- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 19, 2007


Marine convicted of some Iraq crimes

CAMP PENDLETON — A military jury yesterday convicted a Marine of kidnapping and conspiring to murder an Iraqi man in a bungled attempt to abduct and kill an insurgent suspect in Hamdania.

Cpl. Trent Thomas was acquitted of premeditated murder, making a false official statement, housebreaking and larceny.

Thomas, 25, was the first of seven Marines and a Navy corpsman to go to trial in the killing, which squad members tried to cover up by planting a gun near the victim after he was fatally shot in a ditch.

Thomas had faced a mandatory sentence of life in prison if convicted of premeditated murder. He still could get a life sentence for his convictions, but there is no minimum sentence, defense attorney Victor Kelley said.

Mr. Kelley said he was “extremely pleased that the members found [his client] not guilty of premeditated murder.”

A sentencing hearing was scheduled to begin today.


Governor resumes lethal injections

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Charlie Crist signed his first death warrant yesterday, ending a temporary halt on lethal injections that had been imposed after a botched execution last year.

Mark Dean Schwab, a convicted child killer, is scheduled to be executed Nov. 15, said Mr. Crist, a Republican. In signing the warrant, the governor said he was confident that lethal injections could proceed in line with constitutional bans on cruel and unusual punishment.

In December, Gov. Jeb Bush suspended all Florida executions after a medical examiner determined that prison officials had botched the insertion of the needles when a convicted killer was put to death. Angel Nieves Diaz’s execution took 34 minutes — twice as long as usual — and required a rare second dose of lethal chemicals.


3 killed, 1 injured in domestic incident

WICHITA — A shooting during a domestic disturbance at an apartment complex killed three persons early yesterday and critically injured a fourth person, police said.

Two police officers also were shot when they arrived at the scene. Their wounds were not considered life-threatening, police said.

The bodies of a 21-year-old man thought to be the gunman and of an 18-year-old woman were found when police burst into a second-floor apartment, police spokesman Gordon Bassham said. Police think the gunman killed himself.

A 22-year-old man shot several times was rescued from the apartment and was in critical condition, Mr. Bassham said. A third victim was found in a nearby unit of Woodgates Apartments.


Benefactor helps couple keep home

SLIDELL — An anonymous benefactor helped settle a long-standing lawsuit in which a land company claimed ownership of a house sold without the residents’ knowledge over a $1.63 tax bill.

“I don’t even know who to thank,” Dolores Atwood, 69, said after the settlement returned the property title to her and her 71-year-old husband.

The local businessman who paid Jamie Land Co. to settle the lawsuit wants to remain anonymous for now, said his attorney, Gary Duplechain. He stepped forward after reading about the Atwoods’ plight.

Jamie Land President James Lindsay II said the agreement reached Tuesday calls for the amount paid to remain undisclosed.


Firefighters train on wrong house

BRAINTREE — It looked like a textbook training exercise, but something was amiss.

Firefighters drove to a vacant house Tuesday, cut holes into the roof and walls, and broke windows to test their tools and their proficiency.

The problem? It was the wrong house. They were supposed to be two blocks away at a house slated for demolition.

The owners of the damaged home, Jeffrey Luu and his brother Clayton, now want the town to pay for the mistake.

The home had been vacant since an electrical fire last year left a scorch mark up one side. The knee-high grass had not been cut in several weeks. The owners were planning a renovation of the house — just not this much of one.

The fire department is conducting an internal investigation, Deputy Chief John Donahue said, but officials otherwise remained tightlipped and red-faced about the incident.


Colleges plan big tuition raises

EAST LANSING — Michigan State University senior Katie Wright worries that college tuition is rising so fast that some working-class families, including her own, soon may find higher education unaffordable.

Michigan is one of a few states where tuition at some public universities will increase by nearly 10 percent. Four-year public schools in Colorado, Illinois and Oklahoma also plan tuition increases that could at least triple the general inflation rate.

The typical bill for a full-time in-state undergraduate at Michigan State will climb by roughly $800 this academic year under the current plan, a 9.6 percent increase that puts the annual tuition and fee bill past $9,500 in some cases. That doesn’t include room and board.

