- - Thursday, February 9, 2012


Fugitive sibling pleads guilty to state charges

WALSENBURG | One of three siblings accused in a multistate crime spree pleaded guilty Thursday to charges stemming from the trio’s capture in Colorado.

Under a deal with prosecutors, Lee Grace Dougherty, 29, pleaded guilty to one count of attempted first-degree assault and two counts of felony menacing. She faces nine to 28 years when she is sentenced April 30.

Judge Claude Appel told Dougherty that she could serve her Colorado sentence concurrently with any other sentences she might receive elsewhere.

Dougherty faced the assault charge for pointing a gun at Walsenburg police Chief James Chamberlain after the chase that led to the siblings’ capture Aug. 10. The menacing charges relate to charges that her brothers pointed guns at other officers but Dougherty was charged as a conspirator. Prosecutors last week dropped attempted-murder charges against her.

Dougherty and her brothers, Ryan Dougherty, 21, and Dylan Stanley-Dougherty, 26, are accused of shooting at a police officer in Florida, as well as robbing a Georgia bank before being captured in southern Colorado.


School says Confederate flag not protected speech

MEDFORD | A school bus company has asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit brought by an Oregon driver fired for refusing to take a Confederate battle flag off his pickup truck while parked on school property.

An attorney for First Student Inc. argued Thursday that the flag was not political speech protected by the U.S. Constitution, but merely a private expression of Mr. Webber’s “redneck” lifestyle. The flag is emblazoned with the word “redneck.”

The company says they fired Mr. Webber for insubordination after the Phoenix-Talent School District said the flag violated a policy prohibiting symbols that express racism or white supremacy. Mr. Webber’s attorney argued that even as an expression of lifestyle, the flag amounts to protected speech.

Magistrate Judge Mark Clarke didn’t say when he would make a decision.


Lawmakers: 9/11 deserves license tags before N.Y. Giants

ALBANY | A commemorative license plate for the New York Giants was unveiled hours after their Super Bowl victory.

Now, two New York lawmakers say a similar but delayed tribute to the real heroes of the 9/11 attacks is long overdue. They said first responders and victims shouldn’t take a back seat to millionaire athletes who are honored after championships with license tags. Those are exempt from the state’s moratorium on new commemorative plates.

The plate for the team that plays in New Jersey was issued despite a moratorium on new commemorative plates in New York. A lawsuit by an advocacy group has sought a “Choose Life” license plate since 2001 and brought a lawsuit on First Amendment grounds. That led in part to the state’s self-imposed moratorium on new plates.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration says the Super Bowl plates don’t violate the moratorium because they are a reworking of a 1987 Giants Super Bowl commemorative plate with a new date and logo. It’s the same policy that produced revised specialty plates for the 2008 Super Bowl plates and the 2009 World Series plates for the New York Yankees.


Marine sergeant not guilty in hazing case

KANEOHE BAY | A military jury on Thursday found a Marine sergeant not guilty of charges in the hazing of a lance corporal in his squad.

Sgt. Benjamin Johns was charged with violating a lawful order by wrongfully humiliating and demeaning Lance Cpl. Harry Lew, who committed suicide shortly afterward.

Prosecutors said Sgt. Johns hazed the lance corporal by forcing him to dig a foxhole as punishment for falling asleep on guard duty in Afghanistan. They also charged the 26-year-old from Russellville, Ark., didn’t intervene when a corporal punished Cpl. Lew by making him carry a sandbag around the base, he said.

Sgt. Johns’ attorney told the general court-martial jury of three officers and five enlisted Marines that the foxhole was needed to protect the base and Sgt. Johns tried to stop the sandbag carrying.

Sgt. Johns is one of three Marines accused of hazing Cpl. Lew in the hours before he fatally shot himself at Patrol Base Gowragi in Helmand province on April 3.

The 21-year-old was a nephew of U.S. Rep. Judy Chu, California Democrat.


Polo mogul facing trial adopts his girlfriend, 42

WEST PALM BEACH | A millionaire polo mogul in Florida is raising eyebrows with his decision to adopt his 42-year-old girlfriend.

Critics of John Goodman, 48, says the move is simply an attempt to protect some of his fortune when a lawsuit against him goes to trial later this year.

Mr. Goodman is accused of drunken driving manslaughter in the death of a fellow motorist. He faces both a criminal trial that could send him to prison and a civil case brought against him by the victim’s family.

He has a trust fund for his two underage children that would be shielded if the verdict in the lawsuit goes against him. After he adopted his girlfriend, he named her a beneficiary of the trust fund, too.

Mr. Goodman’s attorney insists there’s nothing illegal about the move.


Worker: Josh Powell told son he had ‘surprise’

SEATTLE | The Washington state social worker who was supposed to supervise a visit between Josh Powell and his young sons says Powell told his oldest boy he had a “surprise” for him moments before attacking and killing the children.

Elizabeth Griffin-Hall said in an interview to air Friday on ABC’s “20/20” that Powell slammed the door on her after he had the children inside the house on Sunday. She said she banged on the door to try to get inside and heard Powell tell 7-year-old Charlie: “I’ve got a big surprise for you.” She also heard 5-year-old Braden crying.

Authorities said Powell used a hatchet on his children, then set a house fire that killed them all.

Powell’s wife, Susan, vanished in Utah two years ago. He had long been a person of interest in the case but maintained that he had taken his boys, then 2 and 4, on a midnight camping trip in freezing temperatures when she disappeared from their home.

On Sunday, the social worker drove the boys from their maternal grandparents’ home to their father’s house outside Puyallup, about 35 miles from Seattle. Powell lost custody of the boys last fall after his father, with whom they then lived, was arrested in a child pornography and voyeurism investigation.

Ms. Griffin-Hall said Charlie and Braden loved being with their father.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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