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American Scene: U.S.-born terrorist pleads guilty in ‘mini al Qaeda’ case

- The Washington Times - Monday, June 18, 2012

NEW YORK

U.S.-born terrorist pleads guilty in 'mini al Qaeda' case

A New Yorker accused of trying to start what prosecutors called "a mini al Qaeda cell" pleaded guilty Monday to federal charges of conspiracy and providing material support to a terrorist organization.

An indictment had alleged that Wesam El-Hanafi pledged loyalty to al Qaeda and sought to teach the terror group how to evade detection on the Internet after he went to Yemen in 2008.

The Brooklyn-born El-Hanafi admitted in federal court in Manhattan to having conversations in 2009 with a co-defendant about "seeking out additional contacts within al Qaeda." The co-defendant, Sabirhan Hasanoff, pleaded guilty to similar charges earlier this month.

Prosecutors had portrayed the two U.S. citizens as a new, more sophisticated breed of homegrown terrorist: Both had earned college degrees and landed well-paying jobs before trying to share their expertise with al Qaeda.

El-Hanafi, 37, faces up to 20 years in prison.

OHIO

State's top court delays killer's Wednesday execution

COLUMBUS | The Ohio Supreme Court on Monday delayed a condemned inmate's scheduled Wednesday execution after a judge's ruling that the inmate is too mentally ill to be put to death.

The court's decision means Abdul Awkal is now months or even years away from execution after coming within a few hours of dying by lethal injection June 6. He was sentenced to die for the 1992 killing of his estranged wife and brother-in-law.

MONTANA

Hitchhiker's shooting seen as publicity stunt

BILLINGS | A hitchhiker's tale of being shot in a random drive-by along a rural Montana highway unraveled when no gun could be found in the supposed perpetrator's pickup, authorities said Monday.

Ray Dolin told police earlier this month that he had been shot while traveling across the country to put together a photo memoir on the kindness of people he met along the way.

But as doubts about his story grew, deputies returned to the shooting scene along U.S. Highway 2 west of the farming community of Glasgow, where they found a Derringer pistol in a nearby field.

Police traced the weapon and discovered the 39-year-old had purchased it in his home state of West Virginia just days before the June 9 shooting.

Authorities now say Mr. Dolin shot himself in the arm in what appears to have been a hoax intended to promote his book. Dolin has confessed to making up the story, Valley County Sheriff Glen Meier said.

MISSOURI

St. Louisan who won Nobel Prize dies at 95

ST. LOUIS | William S. Knowles, a longtime chemist at Monsanto Co. in St. Louis who shared the Nobel Prize in chemistry, has died, his daughter said Monday. He was 95.

Mr. Knowles, of the St. Louis suburb of Chesterfield, Mo., died June 13 of complications from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Mr. Knowles and two other scientists won the 2001 Nobel Prize in chemistry for work that led to discoveries now used to make various medicines, including antibiotics, heart drugs and widely used treatment for Parkinson's disease.

NEW JERSEY

Immigration: Ex-Rutgers student won't be deported

TRENTON | Federal immigration authorities say they won't seek to deport a former Rutgers University student convicted in a webcam spying case.

Dharun Ravi is expected to be released from a New Jersey jail Tuesday. He will have served 20 days of a 30-day sentence that came after a conviction on 15 criminal counts, including bias intimidation and invasion of privacy.

The 20-year-old Ravi was born in India and remains a citizen there. Under federal law, he could have faced deportation proceedings after completing his sentence.

But U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Monday that he won't be removed from the U.S. because he has no prior criminal record.

He used a webcam in September 2010 to see roommate Tyler Clementi kiss another man. Clementi committed suicide days later.

CALIFORNIA

Feds: Design flaws led to nuclear plant woes

CAPISTRANO BEACH | After months of investigation, federal regulators have determined that design flaws appear to be the cause of excessive wear in tubing that carries radioactive water through California's troubled San Onofre nuclear power plant, a top federal regulator said.

The twin-reactor plant between Los Angeles and San Diego has been idle since January after a tube break in one of four massive steam generators released traces of radiation.

FLORIDA

Zimmerman told wife to buy bulletproof vest

ORLANDO | The former neighborhood watch volunteer who killed Trayvon Martin told his wife to buy bulletproof vests for them and for his attorney, according to jailhouse calls released Monday.

"As uncomfortable as it is, I want you wearing one," George Zimmerman told his wife.

The calls, released by prosecutors, also detail how Mr. Zimmerman instructed his wife to transfer money from bank accounts.

Mr. Zimmerman was released on $150,000 bond in April, several days after the calls took place. At his bond hearing, his wife, Shellie, testified that she didn't know how much money had been raised from a website created for his legal defense.

Prosecutors say the calls show George and Shellie Zimmerman knew that roughly $135,000 had been raised by the site.

Shellie Zimmerman was arrested last week on a charge of making a false statement.

George Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder. He has pleaded not guilty, claiming self-defense during the confrontation with the 17-year-old teen in a gated community in Sanford, Fla.

MICHIGAN

Baby robin cuddles up with friendly house cats

OTSEGO TOWNSHIP | A baby robin is spending some quality time with some friendly cats in southwestern Michigan.

Karin Caston said her cats have accepted the bird, named Peeps, since she found it about two weeks ago in her yard.

The bird spends time nestled in the fur of two of Ms. Caston's cats or perched on their backs. She told the Associated Press in an email that she first locked up the cats when she started caring for the bird.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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