- The Washington Times - Monday, March 22, 2004

CALIFORNIA

Woman wins architecture prize

WEST HOLLYWOOD — Zaha Hadid, an Iraqi-born architect, yesterday won the 2004 Pritzker Architecture Prize, the first woman to receive the profession’s highest honor.

Pritzker jurors singled out her designs for an Austrian ski jump, a German fire station and an Ohio art museum.

Miss Hadid, 53, now a British citizen, exploded on the world architecture scene two decades ago when she won a competition to design a cliff-top resort above Hong Kong. The project was never built, but it thrust her into the public spotlight.

NEW JERSEY

Chaplain’s mother wants apology

SPRINGFIELD — The mother of an Army chaplain once charged with mishandling classified information at a prison camp for terrorist suspects wants the military to apologize for wrongly accusing her son.

Fong Yee, mother of Capt. James Yee, said the Army’s decision last week to dismiss charges against her son offered little reason to celebrate because the military dropped the matter without clearing his name.

“Realize you made a mistake and apologize,” Mrs. Yee told the Star-Ledger of Newark. “What’s so wrong with that? It’s an honorable thing to do. That’s just basic human decency.”

ALABAMA

Sex sting in park nets 14 men

BAY MINETTE — Fourteen men, including a former state representative and a former Mobile Register sports editor, are accused of soliciting sex in public parks, Baldwin County sheriff’s deputies said.

The suspects range in age from 38 to 86 and are from various parts of the county and Pensacola, Fla.

Cpl. John Murphy, a spokesman for the department, told the Birmingham News that the men approached undercover officers and solicited sex. The misdemeanor offense is punishable by a fine and up to 30 days in jail. Those arrested include Dan Kinsey, 71, of Miflin, who was a state legislator in the 1970s, and John Cameron, 62, of Daphne, who resigned from the Mobile Register in 2002 after being charged with indecent exposure.

COLORADO

Bad translation may free suspects

GREELEY — A woman worries that a simple translation mistake might keep her from receiving justice for her kidnapping, assault and rape in October 2002.

“What if they don’t get tried at all because of this mistake?” the woman, who asked not to be identified, told the Greeley Tribune. “The police do this every day. They should have known to get someone qualified. It was a sloppy mistake.”

Last week, the Colorado Supreme Court said that even though Dagoberto Aguilar-Ramos admitted that he helped kidnap and rape the woman, his confession can’t be used in trial because he was not properly informed of his Miranda rights. A Greeley detective, using his high-school Spanish, said, “You have the right to carry silent,” when he meant “You have the right to remain silent.”

Lawyers for the two other men charged with the crime, Juan Pascual and Mario Velasquez Marcos, have asked a judge to throw out the confessions of their clients as well. All three men are illegal immigrants.

CONNECTICUT

Yale ends program in journalism law

NEW HAVEN — Yale University is ending a 28-year-old program that offered free tuition to journalists to attend law school for a year to gain a better understanding of legal issues.

The university withdrew the financial aid after a private foundation pulled its funding of the program, called the Knight Fellowships in Law for Journalists.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation decided to end the funding after a review of its programs for mid-career journalists, spokesman Larry Meyer said.

“We realized in three programs we’ve already endowed journalists to have the opportunity to study law at other places,” Mr. Meyer said. “It simply made sense to us to give them the opportunity to go to those campuses.”

The fellowships started at Yale in 1976 and have been funded by the Knight Foundation for 15 years.

GEORGIA

Co-worker charged in woman’s death

AUGUSTA — A Thomson man has been charged in the strangulation of a female co-worker whose body was found in an Augusta-area lake this month, authorities said.

Danny Lee Samuels, 29, was arrested Friday and charged with murder.

Barbara Hefner’s body was found floating in Folly Lake on March 6.

Mrs. Hefner, 53, and Mr. Samuels worked together at Augusta Coating and Manufacturing, said McDuffie County Sheriff Logan Marshall. He would not discuss a motive or what led to Mr. Samuels’ arrest.

