- The Washington Times - Friday, March 25, 2005


Ex-hostage in courthouse shootings gets rewards

ATLANTA — The woman who said she gained the trust of courthouse shooting suspect Brian Nichols by talking about her faith while he held her hostage was presented with $70,000 in reward money yesterday for helping authorities capture him.

Ashley Smith, a 26-year-old widowed mother of one, was held for seven hours by Mr. Nichols at her suburban Atlanta home March 12 before he let her go. She then made the 911 call that led to his arrest.

She was lauded at a ceremony during which she received a fistful of reward checks from Gov. Sonny Perdue and law-enforcement agencies.


Woman to lead more Islamic prayers

NEW YORK — A female author leading a campaign for more rights for Muslim women said she would conduct a Muslim prayer service in Boston today, amid growing opposition from Islamic leaders.

Asra Nomani, 39, author of an upcoming book on women in Islam, said she would preside over a small Muslim congregation of men and women, becoming the second woman in eight days to lead a Friday service, a role historically held by men.

The author led a small service near Boston on Wednesday, but leading a Friday service is far more controversial because the midday prayer is the most important one of the week. A service in which men and women sit together also goes against Islamic tradition, as most mosques make them pray separately.


Tribe sues agency over telescope project

TUCSON — A tribe opposed to the construction of a complex of seven telescopes at a sacred mountain peak filed suit Wednesday against the National Science Foundation.

The lawsuit by the Tohono O’odham Nation seeks an injunction to halt construction at Kitt Peak National Observatory, and for a judgment that the project is subject to federal historic preservation and environmental laws.

A tribal spokeswoman said groundbreaking began in September for the Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescoping Array System, a complex of seven telescopes and support buildings, at the observatory.


Boy’s print found on Jackson porn

SANTA MARIA — A sheriff’s technician testified yesterday in Michael Jackson’s molestation trial that she found a fingerprint from the brother of the accuser in a pornographic magazine seized from the singer’s home.

The prosecution began presenting testimony on fingerprint evidence to support the boys’ accounts that the pop star showed them sexually explicit magazines at his Neverland ranch.

The testimony by technician Lisa Hemman followed an effort by defense attorney Robert Sanger to undermine the reliability of the results. He elicited testimony that the magazines were not tested for fingerprints until months after they were seized.

But Miss Hemman said she and another examiner were merely being duly cautious. “As an examiner, you always go on the edge of caution,” she said. “If you don’t want to rush a job, you make it inconclusive.”


Teacher says ouster based on religion

DENVER — As the University of Colorado faces criticism over continued employment for outspoken professor Ward Churchill, history instructor Phil Mitchell says the school is forcing him out “because of my political and religious beliefs.”

Mr. Mitchell, an evangelical Christian, is a senior instructor in the Sewall Residential Academic Program.

He said he was notified that the history department would employ him for only one more year because a dean decided that “I was not teaching up to the standards of the department, and that I was proselytizing students.”

Mr. Mitchell, 57, denied forcing his views on students and said he had received overwhelmingly positive evaluations during 21 years at the university.


Doctors seek origin of kidney disease

ORLANDO — Doctors in Florida are trying to determine the origin of a potentially fatal kidney ailment that has stricken at least seven children in the state.

Physicians said the condition — hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) — is similar to outbreaks of kidney failure in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Washington state, the Orlando Sentinel reported yesterday.

In the cases outside Florida, authorities linked the outbreaks to children who had visited petting zoos. The children in Florida diagnosed with HUS did visit petting zoos at local fairs, but officials have not said that is where the disease started. They also are looking into possible food contamination.


‘Divorced’ teen gets adopted

CANTON — A teenager who won a groundbreaking legal battle in the summer to “divorce” his killer father walked out of court yesterday with new adoptive parents.

“I don’t think I’ll ever be over it,” Patrick Holland said of his mother’s 1998 slaying by his father. “But it’s a step forward. It’s about the biggest step you can take at one time.”

