- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 25, 2010

CALIFORNIA

Parole is easier amid budget crisis

LOS ANGELES — Parole is getting a lot easier for some convicted felons in California.

Faced with a budget crisis and overcrowded prisons, California has relaxed restrictions for nonviolent criminals. They no longer face random drug tests, travel rules or requirements to check in with an officer, although they still must register their addresses with the prisons agency.

The law aims to shrink the prison population by reducing the number of minor parole violations that send ex-cons back to prison.

About 24,000 nonviolent ex-cons are expected to qualify.

COLORADO

Home detention for balloon boy dad

FORT COLLINS — The Colorado man who pleaded guilty to falsely influencing the sheriff by saying his son had floated off in a runaway balloon is completing his sentence at home.

Larimer County sheriff’s spokeswoman Eloise Campanella said Wednesday that Richard Heene finished his time in jail and with a work-release unit. He was moved earlier this month to home detention and is wearing an ankle monitor.

Mr. Heene started serving a 90-day sentence Jan. 11. His wife, Mayumi, pleaded guilty to filing a false report and must serve 20 days in prison.

Sheriff’s officials say the couple’s report Oct. 15 that their young son had floated away in a UFO-shaped helium balloon was a hoax.

DELAWARE

Doctor pleads not guilty in molestations

GEORGETOWN — A Delaware pediatrician accused of molesting more than 100 of his patients has pleaded not guilty to more than 470 criminal charges.

Dr. Earl Bradley entered the not guilty plea Wednesday at a two-minute arraignment hearing in Sussex County Superior Court.

Dr. Bradley, who was arrested in December, is being held in lieu of $2.9 million bail.

The charges against Dr. Bradley include rape, sexual exploitation of a child, unlawful sexual contact, continuous sexual abuse of a child, assault and reckless endangering.

A grand jury indictment returned last month alleges that Dr. Bradley videotaped sexual attacks on 103 children, dating back to December 1998. The indictment alleges that many victims were assaulted repeatedly.

NEW JERSEY

Regulator: Allow mob kin to work for casinos

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — For 22 years, Joseph N. Merlino and his mother, Phyllis, have sought permission for their concrete-reinforcing company to work in the Atlantic City casino industry.

And for 22 years, state regulators have refused them for two main reasons: Joseph Merlino’s late father was mobster Lawrence Yogi Merlino and his cousin is Joseph Skinny Joey Merlino, a former mob boss who is now imprisoned.

The younger Merlino insists he, his mother and their company, Bayshore Rebar, are clean and should not be penalized for the sins of their relatives.

On Wednesday, they got the answer they’ve been seeking for more than two decades when a New Jersey Casino Control Commission hearing officer recommended that Bayshore Rebar receive a license to do work for casinos. The full five-member commission must vote on the decision within 45 days.

From wire dispatches and staff reports