- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Authorities: Tire failure may be behind bus crash

LAS VEGAS | Tire failure may have caused a casino worker shuttle bus crash that injured 29 people, a Nevada Highway Patrol officer said Monday.

“There’s evidence that the bus may have suffered tire tread separation,” Trooper Kevin Honea told the Associated Press. He said the findings were still preliminary.

Federal officials also have reported evidence of tread separation in the crash in Texas of a bus chartered by a church group. That wreck early Friday killed at least 17 people.

Those injured in the Nevada crash Sunday on Interstate 15 were casino and mall employees returning to Las Vegas from Herbst Gaming Inc. properties in nearby Primm, said Ferenc Szony, company president.

Three people remained hospitalized Monday at University Medical Center in Las Vegas, said hospital spokeswoman Tammy McMahan.


‘Preppie killer’ pleads guilty to drug charges

NEW YORK | The “preppie killer” who served 15 years behind bars for strangling a woman in Central Park during what he said was rough sex is headed back to prison for a drug offense.

Robert Chambers pleaded guilty Monday to criminal sale of a controlled substance and assault on a police officer.

He and his girlfriend were arrested in October 2007 in an undercover sting at their Manhattan apartment on charges of dealing cocaine.

The district attorney’s office said Chambers has been promised 19 years and four months in prison when he is sentenced next month. Chambers will get six years on the assault charge, which will run concurrently, and will have five years of supervision after his release.

A telephone call to Chambers’ attorney, Valerie Van Leer-Greenberg, was not returned Monday.


Kidnap suspect is wanted German

LOS ANGELES | A kidnapping suspect being held in Boston is a German man who lived in the guesthouse of a Los Angeles-area couple who disappeared in 1985, a sheriff’s spokesman said Monday.

Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators have identified Christian Gerhartsreiter as the same man who used the aliases Clark Rockefeller and Christopher Chichester, spokesman Steve Whitmore told the Associated Press.

Mr. Gerhartsreiter has been identified as a “person of interest” in the San Marino case, Mr. Whitmore said.

Investigators were able to confirm Mr. Gerhartsreiter’s identity after interviews with people who knew him in California in the 1980s, Mr. Whitmore said.

Under the Chichester name, Mr. Gerhartsreiter rented a guesthouse at the home of Jonathan and Linda Sohus, who vanished in 1985 while living in wealthy San Marino.


Cyanide death suspected at hotel

DENVER | Police are investigating a possible cyanide death at a hotel.

Police spokesman John White said the medical examiner’s office reported a strong odor of cyanide at the Burnsley Hotel after a body was found Monday.

The person was declared dead at the hotel, which is about four blocks from the Capitol. No evacuations were ordered.

The Democratic National Convention opens in Denver this month, but the Burnsley is not on the list of hotels where delegates are staying.


City will detain curfew violators

HARTFORD | Hartford police will detain anyone younger than 18 who violates the city’s curfew in the next month in response to recent violence, including a weekend shooting that killed a man and wounded six young people, city officials said Monday.

“We must do this because we cannot and will not tolerate innocent people, especially children, to be victims,” Mayor Eddie Perez said.

Saturday’s shooting in Hartford erupted after the annual West Indian Day parade in the city’s North End. Police said Ezekiel Roberts, 21, of Hartford was killed, a 7-year-old boy was shot in the head and 15-month-old Zinia Jackson was shot in the left leg. Four teens were shot.

No arrests had been made Monday.


Court refuses to cut mom’s bail

ORLANDO | An appeals court has refused to lower the bail for the mother of a missing central Florida girl.

The 5th District Court of Appeal on Monday denied Casey Anthony’s motion for a rehearing. The motion was sealed.

Miss Anthony is being held on $500,000 bail on charges of child neglect, making false statements and obstructing an investigation. Police said she lied to them and didn’t report her daughter, Caylee, missing for more than a month.

Caylee, 3, was reported missing July 15.

Deputy injured in fatal standoff

LULA | A suspect was fatally shot and a sheriff’s deputy was injured after an hourlong standoff near an elementary school in northern Georgia Monday, authorities said.

Lula Elementary was locked down after a witness saw a man with a handgun walking on a street that runs behind the school. An off-duty officer was called to the scene. The man pointed a gun at him then fled, Hall County Sgt. Kiley Sargent said.

The man then barricaded himself inside his home — an RV camper — a few blocks from the school. A SWAT team was sent to the scene. Sgt. Sargent said “several” shots were fired, but he did not know who fired first.

