- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 16, 2003


Sexual assault suspect pleads guilty

CHARLESTON — A Kentucky man accused of sexually assaulting a girl in a West Virginia department store pleaded guilty yesterday to federal charges filed in both states.

Allen Dwayne Coates, 37, of Irvington, Ky., faces up to life in prison on his guilty plea to crossing state lines with the intent to engage in a sexual act with a person under 12. That charge, filed in West Virginia, involves the purported sexual assault of an 11-year-old girl on July 12 at a Target store in South Charleston.

A surveillance camera in the store showed Coates stalking the girl and leading her down an aisle by the wrist.

Coates faces a charge of first-degree attempted sodomy in Kentucky. West Virginia charges of first-degree sexual assault and kidnapping are pending.


Jackson marches to protest drug sweep

NORTH CHARLESTON — Incidents such as a recent drug sweep at a school in which gun-toting police ordered students to the floor tarnish the image the New South is trying to build, the Rev. Jesse Jackson said yesterday.

“The South deserves better than this. These images and these events keep us in a gutter,” Mr. Jackson told reporters before leading a march to protest the Nov. 5 raid at Stratford High School in suburban Goose Creek.

The raid drew national attention after surveillance cameras and a police video showed students ordered to the floor while officers with guns drawn and a drug dog searched them.

Critics have objected to the use of force and say it appeared to have targeted black students. Two civil suits have been filed. Officials also are investigating whether any criminal laws were broken by police.


Governor backs preservation of bases

PHOENIX — Gov. Janet Napolitano endorsed a list of recommendations developed by a task force to help preserve the state’s military bases.

The task force recommended, among other suggestions, exchanging state trust land to create a buffer around bases and requiring the Arizona Department of Real Estate to develop a notification process for properties near military operating areas.


School district merger advances

LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Mike Huckabee’s plan to merge school districts with fewer than 500 students passed an important legislative hurdle, while a House alternative to head off consolidation stalled.

The Senate Education Committee’s approval of Mr. Huckabee’s proposal to reduce the number of school districts and make court-ordered education improvements more affordable sent the measure to the full Senate, where it faces a tough vote.


Hobby gets man detained at airport

EUREKA — A man detained by airport security after gunpowder and a fuse was found in his luggage was allowed to board his flight because he had a good reason: He likes shooting golf balls out of cannons.

Federal air-transportation officials said Monday they were reviewing the incident at Arcata-Eureka Airport, but have concluded that the man had no ill intent — just bad packing judgment.

The explosives were seized, but the man eventually completed his planned trip to Florida.

The incident began Saturday as the man tried to fly from Eureka to San Francisco with his wife and infant son. Baggage screeners pulled him aside when they found the material in his checked luggage.


Judge asked to discard teacher’s lawsuit

WILMINGTON — A lawyer for a Wilmington parochial school is asking a federal judge to dismiss a suit by one of its former teachers, who was fired after she publicly backed abortion rights.

In a petition filed Monday, attorney Barry M. Willoughby, who represents the Ursuline School and its officials, said he plans to argue that Michele Curay-Cramer’s lawsuit doesn’t state a legal claim.

In January, a Wilmington News Journal abortion-rights advertisement listed the signatures of Mrs. Curay-Cramer, 32, and 600 others. School officials said she was fired days later because she publicly opposed the Catholic Church’s teachings.

Mrs. Curay-Cramer’s lawsuit contends her firing was the result of gender discrimination.


Released inmate lands back in jail

ORLANDO — Released from prison, Ronald A. Mahner’s first mistake was driving back to get his stuff.

Mahner returned to the Seminole County Jail to reclaim his personal property four days after being released. He had served a sentence for drunken driving, auto theft and habitually driving with a suspended or revoked license.

But when asked to provide identification, Mahner handed a sheriff’s deputy his license, which after routine computer check was found to have been revoked for life.

Deputy Teri Cresswell couldn’t prove Mahner was doing anything illegal without seeing him behind the wheel, so she told him to drive to the back parking lot. Mahner took the car around back and parked in a fire lane.

Ann Mallory, a manager in the Forensic Services Section, called in a computer check of the car’s tag and found it had been reported stolen the same day Mahner was released from jail.


Ex-official pleads guilty in corruption case

ATLANTA — A former Fulton County Commission chairman pleaded guilty yesterday to making false statements to an FBI agent during a corruption investigation.

