Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Report: Ex-mayor violated laws

Former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry violated conflict-of-interest laws when he awarded a contract to his girlfriend and then tried to impede an investigation, a D.C. lawyer concluded in a report released Tuesday.

The D.C. Council asked Robert S. Bennett to investigate after details of the contract emerged last summer. Mr. Barry represents Ward 8 on the council.

The contract became the focus of attention after Mr. Barry was arrested in July on charges of stalking the former girlfriend, Donna Watts-Brighthaupt. The charges were dropped.

In his report, Mr. Bennett said Mr. Barry failed to disclose “his financial, personal and sexual relationships with Ms. Watts-Brighthaupt” when he submitted the contract for approval. He said Mr. Barry also forced Miss Watts-Brighthaupt to turn over portions of the contract payments to him as repayment for paying her mortgage and other bills when she was short on cash.

In response, Mr. Barry said that the council lacks written rules and procedures for personal service contracts. No one, he argued, can be accused of “violating something that didn’t exist in the first place.”


Judge who opened league to girls dies

NEWARK | Sylvia Pressler, a trailblazing judge whose 1973 ruling opened Little League baseball to girls, died Monday. She was 75.

Mrs. Pressler died at the family’s home in Sparta, said her husband, David Pressler. She had been battling lymphoma and was scheduled to begin chemotherapy treatments Tuesday, he said.

While serving as a hearing examiner with New Jersey’s Division on Civil Rights, Mrs. Pressler ruled that a 12-year-old northern New Jersey girl should have been allowed to play on a Little League team.

The ruling was decried by Little League as “conceived in vindictive and prejudicial fashion of the worst kind,” but it was upheld on appeal, and New Jersey became the first state to bar sex discrimination in Little League.

By the following year, Little League amended its charter to allow girls and also created a softball division.


Officers won’t face charges

NEW YORK | Three New York police officers who killed an unarmed man in a 50-shot barrage outside a seedy strip club hours before his wedding will not face civil rights charges, federal authorities said Tuesday.

The parents and former fiancee of Sean Bell, along with the Rev. Al Sharpton, had lobbied federal prosecutors in Brooklyn to charge the officers with violating Mr. Bell’s civil rights.

“After a careful and thorough review, a team of experienced federal prosecutors and FBI agents determined that the evidence was insufficient to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the law enforcement personnel who fired at Bell (and two friends, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield) acted willfully,” the Justice Department said. “Accordingly, the investigation into this incident has been closed.”


Flight cleared after bomb threat

PHILADELPHIA | It was a domestic dispute that led to a bomb threat Tuesday and forced security to sweep a flight at Philadelphia International Airport, an airline spokeswoman said.

Nothing suspicious was found and the plane has been returned into service.

Air Wisconsin spokeswoman Annette Daly said a passenger on the flight from Norfolk, Va., to Philadelphia had received threatening text messages Tuesday morning. Miss Daly said they alluded to a bomb on the plane.

The plane landed in Philadelphia and the 23 passengers got off safely.

Authorities said the plane was taken to a remote location at the airport. Security swept the aircraft and found nothing.

Philadelphia police said the man who made the threat is in custody in Virginia.


Spacek lobbies for film incentives

RICHMOND | Oscar-winning actress Sissy Spacek wants her home state on filmmakers’ short list.

Miss Spacek and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling called Tuesday for the passage of proposals to beef up Virginia’s film incentives. Miss Spacek, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of Loretta Lynn in “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” lives in Keswick.

“I just think it’s time for Virginia to get a piece of the pie,” said Miss Spacek.

The Senate unanimously passed a bill this month that would provide grants to production companies that spend at least $250,000 in Virginia. Films made in economically depressed areas of the state would receive more money.

Mr. Bolling said tax credits likely would be included in the budget.

Virginia is one of 42 states that offer incentives for film companies, but many states offer more. On a recent HBO production, Mr. Bolling said Virginia earned $14 for every $1 invested.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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