- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 24, 2003


Ryan enters plea in corruption case

CHICAGO — Former Illinois Gov. George Ryan pleaded not guilty yesterday to corruption charges and accused the federal government of conducting an investigation that he said had torn apart his life.

“I’m absolutely not guilty of those charges,” the 69-year-old Republican best known outside Illinois as a man nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for halting capital punishment and emptying the state’s death row, told a news conference.

He spoke just hours after a federal court appearance in which he pleaded not guilty to a 22-count indictment in which the government claimed he had used public office to enrich himself, family and associates.

The indictment handed up Dec. 17 accuses Mr. Ryan and associates of profiting from kickbacks from people who received lucrative state contracts and leases. Mr. Ryan received illegal cash payments, gifts, vacations and personal services while serving as both secretary of state and governor from 1991 to early 2003, the indictment claimed.


Six persons dead in house fire

CANTON — Fire engulfed a house early yesterday, killing two adults and four children, one of them 7 weeks old, officials said.

A seventh person, a 21-year-old woman, was in critical condition in the burn unit at Akron Children’s Hospital.

One of the victims, Donald Knight, ran into the house to try to rescue his nephew and the others, said his brother, James Knight. He said his brother was on his way home when he saw the fire and stopped to help.

“The whole house was engulfed. The whole house was nothing but red,” James Knight said.

Besides Donald Knight, 43, and his nephew, Jerry Knight, 9; the victims were identified as Dale Gross, 34; Leigha Gross, 10; Cally Gross, 4; and Katlin Cavanaugh, 7 weeks. Authorities were trying to determine the victims’ relationships.


Farmer loses arm in tractor accident

HARRISON — A farmer whose arm was torn off in a tractor accident picked up the limb, climbed back on and headed home to get help.

“What was I supposed to do? Lie there and die?” James Arlen Mondy’s wife quoted him as saying.

Doctors at St. John’s Regional Health Center in Springfield, Mo., were unable to reattach the arm after the Dec. 16 accident. Mr. Mondy was recovering at the hospital yesterday.

Mr. Mondy, 56, was bumped off his tractor when it hit a hole, said his wife, Janet. The spinning blades of a brush cutter chopped off his arm at the shoulder.

On his ride home, he stopped to open a gate, drove through, then got off the tractor again to close the gate, and continued on his way. He started to feel lightheaded, but met a passing couple, who summoned help.


Donors defeat the Grinch again

SACRAMENTO — The Grinch lost … again.

Last week, someone made off with a batch of toys intended for children at the Sacramento Children’s Home. But hundreds of people across Northern California would not let the story end there.

Fueled by a desire to right a wrong and help others less fortunate, donations have poured in, to the shock and delight of those involved. Donors not only have fulfilled all the toy requests many times over, but also have donated thousands of dollars to the home.

Meanwhile, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department is searching for the woman who walked off with more than $5,000 in gifts last week. The home provides 24-hour care for up to 68 children ages 6 to 18 who have been removed from their parents’ care or foster homes, according to the Sacramento Bee.


Coast Guard grads to take land jobs

NEW LONDON — Because of a shortage of sea jobs, dozens of members of the next Coast Guard Academy graduating class will break with 128 years of tradition and take land-based jobs or attend flight school.

Academy graduates always have gone to sea for two years as their first tours of duty. The Coast Guard says it’s relying on fewer, more-modern boats and needs more people on shore to boost port security.


County restricts facial jewelry

ORLANDO — Adding that seventh earring before going to work for the county could get you into piercing trouble.

Administrators have decided that three earrings per earlobe is the maximum amount of “facial jewelry” employees will be allowed to wear in Orange County offices and that all other facial piercing will be forbidden.

Loops through eyebrows, studs through tongues, and nose rings will have no place for county employees.

“It’s our belief that facial jewelry does not present the professional appearance we want our employees to have when dealing with the public,” said Deputy County Administrator Sharon Donoghue, who helped formulate the rules.


Christmas trees selling for $1

HONOLULU — Hawaii is well-known for its high cost of living, but this year, sprucing up the living room for the holidays only takes $1 — even less in some cases.

A glut of Christmas trees has some merchants offering them for as little as a buck, with other overstocked sellers even looking to give them away free.

Sellers attribute the surplus of trees to overcompensation for last year, when there was a shortage.

