- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 3, 2003


Shootings put city on edge

COLUMBUS — Nervous parents took their children by the hand and walked them to school. Teachers were given maps to help them get to work without using the highway nearby. Outdoor recess was canceled for the rest of the week.

A deadly series of 12 shootings around a five-mile stretch of Interstate 270 since May — including one in which a bullet broke a window at Hamilton Central Elementary School — have unnerved parents, motorists and others. One woman in a car was killed last week.

“Until they catch him, there’s no way they’re getting on the bus,” said Michelle Maupin, who changed her routine to drop off her 7-year-old daughter at school.


Suspect agrees to extradition

CROOKSTON — The convicted rapist accused of kidnapping a college student from a mall parking lot agreed yesterday to be sent to North Dakota to face charges.

Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. said barely a word even after an outburst from a woman in the courtroom who pleaded in Spanish, “Tell us what you did with the girl.” He faces kidnapping charges in North Dakota and could appear in court there as early as today.

Meanwhile, at least 1,000 people answered a call to renew the search for Dru Sjodin, 22, the University of North Dakota student who last was heard talking to her boyfriend on a cell phone on Nov. 22 as she left her job at a mall


Doctor convicted in sex-abuse case

PHOENIX — A jury that deliberated for 14 days convicted a Phoenix abortion doctor on Tuesday of 22 counts of sexual abuse of patients.

Brian Finkel, 64, was acquitted of 34 other abuse charges, including six sexual-assault counts. Jurors deadlocked on four counts, and Maricopa County Judge Jeffrey Cates dismissed six, citing a lack of evidence.

The courtroom was silent when the verdict was read, but victims applauded when Finkel was handcuffed and led out. He had been free on bond during the trial, which began in August.

More than 30 women testified that Finkel had groped them and inappropriately touched their breasts and genitals during exams.


Prisons cited for poor medical care

The Justice Department yesterday cited two Arkansas prisons for unconstitutional conditions, saying the facilities provided deficient medical care for inmates with serious medical conditions.

In one case, prison officials gave Tylenol to an inmate who complained of chest pains after recent open-heart surgery and ordered him back to his cell, said Assistant Attorney General R. Alexander Acosta, who leads the Justice Department’s civil rights division.

“The Justice Department is committed to the vigorous enforcement of the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act,” said Mr. Acosta in a statement. “We are confident the state of Arkansas will work to remedy these deficiencies.”

The findings, as well as the department’s recommended remedial measures, were the result of an investigation by the civil rights division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Little Rock, and focused on the McPherson and Grimes correctional facilities in Newport.


Twain’s frog found in Calaveras County

SACRAMENTO — A threatened species of frog thought to have inspired the Mark Twain tale “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” has been rediscovered in the county, 34 years after the frogs were last seen in the area.

The children of a cattle rancher found the California red-legged frogs while playing around watering holes on their property, wildlife officials said Tuesday. The officials asked that the location not be disclosed as researchers work to protect the frogs and their habitat.

A Fish and Wildlife Service biologist verified the discovery, locating one male and two female frogs in October. The last such sighting in Calaveras County was in 1969.

The wildlife service is offering to work with nearby property owners to see whether the frogs survive there as well. Robert Stack of the Jumping Frog Research Institute in Angels Camp is seeking grants to develop a captive-breeding program to protect a population he estimates at 10 to 20 frogs, by nurturing some of the eggs next year. He hopes to use the remnant frogs to one day repopulate the county.


School voucher law ruled unconstitutional

DENVER — A judge yesterday declared Colorado’s new school voucher law unconstitutional, saying it illegally strips local school boards of control over education.

Denver District Judge Joseph Meyer issued an injunction barring implementation of the voucher law, the first in the nation since the U.S. Supreme Court said last year that voucher programs were acceptable.

“I see no way to interpret the voucher program statute in a way that does not run afoul of the principle of local control,” he wrote. “The goals of the voucher program are laudable. However, even great ideas must be implemented within the framework of the Colorado Constitution.”

The court challenge was filed by a coalition of teachers, religious and education groups.

Chip Mellor, president of Institute For Justice, said the state is likely to appeal.


Police say parents fatally beat daughter

ATLANTA — An 11-year-old girl’s parents tied her up in the garage, starved the child and beat her with an umbrella until she died during the Thanksgiving holiday, police said.

The sixth-grader had tried to escape her home in Stockbridge just south of Atlanta, but she was only punished more severely — she was left without food, water, a bathroom or a bed, police said.

The girl’s father, 37-year-old Rodney Michael Reaves, and her stepmother, 38-year-old Charlott Lynett Reaves, were arrested Monday and charged with felony murder and cruelty to children.

The girl, Joella Reaves, was beaten over her entire body with an umbrella and paddle for several days, according to the arrest warrant. The cause of death was listed as blunt-force trauma.

Joella was being punished by her parents, according to the warrant. Police, attorneys and child welfare officials would not say what she had done to anger her parents.


Bingo revenues drop in state

INDIANAPOLIS — State revenues from bingo games dropped by more than $23 million last year. Nearly 40 charities didn’t renew their annual bingo licenses.

Some game operators blame new state rules that require bingo operators to give a set percentage of their profits to charity. Several bingo halls have filed suit to dismiss the rules. A hearing is scheduled Friday.


Blueberry firms ask judge to void verdict

ROCKLAND — Blueberry processors facing a potential $60 million award to growers in a class-action lawsuit asked the judge to set aside the verdict.

The three firms say the award would put them and Maine’s blueberry industry out of business. A jury last month concluded that the processors illegally conspired to fix prices.


