- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 29, 2008

NEW JERSEY

Lawmaker resigns amid child porn probe

MOUNT LAUREL | A New Jersey legislator resigned Monday amid reports that he is under investigation for suspected possession of child pornography.

The clerk of the Assembly received a one-sentence letter from Assemblyman Neil Cohen just before 9:30 a.m. Monday. Mr. Cohen said his resignation is effective immediately, but he did not offer any explanation.

Mr. Cohen, 57, has not been charged with a crime.

Colleagues who use the same legislative district office as the Democratic lawmaker said last week that they told law-enforcement authorities about images of child pornography found on his computer.

State Assemblyman Joseph Cryan, who shared a district office with Mr. Cohen, said the investigation began after a staffer in the Union Township office found a printout of a nude girl, possibly in her early teens or younger.

NEW YORK

Sharpton faces disorderly conduct charge

NEW YORK | The Rev. Al Sharpton rejected a plea offer Monday and will go to trial in September on a disorderly conduct charge related to demonstrations over the fatal shooting of an unarmed man on his wedding day.

Mr. Sharpton declined to plead guilty in exchange for time served. He was held for 5½ hours on May 7 after he and scores of others were arrested for blocking intersections to protest the acquittals of three officers in the Sean Bell shooting.

He said outside court Monday that the plea offer was unfair and that the charges against him and others should be dropped.

A judge offered to drop charges against Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman, friends of Mr. Bell who were wounded in the Nov. 25, 2006, shooting. Mr. Bell was killed in a hail of 50 police bullets as he left his bachelor party at a Queens topless bar.

GEORGIA

Tech student dies in skydiving crash

ROCKMART | A 23-year-old Georgia Tech student and seasoned skydiver who died after his parachute malfunctioned was filming his roommate’s first-ever jump when the accident happened.

Polk County Deputy Coroner Tony Brazier said Olen Reid Ashe III’s primary parachute malfunctioned on Saturday, and he was unable to deploy his emergency chute in time to slow his fall. Mr. Brazier pronounced Mr. Ashe dead at the scene from massive external and internal injuries.

Mr. Ashe; his roommate, Robert Tillman, of Atlanta; and two other friends were skydiving at Skydive the Farm, a 55-acre private farm.

The jump was Mr. Ashe’s third of the day and 299th of his skydiving career. His father, after whom he was named, said the younger Ashe hoped to make his 300th jump this past weekend.

ILLINOIS

Fatal medicine errors on the rise

CHICAGO | Deaths from medication mistakes at home, such as actor Heath Ledger’s accidental overdose, rose dramatically during the past two decades, an analysis of U.S. death certificates finds.

The authors blame soaring home use of prescription painkillers and other potent drugs, which 25 years ago were given mainly in hospitals.

“The amount of medical supervision is going down, and the amount of responsibility put on the patient’s shoulders is going up,” said lead author David P. Phillips of the University of California at San Diego.

The findings, based on nearly 50 million U.S. death certificates, were published in Monday’s Archives of Internal Medicine. Of those, more than 224,000 involved fatal medication errors, including overdoses and mixing prescription drugs with alcohol or street drugs.

Deaths from medication mistakes at home increased from 1,132 deaths in 1983 to 12,426 in 2004. Adjusted for population growth, that amounts to an increase of more than 700 percent during that time.

In contrast, there was only a 5 percent increase in fatal medication errors away from home, including hospitals, and not involving alcohol or street drugs.#

KENTUCKY

Flag policy revised again

FRANKFORT | Kentucky’s adjutant general said the state is changing its flag policy for fallen soldiers — again.

Maj. Gen. Edward Tonini said the new policy calls for lowering flags to half-staff for all personnel based in the state. Gen. Tonini said that includes soldiers from other states who are stationed at a military base in Kentucky, such as Fort Campbell or Fort Knox.

Kentucky had tightened its policy in June to lower the flag only for soldiers who were state residents. Officials said they made the change because flags were lowered so often it was hard to know who was being honored.

Gen. Tonini said the change in June, first reported by the Associated Press, was intended to highlight the honor being paid to Kentucky residents killed in action.

But veterans argued that all fallen soldiers should be recognized.

The new policy takes effect immediately.

MICHIGAN

City wants sponsors for police cameras

FLINT | You’ve heard of adopt-a-highway programs — but how about adopting a police camera?

That’s how the city of Flint wants to cover the $420,000 cost of adding 14 surveillance cameras. It now has just one of the cameras.

The city and a private security firm, Asset Protection Specialists, are looking for businesses and persons willing to pay $30,000 to have their names or corporate logos placed on one of the pole-mounted boxes, which also feature a police shield and a flashing blue light.

So far, no takers.

MINNESOTA

Overpass concrete rains on motorists

ST. PAUL | A 1,200-pound chunk of concrete tore off the underside of an overpass and rained down on motorists but caused no injuries, nearly a year after the deadly collapse of a Mississippi River bridge in neighboring Minneapolis.

The 6-foot-by-9-foot section fell Saturday from the Maryland Avenue bridge onto two vehicles, choking traffic on Interstate 35E for more than eight hours as crews inspected the overpass that shuttles nearly 140,000 motorists per day through downtown St. Paul.

The state Department of Transportation has deemed the 50-year-old bridge “structurally safe,” said state bridge engineer Dan Dorgan. The bridge was inspected in August. Officials knew the bridge deck was breaking down, but nothing suggested pieces would break off within the year, Mr. Dorgan said.

Deterioration of the concrete that caused the accident can be attributed partly to age, freeze-and-thaw cycles and road salt, he said.

NEW MEXICO

Man’s body found in flood debris

RUIDOSO | Rescuers used pulleys Monday to help stranded residents and campers cross a rushing river where the body of a man reported missing in flash flooding was found near a bridge in a thicket of debris.

The body was that of a 20-year-old man reported missing by his brother in this south-central New Mexico mountain resort area, said Ruidoso police Chief Wolfgang Born. His identity was not released.

The man was one of two people reported swept away after apparently losing his footing near the Rio Ruidoso as it spilled over its banks Sunday in flooding caused by the remnants of Hurricane Dolly.

An estimated 350 to 500 houses, campers, mobile homes and structures were damaged in the flooding, with about 350 people evacuated from homes and up to 500 vacationers stranded away from their cabins, campsites or recreational vehicles.

They were unable to return Monday because of washed-out roads and bridges. Some residents were stuck after refusing to evacuate.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Judge banned over comments

COLUMBIA | A South Carolina judge who admitted calling crack-cocaine addiction “black man’s disease” has been banned from the bench, the state’s Supreme Court said in an order Monday.

Former Beaufort County Magistrate George Peter Lamb, who is white, agreed to the punishment and resigned before the order was issued. The court’s order included no other details about the comment.

The justices’ ruling outlined problems with Magistrate Lamb that included behavior toward female employees that the high court said could have been considered inappropriate and the judge incorrectly telling a defendant at a bond hearing the penalty he could face if convicted.

Magistrate Lamb’s attorney referred questions to the former judge, who did not respond to telephone messages left on his cell phone and at his home.

Magistrate Lamb is a lawyer who served on the Beaufort County Council until 2006, when Gov. Mark Sanford, a Republican, appointed him a part-time magistrate.

Magistrate Lamb was publicly reprimanded by the state Supreme Court, which said it was the harshest punishment it could issue since he had resigned as judge. He agreed not to seek any judicial position in the state without first getting written permission from the state’s high court, effectively banning him from the bench.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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