- - Monday, January 9, 2012

MISSISSIPPI

Governor pardons four killers, robber

JACKSON — Outgoing Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has pardoned four convicted murderers who worked as inmate trusties at the Governor’s Mansion.

Relatives of three of the victims told the Associated Press that corrections officials notified them Saturday.

Mr. Barbour’s office hasn’t responded to numerous messages. Mr. Barbour, a Republican, leaves office Tuesday.

Copies of the pardons filed with the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office were released Monday. They show how Mr. Barbour pardoned five men, the convicted killers and a man serving life for robbery.

State records show the pardoned inmates are David Gatlin, convicted of killing his estranged wife in 1993; Joseph Ozment, convicted in 1994 of killing a man during a robbery; Anthony McCray, convicted in 2001 of killing his wife; Charles Hooker, sentenced to life in 1992 for murder; and Nathan Kern, sentenced to life in 1982 for burglary after serving time for at least two prior convictions.

OHIO

Charity accused by U.S. of Hamas ties disbands

TOLEDO — A charity that the government suspected of having ties to the militant Islamic group Hamas has shut down but is still negotiating a settlement with the U.S. Department of the Treasury over its frozen assets.

The filing made last week comes nearly six years after the Treasury Department essentially closed the charity’s operation when it ordered U.S. banks to freeze the group’s assets, saying it was funneling money to a terrorist organization.

The leaders of KindHearts for Charitable Humanitarian Development in Toledo denied being connected to any terrorist group and sued the government after it refused to say why the charity’s money was frozen.

The two sides are working to finalize a settlement after reaching a preliminary agreement, according to court filings in the past few months. The government expects a deal to be completed by early July.

A federal judge sided with the charity in 2009, ruling that the government violated the Constitution because it did not tell the organization why it was freezing its assets or give it a chance to respond. The judge later told the government to halt the investigation because its actions could cause KindHearts to lose its attorneys and harm its reputation.

NEVADA

Last inmates leave aging state prison

CARSON CITY — The last inmates packed up their duffel bags Monday and were transferred from Nevada State Prison in Carson City, a 150-year-old penitentiary that houses Nevada’s execution chamber and license-plate factory and once boasted its own gambling joint.

Most of the inmates who once numbered about 800 already had been moved to other prisons. A handful of minimum-security prisoners were the last ones to leave Monday, when they were shuttled into a van at a back door, then driven to the main gates where their belongings, packed in a few boxes and duffel bags, awaited them.

Once those were loaded, they were taken next door to Warm Springs Correctional Center.

Minimum-security inmates were housed in a dormitory-type setting, though more serious offenders were in cells.

The prison predates Nevada’s statehood, having been established in 1862 when territorial officials purchased the Warm Springs Hotel and 20 acres on the east side of town.

NEW YORK

Groups: Barricades illegal at one-time Occupy camp

NEW YORK — Civil rights groups say barricades surrounding a New York City park that was a base for the Occupy Wall Street movement violate zoning law by restricting public access.

The New York Civil Liberties Union and the National Lawyers Guild filed a complaint Monday with the city’s buildings department.

The complaint says the metal barricades that have surrounded Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park since Nov. 15 interfere with the public’s use of it. Zuccotti Park is a privately owned public plaza and is required to be open 24 hours a day, barring a safety issue.

City zoning law states the layout and design of such parks must promote public use and “free and easy pedestrian circulation.”

The city hasn’t responded to a request for comment.

The Occupy protesters complained about economic inequality before being booted from the park.

TEXAS

Polygamist sect leader’s calls halted for 90 days

HOUSTON — Texas corrections officials have decided that imprisoned polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs will be without phone privileges for 90 days as punishment for making calls that were put on speakerphone - presumably so he could preach to his followers

Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said Monday that Jeffs, 56, was found to have broken the rules multiple times.

A prison system investigation found Jeffs made at least two calls on the inmate phone system on Christmas Day that wound up as sermons to followers of his Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Jeffs is serving a life sentence plus 20 years for sexually assaulting two of his underage brides. The charges followed a 2008 raid on a Texas ranch where many of his followers live.

MONTANA

Teacher disappears while running; shoe found

BILLINGS — Authorities expanded their search Monday for a high school teacher missing from an oil boom town in northeast Montana after recovering only a single running shoe since she failed to return from a weekend run.

The search for algebra teacher Sherry Arnold, 43, focused on a 10-square-mile area north of the town of Sidney near the North Dakota border. That is in the general vicinity of the roadside ditch where Miss Arnold’s shoe was discovered Saturday along one of her running routes.

Her family confirmed the shoe was hers, said Assistant Police Chief Robert Burnison. No evidence has emerged indicating foul play and the case is being handled, for now, as a missing-person report, he said.

Miss Arnold left her home in Sidney for a run at about 6:30 a.m. Saturday. A witness reported seeing someone matching her description that morning near where the shoe was found, Chief Burnison said.

CALIFORNIA

Dad pleads guilty to tossing son off boat

SANTA ANA — A father who tossed his 7-year-old son overboard during a Southern California harbor cruise pleaded guilty to felony child abuse and endangerment.

The Orange County Register said Sloan Briles, 35, entered the plea Monday. Instead of jail, he was sentenced to a year in a child-abuse treatment program and six monthsin a residential alcohol-treatment program.

He also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of resisting an officer.

Prosecutors said the Irvine man was drunk during a Newport Harbor cruise in August when he slapped his son until he cried, then threw him off the boat.

Another boat veered to avoid hitting the boy, who was thrown a life ring.

Briles claimed that he and his son were only roughhousing.

From wire dispatches and staff reports