- - Thursday, January 17, 2013

FLORIDA

MIAMI — A Florida federal judge has dismissed terrorism support and conspiracy charges against a Muslim cleric accused along with his father of funneling cash to the Pakistani Taliban.

U.S. District Judge Robert Scola ruled Thursday there was insufficient evidence against 26-year-old Izhar Khan. He is an imam at a mosque in suburban Margate north of Fort Lauderdale.

The judge is letting the case against Mr. Khan’s father, 77-year-old Hafiz Khan, go forward and the trial is continuing in Miami federal court.

Judge Scola ruled that Izhar Khan’s involvement in two transactions totaling $1,100 did not show he was supporting Taliban fighters. Charges against another of Hafiz Khan’s sons were dropped earlier by prosecutors.

Hafiz Khan is on trial for four terrorism support-related charges that each carry maximum 15-year prison sentences.

NEVADA

Attorney seeks release of Saudi rape suspect

LAS VEGAS — A defense attorney says he’ll seek the release from jail of a 23-year-old Saudi Arabia air force sergeant facing a child rape charge in Las Vegas.

Mazen Alotaibi stood in shackles Thursday and stared at the courtroom floor while a Las Vegas judge delayed an evidence hearing pending a bail hearing Friday.

Defense attorney Don Chairez said later that he’ll offer to have Mr. Alotaibi turn in his Saudi diplomatic passport if he’s allowed to post bail.

Mr. Alotaibi faces kidnapping, sexual assault with a minor and felony coercion charges that could get him decades in prison.

Police allege that Mr. Alotaibi pulled a 13-year-old boy into a sixth-floor room at the Circus Circus hotel and sexually assaulted him the morning before Las Vegas‘ big New Year’s Eve celebration.

WEST VIRGINIA

Mine superintendent given 2 years on federal charge

CHARLESTON — A former superintendent at a West Virginia mine where 29 miners died in a 2010 explosion has been sentenced to nearly two years in prison on a federal conspiracy charge.

Gary May received the sentence of 21 months and a $20,000 fine Thursday in federal court in Beckley. May has cooperated with prosecutors in their continuing criminal investigation of the explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine.

He admitted to charges that he defrauded the government through actions such as disabling a methane gas monitor and falsifying records.

A plea hearing is set next month for former longtime Massey Energy executive David Hughart, who’s accused of two federal conspiracy charges. Mr. Hughart’s cooperation has been viewed as a sign that authorities may be gathering evidence to target officials further up the Massey hierarchy.

UTAH

Avalanche survivor recalls feeling of ‘strange serenity’

SALT LAKE CITY — A 43-year-old Utah woman who survived an avalanche says she felt a ‘strange serenity’ while trapped under the snow before she went unconscious.

Elisabeth Malloy suffered frost bite in her toes and fingers but lived to tell her harrowing story thanks to her boyfriend, avalanche rescue beacons, a skier wandering by and avalanche rescue teams.

During a Wednesday news conference, Ms. Malloy and Adam Morrey said they are lucky to be alive. They said they were back-country skiing in the mountains east of Salt Lake City on Saturday when they triggered and were engulfed by a 700-foot wide avalanche.

Mr. Morrey found Ms. Malloy using avalanche rescue beacons, dug her up and did CPR to save her. Another skier helped them down the mountain, and a rescue helicopter flew them to safety.

CALIFORNIA

SUV plunges into apartment pool

MERCED — A California woman is OK after crashing her SUV into an apartment complex swimming pool.

Merced police say 69-year-old Pamela Gwyn was in her Chevy Blazer on a city street Wednesday when for an unknown reason she failed to make a right turn and lost control of the vehicle.

The SUV went through a wrought iron fence outside the apartment complex and continued about 50 feet before landing in the pool.

Sgt. Jay Struble says a good Samaritan, 57-year-old Craig Lafleur of Kingsburg, saw the SUV, pulled it to the edge of the pool by its roof rack and broke its back window. He then helped Ms. Gwyn out of the vehicle before it sank.

Sgt. Struble told the Merced Sun Star Gwyn had no recollection of the crash.

CALIFORNIA

Judge skeptical of challenge to San Francisco nudity law

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge considering San Francisco’s public nudity ban rejected arguments Thursday that simply disrobing in public was protected political speech akin to flag burning.

U.S. District Judge Edward Chen made his comments during a 90-minute hearing held to consider the new law requiring the covering of “genitals, perineum, and anal region” that is set to go into effect Feb. 1. A narrowly divided Board of Supervisors passed the law last month after residents and visitors to the city’s Castro district complained about nudity in a plaza.

Judge Chen said Thursday it takes more than simply disrobing in public to make a political statement. The judge said he would issue a written ruling before the end of the month.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports