- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 1, 2007

LOUISIANA

No death penalty sought in bridge shootings

NEW ORLEANS — Four New Orleans current and former police officers charged with murder in shootings that occurred in the chaos that followed Hurricane Katrina will not face the death penalty if convicted, a prosecutor said yesterday.

Sgts. Kenneth Bowen and Robert Gisevius Jr., Officer Anthony Villavaso II and former officer Robert Faulcon Jr. face first-degree murder charges and attempted murder charges in the Sept. 4, 2005, shootings on the Danziger Bridge that killed two men and wounded four persons.

District Attorney Eddie Jordan’s office still planned to try the four for first-degree murder, Assistant District Attorney Dustin Davis said. But, instead of a death sentence, prosecutors will ask for the alternative sentence of life in prison in case of a conviction, Mr. Davis said.

TEXAS

Bill would fine parents who skip teacher meetings

AUSTIN — Parents beware: miss a meeting with your child’s teacher and it could cost you a $500 fine and a criminal record.

A Republican state lawmaker from Baytown has filed a bill that would charge parents of public school students with a misdemeanor and fine them for playing hooky from a scheduled parent-teacher conference.

Rep. Wayne Smith said Wednesday that he wants to get parents involved in their child’s education.

ILLINOIS

Palestinians acquitted of Hamas financing

CHICAGO — A U.S. jury yesterday found two Palestinian men not guilty of racketeering conspiracy charges in a Hamas financing case once hailed by the Bush administration as a major victory in the “war on terror.”

The jury did find both men guilty of less serious charges of obstruction of justice.

Dozens of spectators burst into cheers and applause when the not guilty verdict was returned against naturalized U.S. citizen Muhammad Salah, a grocer, and former Washington-based university professor Abdelhaleem Ashqar. The crowd gasped, though, when the guilty verdicts were read out on the lesser charges for which the two men face several years in prison.

Prosecutors had argued that both men were top officials in the militant wing of Hamas, which heads the Palestinian government but is designated as a terrorist organization by the United States.

Salah was accused of being a “bag man,” who shuttled funds for guns and other terrorist activities, while Ashqar was accused of being the group’s secretary and communications go-between.

KENTUCKY

Challenge returned to prison system

LOUISVILLE — A federal judge turned away a challenge to Kentucky’s lethal injection method yesterday, saying three death-row inmates first must file a grievance with prison administrators.

The inmates claimed Kentucky violated federal laws when buying one of the three execution drugs.

The drug, sodium thiopental, is a controlled substance, and federal law requires that a doctor buy and prescribe it. The state does not make public its execution protocol, including who purchases the drug for the state’s use.

If inmates Thomas Clyde Bowling, Ralph Baze and Jeffrey DeVan Leonard file a grievance in the prison system, Department of Corrections administrators would rule on its merits.

MISSOURI

Official says teen helped hide 2nd boy

ST. LOUIS — Abducted teen Shawn Hornbeck was ordered to guard fellow captive Ben Ownby and hide him from police after they were repeatedly left alone in their captor’s apartment, an official close to the investigation told the Associated Press yesterday.

Shawn’s cooperation with Michael Devlin was the result of what Shawn experienced during his first 30 days of captivity after Mr. Devlin reportedly kidnapped the boy in 2002, said the official, who requested anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly about the case.

Shawn’s isolation and abuse during that first month, when he was 11, were so intense that his identity was torn apart, the official said. Over time, Shawn began to see Mr. Devlin as his protector and surrogate parent in a pattern common to many abuse victims, the official said.

The source would not elaborate on what happened to Shawn during those 30 days, but said details of the abuse and captivity would emerge soon in the case against Mr. Devlin. Mr. Devlin, a 41-year-old pizzeria manager, is charged with kidnapping Shawn and Ben in separate remote Missouri towns four years apart.

MONTANA

State sues Wyoming over water rights

BILLINGS — Montana sued Wyoming in the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday over water rights in two shared rivers, which Montana claims are running dry because of Wyoming’s overuse.

The lawsuit over the Tongue and Powder rivers, which flow from northeastern Wyoming into southeastern Montana, marks a sharp escalation in an acrimonious water fight between the states.

The lawsuit claims Wyoming is ignoring Montana’s “senior” water rights by taking more water from the rivers than allowed under the 1950 Yellowstone River Compact. That includes water diverted and stored for irrigation and groundwater pumped from beneath the surface during coal-bed methane production.

The 1950 compact calls for disagreements to go straight to the Supreme Court for resolution.

NEW YORK

Drug kingpin convicted of murder

NEW YORK — A notorious crack kingpin with ties to the hip-hop industry was convicted yesterday in a federal death-penalty case of paying $50,000 to have two rivals killed in 2001.

A jury deliberated five days before finding Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff guilty of murder conspiracy and drug dealing. He was acquitted on lesser drugs and weapons charges.

In the 1980s, McGriff founded the Supreme Team, a notoriously lucrative and ruthless drug crew that became legendary on the same Queens streets that produced rap stars Ja Rule and 50 Cent.

Prosecutors say McGriff, 46, resumed his drug-dealing operations in New York and Baltimore in the 1990s after an earlier drug conviction and used the successful Murder Inc. record label to launder more than $1 million in proceeds. When a little-known rapper named E-Money Bags fatally shot one of McGriff’s friends in a 1999 dispute, the defendant reportedly paid a hit team to kill the rapper and a second man who McGriff feared might retaliate.

NORTH CAROLINA

Winter storm strikes Southeast

RALEIGH — A winter storm rushed across the Southeast yesterday, closing schools and grounding flights a day after coating roads with deadly ice in the Plains.

A winter storm warning covered the western Carolinas and northern Georgia yesterday afternoon, and more than 4 inches of snow fell in spots.

By the time most people headed to work in central South Carolina, snowflakes had turned to a cold, steady rain.

Schools and businesses across the region closed or opened late, more than 2,000 homes and businesses lost power in western North Carolina, and flights were canceled in the Carolinas.

WASHINGTON

Taliban collaborator sent back to prison

SEATTLE — A man convicted of helping the Taliban was found guilty yesterday of violating parole by traveling to Belize with a fake Mexican passport.

Judge Barbara Rothstein sentenced James Ujaama to the maximum two years in federal prison on charges that also included lying to a federal officer.

Ujaama, 41, a Muslim convert who was born James Earnest Thompson, was arrested outside a Belize mosque in mid-December carrying a Mexican passport with the name “Jose Ramirez,” despite orders that he remain in the U.S.

Ujaama’s attorney, Peter Offenbecher, apologized on his client’s behalf.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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