- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 19, 2002

State releases felons amid money crunch
FRANKFORT Jail and prison doors swung open yesterday for the first of hundreds of felons ordered freed by Gov. Paul E. Patton because of a budget crunch.
Mr. Patton's "conditional commutation" covered 567 prisoners, all described as nonviolent offenders who, on average, were within 80 days of sentence completion. Of that group, 363 were scheduled for release yesterday, and the rest tomorrow.
The Corrections Department said that at least 90 might simply be swapping one cell for another because they have charges pending against them in other counties or states.
Mr. Patton's order was part of a plan to avert a $6 million deficit in the corrections budget. The order was intended to cut the number of state prisoners in county jails to 3,736.

Waitress gets early Christmas gift
QUINCY Waitress Sarah Nilsen got an early Christmas present in the mail this week: A $10,000 tip from one of her regular customers.
The check, made out to Mrs. Nilsen's 11-month-old son, came from a widower who patronizes the Newcomb Farms restaurant, where Mrs. Nilsen, 22, waits tables twice a week.
The man, whom she would not identify, sits at the same table and orders the same meal every Wednesday.
Mrs. Nilsen, who also works full time at an insurance agency, said that she has been talking to the man about her son, Andrew, since he accompanied her to the restaurant when he was 3 months old.
Mrs. Nilsen and her husband, Jeffrey, plan to put the money in Andrew's college-savings account. She said she's sure Andrew will meet his benefactor at the restaurant many times.

State rocked by many quakes
FAIRBANKS Interior Alaska has averaged more than 100 earthquakes a day since the magnitude 7.9 Denali quake last month.
The Alaska Earthquake Information Center says the Nov. 3 quake has generated more than 4,300 aftershocks. Most have been small, in the range of 2.0 to 4.0 magnitude. However, the center has recorded more than 125 with an aftershock of 4.0 magnitude or greater.

Judge halts banning inmates on the Web
PHOENIX A federal judge has ordered the Arizona Department of Corrections to stop enforcing a policy prohibiting inmates from corresponding with, or appearing on, Web sites.
U.S. District Judge Earl Carroll granted an injunction request Monday by the American Civil Liberties Union to stop enforcement of the law, which is the subject of a pending lawsuit.
"Putting free speech behind bars simply because it concerns prisoners sets a dangerous precedent," said Arizona ACLU attorney David Fathi. "The court's decision makes clear that Arizona may not jail the Internet."

Admonished judge says rights were violated
LITTLE ROCK An Arkansas appeals judge who was admonished for criticizing a lack of racial diversity at the University of Arkansas has filed a federal lawsuit that argues his right to free speech was violated.
Judge Wendell Griffen of the state Court of Appeals asked a federal judge Monday to declare that the letter of admonition he received from a state panel that disciplines judges, as well as the procedure the panel used, were unconstitutional.
The state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission's 4-3 vote Nov. 15 followed a probable cause hearing in which Judge Griffen argued that his comments at a public hearing were permitted by state judicial canons and protected by the U.S. Constitution.

'West Wing' creator wins court battle
LOS ANGELES "West Wing" creator Aaron Sorkin, who was arrested last year for possession of cocaine, marijuana and hallucinogenic mushrooms, won a dismissal of the charges yesterday after completing drug rehabilitation.
Superior Court Commissioner Kirkland R. Nyby dismissed the case against Mr. Sorkin on the recommendation of probation officials during a brief hearing that the acclaimed writer and producer did not attend.
His attorney, Steve Sitkoff, said the 41-year-old Emmy winner could not be in court because he was busy producing an episode of his hit drama series about a fictional White House.

Real estate company drops CBS suit
DENVER CBS agreed to alter an episode of "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" to settle a lawsuit by real estate company Re/Max International claiming the show portrayed a shady agent who used a for-sale sign that looked like a Re/Max sign.
Re/Max filed the lawsuit Oct. 31, saying the show's use of the sign damaged the company's reputation. It dropped the suit Tuesday after the network agreed to change the show when it airs in reruns.
The sign, which appeared in the Oct. 10 episode with red, white and blue bars similar to the Re/Max yard sign, will be digitally changed, CBS spokesman Chris Ender said. No money was involved in the settlement, he said.

