- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 14, 2006

ALABAMA

Lawmaker’s feud ends in flat tire

MONTGOMERY — A state lawmaker who says he got blocked in by another car decided to deflate one of the other car’s tires.

State Rep. Albert Hall says he now regrets what he did. He later learned the driver was the wife of Rep. Allen Layson, a fellow Democrat.

Mr. Hall, who wiggled his way out, said he did not let the tire all the way down.

“I just wanted her to have to stop and put some air in her tire and trouble her a little, too,” he said.

Mr. Hall, a member of the House committee that addresses parking regulations, said people have been blocking him in or taking his spot throughout the legislative session. He said he has called wreckers to tow away cars parked in his spot.

ARIZONA

Republican quits governor’s race

PHOENIX — Former state Senate President John Greene withdrew from the governor’s race yesterday, saying he no longer thinks he can win the Republican nomination. He added that many potential backers think Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, will win re-election.

The Republican nomination “appears out of reach,” said Mr. Greene, a fiscal conservative but a supporter of abortion rights.

Mr. Greene was at odds with many fellow Republicans over a proposed amendment to the Arizona Constitution that would have prohibited same-sex “marriages.”

Republicans still in the race are Len Munsil, former president of the Center for Arizona Policy; retired appeals court Judge Jan Smith Florez; and Don Goldwater, a party activist who is a nephew of the late Sen. Barry Goldwater.

A Phoenix lawyer, Mr. Greene served six years in the Senate during the 1990s, including four years as president. He left the Legislature in 1997.

ARKANSAS

Political leaders oppose casino plan

FORT SMITH — Political leaders in Arkansas have begun lining up to oppose a proposed American Indian casino in Fort Smith.

The casino would be built on non-reservation land by the Keetoowah Band of Cherokees, based in Oklahoma. U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, a Democrat, says he is considering support of a bill that would ban Indian casinos on land that is not part of a reservation.

CALIFORNIA

Ex-game show host among crash fatalities

SANTA MONICA — A former TV game show host and his wife were killed yesterday morning when their small plane crashed into Santa Monica Bay, authorities said. Rescue crews were searching for a third person also aboard the plane.

The bodies of Peter Tomarken, 63, host of the hit 1980s show “Press Your Luck,” and his wife, Kathleen Abigail Tomarken, 41, were identified by the Los Angeles County coroner’s office.

The plane was on its way to San Diego to ferry a medical patient to the UCLA Medical Center, said Doug Griffith, a spokesman for Angel Flight West, a nonprofit that provides free air transportation for needy patients.

The plane apparently had engine trouble and was headed back to Santa Monica Airport, about two miles inland, but went down about 9:35 a.m. just off shore, said Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer.

GEORGIA

Shooting suspect seeks venue change

ATLANTA — Attorneys for accused Atlanta courthouse gunman Brian Nichols asked a judge yesterday to move the defendant’s murder trial to an Army installation that is among those slated for closure by the military.

Superior Court Judge Hilton Fuller has ruled that the Oct. 3 trial will be held in the same courthouse complex where the deadly shooting rampage started, but Nichols’ attorneys are asking him to reconsider.

The attorneys argued again in their new motion that holding the trial at the Fulton County Courthouse complex would be tantamount to holding court in a crime scene. They argued that potential jurors could be affected by such a scenario.

They said they think the court-martial room at Fort McPherson, near Atlanta, could be converted into an appropriate courtroom for Nichols’ trial, and they noted it is in Fulton County.

Prosecutors gave no response. However, the state did respond yesterday afternoon to a flurry of other defense motions, including a defense request to throw out statements Nichols made to police after his arrest. Hearings on those motions are scheduled to begin March 27.

LOUISIANA

Historic black parish faces uncertain future

NEW ORLEANS — Mass at one of the nation’s oldest black Roman Catholic parishes was filled with jazzy renditions of gospel songs and prayers that church officials would reverse their decision to merge it with another parish, a move prompted by the financial strain of Hurricane Katrina.

“A parish is family. A parish is generations. A parish is your history,” said Sandra Gordon, who began attending St. Augustine Church as a child, after Hurricane Betsy wiped out her family’s previous parish in 1965.

St. Augustine, founded in 1841 by slaves and free people of color, is among the parishes the archdiocese plans to consolidate as it seeks to deal with $84 million in uninsured losses.

The archdiocese is careful to point out that St. Augustine’s will close only as a parish but will be open for Mass on Sundays and some other functions such as funerals and weddings. Its building suffered only wind damage from Katrina and will remain open.

Members of the parish, though, say it is not enough. They officially appealed the decision to the Archdiocese of New Orleans on Thursday. The Rev. William Maestri, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said yesterday that the archdiocese had no plans to reverse its decision to officially close the parish tomorrow.

NEW YORK

New Gotti trial set for July 5

NEW YORK — A federal judge yesterday ordered yet another racketeering trial for suspected Mafia boss John “Junior” Gotti, after a jury last week failed to reach a verdict for the second time in six months.

