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American Scene

- - Sunday, July 4, 2010

CALIFORNIA

L.A. approves pay in firefighters' suit

LOS ANGELES | The Los Angeles City Council has approved a $2.5 million payment to two white fire captains who won a racial discrimination case in 2008 involving a black firefighter who was fed dog food.

The City Council approved the payment Friday for fire Capt. Chris Burton and Capt. John Tohill.

A jury initially awarded the captains $1.6 million in 2008. An attorney said the extra costs include legal fees and interest payments.

The captains sued the city in 2006 claiming they were made scapegoats for the misconduct of a firefighter who laced firefighter Tennie Pierce's spaghetti with dog food.

In 2007, the city agreed to pay Mr. Pierce $1.5 million to settle claims that he suffered harassment and retaliation after co-workers served him the tainted food as a prank.

ILLINOIS

Diver dies while working on oil rig

CHICAGO | A waste services company said a diver performing maintenance on a client's rig in the Gulf of Mexico, unrelated to the massive oil spill, died Friday after an underwater accident.

A statement from Chicago-based Veolia Environmental Services North America said the diver was working at a depth of about 250 feet from the company's Normand Clipper vessel when "what might have been an underwater explosion" happened.

Veolia said rescue teams retrieved the diver but paramedics weren't able to resuscitate him.

The company didn't specify the client, but Margaret Cooper with Houston-based Chevron Corp. confirmed that a Veolia contractor died while performing maintenance on a Chevron rig.

INDIANA

4 sent to prison for child porn

INDIANAPOLIS | A federal judge sentenced to prison four members of a major international online child pornography ring, including a high-ranking administrator of the group's website.

Officials said the group ran the Cache, an online message board where members shared millions of pornographic images and videos. At its peak, the site had 1,000 members.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven DeBrota said Michael Baratta, 49, of Sacramento, Calif., was one of five top-level administrators for the message board. Baratta was sentenced Friday to 15 years in prison.

Three others received 15- or 10-year sentences.

MAINE

Suspect arrested in triple killing

AMITY | Police said a fingerprint and DNA from a beer can and cigarette butt led them to a man who reportedly confessed to killing two men and a boy in northern Maine.

A Maine State Police spokesman said Thayne Ormsby, 20, of Orient was charged Friday with three counts of murder. Mr. Ormsby was being held on a fugitive charge in Dover, N.H.

The victims — 55-year-old Jeffrey Ryan, his 10-year-old son, Jesse, and 30-year-old neighbor Jason Dehahn — were found stabbed to death June 23 in a mobile home on U.S. 1 in Amity, a town of 200 residents near the Canadian border.

NEW YORK

Terminal emptied over call to JFK

NEW YORK | Passengers returned Sunday night to a terminal at New York City's JFK Airport that was evacuated as a result of a bomb scare that turned out to be a false alarm.

A Port Authority spokesman says 250 to 300 passengers were evacuated from Terminal 1 at the airport at about 6 p.m. Sunday. They were allowed back in after 8 p.m.

The evacuation happened after an anonymous phone caller said there was a bomb at the airport, and at the same time someone else reported an unattended bag.

Port Authority spokesman John Kelly said police checked the bag and it was not a bomb.

NEW YORK

Boater charged in fatal crash

NEW YORK | A New Jersey man was charged with vehicular manslaughter after a boat crash near the Statue of Liberty that killed a groom-to-be and injured two other men.

New York City police said Richard Aquilone, 39, of Jersey City, N.J., was out on the water Friday evening with his wife, their 2-year-old daughter and two sons, ages 2 and 3, when their 30-foot boat hit a smaller craft.

Police said Jijo Puthuvamkunnath, 30, of Bergenfield, N.J., and two friends were in a 17-foot boat anchored off Liberty Island that was struck by Mr. Aquilone's craft.

Mr. Puthuvamkunnath was taken to Jersey City Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead of head injuries. His two friends, both also 30, were treated for minor injuries.

No one on the larger boat was injured.

Mr. Aquilone was arrested on charges of vehicular manslaughter, operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs and endangering the welfare of a child.

PENNSYLVANIA

Remains ID'd for 7 from WWII

TYRONE | U.S. military authorities identified the remains of seven servicemen missing in action since their cargo plane went down in Burma during World War II.

The men were aboard a C-47A Skytrain that left India on May 23, 1944, to resupply Allied forces near Myitkyina, Burma, but never returned.

In 2002, a missionary found a data plate from a crash site about 31 miles northwest of Myitkyina. A military team excavated the site.

Aboard the plane were Air Force Tech. Sgt. Clarence Frantz of Tyrone, Pa.; Capt. Joseph M. Olbinski of Chicago; 1st Lt. Joseph J. Auld of Floral Park, N.Y.; 1st Lt. Robert M. Anderson of Millen, Ga.; Pfc. Richard M. Dawson of Haynesville, Va.; Pvt. Robert L. Crane of Sacramento, Calif.; and Pvt. Fred G. Fagan of Piedmont, Ala.

They will be buried with full military honors July 15 at Arlington National Cemetery.

TEXAS

Stanford trial turns into legal circus

HOUSTON | It might not be the Greatest Show on Earth, but the legal circus in the $7 billion fraud case against jailed Texas financier R. Allen Stanford is possibly making it the greatest show in court.

The criminal and civil cases against Mr. Stanford have included claims of bloated legal fees by attorneys and law clerks. They also have included a judge admonishing attorneys like an elementary school teacher to stop calling each other names and accusations that Mr. Stanford has wasted millions of dollars by hiring and firing attorneys from at least 10 law firms.

But Mr. Stanford's attorney, Bob Bennett, insists this is all in the past and he's focused on his client's case.

Despite all of these legal fireworks, Mr. Stanford's criminal trial is still nearly seven months away.

TEXAS

Five die in crash of aircraft ambulance

ALPINE | An air ambulance crashed shortly after takeoff from a West Texas airport Sunday, killing all five people on board.

The crash happened about 12:15 a.m. about a mile east of Alpine-Casparis Municipal Airport, about 200 miles southeast of El Paso. The twin-engine Cessna 421 had just taken off for Midland International Airport in Midland, when it went down in an open area, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The aircraft was carrying a patient and his wife to Midland, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) said. It identified the dead as 78-year-old patient Guy Richard Folger of Alpine, his 59-year-old wife, Mary Folger; two flight nurses, 49-year-old Sharon Falkener of Fort Davis, and 42-year-old Tracy Chambers of Alpine; and 59-year-old pilot Ted Caffarel of Beaumont.

Mr. Caffarel was apparently trying to make an emergency landing when the plane hit a rut in the muddy field, overturned and burned, the DPS said.

The FAA listed the aircraft as registered to O'Hara Flying Service II LP of Amarillo. Company owner Denny O'Hara declined to comment to the Associated Press. The National Transportation Safety Board will lead the investigation, FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Corey said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports