- The Washington Times - Monday, February 7, 2005

NEW YORK

Workers erecting ‘The Gates’

NEW YORK — Picture a 16-foot-high gate made of vinyl poles that resembles a doorway. Now picture 7,500 of them, a series of doorways set on steel bases, lining 23 miles of footpaths in New York’s Central Park.

Hundreds of workers yesterday began the weeklong process of erecting thousands of poles in Central Park for “The Gates,” a large-scale public work of art by artists Christo and his wife, Jeanne-Claude.

It’s a temporary work that will open Saturday and stay in place until Feb. 27.

UTAH

Couple in torture case to face charges

MONTICELLO — A couple accused of subjecting five of their adopted children to torture that included beating them with hammers and pulling their toenails out with pliers agreed yesterday to return to Florida to face charges.

John and Linda Dollar were captured Friday in Utah after authorities tracked them through their cell phones. They face charges of aggravated child abuse.

The couple went on the run after their seven adopted children, ages 12 to 17, were removed from their home last month in the Tampa area.

All were malnourished, and five told investigators they were subjected to torture that included beatings and electric shocks. The two other children were spared abuse because they were favored by the couple, authorities said.

CALIFORNIA

Jackson trial delayed one week

SANTA MARIA — The judge in Michael Jackson’s child molestation trial told prospective jurors yesterday that the case had been postponed for a week because of a death in the family of the pop star’s lead attorney.

Jury selection had been scheduled to resume yesterday with detailed questioning of about 250 candidates by Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville, prosecutors and attorneys for Mr. Jackson, 46.

The case was delayed until Monday because the death of lead defense attorney Tom Mesereau’s sister.

Because his courtroom was too small to accommodate 250 people, Judge Melville met with the potential jurors at a nearby gymnasium, wearing his black robe and speaking from a lectern. He ordered 113 members of the pool to return for questioning and said the rest should be available if needed.

FLORIDA

Desalination plant to restart

TAMPA — Tampa Bay Water says it is ready to crank up its troubled desalination plant again. The plant will run through spring as specialists search for undetected problems, then go offline until late next year for $29 million in repairs.

The main problem is that salt filters clog too quickly. The pioneering plant has been idle for a year, except for producing water one week each month to maintain the machinery.

GEORGIA

Preacher found guilty in church scam

ROME — A preacher was found guilty yesterday of stealing nearly $9 million from hundreds of small, black churches nationwide.

Jurors in the Abraham Kennard case deliberated for only a few hours, after having to start over when one of the jurors fell ill. They had begun deliberating Friday.

Kennard, 46, of Wildwood, Ga., was found guilty of all 132 counts, ranging from mail fraud to tax evasion. Prosecutors said he ran a pyramid scheme largely meant to take advantage of a tight network of black preachers.

ILLINOIS

Study links autism to mother’s illnesses

CHICAGO — Expectant mothers suffering from asthma, allergies or a type of skin disease have a higher risk of giving birth to an autistic child, a study said yesterday.

Asthma, allergies and psoriasis symptoms during pregnancy — especially if diagnosed in the second trimester — doubled the risk of autism in children compared with women who were not afflicted, researchers from Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif., said.

Autism is a mysterious condition that strikes roughly six in 1,000 children, mostly boys, and is associated with diminished social skills and an adherence to routines.

KENTUCKY

Mom fights school over dress code

SHEPHERDSVILLE — A mother has pulled her son out of his high school in a dispute over a dress code, saying her son was disciplined for wearing a button-down shirt while Muslim students were allowed to wear head scarves.

Lisa Whiteside began protesting outside Bullitt Central High School last week after learning that two Muslim students who had enrolled after winter break had been allowed to wear a hijab, which covers the head and neck.

Mrs. Whiteside said her son, a senior, was given in-school suspension for wearing a white button-down shirt rather than the mandated polo-style shirts.

School board attorney Eric Farris said school records indicated that the student was not disciplined but received a warning Sept. 1 that his shirt was in violation of the dress code.

