- The Washington Times - Friday, May 12, 2006

GEORGIA

Last of 48th Brigade comes home

FORT STEWART — The 48th Infantry Brigade’s mission to Iraq ended officially yesterday, as the last 280 Georgia National Guard members returned from a yearlong deployment.

Hundreds of family members greeted the citizen soldiers with loud cheers and applause during a brief homecoming ceremony at Fort Stewart, where the brigade’s 4,300 troops began arriving three weeks ago.

“I feel like we really showed that the 48th Brigade and the Georgia National Guard could do the job,” said Sgt. Kenneth E. Holliday, 50, of Glennville.

NEW YORK

Trade center site chief quits

NEW YORK — The head of the agency overseeing development of the World Trade Center site said yesterday he would resign at the end of the month, citing the wishes of his family and doctor.

John Whitehead, 84, chairman of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., also is leaving his post as chairman of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation, but will remain on its board. Thomas Johnson, the retired chief executive officer of GreenPoint Financial Corp., who lost his son on September 11, took over his duties at the foundation. The board will elect a new chairman.

Two weeks ago, the developer and landowner reached an agreement on constructing four office towers that would replace most of the 10 million square feet of office space lost when the Twin Towers were destroyed.

“I am sorry to have to make this announcement at such a challenging moment, but my family and now my doctor have become increasingly insistent,” Mr. Whitehead said.

ALABAMA

Fire destroys rural church

BIRMINGHAM — State investigators yesterday were searching for the source of an early morning fire that destroyed a rural Alabama church, the state’s 15th church fire since February.

Ragan Ingram, a spokesman for the state fire marshal’s office, said it was too early to determine whether the latest fire was an accident or a copycat of an arson spree.

Thirteen of the fires have been ruled arson, including nine in which a trio of Birmingham-area college students have been charged.

Tubbs Church of Christ in Oakman, about 30 miles northwest of Birmingham, burned yesterday.

ARIZONA

High court upholds 200-year sentence

PHOENIX — The state Supreme Court upheld a former high school teacher’s 200-year sentence for possessing child pornography, saying the Legislature required the tough sentence.

Morton Berger’s attorneys had argued that the 20 consecutive 10-year sentences for 20 images, with no parole or early release possible, was unconstitutionally cruel and unusual.

FLORIDA

Alligator grabs, kills jogger near canal

MIAMI — An alligator grabbed and killed a Florida woman who disappeared while jogging near a canal Tuesday, a medical examiner determined yesterday.

Construction workers found the dismembered body of Yovy Suarez Jimenez, 28, floating Wednesday in a canal in Sunrise, a northwest suburb of Fort Lauderdale. An autopsy showed she died of bleeding and shock from alligator bites.

Earlier this week, a 74-year-old woman in southwestern Florida was bitten on the leg by an alligator while she was watering her plants, but managed to beat back the reptile with her garden hose.

“I just whacked him right in the snout with the nozzle,” the Fort Myers woman told the local New Press daily. She received three puncture wounds and some smaller scrapes and abrasions. The gator retreated to a canal.

ILLINOIS

Ryan’s political aide given 8 months

CHICAGO — A federal judge sentenced a longtime political adviser of former Gov. George Ryan to eight months in prison yesterday on tax fraud charges.

Donald Udstuen, a former lobbyist for the Illinois State Medical Society, pleaded guilty in 2003 and became a key witness in the racketeering trial that lead to Ryan’s conviction last month.

During the former governor’s trial, Udstuen testified that he arranged with Ryan co-defendant Larry Warner to receive thousands of dollars in secret lobbying fees from a $25 million state computer contract.

KENTUCKY

Governor charged with misconduct

FRANKFORT — A grand jury indicted Gov. Ernie Fletcher on misdemeanor charges yesterday, accusing him of illegally rewarding political supporters with state jobs since taking office two years ago.

Mr. Fletcher, a Republican, was charged with conspiracy, official misconduct and violating a prohibition against political discrimination. A conviction on any of the counts could lead to jail time and Mr. Fletcher’s removal from office, said Vicki Glass, spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office.

Fletcher spokesman Brett Hall said the Republican governor was not surprised by the indictment, given Democratic Attorney General Greg Stumbo’s ongoing investigation into the administration’s hiring practices.

“This has been a politically motivated, media-driven investigation from the start,” Mr. Hall said, adding that the governor’s staff was reviewing its options “in the wake of this malicious prosecution.”

In Kentucky’s legislature, reaction also split along party lines, with the House’s top Democrat calling the indictment a “sad day in the history of our commonwealth,” and the Senate’s top Republican dismissing the case as mere politics.

MICHIGAN

Club where rapper killed ordered shut

DETROIT — A nightclub where the rapper Proof, a protege of Eminem, died in a shootout that also killed another man will close for a year under a deal with authorities.

The CCC nightclub also must pay fines for illegally operating after hours, the Wayne County prosecutors said. The settlement and the fines were scheduled to be announced at a court hearing yesterday, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Proof, 32, whose real name was Deshaun Holton, died April 11 after being shot in a fight that occurred 21/2 hours after the club’s legal closing time. Proof was a member of the rap group D12 and was the best man at Eminem’s January wedding.

Army veteran Keith Bender, 35, also was shot and died a week later.

MISSOURI

Woman reimbursed for wrong calls

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri’s social service agency reimbursed a Montana businesswoman $223 for having to field more than 1,000 calls after it mistakenly listed her toll-free number on letters to Medicaid recipients.

The letter, mailed in August to 339,000 adult Medicaid recipients, listed Sharon Curtiss-Rivera’s business phone as the hot line for hearing- and speech-impaired people whose services were being cut.

Instead of simply hanging up, she said Wednesday, she listened to some callers as they described their medical woes and expressed frustration and confusion that they no longer would be covered.

It “started off to be horrifying, but I feel like it turned into a positive thing,” she said. “I felt like I did some nice things for quite a few people.”

TENNESSEE

Universal carding for beer nears

NASHVILLE — Tennessee is close to becoming the first state to require stores selling beer to check the age of every buyer, even those obviously older than 21.

The universal carding legislation sponsored by Rep. Gary Moore, Joelton Democrat, passed the House yesterday on a vote of 75-20. The Senate approved the legislation unanimously last week but must consider the bill again because the House amended it.

Besides requiring carding, the legislation would create a voluntary “responsible vendors program.” In return for training and certifying clerks, stores in the responsible vendors program would face lower fines and couldn’t have their beer permits revoked for a first offense of selling to underage drinkers.

Mr. Moore said he expects the Senate to concur with the House version and Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, to sign the legislation. A spokeswoman in the governor’s office said he hasn’t seen the bill, and therefore couldn’t comment on it.

TEXAS

Illegal aliens found in refrigerated trailer

LAREDO — Sheriff’s deputies found 56 illegal aliens locked inside a refrigerated trailer with no driver in sight and no way for the shivering human cargo to escape. Two suspected immigrant smugglers from Mexico were later arrested.

An anonymous call led deputies to the trailer in a warehouse district of Laredo. The key was in the ignition and the trailer’s refrigeration was on, Webb County Sheriff Rick Flores said.

The 43 men, 11 women and two children had been in the truck for about six hours, Sheriff Flores said. None was injured, but when deputies found them, they were bunched together in the center of the trailer to avoid the icy walls and to try to stay warm.

Sheriff Flores said the smugglers may have had trouble finding a driver.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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