- The Washington Times - Friday, May 30, 2008


Group petitions to protect seals

ANCHORAGE - Fresh off a successful campaign to list polar bears as a threatened species, a conservation group is asking for similar protection for the bears’ main prey.

The Center for Biological Diversity on Wednesday petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service to list ringed seals and spotted and bearded seals as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

All three seal species live in the seas off Alaska’s coast and depend on sea ice that is receding rapidly, according to the petition.

The seals also rely on ice for molting.

Sheela McLean, a fisheries service spokeswoman in Alaska, said the agency had not received the petition Wednesday afternoon but is already reviewing seals. The conservation group petitioned the agency in December to list ribbon seals, and Miss McLean said biologists were preparing status reviews for all four species. Each use sea ice in different ways, she said.


Helicopter crashes at hospital, injures 2

GRAND RAPIDS - A helicopter practicing approaches crashed on the roof of a hospital yesterday, catching fire moments after the two people on board escaped with minor injuries, a fire official said.

The crash, which occurred about 11 a.m. at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital, sent thick black smoke over downtown and forced the evacuation of patients.

The two people aboard were in stable condition, said Richard Breon, president and chief executive officer of Spectrum Health.

No patients were aboard the chopper, which crashed on a helipad atop the hospital. It landed on its side and the two people got out before it caught fire, Fire Chief John VanSolkema said.

“There’s not a whole lot left, but you can tell it was a helicopter,” he said.


Couple found alive in Grand Canyon

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK - A couple from Utah missing in the Grand Canyon for at least five days have been found alive.

Alan Humphrey, 39, and his wife, Iris Faraklas, 35, were spotted Wednesday by a rescue helicopter in a remote and rugged area of the park about 25 miles west of Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim, park spokeswoman Maureen Oltrogge said.

“They were tired, probably a little ragged, but they were in good health,” Miss Oltrogge said. The couple were credited with staying together and finding shade during the day. The refused medical treatment.


FBI agent indicted in suspect wife affair

LOS ANGELES - An FBI agent from Phoenix has been indicted in Los Angeles on 18 charges that accuse him of having an affair with the wife of a man he was investigating.

Joe Gordwin, 39, was arrested yesterday morning at the FBI office in Phoenix.

The indictment stated that, over a three-year period, Mr. Gordwin hid his relationship from his superiors and sought a favorable plea agreement for his lover’s husband in connection with a robbery case.

Mr. Gordwin is charged with six counts of wire fraud, five counts of making false statements and seven counts of witness tampering. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 285 years in prison.


Joyrider teen kills boy in parking lot

ST. PETERSBURG - A 14-year-old girl took her mother’s car for a joyride in St. Petersburg and struck and killed a 5-year-old boy, police said.

Authorities said the girl went to the car to get schoolbooks Wednesday evening when she decided to drive it around their apartment complex parking lot.

Witnesses said they saw the car strike a wall and then back up, hitting the boy who was sitting on a planter. The car struck him in the torso and pinned him against a wall. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

No charges have been filed.


Wrestler’s doctor faces more charges

ATLANTA - The personal doctor to a pro wrestler who killed himself, his wife and their 7-year-old son last year was charged yesterday in a new 175-count federal indictment with conspiracy and improperly dispensing drugs.

The new indictment against Dr. Phil Astin replaces a seven-count indictment last July and involves 17 additional patients. Dr. Astin was a doctor for wrestler Chris Benoit.

Authorities have said Dr. Astin prescribed a 10-month supply of anabolic steroids to Mr. Benoit every three to four weeks for a year leading up to the killings.

The indictment states that the prescription drugs dispensed by Dr. Astin resulted in death or serious bodily injury to one patient. That patient was not named.

Dr. Astin, 52, of Carrollton, is accused of giving the patients hundreds of illegal prescriptions for drugs including methadone, Percocet, Oxycontin, Demerol and Xanax. None of the drugs mentioned are steroids.


Coach loses job in religion case

DEARBORN - A longtime high school wrestling coach has lost his job amid concerns a former assistant coach tried to convert Muslim students to Christianity.

The Detroit News reported that 35-year coach Jerry Marszalek’s contract with Fordson High School in Dearborn was not renewed. The decision was supported by 200 to 300 parents, who packed a Board of Education meeting Tuesday to support the principal’s decision.

Mr. Marszalek said people have been concerned about contacts between the team and former assistant coach, the Rev. Trey Hancock of the Dearborn Assembly of God. Mr. Hancock helped Mr. Marszalek for 10 years.

Mr. Hancock said he had attempted conversions but never while coaching at the school, which has a large Muslim population.


Ballpark to have peanut-free section

ST. LOUIS - Peanuts and cracker jack may soon not be part of the old ballgame at St. Louis area ballparks.

Fans with allergies are being offered their own peanut-free seating at T.R. Hughes Ballpark in O’Fallon, Mo., home of the River City Rascals. And for the evening of July 21, Busch Stadium’s Section 328 will go peanut-free, allowing allergic Cardinals fans to watch a game without worrying that peanuts will cause a reaction, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported yesterday.

A local support group for parents of children with allergies approached the teams and asked them to experiment with peanut-free sections.

The Cardinals are the third Major League Baseball team to introduce a peanut-free section and have indicated that, if the experiment succeeds, the team could consider adding peanut-free sections at more games.


Panhandler foils suspect’s getaway

ALBUQUERQUE - Authorities said a burglary suspect who fled the home of a sheriff’s sergeant was arrested after a panhandler saw his car and called 911.

Investigators said the suspect, Joseph Ballejos, 35, fled the sergeant’s home in a sport utility vehicle after the officer arrived home at 3 p.m. Tuesday, KRQE-TV, Albuquerque, reported Wednesday.

“[The sergeant] turned around and tried to stop the car: the car didn’t stop, fled from the scene,” sheriff’s Sgt. Van Eldredge said.

Panhandler Jeffery Mc- Knight said he called 911 after he saw the suspect first drive the wrong way on an Interstate 25 off ramp and then drive off the road.


Reputed Mafia don arrested in mob case

NEW YORK - A reputed Gambino crime family captain has turned himself in to face charges in a wide-ranging federal mob case, prosecutors in Brooklyn announced yesterday.

Nicholas Corozzo is part of a case accusing reputed mobsters with offenses stretching back three decades.

Mr. Corozzo is charged with extorting construction companies, running a major illegal gambling operation and ordering a gangland hit that also took a bystander’s life in 1996.

The case brought in February marks one of the largest Mafia takedowns in recent memory. Besides the federal indictment naming 62 defendants, authorities said a separate state investigation resulted in charges against 26 others.


Couple to stand trial in wedding night fight

PITTSBURGH - A dentist and his bride will stand trial on assault and disorderly conduct charges after their April 27 wedding night celebration devolved into a brawl with another wedding party at a Pennsylvania hotel.

District Judge Richard G. Opiela Wednesday ordered Dr. David Wielechowski, 32, and his wife, Christa, 25, to report July 25 to Common Pleas Court for formal arraignment.

The couple were charged in connection with a April 27 brawl in a Ross, Pa., Holiday Inn hallway in which a guest at the other wedding suffered a fractured wrist and broken tooth.


Ex-Ranger admits to robbing bank

TACOMA - A former U.S. Army Ranger pleaded guilty to masterminding a 2006 bank robbery.

Prosecutors said Luke Sommer, 21, will serve 24 years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit armed bank robbery, armed bank robbery, brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence and possession of an unregistered hand grenade, the Seattle Times reported Wednesday.

Sommer told authorities after the robbery that the incident was intended to draw attention to war crimes he had witnessed in Iraq, the Times said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports



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