Mitch Skandalakis, who unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor in 1998, admitted he lied about official actions he took to benefit a business owner who paid him $75,000.

In return for his plea, prosecutors agreed not to pursue any other charges and to recommend a six-month prison sentence. Sentencing was set for Feb. 12.


Hunter, rescuers get stuck in muck

BRIDGEWATER — Mike Hill was out on a hunting trip when he got stuck in the muck. His would-be rescuers had similar luck — one after another, after another, after another.

Mr. Hill, who waded into waist-deep water Monday in a marshy area, grew cold and realized he was lost. He pulled out his cell phone, and more than two dozen rescue workers from Bridgewater and surrounding towns arrived to search.

But the rescuers couldn’t reach Mr. Hill. Three firefighters set out on an airboat, but the boat got stuck. The firefighters themselves got mired in the marsh as they tried slogging on foot toward Mr. Hill, said Bridgewater Fire Chief Roderick Walsh.

Another firefighter and a police officer with a rescue dog set out on an all-terrain vehicle from another direction. They, too, got stuck in the swamp. Even a hovercraft brought in by a neighboring town got bogged down, Mr. Walsh said.

Ultimately, it was a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter that managed to pluck Mr. Hill, three firefighters, the police officer and the dog from the marsh — hauling them up, dripping, through the trees to safety in a wire basket.


Son of slain sheriff found hanged in cell

PARCHMAN — Patrick Presley, son of slain Lee County Sheriff Harold Ray Presley, was found dead at the state penitentiary yesterday after apparently hanging himself, authorities said.

Mississippi Department of Corrections officials said Presley, 31, was found in his cell about 12:08 a.m. Officials said security officers had observed Presley standing in his cell while conducting an 11:45 p.m. Monday security check.

Patrick Presley was convicted in March of being under the influence of drugs when his vehicle was involved in a 2002 collision that killed Melissa White, 37, of Mooreville. He was sentenced under Mississippi’s “depraved-heart” murder statute to life in prison.


Federal agents raid gun dealers

SPRINGFIELD — Federal authorities equipped with sealed search warrants raided three gun dealers early yesterday in Springfield, looking for evidence of firearms violations.

The raids were the culmination of a three-year investigation, said Larry Scott, a spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He would not say what agents were looking for or whether anyone was taken into custody.

“I can tell you it’s federal firearms violations,” Mr. Scott said.

Agents were seen carrying what appeared to be weapons from two businesses, Gunsmoke Gun & Pawn and a dealer specializing in Wesley Richards rifles. The two businesses are owned by the same person, he said.

A third dealer, Gunsmoke Gun and Gold Exchange, also was raided, he said. It is owned by a different person.

Mr. Scott would not identify the owners of the three businesses.


Ferry crash victim dies, raising toll to 11

NEW YORK — A woman who had both legs amputated and was in a medically induced coma after the crash of New York’s Staten Island ferry in October, died yesterday of her injuries, raising the death toll to 11, police said.

The family of Deborah Castro, 39, was one of scores of victims’ relatives to sue the city for damages totaling about $2 billion after the Oct. 15 crash that also injured dozens. Her husband filed a $120 million dollar lawsuit.

Earlier this month, the financially strapped city government sought to limit its liability to the value of the vessel — calculated at $14.4 million.

Investigators said it could take up to a year before the exact cause of the crash was known.


Connally donates notes, suit to library

AUSTIN — Former Texas first lady Nellie Connally donated to the LBJ Library and Museum on Monday her handwritten notes of President Kennedy’s assassination and the suit she wore the day he was killed in Dallas.

The widow of former Gov. John Connally wrote 26 pages of notes 10 days after the Kennedy assassination. She and her husband, who survived the shooting that day, were riding in the limousine with the president and his wife on Nov. 22, 1963.

Nellie Connally recently published those memoirs in the book “From Love Field: Our Final Hours with President John F. Kennedy.”

Of the assassination, she wrote: “I looked back and saw the president’s hands fly up to his throat. He made no sound, no cry — nothing. I had a horrifying feeling that the president had not only been shot, but could be dead.”

Selected pages of the notes will be displayed at the LBJ Library and Museum, and copies of the complete notes will be available to researchers.

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