Friday, June 25, 2004


Judge postpones Rudolph trial

BIRMINGHAM — A federal judge yesterday delayed the trial of serial bombing suspect Eric Rudolph until next year, ruling his attorneys needed more time to prepare. U.S. District Judge Lynwood Smith tentatively set opening arguments for May 24.

“The sheer volume of discovery that still must be organized and assimilated by defense counsel is staggering,” Judge Smith wrote.

The trial had been set to start Aug. 2, but the defense requested the delay. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Mr. Rudolph is charged with setting off a bomb outside a Birmingham abortion clinic on Jan. 29, 1998, killing a police officer and critically injuring a nurse. He was arrested last year after five years as a fugitive.


Nine hurt in shooting at fireworks display

DETROIT — A gunman opened fire into a crowd that had gathered downtown for the city’s annual fireworks display, injuring nine persons and forcing hundreds of revelers to scatter.

Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings said Wednesday night’s shooting apparently followed an argument and that bystanders were caught in the cross fire. Police questioned several people but made no arrests, city spokesman James Tate said.

Chief Bully-Cummings said investigators recovered a handgun from the Hart Plaza area and had a good description of the suspect. She said police obtained photographs of potential witnesses from a bystander’s digital camera.

Nine persons — four men and five women, ranging in age from 17 to 47 — were shot, police said. Yesterday afternoon, three were listed as “critical but alert,” three were stable and three had been treated and released, a hospital spokeswoman said.


Ex- juror criticizes prosecution

REDWOOD CITY — A juror dismissed from the Scott Peterson murder trial criticized the prosecution’s case yesterday, saying there had been no good explanation of how or why Mr. Peterson would have killed his pregnant wife.

Justin Falconer, replaced Wednesday, told reporters outside the courtroom that he would have found Mr. Peterson not guilty.

The 28-year-old airport screener, appearing on CBS’ “The Early Show,” said yesterday that he did not accept the prosecution’s arguments that Mr. Peterson had been motivated by an affair with massage therapist Amber Frey or by financial concerns to kill his wife, Laci.

And although the defense has not presented any witnesses yet, Mr. Falconer told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that those called by prosecutor Rick Distaso had scored as many points for the defense as for the prosecution.


11 indicted in plot to steal insulin

WICHITA — Eleven persons were indicted in a $2 million scheme to steal insulin and insulin test strips from Army base pharmacies to sell on the black market, prosecutors said Wednesday.

The indictment charges that since 2002, nine Army pharmacy technicians conspired to steal the insulin and test strips from pharmacies at Fort Riley, Kan.; Fort Polk, La.; Fort Knox, Ky.; Fort Lee, Va.; Fort Gordon, Ga.; and at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

The technicians were in charge of the post pharmacies. Also indicted were the wives of two of the technicians. An estimated 40,000 vials of insulin were stolen.

None of the defendants is in custody. Most are expected to surrender voluntarily.


City, French town share bond

HENDERSON — The City Commission has formed a sister-city relationship with the town in France where wildlife artist John James Audubon spent his boyhood.

The small town of Coueron is located on the Loire River, much like Henderson borders the Ohio River.


Singer criticizes bawdy rodeo humor

NORTH PLATTE — Country singer Michael Martin Murphey wasn’t amused by the bawdy humor of clowns at the Buffalo Bill Rodeo.

Mr. Murphey, who was honored at the Nebraskaland Days festival for promoting family values in his work, says the clowns are sending the wrong message.

“Why don’t we try to clean up some of the so-called humor in rodeo so that it’s better for our kids to attend?” he asked the crowd during his performance Saturday. He received the Buffalo Bill Award for “outstanding contribution to quality family entertainment” in the tradition of Buffalo Bill Cody, who based his famous Wild West Show out of North Platte.

Audience member Sue Elmshaeuser said the clowns dumped out a suitcase of women’s underwear and bras and then dragged them around the arena.


Death penalty provision ruled unconstitutional

ALBANY — The state’s highest court ruled that a provision of New York’s capital punishment statute violates the state constitution, a decision that appears to invalidate the sentences of all four men on the state’s death row.

The Court of Appeals ruled in the case of Stephen LaValle, who was convicted and condemned to die for raping and killing a jogger in 1997.

In a 4-3 ruling, the court said New York’s sentencing rules might unconstitutionally coerce jurors into voting for a death sentence rather than risk a deadlock by holding out for life without parole.

If a jury deadlocks, the judge imposes a sentence of 20 to 25 years to life, giving the possibility of parole. The prospect of that lesser sentence might coerce jurors to choose the death penalty when they do not want to, the court said.


Girl fatally shoots father after abduction

SILVER SPRINGS — Authorities are investigating whether a man sexually abused his three daughters after he shot his estranged wife in the face and kidnapped the teenagers at gunpoint.

One of the girls fatally shot Walter N. Ball on Wednesday night as he slept in his car, about 30 miles east of Carson City, police said. He apparently had been drinking heavily.

The girls, ages 13, 16 and 19, led officers to the body, Lyon County Sheriff’s Capt. Jeff Page said. He declined to reveal which of the girls fired the shot, adding that no charges were pending against them.

The girls’ mother, Cindy Ball, called police early Wednesday to say that she had been shot and her children had been kidnapped by Mr. Ball, who was out on bail on charges of sexual assault.


1-95 drivers to get free ride

CONCORD — Southbound drivers on Interstate 95 will get a free ride starting next week, while northbound drivers will pay double tolls.

The Executive Council approved the one-way tolls for 21 weeks starting Wednesday and running through Oct. 21. Gov. Craig Benson is a strong advocate of the one-way tolls to reduce traffic backups during the busy summer and fall tourism seasons.


Judge suspected of sexual misbehavior

OKLAHOMA CITY — An Oklahoma state judge frequently masturbated and used a device for enhancing erections while his court was in session, according to a petition by the state’s attorney general seeking the judge’s removal.

Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson filed the petition Wednesday with state judicial authorities seeking the ouster of Sapulpa District Judge Donald Thompson, 57, for “conduct constituting an offense involving moral turpitude in violation of the Oklahoma Constitution,” Mr. Edmondson’s spokesman said yesterday.

The judge denies the charges made in the petition, his attorney, Clark Brewster, said yesterday. He said the judge received a penis pump for his 50th birthday as a gag gift, which became a source of a running joke in the courthouse.

“The allegations are bizarre and preposterous,” Mr. Brewster said. “Recently, some members of local law enforcement that are upset with a number of his rulings used this situation to embarrass and attack him.”


Man faces charges in AIDS exposures

OLYMPIA — A man is charged with intentionally exposing at least 17 women to the AIDS virus after he ignored a directive from health officials to stop having unprotected sex. Four of the women have tested positive for HIV.

Anthony E. Whitfield, 32, of Lacey, faces 17 counts of first-degree assault with sexual motivation as well as charges of witness-tampering and violating no-contact orders involving two of the women.

Mr. Whitfield plans to plead not guilty to all the charges, the last five of which were filed Tuesday, said his attorney, Charles Lane. Mr. Whitfield was scheduled to appear in court yesterday.

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