- - Thursday, January 26, 2012

WISCONSIN

2 ex-Walker aides accused of illegal fundraising

MILWAUKEE | Two women who were on Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s staff when he was the Milwaukee County executive were charged Thursday with engaging in political fundraising while at work, becoming the fourth and fifth people with ties to Mr. Walker charged as part of a corruption investigation.

Kelly Rindfleisch, Mr. Walker’s deputy chief of staff before he became governor in 2011, is charged with four felony counts of misconduct in office. Darlene Wink, who was Mr. Walker’s county constituent services coordinator, faces two misdemeanor counts of political solicitation by a public employee.

The charges stem from a Milwaukee County district attorney’s office investigation that has led to charges against three men with Walker ties. The governor denies wrongdoing and says he hasn’t been contacted by prosecutors, but it comes at a politically sensitive time for him, as he is trying to stave off an effort to recall him.

Mr. Walker’s campaign spokeswoman, Ciara Matthews, issued a statement Thursday saying Mr. Walker expected everyone who worked for him to follow the law, “and made that clear publicly and privately.”

LOUISIANA

Judge: BP contract shielded Transocean in spill

NEW ORLEANS | A federal judge has ruled that the rig owner involved in drilling the ill-fated well that blew out in the Gulf of Mexico was shielded by its contract with BP for having to pay many pollution claims in the nation’s largest offshore oil spill.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier ruled Thursday, however, that Transocean Ltd. is not exempt from paying punitive damages and civil penalties that arise from the April 20, 2010, blowout 100 miles off the Louisiana coast.

He also says Transocean is responsible for claims that are directly related to pollution caused by its rig.

The ruling comes as settlement discussions continue among BP, the states affected by the disaster and the government before next month’s trial.

NEW YORK

NYPD head’s son accused in sex assault

NEW YORK | The son of New York City’s police commissioner, also a co-host of a popular New York City morning television show, has been accused of sexually assaulting a woman, a person familiar with the investigation said Thursday.

Greg Kelly, 43, was absent Thursday morning from his job as anchor of “Good Day New York” and through a lawyer denied the allegations.

The woman said she had drinks with him on Oct. 8, then went back to her office, where she was assaulted, the person familiar with the case told the Associated Press.

A law enforcement official says the woman told authorities she got pregnant and had an abortion.

She went to police Tuesday, according to the person, who was not authorized to speak publicly and did so on the condition of anonymity. It’s not clear why she went to police weeks later or how long they knew each other before the encounter, though she said they had met on the street at some point.

Police spoke to the woman but turned the case quickly over to the Manhattan district attorney’s office because of the potential conflict of interest in investigating the son of Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, the person said.

Greg Kelly, a former Fox News correspondent, is cooperating with the investigation, his lawyer said in an emailed statement.

UTAH

Teens arrested in alleged school bombing plot

ROY | Authorities say two Roy High School students have been arrested on conspiracy charges after authorities uncovered a plot to use explosives during a school assembly.

Dallin Morgan, 18, was arrested Wednesday and booked into the Weber County Jail, and a 16-year-old boy also was taken into custody.

School administrators and police say they learned the students had collected maps of the school and documents about security systems. Officials say the students had a detailed escape plan that included using an airplane from the Ogden Hinckley Airport and used flight simulator software to prepare.

Local and federal agents searched the school, two vehicles and two homes, but found no explosives. The FBI is also examining computers.

ILLINOIS

Aging reputed mobster found guilty in planned robbery

CHICAGO | A federal judge on Thursday convicted a 73-year-old reputed Chicago mobster who first gained notoriety three decades ago for helping to steal the 45-carat Marlborough Diamond from a London jewelry store.

Arthur “The Brain” Rachel grimaced, turned to one of his attorneys and shook his head slightly after Judge Harry Leinenweber found him guilty in the bench trial on three of four counts, including racketeering for his involvement in several planned robberies.

Co-defendants Joseph Scalise, 74, and Robert Pullia, 70, pleaded guilty last week. Scalise was an accomplice with Rachel in what at the time was seen as a daring, daytime theft of the Marlborough Diamond, which was never recovered.

The Chicago trial, which was not connected to the jewelry theft, attracted attention partly because of the defendants’ advanced ages when they’re accused of plotting robberies several years ago.

Prosecutor Amarjeet Bhachu told reporters after Thursday’s verdict that the men were far from harmless, elderly goofs.

CONNECTICUT

Hundreds of tacos sent to mayor

EAST HAVEN | The office of a Connecticut mayor who made a poorly received quip about his city’s Hispanic community has been blasted with prank phone calls and a delivery of hundreds of tacos.

East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo Jr. has apologized several times but resisted calls for his resignation over a comment that he “might have tacos” as a way to reach out to Hispanics.

The comment came this week as the FBI arrested four East Haven police officers described as “bullies with badges” who harassed the town’s Hispanics.

Mr. Maturo held regular meetings Thursday as Connecticut’s Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission called on him to resign.

PENNSYLVANIA

Carjack-hoax mom gets 8 years for $1M fraud

PHILADELPHIA | The in-vitro treatments. The suburban house. The lavish trips and dinners out.

None of it was worth it, a soccer mom-turned-“abduction hoax” mom told a federal judge Thursday before she was sentenced to more than eight years in prison for a $1 million swindle.

Bonnie Sweeten, 40, of Feasterville is infamous for an alarming 911 call that claimed she and her 9-year-old daughter had been carjacked by two black men. She said they’d been stuffed into the trunk of another vehicle. She made an equally furtive call to her second husband.

Sweeten, who is white, was instead on her way to the airport with her middle child in May 2009, about to use a co-worker’s passport to board a flight to Florida. She feared an arrest looming in the fraud scheme. The FBI found the pair unharmed the next day at Disney World.

Sweeten has been in custody since June 2009, just weeks after the daughter she eventually had with husband Larry Sweeten turned 1. She served nearly a year in state prison for the 911 hoax, and has been in federal custody since then. With time served, she’ll be eligible for release in 2018.

WASHINGTON

Groups sue over Navy sonar use

SEATTLE | Conservationists and Native American tribes are suing over the Navy’s expanded use of sonar in training exercises off the Washington, Oregon and California coasts, saying the noise can harass and kill whales and other marine life.

The environmental law firm Earthjustice, the Natural Resources Defense Council and other groups filed the lawsuit Thursday against the National Marine Fisheries Service, saying it was wrong to approve the Navy’s plan for the expanded training.

They said the regulators should have considered the effects repeated sonar use can have on those species over many years and also required certain restrictions on where the Navy could conduct sonar and other loud activities to protect orcas, humpbacks and other whales, as well as seals, sea lions and dolphins.

Instead, the Navy is required to look around and see if sea mammals are present before they conduct the training.

Kristen Boyles, a Seattle-based attorney with Earthjustice, said it’s the job of the fisheries service to balance the needs of the Navy with measures to protect marine life.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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