- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 11, 2004

MASSACHUSETTS

Lawsuit claims nuns abused deaf students

BOSTON — Nine former students of the Boston School for the Deaf filed a lawsuit yesterday claiming they were raped and beaten by nuns at the now-defunct school.

The plaintiffs accused at least 13 nuns in the lawsuit, along with a priest and a male athletic instructor at the school and a former top official in the Boston Roman Catholic Archdiocese, said their attorney, Mitchell Garabedian.

The victims, three women and six men, were ages 7 to 16 when, they claim, they were sexually and physically abused between 1944 and 1977. The Boston School for the Deaf, in Randolph, was run by an independent, nonprofit corporation until it closed more than a decade ago.

Mr. Garabedian, who represents 31 former students at the school and expects to file more claims.

NEW YORK

City removes errant parking meter

NEW YORK — The city wasted no time in mollifying motorists angry over a case of meter madness.

A parking meter in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn was so close to a fire hydrant that parking there meant risking a $115 ticket.

State law requires that cars park at least 15 feet from hydrants — leaving only 12 feet, 5 inches between the meter and the buffer zone. Only a tiny car such as the Mini Cooper, measuring 11.9 feet, could fit into that space; a Ford Taurus would be about 4 feet too long.

The city removed the meter yesterday after a front-page headline in the Daily News.

ALASKA

Barrow sees return of midnight sun

BARROW — Barrow residents saw the sun rise Monday morning for the last time in 82 days as the summer of continuous daylight got under way at the nation’s northernmost point.

The sun rose at 2:49 a.m. and will sink below the horizon next at 1:54 a.m. Aug. 2, the National Weather Service said.

CALIFORNIA

Judge denies request to move Peterson trial

REDWOOD CITY — A judge yesterday refused a request to move Scott Peterson’s murder trial again, dismissing warnings from the defense that an impartial jury cannot be found in this San Francisco suburb.

Defense attorney Mark Geragos wanted the case moved to Los Angeles, where he practices law. He acknowledged that doing so would be expensive and inconvenient but insisted it would cost less than retrying the case if a guilty verdict was overturned on appeal.

Judge Alfred A. Delucchi said he was confident Mr. Peterson could receive a fair trial in Redwood City, about 40 miles from where the bodies of Mr. Peterson’s pregnant wife, Laci, and her unborn child, washed ashore last year in San Francisco Bay.

In January, a judge in Modesto moved the case to Redwood City after concluding an impartial jury could not be found in the couple’s hometown.

CONNECTICUT

Rapist sues prisons over preaching ban

NEW HAVEN — A convicted rapist is suing the state prison system for banning him from preaching Christianity to fellow inmates at the Cheshire Correctional Institution.

Only religious activities led by religious volunteers or individuals authorized by a chaplain are allowed, officials said.

FLORIDA

‘Virgin Mary’ windows broken; teen jailed

CLEARWATER — A high school senior was arrested Monday on charges he used a slingshot to shatter office windows that thousands believed bore the image of the Virgin Mary.

Kyle Maskell, an 18-year-old who was raised in foster homes and described by police as angry at the world, was charged Monday with criminal mischief and jailed on $10,000 bail.

The image he is accused of destroying was first noticed at the building days before Christmas in 1996. It drew almost a half-million visitors within weeks.

ILLINOIS

Abuse charges filed in coin-dropper case

MACHESNEY PARK — Officials have charged a Rockford man with criminal sexual abuse after a woman told police he fondled her at a department store.

The 28-year-old woman said the suspect dropped coins at her feet, and after she bent over to pick them up, the man fondled her buttocks. He then fled the scene.

Police later learned that the man approached another woman in the same manner but made no sexual contact.

INDIANA

Bishop approves sale of church windows

MERRILLVILLE — The Roman Catholic bishop for northwestern Indiana approved the sale of 40 stained-glass windows from a church despite protests from area Catholics. The windows were sold for $92,500 to a New York religious-goods company.

The church plans to renovate the parish hall and demolish the old building.

KENTUCKY

Landmark castle damaged by fire

VERSAILLES — A turreted castle that rose amid horse farms as an incongruous landmark was heavily damaged in a fire Monday night.

The castle, built about 30 years ago by an eccentric real-estate developer named Rex Martin, glowed against a night sky along Versailles Road, a heavily traveled four-lane highway between Lexington and Versailles.

Inside the castle walls, much of the house had collapsed. Woodford County Fire Chief Bennie Green said the cause was unknown but said one possibility was that lightning struck an inner turret.

