- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 4, 2008

MISSISSIPPI

WWII hero battles cancer

JACKSON | A World War II veteran who received the nation’s highest military honor when he was only 17 is in the fight of his life, battling cancer, his biographer said.

Eighty-year-old Jack Lucas, who lied his way into the Marine Corps at age 14, was nearly killed when he used his body to shield his fellow Marines from grenades on Iwo Jima in February 1945. He was just a few days past his 17th birthday at the time.

He received the Medal of Honor from President Truman later that year, becoming the youngest Marine to receive the award.

D.K. Drum, whose book “Indestructible” tells Mr. Lucas’ story, said Monday that he is in “grave” condition at Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg, where family and friends are staying with him 24 hours a day.

“He is fighting very hard, very hard,” he said. “It’s probably his hardest fight, but he’s not giving up.”

PENNSYLVANIA

Victim, 71, and friend in wheelchair nab suspect

KINGSTON | The young woman probably thought the Korean War veteran, whose friend was in a wheelchair, would make an easy target. She was wrong.

Harry Kopenis, 71, chased and tackled the woman he says robbed him at an ATM in northeastern Pennsylvania. Then, with help from Kevin Lamb, his friend in a wheelchair, he held her until police arrived.

Police charged Erin Vanmatre, 22, of Kingston, with robbery, harassment and other offenses. Vanmatre, who was on probation for conspiracy to commit theft, was jailed on $10,000 bail.

Mr. Kopenis said he’s not sure how he was able to catch Vanmatre, considering he suffered a stroke five years ago.

He pointed to the sky and said, “It was a source up there who gave me the energy.”

ALABAMA

Ex-CEO seeks new corruption trial

MONTGOMERY | Former HealthSouth Chief Executive Officer Richard Scrushy has asked a federal appeals court to overturn his conviction in a government corruption case, saying in part that jurors violated court rules by communicating with one another by e-mail.

Scrushy’s attorneys filed a 118-page brief late Monday asking the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse Scrushy’s June 2006 conviction or order a new trial.

The brief argues that prosecutors did not prove Scrushy bribed then-Gov. Don Siegelman with contributions to a state lottery campaign in 1999 in exchange for an appointment to a seat on a hospital regulatory board.

ARKANSAS

15,000 hens killed in bird-flu scare

LITTLE ROCK | Tyson Foods Inc. has begun killing and burying the carcasses of 15,000 hens in northwestern Arkansas that tested positive for exposure to a strain of the avian flu that is not harmful to humans, state officials said Tuesday.

Jon Fitch, director of the state’s Livestock and Poultry Commission, said routine blood tests conducted Friday found suspected exposure.

Further tests conducted by the state and the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that the birds did not have active infections, but rather were exposed to a subtype of the disease.

Mr. Fitch said the company immediately began disposing of the birds.

COLORADO

Nuke contractors ordered to pay

DENVER | Two companies that worked as contractors with the now-defunct Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant have been ordered to pay $925 million to residents who claimed that contamination blown from the facility endangered their health and devalued their property.

A federal judge on Monday ordered Dow Chemical Co. to pay $653 million and the former Rockwell International Corp. $508 million in compensatory damages, but capped the amount to be collected at $725 million.

Judge John L. Kane also ordered Dow and Rockwell to pay exemplary damages of $111 million and $89 million, respectively.

The lawsuit, filed by a group of homeowners, affects up to 13,000 people who owned land near the former plant when it shut down in 1989 because of safety violations.

The lawsuit claimed the companies intentionally mishandled radioactive waste and then tried to cover it up.

CONNECTICUT

Trash hauler pleads guilty in mob case

NEW HAVEN | A trash hauler who was at the center of a sweeping federal investigation of mob influence in the industry pleaded guilty Tuesday to racketeering and other charges.

James Galante, whose trash businesses handled about 80 percent of the refuse in southwestern Connecticut, faces 70 to 87 months in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.

He entered guilty pleas to charges of racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service and wire fraud conspiracy.

Galante, of Danbury, agreed to forfeit 25 companies that he valued at more than $100 million, though he will get $10.7 million back after the government sells the companies. He also will hand over other property and pay $1.6 million in income taxes.

Galante and 28 others were indicted in 2006 on charges of participating in a scheme to drive up trash rates.

FLORIDA

Dye-pack burst chases away robber

FORT LAUDERDALE | A bank robber got as far as a nearby pawn shop before a dye pack, inserted in his wad of stolen cash, exploded in his pants, authorities said.

The man then fled the store, leaving behind the money that contained the theft-detection device.

Fort Lauderdale Police Department spokeswoman Kathy Collins said the man matched descriptions of a robber who pilfered a bag of money Monday from a Pompano Beach bank about an hour earlier.

Authorities were still looking for him Tuesday.

GEORGIA

Tomatoes linked to salmonella cases

ATLANTA | An outbreak of salmonella food poisoning first linked to uncooked tomatoes has now been reported in nine states, U.S. health officials said Tuesday.