Ray Griego, assistant manager at Wal-Mart in Mililani, brought in 5,600 trees and still had 1,000 left on Sunday. He planned to call charities that might be interested in taking some trees for free.


‘Divorce’ case judge not setting precedent

SIOUX CITY — The district court judge who signed a “divorce” decree for two women said he was not out to establish a precedent with the case but only to resolve a legal issue for two persons who needed it.

Judge Jeffrey Neary granted a request to dissolve a civil union that the Sioux City women had obtained in Vermont last year. Some conservative groups have asked the Iowa Supreme Court to overturn the “divorce.” Homosexual “marriage” is outlawed in the state.


Officials protest Bush trade plan

BATON ROUGE — Louisiana’s exiting and incoming governors are protesting a trade agreement that will allow more Central American sugar into the United States, saying it will devastate Louisiana’s sugar industry.

Gov. Mike Foster and Gov.-elect Kathleen Blanco sent a letter Monday to President Bush complaining that the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) negotiated by his administration will “eventually lead to the destruction of the livelihood of 27,000 Louisianians.”

They are asking Mr. Bush to take the sugar provisions out of CAFTA and to exclude the product from other pending trade agreements. They prefer that the issue be negotiated through the World Trade Organization.

Included in the CAFTA deal, which awaits congressional approval, was a provision under which four Central American countries will see the quota of sugar they can ship into the United States rise more than 75 percent next year. The current limit is 111,000 tons.


Virgin Mary ad riles Boston church

BOSTON — The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston yesterday demanded the removal of an animal rights group’s billboard advertisement depicting the Virgin Mary cradling a lifeless chicken in her arms.

The ad by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals features the tag line “Go Vegetarian — It’s an Immaculate Conception,” a reference to teachings about Mary’s purity.

But the church said the billboard was “offensive at any time” and especially so during the Christmas season. PETA said it has no plans to take down the billboard in Boston.


Death penalty for bank robber

MADISON — A jury decided Monday that one of the three gunmen who killed five persons in a small-town bank robbery should get the death penalty.

Jurors found that prosecutors had proved all 25 aggravating circumstances, five for each victim, that would qualify Jorge Galindo for the death penalty. The jury had found Galindo guilty of five counts of first-degree murder and eight other felonies last Wednesday.

A three-judge panel will decide whether Galindo should be electrocuted or sentenced to life in prison.

Four employees and a customer were fatally shot at a U.S. Bank branch in Norfolk, about 90 miles northeast of Omaha, in one of the deadliest bank robberies in the country’s history.

Two other defendants, Jose Sandoval and Erick Vela, have been convicted in the killings and are awaiting sentencing. A fourth man charged with five counts of first-degree murder, Gabriel Rodriguez, is expected to stand trial in February.


Charter school to rewrite standards

RENO — A Washoe County charter school is rewriting its academic-standards policy after district officials said it couldn’t dismiss students for poor grades.

Coral Academy of Science recently adopted a policy that any student receiving three or more Fs in one term or failing to maintain a 2.0 grade point average over multiple terms could be dismissed.


Child-abuse suspects denied Christmas visit

CAMDEN — A couple accused of starving their four adopted sons will not be allowed to see the boys and their other adopted children during Christmas, a judge ruled yesterday.

Lawyers for Raymond and Vanessa Jackson had asked Superior Court Judge Irvin Snyder to change the conditions of the couple’s bail to allow them contact with the children.

However, the Camden County prosecutor’s office and state child-welfare officials opposed making any changes. The Jacksons are free on $100,000 bail each.

The boys, ages 9 to 19, each stood no more than 4 feet tall and weighed no more than 45 pounds when they were discovered Oct. 10 after the oldest was found foraging through a neighbor’s trash for food.

The state Division of Youth and Family Services removed the children from the home, and the parents were charged with aggravated assault and child endangerment.


Officials misidentify inmate who killed self

OKLAHOMA CITY — Kevin Wyckoff’s family held a funeral and a burial for him before learning that prison officials had misidentified an inmate who had hanged himself behind bars on Friday.

The mistake came to light when Wyckoff telephoned his father in Sallisaw from the Lexington Assessment and Reception Center on Monday evening. The burial had taken place earlier in the day.

Corrections Department spokesman Jerry Massie said yesterday that he did not know why Wyckoff’s family had not recognized the body as someone else.

The name of the man who had hanged himself and had been buried was not released.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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