- The Washington Times - Friday, May 22, 2009


Nearly 150 charged in racist campaign

LOS ANGELES | About 150 people associated with a Hispanic street gang were named in federal racketeering indictments unsealed Thursday, accusing them of waging a racist campaign to eliminate blacks from a Southern California city through attempted murders and other crimes.

After the indictments of members and associates of the Varrio Hawaiian Gardens gang, federal and local agencies made a series of arrests, U.S. attorney’s spokesman Thom Mrozek said.

The indictments detail attempted murder, kidnapping, firearms, narcotics and other charges related to attacks by the gang, which is predominantly Hispanic and mainly operates in Hawaiian Gardens, a city of about 15,000 people in southeastern Los Angeles County.

“[Varrio Hawaiian Gardens] gang members take pride in their racism and often refer to the VHG Gang as the ‘Hate Gang,’ ” the main indictment states.

The indictment talks about a string of attacks on black residents, including a shooting into a home with eight people inside, but does not say whether anyone was hit. In another instance, two gang members are said to have chased a black man, yelled a racist epithet at him and then beat him with a garden rake. The same man was later repeatedly stabbed by two gang members, according to the indictment, which charges them with his attempted murder.


Astronauts eye forecast of rains

CAPE CANAVERAL | The Atlantis astronauts checked their ship’s flight systems and packed up Thursday in hopes of an on-time end to their triumphant Hubble Space Telescope repair mission, although the weather prospects were dismal for a Friday landing.

Commander Scott Altman and his crew were conserving power in order to remain aloft until Monday, if necessary. Mission Control warned the astronauts that Friday’s weather would be “iffy.”

Mr. Altman radioed Mission Control: “As long as you think there’s a chance, we’ll be willing to do whatever it takes.”


Life sentence given for Iraq murders

PADUCAH | An ex-soldier convicted of raping and killing an Iraqi teen and murdering her family was spared the death penalty Thursday and will serve a life sentence after jurors couldn’t agree unanimously on a punishment.

Former Pfc. Steven Dale Green of Midland, Texas, will be formally sentenced Sept. 4 by U.S. District Judge Thomas B. Russell. Jurors who convicted Green on May 7 told Judge Russell that they couldn’t agree on the appropriate sentence after deliberating more than 10 hours over two days.

In a March 2006 attack in Mahmoudiyah, about 20 miles south of Baghdad, Green and three other soldiers went to the home of 14-year-old Abeer Qassim al-Janabi. Green fatally shot the teen’s mother, father and sister, then became the third soldier to rape the girl before killing her.

Green’s attorneys never denied Green’s involvement in the attack. Instead, they focused on trying to build a case that he didn’t deserve the death penalty.

Defense attorneys presented former Marines and other soldiers Green served with who testified that Green faced an unusually stressful combat tour in Iraq in a unit that suffered heavy casualties and didn’t receive sufficient Army leadership while serving in Iraq’s “Triangle of Death.”

The other soldiers directly involved in the attack are serving long sentences in military prison and testified against Green, who was tried in federal court as a civilian because he had been discharged from the Army before his arrest.


Probation set for hiding mail

DETROIT | Postal worker Jill Hull, 35, who hid thousands of pieces of mail in a storage unit, was placed on probation Thursday for two years.

In September, managers of a self-storage business opened Miss Hull’s unit and discovered thousands of pieces of unopened mail, including first-class letters. Some had postmarks from 2005. Miss Hull said she couldn’t keep up with her route in Livingston County, 50 miles northwest of Detroit.

U.S. Magistrate Judge R. Steven Whalen declined to order a fine, saying Miss Hull could not afford it.


Mom admits killing, burying son, 3

ALBUQUERQUE | Police Chief Ray Schultz said Thursday that the mother of a 3-year-old boy found buried at a playground told investigators that she suffocated him, had second thoughts and brought him back to life with CPR, then changed her mind and suffocated him again.

Mr. Schultz said Tiffany Toribio, 23, told officers that she and her son, Tyruss “Ty” Toribio, were in Alvarado Park before dawn May 13 and that she suffocated him while he was asleep. She told detectives that she placed her hand over her son’s nose and mouth until he suffocated and waited a few minutes before burying him in the playground, the chief said.

The child’s body was found May 15 by a mother who saw his black tennis shoe sticking out of the sand.


Not guilty plea in piracy trial

NEW YORK | In U.S. District Court in Manhattan on Thursday, a Somali teenager accused of holding a U.S. ship captain hostage in the Indian Ocean after an attempted hijacking pleaded not guilty to 10 charges, including piracy and kidnapping.

Prosecutors say Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse, the sole surviving person accused in the foiled bid to hijack the U.S. container ship Maersk Alabama, acted as the leader of the pirates. He entered his plea in a quiet voice through an interpreter.

Outside the courthouse, defense lawyers said they were looking for witnesses in Somalia to prove Mr. Muse is a juvenile. A judge ruled in April that he is 18 and would be tried as an adult.

“It’s heart-wrenching. He is confused,” said one of his lawyers, Deirdre von Dornum. She said Mr. Muse was just “a boy who fishes and now he has ended up in solitary confinement here so it is a truly terrifying situation.”

According to the indictment, Mr. Muse threatened the captain of the ship, Richard Phillips, with a firearm and then, using a radio to communicate with U.S. representatives, “threatened to kill the captain unless his demands were satisfied.”


Bush asked to be waterboarded

WESTERLY | Rhode Island state Rep. Rod Driver, a Democrat, says he’ll donate $100 to charity for every second former President George W. Bush withstands waterboarding.

He also included former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in his offer. He sent letters to all three.

A spokesman for Mr. Bush didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.


No witnesses called in prayer death trial

WAUSAU | The mother accused of homicide for praying for her dying 11-year-old daughter instead of seeking medical help decided Thursday to call no witnesses in her defense.

Gene Linehan, attorney for 41-year-old Leilani Neumann, said the decision was reached after prosecutors agreed to tell the jury that to a “casual observer” Madeline Neumann appeared healthy on March 20, 2008, three days before she died of untreated diabetes.

Marathon County District Attorney Jill Falstad declined comment.

Mrs. Neumann is charged with second-degree reckless homicide in the death of her daughter at their rural Weston home. Her husband also has been charged and will be tried in July.

Prosecutors contend a reasonable parent would have known something was gravely wrong with Madeline. They said that Mrs. Neumann recklessly killed Madeline by ignoring obvious symptoms, such as that she couldn’t walk or talk, and that Mrs. Neumann prayed instead of rushing her to a doctor.

Mrs. Neumann has said the family believes healing comes from God, and she never expected Madeline to die.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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