- - Monday, November 1, 2010

CALIFORNIA

Trick-or-treating tot hurt by gunfire

SAN FRANCISCO | A 3-year-old girl and her grandfather were wounded when they were caught in the crossfire of a shooting while returning home from a night of trick-or-treating, police said Monday.

The child was initially reported to be hospitalized with life-threatening injuries after Sunday night’s shooting in the Potrero Hill neighborhood, but her condition improved by Monday afternoon, Officer Albie Esparza said.

“She is expected to survive,” he said.

Investigators think the girl and her grandfather were the unintended victims of a gang-related shooting that left a 20-year-old man injured with multiple gunshot wounds, Officer Esparza said.

The grandfather suffered a single gunshot wound as he tried to shield the girl with his body, but she was struck several times, police Sgt. Michael Andraychak said.

COLORADO

Man pleads guilty in Ponzi scheme

DENVER | A man accused of defrauding dozens of investors, including former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway, in a $71 million Ponzi scheme pleaded guilty Monday to charges of theft, securities fraud and violating Colorado’s organized crime law.

In exchange for Sean Michael Mueller’s plea, prosecutors agreed to drop one charge of theft and not seek more than 40 years in prison. In court, prosecutor Joseph Morales said the plea agreement also includes restitution, though outside court, Mr. Morales said the dollar amount has not been determined.

Authorities say 65 people invested $71 million with the company over 10 years, but in April it had $9.5 million in assets and $45 million in liabilities. Mr. Morales said Mueller falsely claimed to have earned between $50 million and $70 million on those investments.

Mueller, 42, appeared in an orange prison uniform and handcuffs and answered, “Guilty, your honor,” when asked by Denver District Judge Martin F. Egelhoff how he pleaded to each of the counts.

Judge Egelhoff ordered a presentence investigation, which will help determine Mueller’s sentence. A sentencing hearing was scheduled for Dec. 6.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Metro investigates escalator mishap

Metro officials are continuing to investigate an escalator malfunction during Saturday’s rally with Comedy Central stars Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel said four people were injured at about 2 p.m. Saturday at the bottom of the escalator at the L’Enfant Plaza station downtown. He said it’s not clear exactly how the escalator malfunctioned.

Witness Samuel Robfogel told the Associated Press that the escalator accelerated suddenly. He said it appeared to be in “free fall” and that passengers were screaming.

D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services spokesman Pete Piringer said two men and two women were taken to hospitals. He said two of the injuries were considered serious by personnel on the scene, but none was classified as life-threatening.

The rally led to Metro’s highest-ever ridership total for a Saturday, with about 825,000 passengers.

MASSACHUSETTS

Man sentenced for burning black church

SPRINGFIELD | A Massachusetts man has been sentenced to nine years in prison for torching a predominantly black church hours after Barack Obama was elected president.

Benjamin Haskell, of Springfield, was sentenced Monday in federal court after pleading guilty to civil rights charges in June. His plea deal called for the nine-year sentence.

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.

The church, under construction at the time, had about 300 members, most of whom were black.

Haskell is one of three white men charged in the fire. Thomas Gleason Jr. is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty in June. Michael Jacques is awaiting trial.

NEW JERSEY

Girl Scout uniforms to be made in U.S.

NEWARK | The Girl Scouts of the USA announced Monday its uniforms will continue to be made in America following a public uproar over reports it was considering bids from overseas manufacturers.

The owners of a family run Passaic, N.J., factory that has been the main supplier of Girl Scout uniforms and sashes for year were told recently that the organization would be seeking bids for the job, including from a company in China.

Girl Scouts spokeswoman Michelle Tompkins said the organization had been contacted by parents, members and volunteers urging it to keep the uniforms American-made. She said the contract hadn’t been awarded but the bid request had been modified to require that the uniforms be made domestically and that companies adhere to strict guidelines regarding worker age, treatment and safety.

The announcement was welcomed by the owners of the Jackie Evans Inc. factory, which has been the main supplier for Girl Scouts uniforms for nearly a decade.

“That’s great that they’re doing that,” said Mario Monaco, who works alongside his father and brother in the business. “We wanted to keep jobs in the United States and keep jobs in Passaic. Now we have to see what happens.”

Mr. Monaco said the family would be submitting a bid and hoped the process would be fair and transparent.

NEW JERSEY

Facebook-funded fix of schools hits streets

NEWARK | The first phase of the $100 million Facebook-funded makeover of Newark’s school system will reach far beyond classrooms and into living rooms.

Over the next eight weeks, city residents will be targeted with phone calls, home visits and focus groups as part of an effort to get parents more involved in the educational process and to find out what is working, and what isn’t, in the city’s troubled school system.

“We don’t want to give anyone any excuses for not participating in this process,” Shavar Jeffries, president of the Newark Public Schools Advisory Board, said Monday. “There are no excuses.”

