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The case has drawn national media attention, and prosecutor Craig Johnson, who is not related to the accused, has spoken out widely about the need to alter Utah’s civil commitment laws. The resulting publicity has had a crippling effect on the Provo court, which has suffered a deluge of calls and faxes about the case, including some threats directed at Judge Taylor.

WASHINGTON

Court: Company not liable in plane crash

SEATTLE | An aircraft company is not liable for a 2004 plane crash that killed seven anti-narcotics agents for the Mexican government, the highest court in Washington state ruled Thursday.

The justices split 6-3 in favor of Twin Commander Aircraft LLC, saying federal law bars certain lawsuits stemming from crashes of planes that are more than 18 years old.

The two-propeller, seven-passenger Twin Commander 690C, manufactured in 1981, crashed when its rudder came apart over the central Mexican state of Aguascalientes on May 2, 2004, en route from Ciudad Juarez to Mexico City. On board were two federal pilots, Jesus Arciniega and Marcelino Gonzalez, and agents Juan Galindo, Pablo Lozada, Cesar Maya, Ulises Desposorio and Marinela Elizalde.

They were part of a special operations team with the Mexican attorney general’s office assigned to carry out drug trafficking surveillance flights in the Chihuahua mountains. The five agents were returning to the capital after a two-week assignment in Juarez. The pilots were based in Juarez.

From wire dispatches and staff reports