Though the code also prohibits headwear, Mr. Farris said federal protections of such religious garments as hijabs take precedence.

In response, Mrs. Whiteside’s son went to school last week with a T-shirt bearing the words “FBI” and “Firm Believer In Christ.” Mr. Farris said Mrs. Whiteside asked administrators whether he could wear the shirt. When they said no, she told them she would remove him from the school, he said.

LOUISIANA

Man uses duct tape to hide cash

SHREVEPORT — Add this to the many uses of duct tape.

Ark-La-Tex Narcotics Task Force agents and Caddo Parish sheriff’s deputies stopped a man at a Greyhound terminal Friday after they said he was acting suspiciously, sheriff’s spokeswoman Cindy Chadwick said.

While being patted down for weapons, Charlie Ross told officers that it was a back brace they felt around his chest — not nearly $55,000 in cash stuck to him with duct tape.

Mr. Ross, 50, was not able to produce a transaction receipt required under federal law for anyone carrying more than $10,000 in cash, Miss Chadwick said. He also would not say where he got the money, so he was booked for money laundering, she said.

MICHIGAN

Boy, 4, drives car to video store

SAND LAKE — A boy drove his mother’s car to a video store in the middle of the night, police said — and he’s all of 4 years old.

Even though he was unable to reach the accelerator, the boy managed to put the car in gear, and the idling engine provided enough power to take him slowly to the store, a quarter-mile from his home, about 1:30 a.m. Friday, Police Chief Doug Heugel said. Finding the store closed, the youngster began a slow trip home.

Weaving and with its headlights off, the car got the attention of police Sgt. Jay Osga. The car turned into the boy’s apartment complex and struck two parked cars, then backed up and struck Sgt. Osga’s police car. That’s when Sgt. Osga discovered the boy inside.

“He knew how to go from forward to reverse,” Sgt. Osga said yesterday. “The mother said she taught him how to drive by letting him sit on her lap and steer.”

No charges will be filed against the boy or his mother, Chief Heugel said.

MINNESOTA

Suspect indicted in bank robberies

MINNEAPOLIS — A man was indicted yesterday in a string of bank robberies carried out by the Fishing Hat Bandit.

John Douglas Whitrock, 56, was charged with 21 counts of bank robbery and one count of attempted robbery.

Investigators said he was the holdup man in a floppy hat who stole more than $87,000 in a rash of robberies in the Twin Cities area from 2003 onward.

He was arrested Jan. 7 after a robbery at a credit union in Edina, one of six financial institutions that were hit twice.

MONTANA

W.R. Grace indicted in asbestos hazard

MISSOULA — W.R. Grace and Co. and seven senior employees were charged in an indictment released yesterday with conspiring for decades to hide the dangers posed by asbestos contamination in a Montana vermiculite mine.

They also were charged with intentionally exposing miners and others in the small town of Libby to illness and death.

Asbestos contamination in Libby came to light in 1999 after national news reports linked the vermiculite mine to the deaths of nearly 200 people and illness in hundreds more. The vermiculite was used in several household products, including home insulation.

The Environmental Protection Agency has since spent more than $55 million on cleanup.

Grace, based in Columbia, Md., said it “categorically denies any criminal wrongdoing.”

“We are surprised by the government’s methods and disappointed by its determination to bring these allegations,” the company said. “We look forward to setting the record straight in a court of law.”

NEW JERSEY

Trial restarts in missile-terror case

NEWARK — A British businessman accused of trying to sell shoulder-fired missiles to a terrorist group was back on trial yesterday after having a heart procedure.

Hemant Lakhani, 69, faces charges that include attempting to provide material support to terrorists and attempting to sell arms without a license, counts that carry a combined sentence of 25 years. He has denied all charges and any links to terrorism.

Mr. Lakhani’s trial was delayed three weeks after he fell ill last month and needed angioplasty.

The government says informant and star witness Mohammed Habib “Haji” Rehman told Mr. Lakhani that the missiles would be used for a holy war against the United States, and that Mr. Lakhani advised the informant on how the weapons could be used to bring down airliners.

