- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 21, 2004

CALIFORNIA

Jackson’s attorney seeks delay

SANTA MARIA — An attorney for Michael Jackson urged a judge yesterday to delay the pop star’s child-molestation trial, saying prosecutors had “sandbagged” the defense team by turning over incorrect and misspelled witness names.

The defense asked for a three-month postponement to sort through 14,000 pages of evidence filed by prosecutors in the past two months. The trial is scheduled to start Jan. 31.

Judge Rodney S. Melville is expected to rule on the request in the next few days.

WEST VIRGINIA

Lotto winner’s granddaughter found dead

SCOTT DEPOT — The 17-year-old granddaughter of Jack Whittaker, winner of the nation’s biggest undivided lottery jackpot, was found dead yesterday along a country road, more than two weeks after she disappeared.

The cause of death was under investigation. Authorities said there were no obvious signs of violence. An autopsy has been planned.

The body was found in a grassy area about 50 feet off a road near Scott Depot. Brandi Bragg, who lived in the nearby town of Hurricane, was last seen alive on Dec. 4 at the home of a friend on that road.

Mr. Whittaker, who on Christmas Eve 2002 won a $314.9 million jackpot, reported her missing Dec. 9.

ARIZONA

Border Patrol agent dies in rollover

AJO — A 32-year old Border Patrol agent died Sunday after a single-vehicle rollover while patrolling the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation in the southern Arizona desert.

Senior Patrol Agent George Debates of the Casa Grande Border Patrol Station was traveling through the village of Pisinimo when he reportedly overcorrected his vehicle and rolled at least one time. The accident occurred at approximately 2:20 p.m. Sunday in an area south of State Route 86.

Tohono O’odham Police received a 911 call, prompting the dispatch of emergency medical service units from the village of San Simon, about 30 miles from the scene of the accident. When agents arrived, Agent Debates had no pulse and was not breathing. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

DELAWARE

State offers free e-mail notices

DOVER — People interested in state government now can sign up for e-mail notices about everything from regulatory changes to General Assembly votes.

The free service includes most major state departments and agencies. For several years, parents in Delaware have been able to get weather-related school closing notices e-mailed to them.

FLORIDA

U.S. to settle Holocaust lawsuit

MIAMI — The U.S. government has agreed to settle with Holocaust survivors who claim that Army officers during World War II plundered a trainload of family treasures that had been seized by the Nazis.

The families and the Justice Department told a judge yesterday that they have agreed in principle to a financial award over the “Gold Train,” but the exact terms have not been settled. The lawsuit sought up to $10,000 each for as many as 30,000 Hungarian Jews and their survivors.

U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz told attorneys to deliver a package detailing a worldwide settlement by Feb. 18.

HAWAII

Christmas trees costly on islands

HONOLULU — A shortage of Christmas trees in Hawaii has raised prices to more than $200 each, drawing complaints from cost-conscious shoppers who are eager to buy trees before the holiday.

Tree buyers camped outside a shopping center hours before dawn Saturday to await a shipment of 130 noble firs flown in from Oregon. A crowd of more than 200 people had gathered by morning, when a salesman announced the trees would cost $165 to $200 each. In previous weeks, trees sold for $30 to $70.

Most Christmas trees sold in Hawaii have been delivered by cargo ships from farms in the Pacific Northwest. Last season, sellers suffered losses when hundreds went unsold. But this year, those smaller orders caused a major shortage across the islands.

INDIANA

Guinea pig tossed from dorm window

BLOOMINGTON — An Indiana University student has admitted to tossing a guinea pig tied to a makeshift parachute out of an eighth-floor dormitory window, police said.

The 19-year-old student, who faces a felony charge of animal cruelty, told campus police that the incident Thursday was a “prank gone bad.”

The student told authorities he had intended to retrieve his pet once it floated to safety but it became stuck in a tree on the way down, campus Officer Brice Boembeke said.

Janitors at Briscoe Quadrangle rescued the animal, which was slightly injured. Officer Boembeke said the student admitted to throwing his pet out the window as other students egged him on.

MISSISSIPPI

Reward offered in 1964 slayings

JACKSON — An anonymous donor has put up a $100,000 reward to shake loose secrets from one of Mississippi’s most notorious slayings — the 1964 killings of three civil rights workers whose bodies were found in an earthen dam.

The reward, which will be administered by an interfaith organization set up in response to the slayings, comes as the state is renewing its push to solve the murders of James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman.

Mr. Chaney — a 21-year-old black man from Mississippi — and Mr. Goodman, 20, and Mr. Schwerner, 24 — both white men from New York City — were working to register black voters in the 1964 “Freedom Summer” campaign in Mississippi.

Seven members of the Ku Klux Klan were convicted of federal civil rights violations in the deaths.

MISSOURI

Social Security declared man dead

KANSAS CITY — The dead driving the dead. At least that was how the government seemed to have it in the case of Frank Jansky, a 75-year-old Kansas City man who drives a hearse part time.

Even as he lived and breathed, the Social Security Administration seemed to think he was no longer alive.

Mr. Jansky was traveling in England in September and October. He returned home in November to find his checking account mysteriously depleted and a letter from Medicare denying payment for diabetes treatment.

John Garlinger, a spokesman for Social Security, said the mix-up appeared to lie in New York, where Mr. Jansky had lived for decades before moving to Kansas City in 1990. A funeral home or family member apparently mistakenly reported Mr. Jansky’s death, Mr. Garlinger said.

Mr. Jansky’s formal rebirth came last week, when the money owed to him was deposited in his account.

NEVADA

Fed buyout eyed for 777 acres

INCLINE VILLAGE — The largest private land holding on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe would be acquired for $75 million under a public buyout being considered by federal land managers.

The Bureau of Land Management is considering a purchase of the 777-acre parcel that features scenic Incline Lake. If acquired, the land would be transferred to the U.S. Forest Service for public recreational use.

NORTH CAROLINA

Paratrooper jumps after amputation

FORT BRAGG — An 82nd Airborne Division soldier who was maimed by a roadside bomb in Iraq has made his first parachute jump since his leg was amputated below the knee.

Spc. George Perez, 21, of Carteret, N.J., said earlier this year that one of his goals was to jump again so he could rejoin his unit in Afghanistan early next year. He was wounded in 2003.

Spc. Perez made a “normal, routine” practice jump Saturday at Fort Bragg, a division spokeswoman said.

UTAH

Kidnap suspect files for divorce

SALT LAKE CITY — The woman accused of kidnapping Elizabeth Smart with her husband has filed for divorce, court documents show.

Wanda Barzee, 59, has been at the Utah State Hospital since the beginning of the year after a judge ruled she was mentally incompetent to stand trial. She filed for divorce on Nov. 23 in Provo.

She and her husband, Brian David Mitchell, are charged with kidnapping 14-year-old Elizabeth from her bedroom in 2002. Authorities say the homeless couple took the girl into the foothills near her home, where she was sexually assaulted and kept as a “second wife” for Mr. Mitchell, who claimed to be a prophet.

The couple has been in custody since Elizabeth was found

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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