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American Scene

- - Saturday, August 15, 2009

'Fight club' defendant sentenced to 3 years

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A man convicted of helping run what police called a "fight club" that set developmentally disabled residents of a state-run center against each other was sentenced to three years in prison Friday.

A Nueces County jury spared Jesse Salazar the maximum punishment in the abuse scandal that surfaced with cell-phone videos of employees at the Corpus Christi State School provoking residents into fights.

Salazar, who no longer works at the facility, was convicted this week of intentionally causing injury to a disabled person. He had faced up to 10 years in prison, but jurors returned with a lighter sentence Friday afternoon after being split 11-1 earlier in the day.

Salazar, 25, was one of six former employees charged in the scandal. He was the first to stand trial and will be the first to serve prison time.

Failed assassin released from prison

FORT WORTH, Texas — The Charles Manson follower convicted of trying to assassinate President Gerald R. Ford was released Friday from a Texas prison hospital after more than three decades behind bars, a prison official said.

Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme was just 26 years old when she pointed a semiautomatic .45-caliber pistol at Mr. Ford in September 1975 in Sacramento, Calif. Secret Service agents grabbed her, and Mr. Ford was not hurt.

Fromme, now 60, left the Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth at about 8 a.m. Friday, spokeswoman Dr. Maria Douglas said.

Fromme, who got a life term, became the first person sentenced under a special federal law covering assaults on U.S. presidents, a statute enacted after the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Memoir names Madoff mistress

NEW YORK — Bernard Madoff's decades-long fraud might not have been his only secret. A new book says he had a two-decade affair with one of his investors.

That's in a memoir by Sheryl Weinstein titled "Madoff's Other Secret: Love, Money, Bernie, and Me." It goes on sale Aug. 25.

A spokesman for book publisher St. Martin's Press said Friday the relationship between Mrs. Weinstein and Madoff spanned more than 20 years. Both were married.

Madoff is serving 150 years in prison for defrauding investors. Mrs. Weinstein said she met him when she was chief financial officer for the charitable women's organization Hadassah.

Town wins fight to save mailbox

OTISFIELD, Maine — The U.S. Postal Service has decided to keep a rural Maine town's lone mailbox after a protest that included a phone blitz, pressure from elected officials and a blockade to prevent the box's removal.

Regional postal spokesman Tom Rizzo said that the agency reversed its earlier decision to get rid of the Otisfield mailbox.

News of Otisfield's plight drew national attention, and letters of support for the town's 1,700 residents came from as far as away as California.

Crews get more help to fight fires

DAVENPORT, Calif. — California deployed more fire crews across the state Friday to gain control of a series of growing wildfires that have forced hundreds of people to flee their homes.

In the Santa Cruz Mountains, the Lockheed Fire prompted officials to issue mandatory evacuation orders for about 2,400 people in the mountain communities of Swanton and Bonny Doon in Santa Cruz County.

The blaze, which started Wednesday night, blackened 6.4 square miles of remote wilderness and was only about 5 percent contained Friday morning, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

The fire, about 10 miles north of the coastal city of Santa Cruz, has damaged only two small structures but was threatening more than 1,000 others. There have been no reports of injuries related to the fire, whose cause is under investigation.

From wire dispatches and staff reports