiated the plea deal to avoid a long and costly trial, or because evidence from crimes that stretch back to 1991 had gone stale.

Ohio woman was slain, then dismembered

URBANA, Ohio — Five people have been arrested in connection with the death of an Ohio woman who police said was stabbed, suffocated and dismembered in a bathtub before some of her remains were taken to Kentucky.

Jessica Rae Sacco, 21, was found dead Friday in her apartment in Urbana. Authorities arrested five people Saturday, including a 25-year-old man who lived at the same address as Sacco. He’s charged with murder, assault, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence.

“We believe that he stabbed her, and then subsequently suffocated her by placing a bag over her head,” Police Chief Matt Lingrell told WDTN-TV. The station said police described the murder suspect as Sacco’s on-again-off-again boyfriend. His bail is more than $530,000.

He was arrested in Hamilton with a man and woman from Fenton, Mich. Felony charges against the Michigan couple and a man and woman from Urbana allege they failed to intervene during the killing or helped to hide it, police said.

An autopsy on Sacco was done over the weekend, and police said they believe she was killed about a week before she was found, possibly on March 22.

Mali coup leader brings back 1992 constitution

BAMAKO, Mali — The junior officer who overthrew Mali’s democratically elected leader and dissolved the constitution made a public U-turn Sunday, declaring amid international pressure that he is reinstating the 1992 constitution and planning to hold elections.

Capt. Amadou Haya Sanogo added that he would organize a national convention to agree on a transitional government which will organize free and fair elections. What he did not make clear is when the convention would be held, or when elections would take place, or if he would remain president during the transitional period.

Sanogo’s announcement came as Tuareg rebels seized control of the ancient city of Timbuktu, a move that deepens the crisis in the West African nation.

Wire reports Tuareg rebels took advantage of the chaos surrounding last week’s coup in the faraway capital to take the town of Kidal on Friday. They seized the biggest northern city of Gao on Saturday, cities that never fell in previous rebellions.

Top Obama campaign donor accused of fraud

WASHINGTON — A major donor to President Barack Obama has been accused of defrauding a businessman and impersonating a bank official, creating new headaches for Obama’s re-election campaign as it deals with the questionable history of another top supporter.

The New York donor, Abake Assongba, and her husband contributed more than $50,000 to Obama’s re-election effort this year, federal records show. Assongba is fending off a civil court case in Florida, where she’s accused of thieving more than $650,000 to help build a multimillion-dollar home in the state, a charge her husband denies.

Obama is the only presidential contender this year who released his list of “bundlers,” the financiers who raise campaign money by soliciting high-dollar contributions from friends and associates. But his campaign returned $200,000 last month to Carlos and Alberto Cardona, the brothers of a Mexican fugitive wanted on federal drug charges.

Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt referred the AP to previous statements he made to The Washington Post, which first reported the allegations against Assongba in its Sunday editions. LaBolt told the paper that 1.3 million Americans have donated to the campaign, and that it addresses issues with contributions promptly.

Tunisia again extends state of emergency

TUNIS, Tunisia — Tunisia is extending its state of emergency, first called during street unrest after the fall of the North African nation’s longtime autocratic leader in January 2011.

The office of President Moncef Marzouki said Sunday that the state of emergency will continue until the end of the month.

It was the fifth time the measure has been extended. Marzouki’s office cited persistent risks to public order in several regions “despite an improvement of the security situation in recent weeks.” The state of emergency notably allows soldiers and police to fire on those who refuse orders to stop.

Milwaukee mayor shakes up recall vote

MADISON, Wis. — Unions backing the successful effort that forced Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker into a recall election are suddenly facing an uncomfortable scenario:

Their favored candidate might not survive the Democratic primary now that Milwaukee’s mayor is looking for a gubernatorial rematch.

Mayor Tom Barrett, who narrowly lost to Walker in the 2010 race for governor, recently jumped into the race to oust the Republican, who was targeted after championing a law that curtailed public workers’ collective bargaining rights. But major unions are supporting Kathleen Falk, the former longtime leader of Dane County, home to the state’s capital city.

The primary is set for May 8; the general election on June 5.

Wire reports