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American Scene: LAPD allowed Manson family member recordings

- - Tuesday, May 29, 2012

PLANO — Los Angeles police are entitled to audio recordings of conversations between a Manson family member and his attorney, a Texas judge ruled Tuesday.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Brenda T. Rhoades of Plano granted the request, allowing police to obtain the eight cassette tapes containing hours of talks between Charles "Tex" Watson and Bill Boyd, a now-deceased Texas attorney who once represented Watson.

Detectives want to listen to the tapes to learn whether Watson described any unsolved killings in the conversations. An LAPD spokesman said officers have no specific information on what might be in the recordings.

A law firm in McKinney where Boyd once worked has the tapes, and a trustee in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding involving the firm asked the judge to grant legal authority to give police the recordings. Boyd died in 2009.

Watson is serving a life sentence for his role in the 1969 Tate-La Bianca murders. He previously made the tapes available to the co-author of his 1978 book, "Will You Die for Me? The Man Who Killed for Charles Manson Tells His Own Story."

Judge Rhoades' ruling came despite an objection from Watson's current attorney, who argued Watson didn't waive attorney-client privilege when making the book deal.

In the book, Watson detailed his role in the killings of actress Sharon Tate and six other people but didn't mention any unsolved slayings.

FLORIDA

Lesbian mom's backers to petition Scout meet

ORLANDO — Supporters of a lesbian mother will present a petition at the Boy Scouts of America's annual meeting in Orlando to protest her removal from a troop in Ohio.

Deborah Tyrrell's supporters will present the petition with more than 275,000 names when the Boy Scouts' meeting begins in Florida on Wednesday.

Ms. Tyrrell was removed last April as a leader of the troop near Bridgeport, Ohio. Boy Scout policy prohibits gays from being adult leaders.

Among those who will present the petition is Eagle Scout Zach Wahls, an Iowa college student who was raised by lesbian mothers. A video of Mr. Wahls urging Iowa legislators not to end civil unions went viral last year.

Scouts spokesman Deron Smith said there are no plans to change the policy but the group values freedom of expression.

NEW JERSEY

Man convicted of webcam gay spying apologizes

NEW BRUNSWICK — A former Rutgers University student convicted of using a webcam to spy on his male roommate kissing another man days before the roommate killed himself publicly apologized on Tuesday for the first time.

Dharun Ravi said in a statement issued through his lawyer that he was sorry for what he called his "thoughtless, insensitive, immature, stupid and childish choices."

Ravi's roommate, Tyler Clementi, threw himself from New York City's George Washington Bridge in 2010.

Ravi was sentenced in March to 30 days in jail. He said Tuesday he'll start serving his term on Thursday in New Brunswick.

The sentencing judge had criticized Ravi for a lack of remorse and had told him: "I haven't heard you apologize once."

Prosecutors said Ravi's sentence was too lenient.

Ravi, now 20, was convicted of 15 criminal counts, including bias intimidation and invasion of privacy.

Soon after that, letters began pouring in to Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman's chambers making requests for how to handle sentencing. Ravi had faced up to 10 years in prison.

Earlier this month, the judge told him he would have to serve 30 days in jail. Because the sentence is less than a year, it decreases the chances that federal immigration authorities will seek to have Ravi deported to India, where he was born and remains a citizen.

Ravi maintains he is innocent.

KANSAS

Prosecutor: Suspect told child to lie about death

WICHITA — A prosecutor says a Kansas commune leader accused of killing a group member directed a child to lie to police about the woman's 2003 death.

Prosecutor Kim Parker began laying out the case against Daniel U. Perez during a preliminary hearing Tuesday. Prosecutors must show a judge enough evidence this week to justify a murder trial.

Law enforcement officials have refused to say what led them to charge Mr. Perez with premeditated first-degree murder in the death of 26-year-old Patricia Hughes.

