- - Tuesday, March 15, 2011

CALIFORNIA

Officer cleared in immigrant’s shooting death

LOS ANGELES | The Police Commission said Tuesday a police officer was justified in killing a Guatemalan immigrant last year — a shooting that sparked days of protest in the Hispanic community.

The ruling by the civilian panel put police on watch for renewed unrest but there were no reports of problems.

The commission accepted an internal report by the LAPD that concluded the Sept. 5 killing of Manuel Jaminez was a proper use of lethal force.

An independent review by Inspector General Nicole Bershon also determined the shooting was in line with department policy, Police Commission President John W. Mack said.

Even before the commission announced its findings, police were mobilizing to face possible new protests, and at least one immigration activist group was calling for a rally at an intersection near MacArthur Park, where Mr. Jaminez died.

“We cannot allow the LAPD to murder yet another migrant from our community,” the Southern California Immigration Coalition said.

FLORIDA

Mayor removed in recall vote

MIAMI | Miami-Dade County residents have voted to remove Mayor Carlos Alvarez from office.

Residents cast their ballots in favor of recalling Mr. Alvarez on Tuesday over mounting frustration over a property-tax rate increase and simultaneous salary raise for many county employees.

With 75 percent of the precinct votes counted, 88 percent voted to oust the mayor. Just 12 percent were in favor of allowing Mr. Alvarez to finish his term.

The Miami-Dade recall is the largest yet of a local government official, in terms of population size.

The push to remove Mr. Alvarez from office was led by billionaire car dealer Norman Braman, who said the mayor’s fiscal decision endangered the community.

GEORGIA

Feds seize state’s execution drug

ATLANTA | The Drug Enforcement Administration on Tuesday seized Georgia’s supply of a key lethal-injection drug less than two months after the state executed a man who unsuccessfully argued it was bought from a “fly-by-night” supplier in England.

Agency spokesman Chuvalo Truesdell wouldn’t elaborate on exactly why the DEA wanted to inspect Georgia’s supply of sodium thiopental, a sedative that is part of a three-drug cocktail used in executions that has been in short supply since the sole U.S. manufacturer stopped making it under political pressure.

“We had questions about how the drug was imported to the U.S.,” he said. “There were concerns.”

No more execution dates in Georgia have been scheduled, and it’s unlikely any will be set before the issue is resolved. Georgia Attorney General’s Office spokeswoman Lauren Kane said prosecutors couldn’t ask a judge to schedule an executions unless corrections officials had the necessary supplies to do it.

CONNECTICUT

Knights of Columbus wants abuse lawsuits dismissed

NEW HAVEN | The Knights of Columbus, citing a statute of limitations, asked a judge to dismiss lawsuits by two men who say a youth leader sexually abused them decades ago.

The men sued the New Haven-based group in December and said a former leader of the Columbian Squires, the Knights’ official youth program, abused them in Texas in the 1970s and 1980s. Their attorney has said the lawsuits appear to be the first against the Knights, the world’s largest Catholic lay organization, to allege sexual abuse of children.

The Knights filed motions Monday in U.S. District Court in Hartford in which they asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuits. The lawsuits missed a deadline under Texas law, which allowed plaintiffs to file lawsuits within two years of turning 18, attorneys for the organization wrote.

FLORIDA

NASA probes cocaine found at facility

CAPE CANAVERAL | NASA is investigating after cocaine was found in a facility at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

NASA spokesman Allard Beutel said Tuesday that 4.2 grams of a white powdery substance was found last week at the NASA facility, though he would not say where.

It tested positive for cocaine.

It’s not the first time cocaine has been found at the space center.

A small amount was discovered in January 2010 in a secure part of a hangar that housed space shuttle Discovery. A spokeswoman from NASA’s Inspector General Office in Washington declined to comment on how that case was resolved.

LOUISIANA

Stay issued on drilling ruling

NEW ORLEANS | A federal appeals court has blocked a judge’s order requiring regulators to act on several drilling permit applications.

The federal government filed court documents earlier this month saying it may have to deny the applications if regulators must make a decision within 30 days as ordered.

The order was issued by U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman, who overturned the Obama administration’s moratorium on deep-water drilling. That moratorium followed BP PLC’s oil spill last year in the Gulf of Mexico.

Judge Feldman ruled last month that the government must act on five applications within 30 days. He later said his ruling also applies to two other permits.

But the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay on Tuesday, blocking Judge Feldman’s ruling pending the outcome of the government’s appeal.