The injured deputy, who was not identified, was undergoing surgery on Monday afternoon at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta with a gunshot wound in his arm. The injury is not life threatening, Sgt. Sargent said.

The suspect died from a gunshot wound shortly after arriving at Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville, Sgt. Sargent said. Hospital officials identified him as Herbert Tate, 65.


Federal agents search nonprofit

NEW ORLEANS | Federal agents descended Monday on a nonprofit hired by the city to run a home cleanup program after Hurricane Katrina and were photographed carting off boxes, days after a U.S. attorney announced an investigation involving the organization.

Recent local media reports have scrutinized ties between the former director of the New Orleans Affordable Homeownership (NOAH) Corp. and some top-earning contractors and have raised questions over whether some of the cleanup work billed to the city was actually performed.

Agents from the FBI, Internal Revenue Service and offices of the inspectors general of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the city were at the nonprofit’s office Monday morning, FBI spokeswoman Sheila Thorne confirmed. She gave no details, but said agents didn’t show up to execute a search warrant.

Mayor C. Ray Nagin told the City Council last week that the city had been unable to document work on 90 of the roughly 870 projects that NOAH claimed to have done. The city was billed for 46 of those 90 projects and would ask contractors involved to document any work done or provide reimbursement, he said.


Groom too close to his bride

BATAVIA | A New York state man has been arrested for getting too close to his bride on their wedding day.

Police said Timothy Cole quarreled with a wedding guest at a party Friday after his wedding to his ex-wife in Batavia.

Officers knew Mr. Cole, 45, from previous arrests and realized that his bride had an order of protection against him. Mr. Cole was charged with first-degree criminal contempt, a felony, and ordered jailed without bail.


Death penalty sought in UNC slaying

HILLSBOROUGH | Prosecutors said Monday that they plan to seek the death penalty against a man charged in the kidnapping and fatal shooting of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student body President Eve Carson.

Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said during a court hearing that he plans to seek the execution of Demario James Atwater, 22,

“This is the toughest decision any prosecutor has to make,” Mr. Woodall said, adding that he thought Miss Carson’s family supported his decision based on several conversations with her parents.

Mr. Atwater and Laurence Alvin Lovette, 17, are charged with first-degree murder in the death of Miss Carson, 22, of Athens, Ga. Mr. Atwater also is charged with first-degree kidnapping, felonious larceny, armed robbery and felonious possession of stolen goods.

The death penalty can’t be sought against Mr. Lovette because of his age.


Lawmaker’s aide pleads guilty

PHILADELPHIA | An aide to an indicted Pennsylvania state senator pleaded guilty Monday and admitted that he conspired with the longtime power broker to destroy e-mails and other evidence during an FBI extortion probe.

Computer technician Leonard Luchko’s guilty plea on 29 obstruction-related counts comes a month before state Sen. Vincent Fumo’s scheduled federal trial.

Luchko, 52, agreed to testify against Mr. Fumo, 65, a high-rolling Philadelphia Democrat who is charged in a 2007 indictment with looting the state Senate, a nonprofit and a museum of more than $2 million in goods and services.

In exchange for his plea and agreement to testify against Mr. Fumo and two co-defendants, prosecutors will ask a judge to sentence Luchko to no more than two years in prison. The conspiracy charge alone carries the possibility of a five-year prison term.


Cleared inmate free after 18 years

COLUMBUS | A judge freed a man Monday who had spent nearly 18 years in prison on a charge of raping a 10-year-old girl after a lab re-examining cases across Ohio showed that his DNA profile didn’t match evidence from the crime scene.

Robert McClendon, 52, was released by Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Charles Schneider, who cited the DNA test.

Jennifer Bergeron, a lawyer with the Ohio Innocence Project, said she expects prosecutors to formally drop charges against Mr. McClendon within the next two weeks.


Man pleads guilty in ricin case

SALT LAKE CITY | A Utah man accused of failing to report that his cousin produced and possessed the deadly poison ricin pleaded guilty Monday to the felony charge.

Thomas Tholen, 54, pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony — knowing about a crime but failing to report it. Federal prosecutors agreed to recommend that he receive probation rather than prison time at sentencing, set for October.

Tholen’s cousin, Roger Bergendorff, pleaded guilty Aug. 4 to federal possession of a biological toxin and weapons charges but denied any criminal intent and said he never intentionally or accidentally released any of the lethal powder.

From wire dispatches and staff reports



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