- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 11, 2006


‘89 rape conviction erased after DNA tests

HARTFORD — A judge yesterday erased the rape conviction of a man who was exonerated by DNA evidence after spending 18 years in prison.

Recent DNA tests proved that evidence on the victim’s clothing from the 1988 crime did not match James Calvin Tillman’s genetic profile, contradicting circumstantial evidence used to convict him in 1989.

Mr. Tillman, 44, was released on his own recognizance June 6. He had been sentenced to 45 years in prison.

Mr. Tillman was 26, living in a homeless shelter, when he was charged with abducting a woman, then beating and raping her at a nearby housing project. He maintained his innocence and rejected a plea bargain that would have given him eight years in prison.


Astronauts declare mission a success so far

HOUSTON — Space Shuttle Discovery astronauts said yesterday that they had met the key goals of their mission and put NASA on the road to recovery from the 2003 Columbia disaster.

Their comments in press interviews from the shuttle came a day after a spacewalk that was hailed as a big step toward resuming assembly of the International Space Station.

“We were all hoping in NASA for two things … The first thing is that the shuttle would fly with no problems,” said astronaut Piers J. Sellers. “The second thing is that we would leave [the space] station in good shape and ready to pick up the assembly sequence,” he said. “I think we’re there now.”

President Bush called the crew yesterday morning to thank the astronauts for their work and to invite them to the White House.


Police dogs wear bulletproof vests

LOS ANGELES — Police dogs in Glendale are strutting the streets this week in bulletproof vests.

Prompted by the shooting death of a local police dog last year, an anonymous donor gave funds to protect the four dogs of his community’s K-9 unit.

Because police budgets are limited, funds for K-9 units often come from private citizens and community groups. Concerned citizens in Glendale have raised $96,000 for the crime-fighting dogs. The money will be used to feed and care for the dogs, as well as outfit the patrol cars with specialized air conditioning units, said Sgt. Tom Lorenz of the Glendale Police Department.


Doctor gets life for deadly doses

PENSACOLA — A doctor received life in prison Monday for causing the deaths of five patients through overdoses of potent painkillers.

Thomas G. Merrill, 70, was convicted in January of causing the deaths by overprescribing addictive painkillers including morphine and oxycodone. The former Air Force doctor was sentenced on 98 counts of wire fraud, health care fraud and distribution of controlled substances.

Merrill had worked at the Magnolia Clinic in Apalachicola since 1994. The state suspended his license in 2004, and a federal grand jury indicted him in August.


Departing workers split lotto jackpot

ANDERSON — Nine auto parts workers whose factory is slated to close at the end of the year have something to celebrate: a $9 million Hoosier Lotto jackpot.

For nearly 16 years, the men — all current and former Delphi Corp. employees — pooled their money to buy $50 worth of lottery tickets each week. After buying $41,000 in tickets, they finally matched all six numbers in the July 1 drawing.

“This was the last week we were going to play. We made a joke leaving work saying, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to hit the lottery this last time?’ ” said Dick Quinn, 59, who managed the workers’ lottery pool.

The winners — Mr. Quinn, Ralph Flesher, Richard Howard, Charles Hughes, Monty Porter, Nicholas Gray, Jeff Fisher, Bill Harrison and Russell Deck — all decided to take the cash option, worth $3.7 million. Each received an equal share of $370,000 before taxes, except Mr. Quinn, who got $740,000, Hoosier Lottery officials said.

“There used to be 10 of us, but one dropped out,” Mr. Quinn said. “I picked up the cost of the extra ticket each week. I’m happy I did.”


6 officers accused of aiding drug ring

NEWARK — Six law-enforcement officers were indicted yesterday on charges that they tipped off a suspected drug ring about police raids in exchange for drugs.

What began as a “social relationship” between the northern New Jersey officers and their young contemporaries soon spiraled out of control, authorities said.

The main drugs involved were the powerful painkiller OxyContin and the sleeping pill Ambien.

The officers were arrested within the past 18 months, but the case was made public yesterday with the indictments.

Each officer was suspended and faces arraignment in four to six weeks on charges including conspiracy to commit official misconduct, conspiracy to possess narcotics, official misconduct, witness tampering and hindering apprehension.


Afghan heroin kingpin pleads guilty

NEW YORK — The first Afghan heroin kingpin ever extradited to the United States, designated last year by President Bush under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, pleaded guilty yesterday in a federal court in Manhattan to conspiracy to import the drug into this country.

Baz Mohammad pleaded guilty to leading an international heroin-trafficking organization responsible for manufacturing and distributing millions of dollars worth of heroin in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and arranging for the drug to be transported into the United States hidden inside suitcases, clothing and containers.

Once the heroin arrived in the United States, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents said, other members of the Mohammad organization received the heroin and distributed the drugs. The co-conspirators then arranged for millions of dollars in heroin proceeds to be laundered back to Mohammad, they said.

A federal grand jury indictment said Mohammad’s organization was closely aligned with the Taliban in Afghanistan beginning in 1990 and that during the course of the conspiracy, it provided financial support to the Taliban.


Students settle drug-raid lawsuit

CHARLESTON — A federal judge approved a $1.6 million class-action settlement to compensate students who were searched during a 2003 high school drug raid in which police with guns drawn ordered students to the floor.

U.S. District Judge Patrick Michael Duffy approved the settlement Monday in a lawsuit filed against the Berkeley County School District and the Goose Creek Police Department by students’ families.

Surveillance videotapes captured the raid at Stratford High School, in which officers drew their guns, ordered students to lie on the floor and used a dog to search them for illegal drugs. Police found no drugs and no arrests were made, though some students were handcuffed for a time.

The students will split $1.2 million. Their attorneys will receive the remaining $400,000. The exact amount each student receives will depend on the final number of claims, but could average between $6,000 and $12,000 apiece.


FBI probes video of Koran shooting

CHATTANOOGA — The FBI will investigate an online video that showed two men shooting a Koran with a military-style rifle and then leaving the bullet-riddled holy book outside a Chattanooga mosque, an agent said.

The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) asked the Justice Department to investigate, FBI agent Tim Burke said Monday.

The video, titled “Kill the Koran,” was posted on the MySpace.com social networking Web service last month, said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for CAIR. He said it may be as much as a year old. The video has been removed.

CAIR said it might have violated civil rights. Legal Director Arsalan Iftikhar compared it to burning a cross.


School district bans grills, gauging

ARLINGTON — The Arlington school district has expanded its dress codes to include mouths and earlobes.

Students may no longer wear mouth jewelry known as “grills” — shiny teeth caps — or engage in the earlobe-stretching practice known as “gauging.”

“The district is having to respond to fads because they’ve become distracters or a safety hazard for those around them,” said Malcolm Turner, the district’s executive director of student services.

The nearby Irving, Grand Prairie and DeSoto districts also ban grills, and some also address gauging — the process of placing increasingly large items in the ears to stretch the lobes.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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