Patrick, 15, was adopted by Ron and Rita Lazisky. The two have been the teen’s guardians and were close friends of his mother.

Patrick was one of the first children to initiate a parental-rights termination proceeding against one parent for killing the other. He argued Daniel Holland forfeited any right to be his father the night he shot Liz Holland eight times. Patrick, who was 8 at the time, found his mother’s body the following morning.


Amendment limits domestic-violence law

CLEVELAND — A judge has ruled that Ohio’s constitutional amendment against same-sex “marriage” prohibits filing domestic-violence charges against all unmarried couples, a decision that prompted an immediate appeal by prosecutors.

The Wednesday ruling by Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Stuart Friedman changed a felony domestic-violence charge against Frederick Burk to a misdemeanor assault charge. Mr. Burk is accused of slapping and pushing his live-in girlfriend.

Ohio’s constitution prohibits any state or local law that would “create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals.” So the judge said courts no longer could apply the domestic-violence law, as they had been doing, to an unmarried couple living together as a husband and wife.


Building to have traditional mud floor

SANTA FE — A traditional mud floor, sealed with cow’s blood, is being put down in a corner of the oldest public building in the nation.

It will form the floor of a room that simulates a 19th-century chapel in the Palace of the Governors, an adobe building built in the early 17th century as Spain’s seat of government in what is now the Southwest.


Police seek ‘Michael Moore bandit’

MONROE — Monroe police are searching for a man they call the “Michael Moore bandit” in the armed robbery of a Standard Federal Bank during the weekend, according to the Drudge Report.

Authorities gave him the nickname because he resembles the filmmaker. He is described as white, in his 40s, 6 feet tall, with a beard and wearing a plaid shirt and a baseball cap.

Police said the man is also wanted for two robberies in Westland and for a robbery in Carleton.


‘Hostage’ accused of faking incident

NEWARK — A woman admitted yesterday that she started a six-hour standoff between New Jersey police and purported hostage-takers earlier this week by phoning in a fake emergency call from Texas.

Fatin A. Ward, 23, was arrested at her Arlington, Texas, home and charged in New Jersey with conspiracy and other offenses.

The Middlesex Prosecutor’s Office sought Miss Ward’s extradition for the incident in which police Tuesday cordoned off a New Brunswick neighborhood, attracting heavy coverage on cable news networks.


Thief returns phones meant for soldiers

UNIONTOWN — A teacher at Laurel Highlands Senior High School said someone has returned hundreds of cellular phones stolen from her classroom earlier this month.

Terry Ainsley said the about 500 donated phones earmarked for the Cell Phones for Soldiers program were discovered in a trash bin, with a note saying the thief didn’t realize the phones were meant to help soldiers.


Principal-photo case resolved for student

PROVIDENCE — A student who photographed his principal smoking outside a school building was allowed to return to class after initially being suspended for posting the photos on the Internet.

School district officials Wednesday reversed the suspension of sophomore Eliazar Velasquez and said principal Elaine Almagno was wrong to violate a state law that prohibits smoking within 25 feet of a school building.

“The school had no authority to punish him for the information he had up [on the Web site] or to require him to take down the site,” Superintendent Melody Johnson said.

Miss Johnson said school officials told her Eliazar was suspended because he had disrupted the learning environment at the school by posting the photos on the Internet. She said she reinstated him after reviewing the incident.


Morning munchies end police pursuit

MOUNT CARMEL — A yearning for breakfast helped end a police chase.

Jeffery Lynn Drinnon, 30, was arrested at the drive-through lane of a Hardee’s restaurant about 5 a.m. Tuesday after leading police on a low-speed pursuit.

Police began pursuing Mr. Drinnon after a market reported he drove away without paying for $7 worth of gasoline. Officers said they used blue lights and sirens to try to get Mr. Drinnon to pull over, but he kept going until he saw the restaurant.

Mr. Drinnon was charged with driving under the influence, driving on a revoked license, evading arrest, resisting arrest and theft under $500. From wire dispatches and staff reports

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