- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 25, 2004

ALABAMA

Moore’s lawyers defend ousted judge’s stance

MONTGOMERY — Lawyers for Roy Moore argued yesterday that a judicial ethics panel wrongly expelled him as chief justice because it did not consider whether the federal court order he had disobeyed was ethical.

Mr. Moore was ousted for refusing an order to move a Ten Commandments monument from the state courthouse rotunda. Attorney Phillip Jaugeri argued before a fill-in Alabama Supreme Court that Mr. Moore had taken an oath of office that bound him to acknowledge God under the state constitution.

The court is to decide whether Mr. Moore’s expulsion by the State Court of the Judiciary should be upheld or overturned.

NEW JERSEY

Fire destroys prison barracks

RAHWAY — Fire broke out in a trailer for inmates at the East Jersey State Prison early yesterday, destroying the structure but hurting no one, officials said.

All 100 minimum-security inmates housed in the unit that included the trailer were evacuated to the gymnasium in the prison’s main building, said a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Corrections.

Prison security was not compromised. The fire did not spread to the main building. An electrical malfunction is thought to have caused the fire.

ALASKA

Indigenous jailed longer, study finds

ANCHORAGE — Indigenous Alaskans spend more time in jail than members of other ethnic groups, according to a study commissioned by the state Supreme Court.

However, no evidence of systematic racial bias in the state’s court system was found in the study conducted by the Alaska Judicial Council, a state entity charged with screening the judicial process.

The extra time in jail amounts to days and weeks, not years, and occurs largely because indigenous Alaskans, particularly outside Anchorage, tend to be kept in custody while their cases work their way through the system, said Larry Cohn, executive director of the judicial council.

The state Supreme Court commissioned the three-year statistical analysis of 2,331 felony cases since 1999 because it is concerned about the disproportionate percentage of minorities that fill court calendars, according to Chief Justice Alex Bryner.

GEORGIA

Six plead guilty to cross-burning

ROME — Six men have pleaded guilty to civil rights violations after they admitted burning a cross in the yard of a white woman whose daughter was romantically involved with a black man.

According to the indictment, three of the men made the cross and placed it at the foot of the woman’s driveway Nov. 5. They lit the cross, which had been doused in transmission fluid, and left. Worried that the flames might spread to a nearby tinder-dry forest, one of the men later called 911.

The men — Jerrell Garner Jr., Stacy Jones, Steven Jones, Jeremy Sims, Eric Sullivan and Billy Wells — pleaded guilty Monday. They will be sentenced May 7.

HAWAII

Woman sentenced in fraud case

HONOLULU — A woman who defrauded thousands of investors of $66 million was sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison.

U.S. District Judge Manuel Real noted Montez Salamasina Ottley, 59, never acknowledged her crime or showed any remorse, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Larry Butrick. She refused to answer questions at her sentencing Monday.

Ottley was convicted in February 2002 of mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and conspiracy, and was initially sentenced to 26 years in prison. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a new trial last June, saying she should have been allowed to serve as her own attorney.

After a nonjury trial at which Judge Real presided, Ottley was again found guilty in December.

ILLINOIS

Cigarette tax raised to encourage quitting

CHICAGO — Cook County officials voted to increase its cigarette tax by 82 cents per pack. That will bring the combination of federal, county and city taxes in Chicago to $2.53 for each pack.

Officials said the higher prices will encourage smokers to quit and reduce county health care costs. Retailers say smokers will go to counties where taxes are lower.

LOUISIANA

Mississippi River reopens to ships

NEW ORLEANS — The lower Mississippi River was partly reopened to heavy ships yesterday after salvage crews moved out of the way a sunken vessel that had been blocking the river’s only deep channel into the Gulf of Mexico.

Heavy ship traffic was restricted to one direction at a time and the Coast Guard kept ships moving through the channel at least two miles apart, Capt. Ron Branch said. The site of the blockage was located in the Southwest Pass, about 10 miles away from the Gulf.

There were 69 ships waiting in the Gulf of Mexico to head upriver, and 47 vessels on the river waiting to head into the Gulf. Capt. Branch said it would take about three days to clear the backlog.

Powerful winds, rain, fog and strong currents had hampered efforts to remove the Lee III, a sunken supply ship, from the Southwest Pass. Divers attached large straps to the vessel’s stern and used a derrick barge and three tugboats to lift and move it out of the way Wednesday.

The Lee III, a small vessel that supplied drilling mud to offshore oil rigs, sank early Saturday after it collided with a cargo ship. Its five crew members were believed to have drowned.

MASSACHUSETTS

Officials to review police handling of riot

BOSTON — Boston Police Commissioner Kathleen O’Toole ordered a formal review of her department’s handling of post-Super Bowl riots that left one man dead and another seriously injured.

Commissioner O’Toole gave Superintendent Thomas Dowd, head of internal investigations, a March 10 deadline. Several fans overturned cars and lit fires after the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl.

MICHIGAN

Wolverine spotted after 200 years

DETROIT — A biologist has confirmed the sighting of a real Michigan wolverine, about 200 years after the species was last seen in the state that uses the small but ferocious animal as its unofficial nickname.

Coyote hunters spotted a wolverine near Ubly, about 90 miles north of Detroit. Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist Arnie Karr saw the forest predator Tuesday and snapped pictures of the animal as it ran out of the woods and across a field.

