- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 10, 2011

CALIFORNIA

Corrupt city dodges shutdown with reforms

VERNON | It was a landslide vote, if there can be such a thing in a city where only 52 ballots were cast.

Seventy percent of the voters in corruption-plagued Vernon, a tiny industrial city tucked amid Southern California’s sprawl, cast ballots approving reforms aimed at avoiding a shutdown by the state.

Voters approved efforts to limit City Council members to two, five-year terms after some members had served for decades with little opposition.

The warren of factories, where 55,000 people work but only about 100 live, has been run for decades by a tight-knit group of people who authorities say paid themselves and others huge salaries.

Three officials have been convicted of corruption. One is a former city manager who routinely billed the city for golf outings, massages and a personal trainer.

COLORADO

Suspect in school shootings avoids prison

GOLDEN | A man accused of wounding two children outside a Colorado school will avoid prison because his time spent in a mental hospital is being applied to the 18-month sentence he received for a weapons violation.

Prosecutors expressed frustration Thursday with the sentence for Bruco Strong Eagle Eastwood.

Eastwood was found not guilty by reason of insanity of attempted first-degree murder but convicted of having a weapon on school grounds. He was sentenced on the weapons charge Thursday.

Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey said Eastwood will remain at the state hospital for an indeterminate time until he is deemed legally sane and released.

FLORIDA

Slave cemetery uncovered on island

WEST PALM BEACH | A 19th-century cemetery, thought to hold the remains of slaves, has been uncovered at a former cotton plantation in Florida, archaeologists announced Thursday.

The discovery of six grave sites was made last year at the Kingsley Plantation in Jacksonville, but the announcement was delayed to allow for further research and to alert possible descendants of those buried there. It brought a sense of accomplishment to those who spent years finding the site and a surge of emotions to those whose ancestors were enslaved there.

A team led by James Davidson, a University of Florida anthropologist, worked with just two vague century-old leads to find the site, which was described as being adjacent to a giant oak tree. Once Mr. Davidson found the graves, a smattering of clues helped determine that they were, in fact, apparently those of slaves.

MISSOURI

Order for buildings erected along lake revised

JEFFERSON CITY | Many homes and other structures built along Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks may be allowed to remain after federal energy regulators on Thursday revised directions for how to manage the shoreline.

Lakeside residents have feared they could lose their homes, patios and boathouses after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said in July that many structures may have to go if they encroach onto land that is part of the Ameren Missouri hydroelectric project that created the lake.

In its revised order, the federal commission directed Ameren to redraw its territory around the lake by June to remove unneeded land so that most homes and structures no longer are considered to be within the boundaries. For structures that still interfere, Ameren was to work with landowners to find a solution to satisfy both sides. Federal officials said homes and other structures built on land for which the owners have a deed, lease or easement can remain and never were at risk of being torn down.

The chairman of the federal commission said Thursday that the revisions should resolve all the outstanding issues and that Ameren was expected to move quickly to comply with the order.

NEW YORK

Killer in pharmacy robbery sentenced to life

RIVERHEAD | A man who executed four people inside a quiet New York pharmacy during a drug robbery was sentenced Thursday to life in prison without parole.

David Laffer pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the June holdup at Haven Drugs in Medford, perhaps the most egregious case in a wave of pharmacy robberies sweeping the United States.

Laffer said he committed the robbery because he had lost his job, and his wife required not only painkillers but also blood pressure medicine, anti-nausea pills and muscle relaxants. He jammed a backpack full of pills after killing the four.

PENNSYLVANIA

Fifth guilty plea entered in abortion case

PHILADELPHIA | A woman who killed a newborn and fatally overdosed a woman at a Philadelphia abortion clinic has pleaded guilty to murder charges and agreed to testify against her employer.

Lynda Williams, 43, pleaded guilty Wednesday to two counts of third-degree murder. She had been charged in a disturbing grand jury report that alleged ghastly conduct at the Women’s Medical Center operated by Dr. Kermit Gosnell.

Authorities say babies born alive at Dr. Gosnell’s clinic were routinely killed by having their spinal cords severed with scissors. Williams, of Wilmington, Del., was charged in one of those deaths and the fatal drug overdose of a 41-year-old pregnant refugee in 2009.

Four of the nine other suspects charged in the case have pleaded guilty. Dr. Gosnell has denied any wrongdoing.

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