- - Wednesday, March 9, 2011

ARIZONA

Giffords suspect pleads not guilty

TUCSON | The suspect in the Tucson shooting rampage that critically injured U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords pleaded not guilty Wednesday to federal charges accusing him of killing six people and wounding 13 others.

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns also approved the release of some records of a police search of Jared Lee Loughner’s home.

Mr. Loughner, who smiled as he was led into the courtroom, appeared before Judge Burns in khaki prison clothes, his once-shaved head now featuring short, dark hair and sideburns. He pleaded not guilty to charges that included trying to assassinate Mrs. Giffords, attempting to kill two of her aides and murdering federal Judge John Roll and Giffords staffer Gabe Zimmerman.

Mr. Loughner also is charged with causing the deaths of four others who weren’t federal employees, causing injury and death to participants at a “federally provided activity” and using a gun in a crime of violence.

He also will likely face state charges stemming from the Jan. 8 attack at a Giffords event outside a Tucson grocery store.

FLORIDA

Facebook nixed for debt collectors

ST. PETERSBURG | A Florida judge has ordered a debt collection agency to not use Facebook or any other social media site in an attempt to locate a woman over a $362 unpaid car loan.

Judge W. Douglas Baird also ordered Mark One Financial LLC of Jacksonville, Fla., to refrain from contacting the woman’s family or friends on Facebook.

The order is part of a lawsuit that Melanie Beacham filed in August against the debt collection agency. According to court documents, Ms. Beacham said Mark One sent messages to her and her family on the Facebook networking site to have her call the agency about the debt.

Billy Howard, the woman’s attorney with the Morgan and Morgan law firm in Tampa, said the debt collectors violated Ms. Beacham’s privacy. He said they also violated a provision of Florida’s consumer protection law that prohibits debt collectors from harassing people.

PENNSYLVANIA

7 children killed in farmhouse fire

LOYSVILLE | Seven children, including a 7-month-old girl, perished in a fast-moving fire in a farmhouse while their mother milked cows and their father dozed in a milk truck down the road, police said.

No cause or origin of the fire had been determined immediately, but the children’s grandfather, Noah Sauder, told the Associated Press that the blaze may have started in the kitchen, where the family used a propane heater. Fire marshals were investigating.

Public records indicate that the parents are Theodore and Janelle Clouse. Police said the children’s father had left the two-story home on a working farm in dairy country to begin his rounds hauling milk about 10 p.m. Tuesday.

The father picked up milk and then parked the truck about a mile from home before nodding off, state police Trooper Tom Pinkerton said.

Soon afterward, the 3-year-old smelled smoke in the home and ran to the barn to alert her mother, who apparently tried to get into the house. The woman then ran to the homes of two neighbors before getting someone to call 911.

The Perry County coroner ruled that the children died of smoke inhalation, Trooper Pinkerton said. Officials said they were six girls, ranging in age from 7 months to 11 years, and a 7-year-old boy.

WASHINGTON

Parade bomb suspect tied to hate group

SPOKANE | A man previously tied to a white supremacist organization was arrested Wednesday on charges that he left a sophisticated bomb along a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade route in Spokane.

A magistrate clerk at the U.S. District Court in Spokane told the Associated Press that Kevin Harpham, 36, was charged with one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and one count of knowingly possessing an improvised explosive device.

A federal law enforcement official, speaking on the condition of anonymity and declining to provide additional details because the case is ongoing, said the man arrested was a white supremacist.

Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center told the AP that Mr. Harpham was a member of the white supremacist National Alliance in 2004, although the organization, which tracks hate groups, wasn’t certain when he joined or whether he had left the group.

The bomb was found inside a backpack by workers before the start of the Jan. 17 parade and was defused without incident.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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