- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 30, 2006

Defense rests in bus explosion trial

McALLEN, Texas — The defense rested yesterday in the trial of a bus company and its owner, accused of mismanaging the fleet before an explosion last year that killed 23 passengers during the Hurricane Rita evacuation.

James Maples and his company, Global Limo Inc., are accused in a three-count federal indictment of conspiring to falsify driver time records and failing to inspect buses to ensure their safety during a four-month period, roughly May through August, before the explosion.

Mr. Maples is not charged with the Sept. 23, 2005, accident involving one of his buses, which caught fire during the Hurricane Rita evacuation, killing 23 nursing home residents.

Closing arguments are expected to begin tomorrow. If convicted, Mr. Maples faces up to five years in prison and more than $750,000 in fines.

Third teenager sentenced in prank

KENTON, Ohio — A third teen accused of putting a deer decoy on a country road as a prank, causing a crash that seriously injured two persons, has been sentenced to 60 days in a juvenile detention center.

“My parents raised me to be a man, so I’ll stand up here and take my punishment,” Joshua Lowe, 18, said Friday in Hardin County Common Pleas Court.

Visiting Judge Gary McKinley ordered Lowe to pay $5,000 in restitution to the victims’ families and fined him $500. The teen pleaded no contest in August to two charges of vehicular vandalism.

Two boys had earlier pleaded no contest to the same charges and received the same sentence, and two others are set to be tried later this year. Both have pleaded not guilty.

Senate confirms transportation pick

The Senate early yesterday confirmed President Bush’s nomination of Mary Peters as the new secretary of transportation.

Mrs. Peters, a former federal highway administrator, succeeds Norman Y. Mineta, a Democrat who resigned in July after six years in office.

In a statement issued by the White House, Mr. Bush said Mrs. Peters is “an innovative thinker who will work with state and local leaders to confront challenges and solve problems.”

Mrs. Peters, 57, who spent most of her career in government highway jobs, is a strong advocate of privatizing roads. But highways are only a part of the Transportation Department’s portfolio. The 60,000-person department also regulates aviation, railroads, pipelines, transit and motor carriers.

Dentist’s license suspended after death

CHICAGO — State regulators have suspended the license of a dentist whose 5-year-old patient fell into a coma in his office and later died.

Dr. Hicham Riba’s practices posed an “imminent danger to the public,” the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation said Friday. It said Dr. Riba failed to properly monitor Diamond Brownridge’s blood pressure, pulse and respiration during her treatment Sept. 23 at his clinic.

Diamond died Wednesday at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago. She had been on life support for four days after her visit to Little Angel Dental to have some teeth filled and others capped.

Dr. Riba’s attorneys confirmed the suspension late Friday pending an Oct. 13 hearing.

Officer faces drug charges

MIAMI — A Miami-Dade County police officer faces drug charges after an undercover investigation found that he sold about 13 pounds of cocaine while wearing his uniform, prosecutors said.

Errol Washington Benjamin was charged with possession with intent to distribute cocaine. If convicted, he faces life imprisonment and a fine of up to $4 million, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement Friday.

Mr. Benjamin was suspended without pay, said Miami-Dade police spokesman Roy Rutland.

Authorities did not release details about the investigation, and telephone messages left for the U.S. attorney’s office were not returned.

Man in theft case wears box to court

GREENSBURG, Pa. — A man accused of theft arrived for a preliminary hearing wearing a cardboard box on his head in an effort to conceal his identity.

Justin Michael Kalich, 26, wore the box at the suggestion of his lawyer while he waited outside a judge’s office for an appointment Thursday morning.

“I’m trying to think outside of the box, so to speak,” attorney Jeff Leonard said.

Mr. Leonard said the move was prompted by concerns over whether a witness would be able to identify his client in connection with a July theft of reel wire.

Charges were dropped at the hearing when Mr. Kalich reached an agreement to pay for the wire, valued at less than $600, according to Mr. Leonard and police.

From staff reports and wire dispatches

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