- - Monday, October 18, 2010

CALIFORNIA

Border Patrol arrests down 17 percent

SAN DIEGO | Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Monday a 17 percent drop in Border Patrol arrests this year shows heightened enforcement is slowing illegal immigration.

The Border Patrol made about 463,000 arrests during the federal government’s fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, down from 556,032 the previous 12 months. It marks the fifth straight year of declines.

Border Patrol arrests are down 72 percent from nearly 1.7 million in 2000. The agency typically makes about 97 percent of its arrests along the 1,952-mile border with Mexico, with nearly all the rest coming along the Canadian border.

Ms. Napolitano credited, among other measures, enforcement under President Obama — including bringing the Border Patrol to an all-time high of 20,500 agents and dispatching 1,200 National Guard troops.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Trial begins in Chandra Levy’s slaying

Jury selection began Monday in the murder trial of a man accused of killing federal intern Chandra Levy nearly a decade ago, a case that derailed a congressman’s career and generated headlines around the world.

Ingmar Guandique, 29, is charged with murder, kidnapping, attempted sexual assault and other counts. Authorities say he attacked Miss Levy while she was jogging alone in Rock Creek Park in May 2001.

Miss Levy’s disappearance — her body was not discovered until more than a year after she went missing — caused a national sensation when she was linked romantically to Rep. Gary A. Condit, California Democrat. Authorities once considered Mr. Condit a prime suspect but no longer think he had anything to do with her death.

Miss Levy, 24, had just completed an internship with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons when she disappeared. When Guandique was charged last year with killing her, the illegal immigrant from El Salvador had been serving a 10-year sentence for separate assaults in Rock Creek Park.

In court Monday, jurors filled out an 11-page questionnaire that sought to determine their exposure to pretrial publicity and whether they can sit as jurors on a case that could stretch six weeks. Their answers to the questions about their exposure to the case were not disclosed.

FLORIDA

Witness: Signatures faked at foreclosure firm

ORLANDO | A former secretary at a Florida law firm under investigation for fabricating foreclosure documents says the firm’s office manager would sign her name to 1,000 files a day and sometimes would allow paralegals to sign her name for her when she got tired.

Kelly Scott, a former assistant at the law offices of David Stern, said in a deposition released Monday that office manager Cheryl Salmons would sign 500 files in the morning and another 500 files in the afternoon without reviewing them and with no witnesses.

Miss Scott said paralegals would then collect the files and swap them with each other, signing them as witnesses even though they had already been notarized and executed.

MARYLAND

Murphy, former Afro publisher, dies

BALTIMORE | John H. Murphy III, former chairman of the board and publisher of Afro-American Newspapers in Washington and Baltimore, died Saturday. He was 94.

The company confirmed that Mr. Murphy died at Stella Maris nursing home in Timonium.

Mr. Murphy was the grandson of Afro founder John H. Murphy. He began his 49-year career with the Afro as office manager of the Washington Afro and became chief executive officer in 1967.

He served at various times as both president and chairman of the board until his retirement in 1986.

MONTANA

Corporate campaign finance ban voided

HELENA | A Montana judge says the state’s century-old ban on corporate political spending is unconstitutional.

District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock of Helena on Monday tossed out the 1912 Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits corporations from making independent political expenditures.

Judge Sherlock ruled in favor of the conservative think tank Western Tradition Partnership.

That group challenged the law this year after the Supreme Court threw out parts of a federal law that prohibited corporations and unions from paying for advertisements for or against political candidates.

State Attorney General Steve Bullock had argued that Montana’s ban was unique and should stand despite the Supreme Court decision. He said Montana’s law was in response to corporate mining barons taking over state politics.

NEW YORK

Report: Facebook apps transmitted personal info

NEW YORK | The latest Facebook privacy fiasco shows that the world’s largest online social hub is having a hard time putting this thorny issue behind it even as it continues to attract users and become indispensable to many of them.

The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that several popular Facebook applications have been transmitting users’ personal identifying information to dozens of advertising and Internet tracking companies. Facebook said it is working to fix the problem and was quick to point out that the leaks were not intentional, but a consequence of basic Web mechanisms.

In a statement, Facebook said there is “no evidence that any personal information was misused or even collected as a result of this issue.”

TENNESSEE

2 workers killed in post office shooting

HENNING | Two suspected gunmen opened fire at a post office in a rural West Tennessee town that was home to “Roots” author Alex Haley, killing two women during what one survivor described as an attempted robbery.

The shooting happened Monday morning at the post office in Henning, the Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Department told Associated Press. Officers were searching for a maroon Chevrolet Malibu with two men inside. No arrests had been made as of Monday evening.

The post office, which sits between a self-service car wash and a coin-operated laundry called Mom’s in this town of about 1,200 people, often has residents coming in to pick up their mail. Home delivery isn’t provided in Henning.

Beth Barnett, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service, said five people usually work in the post office but she was not sure how many were there at the time of the attack.

TEXAS

Father: Jordanian in bomb plot was depressed

DALLAS | A 20-year-old Jordanian man caught in an FBI sting trying to blow up a Dallas skyscraper was depressed and slept by his mother’s grave after her death from cancer four years ago, his father testified Monday during a sentencing hearing.

Hosam Smadi faces up to life in prison after pleading guilty in May to attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. Under his plea agreement, however, it is likely he will receive a 30-year sentence and then face deportation. The hearing before U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn continued Monday afternoon.

WASHINGTON

No indictment in ‘06 Iraqi killing

SEATTLE | A former security contractor for Blackwater USA will not be indicted in the killing of an Iraqi guard in 2006, federal prosecutors said Monday.

According to a congressional report, Seattle resident Andrew Moonen was wandering drunk around Baghdad’s Green Zone after a Christmas Eve party in 2006, when he encountered and fatally shot Raheem Saadoun, a 32-year-old guard for Iraqi Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi.

But U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan said Monday that prosecutors decided there wasn’t enough evidence to sustain a criminal conviction for the killing.

“We do not do this lightly,” Mr. Durkan wrote in a letter to Mr. Moonen’s attorney, Stewart Riley. “There is no question that the shooting death of Mr. Saadoun by your client was a tragic event.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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