- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 1, 2005

GEORGIA

Bogus insurance parks taxis, limos

ATLANTA — Thousands of taxis and limousines are being pulled off Georgia streets because authorities say the companies that own them were sold millions of dollars in bogus insurance policies.

A cease-and-desist order was issued yesterday against two businesses accused of selling the fake policies to more than 150 companies throughout the state.

Phoenix Brokers Inc. and Main Street Brokerage Inc., both located in Barnesville, reportedly collected nearly $3 million in fraudulent insurance premiums during the past 2 years.

Soon after the cease-and-desist order was issued, authorities arrested co-owner Robert Waterhouse at his home in Thomaston, Ga. A warrant was issued for his father and business co-owner, Godfrey Waterhouse.

RHODE ISLAND

Smoking ban takes hold in state

PROVIDENCE — Bars, restaurants and businesses became smoke-free early yesterday, making Rhode Island the seventh state to ban puffing in most indoor public places.

The smoking ban went into effect at midnight Monday even as some lawmakers and bar owners were mobilizing to revise it or challenge it in the courts. Rhode Island joins California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts and New York.

The law covers thousands of bars and restaurants, and all indoor workplaces. But it extends the deadline to Oct. 1, 2006, for bars that have 10 or fewer employees and groups formed as private social organizations, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars or Knights of Columbus.

ALABAMA

Rudolph prosecutors defend work of labs

BIRMINGHAM — Prosecutors are defending government crime labs against claims by Eric Rudolph that their work was shoddy and that scientific evidence that could link him to a deadly abortion clinic bombing should be thrown out.

In nearly 350 pages of documents filed Monday, prosecutors said jurors should be allowed to see the evidence without a hearing on whether it had been contaminated by mishandling.

The papers were the prosecution’s first public response to accusations raised last month by Mr. Rudolph’s attorneys, who claimed internal audits found “numerous deficiencies” at crime labs operated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Those problems could discredit evidence reportedly linking Mr. Rudolph to the clinic bombing, the defense argued.

U.S. District Judge Lynwood Smith scheduled a hearing for March 28 on the defense challenges.

COLORADO

Police stun man at Chuck E. Cheese’s

AURORA — Police found themselves in the cross hairs of public criticism after officers used a Taser stun gun to subdue a man accused of pilfering from a salad bar at a Chuck E. Cheese’s pizzeria packed with families and children.

“They beat this man in front of all these kids then Tased him in my sister’s lap,” said Felicia Mayo, who was at the establishment with her 7-year-old son. “They had no regard for the effect this would have on the kids. This is Chuck E. Cheese, you know,” she told the Rocky Mountain News.

Police responded to Chuck E. Cheese’s after a manager complained that a patron had refused to show proof that he had paid for food.

Police spokesman Larry Martinez said restaurant employees confronted the man, Danon Gale, 29, after they saw him “loading” his plate with salad.

CALIFORNIA

Governor backs ballot measures

SACRAMENTO — Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said yesterday he will go over legislators’ heads and take his case to the voters with a special election later this year on overhauling pensions, teacher pay and the way political districts are drawn.

He said he and supporters will start gathering signatures to place the measures on the ballot. No date has been set for the special election, but it probably would be held in the fall.

At a press conference, Mr. Schwarzenegger endorsed three initiatives — privatizing the state’s public-employee pension funds; giving authority to draw legislative and congressional districts to a panel of retired judges; and tying teacher pay to merit rather than seniority.

FLORIDA

Chiles drops out of governor’s race

TALLAHASSEE — The son and namesake of former Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles Jr. dropped out of the 2006 governor’s race yesterday because he does not meet the state’s residency requirement.

Lawton “Bud” Chiles III, 51, said he had not been aware that the state constitution requires a gubernatorial candidate to live in the state for seven years before the election. He had announced his candidacy in January.

“I’m clearly a Floridian. Me and my family are Floridians and always have been and always will be. Yet there’s this pesky little constitution and it says what it says,” Mr. Chiles said in a speech.

