- - Friday, April 30, 2010


Lawsuits challenge new immigration law

PHOENIX — Anger mounted Thursday over an Arizona law cracking down on illegal immigration as a police officer filed one of the first lawsuits challenging the law and activists gathered outside an Arizona Diamondbacks game at Wrigley Field in Chicago, chanting “Boycott Arizona.”

The lawsuit from 15-year Tucson police veteran Martin Escobar is one of two filed Thursday, less than a week after Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, signed the legislation, which has sparked fears it will lead to racial profiling despite the governor’s vow that officers will be properly trained.

U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has said the federal government may challenge the law, which requires local and state law enforcement to question people about their immigration status if there’s reason to suspect they’re in the country illegally and makes it a state crime to be in the U.S. illegally.

The National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders also filed a lawsuit Thursday and is seeking an injunction preventing authorities from enforcing the law. The group argues that federal law pre-empts state regulation of national borders and that Arizona’s law violates due-process rights by letting police detain suspected illegal immigrants before they’re convicted.

At least three Arizona cities — Phoenix, Flagstaff and Tucson — are considering legal action to block the law.

In Chicago, about 40 immigrant rights activists gathered outside Wrigley Field Thursday as the Cubs opened a four-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. A small plane toting a banner criticizing the law circled the stadium.


Governor backs health overhaul

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is pledging California’s full support for national health care reform, throwing the weight of one of the nation’s most prominent Republican voices behind the overhaul.

Mr. Schwarzenegger said he has long supported the concept of universal health coverage and it’s time to set politics aside and start implementing the legislation, signed earlier this year.

If reform is to succeed, he said, it is up to the states to make it happen.

Mr. Schwarzenegger’s comments mark a change in tone. Earlier, he criticized a Senate version of the national bill that gave Nebraska more Medicaid money than other states, calling it a “rip-off.”


Swine-flu fears push shots to record high

ATLANTA — Fears of swine flu helped boost vaccination for ordinary seasonal flu last year, with a record 40 percent of adults and children getting the vaccine, federal health officials said Thursday.

The jump was most dramatic in children, but vaccinations also increased in healthy adults younger than 50, according to researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For all ages, the highest seasonal flu vaccination rate previously was about 33 percent, in the 2008-09 season.

Flu shots have been around since the 1940s, but several situations made last fall’s campaign unusual:

Swine flu appeared last spring and was unusually dangerous to children and young adults, prompting more interest in regular flu shots.

Also, government recommendations kicked in calling for seasonal flu vaccinations for all children.

The results are being published in a CDC publication, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.


Two killed in mine roof collapse

PROVIDENCE — A rescue team found a second Kentucky miner dead after a roof collapse at an underground coal mine with a long history of safety problems.

Kentucky Office of Mine Safety and Licensing spokesman Dick Brown said the two miners were found dead Thursday after the accident at the Dotiki Mine in western Kentucky.

Rescue workers earlier found the body of one miner trapped under rock. They had to retreat for a time when the roof become unstable, sending down a shower of rocks.

Gov. Steven L. Beshear identified the miners as Justin Travis, 27, and Michael Carter, 28.

State and federal records show more than 40 closure orders over safety violations since January 2009. Officials with mine operator Alliance Coal Co. didn’t return calls seeking comment.


MS patient makes bail in marijuana case

DELMONT — A multiple sclerosis patient slapped with a five-year prison sentence for growing marijuana that he said was for medical purposes said he’ll just say no to the drug until it becomes legal in New Jersey this summer.

John Wilson, 37, was freed from Southern State Prison on $15,000 bail Thursday. Earlier this week, a court ruled he could be released while he appeals his drug conviction.

New Jersey lawmakers have adopted a medical marijuana law set to take effect Aug. 1.

Wilson was convicted last year of manufacturing marijuana and possession of hallucinogenic mushrooms.

Last month, he was sentenced to five years in prison.


Former officer convicted of lying

NEW YORK — A former city police officer was convicted Thursday of lying about a clash with a bike-riding activist seen by millions of YouTube viewers but was cleared of assault and harassment charges.

Jurors delivered their verdict Thursday in the case against Patrick Pogan, whose trial underscored tensions between the city’s police and a group of pro-cycling demonstrators and highlighted the growing prevalence of witness videos in law enforcement.