The wolverine, a member of the weasel family that grows to about 25 pounds but is ferocious enough to fight off bears and wolves, once ranged across the northern and western United States. It is now limited mostly to northern Canada, Idaho and Alaska, with sightings in a few other states, but its last confirmed sightings in Michigan were by fur traders in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

MISSISSIPPI

Teachers applaud funding proposal

JACKSON — Teachers and union leaders for state employees clapped and cheered as House Speaker Billy McCoy revealed a budget he said would fully fund education and cover all costs for workers’ insurance.

The plan would raise costs for licenses and similar fees and would require state agencies to curtail expenses for travel, equipment and cell phones.

MONTANA

Rule doesn’t harm schools, court says

HELENA — A rule requiring members of a high school activities association to be accredited by the state does not violate the religious freedom of parochial schools, the Montana Supreme Court ruled.

The court’s decision Tuesday rejected a Christian school’s claims that the accreditation mandate dictates the kind of teachers it can hire and therefore infringes on the free exercise of religion protected by the state and U.S. constitutions.

While accreditation demands a school employ only state-certified teachers, that does not prevent the school from hiring whomever it wants to further its religious views, the court said.

In writing for the majority, Justice Bill Leaphart said the court found no constitutional basis for Valley Christian School’s argument that the association should allow it to employ a teacher who is not certified by the state Office of Public Instruction.

NORTH DAKOTA

Project encourages visits to state

BISMARCK — People across the country could soon be getting letters from North Dakota bearing a simple, handmade message from schoolchildren: Come visit.

The goal of the North Dakota Invitation Project is to mail 110,000 overtures to out-of-staters. Some tourism groups and school districts have pledged to pay for postage.

“I think there is nothing more powerful than a personal invitation,” said Ken Maher, principal of Memorial Middle School, which is joining about 50 schools in the effort.

OHIO

Hawk hunts pigeons in Home Depot

NORTH OLMSTED — One visitor to Home Depot has been hunting for more than home improvement items.

A Cooper’s hawk has been flying above the stocked shelves at a suburban Cleveland store for more than a week while feeding on pigeons that live in the rafters.

The hawk entered the store through an open door while chasing a pigeon Saturday. It caught its prey above the electrical aisle, worker Craig Warth said. Witnesses saw the hawk rip the pigeon apart and feed until nothing was left but feathers and claws.

Workers said about 15 pigeons were living in the store, but since the hawk arrived, few are left. Cooper’s hawks are a protected species, so the bird can’t be harmed or killed.

Local wildlife experts say the hawk will likely leave when the pigeons are gone.

OKLAHOMA

Jewelry designer refits glass eye into ring

DUNCAN — Al Nix has designed a lot of jewelry in the last 25 years, but nothing compares to the project Michael Burton handed him — a glass eye to be refitted into a ring.

Mr. Burton has had a glass eye for 35 years because of an industrial accident. He had to have the artificial eye refitted recently, and he didn’t want to part with the old one.

So he called on Mr. Nix, who put together a design team that included his wife, Diana, and master jeweler Grover Snider.

Together they designed a ring that incorporated the unusual shape of the artificial eye. The result delighted Mr. Burton.

OREGON

Dams plan fails to fix salmon issue

KLAMATH FALLS — A utility has applied for a new license to operate hydroelectric dams on the upper Klamath River, but did not include a plan to allow salmon upstream, a measure long sought by environmentalists.

PacifiCorp mailed its license application to federal regulators for the Klamath Hydroelectric Project this week, PacifiCorp licensing project manager Todd Olson said Tuesday.

The application will start a yearlong review by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and a 60-day public-comment period, Mr. Olson said. The previous 50-year license expires in a year.

Indian tribes, sport- and commercial-fishing groups, environmentalists and the state of Oregon are pressing for FERC to take a close look at restoring salmon upstream of the dams for the first time since 1917.

PENNSYLVANIA

Jury exonerates city over serial rapist case

PHILADELPHIA — A federal jury yesterday rejected a multimillion-dollar lawsuit that blamed police bungling for the strangling of a graduate student by a rapist who preyed on young women living alone.

Shannon Schieber was a 23-year-old doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School when she was killed in 1998 by Troy Graves, who came to be known as the “Center City Rapist” for his late-night attacks on women living in one of Philadelphia’s safest downtown neighborhoods.

Her parents sued for at least $3.8 million in lost earnings, plus an additional amount for their daughter’s pain and suffering, arguing that the police department had a pattern of mishandling rape claims and botched this case in particular.

The jury deliberated 11 hours over three days before deciding that the police department’s mistakes did not result in her death.

Officers initially misclassified one of Graves’ earliest attacks as a burglary. Another victim’s claims were dismissed by skeptical officers as fabricated. Some evidence from the crime scenes was never analyzed.

WEST VIRGINIA

Law lets nurses say no to overtime

CHARLESTON — Gov. Bob Wise signed into law yesterday a bill barring private hospitals from forcing nurses to work overtime except in emergencies or to complete a patient procedure.

Surrounded by dozens of white-uniformed nurses, Mr. Wise echoed health care and union officials by saying the law would improve patient safety and prevent medical mistakes by nurses exhausted by long hours.

Beginning May 17, nurses who work more than 12 hours must be allowed at least eight hours off.

The law will cover an estimated 10,100 nurses at West Virginia’s 60 private hospitals. Four state-run hospitals and four veterans hospitals run by the federal government are unaffected.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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