KANSAS

Charges filed in sex-change case

LEAVENWORTH — A transsexual who had planned to be married was charged with providing false information for a marriage license in Kansas, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Sandy Gast, a man who lives as a woman and intends to undergo sex-change surgery, wanted to marry George “Georgi” Somers, a man who also is living as a woman. They planned a church wedding Saturday in Topeka.

When Mr. Gast filled out the marriage license application on Feb. 27, he wrote that he was female, but Leavenworth County Attorney Frank Kohl said court records, including a 1999 divorce, identify Mr. Gast as male.

Mr. Gast was arrested Thursday after prosecutors received a tip from Mr. Somers’ daughter, Crystal Call.

“I don’t think that’s a very moral act,” Miss Call said.

Mr. Gast, 48, was charged with swearing falsely to apply for a marriage license, a misdemeanor, and released on $2,500 bail.

MASSACHUSETTS

Two men charged with raping runaways

SALEM — Two middle-school runaways were found in a rooming house, where police say they had been sexually assaulted repeatedly by two men who plied them with alcohol and drugs.

The men, Miguel Vasquez, 19, and Frank Gilbert, 18, were arraigned separately Friday in Salem District Court. Both pleaded not guilty , the Boston Globe reported.

The missing girls, who were found early Thursday, are ages 12 and 14.

Mr. Vasquez, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, was charged with three counts of aggravated rape and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. A judge ordered him held on $10,000 bail after prosecutors said he repeatedly raped the 14-year-old.

A prosecutor said the 14-year-old remained hospitalized at North Shore Children’s Hospital, where a doctor indicated that the girl’s injuries were consistent with forced sex. Mr. Vasquez had several previous assaults on his police record, according to testimony.

Mr. Gilbert was charged with indecent assault on the 12-year-old and released to the care of his father, a local minister.

The girls were reported missing by their parents on March 15. Police found the girls by tracing a phone call.

OHIO

Teens’ families sue former reporter

CINCINNATI — The families of four teens who say they were sexually abused by a former TV news reporter filed suit against him on Friday, seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

The suit was filed in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court on behalf of the teens by the grandmother of three of them and the mother of the fourth, the Cincinnati Post reported.

The teens are 19, 17, 15 and 14, according to the suit. Prosecutors said three of them are brothers, and the fourth is their cousin.

The suit claims that WCPO reporter Stephen Hill “engaged in acts of sexual depravity and committed numerous assaults upon” them from March 2001 until Jan. 15.

Mr. Hill, 45, was indicted March 8 on eight counts of sexual battery and four counts of unlawful sex with a minor. The charges carry maximum penalties of 60 years in prison.

NEBRASKA

Molestation suspect hurt in fatal accident

OMAHA — A child-molestation suspect who fled police in a stolen sport utility vehicle barreled through a stop sign Saturday and slammed into motorcyclists, killing three persons.

Steven Halbert, 19, fled after police cruisers pulled up to his house in Carter Lake, Iowa, to question him about accusations that he sexually abused a child. The owner of the SUV had reported it stolen on Friday.

Police pursued Halbert at high speeds for about five miles into Omaha, where Halbert collided with two motorcycles. Three persons, including a passenger on one of the motorcycles, were killed instantly, police said.

Halbert was thrown from the vehicle. He was taken to a hospital in critical condition.

Halbert also was wanted on a felony warrant in Nebraska for failing to show up for his sentencing last month on a drug conviction, police said.

NEW YORK

Illegal immigrants fall prey to crime

YONKERS — Just after arriving in the United States last year, Jorge Ruiz learned the harsh reality faced by immigrants.

Two teenagers followed him into his New Main Street apartment building near midnight after he bought some groceries. They pulled a gun on him and mugged him for $30.

“I didn’t report it to the police,” said Mr. Ruiz, a day laborer from the Mexican city of Toluca. “I didn’t lose that much money, and to go to the police, you need to speak the language.”

Perceived communication barriers, immigration status, fear of reporting crimes and cash-only employment have turned many Mexican and Central American immigrants into crime targets, immigrant advocates and police told the White Plains Journal News.

