- - Tuesday, August 21, 2012

LOUISVILLE — An Iraqi man pleaded guilty Tuesday to 10 charges of conspiring to send weapons, cash and explosives to al Qaeda in Iraq and two counts of lying to federal immigration agents to get into the U.S. and stay in the country.

Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, 24, gave simple “yes” and “I plead guilty” answers to questions from U.S. District Judge Thomas B. Russell in federal court in Louisville. The surprise plea came a week before Hammadi was set to stand trial on the charges in Bowling Green, Ky., where he and a co-defendant were arrested in May 2011 after a federal sting operation.

Hammadi, who did not have a plea agreement with prosecutors, faces 25 years to life in federal prison plus millions of dollars in fines when he’s sentenced Dec. 5. He had been scheduled for trial Aug. 28 in Bowling Green. The co-defendant, Waad Ramadan Alwan, 30, previously pleaded guilty and is scheduled for sentencing Oct. 3 in Bowling Green.

The plea came as good news to soldiers who fought near the city of Bayji, Iraq, in the Sunni triangle north of Baghdad in 2005, where Hammadi and Alwan told the FBI they worked as insurgents. Six Pennsylvania National Guard soldiers died in that area in August 2005 and Hammadi and Alwan told the FBI and an informant that they were active insurgents there.


5 children killed in SUV crash

TYLER — A tire exploded on an overloaded SUV, causing a rollover crash that killed five children and injured five other family members as they headed to a Texas water park, investigators said Tuesday.

The SUV was carrying 12 people, including nine children, Monday afternoon when it crashed near Van, about 70 miles east of Dallas, according to Department of Public Safety Trooper Jean Dark. The passengers were wearing their swimsuits and the children were all siblings or cousins, Trooper Dark said.

The driver, Federico Acuna, 36, and a 15-year-old girl were the only two wearing seat belts — and the only two not hurt in the crash, Trooper Dark said.

Two boys and three girls died in the crash, while three other children and two adults were injured, she said.

The GMC Envoy was carrying too many passengers and had no child safety seats, the trooper said. No charges have been filed and an investigation is ongoing.


Comments sought on massacre site’s future

AURORA — The Denver suburb of Aurora is asking residents what should be done with the movie theater where 12 people were fatally shot last month and 58 others were wounded.

The city’s Facebook page directs residents to an online survey. Responses are not visible on the website, but suggestions from Facebook users range from tearing the Century 16 theater down and replacing it with a memorial to reopening the theater, perhaps with a new name.

The survey was reported by KMGH-TV.

A spokeswoman for theater owner Cinemark Holdings declined to comment. The theater hasn’t reopened since the July 20 shooting.

Former Ph.D. student James Holmes is charged with murder and attempted murder.


Prosecutor: Woman lied about anti-gay attack

LINCOLN — A former standout for the University of Nebraska’s women’s basketball team will be charged with lying to police for reporting that three masked men broke into her home last month, carved anti-gay slurs into her and tried to set her house on fire, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

Charlie Rogers, 33, who ranks second in career blocked shots for the Cornhuskers, told police the men broke into her Lincoln house July 22 and attacked her. Ms. Rogers, a lesbian, said one man pinned her down while another sliced a cross into her chest, cut the front of her thighs and shins, and carved derogatory words in her arms and abdomen. She claimed they then rolled her onto her stomach and cut her buttocks, the back of her thighs and the back of her right calf.

Investigators say they found no apparent sign of a struggle in the living room where Ms. Rogers said she was attacked, and an FBI forensic pathologist concluded that Rogers either cut herself or allowed someone else to do it.


Catholic high schools get outside manager

PHILADELPHIA — Roman Catholic high schools in the Philadelphia area will soon be managed by a private foundation, a historic arrangement that could reinvigorate a system decimated by high costs and low enrollment, church officials announced Tuesday.

Archbishop Charles Chaput said the church-affiliated Faith in the Future Foundation will oversee 17 secondary and four special education schools starting Sept. 1, creating a new independent Catholic school system.

The archdiocese helped establish the lay foundation six months ago following an outpouring of support for four high schools targeted for closure. Impromptu fundraising of about $12 million eventually led Archbishop Chaput to keep the buildings open.

The foundation’s original mission was to strengthen local Catholic secondary schools through fundraising and marketing. Now, the group will do that and manage a new school system that serves about 15,000 students on a $128 million budget.


Storms, stings push Nyad to end Cuba-to-Fla. swim

KEY WEST — Diana Nyad ended her fourth attempt in nearly 35 years to swim across the Straits of Florida on Tuesday, her dream of setting a record thwarted by storms, jellyfish stings, shark threats, hypothermia and swollen lips.

The swimmer was pulled from the water at 12:55 a.m., her crew reported, as a thunderstorm raged and winds and waves tossed her support boats around. Her team had previously tweeted that she came out of the water at 7:42 a.m. and offered no explanation for the change.

Ms. Nyad, who turns 63 on Wednesday, was making her third attempt since last summer to become the first person to cross the Florida Straits without a shark cage. She also made a failed try with a cage in 1978.


Loose screws focus of air race crash probe

RENO — Federal safety regulators are focusing on loose screws in the tail of a World War II-era fighter plane modified to race faster than 500 mph as a likely cause of the horrific crash that killed the pilot and 10 others during air races at the Reno National Championship Air Races in September.

The National Transportation Safety Board released nearly 1,000 pages of documents and photographs Tuesday while continuing to investigate the official cause of the accident that also injured more than 70 people at Reno Stead Airport.

From wire dispatches and staff reports



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