The trial set for July 5 would be the third trial on the same charges for Mr. Gotti, 42, whose father was one of New York’s most notorious crime bosses.

Mr. Gotti was accused of leading the Gambino crime family, extorting construction companies, loan-sharking and ordering a brutal attack on Curtis Sliwa, the founder of New York’s Guardian Angels anti-crime patrol.

At the first trial in September, Mr. Gotti was acquitted of securities fraud while the jury was split on the other charges. The 12-member panel must be unanimous in order to convict or acquit a defendant.

On Friday, a new jury declared itself hopelessly deadlocked after a day and a half of deliberations.

OHIO

Theft suspect caught asking directions

SMITHFIELD — Lost on a highway, a motorist stopped to ask for directions at the home of a man who suspected the car had been stolen from his daughter, authorities said.

Michael Chapman, 54, is accused of stealing the car from a residential street Wednesday morning in Hopedale. He drove east for three miles, then pulled off state Route 151 needing directions to a nearby town and stopped randomly at the home of Thomas Eltringham, officials said.

Mr. Eltringham, 67, gave the directions, but when Mr. Chapman drove off, Mr. Eltringham called his daughter, fearing that the gold 2001 Buick LeSabre might have been hers, said Capt. R.J. Myers of the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office.

Norma Harris told her father that she had started the car, left it running so it could warm up and went back into her house, Capt. Myers said.

A patrol officer spotted the car about 25 miles away near Smithfield and chased it. The driver pulled into a driveway, got out and ran away, authorities said. Mr. Chapman was found hiding behind an auto sales office and was arrested.

OREGON

Cuddling permitted under seat-belt law

McMINNVILLE — A newlywed who likes to cuddle up to her husband while he is driving now can do so without worrying about getting a ticket for a seat-belt violation.

Faith Miller of Willamina got a warning last summer from Sheriff’s Deputy Darren Broome for wearing a lap belt instead of a shoulder harness.

Then, just two days before Valentine’s Day, the Millers crossed paths with Deputy Broome again. This time, she got a citation for $97. She began looking through Oregon’s seat-belt laws and found a provision requiring shoulder harnesses for children, but no comparable provision for adults. As far as she could tell, harnesses were recommended, but not required.

When Mrs. Miller told Lt. Paul May at the sheriff’s office about her findings, he did some research of his own and verified her findings, voiding the ticket.

PENNSYLVANIA

Students get prizes for test scores

PHILADELPHIA — Schools are using prizes and food to motivate students for the high-pressure state assessment tests. Third- through eighth-graders and high school juniors will take the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment in math and reading from Monday to March 31.

Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, schools that don’t show adequate progress in their assessments face penalties.

TEXAS

Places of worship use strip malls

HOUSTON — In strip malls citywide, spaces formerly used to sell merchandise now sell messages of love, salvation and prayer.

Churches are increasingly snapping up vacant retail space, analysts say. Congregations support the moves because they place churches in visible and accessible locations and attract new parishioners with a familiar atmosphere.

WASHINGTON

Jetliner evacuated after bullet found

SEATTLE — Passengers were taken off an Alaska Airlines plane Sunday after a federal air marshal found a bullet in the cabin, the airline said.

Airline spokeswoman Caroline Boren said Transportation Security Administration agents found no gun or any other items of concern during a subsequent search of the San Francisco-bound aircraft.

TSA agents rescreened passengers of Flight 384, which had been scheduled to depart Seattle-Tacoma International Airport at 3:15 p.m. The plane took off at 5:43 p.m., Miss Boren said.

It was not immediately clear how the bullet got onto the plane.

Miss Boren said she did not know what happened, but noted that the airline flies hunters to Alaska, and that from time to time, bullets have fallen out of passengers’ pockets.

WISCONSIN

Missing pet found after eight months

GREEN BAY — Truck driver John Withers says he “cried like a little girl” when his dog ran away.

So the Georgia man didn’t hesitate to make the 1,050-mile drive when he heard his beloved pet had been found eight months later.

“I didn’t cry, but I was very, very happy,” Mr. Withers said of his reunion with Sir Charles Nugget, a 4-year-old chow mix.

Nugget ran away last summer when Mr. Withers was making a delivery in Lena. Since then, plenty of people spotted “a brown dog in a red collar.” Many left out food, but no one could catch the dog.

Then Mr. Withers got a phone call from Judy Fuller, the animal control officer in Little Suamico. She told him local folks were sure Nugget was the dog that had been hanging around town lately. So Mr. Withers made the drive, bringing Moose Edward, a 55-pound lab shepherd mix.

Mr. Withers spotted Nugget on Thursday lying motionless under a truck. The dog wouldn’t budge and instead watched Mr. Withers and Moose play in the snow. Except for a few briars and an extra-shaggy coat, Nugget looked the same, Mr. Withers said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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