- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 3, 2003


Court-martial ordered in sex assault

DENVER — An Air Force Academy sophomore will be the first to face a court-martial on rape charges since a sexual assault scandal broke at the academy earlier this year, officials announced yesterday.

Cadet Douglas Meester, 20, is charged with rape, sodomy, indecent assault and providing alcohol to minors. If convicted at a military trial, he could face life in prison and dismissal from the Air Force.

The decision to court-martial Cadet Meester was made by Brig. Gen. John Weida, who became cadet commandant earlier this year in a management shake-up that stemmed from the scandal.

Brig. Gen. Weida rejected the recommendation of the investigating officer who presided over Cadet Meester’s Article 32 hearing in May; that officer had recommended administrative punishment instead. No date has been set for the court-martial.


Ex-Atlanta mayor dead at 92

ATLANTA — Former Mayor Ivan Allen Jr., credited with helping Atlanta desegregate peacefully during the 1960s when other Southern cities erupted in violence, died yesterday at 92.

Mr. Allen, who served from 1962 to 1970, desegregated city government the day he took office. The “colored” and “white” signs were taken down and he hired blacks for many city jobs, including police officer and firefighter.

Mr. Allen was a leading voice for civil rights in the South. He was the only Southern elected official to testify before Congress in favor of what would become the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and his testimony was praised by Northern politicians and newspapers.

Mr. Allen was a strong supporter of Martin Luther King and helped organize a 1964 dinner honoring him for winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Because many of Atlanta’s white business elite attended, the dinner was seen as a pivotal moment for race relations in the city.


Prosecutors say bishop wasn’t drunk in accident

PHOENIX — Prosecutors said there was no evidence that Bishop Thomas O’Brien was drunk during the fatal hit-and-run accident that led to his resignation as head of the Phoenix Diocese, and he probably will not face charges beyond leaving the scene.

Several witnesses suggested that Bishop O’Brien may have been drinking before the June 14 accident, but the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office said the investigation turned up no such evidence.

Jim Reed, 43, was killed while crossing the street in the middle of a block.

The Roman Catholic bishop was charged June 17 with leaving the scene of a fatal accident and resigned as diocese chief the next day. He has said he did not realize he struck a person.


Park Service selling pieces of Alcatraz

SAN FRANCISCO — Now you can own a piece of the Rock, a k a Alcatraz Island.

The National Park Service has started selling boxed chunks of concrete from the federal prison that once housed Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly and Robert “Birdman” Stroud.

Retailing for $4.95, the souvenirs are available because the National Park Service is renovating the decaying cell house and a guards’ quarters on the island in San Francisco Bay. The $7.7 million effort to stabilize the structure is the largest capital project on the island since the penitentiary was closed in 1963.

Richard Weideman, a spokesman for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, said park staff came up with the idea for the mementos as an alternative to ferrying tons of rubble off Alcatraz.

Since the “Save the Rock” campaign began a week and a half ago, the slices of history have been selling at a rate of 20 to 30 a day.


Explosion levels 2 homes; 10 injured

WILMINGTON — A suspected gas explosion flattened two row houses yesterday, injuring about 10 people, two of them seriously.

A work crew was tearing up the sidewalk in front of the buildings before the blast, said John Rago, a spokesman for Mayor James Baker.

In addition to destroying the two-story row houses, the explosion damaged three buildings.

Utility crews were working to shut off gas and electricity service to about 3,000 people in a several-block area, Mr. Rago said.


Woman sentencedf or anthrax hoax

HONOLULU — A woman was sentenced to seven years and three months in prison for sending threatening letters that contained a white powder in the fall of 2001.

Sharon Cardenas, 24, pleaded guilty in August to two counts of threatening the use of a weapon of mass destruction for mailing at least 11 threatening letters in the name of her boyfriend’s mother. Cardenas received the maximum penalty.

Before her sentencing Monday, Cardenas apologized for her actions. “To say I’m sorry is not adequate,” she told the court, “but please forgive me.”

U.S. District Judge David Ezra told Cardenas, the first person prosecuted in Hawaii for an anthrax hoax, that her sentence was intended to send an important message. “These kinds of terrorism will not be tolerated in this state,” he said.


City officials sue over porch collapse

CHICAGO — The city yesterday sued the owners and managers of the apartment building where 13 persons died in a porch collapse, demanding hundreds of thousands of dollars in penalties for reportedly building the deck without a permit.

The city also maintains that the porch was too large and did not have properly sized support beams, causing it to crash onto two lower porches during a party early Sunday in Chicago’s affluent Lincoln Park neighborhood. About 50 people, most of them in their 20s, were on the porch when it fell.