Pogan initially reported that cyclist Christopher Long steered into him and knocked him down in July 2008 in Times Square, but a tourist’s video posted on YouTube contradicted Pogan’s account. The video, which garnered millions of views, showed Pogan making a beeline for Mr. Long and knocking him off his bike.

Pogan testified last week that he was trying to protect himself during the encounter and never meant to misrepresent what happened. He was 11 days out of the police academy when he confronted Mr. Long and resigned from the force last year.

Prosecutors to probe Goldman Sachs

NEW YORK — Federal prosecutors are conducting a criminal probe into whether Goldman Sachs Group Inc. or its employees committed securities fraud in connection with its mortgage trading, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday on its website.

The investigation by the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, which is at a preliminary stage, stemmed from a referral from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the report said, citing people familiar with the probe.

The SEC already has filed a civil fraud lawsuit against Goldman, charging that it hid vital information from investors about a mortgage-related security.

A spokeswoman for the office of the Manhattan U.S. attorney said she could neither confirm nor deny any Goldman investigation. Goldman was not available to comment.

In Washington, a spokeswoman said the Justice Department declined to comment.

The criminal investigation is centered on different evidence than the SEC’s civil case, according to the news report, which added that it could not be determined which Goldman deals are being scrutinized in the investigation.

Prosecutors have not determined whether they will bring charges in the case, the report said.


‘Andy Griffith’ actress robbed in ‘Mayberry’

MOUNT AIRY — The actress who played Thelma Lou on “The Andy Griffith Show” was robbed in the town that inspired the show’s idyllic Mayberry setting, after moving to the area to avoid big-city crime.

Betty Lou Lynn, 83, had her wallet stolen at a shopping center in Mount Airy, the birthplace of Andy Griffith.

The Mount Airy News reports that police arrested Shirley Walter Guynn of Cana, Va. He’s being held in Surry County Jail on a $10,000 bond.

In an earlier interview with the newspaper, Ms. Lynn said she moved to Mount Airy after being robbed three times in Los Angeles. In the TV series, Thelma Lou was the girlfriend of Deputy Barney Fife, played by Don Knotts.


Ex-judge to plead in kickback scheme

SCRANTON — One of two former northeastern Pennsylvania judges facing federal racketeering charges in a “kids for cash” kickback scheme has agreed to plead guilty.

According to a plea agreement filed Thursday, former Luzerne County Judge Michael Conahan will plead guilty to his role in a $2.8 million scheme involving the placement of juvenile offenders in for-profit detention facilities.

Former Judge Mark Ciavarella also is charged in the scandal.

Prosecutors say Mr. Conahan and Mr. Ciavarella took kickbacks from the owner and builder of two private juvenile detention facilities.

Last year, the state’s high court vacated the convictions of thousands of juveniles who appeared before Mr. Ciavarella between 2003 and 2008.


Man faces charges for threatening Obama

DALLAS — A Dallas man has been charged with threatening in an online posting to kill President Obama.

A criminal complaint citing his March 21 Craigslist post indicates that Brian Dean Miller, 43, was upset about health care reform.

The complaint says Mr. Miller has admitted he threatened to kill the president. It says he called for a revolution and that he was “dedicating [his] life to the death of Obama and every employee of the federal government.”

Agents subpoenaed Craigslist and AT&T to track down Mr. Miller.

The complaint says agents arrested Mr. Miller and seized his computer March 25. They found no weapons at his home.


Governor pushed to cancel Ayers’ visit

LARAMIE — Gov. Dave Freudenthal was among those who agreed with canceling a talk by 1960s radical William Ayers at the University of Wyoming earlier this month.

In response to a records request by the Associated Press, the university on Friday released e-mails from the governor’s chief of staff, Chris Boswell, and others regarding Mr. Ayers’ visit.

Mr. Ayers co-founded the Weather Underground, a Vietnam-era antiwar group that claimed responsibility for a series of nonfatal bombings, including nonfatal explosions at the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol.

Mr. Boswell said in one e-mail that Mr. Freudenthal would personally call for rescinding Mr. Ayers’ invitation if UW President Tom Buchanan preferred. The university cited security concerns in canceling Mr. Ayers’ talk.

Mr. Ayers spoke at UW on Wednesday night after a federal judge forced the school to host him.

The speech culminated a monthlong fight over whether Mr. Ayers should be allowed to speak at the state’s only four-year public university.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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