- - Thursday, May 12, 2011


‘Granny Bandit’ arrested after holdup

FONTANA — Victims who reported being robbed at gunpoint by an old lady wearing big sunglasses, a scarf and a muumuu can breathe easier — police are saying the “Granny Bandit” has been arrested.

A crime analyst on the case was on her lunch break when she spotted the suspect wanted in a series of armed robberies outside Southern California department stores and helped police make the arrest Wednesday, authorities said.

Dodi Wasbotten, 51, was taken into custody hours after a woman with a child reported being held up outside a Target store by a woman who was wearing a muumuu and had covered her face with a scarf. After grabbing the victim’s purse, the suspect took off in a dark sedan with missing front hubcaps.

A woman matching the suspect’s description was involved in three other stickups in the San Bernardino County city of Fontana since Sunday.


Appeals court mulls military impostor law

DENVER — A law making it illegal to lie about being a war hero is constitutional because it defends the integrity of important military medals and protects the public from being manipulated, a government lawyer told a federal appeals court Thursday.

A defense attorney countered that the law is too broad and doesn’t fit any of the narrow exceptions to freedom of speech the courts have allowed.

The Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on the Stolen Valor Act, which makes it a crime punishable by up to a year in jail to falsely claim to have been awarded a military medal.

The case centers on Rick Strandlof, a Colorado man who was arrested after claiming he was wounded in Iraq as a Marine and had received military medals. His lawyers have acknowledged the claims were false.

A federal judge ruled the law violated the First Amendment. Prosecutors asked the 10th Circuit to uphold the law, which has also been challenged in California.

The law, passed by Congress in 2006, makes it a crime punishable by up to a year in jail to falsely claim to have received a medal from the U.S. military.

The judges said they don’t know when they will rule on the case.


Allstate: Tornadoes caused $1.4 billion in losses

NORTHBROOK — Allstate Corp. said Thursday that the tornadoes that ripped through the South led to an estimated $1.4 billion in catastrophe losses last month.

The home and auto insurer said the losses include 13 natural disasters in the U.S. and Canada. But the largest losses came from tornadoes in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and Virginia in the last week of April.

More than 100,000 claims have been reported so far in these areas, the company said.


Police: Man who tried entering Army base caught

ROLLA — A 31-year-old Missouri man has been arrested after a four-hour, 40-mile police pursuit that began when he reportedly tried to break into an Army base Thursday morning before firing on police who pursued him and then crashing a vehicle at a nearby university.

Rolla Police Chief Mark Kearse said that a state Highway Patrol trooper took Cody N. Willcoxson, of South West City, into custody Thursday afternoon, hours after they say he tried sneaking into nearby Fort Leonard Wood using a fake ID. His motives for attempting to enter the military installation were not clear.

Willcoxson was bleeding and may have been shot in the arm or hand, but otherwise no one was hurt, Chief Kearse said.

Willcoxson was released from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections in 2008 after serving about 3 1/2 years for burglary, escaping from jail, and other felonies.


Wild horses not wildlife under law

CARSON CITY — Wild horses — symbols of the American West that receive protections from the federal government — would have less standing than mollusks when it comes to Nevada water law under a measure that seeks to deny mustangs and burros status as wild animals.

The six lines contained in the measure define the term “wildlife” as “any wild mammal, wild bird, fish, reptile amphibian, mollusk or crustacean found naturally in a wild state, whether indigenous to Nevada or not and whether raised in captivity of not. The term does not include any wild horse or burro.”

Under state law, holders of water rights must show “beneficial use” of the valuable resource before a permit is granted by the state engineer. Benefiting wildlife is one such allowable use.


Officials: 2 men arrested in terror probe

NEW YORK — Two Americans bought guns and a grenade and wanted to carry out a terror plot against a New York synagogue, city officials said.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said one of the suspects also expressed interest in bombing the Empire State Building.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the two suspects plotted to bomb a “major synagogue” in Manhattan and bought several weapons and a hand grenade from an undercover officer.

The men were charged under state terror laws. They are Americans of Algerian and Moroccan descent.

New York City police have been on high alert for potential threats to the city since the U.S. raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden over a week ago.

Mr. Kelly said the suspects have no known connection to al Qaeda.

From wire dispatches and staff reports



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