- The Washington Times - Friday, September 3, 2004


Judge dismisses terrorism charges

DETROIT — Acting at the request of prosecutors, a federal judge yesterday threw out terrorism charges against two men convicted last year. But U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen said the two, and a third man, must stand trial again on charges of document fraud.

The decision came after the Justice Department admitted widespread prosecutorial misconduct in the case and asked the judge to dismiss the terrorism charges against two men accused of being part of a Detroit terror cell.

In a case that the government once hailed as a victory against terrorism, Karim Koubriti, 26, and Abdel-Ilah Elmardoudi, 38, were convicted in June 2003 of conspiracy to provide material support for terrorism and to engage in fraud and misuse of visas and other documents. A third man, Ahmed Hannan, 36, was convicted of only the fraud charge, and Farouk Ali-Haimoud, 24, was acquitted.


Preacher pleads not guilty in Smart kidnapping

SALT LAKE CITY — A homeless street preacher and self-proclaimed prophet pleaded not guilty yesterday to kidnapping and other charges in the knifepoint abduction of Elizabeth Smart.

Brian David Mitchell answered “not guilty” six times for each of the charges read to him by the judge. Mr. Mitchell’s trial was set for the first week in February. A grand-jury indictment against him was unsealed Wednesday, a day after Mr. Mitchell was ruled competent to stand trial.

Mr. Mitchell, 50, and his 58-year-old wife, Wanda Barzee, are charged with kidnapping the then-14-year-old from her bedroom in 2002. The girl reportedly was taken into the foothills near her home, sexually assaulted and kept as Mitchell’s second wife.

The couple has been in custody since Elizabeth was found with them along a suburban street in March 2003.

Getty Images

Brian David Mitchell, a self-proclaimed prophet charged with kidnapping a Utah teenager in 2002, appeared for his arraignment at a courthouse in Salt Lake City yesterday.


Lake toxins cost coverage for city

LAKE HAVASU CITY — The city’s insurance policy will not be renewed, apparently because the carrier fears too much liability related to carbon monoxide at the lake. The city received a non-renewal notice from United National Insurance Co., which provides its general liability coverage.

Its broker and city staff said the company was worried about potential claims resulting from carbon monoxide poisoning at the Bridgewater Channel, where idling boats have created excess fumes on holiday weekends.


Marine convicted of abusing Iraqis

CAMP PENDLETON — A Marine reservist was found guilty yesterday of dereliction of duty and the abuse of prisoners last year at a makeshift detention camp in Iraq, but cleared of assaulting a 52-year-old Iraqi man who later died there.

Sgt. Gary Pittman, 40, a federal prison guard in New York in his civilian life, was acquitted of the most serious charge, of kicking Nagem Hatab in the chest shortly before the Iraqi was found dead at the facility known as Camp Whitehorse.

The jury was to begin sentencing deliberations today. Pittman could receive up nine months in a military prison and a bad-conduct discharge.


Cop confesses to robbing banks

ATLANTA — An Atlanta policeman confessed to a string of armed bank robberies in the city, the FBI said.

Stanley Street, a 17-year veteran of the city police department, admitted to FBI agents this week that he robbed three Wachovia bank branches at gunpoint this summer, FBI Agent Chad Fitzgerald said.

About $90,000 was taken a during his heists. Mr. Street said he needed money to support his 6-year-old daughter and pay the staff of his private security firm.

He was tripped up when a Wachovia customer observed him getting into a car after a bank robbery on Tuesday.


Students walking over rickety bridge

HARRISON — Students are getting some exercise on their bus ride to and from school. Weight limits on a trestle bridge are forcing students to get off the bus, walk over the bridge, then get back on after the bus makes it across.

The weight limit for the one-lane bridge that crosses the Coeur d’Alene River is 10 tons. The school buses weigh up to 9 tons without students.


Train-car crash kills couple, hurts children

DRY RIDGE — A couple were killed and their two young children injured when a train struck their car, police said.

