- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Democrats blast Palin for travel

ANCHORAGE | Alaska Democrats are blasting Gov. Sarah Palin's decision to travel outside the state this week as the state Legislature's session winds down.

Alaska Democratic Party Chairwoman Patti Higgins said much work remains to be done and Mrs. Palin's decision to leave is an abdications of her duties.

Among the legislation awaiting action this week is a federal stimulus package bill and the capital budget. Lawmakers traditionally take up the budget before adjourning.

Mrs. Palin plans to attend events in Indiana that include a breakfast with SMILE, a nonprofit support organization for people with family members who have Down syndrome.


College offers Obama scholarship

PHOENIX | Arizona State University criticized for refusing to award an honorary degree to President Obama has said it would name a scholarship program after him instead.

The university was widely ridiculed last week after officials said it would not give Mr. Obama an honorary degree when he addresses students at a graduation ceremony next month, citing an insufficient “body of work.”

However, ASU President Michael Crow attempted to deflect the criticism in a statement released at the weekend which said an existing scholarship would be named after Mr. Obama.

“It has always been our intention to recognize and honor President Obama's accomplishments during his visit,” Mr. Crow said. “I apologize for the confusion surrounding our invitation to President Obama to address ASU students at commencement.”

The university's refusal to honor America's first black president with a degree triggered an outcry last week, with the school's newspaper begging officials to reconsider.


Rape allegations eyed in girl's slaying

TRACY | Prosecutors said they are considering rape and molestation allegations against the woman suspected of killing an 8-year-old Northern California girl and putting her body in a suitcase.

Melissa Huckaby, 28, was arrested Saturday on suspicion of kidnapping and killing Sandra Cantu. The girl was a playmate of her 5-year-old daughter.

San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Robert Himmelblau said Monday that a homicide charge against Miss Huckaby could include the special circumstances of rape with a foreign object, lewd and lascivious conduct with a child and murder in the course of a kidnapping.

Mr. Himmelblau wouldn't provide more details. Miss Huckaby is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday.


Judge halts ID-theft probe

GREELEY | A judge has halted an identity theft investigation targeting illegal immigrants in Colorado, saying prosecutors wrongly seized records from an income tax preparer.

The judge Monday ordered Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck to return or destroy the evidence within seven days. Mr. Buck's attorney says he will appeal.

Thousands of documents had been seized from Amalia's Translation and Tax Services in Greeley after a Texas man alerted Weld County authorities that someone was using his identity.

The American Civil Liberties Union's lawsuit contends the records were confidential.

In his ruling, the judge agrees the seizure was too broad and says it violates the privacy rights of the people whose tax records were taken.

Charges had already been filed against at least 60 people.


Passenger lands plane after pilot dies

FORT MYERS | A passenger landed a twin-engine plane in Florida after the pilot died in flight with a total of six people on board.

Federal Aviation Administration officials said the pilot died after takeoff from an airport in Naples on Sunday. It was on autopilot and climbing toward 10,000 feet when the pilot died.

The passenger who took over is licensed for single-engine planes but isn't certified to fly the larger King Air craft.

An air traffic controller helped the passenger down by calling a friend in Connecticut who knows the King Air plane and relaying instructions. The plane landed safely at Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers.

The plane had been headed to Jackson, Miss. The names of the pilot and passengers have not been released.


Severe storms kill at least 2 in South

ATLANTA | A swath of severe weather moved across a storm-weary South on Monday, killing at least two, downing trees and cutting power to thousands of homes.

The storm system that hit Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky and northern Florida brought torrential rain, flooding, hail and gusty wind to states still reeling from strong storms and tornadoes last week.

And the states braced for more rough weather later Monday. Tornado watches or warnings were in effect in several states.

In eastern Tennessee, McMinn County Sheriff Steve Frisbie said Michael Aaron Byers Jr., 18, was killed in Etowah Monday morning when a tree fell on his family's home as he slept. A second person was killed in Atlanta after a tree fell on their car. Their name was not released.

Many areas that were spared from Monday's rain and hail were hit with high wind that blew over trees weakened by several days of soaking rain.


Ex-manager pleads guilty after raid

DES MOINES | A former human resources manager arrested after a massive immigration raid at an Iowa kosher slaughterhouse has pleaded guilty to federal immigration charges.

