- - Monday, August 23, 2010


Jackson hearing set for next year

LOS ANGELES | A preliminary hearing where prosecutors will lay out some of the evidence against a doctor charged in Michael Jackson’s death will begin Jan. 4 in Los Angeles, a judge said Monday.

The hearing had been expected to begin later this year, but was pushed back owing to issues involving witness availability and the ongoing investigation, Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor said.

After the hearing, which is expected to last at least two weeks, Judge Pastor will determine whether enough evidence exists to order cardiologist Conrad Murray to stand trial.

Dr. Murray, 57, has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the death of Jackson in June 2009 at the age of 50. Authorities have accused Dr. Murray of administering a lethal dose of the anesthetic propofol to Jackson in the bedroom of the singer’s rented mansion.


Obama Elementary opens school year

UPPER MARLBORO | Classes are in session at the new Barack Obama Elementary School in Prince George’s County.

As of the first day of classes Monday, it became the latest of at least six schools across the country named for the president and the first in the Washington area. The Prince George’s school system is touting the new building as an environmentally friendly “green” school.

Voters in majority-black Prince George’s County supported Mr. Obama by wide margins in the 2008 election.

Corey Armstrong of Upper Marlboro says it’s an honor for his two children to attend a school named for the president, though he says he’s worried about larger class sizes, though, because of teacher cutbacks in the county.


Victims settle last bridge lawsuit

MINNEAPOLIS | An engineering firm that consulted on the Minneapolis bridge that collapsed in 2007 has agreed to pay $52.4 million to settle the last major piece of litigation brought by victims, lawyers said Monday.

San Francisco-based URS Corp. had been sued by more than 100 people who accused the company of missing warning signs in the Interstate 35W bridge before its rush-hour collapse into the Mississippi River. Thirteen people died and 145 were injured.

URS had argued that its engineers didn’t know about a design flaw in the bridge that made it vulnerable. In a statement, the company said the settlement was necessary to avoid protracted litigation — if the case had gone to trial, punitive damage would have been possible.

At a news conference, several survivors said they were relieved by the settlement and looking forward to getting on with their lives.

“In this nation, justice is spelled out in dollars,” said Garrett Ebling, who spent two months in the hospital with multiple injuries. But he said victims would “trade every dollar we receive from this settlement for a bridge that was designed, built and maintained properly.”


Escapees charged with double murder

ALBUQUERQUE | Two escaped convicts from Arizona and a woman who accompanied them were charged with murder and carjacking Monday in the deaths of an Oklahoma couple who authorities said were targeted because of their camping trailer.

Federal prosecutors in New Mexico filed murder and carjacking charges against John McCluskey, 45; Tracy Province, 42; and their purported accomplice, Casslyn Welch, 44.

They are accused in the deaths of Gary and Linda Haas of Tecumseh, Okla., whom prosecutors said at a news conference Monday were “two people on vacation who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Authorities said the three fugitives saw the couple at a rest area along Interstate 40 in eastern New Mexico Aug. 2, three days after the men escaped from the Arizona State Prison in Kingman. An arrest warrant says the three were tired of traveling and sleeping in a car they stole in Flagstaff, Ariz., and decided “it would be a good idea to target someone driving a camper or trailer.”

Prosecutors say McCluskey shot and killed the couple inside their travel trailer. The three fugitives drove the truck and trailer to a remote area of New Mexico’s Guadalupe County, where they unhitched, burned and abandoned the trailer, authorities said.


Hewlett-Packard bids for data company

NEW YORK | Hewlett-Packard Co. is bidding $1.5 billion for data-storage provider 3Par Inc., offering 33 percent more than what rival Dell Inc. agreed to pay for the company just a week earlier.

The tussle for control of 3Par comes as both HP and Dell have been looking to expand beyond personal computers in search of bigger profits. The company they both want to buy provides products for organizing data on corporate servers. Those tools could help either company go deeper into “cloud computing,” the growing practice of offering software on a subscription basis over the Internet.

The offer announced Monday raised questions about the direction HP is taking since CEO Mark Hurd was forced to resign earlier this month. HP Executive Vice President Dave Donatelli indicated that HP had made a previous offer, but would go only as far as saying, “We’ve been working on this deal for some time.”

HP’s bid of $24 per share represents a 33 percent increase over Dell’s offer Aug. 16 of $18 per share, which itself had been 87 percent premium over the company’s most recent closing price at the time.


Marine guilty in colleague’s death

GOLDSBORO | A North Carolina jury says a former Marine is guilty of first-degree murder in the death of a pregnant colleague whose remains were found under a backyard fire pit.

The jury of seven women and five men decided 23-year-old Cesar Laurean of Las Vegas was guilty of killing 20-year-old Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach of Vandalia, Ohio, in December 2007. The two were assigned to the same logistics unit at Camp Lejeune.

Cpl. Lauterbach accused Laurean of rape, but a Marine buddy testified Laurean told him the sex was consensual. District Attorney Dewey Hudson said Laurean killed the woman because the sexual encounter risked his career.


Family dispute ends in 3 deaths

LOUISA | A man who shot and killed his son and nephew and wounded four other relatives had been involved in an ongoing family dispute over a piece of property in a rural central Virginia neighborhood, authorities said Monday.

Sheriff’s deputies had been called to the property nearly two dozen times in recent years — including once earlier in the day Sunday — before Charles P. Steadman Sponaugle, 52, opened fire on his family members, Louisa sheriff’s Maj. Donnie Lowe said.

Deputies had been called out to the property around 2 p.m. Sunday and a dispute was resolved. But they were called again around 4:45 p.m. when Sponaugle opened fire with a .22-caliber semiautomatic target pistol, said Corinne Geller, a Virginia State Police spokeswoman.

Sponaugle fired at two deputies and unleashed his pit bull at them before deputies responded, fatally shooting both Sponaugle and the dog, Ms. Geller said.

Sponaugle fatally shot his son, Charles P. Steadman, 29, and nephew Mark A. Cooper Jr., 23. Also shot were his sister, Kitty L. Cooper, 41; brother-in-law Mark A. Cooper Sr., 45; and nephews Jerrell A. Steadman Jr., 26, and Jason C. Steadman, 27.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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