- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 16, 2005

CALIFORNIA

Jackson hospitalized; jury selection delayed

SANTA MARIA ” Michael Jackson was taken to the hospital with the flu yesterday, the judge in the pop star’s child-molestation case said, a development that put jury selection on hold for a week.

Judge Rodney Melville announced Mr. Jackson’s illness to a courtroom packed with prospective jurors, telling them that the 46-year-old singer would need three or four days to recover.



SOUTH CAROLINA

Teen guilty in ‘Zoloft’ killing

CHARLESTON ” A 15-year-old boy who claimed the antidepressant Zoloft drove him to kill his grandparents was found guilty of murder yesterday and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

The jury took six hours to reject Christopher Pittman’s claim that he was “involuntarily intoxicated” by the drug and could not be held responsible for the crime.

Pittman killed his grandparents, Joe and Joy Pittman, with a pump-action shotgun as they slept in their rural home, then burned down their house and drove off in their car.

Pittman hung his head as the verdict was read. “I know it’s in the hands of God. Whatever He decides on, that’s what it’s going to be,” he said quietly, just before Judge Danny Pieper handed down the minimum sentence. He could have received life in prison.

ALABAMA

State bans sale of official whiskey

MONTGOMERY ” Alabama’s official state whiskey was banned from sale in the state yesterday.

The Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board notified Conecuh Ridge Distillery that its state license had been revoked because of liquor law violations by its founder. The Legislature is in the process of repealing Conecuh Ridge’s designation as the official state whiskey.

“Conecuh Ridge is out of business in Alabama,” board administrator Emory Folmar said.

The Troy-based company has been in turmoil since founder Kenny May pleaded guilty two weeks ago to misdemeanor charges involving illegal sales, including selling a case of whiskey to an 18-year-old.

ARKANSAS

Huckabees convert to covenant marriage

NORTH LITTLE ROCK ” Thousands of couples joined Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and first lady Janet Huckabee in renewing their wedding vows at a Valentine’s Day ceremony supporting the state’s voluntary covenant-marriage law that makes divorce more difficult to obtain.

“There is a crisis in America,” the Republican governor told a crowd of 6,400 at an arena Monday night. “That crisis is divorce. It is easier to get out of a marriage than [to get out of a] contract to buy a used car.”

Before the Huckabees renewed their wedding vows, they signed legal papers converting their 30-year marriage to a covenant marriage.

A covenant marriage requires counseling before the parties wed and before they seek a divorce. A covenant marriage also requires a two-year wait before a divorce becomes final, except in cases of adultery, abuse or imprisonment.

ILLINOIS

Rise in HIV levels deemed no concern

CHICAGO ” Sudden jumps of HIV levels in patients taking drugs for the AIDS-causing infection are harmless blips from the test results and do not mean the treatment against the virus is losing its punch, a report said yesterday.

“These results should provide relief to hundreds of thousands of HIV-positive patients in the United States currently taking drug therapy … and reassure them that their medications have not failed,” said Robert Siliciano, a doctor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The study from the Baltimore institution was published in this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association.

KENTUCKY

Factory blast called preventable

LONDON ” A fiery explosion that killed seven persons and injured 37 at an insulation factory in 2003 could have been prevented if managers and regulators had addressed a buildup of flammable dust, a federal investigation concluded yesterday.

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board determined that the Feb. 20, 2003, blast at the CTA Acoustics plant in Corbin was caused by combustible dust that accumulated to unsafe levels and was ignited by an open oven door.

Federal investigators said Kentucky’s Office of Occupational Safety and Health conducted several inspections of CTA Acoustics, but issued no citations.

MAINE

Study finds lobsters feel no pain

PORTLAND ” A study out of Norway concludes that it is unlikely lobsters feel pain, stirring up a long-simmering debate over whether Maine’s most valuable seafood suffers when it is being cooked.

Animal activists for years have claimed that lobsters are in agony when being cooked, and that dropping one in a pot of boiling water is tantamount to torture.

The study, funded by the Norwegian government and written by a scientist at the University of Oslo, suggests lobsters and other invertebrates such as crabs, snails and worms probably don’t suffer even if lobsters do tend to thrash in boiling water.

MASSACHUSETTS

Challenge rejected on school funding

BOSTON ” The state’s highest court ruled yesterday that Massachusetts is meeting its constitutional duty toward schools in lower-income communities, rejecting a lawsuit that challenged the state’s education funding formula.

The Supreme Judicial Court voted 5-2 to reject a recommendation issued last year by a lower court judge. Chief Justice Margaret Marshall said the state “is moving systematically to address those deficiencies and continues to make education reform a fiscal priority.”

The lawsuit was brought by students in 19 school districts who complained of crowded classrooms, run-down facilities and inexperienced teachers.

MICHIGAN

Driver intoxicated by mouthwash

ADRIAN ” A woman who pleaded guilty to driving while drunk on three glasses of Listerine was sentenced yesterday to two years of probation.

Officials suspected Carol Ries, 50, was intoxicated after she rear-ended another vehicle at a red light in January. Police found a bottle of the mouthwash in her car.

She passed one breath test, but failed another that used different equipment. Her blood alcohol concentration was 0.30 percent, more than three times the legal limit.

MISSISSIPPI

Seabee father of 11 has 12th on the way

GULFPORT ” Navy Seabee reservist Johnnie Chennault had Valentine’s Day gifts for his wife just as news outlets nationwide last weekend reported on how the father of 11 children was being called up for duty in Iraq.

But Ronda Chennault, 35, had a bigger surprise for her 29-year-old husband upon his departure from Springfield, Tenn., for Seabee training in Gulfport and a March journey to the Middle East to work on naval construction projects.

On Sunday morning, she told him she was expecting her 12th child, Biloxi TV station WLOX reported. Four of the couple’s children, who range in age from 17 years to 8 months, are Mrs. Chennault’s from a previous marriage.

MISSOURI

Girl accused of killing sister over hamburger

ST. LOUIS ” A 12-year-old girl has been charged with murder under juvenile law for reportedly killing her 9-year-old sister, apparently in a dispute over a hamburger.

The older girl reported finding her sister lifeless on the floor of their home Dec. 22.

On Feb. 1, a social worker told police that the 12-year-old was in a hospital psychiatric unit, suffering visions and nightmares, and had told the staff she strangled her sister during a quarrel over a hamburger, police told the Post-Dispatch.

NEW JERSEY

$5 million to be paid in church abuse case

MORRISTOWN ” More than two dozen men who claimed they were molested as boys by Roman Catholic priests have reached a $5 million settlement with the Diocese of Paterson, their attorney announced yesterday.

The deal, the largest payout by a New Jersey diocese in a clergy sex-abuse case, also provides four years of counseling for the men, said lawyer Gregory G. Gianforcaro. He represents 26 of the men and said a 27th also had settled.

A lawsuit filed by Mr. Gianforcaro claimed that church officials failed to protect the youths.

WASHINGTON

Supremacist charged with gun crimes

SEATTLE ” Federal agents arrested three men on gun and explosives charges yesterday, including a former Aryan Nations leader who once served time for plotting to kill Martin Luther King.

White supremacist Keith Gilbert, 65, was arrested at his Seattle home, FBI spokeswoman Robbie Burroughs said.

A federal complaint said Mr. Gilbert had sold AK-47 assault rifles, some of them fully automatic, and other weapons to a confidential informant working with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, possession of a machine gun, and possession of an unregistered gun.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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