King’s widow to have viewing at state Capitol
ATLANTA — Coretta Scott King will be given a public viewing in the rotunda of the Georgia Capitol at the governor’s invitation, her family announced yesterday.
In a statement, the King family announced funeral plans for the widow of Martin Luther King that include a viewing at the Capitol tomorrow; a viewing Monday at Ebenezer Baptist Church, King’s longtime pulpit; and a funeral Tuesday at a 10,000-seat Baptist church in suburban Atlanta where the Kings’ youngest child, Bernice, is a minister.
Mrs. King, 78, died Tuesday at an alternative medicine clinic in Mexico where she had sought treatment for advanced ovarian cancer.
Teen sought in gay-bar attack
NEW BEDFORD — A young man dressed all in black went on a rampage at a homosexual bar with a hatchet and a gun early yesterday, wounding three patrons in what police said appeared to be a hate crime.
One victim was in critical condition with head wounds.
Police searched for Jacob D. Robida, 18, who was wanted on charges of attempted murder, assault and civil-rights violations.
According to court papers, Mr. Robida’s mother told police that he briefly stopped by the house less than an hour after the brawl and was bleeding from the head.
A woman in the bar recognized Mr. Robida as a current or former student at New Bedford High School, according to court papers.
Judge upholds multilingual exams
MONTGOMERY — A judge ruled Wednesday that offering driver’s license exams in a dozen languages is not in violation of a 1990 amendment to the state constitution, which declares English the official language of Alabama.
Circuit Judge William Shashy said the amendment “makes English Alabama’s official language — not its only language.”
He issued the ruling in a lawsuit filed against the state by a nonprofit group called ProEnglish, which says the test should be administered only in English. The group argued that the Alabama Department of Public Safety’s practice of allowing tests in multiple languages violated the state constitution and endangers all drivers.
Attorneys for the state said limiting the test to English would violate federal anti-bias law because it would have a “disparate impact” on non-English speakers.
Center to support campus Christians
SCOTTSDALE — The Alliance Defense Fund, whose volunteer lawyers represent evangelical Christians, has created a Center for Academic Freedom focusing on university students.
The effort is supported by leaders of Campus Crusade for Christ, Christian Legal Society, Chi Alpha, Campus Ambassadors, Every Nation Campus Ministries, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and the Navigators.
The center started a Web site, www.universitystudentspeech.org, to inform students about legal rights to religious expression.
The center’s director is Harvard Law graduate David French, former president of the secular Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
Former lawmaker imprisoned for bribery
BRIDGEPORT — A former state senator who was once one of Connecticut’s top minority leaders was sentenced to five years in prison yesterday for accepting a $5,000 bribe and other charges.
Ernest Newton resigned from the Senate in September, a day before pleading guilty to bribery, tax evasion and mail fraud.
His sentencing yesterday was the latest in a wave of corruption cases in Connecticut that have sent former Gov. John G. Rowland and others to prison.
During the hearing, Newton apologized to his family, community and the legislature, saying, “Not only have I let you down but I’ve let myself down.”
The $5,000 bribe came from a job training facility operator, Warren Godbolt, who pleaded guilty to paying the bribe and has yet to be sentenced. U.S. District Judge Alan Nevas said yesterday that Newton clearly obstructed justice by instructing Godbolt to lie to the FBI.
Marriage backers set ballot goal
TALLAHASSEE — Backers of an amendment that would outlaw same-sex “marriage” said yesterday they will try to get it on the November 2008 ballot because they failed to collect enough signatures for this year’s ballot.
“The people started this amendment and the people will finish it,” said John Stemberger, chairman of Florida4Marriage.org.
On Wednesday, the Florida Division of Elections said the group turned in 456,336 verified petitions. However, this is about 155,000 short of the 611,009 petitions needed.
Mr. Stemberger said the 456,336 petitions “remain valid through 2008.”
Ryan prosecutors rest their case
CHICAGO — Prosecutors rested their corruption case against former Gov. George Ryan yesterday after 18 weeks in which witnesses told how he received free vacations and other valuables while friends and lobbyists got rich on state contracts.