No one was injured in the blaze.

MAINE

Governor signs raise in minimum wage

AUGUSTA — Gov. John Baldacci, Democrat, signed legislation increasing the state minimum wage for the first time since January 2003.

The state’s current hourly minimum of $6.25 will be increased by 25 cents in two phases through October 2005. The original bill sought to increase the minimum wage to $7.

MASSACHUSETTS

Town traces origins of baseball to 1791

PITTSFIELD — City officials and historians released a document yesterday that they say shows baseball was being played in Pittsfield in the late 1700s, long before legend credits Abner Doubleday with drawing up the rules of the game.

The evidence comes in a 1791 bylaw to protect the windows in Pittsfield’s new meeting house by banning anyone from playing baseball within 80 yards of the building.

“It’s clear that not only was baseball played here in 1791, but it was rampant,” said historian John Thorn, who was researching the origins of baseball when he found a reference to the law in an 1869 book on Pittsfield’s history. “It was rampant enough to have an ordinance against it.”

The document — dug out of an archive vault at a library in Pittsfield — is the earliest known written reference to baseball, predating the next known documentation of the game by three decades.

Legend has it that Doubleday came up with the rules for the modern game in 1839 in Cooperstown, N.Y., where the Baseball Hall of Fame is located.

MICHIGAN

Bank-robbing grandma gets prison time

GRAND RAPIDS — A grandmother was sentenced yesterday to 70 months in prison after pleading guilty to robbing two Michigan banks and admitting to 10 other robberies in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Margaret Ann Thomas-Irving, 58, was arrested in July on the same day she reportedly robbed two banks in Lansing. She apparently held up the banks while on a trip to visit her son, an officer with the Bath Township Police Department.

Her arrest capped a nine-month crime spree in which Thomas-Irving robbed four banks, two savings and loans, two restaurants and two doughnut shops in Connecticut and Massachusetts. The robberies netted nearly $20,000.

MISSISSIPPI

Bills to ease prison overcrowding

JACKSON — Bills designed to relieve prison crowding and save the state money will become law July 1.

One bill will give some nonviolent inmates one day off for every day they work in prison programs, instead of the current one day off for every three days of work. Another would make some terminally ill inmates eligible for early release.

MINNESOTA

Officer arrested in shooting probe

ST. PAUL — A Hmong-American police officer was arrested on suspicion of carrying out two drive-by shootings that were part of a string of violent incidents within the city’s large Southeast Asian community.

Tou Cha, 35, was jailed Monday on suspicion of aggravated assault with a firearm. No one was wounded in the shootings.

Mr. Cha is suspected in a Nov. 29 shooting that shattered several windows at a mall that houses a Lao Veterans group, and in an April 20 shooting at the home of a translator for an influential Hmong leader. The leader, Gen. Vang Pao, had been tapped by the CIA during the Vietnam War to lead a secret Hmong army against communists in Laos.

Shell casings from both crime scenes were matched to Mr. Cha’s department-issued .40-caliber handgun, police said.

TEXAS

Teens face charges in desecration of grave

BEAUMONT — Police arrested two young white men in the desecration of the grave of James Byrd Jr., the black man dragged to his death from the back of a pickup truck in 1998.

Several tips led police to a 19-year-old man from Jasper and an 18-year-old man from Call on Monday, Police Chief Stanley Christopher said yesterday.

The chief said the 19-year-old was arrested at his home and the younger man surrendered at the police station. He said they would be charged with criminal mischief.

Mr. Byrd’s headstone also was knocked over last week, and racial slurs and profanities were etched into a steel plate.

As for what motivated the vandalism, “stupidity’s all I can come up with,” the police chief said.

WASHINGTON

Fisherman catches wedding dress

LYNNWOOD — Casting his fishing line into Martha Lake, Ryan Snow was hoping to catch a trout.

Instead, he caught a wedding dress — and was relieved to find it was empty.

Mr. Snow, 22, of Lynnwood, said he initially thought he had snagged a log or something equally mundane early Monday on the bottom of Martha Lake in the suburbs north of Seattle.

Instead, he found a muddy white dress at the end of the line.

“I thought it still had something in it,” he told the Herald of Everett.

He called his uncle Mark Snow, 50, from the shore to help and they finished reeling in the dress. Despite the mud and rust, some blue beads along the front and hem indicated its former glory.

“I’m sure it was gorgeous,” Mark Snow said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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