Saturday, February 23, 2008

Former lawmaker gets 3 years prison

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A former top Rhode Island state lawmaker was sentenced yesterday to more than three years in prison for using his legislative influence to benefit a pharmacy chain and insurance company.

U.S. District Judge Mary Lisi said former state House Majority Leader Gerard Martineau had used his office “in the most perverse way” but also had shown genuine remorse. She sentenced him to 37 months, in line with what prosecutors had suggested, and fined him $100,000.

Prosecutors also said in court that Martineau was cooperating in an ongoing influence-peddling probe at the Statehouse.

Martineau pleaded guilty in November to using his influence to benefit the CVS pharmacy chain and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island while doing hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal business with them.

He earned roughly $900,000 for selling paper and plastic bags to CVS and Blue Cross while at the same time working to defeat legislation the companies opposed. Prosecutors said he concealed his relationship with the companies by omitting his signature from invoices and by signing another person’s name on business letters.

FCC fines 13 Fox stations

Regulators yesterday fined 13 Fox TV stations $7,000 each for a 2003 episode of “Married by America” that included about 10 seconds of graphic scenes from bachelor and bachelorette parties.

The Federal Communications Commission in 2004 proposed a $1.2 million fine against 169 affiliates of Fox Broadcasting Co. that aired the since-canceled reality show on April 7, 2003.

But the agency, which issued a forfeiture order yesterday, said it would only fine stations in markets from which it received complaints — Baltimore; Des Moines, Iowa; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Las Vegas; Okemos, Mich.; Tupelo, Miss.; and Washington.

“Fox strongly disagrees with the commission’s conclusions in the notice and we will be actively considering our options,” said Scott Grogin, the company’s senior vice president of corporate communications.

The six-episode “Married by America” introduced a cast of single men and women and allowed viewers to match them up by popular vote. Five matched couples then went through some rituals of dating, but none actually married.

Flier prompts kidney donation

ATLANTA — The picture of the smiling little girl on the flier was more than Laura Bolan could take.

The 8-year-old on the pamphlet needed a kidney transplant, and Mrs. Bolan knew she could help. She did a quick Web search on the surgery and talked it over with her husband. Then she made a phone call to offer one of her kidneys to Sarah Dickman.

The suburban Atlanta girl was born with the genetic disease juvenile nephronophthisis, which slowly destroys the kidneys. Without treatment, it can kill a child before the age of 15.

Mrs. Bolan, 34, had never met Sarah when she agreed to donate the organ.

“It breaks your heart to know there’s a little girl sick out there who you could help,” she said earlier this week.

The pair underwent successful surgeries Thursday at hospitals across the street from each other in Atlanta. Dr. Thomas Pearson said both patients were doing well yesterday, and initial tests of Sarah’s new kidney showed it was working normally.

Telecoms refusing U.S. spy requests

Two top Bush administration officials said yesterday that some telecommunications companies are resisting wiretapping orders for terrorists because a surveillance law expired nearly a week ago.

National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell and Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey made the claim in a letter to Congress, the latest salvo in a war between the White House and Capitol Hill over the law’s expiration and the refusal of House Democrats to adopt a Senate-passed bill in its place.

The Senate bill provides retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies that wiretapped American phone and computer lines at the government’s request after the September 11 terrorist attacks. The House bill does not provide telecom immunity.

The administration officials’ letter to Rep. Sylvestre Reyes, Texas Democrat and chairman of the House intelligence committee, said that “as a direct result of the uncertainty created by Congress’ failure to act,” some private companies have delayed or refused compliance with requests to initiate wiretaps against people covered by orders issued under the expired law.

Senior administration officials refused yesterday to specify which companies, or how many, were not cooperating.

From staff reports and wire dispatches

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