- - Wednesday, October 27, 2010

CALIFORNIA

City officials charged with misusing funds

IRWINDALE | Four current and former officials of this small Southern California city were charged Wednesday with spending $14,000 of taxpayers’ money on baseball games and Broadway shows when they were supposed to be working to improve Irwindale’s bond rating.

The charges are the latest in a string of corruption allegations directed at leaders of several nondescript suburbs ringing Los Angeles. Other small cities whose officials have been charged with corruption include Bell, Vernon and Temple City.

In Irwindale, Councilman Mark Breceda, Finance Director Abe De Dios, retired City Manager Steve Blancarte and former Councilwoman Rosemary Ramirez were charged with misappropriation of public funds.

During trips to New York between 2001 and 2005, prosecutors say the four attended such hit musicals as “The Producers,” “Phantom of the Opera” and “Mamma Mia,” sticking the city with the cost of tickets. They also attended New York Yankees and Mets baseball games on the public dime, according to Deputy District Attorney Nipa Cook.

Three of the four were arraigned Wednesday. Mr. De Dios, who is out of town, is expected to be arraigned Thursday.

MASSACHUSETTS

Injunction blocks new Internet law

BOSTON | A federal judge has granted a preliminary injunction sought by free-speech advocates who argued that a new Massachusetts law aimed at protecting children from online sexual predators effectively bans from the Internet anything that may be considered “harmful to minors,” including material adults have the right to view.

The new law closed a loophole that led the state’s highest court to overturn a man’s conviction for sending sexually explicit instant messages to someone he thought was a 13-year-old girl.

But Internet content providers, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and others sought to block enforcement of the law as it applies to broad-based Internet communications. They did not seek to bar enforcement against sexual predators or others who use the Internet to send harmful material to minors.

U.S. District Judge Rya Zobel, a 1979 appointee of President Carter, ruled Tuesday that the law, as it is now written, violates the First Amendment.

NEW YORK

Jeweler convicted of fatally burning wife

WHITE PLAINS | A 68-year-old jeweler whose clients have included Donald Trump and Yoko Ono was convicted Wednesday of murdering his wife by incinerating her in an oil drum.

Werner Lippe of Cortlandt had confessed to the killing three times, but then recanted and testified to his innocence. His defense stressed that no trace of the body was found, and an earlier jury was unable to reach a verdict.

Jurors at Lippe’s retrial in Westchester County Court spent eight hours deliberating over two days, and asked to hear each of Lippe’s recorded confessions.

On one recording — by a friend wearing a wire for the police Lippe said of his wife, “She doesn’t exist anymore. They can’t find her.”

When the verdict was announced at midday, Lippe stood stone-faced. But friends and relatives of the victim, Faith Lippe, 49, smiled and embraced.

NORTH CAROLINA

Hunt for disabled girl turns up artificial leg

HICKORY | Authorities searching for a North Carolina girl who lost a leg to cancer say they’ve found a prosthetic leg at a home where her stepmother once lived.

Hickory Police Maj. Clyde Deal said Wednesday that authorities are trying to confirm the leg belongs to 10-year-old Zahra Clare Baker. She was reported missing Oct. 9, and authorities think she is dead.

Maj. Deal said the leg was discovered Tuesday afternoon near some brush.

Stepmother Elisa Baker has been jailed, accused of writing a fake ransom note for the girl. Father Adam Baker also is in jail and faces several charges, including writing worthless checks.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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