Woman, 76, gets college degree
SARASOTA Bernice Strickland started college in 1945. She finished Tuesday.
Mrs. Strickland, 76, was the oldest of 202 graduates receiving bachelor's or master's degrees from the University of South Florida during commencement exercises Tuesday night. Mrs. Strickland majored in English and American literature.
"I taught her five times, and she never missed a class," said literature professor Susan Harrington. "That was remarkable."
Mrs. Strickland, a retired kindergarten teacher, left the Florida State College for Women now known as Florida State University in 1947, and didn't resume taking classes until 1995, when she enrolled at Indian River Community College in Stuart.

Valuable painting found in trash
AUGUSTA A middle-school teacher proved that one man's trash is another man's treasure when he stumbled across a valuable watercolor discarded on a trash heap.
Henry Drakeford, who teaches art at Spirit Creek Middle School, found the painting last summer while visiting his brother in Washington, D.C.
The painting turned out to be "Autumn Landscape," a watercolor from 1899 by Jasper Francis Cropsey. Auction house officials estimated the painting to be worth between $8,000 and $12,000, and he spent $600 to have the painting restored.

Screening deadline to be met at O'Hare
CHICAGO Federal officials say they'll meet a Dec. 31 deadline to screen all checked bags at O'Hare International Airport for explosives.
All the explosives-detection machines will likely not be in place by year's end, so officials will deploy about 1,000 more baggage screeners to do the work of the machines and help minimize delays.

Dog alerts family to house fire
WHITING A dog named Lucky lived up to its name when it alerted a family to a house fire.
"The dog bit my toe," said Anna Malone, one of the children. "I then woke up and saw a lot of smoke."
Anna, her two siblings and her mother had taken Lucky in when the dog was a stray. They escaped the fire last week at their home in Whiting, about 30 miles south of Sioux City.
Whiting Fire Chief Skip West said an electrical problem in the basement likely started the fire.

Priest found guilty in sex-abuse case
DETROIT A Roman Catholic priest was found guilty yesterday of sexual misconduct with an 11-year-old boy more than 30 years ago, in a case that was filed under an exception to the statute of limitations.
A jury found the Rev. Edward Olszewski guilty of four counts of indecent liberties with a minor child and innocent of four counts of sodomy.
Father Olszewski's accuser, Albert Green, testified the misconduct took place in the early 1970s at St. Cecilia's rectory.

Boy, 7, steals car again
MINNEAPOLIS A 7-year-old boy stole a car Tuesday morning and crashed it just 11 days after he had taken another vehicle, authorities said.
The boy drove the stolen car in reverse and smashed into another car, slightly injuring a 10-year-old boy riding with his mother and younger sister, police told the Star Tribune.
Authorities said they are considering filing a report with county officials to determine whether the boy should be removed from his home. In Minnesota, children younger than 10 cannot be charged with a crime. Authorities did not release the boy's name.
After stealing the first car, on Dec. 6, officers asked where he was going. According to police reports, the boy replied, "I just had to get to school and I don't know where it is."

Two die as tornadoes level mobile park
CHESAPEAKE Two persons were killed and 20 others were injured when separate tornadoes touched down in southwest Missouri, virtually leveling one mobile-home park as residents slept.
A 47-year-old woman in Chesapeake was killed and her home destroyed early yesterday just southeast of a trailer park in Lawrence County, west of Springfield. Fifteen persons were injured, including the victim's husband, who was blown out of a window into a field, Sheriff Doug Seneker said.
"What we're viewing here is atrocious," said National Weather Service meteorologist Lanny Dean. "There are Christmas presents mud-strewn and unwrapped lying all over the ground. Only God knows where they came from."

Suspect arraigned in death plot
MISSOULA A man accused of heading a militia that planned to kill numerous public officials was arraigned Tuesday on federal firearms charges.
The federal indictment against David Burgert, 39, contained no claims of a murder plot, accusations Flathead County officials first made 10 months ago.
Mr. Burgert pleaded not guilty Tuesday to one count of possessing an illegal machine gun and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

12-year-old holds teen at gunpoint
RAVENNA A 12-year-old boy held a teenage girl at gunpoint Tuesday in a car, then shot the man she ran to for help, authorities said.
The man was shot twice but was able to walk to a nearby home. He was in stable condition late Tuesday at a hospital.
The boy had gotten a ride from a 16-year-old girl when he pulled the gun, Buffalo County Sheriff Neil Miller said. The girl jumped out while passing another car on a narrow road. The boy then shot the 20-year-old driver of the other car and fled, Sheriff Miller said.

