The case against former Georgetown Police Sgt. Jimmy Fennell Jr., accused of sexually assaulting a woman while on duty, will go to trial Sept. 8. Williamson Co. District Judge Burt Carnes rejected a plea deal Fennell agreed to in May – wherein Fennell would plead guilty to kidnapping and sexual misconduct in exchange for a two-year prison term, 10 years probation, and an agreement to relinquish his peace officer license. If found guilty, Fennell faces possible sentences of up to 99 years for each felony offense. Prior to his indictment, Fennell was best known for being engaged to 19-year-old Stacey Stites, who was murdered in 1996. Another man, Rodney Reed, was sentenced to die for Stites' murder, but he maintains he's innocent, and his supporters have long contended that Fennell was a far more compelling suspect. (For more, see "Who Killed Stacey Stites?" May 24, 2002.) – Jordan Smith
At press time, an independent arbitrator is hearing the employment appeal of Austin Police Department Cmdr. Larry Oliver, who was indefinitely suspended in March over an allegation that he failed to report possibly discriminatory comments made by a colleague, Cmdr. Calvin Smith. According to Chief Art Acevedo, Oliver failed to report statements that Oliver thought indicated a bias against gay female officers. The department ultimately concluded that Smith's comments were not discriminatory (he was given 20 days off). But Oliver was canned (even though his supervisors could not name a specific policy he'd actually violated), after he refused to accept a proposed 30-day suspension. – J.S.
Turns out the departed are enjoying privileges not even reserved for the living this summer. Texas State Cemetery sprinklers have been flowing blithely during the 100-degree heat of midday – ignoring city watering restrictions. To conserve water, a city ordinance limits summer sprinkler-running to the hours between 7pm and 10am, two days a week (Wednesday and Saturday for homes with odd-numbered addresses, Thursday and Sunday for the evens). Austin Water Utility green king Daryl Slusher noted that the state is constitutionally exempted from local restrictions such as city watering rules (and water quality laws, too). Still, the state Capitol has cooperated; under its large-property variance, it spreads its watering over two additional days but still complies with time-of-day restrictions. Slusher said the UT campus is also working closely with the utility, watering on the prescribed days and hours. After the Chronicle's tip-off, Slusher contacted State Cemetery superintendent Harry Bradley to discuss ways that the property might also be a good citizen. Seen other egregious watering violations around town? Report them online at www.cityofaustin.org/watercon/summer.htm, or call 974-2199. – Katherine Gregor
The Houston Chronicle reported Tuesday that last October, the administrator of the Governor's Mansion told officials of the Department of Public Safety and others that she was concerned about the building's security during renovation. According to the July 1 report by Peggy Fikac and Gary Scharrer, in a meeting with architects and the DPS, mansion administrator Ellen Read "expressed a concern that one officer may not be enough and that 3 officers are usually present when the 1st family is away," according to minutes of the meeting. DPS troopers earlier told the Houston Chronicle that they requested additional guards while the mansion's motion detectors were being replaced, but DPS Director Tommy Davis told a legislative committee last week that he had received no such request. – Michael King
The Big Green Bus came through Austin last weekend, just one stop along a 13,000-mile summer tour fueled entirely by waste veggie oil. The Dartmouth College project intends to "spark a dialogue about sustainable living, the viability of alternative energy sources, and tangible solutions to local and global energy issues." Rider Addie Gorlin, an undeclared sophomore jazzed about seeing America, said, "WVO isn't the only answer but part of a portfolio of what an individual can do." She and 11 fellow Ivy Leaguers are cruising some pretty sophisticated machinery, including rooftop solar panels to power their computers, phones, and a fridge. Mechanical modifications to the old diesel school bus include onboard filtration systems, heaters to bring the grease to proper temperature, and a water-separating centrifuge. Gorlin said they usually fuel up by asking mom-and-pop restaurants' permission to suck out their grease traps using an onboard pump and hoses. Jacked crude prices are also driving up the prices of ingredients like soy and cottonseed, which are used to produce biodiesel, so tapping grease traps is an increasingly sensible option. In town, Austin's DieselGreen Fuels makes deals with local eateries to siphon leftover grease, which the company chemically converts to biodiesel, usable in unmodified diesel vehicles. For more, see www.thebiggreenbus.org and www.dieselgreenfuels.com. – Daniel Mottola