- - Friday, July 17, 2009


Ex-engineer guilty in shuttle espionage

LOS ANGELES — An ex-Boeing engineer was found guilty Thursday of passing space shuttle technology secrets to China after becoming the first person tried under a 1996 federal law that bans theft of trade secrets for the benefit of a foreign government.

A federal judge who heard the case without a jury convicted Dongfan “Greg” Chung, 73, of conspiracy to commit economic espionage, economic espionage to benefit a foreign country, acting as an agent of the People’s Republic of China and making false statements to the FBI.

“Mr. Chung has been an agent of the People’s Republic of China for over 30 years,” U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney said in his written verdict. “The court must now hold Mr. Chung accountable for his crimes.”

Judge Carney acquitted Chung, a naturalized U.S. citizen, on a count of obstruction of justice.

Chung could face decades in federal prison when he is sentenced Nov. 9.


Slain couple’s safe found

PENSACOLA — Investigators have found a safe stolen during a precisely executed, deadly break-in at the home of a wealthy Florida Panhandle couple, authorities said Thursday.

Melanie and Byrd Billings, who were known for adopting 13 children with special needs, were fatally shot last week. Surveillance cameras captured footage of masked men — some dressed as ninjas — slipping into front and back doors of the home near Pensacola.

Eight people have been charged — seven with murder and one with being an accessory after the fact.

State Attorney Bill Eddins would not say where the safe was found, what was in it or what else might have been taken from the home.

He also said investigators have found several guns, including at least one they think was used to kill the Billingses.

Deputies on Wednesday arrested the eighth suspect, Pamela Long Wiggins, 47, charging her with accessory after the fact to murder, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

Ms. Wiggins was freed on a $10,000 bond; the seven others are being held without bond.

Ms. Wiggins is a friend and landlord to Leonard Gonzalez Jr., 35, described as a “pivotal person” in organizing the break-in, authorities said.


Armstrong check goes for $27,000

AMHERST — A check signed by Neil Armstrong hours before he took off for the moon has been sold for $27,350, 40 years to the day after it was written.

An engineer in California bought it in an online auction run by RR Auction of Amherst, N.H.

The $10.50 check was for money Mr. Armstrong had borrowed from Harold Collins, a NASA manager. According to the auction house, Mr. Armstrong wrote it in case anything happened to him on the moon mission, but told Mr. Collins not to cash it because he would return.

The check was sold Thursday morning, ending the 17-day auction.

Anthony Pizzitola of the Universal Autograph Collectors Club said the price is a record for a single Armstrong autograph.

Jack Staub, from Newport Beach, Calif., bought the check.


Five officers injured in fatal ‘gunfight’

JERSEY CITY — Five police officers were shot — two of them critically wounded — in a shootout that broke out Thursday morning during a police stakeout of two armed robbery suspects in New Jersey’s second-largest city.

The two suspects were killed in the shootout in Jersey City, authorities said.

Mayor Jerramiah Healy said that the “terrible gunfight” started in the street but moved to a nearby apartment building.

The incident started just after 5 a.m., when authorities said two officers were watching a vehicle used in an armed robbery last month in which a man was shot in the stomach. The robbery suspects — a man and a woman — were preparing to move the parked vehicle when the shootout began.

The man pulled out a pump-action shotgun and fired at the marked police car, blowing out the windshield, and a bullet grazed the leg of one of the officers.


Apollo 11 items on auction block

NEW YORK — Marking the 40th anniversary of man’s first lunar landing, more than 50 items related to the Apollo 11 mission are to go on the auction block Thursday.

Bonhams New York said many of the articles were acquired directly from the astronauts or were originally in their collections.

Among the highlights from the historic July 20, 1969, mission of Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin is a lunar module landing sequence — three sheets that list “entry commands to enable Lunar Module Eagle to descend from lunar orbit and touch down on the moon’s surface,” Bonhams said.

The lot was estimated to bring $125,000 to $175,000.

The auction also contains about 350 additional items from various space missions.


Black officers sue department

PHILADELPHIA — A group of black police officers has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Philadelphia Police Department over an Internet discussion forum on which officers have purportedly posted hundreds of racist comments.

The Guardian Civic League filed the lawsuit in federal court Thursday.

The league, along with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers, wants the department to shut down the site. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and discipline for those behind the 10-year-old Web forum, Domelights.com, which is not run by the department.

The site bills itself as “the voice of the good guys.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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