Judge gives pot guru one day in jail
SAN FRANCISCO — Showing unexpected leniency, a judge sentenced “ganja guru” Ed Rosenthal yesterday to a day in jail for growing marijuana in violation of federal law because the pot advocate believed its cultivation was allowed under California law.
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said he gave the light sentence because of the “extraordinary circumstances” of the case. The government recommended a sentence of 6 years in jail, but Mr. Rosenthal went free as he had already served a day in jail.
“This is day one in the crusade to bring down the marijuana laws, all marijuana laws,” said Mr. Rosenthal, 58.
Climber who cut off arm speaks at school
GREENWOOD VILLAGE — The climber who amputated his arm after being pinned by a boulder told students at the middle school he once attended that he believes he survived the ordeal to become an inspiration to others.
“Don’t let other people tell you who you are. Don’t settle for their expectations, and dream your own dreams,” Aron Ralston told students at West Middle School on Tuesday, in his first address since the accident.
Mr. Ralston, 27, was climbing alone April 26 when his right arm became pinned beneath an 800-pound boulder in Canyonlands National Park near Moab, Utah.
30 teens injured in ramp collapse
PELL CITY — Thirty teenagers attending a Church of God camp were injured when a 15-foot-high ramp and balcony they were standing on collapsed.
The wooden ramp and deck collapsed at noon Tuesday as campers were lining up to enter the dining hall at Camp Chula Vista.
Twenty-three teens were taken by ambulances to area hospitals, said Capt. David Garrett of the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department.
The injuries ranged from head and neck injuries to broken bones, cuts and scrapes, Capt. Garrett said.
The cause of the collapse in unknown.
Vandals burn collection booth
WASILLA — Thieves who tried breaking into a safe in a collection booth at a Little Susitna River state campground ended up burning the booth down.
Officials said vandals used a cutting torch on the safe and on an iron collection box but failed to open them.
It was not clear whether the 8-by-12-foot wooden building caught fire by accident or was torched.
Woman helps police catch robbery suspect
LAND O’LAKES — A would-be bank robber thought he was in the clear when he made a clean getaway in a minivan. But Denise Garcia wasn’t about to let him escape.
Frank Durante had walked into a bank, run out with a stack of cash and worried only about not exceeding the speed limit as he drove away, authorities say.
Mrs. Garcia, who was outside the bank waiting for her son to pick up his paycheck from a nearby grocery store, had noticed Mr. Durante, 72, running and several employees pursuing him.
So, she chased Mr. Durante in her sport utility vehicle, got his license plate number and called police.
Report says ER visits rose 20 percent
ATLANTA — Americans are visiting hospital emergency rooms 20 percent more often than a decade ago, a trend the government said yesterday was due in part to the graying of the population.
An annual survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put the estimate for such visits at 107.5 million in 2001, up from about 90 million in 1992.
People age 75 and older were admitted to emergency rooms almost twice as often as those in other age groups, the study found.
Injuries, poisoning, allergic reactions and complications from surgery accounted for more than a third of such visits.
Woman seen standing before fatal ride fall
SANTA CLAUS — Witnesses saw a woman “virtually standing up” while riding a roller coaster at an amusement park moments before she fell to her death, investigators said.
Tamar Fellner, 32, fell from the ride Saturday while it was in the midst of a 69-foot drop, said officials of the Holiday World park.
Just before the accident, a person matching Miss Fellner’s description “was seen in the last car of the roller coaster virtually standing up while the ride was in progress,” investigators said, based on witness accounts.
Witnesses told investigators that her seat belt had been unbuckled when the car returned to the station, according to a statement by Spencer County prosecutor Jon Dartt.
Detectives keep jobs after shooting
LOUISVILLE — Two white police detectives will keep their jobs after an internal investigation cleared them of wrongdoing in the fatal shooting of a handcuffed black man.
Police Chief Robert White said yesterday that the actions of Detectives Michael O’Neil and James Luckett were consistent with department policy and procedures, and that they will return to the department as soon as they are cleared by police doctors.
A grand jury had declined to indict the detectives, prompting civil rights protests earlier this year.
