- - Wednesday, July 6, 2011

CALIFORNIA

$750,000 awarded in fire that burned Einstein papers

SAN JOSE — A Northern California family must pay $750,000 for a massive 2007 wildfire that destroyed papers written by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Albert Einstein, a jury decided.

The Santa Clara County jury came to its verdict last week against Margaret Pavese, her husband, Lawrence, and her father-in-law, Ernest, in a negligence lawsuit filed by San Jose State University chemistry professor Dan Straus, the San Jose Mercury News reported Tuesday.

Margaret Pavese was found responsible for starting a 75-square-mile wildfire in September 2007 after she used a metal barrel to burn paper plates and left the blaze unattended. The wildfire ended up destroying four homes and 20 outbuildings, mostly in Henry Coe State Park.

She later pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor and paid $200,000 in restitution, including $40,000 to Straus for the loss of his two small cabins, an outbuilding and a trailer.

But the lawsuit specifically addressed the contents of a safe inside one of the cabins that held dozens of pages of calculations and notes handwritten by Einstein, a friend and colleague of Mr. Straus’ late father at Princeton University.

MICHIGAN

Book by ex-mayor covers affair, legal saga

DETROIT — Disgraced former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick claims in an upcoming book that an unspoken alliance of political adversaries, Detroit business leaders and an aggressive media capitalized on a sex and perjury scandal to send him from leading one of America’s largest cities to a prison cell.

The former politician bills “Surrendered! The Rise, Fall and Revelation of Kwame Kilpatrick” as the true tale of his saga. While he takes responsibility for an affair with an aide and lies told during a civil trial, he also blames plenty of others for his downfall.

“When I perjured myself, I gave my enemies a lane. And they turned that lane into a highway,” Kilpatrick writes, according to an advance copy obtained by the Associated Press. “My intent entering office was to empower Detroiters, and my actions heading into my second term suggested that we had the ability to do it. And that threatened too many people’s bottom line. Their bottom lines for me, then, became simple. Get rid of me. And they’re not finished.”

Kilpatrick, dubbed the “Hip-Hop Mayor” when he was elected at age 31, was charged with perjury after text messages on city-issued pagers contradicted testimony he gave during a 2007 police whistle-blowers’ trial.

MONTANA

Exxon: Failed pipeline was deeply buried

BILLINGS — Exxon Mobil Co. reassured concerned regulators that an oil pipeline beneath Montana’s Yellowstone River was buried deeply enough and not in danger just a month before it broke in a flood and spewed an estimated 1,000 barrels of crude into the waterway.

Details about the company’s actions leading up to the Friday night spill into one of the West’s premier rivers emerged in federal safety documents as cleanup work continued downstream of the rupture site in the town of Laurel.

There is no definitive word on how far downriver the spill could spread. Oil has been reported as far as 240 miles away and officials worry high water could wash it into new areas.

There were also new revelations that Laurel officials pressed Exxon Mobil about the integrity of the line as the river rose, but were reassured it was safe.

The cause of the pipeline failure remains under investigation. The prevailing theory is that the raging Yellowstone eroded the riverbed and exposed the line to damaging debris.

NEW YORK

No felony convictions in ‘ground zero’ fire

NEW YORK — A toxin-cleanup director and a company were acquitted Wednesday of manslaughter in an August 2007 blaze that killed two firefighters at a condemned tower at ground zero, although the firm was convicted of a misdemeanor.

The John Galt Corp. was found guilty of second-degree reckless endangerment, the only conviction in the criminal case filed over the fire at the former Deutsche Bank building. The judge acquitted worker Mitchel Alvo of all charges. Jurors had acquitted two other construction-company supervisors of all charges last week.

“I’m really mystified,” said Galt attorney David Wikstrom. He said he couldn’t understand how the company could be convicted of a crime when the workers were acquitted. He said he would move to overturn the verdict.

The fire killed firefighters Robert Beddia and Joseph P. Graffagnino and revealed poor regulation of the damaged building, which was being dismantled in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

PENNSYLVANIA

Family fights U.S. over rare 1933 gold coins

PHILADELPHIA — A jeweler’s heirs with a cache of rare $20 gold coins will fight for the right to keep them when they square off in court this week against the U.S. Treasury.

Treasury officials charge that the never-circulated “double eagles” were stolen from the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia in 1933. They could be worth $80 million or more, given that one sold for nearly $7.6 million in 2002.

The coins come from a batch that were struck but melted down after President Franklin D. Roosevelt took the country off the gold standard in 1933.

Two were preserved for the Smithsonian Institute. But a handful more mysteriously got out.

The daughter and grandsons of Israel Switt, a jeweler and scrap metal dealer on nearby Jeweler’s Row, say they discovered 10 of them in his bank deposit box in 2003.

Joan Langbord of Philadelphia and her sons went to the U.S. Treasury to authenticate the coins, but the government instead seized them. Authorities noted that the box was rented six years after Switt died in 1990, and that the family never paid inheritance taxes on them.

VERMONT

State: No charges against nuke-plant officials

MONTPELIER — State prosecutors have decided not to charge Entergy Corp. executives with lying to regulators about the presence of underground piping at its Vermont nuclear power plant, saying the executives showed themselves to be untrustworthy but not criminally liable.

Attorney General William Sorrell said a 17-month investigation into testimony that Entergy executives had given to the state Public Service Board concluded there was no “smoking gun” to show they had committed perjury.

The executives had told the board that the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant didn’t have underground piping that might leak radioactive substances. The pipes were found later not only to exist, but to be leaking tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen that can cause cancer when ingested in large amounts.

Company officials later announced they had misled state officials in their statements, but said they had not done so intentionally.

Entergy spokesman Michael Burns said the company had cooperated with the investigation and was pleased it was over.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide