- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 23, 2004


Wild girls begone, mayor says

PANAMA CITY BEACH — “Girls Gone Wild” is turning its cameras on other destinations this year, and that is just fine with officials who are trying to erase this city’s image as a bawdy, beer-soaked spring break capital.

“No matter how good spring break business is, having that brand on your head is not good,” Mayor Lee Sullivan said. “There is a difference between ‘having’ spring break and ‘being’ spring break.”

Mr. Sullivan is among those who are afraid that the party-hearty identity that attracts 400,000 revelers every spring ultimately will hurt the family vacation business as more aging, low-cost motels are bulldozed to make way for upscale condominiums.


Highway sniper suspect held without bond

COLUMBUS — A 28-year-old man charged in connection with the sniper-style shootings in Ohio skipped his first court appearance in Columbus yesterday and his attorneys declined to ask for his release on bond.

Charles A. McCoy Jr. did not have to appear for the brief bond hearing in Franklin County Municipal Court, and Judge Ted Barrows set March 30 for a preliminary hearing in the case.

Mr. McCoy has been charged with felonious assault for shots fired at a house in December, but a grand jury hearing evidence could indict him on additional charges related to the two dozen shootings since May that also targeted cars, buses and a school.

One shot in November killed Gail Knisley, 62, as she rode in a car on a highway along which many attacks occurred.

Associated Press

Mayor Lee Sullivan of Panama City Beach, Fla., says his community intends to draw a line “between ‘having’ spring break and ‘being’ spring break.”


City hatches fishy tourism plan

ANCHORAGE — Each summer, about 8 million pink salmon swim through the waters around the city of Valdez, but the run of tourists has been dwindling.

So, some Valdez residents have hatched a plan to provide a free, frozen-fresh pink salmon to anyone who drives up the Alaska Highway and later pays a visit to the Prince William Sound port city.

Last year, 20 million pink salmon returned to Valdez — the largest return on record. “It was just out of control,” said Lisa Von Bargen, director of the city’s Department of Community and Economic Development. “You only had to stick your hand in the water and grab a fish.”

A coupon will be redeemable in Valdez for one de-headed, gutted, vacuum-sealed fish. The Fisheries Development Association will bear the cost initially, and its staff will clean and freeze the salmon.


Accuser wants governor deposed

LOS ANGELES — The Hollywood stuntwoman suing California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is seeking to have him make a deposition as part of her libel suit against him.

Rhonda Miller, 53, called a news conference the day before last October’s elections to say the actor had sexually groped her on two movie sets 12 years earlier.

The Republican’s campaign managers then sent e-mails to the media suggesting a county Web site where the woman’s criminal record could be researched. While reporters found name matches, none were the same woman as Mrs. Miller.

Now, if Mrs. Miller’s attorneys have their way, Mr. Schwarzenegger will be questioned under oath about whether he played any role in releasing the e-mail, the Los Angeles Times reported yesterday.

Mr. Schwarzenegger already has said in one sworn deposition the e-mail was “created and disseminated” by the campaign “without my knowledge or consent.”


Soldier may cite trauma in slaying

COLUMBUS — At least one of four soldiers accused in the killing of a buddy here after their return home from Iraq may argue in court that they were unhinged by the horrors they had seen on the battlefield.

Lawyer David S. West said he plans to have his client, Pfc. Alberto Martinez, examined for post-traumatic stress disorder. Pfc. Martinez is accused of stabbing Spc. Richard Davis, 25, of St. Charles, Mo., at least 30 times a few days after their unit returned from Iraq in July.

Spc. Davis had insulted a dancer during their drunken homecoming celebration and had gotten the group thrown out of a strip club in Columbus, not far from Fort Benning, where all the soldiers were based.

Two other soldiers are accused of assisting Pfc. Martinez, while the fourth is accused of helping conceal the slaying. All four soldiers remain in jail. No trial date has been set.

