- - Sunday, December 4, 2011

GEORGIA

Megachurch leader to take sabbatical

LITHONIA — Megachurch leader Bishop Eddie Long announced Sunday that he is taking time off to focus on his family after his wife filed for divorce.

Mr. Long’s spokesman, Art Franklin, said the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church leader told his congregation — which counts 25,000 members — during church services that he will take a sabbatical but will continue to serve as senior pastor at the church just outside Atlanta.

Mr. Franklin declined to say how long the pastor’s sabbatical from the church would be. He said Mr. Long and his family “are asking for privacy and sensitivity to their family.”

Vanessa Long filed a petition for divorce Thursday in DeKalb County Superior Court to end her 21-year marriage to the embattled minister, saying the marriage is “irretrievably broken” and that there was “no hope of reconciliation of the parties.” She asked the court for temporary and permanent alimony, as well as attorneys’ fees and an equitable division of marital and nonmarital property.

“Vanessa and I are working together in seeking God’s will in our current circumstances,” Mr. Long said in a statement.

CALIFORNIA

Former housing office chief took $1.2 million to leave

LOS ANGELES — Records show Rudolf Montiel received nearly $1.2 million when he was dismissed as head of the Los Angeles Housing Authority last spring.

A Los Angeles Times investigation published Sunday says news of the payout has prompted audits and raised accusations that officials improperly spent taxpayer money intended for the poor on travel and entertainment.

City Controller Wendy Greuel, who has been auditing the agency’s travel expenses, released documents Friday outlining public funds used for limousine rides and meals at pricey downtown restaurants.

Mr. Montiel was unavailable for comment. His attorney, Michael Posner, defended the settlement, saying Mr. Montiel’s contract entitled him to 18 months’ pay if dismissed. Mitchell Kamin, the new president of the Housing Authority’s board, tells the Times that the deal was in the agency’s best interest and would be paid for largely by insurance.

NEW MEXICO

Three men arrested in toilet-paper theft

ALBUQUERQUE — A New Mexico restaurant employee says he’s now seen it all, after three men left his diner with rolls of toilet paper and were nabbed in the parking lot by police.

Burgers, Dogs and Wings employee Josh Flannery-Stewart told KOAT-TV in Albuquerque that he was immediately suspicious of the men when they came in Saturday because they weren’t talking and appeared “messed up.”

The three went into the bathroom and emerged carrying about a dozen rolls of toilet paper. They got in a car in the parking lot, but they didn’t get far.

Albuquerque police apparently had the trio under surveillance and quickly surrounded the car and arrested them.

The toilet paper was returned to its rightful owner.

COLORADO

All four people dead in crash of small plane

SILVERTON — Authorities say all four people aboard a small plane died when it crashed in the southwest Colorado mountains.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Mike Fergus confirmed the deaths Sunday. No names have been released.

The Socata TB-21 crashed at about 3 p.m. Saturday about 1 1/2 miles from Silverton. Mr. Fergus said the debris field covered more than a mile.

A San Juan County official said the body of one victim was removed from the site Sunday. It was unclear how long recovery work would continue because the weather was worsening.

Weather cut the search short Saturday. Silverton temperatures dipped to 4 degrees overnight, and up to 10 inches of snow had fallen.

ILLINOIS

Survey: Teen sexting may be rarer than feared

CHICAGO — Teen sexting of nude photos online or via cellphone may be far less common than people think, new research suggests.

Only 1 percent of children ages 10 to 17 have shared images of themselves or others that involve explicit nudity, a nationally representative study found. Roughly the same number said they had shared suggestive but less graphic photos, while 7 percent said they had received either type of picture.

The research suggests texting of sexual photos among young children is extremely rare but more common among older teens.

The results are reassuring, showing that teen sexting isn’t rampant, usually isn’t malicious, and is generally not something parents should panic about, said lead author Kimberly Mitchell, a research assistant psychology professor at the University of New Hampshire.

Previous reports said as many as 20 percent of youths have participated in sexting. But some surveys included older teens and people in their early 20s. And some used definitions of sexting that included racy text messages without photos, or images “no more revealing than what someone might see at a beach,” authors of the new study said.

ARIZONA

Sweat lodge lawsuits settled by families for $3M

FLAGSTAFF — A self-help author imprisoned in the deaths of three people following an Arizona sweat lodge ceremony settled civil lawsuits with the victims’ families for more than $3 million.

James Arthur Ray began serving his sentence last month after being convicted on three counts of negligent homicide. The settlements were reached last year, but the terms weren’t disclosed until after Ray’s criminal trial wrapped up.

The families of Kirby Brown, James Shore and Liz Neuman sued Ray after the October 2009 ceremony, accusing him of negligence, fraud and wrongful death.

Mr. Brown’s parents received nearly $860,000, $1.38 million went to Mr. Shore’s family, and Miss Neuman’s family got more than $1 million to settle the claims.

The money didn’t come from Ray himself but from his insurers. Other lawsuits against Ray are pending.

From wire dispatches and staff reports