- - Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Day-laborer crackdown OK’d

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court says the California city of Redondo Beach can enforce a local ordinance prohibiting job solicitation and arrest day laborers.

A divided 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday reversed a lower-court decision.

The appeals court says the city’s ordinance, modeled after a Phoenix law upheld by the same court, was a reasonable response to traffic problems that officials said day laborers, soliciting work, caused at two city intersections.

Redondo Beach’s law was enacted in the 1980s but not enforced until 2004, when 60 day laborers were arrested in stings by undercover police posing as people seeking to hire workers.

Judge Kim Wardlaw, a 1995 appointee of President Clinton, dissented from the 2-1 majority, writing that the ordinance violated the laborers’ free-speech rights.


Ex-lawyer sentenced for Ponzi scheme

FORT LAUDERDALE — Disbarred lawyer Scott Rothstein, whose seemingly unlimited wealth bought palatial homes, exotic cars and mega-yachts, was sentenced Wednesday to 50 years in prison for operating a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme using faked legal settlements.

The sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge James I. Cohn was below the 100-year maximum Rothstein faced for five felony convictions, including racketeering conspiracy, money-laundering conspiracy and wire fraud.

Rothstein, who turns 48 on Thursday, hoped for a 30-year sentence because of his extensive cooperation with investigators, and prosecutors could later ask for up to one-third off his sentence because of continued assistance.


2 soldiers charged in $50,000 scheme

HONOLULU — A federal grand jury has indicted two soldiers based at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii on conspiracy, bribery and money-laundering charges.

The indictment returned Tuesday accuses Charles Finch and Gary Canteen of splitting $50,000 for steering a $1.5 million job to a company when they were deployed in Afghanistan.

The indictment also charges the company, AZ Corp., and its owners, Assad John Ramin and his brother, Tahir Ramin, with conspiracy, bribery and money laundering.

The brothers are accused of paying the $50,000 to Mr. Finch to recommend AZ for a U.S. Department of Defense trucking and transportation services contract.

The indictment says the money went into the bank account of Mr. Canteen’s Honolulu souvenir business.


Abramoff moved to halfway house

HAGERSTOWN — Disgraced Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff has been released from prison to a halfway house in the Mid-Atlantic region, the Federal Bureau of Prisons said Wednesday.

Abramoff, 51, was released Tuesday from the minimum-security federal prison camp in Western Maryland where he had been confined since November 2006 for fraud, corruption and conspiracy convictions, spokesman Edmond Ross said.

Abramoff was moved to a residential re-entry center, or halfway house, in a region encompassing much of Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and the District of Columbia, Mr. Ross said. He said he didn’t know the location of the halfway house. Calls to the agency’s Community Correctional Management section, which oversees halfway houses, weren’t returned.

Abramoff’s scheduled release date is Dec. 4, Mr. Ross said. He said Abramoff could spend the last two to three weeks of his sentence in home confinement.


New hire fired under cell-phone ban

BOSTON — A man who beat out thousands of job applicants for work as a Boston bus driver has been fired after less than a week for purportedly violating a ban on cell-phone use.

The man was hired by the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority through a 27,000-person job lottery conducted to fill 34 vacancies. MBTA General Manager Richard Davey said Wednesday the new driver was seen using a cell phone at a training site. When a supervisor approached, the trainee allegedly snapped it shut and got on a bus.

The agency policy requires the immediate firing of any driver caught using a cell phone while on duty. The policy was instituted last year after a driver slammed his trolley into another train while sending a text message to his girlfriend.


Candidate in rehab with race undecided

HELENA — The former Montana secretary of state seeking a new position regulating utilities is checking into rehab — but he’s not conceding defeat.

Brad Johnson, 59, suspended his campaign for public service commissioner after recently pleading guilty to a drunken driving charge. But even without campaigning, he was locked in a too-close-to-call battle Wednesday with lawyer Bill Gallagher.