“Your honor, at this time the government would rest its case,” federal prosecutor Patrick M. Collins told U.S. District Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer.
Mr. Ryan’s chief counsel, Dan K. Webb, immediately called his first witness, Alexander Lerner, chief executive officer of the Illinois State Medical Society and a longtime friend of Mr. Ryan. The defense is expected to last several weeks.
Mr. Ryan, 71, says he did nothing illegal.
Medical helicopter crashes in yard
CHESTERFIELD — A medical helicopter crashed yesterday morning in a small town, clipping a home and trees and injuring the three persons on board.
Emergency crews had to cut through the wreckage to free the pilot, nurse and paramedic, police said. All three were in serious condition at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, said Clarian Health Partners spokesman Jon Mills.
PHI Air Medical’s regional program director, Joel Hochhalter, said the helicopter was on a medical run shortly before 2 a.m., but he wasn’t sure of the destination. The private air ambulance service, with headquarters in Lafayette, La., has an operation at Anderson Municipal Airport, not far from where the helicopter crashed behind a home.
The Federal Aviation Administration sent investigators to the crash site.
Committee clears 70 mph speed limit
FRANKFORT — A proposal to raise Kentucky’s speed limit to 70 mph made it through a Senate committee. The measure now heads to the full Senate.
If it makes it through the General Assembly and becomes law, Kentucky would be among 30 other states with maximum speeds of at least 70 mph. The measure would affect only rural, four-lane interstate highways and parkways.
Officer killed in confrontation
LAS VEGAS — A police officer was fatally shot Wednesday when a man suspected of beating a woman with a stick suddenly sprayed police with gunfire, authorities said.
A second officer was wounded and the shooting suspect, identified as Amir Crump, 22, also was killed.
Sgt. Henry Prendes, 37, was the first Las Vegas officer to die in the line of duty in 18 years. He was a 14-year police veteran.
Police said gunfire broke out about 1:20 p.m. after officers were called to a home where a man reportedly was beating a woman.
Police cite wife in man’s robbery
NASHUA — A woman angered by her husband’s refusal to give her money arranged for two men to break in and rob him of more than $2,500 as he slept, police said.
Beth Ortiz, 35, had argued with her husband, Valente Ortiz, 28, about money last Friday and left their apartment, police said.
Before going to bed, Mr. Ortiz left the apartment unlocked, expecting his wife’s return, police said. Instead, he told police, he was awakened by two men who rifled through his pants, taking cash from his wallet and pocket. One of the men reportedly punched him, police said.
Raymond Alleyne, 22, and Anthony Perkins, 20, both of Nashua, were arrested after police found them with Mrs. Ortiz at another apartment. Mrs. Ortiz was charged with conspiracy, Mr. Alleyne with burglary, and Mr. Perkins with burglary and simple assault.
Man dies in jump from 66th floor
NEW YORK — A 21-year-old man jumped to his death from the Empire State Building, police said yesterday.
Dovid Abramowitz had bought a ticket to the 86th-floor observation deck but found his way to a vacant office on the 66th floor, where he jumped Wednesday afternoon, police spokesman Lt. John Grimpel said. His body was discovered on a sixth-floor landing.
Mr. Abramowitz, who lived in Manhattan, did not work in the building, said Detective John Sweeney. Detective Sweeney did not know how the man reached the 66th-floor office. Police also had no information on whether a suicide note was left behind.
More than 30 people have committed suicide at the building since it opened in 1931.
Graham to speak at son’s festival
CHARLOTTE — The Rev. Billy Graham, 87, plans to participate in son Franklin’s evangelistic festival March 11 and 12 at the New Orleans Arena and deliver a “message of hope” to the struggling city.
Aides said Mr. Graham’s appearance last year in New York City was his last large-scale revival meeting but haven’t ruled out occasional speaking engagements.