Water officials end meeting unresolved
LAS VEGAS Negotiators went home Tuesday after four days of meetings without reaching an agreement that might stop the federal government from cutting the amount of water California draws from the Colorado River.
"There aren't any breakthroughs," said Bennett Raley, an assistant secretary in the U.S. Interior Department.
Talks at the annual convention of the Colorado River Water Users Association were aimed at curtailing the state's historic overuse of the river. California has used more than its fair share of water for years because the six other states that draw from the Colorado River didn't use their full allotments.

Troubled toll system has fourth operator
EAST BRUNSWICK The state's financially troubled E-ZPass electronic toll system has its fourth operator in as many years.
The $450 million, 10-year contract with Affiliated Computer Systems begins March 1 and covers customer service, violation processing and maintenance.
The previous contractor, WorldCom, was fired following complaints about persistent problems, officials said.

Reeve to lead Times Square bash
NEW YORK Actor Christopher Reeve will join Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in ringing in the New Year at the annual ball-drop in Times Square.
Mr. Reeve, 50, and his wife, Dana, were selected to lead the celebration because of their "combined strength and courage," said Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Business Improvement District.
Mr. Reeve has been an activist for spinal-cord research since a 1995 horse-riding accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down.
Revelers in Times Square will also receive bracelets with bells to accompany New York's Riverside Ringers Bell Choir and Anita Ward, who will perform her disco hit "Ring My Bell."

State executes convicted killer
McALESTER A man convicted of shooting a night watchman in the head so he could steal a tow truck was executed Tuesday night.
The inmate, Ernest Carter, had maintained his innocence for the past 12 years.
The watchman, Eugene Manowski, was working the graveyard shift at a northwest Oklahoma City auction when he was killed.
According to court records, Carter, who had been fired from the auction for sleeping on the job, crawled through a hole in a fence, cut the lights to the guard shack and shot Mr. Manowski so he could steal a wrecker.

White men sentenced in race-riot slaying
YORK Two white men convicted in the fatal shooting of a young black woman during the city's 1969 race riots were sentenced yesterday to more than four years in prison.
Robert Messersmith, convicted of firing the slug that killed 27-year-old Lillie Belle Allen, gave a 15-minute statement in which he blamed the killing on a man who committed suicide two years ago.
"Why didn't you tell that before?" Allen's daughter screamed at him. As family members and sheriff's officers escorted her out, she yelled that Messersmith's silence made him "just as guilty."
Both men were convicted of second-degree murder Oct. 19 by an all-white jury.

Man facing trouble for shooting coyote
JOHNSTON Robert Pingitore may face a firearms charge after he gunned down a 70-pound coyote in his front yard.
Mr. Pingitore, an experienced hunter, said he was worried the coyote would attack his children.
A town ordinance prohibits the discharge of firearms within 200 yards of an occupied dwelling. Police are investigating whether the shooting was justified.

Officials cut ribbon for new highway
MYRTLE BEACH Transportation officials cut the ribbon for the first segment of the $232 million Carolina Bays Parkway, seven months ahead of schedule.
The highway runs from state Highway 9 south to U.S. 501.
The parkway runs west of the Intracoastal Waterway and is designed as an alternative to U.S. 17, which can be clogged with traffic, especially during the summer tourist season.

Conservationists file whale of a suit
SEATTLE A coalition of environmental groups filed suit yesterday to force the government to put the Puget Sound's killer whales on the endangered species list.
Killer whales, or orcas, are found in all the world's oceans and are not threatened. But the three pods that live along the Northwest coast are struggling. Their population is down to 82, from a high of about 120 in the 1960s.
The National Marine Fisheries Service concluded in June that while the Puget Sound orcas are genetically distinct and could be extinct within a century, they do not constitute a "significant population segment" and are not eligible for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Man may get his wish: jail
KENOSHA A man who claimed he took money from a bank because he wanted to go back to prison may get his wish.
A jury convicted Dale L. Smith, 35, of theft on Dec. 12. Prosecutors said Smith took $9,815 from a teller's cash drawer at Bank One in February. A customer held Smith in a bear hug until police arrived.
The defense argued that Smith did not intend to keep the money but instead wanted to be re-incarcerated. Defense witnesses said before the trial that Smith complained he was having trouble coping with life out of prison.
Smith now faces a possible maximum penalty of a $10,000 fine and 25 years in prison. Judge Michael Wilk scheduled sentencing for Jan. 23.

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