- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 13, 2006

Kentucky governor vows to fight charges

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Gov. Ernie Fletcher said he will complete his first term and seek a second one despite an indictment on misdemeanor charges that accuse him of illegally rewarding political supporters with state jobs.

The Republican governor was charged Thursday with conspiracy, official misconduct and violating a prohibition against political discrimination. Mr. Fletcher yesterday urged Cabinet secretaries not to let his legal troubles distract them from their work.

“We cannot allow these sorts of actions to harm our efforts to move the state forward,” he said.

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

Moussaoui starts appeals of sentence

Convicted September 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui appealed the life sentence he got this month and the denial of his request for a new trial.

In a one-paragraph notice of appeal, his court-appointed attorneys said yesterday he wanted the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to review the May 4 final judgment and sentence and Judge Leonie Brinkema’s denial Monday of his request to withdraw his guilty plea and go to trial on the original charges.

The notice was required to be filed by May 18 if the 37-year-old Frenchman wanted to appeal his case. It contained no legal arguments about the case. Those will be filed later with the appeals court.

Since his sentencing, Moussaoui has said he lied when testifying at his sentencing trial that he was to hijack a fifth jetliner on September 11.

Romney angered by gay youth panel

BOSTON — Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney considered abolishing a state commission on homosexual youth after it issued an unauthorized press release, on official stationery, promoting a homosexual-pride rally hosted by a cross-dresser.

Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said the press release was “not something that we would have the governor associated with,” noting that the rally was “hosted by a cross-dresser and celebrating, among other things, transgenderism.”

The commission’s press release announced a “Wizard of Oz”-themed rally, set for today, hosted by “drag king Heywood Wakefield” and designed to celebrate “gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer (GLBTQ) youth and their supporters.”

Kathleen Henry, chairwoman of the Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth, said the governor’s chief of staff told her Thursday that Mr. Romney had issued an executive order abolishing the panel, then changed his mind. Mr. Fehrnstrom said the governor never issued such an order, although he said Mr. Romney weighed shutting down the commission, but “thought that was too harsh.” Instead, he said, Mr. Romney will direct the commission to focus on counseling and violence- and suicide-prevention strategies.

‘Wealth’ cited for asylum claim

NEW YORK — A federal appeals court has ordered an immigration board to consider whether some Guatemalans could qualify for asylum over fear of persecution for being “rich.”

Ruling in the case of a couple whose asylum claim was denied, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said a judge should have considered testimony that they had been threatened with kidnapping and that police did not help them.

Jose Godofredo Ucelo-Gomez, 37, and Ana Mariela Espana-Espinosa, 29, say they are not affluent by U.S. standards — he has been a restaurant worker in the United States and she a child care worker — but they say they would be targets in Guatemala.

When they applied for asylum, Mrs. Espana-Espinosa noted that in 1996 her sister was kidnapped for ransom by an organized political gang, shot in the leg and released the following month without a ransom payment.

Trappers hunt man-eating alligator

SUNRISE, Fla. — Trappers used pig lungs as bait as they scoured canals and other areas yesterday trying to find an alligator believed to have killed a woman.

Yovy Suarez Jimenez’s dismembered body was found in a canal Wednesday by construction workers. The 28-year-old Davie resident had left for a jog Tuesday night and did not return.

Dr. Joshua Perper, Broward County’s medical examiner, concluded Thursday that “the alligator attacked the woman while she was on land” and then dragged her body into a canal. He added that she “died of traumatic injuries sustained by an alligator attack, a mixture of blood loss and shock, and in my opinion died very fast.”

Judge suspends high-school exit exam

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A judge yesterday suspended California’s high school exit exam, denounced as discriminatory by critics, in a ruling that could allow thousands of students who failed the test to get their diplomas anyway.

The state attorney general asked that Superior Court Judge Robert Freedman immediately stay the ruling, but it was not clear whether the judge had done so because the ruling itself was not immediately posted on the court’s Web site.

The judge granted a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit filed by 10 students and their parents, who claim the exit exam discriminates against poor students and those who are learning English.

From staff reports and wire service dispatches.

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