Mayor Cory Booker and city officials made the announcements Monday at the kickoff of the Partnership for Education in Newark, whose headquarters are housed in a converted furniture store in the city’s heart.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in September pledged $100 million to improve Newark’s schools, which have been plagued by low test scores, high dropout rates and crumbling buildings. The district already spends nearly $24,000 a year — more than twice the national average — on each of its 40,000 students.

NORTH CAROLINA

Prosthetic leg linked to missing girl

HICKORY | A prosthetic leg found in western North Carolina belonged to a missing 10-year-old girl, police said.

The Hickory Police Department said Monday that the artificial left leg belonged to Zahra Baker, who lost her own leg to bone cancer. Police said the serial number on the prosthetic leg recovered Wednesday matched the number on medical records that detectives collected from the girl’s native Australia.

Police said a scanner was used to pull the serial number from a transponder inside the leg.

Authorities think the girl is dead and have been searching for her body for weeks.

Elisa Baker, the girl’s stepmother, is charged with obstruction of justice. Police say she admitted writing a bogus ransom note the day Zahra was reported missing.

OHIO

Students shown how to vote for Democrats

CINCINNATI | A high school principal has been suspended after a claim that students were taken to a voting precinct house on a field trip, shown how to vote and given Democratic sample ballots.

An anti-tax group sued Cincinnati Public Schools over the Oct. 13 trip by Hughes High School students to the Hamilton County Board of Elections. The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes says the trip violated a pact with the district.

The district suspended Hughes Principal Virginia Rhodes on Friday for as long as two weeks with pay. A disciplinary hearing will be held Wednesday for Dennis McFadden, a social studies teacher who took the students to the board headquarters.

The district said Monday that it was investigating for any policy violations.

The students taken to vote were given Democratic sample ballots, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

PENNSYLVANIA

Woman is accused of stealing son’s drugs

PITTSBURGH | A woman visiting her terminally ill son at a Pennsylvania hospital has been accused of injecting herself with his drugs.

Authorities say Karen Remsing was visiting her 15-year-old son at UPMC’s Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh when she unhooked his intravenous line, siphoned out a sedative using a syringe and injected herself with it. They say she then reconnected the IV line and left in the tube an air bubble that put her son in further danger.

The 42-year-old Vancouver, Wash., resident was charged over the weekend with child endangerment, reckless endangerment, theft, criminal mischief and committing prohibitive acts including possession of the prescription medication.

Mrs. Remsing has been jailed. Her preliminary court hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

TEXAS

Enron’s Skilling seeks new trial, cites ruling

HOUSTON | The ex-CEO of disgraced energy giant Enron asked a federal appeals court on Monday to grant him a new trial based on a Supreme Court ruling that his attorney said puts his conviction for conspiracy and securities fraud into question.

Jeffrey Skilling’s attorney Daniel Petrocelli presented his argument to a three-judge panel scheduled by the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in June that an anti-fraud law was improperly used to help convict Skilling in 2006 for his role in Enron’s calamitous downfall demanded a new trial, Mr. Petrocelli said. The jury received bad instructions, he said, that could have tainted their decision-making process.

The prosecution, however, countered that the instructions given to the jury were “harmless” because the evidence against Skilling was overwhelming. The 19 convictions of conspiracy, securities fraud, insider trading and lying to auditors should stand, prosecutor Doug Wilson said.

The arguments focused around a short addendum to the federal mail and wire fraud statue that makes it illegal to scheme to deprive investors of “the intangible right to honest services.” The Supreme Court ruled in June that prosecutors can use this only in cases in which evidence shows the defendant accepted bribes or kickbacks.

VERMONT

Court upholds custody for non-biological mom

MONTPELIER | The Vermont Supreme Court says a family court was right to award custody of an 8-year-old girl to her non-biological mother in a lesbian custody case.

In a ruling released Monday, the court upheld a 2009 order giving Janet Jenkins, of Fair Haven, sole custody of daughter Isabella Miller-Jenkins, rejecting an appeal by attorneys for biological mother Lisa Miller, of Forest, Va.

Ms. Miller and Ms. Jenkins were joined in a civil union in Vermont in 2000, and their daughter has been the subject of a long-running legal fight.

For now, the custody ruling may be a moot point: Ms. Miller, who has since renounced her homosexuality, and her daughter failed to appear for the court-ordered custody swap in January. Their whereabouts is unknown.

VIRGINIA

VDOT opens 24/7 customer service center

SALEM | Virginians can report road hazards, request road maintenance or ask questions about road work by calling a new statewide customer service center.

The Virginia Department of Transportation said Monday that its center near Salem will handle calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Twenty-five people are employed at the center, which handles up to 1,000 calls a day. A satellite office is open in Northern Virginia.

Information about traffic and road conditions can be obtained by calling 511.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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