The city asked for a court order requiring immediate replacement of the porch and is seeking up to $500 a day for each violation. The porch was built in 1998.


Woman finds pot in bag of chips

DES MOINES — A woman bought a bag of potato chips at a convenience store but discovered more than munchies in the bag.

Lois Campbell, 42, of Des Moines, opened the small sack of Uncle Ray’s garlic-flavored chips Saturday and found another bag inside.

“We were eating a few of the chips, and I was about to give some to a 3-year-old child,” Miss Campbell said. “I thought it was a little bag of seasoning inside. When I saw what it was, I called the police.”

A police report said the contents of the heat-sealed bag smelled like marijuana.


13 charged with marriage fraud

KANSAS CITY — Federal prosecutors said yesterday they busted a scheme to arrange sham marriages between Pakistani men and American women that paid the wives $60 a month.

Authorities said they arrested five persons and were searching for eight others named in the federal indictment.

According to the indictment, Kansas City women recruited the prospective wives and often served as witnesses for their weddings, which took place over nearly two years in the Kansas City area. The wives then contacted immigration officials to have their husbands’ statuses changed to alien relative.

Four defendants are charged with conspiracy to arrange sham marriages. The other nine, all citizens of Pakistan who live in the area, are charged with marriage fraud.

FBI Agent Jeff Lanza said officials don’t believe the reputed fraud involved terrorist activities.


Suspect in 6 killings pleads not guilty

BATON ROUGE — The suspect in six killings of women in Louisiana pleaded not guilty yesterday to a murder charge in one of the slayings.

Derrick Todd Lee was ordered to stand trial on March 1 in the May 2002 beating, stabbing and rape of Charlotte Murray Pace, 22.

Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty and are asking state District Judge Richard Anderson to let them use evidence from four of the other slayings during the trial.

The slayings occurred between September 2001 and March of this year. Police say DNA evidence links Mr. Lee, of St. Francisville, to the six killings.


Arm-wrestler loses to girlfriend, beats her

BOSTON — A New Hampshire man has been charged with assaulting his girlfriend after flying into a violent rage when she beat him in an arm-wrestling match and called him a “wimp.”

The Union-Leader newspaper of Manchester, N.H. reported yesterday that Raymond White and Lisa Smith had been drinking early Tuesday when she challenged him to an arm-wrestling match.

Miss Smith mocked Mr. White after winning the contest, and he responded by grabbing her by the hair, dragging her down a set of stairs and punching her several times in the head, the paper said, citing court documents.

Mr. White was charged with simple assault, a misdemeanor. He pleaded not guilty in Manchester District Court. A trial was set for September.


Telemarketers spark man’s calling spree

DULUTH — An exasperated resident turned the tables on a company that hounded him with telemarketing calls, calling them more than 100 times in two days.

Marc Plaisted said he started calling Minnesota Auto Glass after the St. Peter-based company’s telemarketers called him up to three times a day — even after he asked them not to.

Mr. Plaisted started calling the Minnesota Auto Glass’ Duluth office last Thursday, and placed more than 100 calls, he said.

“I just called them every five minutes and let them know that, no, I don’t have a crack in my windshield, because this seems to be something they are very concerned about,” Mr. Plaisted said.

A Minnesota Auto Glass manager in Duluth said Mr. Plaisted’s number had been removed from its list.


Four persons dead in workplace rampage

JEFFERSON CITY — A factory worker calmly smoked a cigarette, clocked in and went to his station on the production line — then pulled a gun and opened fire.

When the shooting stopped, Jonathon Russell had killed three co-workers and committed suicide in a shootout with police, authorities said.

Police said that Mr. Russell, 25, knew he was close to being fired from Modine Manufacturing Co. He also tended to gamble away his paycheck at a casino and was facing the possible breakup of a romantic relationship, police said.

Investigators said he may have targeted certain people in the rampage, which came after a shift change at the industrial-radiator factory late Tuesday.


Bear forces campers to retreat into lake

KALISPELL — A grizzly bear forced two campers to retreat into a lake before snatching and smashing their Doritos.

Camper Daynna Dowell was swimming in the Hungry Horse Reservoir on Saturday when she spotted the bear sniffing their dog. The dog barked and chased the bear back into the woods. But the bear followed the dog back to the beach.

Miss Dowell’s boyfriend, Jared Ondaro, who had been chopping wood, joined her in the lake with an ax.

Miss Dowell said she took photographs of the bear to provide evidence for investigators in case the animal devoured them. The bear wandered back into the woods.


