- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 3, 2007

Army secretary steps down after scandal

Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey abruptly stepped down yesterday as the Bush administration struggled to cope with the fallout from a scandal over substandard conditions for war-wounded troops at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the District.

Hours earlier, President Bush ordered a comprehensive review of conditions at the nation’s network of military and veteran hospitals in the wake of the disclosures.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates reportedly was displeased that the officer Mr. Harvey had chosen as interim commander of Walter Reed — Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, a former commander of Walter Reed — has been accused by critics of long knowing about the problems and not improving outpatient care.

On Thursday, Mr. Harvey fired the medical center’s previous commander, Maj. Gen. George Weightman, for failures linked to the outpatient treatment controversy.

The Army announced yesterday that Maj. Gen. Eric R. Schoomaker will be the new commander of Walter Reed.

Gore inadvertently skips airport security

Former Vice President Al Gore and his aides inadvertently skirted security screening at Nashville International Airport on their way to a global warming conference in Miami this week.

Mr. Gore’s office alerted the airport of his impending arrival Wednesday, said Lynne Lowrance, an airport spokeswoman.

An airport police official waited near the door to escort the former vice president to the screening area. When Mr. Gore and his two aides failed to show up, the officer checked with Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners, who confirmed they had not seen the group.

“He began wondering what happened, and he went into the concourse and saw them at [the gate],” Mrs. Lowrance said.

The officer alerted the TSA that Mr. Gore and his aides had not cleared security. As it turned out, the Gore party had been led around the screening area by an American Airlines employee.

“There was no operational impact” as a result of the security breach, TSA spokeswoman Amy Kudwa said.

The American Airlines employee was cited for breaching the rules and must retake a security class.

Three acquitted in nightclub stampede

CHICAGO — A judge yesterday acquitted a business owner, manager and promoter accused of manslaughter in a 2003 nightclub stampede that killed 21 persons.

In his ruling, Cook County Judge Dennis Porter agreed with defense attorneys that prosecutors had failed to show the men played any role in causing the tragedy.

The February 2003 stampede at the E2 club started after someone used pepper spray to break up a dance-floor fight, sending people fleeing down narrow stairs to an exit, authorities said. The force of the bodies piling against the doors prevented them from being opened. More than 50 people were injured.

Acquitted of involuntary manslaughter were club owner Calvin Hollins Jr., his son and club manager Calvin Hollins III and party promoter Marco Flores. Another club owner, Dwain Kyles, is being tried separately and was not affected by yesterday’s decision, prosecution spokeswoman Tandra Simonton said.

2 teens, bank teller held in Georgia heist

ACWORTH, Ga. — Police arrested two 19-year-old women and a bank teller in a brazen robbery in which the two women disguised in sunglasses were caught on videotape laughing as they held up a bank branch.

After a brief car chase Thursday, the three were arrested about 20 miles from the bank that had been robbed two days earlier, said Douglas County Sheriff’s Maj. M.O. Harper.

The young bandits had given the teller a note demanding money from the Bank of America branch at a Kroger grocery.

Ashley Miller and Heather Johnston, both 19, and Benny Herman Allen III, 22, were charged with felony theft and marijuana possession, said Cobb County Police spokeswoman Cassie Reece. Michael Chastang, 27, also was arrested and charged with felony theft and drug trafficking, authorities said. It wasn’t clear if they had attorneys.

Libby jurors seek definition from judge

Jurors asked for a definition of “reasonable doubt” as they completed a shortened, eighth day of deliberations yesterday in the perjury trial of former White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr.

They were to get an answer when they return Monday morning.

The written question the jurors sent to the judge suggested they were discussing Mr. Libby’s memory, a key element in his defense.

“We would like clarification of the term ‘reasonable doubt,’ ” jurors wrote. “Specifically, is it necessary for the government to present evidence that it is not humanly possible for someone not to recall an event in order to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

From staff reports and wire dispatches

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