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

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RAPE CONVICTION

Alabama man convicted of raping 77-year-old woman

BAY MINETTE, Ala. (AP) - A south Alabama man has been convicted of raping a deaf, elderly woman and is scheduled to be sentenced in late October.

Al.com reports a jury convicted Stephen Scott of Foley of rape and first degree burglary after about 20 minutes of deliberations Thursday.

Assistant Baldwin County District Attorney Teresa Heinz says the then 77-year-old woman was sexually assaulted inside her home in Foley in May of 2012.

Heinz says Scott, who was 19-years-old at the time, was accused of breaking into the victim's home by ripping a screen on the back door of her house and unfastening a latch on the door.

VETERANS HEALTH-ALABAMA

Central Ala. VA leaders on administrative leave

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Southeast Network Director of the Veterans Administration says two leaders at the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System have been placed on administrative leave.

WSFA-TV reported Thursday that Regional director Charles Sepich said the facility's director Charles Talton and its chief of staff Cliff Robinson have been put on administrative leave. The move comes after a federal audit highlighted long wait times for veterans looking for care at facilities the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System operates in Montgomery and Tuskegee.

Robin Jackson has been named acting medical center director and Srinivas Ginjupalli has been named acting chief of staff.

Sepich says VA officials are taking a closer look at facility operations and is working to maintain veterans' trust.

ATTORNEY GENERAL-CAMPAIGN

Hubbard, Strange trade jabs over gambling

ORANGE BEACH, Ala. (AP) - The Democratic challenger to Attorney General Luther Strange accuses him of being an absentee officeholder more interested in cracking down on bingo than violent crime.

Strange says his opponent, Democrat Joe Hubbard, has a campaign largely financed by gambling interests.

During a speech Thursday in Orange Beach, Hubbard criticized Strange's efforts to shut down electronic bingo casinos in the state's long-running legal wars over the slot machine look-alikes. Hubbard said the casino customers aren't a threat to the state, and Strange is wasting resources. Hubbard said he will make fighting violent crime and corruption his priority.

Strange, responding by telephone, said his job is to enforce existing state gambling laws. He questioned Hubbard's impartiality on gambling. Campaign records show that the Poarch Creek Indians have given Hubbard's campaign $1 million.

SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT RAISE

Alabama superintendent accepts contract raise

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Alabama school Superintendent Tommy Bice says he's accepted a two-year contract extension that comes with a $52,000 raise.

Bice told al.com Thursday that the extension will enable him to be bolder in his work with the governor and Legislature.

Bice says he asked for the extension, but not the raise. The board approved it last week. It boosts Bice's annual salary to $250,000.

Bice says he knows his raise will be contrasted with K-12 teachers, who have received one 2 percent raise since 2007. But he says he supports the need for teachers to have an increase.

GOVERNOR-ELECTION

Bentley, Griffith make pitch to commissioners

ORANGE BEACH, Ala. (AP) - Republican Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and his Democratic opponent, Parker Griffith, faced off Thursday in back-to-back campaign speeches.

Griffith took repeated jabs at Bentley as he addressed county commissioners' annual convention in Orange Beach.

Griffith called Bentley a failed governor who hasn't addressed the state's struggles with education, health care, prisons and unemployment. Griffith said Bentley lets fear of the tea party dictate his policy decisions.

Bentley said Alabama is accomplishing great things despite national economic struggles. Bentley says the state has announced 60,000 new jobs, including the coveted Airbus plant, since he took office. The Republican governor praised his administration's road and bridge program and handling of natural disasters.

Bentley did not mention Griffith in his 20-minute speech.

CROSS BURNING SENTENCE

Alabama man sentenced in Ozark cross burning

DOTHAN, Ala. (AP) - A south Alabama man has been sentenced to probation and home confinement after pleading guilty to burning a cross in a black neighborhood in 2009.

The Dothan Eagle reports 24-year-old Thomas Wendell Smith pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate housing rights and was sentenced to five years of probation and eight months of home confinement.

Authorities have said Smith and Steven Joshua Dinkle both pleaded guilty to burning a roughly 6-foot-tall cross at the entrance of a black neighborhood in Ozark.

Dinkle, whom investigators have said is the former exalted Cyclops of the Ozark chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, was sentenced to two years in prison. His mother has also been charged with impeding the investigation into the incident and is expected to stand trial.

FEDERAL JUDGE-ARREST

Alabama judge could avoid prosecution in Atlanta

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - An Alabama federal judge could avoid prosecution for domestic violence in Atlanta.

Programs help some defendants avoid criminal prosecution, and a defense lawyer says U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller is open to such a chance in Fulton County.

The defense says Fuller is entering treatment for an unspecified reason, and the Atlanta court offers pre-trial intervention and diversion programs for some defendants. One of the programs is for people in treatment programs.

Fuller's defense attorney Jeff Brickman says he plans to talk to a prosecutor soon about the possibility. Brickman says Fuller would welcome the chance to end the case without prosecution.

A prosecutor didn't return a message seeking comment.

Atlanta police recently arrested Fuller on a misdemeanor battery charge after his wife called 911 saying he was beating her.

SAINTS-TOON'S TIME

Saints looking for more production from Toon

METAIRIE, La. (AP) - Saints quarterback Drew Brees says he expects Nick Toon to be a "big contributor" this season.

Brees says that's why he's been calling Toon aside during practice recently to discuss the young receiver's route running.

The 6-foot-4 Toon is a former Wisconsin star and the son of former New York Jets All-Pro Al Toon. A fourth-round draft pick in 2012, Toon is entering his third NFL season, but only his second on the field after a foot injury wiped out his rookie season.

Last season, Toon played in eight games, finishing with only four catches for 68 yards and no touchdowns.

Now the Saints are hoping Toon will emerge as a more reliable target in a passing game led by veteran receiver Marques Colston and star tight end Jimmy Graham.

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