Detective O’Neil fired 11 shots into James Taylor, who had a history of mental illness and drug addiction and an extensive criminal background.
No penguins at zoo for visitors this summer
LANSING — Potter Park Zoo is going into the busy summer season without some of its most popular inhabitants.
Eight of the Lansing zoo’s nine penguins died of a fungal infection last summer.
The remaining one was sent to another facility. Replacements won’t arrive until the end of the year at the earliest.
Retired priest jailed for molesting girl
ST. CLOUD — A retired Roman Catholic priest who admitted molesting a young girl at his church in the early 1990s was sentenced to a year in jail.
Under a plea bargain, the Rev. Donald Rieder must serve at least eight months before he can be considered for release.
The time he has served in jail since April 16, when he pleaded guilty, counts toward his sentence.
“I’d just like to offer my sincere apology to anyone I harmed in any way, especially spiritually,” Rieder, 78, said at the sentencing Tuesday.
Rieder also was fined $15,000 and ordered to submit a DNA sample and to register as a predatory sex offender.
Five bulls killed over mad-cow ties
HELENA — Five bulls from a Canadian herd that included a cow with mad-cow disease were shipped to Montana six years ago and have since been slaughtered, state officials said yesterday.
None of the animals showed clinical signs of the disease, said Karen Cooper, spokeswoman for the Montana Department of Livestock. What became of the carcasses after slaughter was not clear.
Ron DeHaven, a spokesman for the U.S. Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said the USDA believes it unlikely any of the bulls were infected with the disease, noting negative tests so far on other animals linked to the infected cow.
The slaughter would have occurred after the Food and Drug Administration had banned the use of animal parts in livestock feed and so the meat would not likely have been fed to other cattle.
Three inmates escape from state prison
CONCORD — A convicted killer and two other inmates escaped from a state prison on a busy street yesterday by cutting through a fence, a Corrections Department official said.
The prison was locked down, armed security officers went door-to-door at nearby homes, and a police helicopter flew by.
The inmates were identified as Kevin Gil, Philip J. Dick and Christopher McNeil. Gil was sentenced in 2001 to 45 years to life after pleading guilty to fatally stabbing a man in a Salem motel room in 2000.
Judge orders reversal of higher tolls
NEW YORK — A judge ordered the transit authority yesterday to roll back toll increases on its bridges and tunnels, saying it exaggerated its financial problems with “untrammeled arrogance and deception.”
Justice Robert Lippmann gave the Metropolitan Transit Authority 10 days to come up with a plan to reimburse “the driving public.”
The decision affects more than 750,000 motorists who began paying 25 cents to $1 more on nine bridges and tunnels on May 18.
The transit agency said it will appeal. Because the MTA is a government agency, an appeal automatically puts the ruling on hold.
Crop-insurance agent sentenced for fraud
FARGO — A crop-insurance agent was sentenced yesterday to five years in prison for operating five “sham” farms that defrauded the government out of millions of dollars in federal farm-program benefits.
Duane Huber, 58, was convicted in November of defrauding the government of about $19 million in farm-program payments, crop-insurance benefits and tax revenue.
U.S. District Judge Rodney Webb called the government’s loss estimate “outlandish” in the fall and could have sentenced Huber to as much as 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
Prosecutors said Huber owned and controlled land that was farmed by his son and four other men. They said Huber paid the men to sign up for farm-program benefits that were funneled back to him.
Student kills himself in school bathroom
WELLSBORO — A fifth-grader fatally shot himself in the head in a middle school restroom yesterday, officials said.
Police were called to Wellsboro Middle School after a student told a teacher that the boy was in the restroom with a gun, said school district Superintendent Donna Mettler. The 12-year-old boy was found dead in the restroom.
Judge stays execution by firing squad
SALT LAKE CITY — A serial killer’s execution by firing squad has been put on hold until a court can decide whether he is mentally competent.
District Judge Michael Burton signed the stay Tuesday after prosecutors agreed to the delay for Roberto Arguelles.
Arguelles’ death was to be part of back-to-back firing squad executions set for later this month.
From wire dispatches and staff reports