On Monday, Elizabeth Billmeyer of Postville pleaded guilty Monday to one count of conspiracy to harbor undocumented aliens for profit and one count of knowingly accepting false resident alien cards.

Billmeyer, 48, worked at the Agriprocessors Inc. plant in Postville. She faces up to 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. She remains free on bond.

Her sentencing date has not been set.

Federal agents arrested 389 people during a raid at the plant in May.


Boy falls to death from second story

ALLENDALE TOWNSHIP | A 4-year-old Michigan boy died after falling from the same second-story window his brother fell from several years ago, authorities said.

The Ottawa County sheriff's office told WGHN radio in Grand Haven on Monday that Trenton LaMadline was playing with two siblings at his Allendale Township home Saturday evening when he fell about 15 feet onto the driveway.

The child was taken to a hospital in Grand Rapids and died Sunday.

Sheriff's Lt. Mark Bennett told WZZM-TV in Grand Rapids that then-2-year-old Preston LaMadline suffered brain injuries after falling from the same window in May 2006. Child Protective Services investigated the fall but found no evidence of abuse.


Owners call on faith after center fire

ALTON BAY | Owners of summer cottages in a tight-knit Christian community gathered to console each other Monday after a massive fire roared through the property on Easter Sunday, destroying dozens of buildings that brought families together for generations.

“It's dust. You don't see timber. You see dust,” said Patrick Knittel of Concord. All that remained of his family's cottage was a chimney and a stone stairway leading to a mound of ashes.

Mr. Knittel and others who owned the 40 cottages that were destroyed or heavily damaged at the 146-year-old Alton Bay Christian Conference Center gathered as fire investigators tried to figure out what sparked the flames that raced through the community. Fire officials don't think Sunday's fire was suspicious.


Investors seek Madoff bankruptcy

NEW YORK | In a move to ensure that all of the personal assets of jailed swindler Bernard Madoff are used to pay his defrauded customers, some investors filed court papers Monday to force him into bankruptcy.

A judge last week opened the door for the petition by reversing his December ruling preventing any such legal action, over the objections of U.S. prosecutors, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission regulator and a court-appointed trustee winding down the Madoff firm.

Monday's filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York was made on behalf of five investors claiming $64 million, according to court papers.

Their lawyers have argued that pushing Madoff into involuntary bankruptcy would make it easier for victims to recover any Madoff-linked assets that have been transferred to family members or third parties.

Madoff pleaded guilty on March 12 to running Wall Street's biggest investment fraud involving as much as $65 billion and is now in jail. He could be ordered to prison for the rest of his life at his sentencing, scheduled for June.


Man indicted in deadly rampage

CARTHAGE | A North Carolina grand jury leveled eight murder charges Monday against a man arrested after a rampage at a nursing home last month.

The Moore County, N.C., panel indicted Robert Kenneth Stewart, 45, in the deaths of seven nursing home residents and a nurse at the Pinelake Health and Rehab Center in Carthage. The grand jury also indicted Mr. Stewart on a charge of attempted murder in the wounding of Carthage police Officer Justin Garner, 25.

Mr. Stewart was also charged with assault with a deadly weapon and assault on a law enforcement officer.

Mr. Stewart was shot in the chest March 29 by Officer Garner inside the nursing home. Officer Garner was shot in the leg.

Attorneys for Mr. Stewart, who is being treated at a state prison hospital, said they expected the indictments. Defense lawyer Frank Wells said he had no other comment.

Mr. Stewart also was charged with attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and discharging a weapon into occupied property for reportedly firing at another person outside the nursing home.

The grand jury also charged Mr. Stewart with two counts of assault by pointing a gun.


2nd town elects student mayor

OKLAHOMA CITY | A second Oklahoma college student will have to split his time running to classes and running a town.

Oklahoma State University junior Nathan Bates, 27, was being sworn in Monday as mayor of Stillwater, a town of 42,000 residents about 50 miles northeast of Oklahoma City.

The health education major received 1,308 votes last week to narrowly edge incumbent Roger McMillian's 1,281 votes.

Mr. Bates said his victory was “certainly unexpected, but not unappreciated.”

John Tyler Hammons, a 20-year-old Northeastern State University student finishing his first year as mayor of Muskogee, said time management is the key to successfully juggling both roles.

And, he said, “you have to get used to hearing the word 'mayor' in front of your name.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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