They all were members of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, which sent 16,500 soldiers to Iraq from Fort Benning and Fort Stewart and spearheaded the drive on Baghdad.


Teachers say students giving more abuse

CHICAGO — City public school teachers are reporting an increasing number of verbal and physical assaults by students.

Between September 2003 and February, elementary and high school teachers reported 970 attacks by students, according to the Chicago school system.

That’s up 25 percent from the 777 reported assaults the previous year.


Five face charges of theft from corpse

BOONEVILLE — More than $20,000 in jewelry was taken from a corpse in a mausoleum, and five persons were arrested on theft charges, police said.

The five were arrested Friday night, less than a day after a police officer found the coffin of Peggy Pierson Cornett, who died of cancer in 1999 at age 64, had been broken into at Shepherd’s Cemetery here.

As a last request, Mrs. Cornett had asked that she be wearing her jewelry when she was interred, said Wade Rasner, an attorney for the family. “Everybody pretty much knew she always wore a lot of jewelry,” Owsley County Sheriff Kelly Shouse said

Police arrested Bob Terry, 31; his wife, Jacqueline Smith, 26; David Reed, 45; Clarence Terry, 42; and Ena Faye Merrill, 48. All are relatives, except Mr. Reed, Sheriff Shouse said.

It appears some of the suspects had heard about Mrs. Cornett’s jewelry at another funeral, the sheriff said. Among the items taken were a Rolex watch, earrings and a bracelet. There was an attempt to pawn the jewelry in Clark County, Mr. Rasner said.


Man who ratted out mobster gets 6 years

BOSTON — A former mob enforcer who testified against fugitive gangster James “Whitey” Bulger and several FBI agents was sentenced yesterday to six years in federal prison, including time served.

Kevin Weeks, a one-time gravedigger and lookout for Bulger’s Winter Hill Gang, already has served nearly five years, meaning he could be released by the end of this year with good behavior. Before he was sentenced, Weeks stood to address the court, saying he decided to cooperate with investigators to give closure to the families of the gang’s victims.

With his assistance, investigators were able to unravel the cozy relationship between the Boston FBI and its underworld informants. Weeks, 48, helped recover the bodies of six persons murdered by Bulger and fellow mobster Stephen “the Rifleman” Flemmi and helped solve killings in Florida and Oklahoma. He also helped convict former FBI Agent John J. Connolly Jr. of charges he protected gangsters.


Union, city officials meet about contracts

MINNEAPOLIS — The Amalgamated Transit Union and the Metropolitan Council sat down together yesterday for the first time since city bus drivers went on strike March 4.

The talks, requested by a state mediator, are the first since Metro Transit bus drivers set up picket lines after rejecting a proposed two-year contract. Health care benefits are the main sticking point in the negotiations.

“We are going back there in good faith to try to bargain this thing,” ATU Local 1005 President Ron Lloyd told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “I would like to go there and settle it and put the buses back on the street as quick as possible.”

The strike enters its third week tomorrow if a settlement is not reached. That would equal a 21-day bus drivers’ strike in 1995.


Pharmacists sue state over reimbursements

CONCORD — New Hampshire pharmacists and drugstores are suing over cuts in the state’s reimbursement rates for drugs prescribed to Medicaid recipients.

The suit says state Health and Human Services Commissioner John Stephen failed to get legislative approval for the reductions he made two months ago.

Pharmacists say the cuts hurt Medicaid participants because they can’t afford to accept new Medicaid clients. Mr. Stephen said the cuts were necessary because some pharmacies were offering better rates to private insurers than to the state.


Man pays $90,000 for elk-hunt license

ALBUQUERQUE — How much is a large elk worth? A Michigan man figures he will have spent about $110,000 by the time he’s finished a fall elk hunt in New Mexico — including $90,000 for the hunting license he bought at auction.

“I do like elk hunting,” said Michael Malik, a 50-year-old real estate developer from Grosse Pointe, Mich. It was the highest amount ever given for a single license in the state.

