- - Tuesday, November 23, 2010

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

FDA’s criminal probe chief out

The head of the Food and Drug Administration’s criminal investigation unit is stepping down, months after the latest round of criticism directed at his department by congressional investigators.

An agency spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday that Terry Vermillion told FDA staff this week that he would step down.

Mr. Vermillion, who spent 20 years in the Secret Service before joining the FDA in 1992, is among the highest-paid officials at the agency at roughly $200,000 per year.

His department has been the subject of several investigations requested by federal lawmakers. In 2008, House and Senate Republicans questioned the priorities of the criminal investigations unit, specifically its focus on drug-abuse cases instead of broader misconduct by large companies.

COLORADO

Two men taken off plane after search

DENVER | Passengers on a US Airways flight from Charlotte, N.C., to Denver were briefly held on the plane when it arrived while the aircraft was searched. Two male passengers were taken off the plane by uniformed officers.

An Associated Press reporter who was on Flight 1525 says officers brought a dog onto the plane, and it searched a bathroom at the rear of the jet. Passengers were allowed to disembark normally after the men were taken away. The men weren’t handcuffed and left calmly.

Denver police and officials from the airport say they don’t have any information about the incident.

A US Airways spokeswoman referred questions to the Transportation Security Administration. The TSA did not return a phone call.

The flight originated early Tuesday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

MASSACHUSETTS

Man charged in 4 killings held without bail

BOSTON | An ex-convict was ordered held without bail Tuesday as a prosecutor described how he allegedly fatally shot four people, including a 2-year-old boy and his mother, during a drug robbery in Boston.

In a courtroom packed with friends and relatives of the victims, not guilty pleas were entered for Dwayne Moore, 33, on charges of murder, armed robbery and home invasion.

Moore, who prosecutors said was released from prison earlier this year after serving a 10 to 15-year sentence for manslaughter, did not appear in the courtroom. He stood behind a door that was slightly open so he could hear the charges, but he was not visible to most people in the courtroom.

Moore’s court-appointed attorney, John Amabile, said his client “vehemently denies” any involvement in the slayings.

OREGON

Sea lion killing halted at dam

PORTLAND | A federal appeals court has halted the killing of sea lions who make fast food of endangered salmon and steelhead at Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that federal agencies haven’t adequately explained how they reached inconsistent conclusions about the issue.

The court questioned how the agencies can say hungry sea lions are a threat to fish survival, but not target human fishing that takes many more salmon and steelhead.

In the past decade, growing numbers of sea lions have found easy pickings among fish waiting to head upriver at Bonneville Dam.

In 2008, the federal government allowed the states of Oregon, Washington and Idaho to kill the hungriest of the sea lions. So far, two dozen have been captured and given lethal injections.

WASHINGTON

Lesbian’s return to Air Force appealed

SEATTLE | Lawyers for a lesbian flight nurse discharged under the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy say she can rejoin the Air Force even as the government appeals a judge’s ruling that gave her her job back.

The Justice Department on Tuesday appealed a federal judge’s order that found Maj. Margaret Witt’s discharge was unconstitutional because it advanced no legitimate military goals.

But the department did not seek a stay of the lower court ruling while the appeal proceeds. Maj. Witt’s lawyers say that means she can go ahead and rejoin the Air Force.

Maj. Witt was suspended in 2004 and subsequently discharged after the Air Force learned she had been in a long-term relationship with a civilian woman. She sued to get her job back.

From wire dispatches and staff reports