- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 28, 2005

Judge rules school policy unconstitutional

CINCINNATI — A federal judge Friday ordered a suburban school district to allow a biracial kindergartner to transfer to a new school, rejecting a claim that doing so would upset the district’s racial balance.

U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott said the district’s policy was unconstitutional because it makes race the deciding factor in whether to grant student-transfer requests.

The decision clears the way for Keith Cordell, 5, to switch to a new school that is closer to his day care center when his classes resume tomorrow.

The ruling could affect many more students because it challenges a state law that encourages districts to consider the racial makeup of schools before approving student transfers.

Search for gator comes to an end

LOS ANGELES — Reptile wranglers searching for an alligator let loose in a Southern California lake have given up the hunt — at least for now.

The alligator was spotted Aug. 12 in Harbor City’s Lake Machado, and since then hundreds of visitors have flocked to the South Los Angeles park for a glimpse.

However, the reptile has not been seen since Aug. 21.

Two men were arrested last week for conspiring to release the alligator in the 56-acre lake.

Man pleads guilty to murder-for-hire plot

TAMPA, Fla. — A man who bragged about having ties to a terrorist organization has pleaded guilty to charges that he plotted to kill a federal agent and an informant.

Wissam Taysir Hammoud, 40, of Sarasota pleaded guilty Friday after prosecutors agreed to recommend a reduced sentence and Hammoud agreed to cooperate in unspecified investigations.

He could receive a sentence of up to life in prison for the charges, which included solicitation to commit murder and retaliating against a witness.

Authorities said Hammoud once bragged of ties to Hezbollah, which the U.S. government lists as a terrorist group. Investigators said his statements had not been confirmed.

Death-row inmate seeks new trial

BURLINGTON, Vt. — Attorneys for a man sentenced to die in Vermont’s first capital-punishment trial in almost 50 years are asking a judge to overturn his death sentence.

Donald Fell’s attorneys argue that prosecutors behaved improperly during the trial, and they want the judge to commute his sentence to life in prison or order a new sentencing hearing.

William Darrow, one of two assistant U.S. attorneys who prosecuted Fell, declined to comment.

Fell, 25, was convicted in June of kidnapping Terry King, 53, as she arrived for work at a Rutland supermarket in 2000, taking her into New York state and bludgeoning her to death as she prayed for her life. The same jury sentenced Fell to die for his crimes last month.

Boy, 11, accused in carjacking

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — An 11-year-old boy is accused of forcing a teenager and two young children out of a car and then driving the stolen vehicle to school the next morning.

The boy, whose name was not released because of his age, was charged with aggravated robbery in juvenile court Friday. A detention hearing was set for tomorrow.

Coal barges adrifton Mississippi

GREENVILLE, Miss. — A vessel pushing barges of coal on the Mississippi River briefly ran aground Friday and lost control of 22 of them, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman said.

The barges were adrift Friday evening not far from U.S. Highway 82, which spans the river between Mississippi and southeast Arkansas.

Petty Officer Kyle Niemi with the Coast Guard in New Orleans said law enforcement agencies were called in to help corral the barges before they could do any damage. There were no reports of injury or pollution from the incident, Petty Officer Niemi said.

The river has been lower than normal because of a drought.

Judge halts release of data on searches

NEW YORK — A federal judge blocked the release of information about random bag searches in New York City subways, saying officials may be able to prove that the success of the program depends on its secrecy.

U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman’s decision Friday overruled a magistrate judge who had ordered the city to disclose details such as the number of days during a one-month period that searches were conducted.

Judge Berman said the magistrate judge did not adequately consider the city’s concerns. He said it would serve little purpose to allow the New York Civil Liberties Union, which sued claiming the searches were unconstitutional, to see sensitive information about the searches before public officials and specialists testify at a hearing next month.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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