- The Washington Times - Friday, May 28, 2004

ALABAMA

HIV-positive inmates settle lawsuit

ATHENS — HIV-positive inmates settled their lawsuit against the Department of Corrections. They had said that the department didn’t give them adequate care at Limestone prison and had hastened the deaths of some.

The settlement requires the prison’s medical provider to hire an additional HIV nurse and allow an independent medical consultant to review the inmates’ health care conditions.

ARIZONA

Year’s first cases of West Nile reported

PHOENIX — Arizona and New Mexico have reported the first human cases of the mosquito-borne West Nile virus this year, health officials said.

On Wednesday, New Mexico reported its first human case. At a press conference yesterday, Dr. Jonathan Weisbuch, director of the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, said an adult from the county developed symptoms on May 8 and was admitted to a hospital.

Dr. Weisbuch said that person has recovered.

In all, eight residents from Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, contracted the virus last year, but only one was infected within the county, Dr. Weisbuch said. In that case, a person who became ill in September has recovered, according to health officials.

Health officials said the virus typically causes flulike symptoms such as fever, nausea, headache and muscle aches. But in some cases, it progresses to life-threatening encephalitis or meningitis. People 50 and older are generally at a higher risk for severe symptoms.

INDIANA

Slain teen’s mom takes ashes to court

MUNCIE — A slain teenager’s mother carried an urn containing her son’s ashes in her purse as she sat through all four days of the accused killer’s trial.

“This is my son,” said Sherry Sizelove, holding the black round urn engraved with Aaron Meckem’s name. “Aaron has witnessed the whole thing.”

Delaware County deputy Prosecutor Joe Orrick said he had asked her to keep the urn out of sight so that the defendant, Zachary Gillespie, could receive a fair trial.

Jurors last week found Gillespie guilty of aggravated battery in the stabbing death of his former best friend and high school classmate.

Prosecutors said he stabbed Mr. Meckem four times with a pocketknife on Dec. 23 during a fight in the front yard of Gillespie’s father’s home. Prosecutors said Gillespie was in a rage because he had just found out that his girlfriend was interested in dating Mr. Meckem.

LOUISIANA

State shuts down youth prison

TALLULAH — The accusations began soon after the prison opened for business: teenage inmates beaten by guards, beating each other, running loose on the rooftops of the barracks-like dorms.

Ten years later, Louisiana is shutting down its toughest juvenile prison, a move that child-welfare advocates see as an admission of failure.

The closing comes after years of investigations — by the U.S. Justice Department, human rights advocates and others — called the lockup a place of chaos and brutality.

Fewer than a dozen prisoners remain at Tallulah, compared with more than 600 in 1998. By the end of next week, those teens will be transferred to one of Louisiana’s three other juvenile lockups — smaller prisons that never developed a notorious reputation for abuse.

Tallulah will be turned into the type of facility it was modeled after: a prison for adults.

MICHIGAN

Call-to-prayer issue to go to ballot

HAMTRAMCK — A noise-ordinance change that would allow mosques to broadcast calls to prayer on loudspeakers will be put to a citywide vote after opponents gathered hundreds of petition signatures.

The more than 630 signatures submitted to the city clerk’s office were enough to force the City Council to rescind the amended ordinance or put it to a vote.

“We decided not to rescind the amendment, so it goes to the ballot,” council President Karen Majewski said Tuesday night.

The council had voted unanimously last month to allow the Bangladeshi Al-Islah Mosque to broadcast the call to prayer five times a day.

It was not known when the vote would be held in this enclave surrounded by Detroit, but it is likely to be in the next few months.

MISSISSIPPI

Governor signs Medicaid bill

JACKSON — Gov. Haley Barbour, Republican, signed a Medicaid bill that he says will save the state $106 million in the coming budget year.

About 65,000 people will lose Medicaid coverage under the plan. Most will move to Medicare, which is fully funded by the federal government. Medicaid is paid by state and federal dollars and provides health coverage for the needy, aged and disabled.

NEBRASKA

‘Pirates’ give aid to tornado victims

HASTINGS — Forty pirates visited a chapter of the Red Cross, but they came to offer a gift — not to pillage.

Fourth-graders from Longfellow Elementary School dropped off a treasure box containing $127.85 on Wednesday to help victims of tornadoes that recently hit southeastern Nebraska.

The students wore pirate outfits because they had just read “Treasure Island.”

They had raised the money by selling soda to fellow students.

NEVADA

Man sentenced in plot to kill dog

LAS VEGAS — A man accused of hiring a hit man to kill a dog was sentenced this week to three years’ probation.

Ryan Schiestel, 25, entered a plea agreement and pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting in the attempt to maim, kill or poison another person’s animal in the botched Dec. 5 killing-for-hire of the dog.

