- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 2, 2006

FLORIDA

Tate pleads guilty to robbing pizza man

FORT LAUDERDALE — Lionel Tate, who beat and stomped a little girl to death when he was 12, pleaded guilty yesterday to robbing a pizza delivery man last spring and could be sent back to prison for up to 30 years.

The plea bargain spared Tate, 19, from a possible life sentence for violating his probation in the 1999 killing of 6-year-old playmate Tiffany Eunick.

His attorney, Ellis Rubin, said that the evidence in the holdup case was “overwhelming” and that Tate got the best deal he could. Sentencing is scheduled for April 3.

KENTUCKY

Governor released from hospital

FRANKFORT — Gov. Ernie Fletcher left a hospital yesterday after an 18-day stay in which he had his gallbladder removed and recovered from a blood infection.

Mr. Fletcher, a Republican, originally was admitted to St. Joseph’s East Hospital in Lexington to have a gallstone taken out and ended up having his gallbladder removed. He later was diagnosed with pancreatitis and a blood infection.

Doctors have prescribed lots of rest and no more than a half-week of work beginning Monday.

ALASKA

Snowboarder feared dead in avalanche

ANCHORAGE — A 24-year-old snowboarder was buried in an avalanche Tuesday and presumed dead, authorities said.

Conditions were too severe to start a search for Brendan J. Smart, Alaska State Troopers spokesman Greg Wilkinson said.

Mr. Smart was on a Marmot Mountain slope with two other men when the avalanche struck in midafternoon. The others escaped without injury. The two survivors carried location beacons, but said they were unable to locate the buried snowboarder’s beacon signal, Mr. Wilkinson said.

IDAHO

Moms-to-be face prison for drug use

BOISE — Pregnant women caught using illegal drugs could go to prison for endangering their unborn children under a bill passed by the Idaho state Senate on Tuesday.

“The first thing we’re after is a drug-free baby,” said state Sen. Denton Darrington, a Republican who said his eastern Idaho district is plagued by methamphetamine use. “Meth is a problem everywhere in the state of Idaho.”

If the measure passes the Idaho House and receives the approval of Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, a Republican, the measure would be the first in the United States specifically to make it a crime for a pregnant woman to use illegal drugs.

If caught, individuals could first face drug treatment or drug court. Beyond that, however, judges have the option of sending mothers-to-be to prison for up to five years or imposing a $50,000 fine.

MASSACHUSETTS

Withdrawn MS drug is safe, studies find

BOSTON — Tysabri, withdrawn last year because of fears it might cause an often-deadly brain disorder, slows the progression of multiple sclerosis and seems to pose little risk, two studies showed yesterday.

The studies were financed by the drug’s manufacturers and come as a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel is to meet on Tuesday to discuss whether Tysabri should go back on the market.

The drug, also known by the generic name natalizumab, was removed by Biogen Idec Inc. and its marketing partner Elan Corp., a little more than a year ago after three patients developed a rare brain disease known as progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML). The studies, published in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine, reported no additional cases of PML.

MICHIGAN

Boy sticks gum on $1.5 million painting

DETROIT — Apparently, one 12-year-old visitor to the Detroit Institute of Arts doesn’t think much of abstract art.

The boy, who was not identified because of his age, stuck a wad of gum to a $1.5 million painting called “The Bay” by Helen Frankenthaler, leaving a stain the size of a quarter, officials said. He was part of a school group that was visiting the museum last week.

The gum stuck to the painting’s lower left corner and did not adhere to the fiber of the canvas, officials told the Detroit Free Press. But it left a chemical residue, said Becky Hart, assistant curator of contemporary art. The museum’s conservation department is researching the chemicals in the gum to decide which solvent to use to clean it.

Holly Academy director Julie Kildee said that the boy had been suspended from the charter school and that his parents also have disciplined him.

MISSISSIPPI

House advances abortion-ban bill

JACKSON — Republican Gov. Haley Barbour said yesterday he probably would sign a bill under consideration in the state House that would ban most abortions in Mississippi.

The measure, which passed the House Public Health Committee on Tuesday, would allow abortion only to save a woman’s life. It would make no exception in cases of rape or incest.

The full House could vote on the bill next week, and it would then go to the Senate.

South Dakota lawmakers passed a similar bill last week that was intended to provoke a legal showdown over Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling establishing the right to an abortion. The measure is awaiting Republican Gov. Michael Rounds’ signature. He has said he is inclined to sign it.

NEW MEXICO

Fire burns grassland; about 100 evacuated

MIAMI — A fire burned yesterday morning on parched grassland in northeast New Mexico, forcing the evacuation of a small farming and ranching community.

The fire, sparked by a downed power line, had burned about 10,000 acres by midmorning, but firefighters kept the blaze from spreading into the community of Miami, said Dan Ware, state Forestry Division spokesman.

About 100 people who had to leave their homes were moved to a convention center, he said.

Firefighters from three counties were battling the blaze, and wind was blowing 15 mph to 20 mph. One outbuilding had burned.

NEW YORK

Man jailed for biting girlfriend’s face

WHITE PLAINS — A man who bit off a chunk of his girlfriend’s cheek and spit it out onto the sidewalk was sentenced to 15 years in prison yesterday.

Gareth Whyte, 27, could have gotten 25 years, but the judge said that he had no previous felonies and that plastic surgery had repaired most of Dorothy Pritchett’s face.

Prosecutors said that as the couple argued outside their home May 8, Whyte bit Miss Pritchett under her left eye, sinking his teeth through nerves and muscle.

Whyte was convicted in January of assault.

OHIO

Mother takes stand in ‘caged kids’ case

NORWALK — The woman accused of locking some of her 11 adopted, special-needs children in cages cried on the witness stand yesterday as she denied that she and her husband were cruel to his biological children or that he touched a daughter inappropriately.

Sharen and Michael Gravelle have pleaded not guilty to several charges, including child endangerment, in a separate criminal case.

Prosecutors accuse the couple of locking the adopted children in cages to discipline them, and they want Huron County to take permanent custody of the youngsters.

TEXAS

Judge clears way for Yates trial

HOUSTON — A judge yesterday cleared the way for the second trial of Andrea Yates on murder charges in the 2001 drowning of her children in the family bathtub.

State District Judge Belinda Hill ruled that a defense motion accusing prosecutors of misconduct during the first trial was frivolous. The retrial is set to begin March 20.

She was convicted of capital murder in 2002, but the conviction was overturned because a forensic psychiatrist gave false testimony when he said an episode of television’s “Law & Order” about a woman with postpartum depression drowning her children was aired shortly before the five Yates children died. The episode didn’t exist.

Defense lawyer Wendell Odom said he would appeal Judge Hill’s ruling.

The 41-year-old woman has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, as she did the first time around.

WASHINGTON

County changes logo to image of King

SEATTLE — The Metropolitan King County Council approved an ordinance to replace the county’s “crown” logo with an image of Martin Luther King.

The county was originally named for Vice President William Rufus DeVane King. The council changed the name in 1986 to honor the civil rights leader instead of a slaveholder.

WISCONSIN

Marriage proposal to go before voters

MADISON — The Wisconsin Assembly this week approved a constitutional marriage amendment, which now goes before voters on the November ballot.

Lawmakers voted 62-31 for the measure, which says that only marriages between one man and one woman will be recognized by the state. The measure also clarifies that “a legal status identical or substantially similar to marriage” for unmarried persons will not be recognized.

Wisconsin is the seventh state with a marriage amendment on this year’s ballots. The other states are Alabama, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Virginia.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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