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American Scene

- - Tuesday, November 1, 2011

CALIFORNIA

Scandal-plagued ex-official sues city

LOS ANGELES — Public outrage forced Robert Rizzo out of a job last year, but the former city manager says he's still owed his $1.5 million salary and benefits.

In a lawsuit against the city of Bell filed Monday, Mr. Rizzo claims he's owed his wages, with interest, because he hasn't been convicted of a felony and hasn't resigned his post.

According to prosecutors, Mr. Rizzo orchestrated a scheme to bilk the Los Angeles suburb out of more than $6 million by paying himself and other Bell city officials' exorbitant salaries. They face charges of fraud and misappropriation of public funds.

Mr. Rizzo has pleaded not guilty.

In the lawsuit he filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Mr. Rizzo said he hasn't been paid since a public meeting in July 2010, when the small, blue-collar community of Bell learned of his outsized salary and benefits.

Protesters were outraged by compensation of $100,000 to City Council members that met once a month, but it was Mr. Rizzo's $787,637 salary, along with perks that amounted to nearly $1.5 million a year, that made him the poster-child for corruption in government for furious Bell residents.

FLORIDA

Convictions of 5 in terrorist plot upheld

MIAMI — A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld the convictions of five men accused of plotting to join forces with al Qaeda to destroy a landmark Chicago skyscraper and bomb FBI offices in several cities.

A three-judge panel of the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected numerous claims by ringleader Narseal Batiste and his followers, including questions about the sufficiency of the evidence, the FBI's use of an informant posing as an al Qaeda operative and the dismissal of a juror by a federal judge during deliberations.

Batiste, 37, and the other four were convicted in May 2009 of conspiring to provide material support to al Qaeda and wage war against the U.S. stemming from a plot to blow up the 110-story Sears Tower, now known as the Willis Tower, and bomb FBI offices in five cities, including Miami. The eventual goal, testimony showed, was to overthrow the U.S. government.

LOUISIANA

16 shot, 2 fatally, on Halloween

NEW ORLEANS — Sixteen people were shot and at least two killed in a bloody Halloween in New Orleans that included gunfire on Bourbon Street, the tourist hot spot in the French Quarter.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, at a news conference called Tuesday in response to the five separate shootings, said a "culture of violence," that involved young black men with illegal guns has plagued the city and must be stopped.

In one shooting, two men started firing at each other around midnight on Bourbon Street, near the famous Chris Owens nightclub. When the gunfire stopped, Albert Glover, 25, of New Orleans, was dead and seven others injured. Police spokesman Garry Flot said the injuries were not life-threatening.

An argument that escalated to a fistfight and then to gunplay was the apparent motive behind the Bourbon Street shooting.

MICHIGAN

Lawsuit by slain stripper's family dismissed

DETROIT — A federal judge dismissed a civil lawsuit Tuesday that claimed the city of Detroit and ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, a convicted felon, impeded a police investigation into the shooting death of a stripper.

U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen said in his opinion that the attorney representing Tamara Greene's three children failed to prove the city or Kilpatrick interfered with the probe into her 2003 shooting death.

Miss Greene, who performed under the name Strawberry, was rumored to have danced in 2002 at a never-proven party at the mayor's official Manoogian Mansion residence.

Judge Rosen agreed with attorneys for the city and Kilpatrick that there was "no evidentiary basis" for a legal finding that Kilpatrick obstructed or interfered with the investigation into the killing.

Kilpatrick resigned as mayor in 2008 after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice in state court. He served time in a county jail but later spent 14 months in state prison for violating his probation in the earlier case. He was paroled Aug. 2, but faces a federal corruption trial in 2012 on fraud, tax and racketeering conspiracy charges.

MONTANA

Metals mine under closure order after death

BILLINGS — A precious-metals mine was under a partial closure order Tuesday as authorities investigated the death of a worker who crashed while driving a piece of equipment 1,200 feet underground.

The victim was identified by Stillwater Mining Co. as Dale Alan Madson, 42, a lead equipment operator who had worked at the mine since 2008.

Amy Louviere with the Mine Safety and Health Administration said Mr. Madson was killed Monday afternoon as he was driving a piece of mine equipment with an enclosed cab that went into a ditch. A rock bolt struck Mr. Madson in the neck, she said.

It was the mine's first worker death in more than six years. Stillwater Mining Co. spokesman John Beaudry described the accident as isolated and said further details would come out following a federal investigation.

Stillwater Mining is the country's only producer of platinum and palladium, which are used for jewelry, in catalytic converters for cars and in various industrial applications.

NEW YORK

Deaths from painkiller overdose triple in decade

NEW YORK — The number of overdose deaths from powerful painkillers more than tripled over a decade, the government reported Tuesday, a trend the nation's top health official called an epidemic, but one that can be stopped.

Prescription painkillers such as OxyContin, Vicodin and methadone led to the deaths of almost 15,000 people in 2008, including actor Heath Ledger. That's more than three times the 4,000 deaths in 1999.

Such painkillers "are meant to help people who have severe pain," said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, which issued the report.

The report shows nearly 5 percent of Americans ages 12 and older said they've abused painkillers in the past year -using them without a prescription or just for the high. In 2008-09 surveys, Oklahomans reported the highest rate of abuse; the lowest rates were in Nebraska and Iowa.

PENNSYLVANIA

Tug pilot gets year in fatal 'duck boat' crash

PHILADELPHIA — A tug pilot distracted by a family emergency was sentenced Tuesday to one year and a day in prison for a deadly river crash in Philadelphia.

Pilot Matthew Devlin of Catskill, N.Y., was on a cellphone and laptop for nearly an hour before ramming a huge barge into a stalled "duck boat" in July 2010.

The crash killed two Hungarian students and sent 35 others into the Delaware River. Devlin, 35, had faced up to three years for involuntary manslaughter.

Both sides agreed a string of incredible events led to the crash. But U.S. District Judge Legrome Davis noted that if Devlin had done just one thing differently, he could have broken that chain and avoided the crash.

From wire dispatches and staff reports