Car passenger killed by dropped block

OMAHA — A car passenger was killed when a landscaping block fell from an overpass and crashed through the windshield. Police believe the block was dropped deliberately.

Michelle Fergus, 34, of Council Bluffs, Iowa, was riding in the car’s front passenger seat Tuesday night when she was struck in the face by the block on Interstate 680, Officer Cathy Martinec said.

The driver, her fiance, immediately took Miss Fergus to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.


Ski operation fires up snowmaking machines

PLYMOUTH — Tenney Mountain is firing up some high-tech snowmaking machines to open a snow-tubing run on the Fourth of July.

Skiers and snowboarders also will compete on artificial snow on the holiday. Tenney Mountain plans to continue snowmaking through July and August to open its 300-foot tubing track every evening.


Suspect gets life for spitting on officer

OKLAHOMA CITY — An Oklahoma man arrested on suspicion of beating his wife faced a year in prison and a fine. But when he spit in an arresting officer’s face, he got a life sentence instead, officials said yesterday.

John Carl Marquez, 36, was convicted of “placing bodily fluid upon a government employee,” a felony that can carry a life sentence because of the possibility of transmitting a potentially deadly disease.

State Judge April Sellers White sentenced Marquez this week even though Marquez and the officer tested negative for any communicable disease.

Marquez also was convicted of assaulting a police officer, and a jury recommended the maximum sentence because he had previous convictions. His attorneys said they plan to appeal.


Man finishes protest swim

ASTORIA — Christopher Swain, who swam the length of the Columbia River to protest pollution, has finished his yearlong journey.

The 1,243-mile swim began at the river’s source in Canada and ended Tuesday with Mr. Swain pushing through 8- to 10-foot swells at the river’s mouth in Astoria.

He swam the river to bring attention to the harm done to it by dams, pollutants and other threats.

Mr. Swain, of Portland, Ore., swam between five and 25 miles a day, depending on the water temperature and his health. He was flanked by a small motorized raft, run by volunteers. Every 20 minutes or so, he rinsed out his mouth with hydrogen peroxide against infection from the polluted water.


Coal miners, teen honored for heroism

PITTSBURGH — A dozen Alabama coal miners killed trying to rescue a trapped co-worker and a teen who drowned in an attempt to save his father were among 26 persons recognized as Carnegie Heroes for their bravery.

The awards, handed out yesterday, are among those issued five times a year by the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission for acts of courage in the United States or Canada.

All 13 miners died in a Sept. 23, 2001, explosion at the Blue Creek No. 5 mine in Brookwood, Ala. It is the worst U.S. mine accident since 1984.

Also honored posthumously was James McNeil, 15, of Blanca, Colo. James died trying to save his father, Kelly McNeil, from drowning on May 10, 2002, while they and another friend were fishing in Mosca, Colo. Frank G. Martinez, 34, of La Jara, Colo., was fishing in another part of the lake and pulled Kelly McNeil to the bank. Martinez was also honored by the commission.


Sea turtles dying in higher numbers

MYRTLE BEACH — Sea turtles are dying along the South Carolina coast in surprising numbers this year, wildlife officials say.

Nearly 80 sea turtles have washed ashore either dead or dying since January, up from 45 last year and 27 in 2001.

Wildlife biologists and turtle experts say hypothermia and pollution may be among the causes.


Teen’s decision ends five-year custody battle

WINNER — A 14-year-old at the center of a rancorous custody battle elected Tuesday to live with his late mother’s boyfriend in South Dakota and spend summers and holidays with his biological father in Illinois.

The decision by Timmie Meldrum ends a five-year fight between farmer Chuck Novotny and the teen’s father, Timothy Meldrum of Colona, Ill.

A settlement last August granted the men joint legal custody, but allowed the boy to choose where to live after spending the school year in Illinois. He returned to Winner on June 1 for summer break.


Small plane flips at Memphis airport

MEMPHIS — A small private plane with four persons aboard flipped as it was landing yesterday at Memphis International Airport, authorities said.

Three of those on the plane were removed by ambulance while the fourth was trapped inside the aircraft.

Authorities did not immediately know where else the twin-engine, propeller-driven aircraft was headed or where the flight had originated. The crash occurred about 10 a.m. The plane was identified as a Beechcraft Baron.


Nearly 300 prisoners to be released

OLYMPIA — About 280 convicts are getting an early release this week to help save the state money.

Granting more time off for good behavior to nonviolent offenders is supposed to save $40 million over the next two years.

A majority of the prisoners being released were imprisoned for drug crimes.

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