- - Monday, March 12, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco’s sheriff pleaded guilty Monday to false imprisonment, thus avoiding a domestic violence trial that could have cost him his job and ending the public airing of a personal drama worthy of the Venezuela telenovela that his wife once starred in.

Ross Mirkarimi, 50, accepted the plea deal Sunday night, after an appeals court said an emotional video of his 36-year-old wife displaying a bruised bicep could be shown to the jury. The deal also appears to have defused a politically charged atmosphere that included a support group for domestic violence victims erecting a downtown billboard taking exception to Sheriff Mirkarimi’s claim that the incident was a “private matter.”

The plea on a misdemeanor charge of false imprisonment in San Francisco Superior Court derailed a trial that promised to tag the sheriff with allegations of abusive behavior and infidelity.

Political commentators and legal analysts said the plea bargain was a reasonable end to an only-in-San Francisco political drama.

“He cut a good deal, and he did get a break,” said Peter Keane, a Golden Gate University law professor and a politically connected former chief assistant public defender in San Francisco. “But it was well within reason for the prosecutor to also make this deal.”

Mr. Keane cited Sheriff Mirkarimi’s lack of a criminal history and the single bruise as among the reasons prosecutors sought to make the deal.


Plastic OK’d for part of wooden boardwalk

NEW YORK — A New York City commission has approved a plan to replace part of Coney Island’s wooden boardwalk with a combination of plastic and concrete.

The city’s Public Design Commission met Monday to discuss the proposal from the city Parks Department. Its approval was the last step needed to go forward with the plan.

More than three dozen people spoke against the plan to make over stretches of the aging, 2.7-mile Brooklyn boardwalk. They carried signs that said “Boardwalk, not sidewalk.”

The city stopped using long-lasting lumber from tropical species of trees in 2008 to help preserve rain forests. Officials have had trouble finding a reliable supply of more environmentally friendly hardwood.

City officials have said the plastic composite lasts longer than wood and is cheaper. The boardwalk has drawn visitors since 1923.


Amish defendants mount hate-crimes law challenge

CLEVELAND — All 12 defendants charged in beard-cutting attacks on fellow Amish in Ohio will close ranks and challenge the constitutionality of the federal hate-crimes law, a member of the defense team said Monday.

J. Dean Carro, a University of Akron law professor who filed a challenge on behalf of the man accused of being the ringleader and one of his sons, said all defendants would challenge the law and try to have the indictment dismissed.

The judge extended Monday’s deadline for prosecutors to respond until April 16. Prosecutors didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

The challenges, including one filed electronically Sunday night, said the purported attacks aren’t hate crimes but internal church disciplinary matters not involving bias against the Amish.

The motion to dismiss the indictment said the hate-crimes law is vague and overly broad and includes actions, like the ones in the Amish case, “that were not intended to be covered as ‘hate crimes.’ “

“The actions alleged in this case are not alleged to be the result of anti-Amish bias,” the motion said.

Samuel Mullet Sr. and 11 followers are charged in five beard- and hair-cutting attacks on other Amish last year. They have pleaded not guilty.

A feud over church discipline allegedly led to attacks in which the beards and hair of men and hair of women were cut, which is considered deeply offensive in Amish culture.


Victims’ kin to discuss fate of mob girlfriend

BOSTON — Family members of people said to have been killed by reputed mobster James “Whitey” Bulger are scheduled to meet with a representative of federal prosecutors to talk about a possible guilty plea from Bulger’s girlfriend.

Catherine Greig is accused of helping Bulger evade capture during their 16 years on the run.

The widow of Michael Donahue, a truck driver said to have been killed by Mr. Bulger, said the families have been asked to meet Monday with a victim advocate to talk about the case against Ms. Greig.

Steven Davis, the brother of victim Debra Davis, said last week that a victim advocate told him that Ms. Greig’s lawyers have indicated she’s considering pleading guilty without a plea bargain.

Mr. Bulger is charged in connection with 19 killings. He and Ms. Greig were captured in June.


States oppose California low carbon fuels rule

LINCOLN — Seven states are opposing California’s effort to enforce a state mandate that critics say discriminates against fuels produced outside California.

A federal judge ruled in December that California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard regulation violates the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause by discriminating against ethanol made in the Midwest. California has appealed and asked to be allowed to enforce the rule while its appeal is pending.

The regulation doesn’t mandate using specific fuels, but assigns higher carbon scores to fuels made outside California. Groups challenging the regulation say it conflicts with federal standards and rules out fuels from other states.

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning said Monday the regulation threatens $1.3 billion in annual ethanol sales from Nebraska alone. Also filing challenges are Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota.


Funeral held for American reporter killed in Syria

OYSTER BAY — War correspondent Marie Colvin is being laid to rest in the Long Island community of her childhood, where she first decided to become a reporter.

A funeral was held Monday at St. Dominic Roman Catholic Church in Oyster Bay for the Sunday Times of London journalist killed while covering the slaughter of Syrian civilians.

The 56-year-old Queens native spoke her last words in a television dispatch from a village, while watching a baby boy dying. She said seeing the horror might “move people to think, why is this going on?”

At her wake Sunday, mourners passed by a portrait of Ms. Colvin by a Sri Lankan artist. She lost her left eye in 2001 in that country’s civil war and had worn her signature eye patch since then.

The British government has ordered an investigation into Ms. Colvin’s death in order to build a war-crimes case against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Ms. Colvin was killed on Feb. 22 when the building that served as a makeshift media center in the village of Homs was struck by a Syrian army mortar.

Only a few hours earlier, she appeared in a final live broadcast with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, telling him the Syrians were shelling “a city of cold, starving civilians.”


Scientist who warned of thinning ozone dies

LOS ANGELES — F. Sherwood Rowland, the Nobel prize-winning chemist who sounded the alarm on the thinning of the Earth’s ozone layer and crusaded against the use of manmade chemicals that were harming Earth’s atmospheric blanket, has died. He was 84.

Mr. Rowland died Saturday at his home in Corona del Mar of complications from Parkinson’s disease, the dean of the University of California, Irvine’s physical sciences department said Sunday.

“We have lost our finest friend and mentor,” Kenneth C. Janda said in a statement. “He saved the world from a major catastrophe; never wavering in his commitment to science, truth and humanity and did so with integrity and grace.”

Mr. Rowland was among three scientists awarded the 1995 Nobel Prize for chemistry for explaining how the ozone is formed and decomposed through chemical processes in the atmosphere.

The prize was awarded more than two decades after Mr. Rowland and his postdoctoral student Mario Molina calculated that if human use of chlorofluorocarbon, a byproduct of aerosol sprays, deodorants and other household products was to continue at an unaltered rate, the ozone layer would be depleted after several decades. Their work at UC Irvine built upon findings by atmospheric scientist Paul Crutzen.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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