- - Thursday, November 4, 2010


Mexican drug ring slammed by busts

JONESBORO | Federal and local law enforcement agents have arrested 45 people and seized cash, guns and more than two tons of drugs as part of an investigation into the Atlanta-area U.S. distribution hub of a major Mexican drug cartel, authorities said Thursday.

Operation Choke Hold began in May 2009 and targeted the Atlanta-area operations of La Familia Michoacana, authorities said at a news conference at a suburban Atlanta courthouse. Known as La Familia, it is one of Mexico’s largest and most brutal cartels.

Authorities seized 4,120 pounds of marijuana, 46 pounds of methamphetamine, about 95 pounds of cocaine, 20 guns, six vehicles and about $2.3 million in cash during the investigation. The drugs seized have a street value of more than $10 million, Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Lawson said.

Investigators say the La Familia cell based in Atlanta imports cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana. The network distributes significant amounts of the drugs to Florida, Alabama, Indiana, Illinois and North Carolina.


Facebook leads to parole jumper

HELENA | A man who absconded from parole in California 12 years ago has been arrested in northern Montana after disclosing his location in an update on his Facebook page.

A fugitive task force in California learned that Robert Lewis Crose, 47, was working in northern Montana after he complained about the cold weather, Glacier County sheriff’s Sgt. Tom Siefert told the Independent Record.

Crose’s Facebook page includes an Oct. 28 posting complaining that his “water line froze even with heat tape and wrap” after the temperature fell to 20 degrees below zero. When someone asked where he was at, Crose responded with a post that said “Cut Bank,” a small, windswept town just south of the Canadian border.

Crose was convicted of making a terrorist threat and a gun violation for using a sawed-off shotgun to fend off an intruder at his appliance store in Ventura, Calif., in 1996. He served less than a year in prison and was paroled. The Los Angeles Times reported he was returned to prison for a parole violation and paroled again in October 1998.


Navy SEAL, 2 others accused of arms smuggling

LAS VEGAS | A Navy special forces SEAL in California and men in Nevada and Colorado are accused of smuggling machine guns from Iraq into the U.S. for resale on the black market, authorities say.

Federal officials in Las Vegas said Thursday that Nicholas Bickle, 36, of San Diego; Andrew Kaufman, 36, of Las Vegas; and Richard Paul of Durango, 34, of Colorado, were arrested Wednesday.

A complaint unsealed in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas accuses the trio of conspiring to smuggle and sell 18 weapons and 14 other firearms since June to an undercover federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent in Las Vegas and Colorado.

Authorities say the weapons included factory-made Iraqi machine guns that would be difficult or impossible to trace.


Man sentenced for schoolyard killings

NEWARK | A man who admitted pulling the trigger in the execution-style killings of three college students in a New Jersey schoolyard has been sentenced to prison for life.

Melvin Jovel, 21, pleaded guilty to murder, attempted murder and weapons charges days before his trial was to begin in September.

A judge sentenced Jovel on Thursday to three consecutive life sentences plus 20 years.

Prosecutors say Jovel and five others lined up the victims against a wall in Newark and shot each in the back of the head. All the victims attended or planned to attend Delaware State University.


Principal loses pay over political field trip

CINCINNATI | An Ohio school district has suspended a principal and teacher without pay after they were accused of violating district policies during a field trip to an elections office.

Cincinnati Public Schools said Thursday that Hughes High School principal Virginia Rhodes will be suspended for five days and teacher Dennis McFadden, who took the students on the trip, has been suspended for one day.

The students were given Democratic sample ballots at the Hamilton County Board of Elections on Oct. 13, where they also were shown how to vote. An anti-tax group sued the district, calling the trip “one-sided political activity.”


ACLU sues over ‘stop-frisk’ searches

PHILADELPHIA | A civil liberties group filed a federal lawsuit Thursday challenging the use of “stop and frisk” searches by Philadelphia police, contending that the policy is violating the rights of blacks and Hispanics who have done nothing wrong.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania filed the lawsuit on behalf of eight men, including a state lawmaker, it says were subjected to illegal searches since the city started using “stop and frisk,” a controversial element of first-term Mayor Michael Nutter’s 2007 mayoral campaign.

In the lawsuit, the ACLU cites city data showing that 253,333 pedestrians were stopped last year, compared with 102,319 in 2005. More than 70 percent of the people stopped last year were black, and only 8.4 percent of the total stops led to an arrest, the ACLU said.

The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, seeks unspecified damages and a court injunction. It also contends that police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey has failed to train and discipline officers.


Appeals court halts Smart kidnap trial

SALT LAKE CITY | A federal appeals court on Thursday halted the trial of a man accused of kidnapping Elizabeth Smart to decide if he can get a fair trial in Utah.

Opening statements in the case of Brian David Mitchell were interrupted to announce the decision by the three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

The trial was put on hold as the panel considered a claim by defense lawyers that extensive publicity about the abduction has tainted the jury pool. Prosecutors have until 12:50 a.m. Friday to respond to the claim.

U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball, who is presiding at the trial, sent jurors home just an hour after they were selected in Salt Lake City.

Judge Kimball previously rejected defense requests to move the case from Utah.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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