- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 4, 2009

SUPREME COURT

Court blocks release of sex offenders

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has granted the Obama administration’s request to the Supreme Court to block the release of certain sex offenders who have completed their federal prison terms.

The federal appeals court in Richmond had earlier invalidated a law allowing the indefinite commitment of “sexually dangerous” prison inmates.

Justice Roberts, in an order Friday, said as many as 77 inmates can continue to be held at a prison in North Carolina at least until the high court decides whether to hear the administration’s appeal of a ruling by the federal appeals court.

The Justice Department said the sex offenders could have been released as early as next week without the court’s intervention.

“That would pose a significant risk to the public and constitute a significant harm to the interests of the United States,” Solicitor General Elena Kagan wrote in court papers filed Friday.

It is possible, however, that state laws allowing civil commitments of sex offenders could be used to put them back in prison.

VETERANS AFFAIRS

Senator stalls Duckworth nomination

A Republican senator has delayed President Obama’s nomination of Tammy Duckworth, an injured Iraq war helicopter pilot, to be an assistant secretary at the Veterans Affairs Department.

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee didn’t vote on the nomination Thursday because North Carolina Sen. Richard M. Burr asked that the panel hold off. Mr. Burr, the top Republican on the committee, wants Mrs. Duckworth and the White House to answer some questions.

Mr. Burr’s spokesman, David Ward, would not say Friday what the questions concerned.

“He’s doing his due diligence … to ensure that veterans have the best representation possible,” Mr. Ward said.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The committee chairman, Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, Hawaii Democrat, called it a “disappointing setback.”

“Tammy Duckworth is a talented and qualified nominee who has already given so much for her country and the veterans she serves,” Mr. Akaka said.

Mrs. Duckworth, a major in the Illinois National Guard, lost both her legs and partial use of one arm in a rocket-propelled grenade attack in 2004. She unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2006.

On Feb. 3, Mr. Obama nominated her to be assistant secretary of public and intergovernmental affairs. Her duties would include directing the VA’s public affairs operations and programs for homeless veterans. Soon after her appointment, she stepped down from her position as the director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, where she had worked since 2006.

ELECTION

Lawmaker to vacate post pending results

Republican Jim Tedisco will step down next week as minority leader in the New York State Assembly while he waits to find out whether he’s won a race for Congress.

Mr. Tedisco ran against Democrat Scott Murphy for New York’s 20th District seat, a contest that remains too close to call. Tuesday’s election will come down to absentee ballots, which will continue to be accepted until April 7 - or April 13, in the case of overseas voters.

Mr. Murphy leads Mr. Tedisco by six votes out of more than 154,000 cast, but Republicans have so far returned more of the absentee ballots that will decide the race.

Until the election results are final, Mr. Tedisco will continue to represent his upstate Assembly district, which includes parts of Schenectady and Saratoga counties. He was first elected to the Assembly in 1982 and has been the leader of its Republican minority since 2005.

The winner of the election will succeed Democratic U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. Gov. David Paterson appointed Mrs. Gillibrand to the seat Hillary Rodham Clinton vacated to become secretary of state.

SENTENCING

Lobbyist sentenced in Weldon case

A lobbyist was sentenced Friday to three years of probation for destroying evidence about her ties with former Pennsylvania Congressman Curt Weldon, who is under FBI investigation.

Cecelia Grimes of Parkesburg, Pa., broke down in tears Friday as she apologized in court and said she would take back her actions if she could. She admitted that she threw her BlackBerry into an Arby’s restaurant garbage can and put other records of her involvement with Mr. Weldon’s campaign events out with the trash to hide them from an FBI investigation.

“It was stupid, and I have no excuse for it,” she said haltingly as she tried to compose herself. Two rows full of friends and family looked on in the courtroom, many of them also crying. “I just panicked and acted carelessly,” Miss Grimes said.

U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. said she must spend the first five months of her probation on electronic home monitoring and pay a $3,000 fine. He said some reasonable people may find his sentence lenient and noted that others have been incarcerated for less. He encouraged Miss Grimes, 43, to take the opportunity to live the rest of her life free from crime.

Court documents say federal authorities have been looking into whether Mr. Weldon agreed to help Miss Grimes by supporting appropriations requests from her lobbying firm. The Republican lawmaker lost his seat in 2006 after representing suburban Philadelphia for 20 years. He has not been charged with a crime.

Miss Grimes is the second person tied to Mr. Weldon to plead guilty to a crime and cooperate with the government. Mr. Weldon’s former top aide, Russell James Caso Jr., pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in 2007.

ALASKA

Bristol Palin’s ex-fiance cites tension

Levi Johnston says ex-fiance Bristol Palin, daughter of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, allows him to visit their 3-month-old son but won’t let him take the baby out.

In an interview set to air Monday with talk-show host Tyra Banks, the 19-year-old said he and 18-year-old Bristol don’t always get along.

“Some days we can have regular conversations without fighting,” Mr. Johnston said. “Most of the times, I don’t know what’s wrong with her. She’s in a pretty bad mood, she’s short, she doesn’t want me around, I don’t think. She says that I can come see the baby and that kind of thing, but won’t let me take him anywhere.”

The two are the parents of Tripp, born Dec. 27.

Palin spokeswoman Meghan Stapleton has said Bristol Palin isn’t preventing anyone from seeing the baby. Stapleton has said Mr. Johnston sees his son “whenever he wants, the family sees the baby whenever they want.”

Mr. Johnston told the Associated Press on March 11 that the couple had broken off their engagement. He has said they needed time to grow up before following through on marriage plans.

In the interview with Miss Banks, Mr. Johnston said the Alaska governor probably knew he and Bristol were having sex. “Moms are pretty smart,” he said.

From wire services and staff reports

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