- The Washington Times - Friday, September 25, 2009


Police: Plane used to stalk woman

CONCORD | Police have arrested a California pilot who they say stalked his ex-girlfriend by repeatedly flying his plane low over her house.

Concord police Sgt. Tiffiny Leftwich said Tom Huey made several low passes over a residential neighborhood Wednesday evening.

A dozen residents called police to complain. Mr. Huey was arrested shortly after landing the Beech single-engine aircraft.

Sgt. Leftwich said police have been investigating reports of a low-flying plane in the area for more than a year.

Mr. Huey’s girlfriend filed for a restraining order last year, but he was not served until Wednesday afternoon.

Mr. Huey is being held on $155,000 bail on suspicion of felony stalking and violating a restraining order.


Theme park closes doors

WINTER HAVEN | Cypress Gardens, which reigned as Florida’s grandest theme park in the days before Disney, has shut down while its owners try to sell the attraction.

The 73-year-old park, known for water-skiing shows, lush flower gardens and Southern belles in hoop dresses, was shuttered Wednesday after years of sagging attendance and ownership changes.

The current owner, Land South Adventures, said the park was no longer financially viable. The company said it “has explored numerous management frameworks and exhausted every possible approach to keep the park running in its traditional form.”

The company said it was negotiating with several potential buyers.


Report: Refinery blast preventable

SAVANNAH | Imperial Sugar Co. and managers of its Georgia refinery ignored known dangers of explosive dust for decades before a chain of dust-fueled fireballs erupted at the plant last year and killed 14 people, investigators said in a report Thursday.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board, which investigates industrial accidents, said it found written warnings of explosive dust hazards in refinery memos from the 1960s and that the deaths likely could have been prevented by routine housekeeping.

The agency said near-misses over the years from small fires also failed to persuade corporate managers to take the threat seriously inside the nation’s second-largest sugar refinery, located a few miles west of Savannah.


Court rejects mandatory term

PORTLAND | Sometimes a mandatory sentence can be too much.

The Oregon Supreme Court ruled Thursday that more than six years in prison was too harsh a penalty for a young woman convicted of sex abuse for rubbing her breasts against a 13-year-old boy.

The court concluded that the 75 months Veronica Rodriguez was given under the Measure 11 mandatory sentencing law was so disproportionate it would “shock the moral sense” of reasonable people.

But the Supreme Court let stand her conviction, saying there was sufficient evidence her relationship with the boy was inappropriate.

Rodriguez was in her 20s at the time, working as a youth counselor. She served a year before her release on good behavior while she appealed.


Ex-officer guilty of raid tip-off

PHILADELPHIA | A former Philadelphia police officer has been found guilty of obstruction and lying to authorities for alerting former NBA player Jerome “Pooh” Richardson to an imminent drug raid.

A jury Thursday convicted Rickie Durham of warning Richardson about the August 2005 raid in a 3 a.m. phone call.

Richardson called a half-sister and told her to leave the New Jersey house she shared with drug kingpin Alton Coles. The couple was arrested hours later.

The federal jury split its verdict, acquitting Durham of three of six counts.

Durham, 42, belonged to a drug task force and called Richardson on an FBI-issued phone.

Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 6.


Competency review set in Smart case

SALT LAKE CITY | A woman charged in the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping who was court-ordered to undergo psychiatric treatment will have a competency review hearing next month.

A Utah district court calendar shows Wanda Eileen Barzee, 63, will appear before Judge Judith Atherton on Oct. 23.

It will be the first time Miss Barzee has appeared in court since doctors at the Utah State Hospital began to forcibly medicate her last year in an effort to make her competent.

Miss Barzee and her estranged husband were arrested in March 2003 and charged with multiple felonies related to the months-long abduction in 2002 of the then-14-year-old Miss Smart in Salt Lake City.

Miss Barzee has twice been ruled incompetent to stand trial. In 2006, the judge said Miss Barzee met the criteria for forced medication.

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