Transcripts of secretly taped conversations presented in court yesterday showed Mr. Rehman repeatedly urging Mr. Lakhani to complete a deal for a first “sample” missile supposedly intended for an East African terrorist group.

NORTH CAROLINA

Soldier charged in rape kills self

FAYETTEVILLE — A Fort Bragg soldier charged as a teenager in a notorious New Jersey rape case shot and wounded his estranged wife and her boyfriend, then killed himself, authorities said.

Spc. Richard Timothy Corcoran, 34, entered wife Michele A. Corcoran’s house Thursday night and shot William Paul Seifert several times. Mrs. Corcoran ran outside, where she was shot in the arm, said Cumberland County Sheriff’s Maj. Sam Pennica.

Mr. Seifert, who also is a Fort Bragg soldier, was taken to Cape Fear Valley Medical Center. Mrs. Corcoran, 30, was treated and released.

Spc. Corcoran was involved in a 1989 case in affluent Glen Ridge, N.J., in which a group of popular high school athletes reportedly raped a mentally retarded teenage girl.

Spc. Corcoran, the son of a Glen Ridge police lieutenant, was among seven boys who were arrested and charged, but charges against him were dropped the day before his trial was to begin. Three other boys were sentenced to jail terms.

RHODE ISLAND

Cianci Web site up for sale

PROVIDENCE — Perhaps it’s a sign of convicted former Mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci Jr.’s currency: The Web site bearing his name is up for sale.

John Ackerman, owner of VincentCianci.com, put the Web site up for sale on the online auction service EBay on Saturday. There has been one bidder, who offered the minimum $88.50. The auction ends Thursday.

Mr. Ackerman told the Providence Journal that he decided to sell the domain because he thinks Cianci’s name recognition is fading. Mr. Ackerman added that he has lost money on the site.

The colorful Cianci was Providence’s longest-serving mayor. He is serving a five-year, four-month sentence in federal prison on a single count of racketeering conspiracy in 2002.

TEXAS

Couple accused of abusing baby

HOUSTON — A young couple are accused of critically injuring their 6-month-old baby, who police say was sexually assaulted, suffered broken bones from head to toe, and had her tongue nearly severed.

Donna Marie Norman, 19, and her common-law husband, Ivan Castaneda, 21, were jailed without bail on charges of causing injury to a child.

The infant lay in critical condition yesterday at a hospital. She was transferred there last week after her parents brought her to another hospital, saying she was suffering from congestion.

Child Protective Services spokeswoman Estella Olguin said the baby had been sexually abused, had two broken legs, a broken arm, a fractured skull, a fractured vertebrae and a broken rib.

VERMONT

Ski instructor dies, had taught thousands

RICHMOND — Virginia Davis Cochran, who taught more than 10,000 children to ski, has died. She was 76. Mrs. Cochran started the Cochran Ski Area in Richmond with her husband, Mickey, in 1961, and taught there for more than 40 years.

Daughter Barbara Ann won the Olympic gold medal in slalom in Sapporo, Japan, in 1972, and daughter Marilyn was the first American to win a World Cup in the giant slalom in 1969.

WEST VIRGINIA

Record company sues dead woman

CHARLESTON — The recording industry sued Gertrude Walton, accusing her of illegally trading music over the Internet as “smittenedkitten.”

But the lawsuit was filed more than a month after the 83-year-old woman died in December, and her daughter, Robin Chianumba, says Mrs. Walton hated computers, anyway.

Mrs. Walton’s daughter, who lived with her mother for the past 17 years, said she faxed a copy of her mother’s death certificate to record company officials several days before the lawsuit was filed, in response to a letter from the company regarding the upcoming legal filing.

“I am pretty sure she is not going to leave Greenwood Memorial Park [where she is buried] to attend the hearing,” her daughter said.

“We will now, of course, obviously dismiss this case,” Recording Industry Association of America spokesman Jonathan Lamy said last week.


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