- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Controllers tried to redirect Marine pilot

SAN DIEGO | The pilot of a crippled Marine Corps jet was offered a chance to land at a base with an approach over water minutes before the jet crashed in a San Diego neighborhood while heading for a base inland. Four members of a family were killed in the December crash.

Recorded communications with air controllers reveal the pilot at least twice was offered a chance to land at Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado, a base on a peninsula with a flight path over water.

But Federal Aviation Administration tapes show the pilot decided to fly the jet that had lost one engine to an inland Marine base on a route over the University City neighborhood.

Military officials have said the F/A-18D jet had a rare double engine failure.


World War II hero gets out of jail

BARTOW | An 87-year-old World War II hero from central Florida will be a free man for the first time in more than eight years.

A judge ordered Tuesday that Abner Aust be released from jail. His release was expected later in the day.

The highly decorated World War II flying ace was put behind bars after trying to hire someone to kill one of his ex-wives and burn down her house.

Prosecutors wanted him sentenced to more time in prison, but state Circuit Judge Randall McDonald in Polk County credited Aust with time served and ordered him freed. Aust, whose health is deteriorating, will be on house arrest and live either with his son or friends.

Aust was a 23-year-old captain when he flew 14 combat missions in a P-51 Mustang over Japan in 1945.


Not guilty plea in newborn death

COLUMBIA | A southern Illinois teacher’s aide has pleaded not guilty to a charge she tried to drown her newborn in a toilet.

The girl born in November was revived. Authorities also are investigating the death of an infant whose remains were found in her home.

Elyse Mamino, 23, entered her plea Monday to a charge of attempted first-degree murder.

Police said the set of remains found in Miss Mamino’s home in Belleville had been there more than a year. No further details were being released until the investigation is complete. No charges have been filed in that case.

Miss Mamino is jailed with bail set at $250,000.


Staircase collapse injures three

LOUISVILLE | One person was in critical condition and two others are in a hospital after a staircase collapsed inside an aging building in Louisville and dropped them about 30 feet.

Authorities said Downtown Development Corp. Director Alan DeLisle and three others were touring the building Tuesday morning when stairs to the third floor collapsed.

Mr. DeLisle was in serious condition at a hospital while his deputy, Patti Clare, was in critical condition. The building’s owner was in stable condition.

The three fell to the first floor when the stairs collapsed. A woman also had to be rescued from the third floor.


Evangelist sues school over speech

NEW ORLEANS | A federal judge made an initial ruling Tuesday in favor of a Louisiana university being sued by a Christian evangelist who claims he was threatened with arrest if he didn’t stop speaking on campus.

U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle refused to grant a preliminary injunction requested by the Alliance Defend Fund, a Christian civil rights group that asserts Southeastern Louisiana University stifled traveling evangelist Jeremy Sonnier’s constitutional right to speak on campus. The group wanted to temporarily block the school from enforcing its speech policy while the lawsuit is argued.

The state-funded school says it has a right to limit the time, place and manner of free speech on its Hammond campus, about 60 miles northwest of New Orleans.


Married gay couples seek federal rights

BOSTON | Eight same-sex couples who married in Massachusetts and three gay widowers filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking access to the federal protections and programs granted to straight married couples.

The lawsuit in U.S. District Court for Massachusetts marks the first major challenge to the constitutionality of a federal law denying gay and lesbian couples access to more than 1,000 federal programs and legal protections, gay advocates say.

The suit was brought by the same lawyers who led a successful campaign to legalize gay marriage in Massachusetts in 2003, paving the way for the nation’s first same-sex marriages a year later. They won a similar fight last year to make Connecticut the second U.S. state to allow gay marriage.

The Massachusetts lawsuit comes two days before California’s Supreme Court hears a challenge to a referendum that barred same-sex marriage in the nation’s most populous state, sparking massive street protests.


Drug treatment for Simpson cohort

LAS VEGAS | A judge ordered a former O.J. Simpson co-defendant into drug treatment after he violated probation in the Las Vegas robbery and kidnapping case.

Clark County District Court Judge Jackie Glass could have sent Charles Cashmore to prison for one to three years. The Tuesday hearing resulted from his New Year’s Eve arrest for testing positive for methamphetamine.

That violated the strict three years’ probation Cashmore received in the Simpson case. He pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of accessory to robbery and testified against Simpson.

Simpson and another co-defendant were convicted and sent to prison for several years for kidnapping and robbing two sports memorabilia dealers in September 2007.


Hate-crime charges filed in bar attack

GALVESTON | Three men are facing hate-crime charges after purportedly throwing rocks into a gay bar, injuring two men, police said.

According to witnesses, one man held open the door to Robert’s Lafitte bar Sunday night while the other two hurled two rocks, one of them weighing 4 pounds, into the bar. The rocks were apparently being used as doorstops.

A 57-year-old man was treated at a hospital for a gash on the back of his head. Another man was hit in the jaw but refused treatment.

Witnesses chased the three men and provided descriptions to police. The arrests were made after a neighborhood sweep, police said.

Lawrence Lewis III, 20; his brother Lawrneil Lewis, 18; and Alejandro Sam Gray, 17, all of Galveston, were held Tuesday on aggravated assault charges. Bond was set at $120,000 each.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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