Police first thought Hughes drowned while trying to rescue her 2-year-old daughter from a pool at the Valley Center compound where the commune lived.

Mr. Perez was known for years as Lou Castro, a false identity. He also faces multiple counts of lying on life insurance applications, rape and other crimes.

NEW YORK

Biographer's son seeks Malcolm X letter on race

SYRACUSE — The son of Malcolm X's biographer is asking Syracuse University to hand over a letter in which the slain activist writes about his shifting views on race relations.

Malcolm X wrote to Alex Haley, his collaborator for "The Autobiography of Malcolm X," from Saudi Arabia in April 1964, about 10 months before he was gunned down in New York City. The publisher of the autobiography later gave the letter to Syracuse University as part of a larger cache of papers to be used by researchers.

But Haley's son, William Haley, says the publisher never had legal title to the letter and could not give it away. His lawyer said Tuesday he plans to make a legal demand this week for the letter, which he thinks is worth at least $650,000.

TENNESSEE

Judge's ruling stops mosque construction

NASHVILLE — A judge in Tennessee ruled Tuesday that the public wasn't properly notified about a meeting where local officials approved the plan for a proposed mosque, meaning construction of the disputed project will be stopped.

The new facility for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro was one of several Muslim projects in the U.S. that hit a swell of conservative opposition around the same time as the controversy over a plan to build a Muslim community center near New York's ground zero.

Chancellor Robert Corlew noted that his ruling doesn't stop the Rutherford County Planning Commission from reconsidering the issue and again approving the site plan in the booming city of about 100,000 people southeast of Nashville.

Saleh Sbenaty, a spokesman for leaders of the mosque, said the ruling was disappointing but his group remains committed to building the Islamic center. Members have been worshipping for many years at a smaller site in the community.

The opponents of the mosque have fought for two years to stop construction. During lengthy hearings in 2010, they presented testimony that in effect put Islam on trial. A string of witnesses questioned whether Islam is a legitimate religion and promoted a theory that American Muslims want to replace the Constitution with extremist Islamic law and the mosque was a part of that plot.

ILLINOIS

10 killed in Chicago over hot holiday weekend

CHICAGO — The sweltering Memorial Day weekend was a violent one in Chicago, with more than 40 shootings and 10 homicides reported over the four-day span.

Among those killed was a man who was shot near a holiday party in the South Shore neighborhood late Monday.

Police say neighbors reported hearing a loud argument just before shots were fired and partygoers ran from the scene. The Cook County medical examiner's office said 33-year-old Malcolm Dowdy was pronounced dead at Jackson Park Hospital and Medical Center.

Last year, four people were killed in Chicago during the Memorial Day weekend, but bad storms that year forced many people to stay home. This year, the city experienced record temperatures that peaked in the mid-90s.

TEXAS

Man falls to death from crane in Dallas standoff

UNIVERSITY PARK — A man dangled from the cab of a 150-foot construction crane before falling to his death early Tuesday at a college campus in Dallas, ending a more than 14-hour standoff, police said.

The man, whose name has not been released, had spent a sweltering afternoon on the crane at the Southern Methodist University campus at University Park, fully exposed to the blazing sun, with temperatures in the low 90s. He warned officers that he was armed and would shoot anyone who approached him.

Two police tactical officers who climbed the crane discovered he had sprayed a greasy substance "similar to WD-40" in the area near the cab, preventing them from reaching him, said Deputy Chief Randy Blankenbaker.

The man, who climbed the crane around noon Monday, pulled himself out of the cab and briefly hung from the crane - holding on with just his hands - before dropping to his death at 1:47 a.m. Tuesday.

"The suspect is deceased," Sr. Cpl. Melinda Gutierrez said. Police did not say if any weapon had been recovered.

Police were investigating whether the man was involved in the theft of a truck before the standoff at the crane began. Kent Best, an SMU spokesman, said the man in the crane was a suspect fleeing from Dallas police.

From wire dispatches and staff reports