- - Wednesday, June 16, 2010

FLORIDA

Spirit makes deal to end pilots strike

MIRAMAR — Spirit Airlines made a deal with its pilots on Wednesday that will end their 5-day-old walkout, the union said.

The airline said it will resume flights on Friday. Pilots were working out a back-to-work agreement and technically were remaining on strike until the deal was completed, said Andy Nelson, vice chairman of the council for the Spirit branch of the Air Line Pilots Association.

“Our intention is to help get the airline back up and running as quickly and efficiently as possible,” he said. Spirit canceled its Thursday flights before the agreement was reached.

GEORGIA

Army post visitor found with war gear

FORT GORDON — A former National Guardsman pretending to be a U.S. Army soldier persuaded an officer to give him a sophisticated laser sight for military rifles before he was caught hours later on the post with a land mine, several grenades and night-vision devices, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Federal prosecutors charged Anthony Todd Saxon, 34, with impersonating an Army master sergeant and stealing the infrared laser targeting sight. He did not enter a plea during a preliminary hearing in federal court, as his attorney said he needed more time to review the case.

Mr. Saxon was wearing a full combat uniform, including rank and insignia, when he was stopped at Fort Gordon by military police and questioned about his activities, according to the complaint. After Mr. Saxon gave them consent to search his vehicle, authorities said, they found several grenades and the land mine, among other equipment.

According to the complaint, Mr. Saxon told investigators that he was able to obtain the laser sight by telling a captain in the post’s military police office that he was a master sergeant in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division and needed it to train a soldier.

MASSACHUSETTS

Man pleads guilty in black church arson

SPRINGFIELD — One of three white men charged with burning down a predominantly black church hours after Barack Obama was elected president pleaded guilty to civil rights charges Wednesday in a deal that calls for him to spend nine years in prison.

Benjamin Haskell, 23, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to violate civil rights and damaging religious property because of race, color or ethnic characteristics. Sentencing was scheduled for Sept. 29.

The fire destroyed the Macedonia Church of God in Christ in Springfield in the early morning hours of Nov. 5, 2008, the day after Mr. Obama was elected the nation’s first black president.

OHIO

506 pounds of pot found in jet luggage

COLUMBUS — A California woman traveling with a bodyguard on a private jet was arrested at an Ohio airport with 506 pounds of marijuana stashed in 13 suitcases, federal authorities said.

Lisette Lee, the bodyguard and two personal assistants were arrested Monday night after the Drug Enforcement Administration got a tip that the 28-year-old woman was traveling with a suspicious amount of luggage.

After the chartered plane landed in Columbus, one of Ms. Lee’s assistants and her bodyguard helped baggage workers unload some of the luggage, authorities said. It took two men to carry some of the large suitcases, which were packed with bricks of pot, and three vehicles to carry all the luggage, authorities said.

Authorities also confiscated from Ms. Lee’s bag three cell phones, cocaine, marijuana, drug paraphernalia and suspected drug ledgers that showed about $300,000 in transactions.

VIRGINIA

No-fly list keeps student in Egypt

A Virginia man said Wednesday that he has been stuck in limbo in Egypt for the past six weeks, living in a cheap hotel and surviving on fast food after his name was placed on a U.S. no-fly list because of a trip to Yemen.

Yahya Wehelie, a 26-year-old Muslim who was born in Fairfax to Somali parents, said he spent 18 months studying in Yemen and left in early May. The U.S. has been scrutinizing citizens who study in Yemen more closely since the man who tried to blow up a U.S.-bound airliner on Christmas was linked to an al Qaeda offshoot in Yemen.

Mr. Wehelie was returning to the U.S. with his brother Yusuf via Egypt on May 5 when Egyptian authorities stopped him from boarding his flight to New York. They told him the FBI wanted to speak with him.

He said he was then told by FBI agents in Egypt that his name was on a no-fly list because of people he met in Yemen and he could not board a U.S. airline or enter American airspace.

Mr. Wehelie said his brother was allowed to return home, but only after he was detained for three days by Egyptian police on suspicion of carrying a weapon.

Mr. Wehelie said he had no dealings with a terrorist organization while in Yemen and does not see himself as a particularly observant Muslim.

WASHINGTON

5 soldiers charged in Afghan deaths

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD — Four more soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state have been charged with premeditated murder in the killings of three Afghan civilians earlier this year, the Army said.

In all, five soldiers have been charged. All are assigned to the 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team.

Officials at the base south of Tacoma say Pfc. Andrew Holmes, Spc. Michael Wagnon and Spc. Adam Winfield were charged Tuesday with one count each of premeditated murder. Sgt. Calvin Gibbs and Spc. Jeremy Morlock were charged earlier this month with three counts each of premeditated murder and one count of assault.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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