- The Washington Times - Friday, February 10, 2006

NEW YORK

Kitten helps collar pretend vet suspect

NEW YORK — Just call him Fred, undercover kitten.

The 8-month-old stray found in Brooklyn posed as a would-be patient to help police catch a man they say was pretending to be a veterinarian.

Steven Vassall, 28, was arrested last week and charged with treating an untold number of pets without a license, authorities said. He was released on $2,500 bail.

The tabby shared the spotlight with Burt the Boston terrier, one of Mr. Vassall’s suspected victims. Burt’s owner, Raymond Reid, contacted authorities after the dog survived a botched operation.

WEST VIRGINIA

Sago Mine survivor improving, wife says

MORGANTOWN — The sole survivor of the Sago Mine disaster remains “in a fog,” but is interacting with family members about a third of the time, his wife said.

Randal McCloy Jr. has said a few words and is connecting with relatives through his eyes, sounds, movements and facial expressions, said his wife, Anna.

“It’s like he’s in a fog and this fog has to disappear,” she told USA Today. “As it disappears little by little, more pieces of Randy come through.”

Mr. McCloy, 26, was part of a 13-member crew that was trapped in Upshur County’s Sago Mine after an explosion Jan. 2. The crew was exposed to deadly carbon monoxide for more than 41 hours, and all but Mr. McCloy had died by the time searchers found them.

ARKANSAS

Hunter governor hopes duck stays safe

TEXARKANA — Gov. Mike Huckabee is an avid duck hunter, but there is one duck he doesn’t want to see fall from the sky.

A duck named for the Republican is one of 24 that the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is tracking in the name of science.

“Huck the Duck,” a mallard released by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission from the Bois D’Arc Lake near Hope, is part of the commission’s satellite mallard-tracking program that collects data on migrating mallards.

“As an avid duck hunter, this will be the first time I’ve ever wanted the duck to beat the hunters instead of the other way around,” Mr. Huckabee said.

CALIFORNIA

Prosecutor pleads guilty in drug case

SAN FRANCISCO — An assistant district attorney has pleaded guilty to accepting more than 600 grams of Ecstasy from state court defendants and later selling the drug on the street, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) said.

DEA spokesman Garrison K. Courtney said Robert W. Roland, 34, entered the plea Wednesday to charges of possessing Ecstasy with the intent to distribute, using a telephone to facilitate the commission of a felony drug offense, and two counts of possessing Ecstasy.

Mr. Courtney said Eric Earl Shaw, 34, a co-defendant, also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to import Ecstasy, and to two counts of distributing the drug. According to the plea agreement, the scheme involved 668 grams of Ecstasy.

In pleading guilty, Roland admitted that in June 2002, he appeared on behalf of the state of California as an assistant district attorney in a felony drug case brought against Shaw, a childhood friend. On that day, Roland agreed to a misdemeanor disposition in Shaw’s case. The next day, according to the plea agreement, Roland met with Shaw and received the Ecstasy.

COLORADO

Suspect kills self in airplane lavatory

DENVER — A man hanged himself in an airplane lavatory days after being arrested for reportedly driving his new car through a dealership’s showroom and setting a nearly $1 million fire, authorities said yesterday.

A United Airlines flight from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles was diverted to Denver after Gerald Georgettis’ body was found. The Denver medical examiner ruled the death a suicide.

In Miami, Georgettis, 56, was accused of driving his new Ford Escape through the Metro Ford dealership’s showroom on Saturday before pouring gasoline on it and lighting it. Miami-Dade County police have said he was upset about how much he paid for his car.

Georgettis was charged with arson and felony criminal mischief and released Sunday on $1,500 bail.

CONNECTICUT

Communion drink sickens dozens

NEW HAVEN — Grape juice that sickened 40 persons during a Sunday church Communion service was tainted, prompting authorities to start a criminal investigation, police said yesterday.

No one was seriously injured after drinking the liquid Sunday, but five persons were taken to hospitals with nausea and parishioners reported a burning sensation in their throats.

“Somebody placed this substance into the grape juice,” Capt. Fred Komm said. “We are considering this a crime and investigating it as such.”

Capt. Komm said authorities had not identified the substance conclusively but had ruled out arsenic and other common poisons.

FLORIDA

Lawmakers view tape of ‘horrific’ beating

TALLAHASSEE — A videotape shows guards brutally beating a boy at a military-style boot camp for juvenile delinquents not long before the teenager died, two lawmakers said yesterday.

Martin Lee Anderson, 14, died Jan. 6 at a Pensacola hospital, a day after he entered the camp because of an arrest for theft.

He complained of breathing difficulties and collapsed during exercises that were part of the entry process at the camp, which was run by the Bay County Sheriff’s Office.

State Rep. Gus Barreiro, a Republican, called the videotape “horrific,” saying he had “never seen any kid being brutalized … the way I saw this young man being brutalized.”

The boy’s family plans to sue Bay County and the state Department of Juvenile Justice, which oversees boot camp programs.

ILLINOIS

Chicago bans street performers

CHICAGO — The Bucket Boys and other street musicians have been banned from a stretch of the Magnificent Mile, the city’s upscale shopping district along Michigan Avenue.

The City Council passed the ordinance Wednesday, with some aldermen saying the performers and the crowds they draw create a safety hazard on the sidewalks, and others saying the noise disturbs residents of nearby condominiums.

The Bucket Boys, teenagers who bang out catchy beats on makeshift drums, have performed during halftime at Chicago Bulls basketball games and tend to draw large street crowds along Michigan Avenue.

Under the ban, they and other street musicians face $500 fines.

MASSACHUSETTS

Pharmacy probe finds multiple errors

BOSTON — A state investigation of CVS pharmacies confirmed dozens of prescription errors since 2002, including one that sent a 4-year-old girl to a hospital, officials said yesterday.

Other problems identified during on-site inspections included look-alike medications stocked next to each other, improperly labeled inventory and a poor ratio of pharmacists to support personnel.

None of the 62 verified errors or other problems was fatal, said Jean Pontikas, director of the Department of Public Health Division of Health Professions Licensure.

PENNSYLVANIA

Pastor hopes to link church, state schools

STATE COLLEGE — Clergy hope to establish a branch of a Christian college near the Pennsylvania State University campus where students could take religion classes that would count toward graduation requirements.

The Rev. Paul Grabill, an Assemblies of God pastor who leads the effort, has not announced an arrangement with a specific Christian college but said he hopes to operate with accredited professors and 50 to 200 students by next year.

Penn State’s undergraduate dean, Robert Pangborn, said communication with Mr. Grabill is preliminary and it is too soon to determine whether the university would grant credit to courses from the planned school.

SOUTH DAKOTA

Legislation to ban abortions advances

PIERRE — Legislation banning nearly all abortions in South Dakota easily passed a House committee and now goes to the full House.

Abortion providers would be charged with a felony carrying a penalty of up to five years in prison if it becomes law. Abortions would be allowed if the mother’s life was in danger.

TEXAS

Man executed for slaying co-worker

HUNTSVILLE — A paroled burglar who said he wanted to be a serial killer of minorities was executed Wednesday for the 1998 slaying of a mentally impaired woman who once worked with him.

Robert Neville Jr., 31, apologized to Amy Robinson’s family as they watched from an observation room.

“I hope you can find it in yourselves to forgive me, and I hope all this here will kind of settle your pain. … I just want you to know I am very sorry for what I have done,” he said.

Neville and a companion were condemned for abducting Miss Robinson as she rode her bike to the Dallas-area supermarket where all three had worked. They took her to a remote area and shot her with a rifle as she begged for her life.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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