Lab tests have confirmed 40 illnesses in Texas and New Mexico as the same type of salmonella, right down to the genetic fingerprint. An investigation by Texas and New Mexico health authorities and the Indian Health Service tied those cases to uncooked, raw, large tomatoes.

At least 17 people in Texas and New Mexico have been hospitalized. None has died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Another 30 people have become sick with the same Salmonella Saintpaul infection in Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Idaho, Illinois and Indiana. CDC investigators are looking into whether tomatoes were culprits there, too.

ILLINOIS

Train derailment injures passenger

CHICAGO | A four-car commuter derailed in Chicago Tuesday, a week after a similar accident.

Officials said one of the passengers in the derailment was treated for minor injuries.

Chicago Transit Authority spokeswoman Sheila Gregory said all 14 passengers were able to walk to the platform of a nearby station.

The derailment occurred while the southbound Red Line train was on ground-level tracks. All four cars remained upright.

One week earlier, a Green Line train derailment injured 14 people.

MASSACHUSETTS

Convictions reversed for 3 Islamic leaders

BOSTON | A federal judge has reversed some of the convictions of three former Islamic charity leaders in Massachusetts who were accused of duping the government to hide pro-jihad activities.

The three men had been convicted in January.

However, a federal judge in Worcester overturned their conspiracy convictions Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Dennis Saylor IV also overturned tax charges against two of the men - Samir Al-Monla and Emadeddin Muntasser. The judge said prosecutors did not prove that the men tried to hide information from the Internal Revenue Service.

Mr. Al-Monla was cleared of all charges and released.

NEW YORK

Guilty plea entered in prostitution ring

NEW YORK | A woman accused of helping run the prostitution ring patronized by New York’s disgraced ex-governor pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy, money laundering and federal prostitution charges.

Prosecutors said Cecil Suwal, 23, ran the day-to-day operations of the Emperors Club V.I.P. escort service.

Suwal is the second escort service employee to plead guilty. Temeka Lewis, a booking agent for the escort service, pleaded guilty to similar charges in May.

Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer hasn’t been charged in the case. He stepped down as governor in March after he was accused of being a client.

Suwal was accused of supervising the company’s booking agents, paying out hundreds of thousands of dollars to prostitutes, and controlling shell companies used to hide the ring’s profits.

The charges carry a maximum of 25 years in prison, but she is likely to receive between 21 and 27 months under a plea bargain deal with prosecutors.

OHIO

Man pleads guilty in terrorist plots

COLUMBUS | A man accused of joining al Qaeda in the early 1990s and helping teach fellow Muslim extremists how to bomb U.S. and European targets pleaded guilty Tuesday to planning terrorist attacks.

Christopher Paul, 44, pleaded guilty to a count that carries a maximum life prison sentence, but entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors that calls for a 20-year term.

U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Frost accepted the plea but said he would not give final approval to the deal until he sees the government’s pre-sentence report, which is not expected for several months.

No sentencing date has been set.

Paul pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, specifically bombs, in terrorist attacks. Prosecutors agreed to drop charges of providing material support to terrorists and conspiracy to provide support to terrorists.

OREGON

Protest arsonist gets probation

EUGENE | A radical environmentalist who helped federal officials round up a militant cell of arsonists called “the Family” was sentenced Tuesday to five years of probation.

Jacob Ferguson pleaded guilty in October to arson and attempted arson for his role in a series of 20 fires set across the West from 1996 to 2001 to protest logging and environmental damage. Officials said the fires caused more than $40 million in damage.

Ferguson became an informant in 2004 as investigators were closing in on the radical group.

Ten members were sentenced to federal prison in 2007 after pleading guilty to arson and other charges.

PENNSYLVANIA

News anchor eyed in hacking

PHILADELPHIA | An evening news anchor is under federal investigation and off the air after his fired co-anchor complained that someone may have hacked into her e-mails and leaked them to gossip columnists.

The investigation became public after the FBI on Thursday raided the home of anchor Larry Mendte of KYW-TV, seizing a computer and related equipment.

The raid was the second major embarrassment in months for the CBS affiliate. In January, the station fired Mr. Mendte’s co-anchor, Alycia Lane, after a series of off-camera incidents, including her arrest during a scuffle with New York City police.

Miss Lane said she began to suspect this year that her private e-mails were being accessed and forwarded to news outlets that have covered her career and social life.

The FBI took the case, and the investigation eventually led to Mr. Mendte, 51.

TEXAS

Sect parents wait for children

SAN ANGELO | Parents awaiting the release of children taken into state custody during a raid of a polygamist group’s ranch may need to wait a few days because so many parents are showing up at foster homes simultaneously, a sect leader said Tuesday.

Parents took 229 of the roughly 430 children in foster care on Monday after a judge signed an order clearing the children to leave with their parents, bowing to a state Supreme Court ruling that the seizure was not justified.

“Everybody is trying really hard to be patient and considerate,” said Willie Jessop, an elder with the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. “We know more and more are leaving every hour.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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