Spokesman Jeremy Blume said Mr. Graham has monitored the devastation in New Orleans and Mississippi’s Gulf Coast and relief efforts there by his own organization and the Samaritan’s Purse relief group, both led by Franklin Graham.
Samaritan’s Purse said it has provided more than $30 million in aid to Katrina victims.
Boy investigated for violent essay
WEST WARWICK — The Secret Service is investigating a seventh-grader who wrote a school essay that authorities say advocated violence against President Bush, talk show host Oprah Winfrey and others.
The boy’s homework assignment for English class was to write what he would do on a perfect day. In addition to the president and Miss Winfrey, the boy wrote that violence should be directed at executives of Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart, police and school officials said.
“His perfect day would be to see the destruction of these people,” Superintendent David Raiche said.
Authorities would not identify the boy or his teacher or release a copy of the essay.
The boy has been temporarily barred from school.
Horse, bike riders exempted from DUI
PIERRE — State lawmakers decided Wednesday that it is better to have drunks on horses and bicycles instead of behind the wheel of a car.
The state Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill by a vote of 6-1 that will exempt horses and bikes from drunken-driving laws, meaning intoxicated people who either pedal or saddle up to get home cannot be arrested for drunken driving.
Sen. Lee Schoenbeck said the legislation will make the roads safer for other motorists. A former lawman, Sen. Gene Abdallah, agreed.
Prosecutors opposed the bill. Chuck Schroyer, lobbyist for the State’s Attorneys Association, said arrests have been made in several counties for riding horses while intoxicated. In one instance, a drunken rider passed out and his horse was struck by a car, injuring several people, Mr. Schroyer said.
Legislators, however, said prosecutors still can charge drunken riders on horses and bicycles with disorderly conduct, it was suggested.
Christian bookstores losing to Wal-Mart
NASHVILLE — At the annual convention of the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA), retailers continued to fret over competition from Wal-Mart and big bookstore chains.
Association membership peaked at around 3,000 stores in the early 1990s but now totals fewer than 2,300. CBA said 337 retailers closed last year.
CBA President Bill Anderson said the independent retailers should emphasize their wider selection, knowledgeable employees and partnerships with local churches.
To compete, independents such as Steve Gray of Eddyville, Ky., look beyond books to sell music, gifts, jewelry, stationery, hymnals and Communion supplies. Books now account for only 40 percent of sales in Christian retail stores.
Yates leaves jail, heads to hospital
HOUSTON — Andrea Yates left jail early yesterday for a state mental hospital, where she will await her second capital murder trial for the drowning deaths of her children.
A bondsman, a friend of Mrs. Yates’ attorney, posted her $200,000 bond, releasing her from incarceration for the first time since the five children were drowned in the family bathtub in June 2001.
Attorney George Parnham said the bondsman agreed to charge only his costs for the bond, which will be far less than the $20,000 normally required.
State District Judge Belinda Hill set the bond Wednesday.
Mrs. Yates didn’t speak as she left the jail. She carried a brown paper sack and wore jeans and a blue-and-white striped shirt as she entered a car with her attorney and a private investigator for the drive to the mental hospital.
The judge said she couldn’t order Mrs. Yates to commit herself to the Rusk State Hospital, but that she set the bond based on her remaining time until her March 20 trial. Once the trial begins, Mrs. Yates will return to jail.
Mines heed call for safety checks
CHARLESTON — Thousands of West Virginia miners got safety lectures at the start of their shifts and officials began a round of inspections across the No. 2 coal-producing state yesterday in a “time-out” urged by the governor.
Sixteen West Virginia miners have been killed in the past month in what is already the deadliest year in the state’s coal fields in more than a decade.
Gov. Joe Manchin III said he was pleased that mining companies were heeding his request to suspend production and hold discussions to reinforce safety. Some companies said they spent a half-hour to an hour talking safety before sending their miners to work.
Consol Energy spokesman Thomas Hoffman said safety talks were held at the beginning of each shift at its mines in West Virginia and elsewhere across the country.
From wire dispatches and staff reports