Under terms of District Judge Jennifer Togliatti’s sentence, if Mr. Schiestel fails to complete probation successfully, he would have to serve 12 to 32 months in prison.

Authorities said Schiestel hired Melvin Gilchrist, 26, to kill or harm the dog, which had killed an Italian greyhound in the same neighborhood a day earlier. Mr. Gilchrist received a suspended sentence of 13 to 32 months for a reduced charge of resisting a public officer, according to the Las Vegas Sun.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Pizza deliverers to help police

PORTSMOUTH — The long arm of the law may be ringing your doorbell and holding a pizza.

Police in Portsmouth hope to enlist pizza-delivery people and hotel clerks to help cut into underage drinking and parents who allow it.

Under a new law, it’s illegal for the owner or occupants of a home or hotel room to play host to a gathering of five or more minors who are drinking or using drugs. Teens as young as 17 who throw a party could be tried as adults.

Portsmouth Police Sergeant Mike Schwartz said the program is called the “Booze Bounty.” He said food-delivery people and hotel clerks would receive $50 if their anonymous tips of suspect activity leads to the arrest of a party host.

NEW MEXICO

Wildfire burning out of control

CAPITAN — A lightning-sparked wildfire in the Capitan Mountains continued to burn out of control early yesterday.

The blaze grew to 25,000 acres and has burned a dozen cabins — mostly summer homes — and several outbuildings in the rural area of south-central New Mexico.

“We lost a lot of family history, a lot of memories,” said Brian Morris, after learning that the fire had burned his family’s log cabin, built in the 1920s.

Burnout operations were planned for today, and firefighters on Wednesday built lines along the northern perimeter of the fire in preparation, said fire information officer Jackie Denk.

Lighter winds, overcast conditions and higher humidity aided firefighters, but the rugged terrain has made it impossible to put firefighters in front of the blaze, which has been burning since May 15, the information officer said.

NEW YORK

Preachers’ prayers ground flight

NEW YORK — Two preachers grounded a flight leaving Buffalo after they frightened passengers by declaring that the September 11 attacks were a good reason to pray, officials said yesterday.

One preacher told fellow passengers as the Continental Airlines plane taxied down the runway: “Your last breath on earth is the first one in heaven as long as you are born again and have Jesus in your heart,” according to FBI spokesman Paul Moskal.

Passengers on the Wednesday flight to Newark, N.J., told a flight attendant, who alerted the plane’s captain, officials said. The captain turned the plane around.

The two Pentecostal ministers, Canadian nationals Yohan Heenatigala and Komal Singh, were questioned by the FBI and released and put on another flight, the spokesman said. They were traveling to a convention in Baltimore.

NORTH CAROLINA

Ex-dean named interim chancellor

RALEIGH — A former dean at North Carolina State University will become the school’s interim chancellor.

Robert A. Barnhardt, former dean of the College of Textiles, replaces departing Chancellor Marye Anne Fox. She is leaving to become chancellor of the University of California at San Diego.

Mr. Barnhardt starts July 13. He was dean of the textiles college from 1987 until his retirement in 1999. He continues to teach and mentor students and served as interim provost in 2003.

PENNSYLVANIA

Agents arrest Egyptian cleric

PHILADELPHIA — Federal agents arrested a Muslim cleric in a raid on a Philadelphia mosque yesterday and plan to deport the Egyptian national, officials said.

Mohamed Ghorab, the imam of the mosque, faces a final order of removal from an immigration court, according to a statement from U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“During the execution of the warrants, ICE agents determined that the conditions of Mr. Ghorab’s bond had changed, and he was taken into custody pending removal from the United States,” the statement said.

Officials declined to elaborate. But local radio station KYW reported that the raids were the result of an investigation into fund raising for terrorism.

TEXAS

Dallas city manager stepping down

DALLAS — The city manager, who was criticized for firing the city’s first black police chief and survived two efforts by the mayor to fire him, announced his retirement.

Ted Benavides, 53, told the City Council on Wednesday that he was leaving the $263,000-a-year job “after considerable thought and soul-searching.”

Since becoming the city’s first Hispanic city manager in 1998, Mr. Benavides had clashed publicly with Mayor Laura Miller on several issues, including his failure to disclose pay raises approved during a wage freeze.

He faced heavy criticism in August when he fired Terrell Bolton, Dallas’ first black police chief, in August, citing poor performance.

WASHINGTON

Officers hurt arresting suspect

TACOMA — Two police officers were hurt Wednesday when they tried to arrest a man on suspicion of domestic violence.

The man bit one officer on the forearm and hit and used a police stun gun on the second officer, Tacoma police spokesman Mark Fulghum said. After the man was in custody, he and the two officers were taken to local hospitals for treatment of their injuries.

Police booked the 58-year-old man into jail on suspicion of two counts of first-degree assault and unlawful possession of a firearm, Mr. Fulghum told the Tacoma News Tribune.

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