You are currently viewing the printable version of this article, to return to the normal page, please click here.

American Scene

- - Wednesday, September 15, 2010

INDIANA

Man who faked death pleads guilty

NOBLESVILLE — An Indianapolis-area money manager who tried to fake his death in a Florida plane crash has pleaded guilty to securities-fraud charges.

Marcus Schrenker entered the plea at a hearing Wednesday in Hamilton Superior Court in Noblesville.

Schrenker is accused of bilking friends, family members and other investors of more than $1 million. He struck a deal with prosecutors in which he agreed to plead guilty to five of 11 counts.

The judge set a sentencing hearing for Oct. 7. Schrenker could face 10 years in prison and be required to pay restitution.

Schrenker was sentenced last year to four years in federal prison for the January 2009 plane crash. Officials say he put his plane on autopilot and bailed out over Alabama to flee personal and financial problems.

NEW JERSEY

Judge to imam: Prove you're fixing buildings

JERSEY CITY — A judge has demanded an imam who wants to build a mosque near New York's ground zero produce documents proving he's making repairs at two northern New Jersey apartment buildings he owns.

State Superior Court Judge Thomas Olivieri told an attorney for Feisal Abdul Rauf to submit the documents by Thursday afternoon.

Lawyer Tomas Espinosa told the judge some work is under way at the buildings in Union City, which is across the Hudson River from New York.

NEW YORK

Judge threatens dozing terror suspect

NEW YORK — A terrorism trial delayed for two days by a defendant who claimed he saw ghosts and dead people resumed Wednesday after a judge coaxed the man out of his sleepy demeanor with a threat that he would be ousted from his trial.

U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon revived Laguerre Payen, 28, by warning that she would interpret his wobbly head, closed eyes and uninterested silence as a decision not to attend his trial anymore unless he spoke when she talked to him. She asked him whether he wanted to face the charges that he and three others plotted to blow up synagogues and planes.

"Mr. Payen, do you want to be present in the courtroom?" Judge McMahon asked after recounting her finding of a day earlier that he was faking mental illness.

Mr. Payen shifted in his wheelchair before whispering to his attorney, Samuel Braverman.

"He said to me three times: 'Yes, I want to be here,'" Mr. Braverman told the judge.

After testimony resumed before the jury, Mr. Payen drooped his head on the defense table, resuming his sleepy appearance in a trial filled with talk of killing and destruction.

PENNSYLVANIA

'The Club' inventor dies in car crash

CLARION — The inventor of the Club, James Winner, has died in a head-on collision in western Pennsylvania.

State police said the Tuesday crash on a rural road in Clarion County also took the lives of two other people when his sport utility vehicle and their car collided.

Mr. Winner, 81, invented the popular anti-theft device for cars, and his Sharon-based company Winner International sold more than 10 million of them. He also was widely known for his philanthropy in western Pennsylvania.

In the 1980s, Mr. Winner developed the steering-wheel lock known as the Club after his car was stolen. He sold the first one in western Pennsylvania before creating Winner International.

He also was interested in bettering the region. He said he wanted to make the area a tourist destination and create jobs after the loss of industry there. He bought and restored buildings, including the downtown Sharon home once owned by industrialist Frank Buhl, which Mr. Winner converted into a bed and breakfast.

WISCONSIN

Police: Prosecutor 'sexted' abuse victim

CHILTON — A prominent Wisconsin district attorney sent repeated text messages trying to spark an affair with a domestic-abuse victim while he was prosecuting her ex-boyfriend, police said.

The 26-year-old woman complained last year to police after receiving 30 texts from Calumet County District Attorney Kenneth Kratz, 50, in three days.

A police report obtained by the Associated Press shows one message from Mr. Kratz asked whether the woman was "the kind of girl that likes secret contact with an older, married elected DA."

In several others, he talks about her good looks and his desire to start a relationship.

Mr. Kratz on Wednesday didn't deny sending the messages, but said the Office of Lawyer Regulation found his behavior didn't violate rules governing attorney conduct.

From wire dispatches and staff reports