“I’ve been worried about paying for this year constantly, just figuring out how it’s going to work out,” said Miss Wright, a zoology major who hopes to become a veterinarian.

In Michigan, which has the nation’s highest unemployment rate and a projected deficit for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 of at least $1.6 billion, most public universities got less money from the state last fiscal year than in the 2001-02 year. Some of the payments promised to schools this fiscal year will be delayed.


Air tanker fighting wildfires crashes

WINNEMUCCA — A firefighting pilot was rescued after his small air tanker crashed in northern Nevada while he battled one of the dozens of wildfires tormenting the West, officials said yesterday.

Jamie Thompson, spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, said the AT-802A single-engine tanker was fighting a blaze south of Winnemucca when it went down Tuesday evening. The rescued pilot was pulled from the wreckage by firefighters, treated at a hospital and released, she said yesterday.

“Other than being pretty well soaked with slurry and aviation fuel, he was OK,” Miss Thompson said. “They cleaned him up and sent him home.”

Officials said the plane was under contract from Minuteman Aerial Applications in Montana. An investigation team was expected to determine the cause of the crash, Miss Thompson said.

Across the West, extreme dry weather and wind have spread wildfires and made firefighting difficult. The National Interagency Fire Center reported 68 large fires burning yesterday in 12 states, led by Nevada, Oregon and Idaho.


Boat injures whale watched by tourists

RYE — A boat struck a whale off New Hampshire’s coast, leaving a deep gash as sightseers aboard three whale-watching boats snapped photos.

The finback whale, about 60 feet long, suffered a 3-foot-long gash in its side and other smaller cuts, but it didn’t appear to be seriously hurt, the Coast Guard said. Finbacks are a federally protected endangered species.

The driver of the 24-foot boat reported the whale strike, Coast Guard Petty Officer Karinne Spethman said. The investigation is continuing.

Violations of the Marine Mammal Protection Act are punishable by up to a year in prison or a $25,000 fine, said Michael Henry, a special agent with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He said charges would require proof that the act was intentional or neglectful.

Jen Kennedy, marine conservation director of the Blue Ocean Society, said the whale surfaced nine times before it was hit, each time spouting water 20 feet into the air. She was one of about 60 passengers on the Atlantic Queen.


State workers get pay for idle day

HARRISBURG — The state will pay a day’s salary to the 24,000 workers who were idled when the government partially shut down over a budget impasse, Gov. Edward G. Rendell said yesterday.

The employees who were furloughed on July 9 would have lost wages totaling about $3.5 million, Mr. Rendell’s office said. That day now will be considered a paid closing day, akin to a snow day.

“State employees work very hard to ensure that the needs of Pennsylvanians are met, and they and their families rely on their paychecks to pay their bills,” said Mr. Rendell.


Town restricts public nudity

BRATTLEBORO — Vermont’s infamous naked town is under orders to keep its pants on.

On a 3-2 vote, town officials passed an emergency rule Tuesday banning nudity on the main roads and within 250 feet of any school or place of worship, among other places. Anyone still determined to go window-shopping au naturale faces a $100 fine.

Tiny Brattleboro has long been a live-and-let-live kind of place where skinny-dipping was a rite of summer. Last summer, though, it began flirting with a nudity ban after a group of teens took to hanging around a downtown parking lot in the buff. Officials decided then to let winter take care of the problem and never voted.


15 hurt as RV loses control

PORT ANGELES — The driver of a recreational vehicle lost control on a mountain road and slammed into three other vehicles before plowing through a railing and into a 20-foot gully. Fifteen persons were injured, and the driver was in critical condition, authorities said yesterday.

The RV was carrying a family from Missouri. It was on a long downhill grade from Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park on Tuesday afternoon when it crashed.

“Preliminary investigations show that the motor home probably lost its brakes while driving north on Mount Angeles Road,” Port Angeles spokeswoman Teresa Pierce said.

The RV driver, Lonnie Owens, 51, of Fairgrove, Mo., was listed in critical condition yesterday morning at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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