- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 20, 2007


Ex-astronaut seeks to bar evidence

ORLANDO — Former astronaut Lisa Nowak, a Navy captain, testified yesterday she never consented to a police search of her car after her arrest and said she felt strong-armed into talking with officers because they mentioned carjacking charges.

She now wants a judge to bar prosecutors from using evidence gained from the search and the five-hour interview, which was conducted after she was arrested for reportedly attacking a romantic rival.

Detective Chris Becton said Capt. Nowak had nodded her consent to the search several times and wrote down the BMW’s location for him. He also said he told her her rights.

Circuit Judge Marc L. Lubet did not indicate when he would rule on the defense motions.


Bomb threat suspect indicted

CHICAGO — An Iowa machinist accused of being “The Bishop,” a shadowy figure who sent threats and unarmed bombs to U.S. investment firms, has been indicted on securities fraud and other charges, federal prosecutors said yesterday.

John Tomkins, 42, who was arrested in April, is linked to more than a dozen threatening letters sent to companies and people going back to early 2005, said Patrick Fitzgerald, U.S. attorney in Chicago.

Two of the cases involved partially connected pipe bombs sent to investment firms in Denver and Kansas City, Mo., as part of an attempt to force the companies to manipulate the prices of stock in which Mr. Tomkins had holdings, Mr. Fitzgerald said.

Prosecutors said they found two destructive devices in a locker at Mr. Tomkins’ home in Dubuque, Iowa. No one was injured in any of the incidents and none of the firms involved complied with his demands. He will be arraigned at a later date.


Forklift used to move 900-pound man

LANSING — Firefighters cut a hole in the side of a house and used a forklift to extricate a 900-pound man from his second-floor bedroom after a visiting nurse became worried about his health.

Rescue workers were called in Tuesday by the nurse, who determined the 33-year-old man needed medical help, Fire Chief Tom Cochran said.

Chief Cochran said the man who was taken to a hospital had not left his home since 2003.

The man’s brother, who lives with him, said he suffers from Prader-Willi syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that creates a chronic hunger feeling that can lead to overeating and life-threatening obesity.


Consultant not used to check bridge

MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Department of Transportation hired — but decided not to use — an engineering consultant to help look for flaws in the Interstate 35W bridge just three months before the span collapsed, a newspaper reported yesterday.

The Star Tribune said transportation department staffers used visual and ultrasonic methods in May to go over just more than half of one critical section of the bridge and then suspended the inspection, planning to resume it this fall after a resurfacing job on the bridge was finished.

The bridge collapsed Aug. 1, killing 13 persons and injuring more than 100.

The newspaper said the unfinished inspection raised questions about why transportation officials didn’t complete the inspection or use its consultant after awarding it a contract for that purpose.


Taxi drivers sue to stop GPS rules

NEW YORK — A group of cabbies sued city regulators yesterday in an attempt to block a new requirement that all taxis be outfitted with Global Positioning System units and software that will record where they drive.

The move comes two weeks after thousands of cabbies went on strike for two days to protest the rule.

In the lawsuit, the drivers argue that the city overstepped its authority and acted unconstitutionally when it mandated the GPS units. Their lawsuit also makes an unusual claim that the GPS devices will give away trade secrets by disclosing the cabbies’ driving patterns.

Officials at New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission referred calls to the city’s law department, which said it was reviewing the lawsuit.


Former manager gets early release

CRANSTON — The band manager whose pyrotechnics ignited a nightclub blaze that killed 100 persons was granted parole yesterday and will be released after serving less than half of his sentence.

Daniel Biechele, the former tour manager for the 1980s band Great White, is scheduled for release in March, the state parole board said. He has served 16 months of a four-year sentence levied after he pleaded guilty last year to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter in the 2003 fire.

Biechele, 30, lit pyrotechnics as a stage prop at the start of a Great White concert at the Station nightclub in West Warwick. Sparks from the explosives ignited flammable soundproofing foam around the stage, and the flames quickly spread throughout the one-story roadhouse as patrons tried to escape.


Man gets 421 years in abduction case

BEAUFORT — A South Carolina man was sentenced yesterday to the maximum 421 years in prison for kidnapping a teenager and raping her in an underground bunker.

Moments before his trial was to begin Tuesday, Vinson Filyaw pleaded guilty to kidnapping and 10 counts of criminal sexual conduct, one for each day prosecutors said he held the girl captive a year ago in Kershaw County.

The teen was rescued after she sent a cell phone text message to her mother more than a week after her abduction.

“I have a strong belief you have forfeited your right to be a member of this society,” Judge G. Thomas Cooper said before handing down the sentence. “I can think of no crimes short of murder more repulsive than these.”


Bats force students out of dormitory

HOUSTON — Bats took over a university dormitory, forcing more than 200 students into hotels and worrying health officials, who now fear the students could have been exposed to rabies.

Videos posted on the Internet show students swinging a broom and a tennis racket as several bats fly about in a dormitory hall at Texas Southern University. One student, Jason Smith, 19, said he killed dozens of bats but didn’t know of anyone who was bitten.

Health officials asked students who had been in Lanier Hall East to meet with them this week to determine whether any would need rabies vaccinations.

Texas Southern officials, meanwhile, are trying to rid the dorm of the bat infestation, said university spokesman Terrence Jackson.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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