- The Washington Times - Friday, May 1, 2009

ALABAMA

Man gets death for bridge murders

MOBILE | A judge ordered a death sentence Thursday for a jobless shrimper convicted of murdering four young children by tossing them from an 80-foot-high bridge on the Alabama coast.

Circuit Judge Charles Graddick handed down the death sentence to Lam Luong and said he would order prison officials to show Luong photographs of the four children each day he is on death row.

Luong, 38, was convicted in March of killing the children on Jan. 7, 2008. A Vietnamese refugee, he was accused of dropping the four from atop the Dauphin Island Bridge after an argument with their mother, Kieu Phan, 23.

Luong, who was Ms. Phan’s common-law husband, fathered three of the victims - Hannah Luong, 2; Lindsey Luong, 1; and Danny Luong, 4 months. Ryan Phan, 3, was Ms. Phan’s child with another man.

CALIFORNIA

Professor probed after Nazi comment

SANTA BARBARA | The University of California at Santa Barbara is investigating allegations of improper conduct and anti-Semitism against a Jewish professor who compared Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to the Holocaust.

Sociology professor William I. Robinson sent an e-mail to 80 of his students in January that contained photos of Jews killed by the Nazis and similar photos of Palestinians killed in the recent Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip. The e-mail used the terms concentration camp and genocide when referring to Gaza.

Two Jewish students quit the class and filed complaints. Jewish groups also have complained.

Mr. Robinson argues that he was within his rights of academic freedom to challenge students with controversial topics.

CONNECTICUT

Senate OKs ban on machine guns

HARTFORD | The Connecticut Senate on Thursday approved a measure that would ban children under 16 years old from handling or shooting machine guns.

The legislation, which passed on a 31-2 vote, stems from the October death of an 8-year-old Ashford boy who accidentally shot himself in the head with an Uzi at a Massachusetts gun show.

“For a young person, a minor, to handle an automatic weapon … it’s like saying that it’s OK to pick up a rattlesnake and that it is somehow going to be safe,” said Senate President Donald E. Williams Jr. “It’s not going to be safe and it should not be legal and I would think that a lot of folks would be shocked that there was not a law.”

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives, where it is expected to pass.

FLORIDA

Prescription bill heads to governor

TALLAHASSEE | The state’s role as the nation’s leading supplier of prescription drugs obtained for illicit purposes could be reduced, if not ended, by a bill that was sent to Gov. Charlie Crist on Thursday.

The measure would set up a prescription tracking system designed to crack down on “doctor shopping” by addicts and drug dealers who flock to Florida from throughout the Southeast.

That’s because their own states already collect data on pain killers such as oxycodone and other potentially lethal drugs dispensed by pharmacies and clinics. Florida is the largest of only 12 states without such tracking systems.

Federal Drug Enforcement Administration officials said South Florida’s Broward County, where doctors wrote prescriptions for more than 6.5 million oxycodone pills from June to December 2008, is the nation’s top supplier of the narcotic.

Opponents argued the bill would violate privacy rights by tracking citizens and their activities.

Crist spokesman Sterling Ivey said that the governor hasn’t taken a public position.

MONTANA

Club owner’s debts exceed $150 million

BILLINGS | Court filings show that the owner of a financially struggling Montana haven for the rich is herself more than $150 million in debt, with most of her many houses, cars and other belongings put up as collateral on overdue loans.

Yellowstone Club owner Edra Blixseth sought personal bankruptcy protection in March to stave off her creditors. A list of finances filed minutes before a midnight deadline Wednesday shows she has $157 million in debts, $107 million in assets and zero income last year.

The exclusive mountain resort Mrs. Blixseth co-founded with her former husband was put under federal bankruptcy protection in November, and her other business enterprises are foundering.

NEW YORK

Three injured in building collapse

NEW YORK | Part of a vacant five-story building that had recently been cited collapsed in Lower Manhattan on Thursday morning, leaving mounds of rubble and slightly injuring three people, officials said.

Emergency crews with a dog searched the site and a neighboring building as a precaution, and three people - two firefighters and one civilian - were treated at a hospital for minor injuries, fire officials said. Their conditions weren’t available.

Gas was shut off in the area.

The cause of the collapse was not determined.

PENNSYLVANIA

Entrepreneur pleads to sex crimes

PHILADELPHIA | A Russian-American car exporter pleaded guilty to sex crimes involving three Russian girls.

However, a U.S. judge won’t decide whether to accept the negotiated plea from Andrew Mogilyansky, 38, until his July 30 sentencing.

Federal prosecutors said the Columbia University graduate traveled to his homeland to procure young teens from orphanages and have sex with them at his St. Petersburg apartment.

The plea calls for him to serve 78 to 97 months for “sex tourism” and three related counts. Defense lawyer Jack McMahon said Mogilyansky was a customer of the prostitution service but did not run it.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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