Muggings of illegal immigrants often go unreported, said Capt. Patrick McMahon of the Yonkers Police Department’s 4th Precinct. Capt. McMahon said he has not had any reports of muggings of illegal immigrants “in a long time,” but his officers previously had arrested a group on Palisade Avenue that preyed on illegal immigrants.

OKLAHOMA

Survivors seek bombing answers

McALESTER — Since her two grandsons were killed in the Oklahoma City bombing, Jannie Coverdale’s thoughts have been locked on the horrific event and on answering the question that has haunted her: Why?

“The last nine years, I’ve just put my life on hold,” Mrs. Coverdale said. “Almost everything I do, it has something to do with the bombing.”

Mrs. Coverdale hopes to find answers in bombing conspirator Terry Nichols’ trial on 161 state murder charges. Opening statements are scheduled today.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, which many victims’ family members and survivors think he deserves.

They are bitter about the life prison sentence that Nichols was given after his 1997 federal bombing conviction. Bomber Timothy McVeigh was executed.

Nichols was convicted of federal conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter charges for the deaths of eight law-enforcement officers in the bombing, which killed 168 persons. The state charges are for the 160 other victims and one victim’s fetus.

Prosecutors accuse Nichols of working with McVeigh to plan and execute the April 19, 1995, bombing that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

PENNSYLVANIA

Collision kills 4, including soldier

ALLENTOWN — Four men, including a soldier on furlough from Iraq, were killed in a two-vehicle collision early Saturday, officials said.

A pickup truck failed to heed a stop sign at an intersection and hit a car carrying the four men, state police said. The crash sent both vehicles into a field with severe damage.

One of those killed was Army Cpl. George Elias, who was on a 21-day furlough from Iraq, according to the Morning Call of Allentown. Cpl. Elias had been scheduled to return to Iraq this week, the paper said.

Also killed were Danny Khalouf, a Lehigh County assistant district attorney; Joseph Nimeh, part-owner of a convenience store; and mechanic Joseph Azar, who was driving.

Police said the pickup driver was treated at the scene and that an investigation was continuing.

TENNESSEE

Child tries to drive drunken woman home

NASHVILLE — Sydney Hughes, 12, of Old Hickory, found herself behind the wheel of a car instead of in a sleeping bag early Friday, after a sleepover-gone-wrong ended up with the mother of a friend passed out.

Lori Michelle Rock, 35, of Rayon City, was “drinking very heavily” and “became so intoxicated she passed out several times while driving her vehicle on the interstate,” police reports said.

Mrs. Rock was being held in Metro Jail in lieu of $60,500 bail, according to the Tennessean newspaper. She was charged with two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, three counts of reckless endangerment in a motor vehicle and one count of public intoxication.

Sydney and two friends took turns driving in an attempt to get home and had a minor crash. Also in the car was Mrs. Rock’s 13-year-old daughter, Arissa, and another passenger, Jessica Stokes, 12, according to the police report.

TEXAS

Medical helicopter crash kills 4

PYOTE — A medical helicopter crashed early yesterday en route to a hospital and killed four persons, including the 3-month-old patient and his mother.

A nurse was critically injured in the crash near Pyote, said CeCe Wilmes, head of emergency services at Medical Center Hospital in Odessa, where the helicopter was based.

The baby was having trouble breathing and was being taken from a hospital in Alpine in southwest Texas to University Medical Center in Lubbock.

Pilot Mickey Price was giving his flight coordinates to a dispatcher about 30 minutes after taking off when he said, “Hold on a minute.”

A minute later, the pilot did not respond to the dispatcher. The Texas Department of Public safety was called, and officials located the downed helicopter at about 6 a.m.

The dead were identified as Mr. Price of Dumas; hospital paramedic Paul Lujan of Midland; and Ana Lillia Urias and her 3-month-old son, Pedro Urias Modesto. The woman had brought her child across the border from Mexico to seek medical help.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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