Cookie fund-raiser sweet for organizers

GRAND ISLAND — When the local Habitat for Humanity chapter sought volunteers for its latest fund-raiser, it got more than it had bargained for. But that’s the way several thousand cookies crumble.

The house-building charity had hoped that about 50 volunteers would produce 4,000 cookies for its first Christmas Cookie Walk on Saturday. Instead, 130 volunteers have promised the organization about 7,000 cookies of every variety imaginable.

The cookie glut has organizers pleading that their plate is full. Cookies will be sold for $4 a dozen, with all the proceeds benefiting Habitat for Humanity.


Judge denies motion to free Kevorkian

DETROIT — A request for assisted-suicide proponent Jack Kevorkian to be released from prison because of health problems has been denied, according to a decision released Tuesday.

Kevorkian, 75, was sentenced to 10 to 25 years in prison for the 1998 death of Thomas Youk, who was afflicted with Lou Gehrig’s disease and was shown on CBS’ “60 Minutes” receiving a lethal dose of potassium chloride.

Kevorkian’s attorney has said he suffers from a variety of medical problems, including hepatitis C, high blood pressure and hernias.

Judge Rae Lee Chabot said in the decision released Tuesday that Kevorkian’s health problems aren’t enough to trump state law.


Officials dispute voting machines

CARSON CITY — Secretary of State Dean Heller and northern Nevada registrars are squabbling over the type of electronic-voting machines the state will buy.

The registrars want Mr. Heller to buy touch-screen voting machines that are lighter than those being used in Clark County. Mr. Heller says he wants all counties to use the same type of machines.


Judge sentences figure in drug ring

CAMDEN — A central figure in a Camden drug ring who helped bring down the city’s mayor was sentenced yesterday to 16 years in federal prison for drug conspiracy and money laundering.

Jose “J.R.” Rivera received a break from the 30-year-to-life sentence he could have received because of his testimony against former Mayor Milton Milan, U.S. District Judge Joseph H. Rodriguez said. He was also fined $200,000.

Rivera, 44, was convicted in 2000 on charges that he helped run a huge cocaine distribution network known as “the Organization” in Camden.

He then agreed to help federal authorities investigating Milan, who was convicted of taking mob payoffs, laundering drug money and stealing campaign funds. Milan is serving a seven-year term in federal prison.


Retired congressman is hospitalized

ROSWELL — Former Rep. Joe Skeen, one of New Mexico’s longest-serving congressmen, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease and who retired last year, has been hospitalized.

Eastern New Mexico Medical Center in Roswell, where Mr. Skeen, 76, a Republican, has been for about a week, refused to release details of his condition, citing privacy concerns and respect for the family.

“He sleeps a lot. He’s certainly conscious. He’s not in a coma,” Suzanne Eisold, Mr. Skeen’s chief of staff and his campaign manager during his 22 years in Congress, said yesterday.

Mary Gayle Wood, Mr. Skeen’s former secretary, said he was dehydrated and having difficulty eating and swallowing.


Lackawanna Six man gets 10 years

BUFFALO — A Yemeni-American man who attended an al Qaeda training camp and met with Osama bin Laden shortly before the September 11 attacks was sentenced yesterday to 10 years in prison.

Mukhtar al-Bakri, 23, was the first defendant to be sentenced in the Lackawanna Six case that has been held up by the Bush administration as a model in pursuing and prosecuting terrorism suspects.

Al-Bakri, the youngest of the group, was the last to accept a plea bargain, which he did earlier this year. His sentence for providing material support to al Qaeda was expected to be among the harshest because he is one of only two who completed the camp’s training program.


Marine gets medal for Lynch rescue

CAMP LEJEUNE — A Marine captain was awarded the Bronze Star for helping in the rescue of Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch and then leading a mission to capture Iraqis who were shooting civilians.

Capt. Thomas A. Douglas, 27, received the medal on Tuesday at Camp Lejeune with members of the 2nd Force Reconnaissance Company in attendance.

Pfc. Lynch, a supply clerk, sustained injuries when her 507th Maintenance Company was ambushed in Nasiriyah, Iraq, on March 23. U.S. forces rescued her from an Iraqi hospital on April 1.


Inmate freed after DNA test

LAWTON — A man who spent 20 years in prison for rape was freed yesterday after DNA testing proved that he was not guilty of the crime.

Calvin Lee Scott, 48, finished the rape sentence last year but stayed in prison on a three-year term for assault and battery of a correctional officer, the Department of Corrections said. He walked out of the Lawton Correctional Facility yesterday morning.

Genetic material taken from the victim the night of the rape showed that Mr. Scott was not the attacker, said Jim Bednar, executive director of the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System.

DNA technology was not available at the time of the trial. Microscopic analysis of hair taken from the rape victim’s bed was used to convict Mr. Scott.


Deputy kills partner during meth raid

HUNTSVILLE — In the confusion and screams of a methamphetamine raid last week, a sheriff’s officer fired a shot that killed his deputy partner, a prosecutor said yesterday.

Scott County sheriff’s Sgt. Hubert “John John” Yancey, 35, was killed Friday night when he and Officer Marty Carson entered a mobile home near Oneida where the illegal stimulant was being made.

According to District Attorney Paul Phillips, Officer Carson entered the house first with a resident’s permission and didn’t know that Sgt. Yancey had followed to back him up.


Legislature meets to cancel primary

OLYMPIA — The Legislature meets tomorrow in what is expected to be a quick session to cancel the March 2 presidential primary.

Republicans don’t need it, as President Bush is their candidate. Democrats will rely on party meetings to select delegates to the nominating convention. Canceling the primary will save state taxpayers about $7 million.

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