Marine investigator says drop charges
SAN DIEGO — A Marine accused of murder in the deaths of Iraqi civilians, including children, in the town of Haditha should have all charges dropped against him because of weak evidence, an investigating officer recommended yesterday.
Lance Cpl. Stephen B. Tatum, 26, is charged with unpremeditated murder of two girls and negligent homicide on suspicion that he unlawfully killed two men, a woman and a boy. He is also accused of assaulting another boy and a girl.
The investigating officer, Lt. Col. Paul Ware, said the evidence was too weak for a court-martial. Cpl. Tatum, of Edmond, Okla., fatally shot civilians, but “he did so because of his training and the circumstances he was placed in, not to exact revenge and commit murder,” Col. Ware wrote.
The colonel’s recommendation is nonbinding. Lt. Gen. James Mattis, the commanding general overseeing the case, has the final word.
Televangelist says husband beat her
ATLANTA — Juanita Bynum, a televangelist with a national following for sermons about women’s empowerment, pressed charges against her estranged husband yesterday after she was bruised in a confrontation with him during a meeting to reconcile, police said.
Thomas W. Weeks III, founder of Global Destiny churches, will be charged with aggravated assault and terroristic threats, Officer Ronald Campbell said.
The struggle happened early Wednesday in the parking lot of the Renaissance Concourse Hotel near Atlanta’s airport, Officer Campbell said.
“They were talking about a reconciliation. They got into an argument. In the process of the argument, her husband walked out to the parking lot area, turned back around and started to choke Miss Bynum,” Officer Campbell said.
Wiccan accused of leaving entrails
SALEM — A self-proclaimed high priestess of Salem witches and a second person were accused of tossing raccoon parts on the doorsteps of businesses, reportedly as part of a Wiccan community feud.
Sharon Graham, 46, and a fellow Wiccan, Frederick Purtz, 22, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of littering and malicious destruction of property. Miss Graham also was charged with intimidating a witness.
They were accused of putting a raccoon head and entrails on the doorsteps of Angelica of the Angels and the Goddess’ Treasure Chest in May.
David Gavegnano, a lawyer for Miss Graham, and Sean Wynne, a lawyer for Mr. Purtz, both denied that their clients had anything to do with the incident.
A witness, Richard Watson, told police he accompanied Miss Graham, Mr. Purtz and other people when they put the raccoon remains on the doorsteps. He said Miss Graham hoped to frame a Wiccan businessman who had fired her from a psychic telephone business last spring.
2 firefighters hurt at ground zero
NEW YORK — Part of the scaffolding surrounding a condemned skyscraper at the World Trade Center site fell yesterday, injuring two firefighters, fire officials said. It was the same building where two other firefighters died in a blaze last week.
The demolition work on the former Deutsche Bank skyscraper had been suspended after Saturday’s fire, but workers yesterday were still busy removing toxic debris from its remaining 26 stories.
Shortly before 2 p.m., the two firefighters were hit by the falling material.
Fire department spokesman Frank Gribbon said scaffolding fell from the side of the building facing the World Trade Center site, leaving the two firefighters hospitalized in stable condition, one with a head injury. Initial reports that some construction workers also were injured could not be confirmed.
ICE agents raid hog-processing plant
TAR HEEL — Federal immigration agents raided the world’s largest hog-processing plant and also homes in four surrounding counties, arresting 28 persons suspected of identity theft, authorities said.
A spokesman for Smithfield Foods, which runs the plant, said company officials learned about the raid not long before federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrived about 4 a.m. Wednesday to remove some workers.
Of the 28 persons arrested, 25 were Mexican, two were Guatemalan and one was Honduran, said ICE spokesman Richard Rocha in Washington.
Eight were arrested at the plant, while the rest were arrested at home.
In January, immigration agents arrested 21 plant employees. Smithfield Foods Inc. sent letters to between 500 and 600 employees whose Social Security numbers, names or other personal information couldn’t be verified. The company fired about 50 workers, saying they provided false information.
That led to a walkout in which about 1,000 workers, most of them Hispanic, left.
Police officer pleads not guilty to rape
PROVIDENCE — A police officer pleaded not guilty Wednesday to raping a 19-year-old woman at a deserted police substation, then showing up to take a report after the woman called 911.
Marcus Huffman was arraigned in Providence Superior Court on a charge of first-degree sexual assault. A judge set bail at $50,000.
Prosecutors say Officer Huffman was on patrol March 18 when he met the woman after she was turned away from a club because she appeared intoxicated. Officer Huffman is accused of offering her a ride, driving her to the substation and raping her.
Special Assistant Attorney General Erik Wallin said prosecutors have a video showing Officer Huffman entering the substation with the woman, then leaving separately before the woman did.
Senate plans hearing on mine collapse
HUNTINGTON — As rescuers drilled a final hole into a Utah mountain yesterday to search for six missing coal miners, the U.S. Senate added its voice to a growing chorus of questions raised over the safety of the mine.
The Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees labor issues announced plans for a hearing on the mine collapse when Congress returns from its summer break Sept. 5.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, also demanded a list of documents yesterday from the Labor Department about the Crandall Canyon Mine and its operators.
Mr. Kennedy wants to review several petitions the mine’s co-owner, Bob Murray, made to the Mine Safety and Health Administration for changes in his mining plans at Crandall Canyon. Experts have said the proposed changes were risky and could have led to the Aug. 6 cave-in that trapped six miners.
From wire dispatches and staff reports