‘An accident,’ says driver who sped down Ocean Walk; Major win for LAUSD on No Child Left Behind; Medfly

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Promenade protections. The man suspected of running down 17 people on the Venice Boardwalk has pleaded not guilty to murder and assault charges, and he insists the mayhem was an accident.

The public defender for Nathan Louis Campbell says his client is despondent and did not intend to hurt anyone.

The attorney’s comments contradict police and witnesses, who say Campbell appeared to be maneuvering his car to hit as many people as he could. A 32-year-old Italian woman on her honeymoon was killed and several people were seriously injured.

Campbell – a Georgia native with a lengthy rap sheet for non-violent crimes – left the scene after Saturday’s incident. He turned himself in to Santa Monica police a couple of hours later.

A judge raised Campbell’s bail from $1 million to almost $1.5 million yesterday. In addition to the murder charge, he faces 16 counts of assault with a deadly weapon and 17 counts of hit and run. If convicted, he could face life in prison.

Meanwhile, the L.A. City Council voted unanimously to move ahead with a plan to install temporary traffic barriers to keep cars away from pedestrians on the busy promenade.

In addition to new barriers, city staffers will consider adding new signs, a public address system and other safety improvements. KTLA, L.A. Times

LAUSD victory. L.A. and Long Beach Unified have received waivers from key academic provisions of the No Child Left Behind law. The two districts are among eight in California to win the waivers. No Child Left Behind requires all students be proficient in English and math by 2014. That law has labeled 500 schools in L.A. and thousands more statewide as failing. The eight districts who received the waiver are part of a collaboration called the California Office to Reform Education, which looks at other factors besides student test scores to measure a school’s achievement. The waiver gives the districts more flexibility in how they can spend funds earmarked for improving student performance at low-income schools. LA. Daily News

Missing teen.The father of a San Diego County teenager believed to have been kidnapped by a family friend has made an emotional plea for her release. Brett Anderson traveled to California from Tennessee yesterday. In a televised address, he begged suspect James Lee DiMaggio to free his 16-year-old daughter, Hannah. Anderson did not mention his 8-year-old-son, Ethan. The body of a child was found along with that of 42-year-old Christina Anderson in a burning home in the community of Boulevard near the Mexican border. The child’s body has not been identified…The murder of Anderson and the disappearance of the children prompted a nationwide Amber Alert. In California, the alert triggered automatic messages that buzzed and flashed on cell phones, surprising many residents. It’s the first time such a system has been used in the state. KABC, L.A. Times

Medfly invasion. Researchers say a pest that’s a major threat to the state’s agricultural industry has established permanent residence in California. The lead author of the U.C. Davis study says the Mediterranean fruit fly’s invasion of California is “complete and irreversible.” The flies have steadily increased their range despite efforts to get rid of them by trapping and spraying. The researchers say the Medfly and four related species gained a foothold in the state more than two decades ago. The flies lay their eggs in hundreds of varieties of fruit and vegetables, ruining the produce. L.A. Times

Mailbu pioneers. Swiss police say a hot-air balloon carrying several members of one of Malibu’s founding families crashed yesterday into a power line. Fifty-five-year-old Grant Adamson was killed and other members of his family, and the balloon’s pilot, were seriously injured. Adamson was a member of Pepperdine University’s Crest Advisory Board.  The Adamson family donated the land to establish Pepperdine in the 1970s. ABC News