- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 25, 2009

Ex-hostage was resigned to dying

MONTPELIER, Vt. | Former hostage Richard Phillips says he thought he would never get out of the lifeboat where Somali pirates held him after an aborted hijacking attempt.

In his first interview, Mr. Phillips tells NBC’s Matt Lauer he was resigned to dying at some point during his five-day Indian Ocean ordeal, which ended April 12 when U.S. Navy SEALs on the USS Bainbridge fatally shot three of his captors, freeing him.

Mr. Phillips, 53, said he discussed escaping in front of the pirates, who he described as “a little lax in their control on some things.”

“I did have radio contact with the Maersk Alabama, and I told them if you see a splash in the water … I’m coming. I had always expected to escape,” he said.

Mr. Phillips said his escape attempt made the atmosphere in the lifeboat worse, though he was in “deep trouble” from the very start.

“I was in deep trouble from Day One, so it didn’t change for me. The atmosphere, the body language, yes, things changed from that point on. Yes, they did.”

He said there was always a gun on him while he was in the lifeboat, and that he was preparing to die in it.

“It was just settling everything. Getting ready to die and just settling everything. You know, saying my last thoughts. Andrea, the kids,” he said.

The interview, which wife Andrea Phillips participated in, was taped in Vermont and will be broadcast Tuesday on the “Today” show. Excerpts were released Friday night.

Mr. Phillips reiterated his praise for the Navy in the interview.

“What I said when I came home is true. These SEALs and the Navy did an impossible job. They’re unbelievable people. We really owe it to the military for what they do day in and day out that we never even hear about. What they did was impossible,” he said.

Judge in pot case weighs leniency

LOS ANGELES | A federal judge said he is considering a reduced sentence for a medical marijuana seller whose case has become a rallying point, but he is bound by the law to impose at least a one-year term.

U.S. District Judge George Wu postponed the sentencing of Charles Lynch until June 11, saying he wanted to hear more from both sides.

Lynch, 47, was convicted in August of federal marijuana-related offenses. He was not charged with any state crimes.

He is one of the first in the nation to seek leniency from a judge after U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced last month that federal agents will now target marijuana distributors only when they violate both federal and state laws.

However, Mr. Holder didn’t say how the new approach would affect pending cases, and federal prosecutors have recommended a five-year prison sentence for Lynch.

Cultivating, using and selling medical pot to authorized patients is allowed under California law, and a dozen other states allow medical use of the drug. But federal law outlaws marijuana cultivation, use and sales.

New archbishop visits WTC site

NEW YORK | The city’s new archbishop knelt in prayer at ground zero Friday and said he felt “overwhelming sadness” at the site of the worst terrorist attack in the nation’s history.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan paid his first visit to the World Trade Center site and celebrated Mass at a church that once served as a staging area for emergency responders after the Sept. 11, 2001, attack.

He spent about 15 minutes at a street-level platform overlooking the Sept. 11 memorial under construction, talking briefly with chairman Anthony Coscia and executive director Chris Ward of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Archbishop Dolan then knelt and said a prayer, the same one Pope Benedict XVI gave during an April 2008 visit to the World Trade Center, where he also lighted a memorial candle and blessed the site with holy water.

The prayer, which refers to the site as “the scene of incredible violence and pain,” asks God to “give eternal light and peace” to the victims and healing to survivors.

The prayer asks for healing for the pain of “still-grieving families and all who lost loved ones,” and strength to “continue their lives with courage and hope.”

Equipment swiped from Little League

LAWRENCE, Mass. | Lawrence police say a thief made off with $1,500 worth of equipment belonging to a local youth baseball league days before the start of the season.

Someone broke into a South Lawrence East Little League storage pod and took more than 100 baseballs meant to last the entire season, several bats, helmets, equipment bags, water bottles, five pairs of cleats and a set of catcher’s equipment.

Things could have been worse, because most of the league’s equipment was distributed to coaches only hours before the break-in was discovered Thursday morning.

A parent volunteer told the Eagle-Tribune newspaper the league does not have the money to replace the stolen equipment. The league serves about 300 mostly low-income children.

Police say they have no suspects.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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