Results from Tuesday’s primary show him trailing Mr. Gallagher by less than a percentage point. Mr. Johnson, recognizing that victory appears to be a long shot, said he will not concede defeat until provisional ballots are counted.

Mr. Johnson, who said the drunken-driving charge was a real wake-up call, entered a 28-day treatment program in Billings on Wednesday. He will largely be out of communication with the outside world during part of his rehabilitation.


Empire State Building nixes Mother Teresa

NEW YORK — The Empire State Building’s owner said he won’t light the landmark skyscraper for Mother Teresa because of a policy against honoring individual religious figures.

Anthony Malkin’s statement Wednesday comes amid a worldwide uproar over the decision not to illuminate the building in blue and white lights in August on what would have been the late Nobel Prize winner’s 100th birthday.

A lay group, the Catholic League, made the request in February, and was denied. The league said individual religious figures have, in fact, received the honor. It cited lights honoring the deaths of Cardinal John O’Connor in 2000 and Pope John Paul II in 2005.


911 tells woman: Not dating service

ALLIANCE — A woman spent three days in jail for calling the 911 emergency line five times seeking a husband.

The dispatcher was flabbergasted by the requests and asked Audrey Scott, of Alliance, “You need to get a husband?”

Miss Scott, 57, responded, “Yes.”

Told that she could face arrest for misusing 911, Miss Scott responded, “Let’s do it.”

Miss Scott was convicted last week of improper use of the 911 system and was sentenced to the three days in jail, which she had already served since her arrest. Seven other days were suspended if she stays out of trouble for a year.

After her release, Miss Scott blamed the case on alcohol.


3 killed in 2 gas explosions

LUBBOCK — An explosion in the Texas Panhandle that killed two men was the state’s second deadly blast in as many days involving workers who accidentally hit natural-gas lines.

The blast Tuesday involved a crew that was removing caliche — commonly used in cement — from a pit for a dirt-contracting company, Lipscomb County Sheriff James Robertson said. The explosion happened when a bulldozer struck a pipeline in a remote area of the Texas Panhandle near Darrouzett.

Killed were Steven Douglas Odell, 32, and Johnnie Mike Renner, 44, both of Pampa, Sheriff Robertson said Wednesday. One person hospitalized after the blast was in fair condition at Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City, a spokeswoman said. Two others were treated at a nearby hospital and released.

The bulldozer crew was working for an oil-services company when it hit the line Tuesday afternoon.

A day earlier, one worker was killed when a utility crew accidentally hit and ruptured a natural gas line in rural Johnson County, about 50 miles southwest of Dallas.


Larry King’s wife recovers from overdose

PROVO — A spokesman for Larry King said the talk-show host’s wife is recovering after an apparent prescription-drug overdose last month in Utah.

Emergency medical workers were called to Shawn King’s home in Provo on May 28. Her father dialed 911 after finding the 50-year-old woman in her bed, breathing but not responding when he tried to wake her.

He told dispatchers that he thought she may have taken too much medication for anxiety or depression.

The couple filed for divorce in April, but Mr. King released a statement Wednesday saying their marriage is still together.

King spokesman Howard Rubenstein said Mrs. King is in good shape and enjoying her life.


Con man admits to killing couple

JEFFERSON — An ailing Kentucky con man pleaded guilty Wednesday to killing a teenage couple in Wisconsin nearly 30 years ago and agreed to plead guilty to two Ohio murders he had earlier confessed to.

Edward W. Edwards, 76, unexpectedly entered the guilty pleas during a hearing that was supposed to determine which jail he would be held in while awaiting trial.

His attorney, Jeffery De La Rosa, said Edwards didn’t make the final decision on signing the deal until an hour before the hearing.

Edwards, who’s in poor health, didn’t address the roughly two dozen friends and family members of Wisconsin victims Tim Hack and Kelly Drew, who gathered in the courtroom. He only spoke in response to questions from Jefferson County Judge William F. Hue.

Edwards pleaded guilty to killing the 19-year-old sweethearts in 1980. Edwards will be sentenced at a later date to mandatory life prison sentences for each murder.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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