KANSAS

Fossett soars across North Africa

SALINA — A quarter of the way to history, millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett raced across North Africa yesterday in his bid to become the first person to fly a plane around the globe solo, nonstop and without refueling.

Mr. Fossett was over Libya at nearly 47,500 feet just after 3 p.m. EST, traveling east at 390 mph.

His experimental single-engine GlobalFlyer had consumed 25 percent of its 18,000 pounds of fuel, while Mr. Fossett had downed at least three diet chocolate milkshakes. The jet took off after sunset Monday from Salina.

Mr. Fossett’s mission control in Salina estimated he will complete the 23,000-mile journey at midday tomorrow.

MISSISSIPPI

Men plead guilty in document deal

JACKSON — Two New Orleans men pleaded guilty in federal court in Mississippi in a conspiracy to sell false documents to purported members of Abu Sayyaf, a Philippines-based group designated as a foreign terrorist organization.

Cedric Carpenter and Lamont Ranson entered the pleas Monday before U.S. District Judge Tom S. Lee in U.S. District Court in Jackson.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesman Dean Boyd in Washington said the men agreed to produce false identification documents, including Mississippi driver’s licenses, Social Security cards and birth certificates, knowing the bogus papers were to be used by members of Abu Sayyaf.

“Criminal organizations willing to sell false identities to anyone for any purpose pose a serious threat to our homeland. The defendants in this case had no qualms about providing fraudulent IDs to people they believed were terrorists. They now face serious consequences for their actions,” said Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Michael J. Garcia, who heads ICE.

OKLAHOMA

Nonviolent inmates to enter program

OKLAHOMA CITY — Sixty inmates will be released from the Oklahoma County Jail to participate in a program for nonviolent mentally ill persons. Those who succeed in the four-month program could be sentenced to probation or other forms of punishment.

TENNESSEE

Mistrial declared in self-attack

MEMPHIS — The trial of a former medical examiner accused of staging a bizarre bomb attack against himself ended yesterday with the jury unable to reach a verdict.

Federal Judge Bernice Donald declared a mistrial after the jury spent about 2 days deliberating the case of Dr. O.C. Smith, charged with lying to investigators and illegal possession of a bomb.

The case dated to June 2, 2002, when Dr. Smith was found in the county morgue stairwell with his feet, hands and face wrapped in barbed wire and a motion-sensitive bomb around his neck. Dr. Smith told authorities he was attacked by an unknown assailant who threw a caustic chemical in his face.

TEXAS

Man gets 30 years for Muslim fires

SAN ANTONIO — A Texas man has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for setting a string of fires at Muslim-owned businesses in San Antonio in 2003 and 2004, prosecutors said yesterday.

Thomas Carroll, 33, pleaded guilty to three counts of arson that were classified as hate crimes in a deal with Bexar County District Attorney Susan Reed.

Carroll set fire to businesses that were owned or operated by immigrants from India and Pakistan, Miss Reed said. No one was hurt, but the businesses were badly damaged or destroyed.

WASHINGTON

Study shows quake would kill 1,660

BELLEVUE — A study by the state Division of Emergency Management concluded that a 6.8-magnitude quake along the Seattle fault would kill 1,660 persons, injure 24,200, collapse buildings and bridges and cause $33 billion in damage.

The 30-mile-long fault runs through the city and suburbs east of Lake Washington.

WISCONSIN

Attorneys seek to move hunter’s trial

HAYWARD — A Hmong man accused of killing six fellow deer hunters in the Wisconsin woods cannot get a fair trial here because of racial prejudice and overwhelming publicity, his attorneys said in court papers yesterday.

Chai Soua Vang’s attorneys asked a judge to move the trial out of Sawyer County. They also asked that prosecutors be barred from using a statement Mr. Vang gave to investigators the day after his arrest.

The 36-year-old truck driver from St. Paul, Minn., is accused of fatally shooting six hunters and wounding two others after he was caught trespassing on a deer stand in November.

A judge scheduled a hearing on the requests for June. The trial is set to begin in September.

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