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CALIFORNIA

- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 7, 2007

CALIFORNIA

Foreigners arrested in gang crackdown

LOS ANGELES — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested six foreign nationals with ties to violent street gangs during the past week, the latest actions in an ongoing ICE operation that has resulted in the arrests of 124 gang members.

Of those arrested in the past three months, 56 face federal criminal charges, including drug and firearms offenses, as well as re-entry after deportation, a felony that carries up to 20 years in prison.

ICE spokeswoman Kadia H. Koroma said that among those arrested was Pedro Barboza-Serrano, 40, a Mexican national and reputed member of the Eastside Longos whose criminal record includes convictions on drug charges, robbery, burglary and spousal battery. Barboza-Serrano, who pleaded not guilty Monday, is scheduled to go on trial late next month.

Of the 56 foreign nationals indicted in connection with the ICE investigation, 36 are in custody while 20 remain at large.

CONNECTICUT

Missing girl found locked in room

BLOOMFIELD — A 15-year-old girl missing for nearly a year was found yesterday locked in a small hidden room under the staircase of a West Hartford home, and two persons who live there were arrested, police said.

Bloomfield police said they found the girl alive in a room blocked from view by a cabinet. They had gone to the home with West Hartford police to serve search warrants for DNA and other evidence.

Adam Gault, 41, was charged with second-degree unlawful restraint, second-degree reckless endangerment, second-degree custodial interference, interfering with an officer, risk of injury to a minor and second-degree forgery. He was being held on $500,000 bail.

Ann Murphy, 40, was charged with conspiracy to commit second-degree reckless endangerment, conspiracy to commit second-degree custodial interference and risk of injury to a minor. She was held on $100,000 bail.

The girl was in protective custody.

ILLINOIS

Bus driver cited in crash with truck

CHICAGO — Police cited the driver of a charter bus that rear-ended a semitrailer, sending 17 persons to hospitals, authorities said yesterday.

The bus driver, whose name was not released, was ticketed for following too closely behind another vehicle, but the cause of the crash late Tuesday on the Chicago Skyway remained under investigation, Chicago Police spokesman John Henry said.

About three dozen people were on the private charter bus when it hit the semitrailer, Chicago Fire Department spokesman Kevin MacGregor said.

MASSACHUSETTS

Symphony brawlers won't face charges

BOSTON — Two men who snubbed symphony etiquette by throwing fists at the Boston Pops' season-opening concert last month will not face charges, a court official said.

Matthew Ellinger, 27, of Boston, and Michael Hallam, 44, of Bourne, agreed to withdraw assault and battery complaints against each other at a closed-door hearing Tuesday in Boston Municipal Court, First Assistant Clerk Magistrate Rosemary Carr said.

Miss Carr would not comment on why Mr. Ellinger and Mr. Hallam dropped the complaints.

The fight at Symphony Hall on May 9 started when Mr. Ellinger tapped Mr. Hallam on the shoulder with a program and told him to be quiet, police said. The men bickered before Mr. Hallam punched Mr. Ellinger, leading to the brief scuffle in the balcony.

NEW YORK

Man gets probation in wife's suicide

NEW CITY — A man accused of standing by while his wife drove herself and their two daughters off a 300-foot cliff was sentenced yesterday to three years of probation in a plea deal.

"I deeply regret my conduct on that day," said Victor Han, 35. "I should have been more concerned and careful."

The children, 5-year-old Ariana and 3-year-old Itana, survived without major injury last June 14. Hejin Han, 35, died when she drove the family minivan off a scenic overlook on Bear Mountain north of New York City.

Mr. Han pleaded guilty in March to child endangerment in exchange for prosecutors dropping charges of promoting suicide and reckless endangerment. Prosecutors have acknowledged that the suicide case would have been difficult to prove.

Mr. Han told police after his wife's death that she was sometimes suicidal, and he admitted in court that he knew she and the children were in danger when he stepped out of the van at the overlook. Just after he got out, his wife drove the van off the cliff.

NORTH DAKOTA

Students brace for river flooding

FARGO — Students practiced their dances and songs between sandbagging relays outside their performing arts school, where the rising Red River threatened to flood the area.

"I thought I would get a lot of experience with this internship, but I didn't know that sandbagging would be part of it," North Dakota State University student Laura Beauchamp said.

While volunteers worked at Trollwood Performing Arts School, the Army Corps of Engineers finished building a dike early yesterday to protect low-lying areas downtown.

Swollen from heavy rain over the past week, the north-flowing Red River is expected to rise about 4 feet in Fargo each day, before cresting at 33 feet tomorrow. Flood stage in the city is 18 feet. .

WASHINGTON

Neighbor saves home of fireman's parents

TOUTLE — A volunteer firefighter nearly lost everything for his wedding when his parents' house caught fire, but a neighbor saved the day.

Garrett Foster, 20, said he was on his way to the wedding rehearsal dinner Friday night when his beeper went off for a fire outside this southwestern Washington town. Moments later, a dispatcher described a "white, two-story house" — just like the one where he had been living with his parents.

All the tuxedos, wedding rings, marriage license, presents, his mother's dress and other items were in the house when the fire started on the deck and spread to the balcony.

A neighbor, Ron Smith, made the difference between a scare and disaster, said Mr. Foster's mother, Maribeth Foster.

Mr. Smith "broke down doors and went in to make sure nobody was inside, then got a garden hose," she said. By the time firefighters arrived, the blaze was largely contained.

The cause of the fire remained under investigation.

WISCONSIN

Critters suspected in grave-flag thefts

NEENAH — Caretakers of the Oak Hill Cemetery noticed around Memorial Day that about 25 U.S. flags were missing from veterans' graves.

But the haphazard pattern of the thefts and the fact that the wooden dowels remained intact led them to suspect that the thieves weren't human.

When crews cut down old trees in the cemetery, they typically find flag remnants in the hollows, cemetery foreman Mark Alberts said.

"We find a lot of flags all shredded up in there," he said. "They use them for bedding."

Mr. Alberts hasn't caught any flag thieves, but blackbirds have been seen trying to fly away with flag pieces.

From wire dispatches and staff reports