MICHIGAN

Sisters charged with health fraud caught overseas

DETROIT | The hunt for two sisters wanted for health care fraud in the Detroit area ended over the weekend when they were arrested as they tried to board a plane in Colombia, authorities said Tuesday.

Caridad Guilarte, 54, and Clara Guilarte, 56, were on a most-wanted list on the website of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which runs Medicare.

The sisters are charged with collecting more than $4 million from Medicare for drug therapies that were unnecessary or not performed at a clinic in Dearborn over an 18-month period.

The Guilartes were taken to Miami on Monday, a day after they were arrested while trying to board a plane in Colombia, FBI spokeswoman Sandra Berchtold said.

They eventually will be transported to federal court in Detroit. Defense attorneys haven’t been assigned yet. The Guilartes are natives of Cuba; Clara is a U.S. citizen while Caridad is a permanent U.S. resident.

MINNESOTA

Judge: Ex-nurse guilty of aiding suicides online

FARIBAULT | A former Minnesota nurse accused of seeking depressed people online and encouraging two to kill themselves has been found guilty of aiding the suicides of an English man and Canadian woman.

William Melchert-Dinkel, 48, faced two counts of aiding suicide in the 2005 hanging death of Mark Drybrough and the 2008 death of Nadia Kajouji, who jumped into a river.

Melchert-Dinkel declined a jury trial and left his fate to a judge. That judge issued his verdict Tuesday.

Prosecutors say Melchert-Dinkel cruised chat rooms for depressed people, posed as a female, feigned compassion, and entered fake suicide pacts or gave instructions on how they could die.

His attorney says the two already planned to die and that his actions were protected speech.

NORTH CAROLINA

Worker killed in explosion at power plant

WILMINGTON | Officials say an explosion at a coal-fired power plant in North Carolina has killed one worker.

Progress Energy Inc. says the explosion Tuesday morning killed technician Cory Rogers, 24, at the L.V. Sutton Steam Electric Plant in Wilmington. The company says Mr. Rogers was performing maintenance on the of the plant’s units that were offline.

Local, state and federal officials are investigating. The company says there was no fire at the site, no threat to the public and no impact on the reliability of the electricity system.

Progress Energy previously announced plans to retire the plant’s coal-fired units and replace them with a new plant scheduled to begin operations in 2014.

NEW MEXICO

Driver’s licenses helped illegals to vote

SANTA FE | The New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office is cross-checking the state’s voter rolls with a list of thousands of foreign nationals who have been issued driver’s licenses.

The work is far from done, but Secretary of State Dianna Duran testified during a House committee Tuesday that the review has turned up evidence of foreign nationals obtaining a license, registering to vote and casting ballots.

Scott Darnell, a spokesman for Gov. Susana Martinez, says the initial report from Ms. Duran’s office should concern every New Mexican. He says the review’s findings are another reason the governor wants to stop issuing licenses to illegal immigrants.

Under a 2003 law, the state has issued more than 80,000 driver’s licenses to foreign nationals, including illegal immigrants.

PENNSYLVANIA

American Orthodox leader dies of cancer

JOHNSTOWN | Metropolitan Nicholas Smisko has died of cancer near the western Pennsylvania city where he served as spiritual leader of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the U.S.A. He was 75.

Metropolitan Nicholas died Sunday at the Windber Hospice, a few miles from Johnstown where he headed the diocese that includes about 10,000 members in 80 congregations nationwide.

Metropolitan Nicholas was known for quiet acts of charity and for his efforts to repair the nearly 1,000-year-old schism between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, as well as other divisions among Christian churches.

He was known for co-sponsoring ecumenical services with Bishop Joseph Adamec, head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, and Bishop Gregory Pile of the Allegheny Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American. He attended such a service at St. John Gualbert Cathedral in Johnstown as recently as Feb. 13.

Metropolitan Nicholas received a standing ovation when he spoke about church unity at a 2005 memorial Mass for the late Roman Catholic Pope John Paul II.

VIRGINIA

14 suspected pirates plead not guilty in attack

NORFOLK | Thirteen Somalis and one man from Yemen have pleaded not guilty to piracy, kidnapping and firearms charges in the February hijacking of a yacht that left four Americans dead.

They entered their pleas Tuesday in federal court in Norfolk. A trial has been set for May 17, although prosecutors want it pushed back.

If convicted of piracy, the 14 men face mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole. Prosecutors said several of the men confessed to the FBI they had committed piracy.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has said more charges could also be filed in the future. An indictment says at least three of the men shot and killed the Americans aboard the yacht several hundred miles south of the Middle Eastern nation of Oman.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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