The nation in brief: Illinois man gets 3 years for riot role

This GeoColor satellite image taken Tuesday, June 20, 2023 and provided by NOAA, shows Tropical Storm Bret as it chugged toward the eastern Caribbean. (NOAA via AP)
This GeoColor satellite image taken Tuesday, June 20, 2023 and provided by NOAA, shows Tropical Storm Bret as it chugged toward the eastern Caribbean. (NOAA via AP)

Illinois man gets 3 years for riot role

An Illinois man who was a member of the far-right group Proud Boys was sentenced Thursday to more than three years in federal prison for using a flagpole to assault officers trying to hold back the mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, then bragging in a text message that he'd "bonked 2 cops."

James Robert Elliott was handed a 37-month sentence in U.S. District Court in Washington.

Elliott, 25, was charged with six counts, including civil disorder, assault of a federal officer, entering a restricted building with a dangerous weapon and carrying out an act of violence on Capitol grounds.

He pleaded guilty to a single count of assault, admitting in a plea agreement that he'd attended a speech by then-President Donald Trump and later marched with fellow Proud Boys.

Federal prosecutors said in a court filing that Elliott's actions on Jan. 6 "caught his fellow Proud Boys' attention" and he found himself quickly nominated for the highest degree of membership in the neo-fascist organization.

Elliott said in a letter to the judge, "I have since left the Proud Boys and I'm doing my best to continue to move my life in a positive direction after being arrested."

Paxton wife out of impeachment vote

AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas state Sen. Angela Paxton, the wife of Attorney General Ken Paxton, is barred from voting in the impeachment trial that could lead to his removal from office, the Republican-controlled Senate decided late Wednesday.

The rule settles a question that had loomed over the Texas Capitol since Ken Paxton last month became just the third sitting official to be impeached in Texas' nearly 200-year history.

Senators scheduled the trial to begin Sept. 5.

Angela Paxton, a Republican, had not said whether she would recuse herself from helping determine whether her husband of more than 30 years will be convicted over accusations that include abuse of power and accepting bribes.

That left the issue up to the other 30 senators, many of them allies of Ken Paxton, who for years has maintained support among Texas Republicans despite alleged wrongdoing and scandal that has hung over him for three terms.

"The citizens of Texas can count on the Senate of Texas to have a fair and just trial," said Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the Senate's presiding officer.

Under the rules, Angela Paxton is required to attend the proceedings but prohibited from participating in any way, including in closed session or deliberations. The rules state that a spouse is "considered to have a conflict" under the Texas Constitution.

Florida gender-care restrictions tossed

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A federal judge has struck down Florida rules championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis restricting Medicaid coverage for gender dysphoria treatments.

"Gender identity is real" and the state has admitted it, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle wrote Wednesday.

He said a Florida health code rule and a new state law violated federal laws on Medicaid, equal protection and the Affordable Care Act's prohibition of sex discrimination.

They are "invalid to the extent they categorically ban Medicaid payment for puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones for the treatment of gender dysphoria," Hinkle wrote.

The judge said Florida had chosen to block payment for some treatments "for political reasons" using a biased and unscientific process and that "pushing individuals away from their transgender identity is not a legitimate state interest."

The ruling involved a lawsuit filed on behalf of two adults and two minors, but advocacy groups estimate that some 9,000 transgender people in Florida use Medicaid to pay for their treatments.

Hinkle also addressed the issue of whether gender-affirming treatments were medically necessary and noted that transgender people have high rates of anxiety, depression and suicide.

Bret's approach puts St. Lucia on alert

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- A hurricane watch was issued for St. Lucia as Tropical Storm Bret barreled toward the eastern Caribbean on Thursday at near-hurricane strength.

The storm was about 45 miles east-northeast of Barbados on Thursday afternoon and moving west at 14 mph. It had maximum sustained winds of 65 mph, below the 74 mph winds of a Category 1 hurricane.

Airports, businesses, schools and offices were closing in St. Lucia, Dominica and Martinique as forecasters warned of torrential downpours, landslides and flooding.

"Protect your lives, property and livelihoods," urged St. Lucia Prime Minister Philip Pierre.

Residents across the island filled their cars with gas and stocked up on water and canned food in preparation.

A tropical storm warning was in effect for Barbados, Dominica, St. Lucia and Martinique, while a watch was issued for St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The storm was expected to start affecting islands in the eastern Caribbean late Thursday, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.