Mr. Malik got the elk tag through a Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation auction late last month. Most of the money from the auctioned tag goes to the state Game and Fish Department for elk-related projects.

A standard elk tag for a New Mexico resident costs $69. A standard tag limits a hunt to a specific area and a few days.

The special auction license, on the other hand, will allow Mr. Malik to hunt anywhere in the state from September through December.


Fetal pain an issue in partial-birth case

NEW YORK — The judge in the first trial challenging the government’s ban on partial-birth abortion will allow a pediatrician to testify as an expert witness that a fetus might experience pain during the procedure.

U.S. District Judge Richard Conway Casey, who is presiding over the case set to go to trial March 29, denied a motion by abortion providers to block the doctor’s testimony. His decision, which was made public yesterday, rejected arguments that testimony by the government witness is irrelevant and unreliable.

Because Congress concluded that a fetus can feel pain during partial-birth abortion, Judge Casey held that the testimony by Dr. Kanwaljeet Anand, who is expected to testify that a fetus can experience pain from 20 weeks of gestation, is relevant.

The judge also ruled that the testimony is reliable because of the doctor’s extensive experience and research on critically ill newborns.


$1.6 million awarded for confession

KING OF PRUSSIA — A landscaper who served 15 years in prison before DNA testing cleared him of two rapes will get a $1.6 million settlement from Upper Merion Township, whose detectives had elicited a false confession.

Bruce Godschalk, 44, had previously agreed to accept $740,000 from Montgomery County to settle the same claims, making his total settlement more than $2.3 million.

“We still don’t think we did anything wrong,” said Joseph J. Pizonka, the Upper Merion solicitor. “But we got to thinking, ‘He spent 15 years of his life in prison. What is that worth?’”

Mr. Godschalk filed his lawsuit in September 2002, seven months after he left prison, saying in part that two detectives tricked and coerced him into confessing. Sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison in 1987, he was freed in February 2002 after being exonerated by DNA tests.


Waco judge case nixed by Supreme Court

WACO — The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday rejected a dispute over whether the judge in a civil case involving the FBI siege at Waco, Texas, should have been removed.

The court ruling left in place a lower-court decision refusing to remove the judge. The unsuccessful suit was brought by relatives of those killed in the fiery end of the standoff and a few survivors.

In February 1993, Treasury agents sought to arrest David Koresh, the leader of the Branch Davidians, on firearms charges. Those inside the compound resisted, killing four agents and wounding others.

After a 51-day standoff, the FBI used armored vehicles to insert tear gas into the compound. Rather than be captured by the FBI, Branch Davidian leaders started a fire that consumed the compound. About 80 sect members, including children, died.


Protesters banned from woman’s trial

SALT LAKE CITY — A judge barred protesters from the trial of Melissa Ann Rowland, who is charged with killing her baby by not having a timely Caesarean section.

Protesters must stay at least 25 feet from the courthouse building.

The order also bans the wearing of pins, signs, ribbons or clothing in the courthouse that expresses support for or against Mrs. Rowland.


Lichen blamed in 304 elk deaths

CHEYENNE — Solving a puzzle that had baffled scientists across the country, researchers said yesterday they had concluded that the recent deaths of 304 elk in southern Wyoming were caused by a mossy plant native to the Rockies.

To confirm their suspicions, three elk were fed a mossy lichen known as Parmelia molliuscula at a research center. One collapsed and was unable to rise Sunday. A second also started stumbling, and a third is expected to be similarly afflicted. All three will be destroyed.

State officials had investigated a number of possible explanations, including deliberate poisoning, for why elk were slumping to the ground and could not get up. Many eventually died of thirst, and had the lichen in their stomachs.

“We’ve answered the biggest and most important question: What the heck is killing these elk?” Wyoming Game and Fish Department spokesman Tom Reed said. “It’s a huge relief for everyone involved.”

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