- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 7, 2006

FLORIDA

Abramoff denied sentencing delay

MIAMI — A federal judge refused yesterday to allow a lengthy delay in the sentencing of fallen lobbyist Jack Abramoff in a fraud case, even though a defense attorney said the decision could jeopardize a massive federal corruption investigation involving Congress and the Bush administration.

Abramoff’s attorney in Washington, Abbe Lowell, warned that critical information about the ongoing corruption investigation could be disclosed publicly in order to demonstrate the level of Abramoff’s cooperation in that probe. That in turn could affect the level of Abramoff’s ultimate sentence in the fraud case.

But U.S. District Judge Paul C. Huck rejected a joint motion by federal prosecutors and attorneys for Abramoff and co-defendant Adam Kidan that would delay the pair’s sentencing for at least 90 days. Judge Huck did agree to put off the sentencing date from March 16 to March 29 but said he did not want any further delays. He said the government can always request a reduction in Abramoff’s sentence later.

Abramoff pleaded guilty Jan. 4 to charges that he and Kidan fabricated a fake wire transfer to make it appear they were putting a sizable chunk of their own money into the $147.5 million purchase of the SunCruz Casinos gambling fleet in 2000. Kidan pleaded guilty late last year.

GEORGIA

Two plead guilty in meth lab operation

SMYRNA — Two men charged with operating a methamphetamine “superlab” in a residential neighborhood entered guilty pleas yesterday in federal court to charges of conspiring to manufacture and distribute methamphetamines.

Ignacio Cortes-Valencia, 24, and Gustavo Lara-Murilla, 31, two Mexican nationals who are in the United States illegally, also pleaded guilty to charges of manufacturing methamphetamine and possession with the intent to distribute it. Sentencing was set for May 25 before U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper.

The suspected superlab was the first discovered in Georgia and one of a few discovered on the East Coast.

Also arrested in the investigation was Ramon Oseguera-Alanis, 34, an illegal alien originally from Michoacan, Mexico, after tips from confidential sources led the agents to obtain a search warrant in the case. Agents seized 12 pounds of ice methamphetamine, fully manufactured and packaged in 1-pound bags for distribution, hidden inside a cabinet in the kitchen.

MASSACHUSETTS

Gangster’s brother to lose pension

BOSTON — The state’s highest court ruled yesterday that a brother of fugitive mobster James “Whitey” Bulger must forfeit his $65,000-a-year state pension because he lied to grand juries investigating the gangster’s disappearance.

Attorneys for John “Jackie” Bulger, a retired court clerk magistrate, had argued that his lies were based on family loyalty and didn’t affect his job.

But the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that he had an “unwavering obligation to tell the truth” to grand juries investigating his brother’s disappearance.

John Bulger, 67, pleaded guilty to perjury and obstruction of justice in 2003 for lying to two federal grand juries. He admitted that he lied when he testified he had not heard from his brother since he fled in 1995. He also admitted that he lied to a grand jury in 1996 when he said he had no knowledge about a deposit box owned by his brother.

James Bulger, 76, is wanted in connection with 21 murders and is on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” list.

NEBRASKA

Whitewater park eyed for kayakers

KEARNEY — Nebraska Public Power District hired a Denver firm to determine the feasibility of a whitewater park near the University of Nebraska.

Engineer Rick McLaughlin, who has designed kayaking venues across the country, says whitewater rafting on the flatlands has potential and predicted that such a park would be “Olympic caliber.”

NEW JERSEY

Dog’s barking alerts family to fire

SOUTH BRUNSWICK — A newly adopted dog’s noisy barking alerted a sleeping family that their home was on fire, allowing them to escape the blaze with only minor injuries.

John Cramer, 54, and his wife, Cheryl, 44, were in their second-floor bedroom when Mr. Cramer heard the dog howling about 6:30 a.m. Sunday, authorities said.

When he went downstairs to comfort Toby, a Norwegian elkhound who had been with the family, including daughter Lee, 9, for just two weeks, he saw flames creeping up the walls from the basement.

The family quickly escaped along with Toby and Casey, another elkhound who was sleeping upstairs, but they could not save their three cats, who died in the blaze.

Investigators think the fire began in the basement near an electrical outlet, and they were trying to determine whether a faulty circuit sparked the flames.

TENNESSEE

Town seeks solution to wandering cattle

MOUNT CARMEL — Officials in this small town say the solution to their fugitive problem may be a new pen — only they are trying to round up cows, not felons.

Alderman Henry Bailey said the number of escaped cattle wandering the streets of the town is on the rise.

Mr. Bailey suggested constructing a holding pen on the town’s sewer treatment plant property, near where stray cats and dogs are held. Another solution might be better enforcement of the state’s regulations on livestock fencing, he said.

Mayor Gary Lawson said he didn’t think it should be a police officer’s duty to “arrest” a cow.

“We could pass an ordinance if they aren’t claimed in three days we’ll have a town barbecue,” Mr. Lawson said.

TEXAS

Elephant swipes intruder at zoo

WACO — A 25-year-old woman climbed past barriers and into an elephant’s zoo exhibit, then crawled out with minor injuries after the 6,000-pound animal smacked her with its trunk.

“That’s how an elephant reacts to something they would perceive as a threat,” said Cameron Park Zoo director Jim Fleshman.

After saying she wanted to play with the elephant, the woman climbed over a 3-foot-high wood-and-wire fence, scaled an 8-foot-tall artificial rock structure and bypassed an electric wire before jumping into the exhibit Thursday afternoon, Mr. Fleshman said.

After the woman got out, fire and emergency crews took her to a hospital with minor injuries, including scrapes on her side and arm. Waco Fire Capt. Greg Kistler said the woman, whose name was not released, was visiting the zoo with a child and another woman.

WASHINGTON

Paper campaigns to unseal court cases

SEATTLE — The Seattle Times is beginning a campaign to unseal hundreds of King County court cases. The newspaper will file motions asking judges to follow state rules that cases can’t be sealed without “compelling circumstances.”

Some of the sealed lawsuits involved suspected unsafe medical devices, a day care company and impropriety by a lawyer who later became a judge.

From staff reports and wire dispatches

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