The family’s Dodge Neon had entered a private rail crossing Wednesday when it was struck by the Norfolk Southern train, Kentucky State Police said.

There was no signal at the crossing in northern Kentucky’s Grant County, said Robin Chapman of Norfolk Southern. State police Trooper Kevin Flick said the train whistle sounded before the crash.

The driver of the car, Timothy A. Whalen, 21, of Dry Ridge, and his girlfriend, Amy Crabtree, 21, of Strunk, died at the scene, police said.

Their children — 3-year-old Sierra Whalen and 4-month-old Emilee Whalen — were in the back seat of the car, police said. They suffered minor injuries.


Jet evacuated in fire scare

MINNEAPOLIS — Forty-four passengers were evacuated from a Mesaba Airlines jet on Wednesday after passengers saw what they thought was smoke in the rear of the cabin.

The 69-seat regional jet was taxiing toward a runway for takeoff when a hydraulic line failure caused hydraulic fluid to form a mist in the air, said airline spokesman Dave Jackson.

“To a passenger, that might be perceived as smoke,” Mr. Jackson said. He said there was no fire.

The crew inflated emergency exit slides and the passengers, who were heading to Fargo, N.D., and the four crew members evacuated.

The airline was investigating the failure in the hydraulic system, which controls mechanics such as braking and steering.


Monorail closes after wheel falls off

LAS VEGAS — The $650 million Las Vegas Monorail was shut down Wednesday after a mechanical problem caused a wheel to come off one of the cars, a company spokesman said.

Nobody was hurt in the incident, which happened as a train was traveling north toward the Las Vegas Convention Center, spokesman Todd Walker said.

The train limped slowly into the convention center station, and riders were let off, he said.

Mr. Walker said the monorail would reopen after inspectors deemed it safe.


Bear encounters renew talk of hunt

VERNON — Wildlife officials are considering another December bear hunt after an unusually large number of human encounters with bears occurred in northern New Jersey last month. Farmers and homeowners in four counties reported more than 30 home invasions and attacks .


Former judge pleads guilty to DWI

BERNALILLO — A former chief judge caught driving with a blood alcohol level at twice the legal limit pleaded guilty yesterday to driving while intoxicated and cocaine possession. He was sentenced to a year of probation.

“I feel embarrassed and humiliated as a result of my actions,” said John Brennan, former chief judge of state district court in Albuquerque.

Retired state District Judge George Perez, who accepted the pleas, also required Brennan to wear an electronic bracelet for two days of home confinement, attend a first-offender DWI program and undergo monthly drug tests.

Brennan, 57, a chief judge for two decades, was arrested near a DWI checkpoint on May 29.


Cremated remains crash into home

FOREST GROVE — An unwelcome guest recently crashed into Barbara Vreeland’s home: the cremated remains of a Washington man.

The 46-year-old man died of natural causes in June. He wanted to be cremated and have his ashes scattered over Mountain View Memorial Gardens, a cemetery near Miss Vreeland’s home, Forest Grove police Capt. Aaron Ashbaugh said Tuesday.

Family members told police the bag of ashes slipped as they were circling the cemetery in a small plane they had hired for the day.

The 4-pound bag crashed through Miss Vreeland’s roof and landed in the attic. Her roof is being repaired, and the man’s family is paying for the damage.


Baby spends 5 days with dead father

AUSTIN — A 6-month-old girl was found alive after spending up to five days alone near the body of her dead father, police said.

Asia McCoy was in critical condition Wednesday at Brackenridge Hospital, spokeswoman Pam Crowther said.

The baby was found Sunday near the body of Willard McCoy, 41, whose cause of death has not been determined.

Neighbors had alerted police after they hadn’t seen the baby or her father for several days. At first, authorities thought the child was dead. Officers cleaned out Asia’s nose and mouth, poured water on her and rubbed her back until she started making noise.

Child Protective Services has custody of Asia and will place her with a foster home at least initially, spokesman Aaron Reed said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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