Archive for Thursday, July 6, 2000

Nation Briefs

July 6, 2000



Clinton disbarment judge picked

A judge who helped write Arkansas' ethics laws stepped aside from hearing President Clinton's disbarment trial Wednesday, and the case fell to a judge appointed by the state's Republican governor just last month. Leon Johnson became a judge on June 2, replacing one ousted for misdeeds.

Clinton, as governor of Arkansas, had appointed three of them to judgeships. The fourth judge, Chris Piazza, said in stepping aside Wednesday that when he was a local prosecutor and Clinton was governor, Clinton had named him to a panel that drafted the state's ethics laws.

Johnson was appointed by Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee to hold the judgeship until the end of the year. If the disbarment case is not resolved by then, it will fall to his successor, who will be elected in November. No trial date has been set.


Former governor's restitution nixed

Former Gov. Jim Guy Tucker won't have to pay $1 million in restitution but federal prosecutors will get another chance to prove he owes at least that much. An 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel on Monday overturned the restitution portion of Tucker's sentence for conspiring to avoid paying taxes through a sham bankruptcy of a Florida cable TV company.

The case was sent back to federal court in Arkansas for re-sentencing on the restitution issue. The rest of the sentence stands: four years' probation, a $6,000 fine and community service. Tucker and business partner William Marks were indicted in 1995 and accused of conducting the bogus bankruptcy to hide the true value of the cable television business they sold in 1988. A judge later determined unpaid taxes on the deal amounted to $2.9 million.

New York

Fireworks accidents kill, injure revelers

A delayed fireworks blast killed a man, partially decapitating him when he peered into the mouth of a launch tube at a Fourth of July party in Bay Shore.

Keith Seymour, 34, had lit the fuse of the aerial bomb as part of the unlicensed display on Long Island, Suffolk County police said. When the charge that would have launched the device initially failed to fire, he looked inside the 5-inch mortar tube.

Then the charge did go off and the blast tore off part of his head, officers said.

The accident remained under investigation, police said.

Elsewhere, a mortar tube fell over during a fireworks display at Woodville, Ohio, firing projectiles into a crowd of about 2,000 people. Eleven people were injured.

Woodville Mayor Jan Busdeker said he saw three of the projectiles skim across the ground and into the crowd. Two of the injured were treated for burns at a hospital; the others were treated at the scene.


Fugitive husband arrested for murder

A man sought in his wife's slaying was arrested while shopping in a discount store where he and she had been regular customers for years.

Athena Harvey's daughter found her body June 28 in her Wareham home, and an arrest warrant was issued for her husband, Earl.

The 66-year-old woman had been stabbed and bludgeoned to death, and her body wrapped in sheets and plastic, with a rope around her neck.

Authorities believe she had been dead for more than a week.

Harvey, 68, was apprehended without incident Tuesday evening at Savers, a discount store in New Bedford.

The store manager had recognized him and called police.

Court documents said that shortly before he disappeared, Harvey canceled his wife's haircut appointments, told friends the couple was going on vacation and cashed hundreds of dollars in checks.


Former White House writer given column

Helen Thomas, who resigned her longtime post as UPI's White House correspondent two months ago, has been hired by newspaper publisher Hearst Corp. as a columnist. Thomas, 79, will write twice a week on national issues.

Her work will be syndicated by the Hearst News Service, which serves 650 news outlets. Hearst's newspaper division publishes 12 dailies, including the Houston Chronicle and the San Francisco Examiner.

Thomas had been a fixture of the White House press corps since the Kennedy administration, covering eight presidents for UPI.

New Jersey

Sprinklers mandated in college dorms

Gov. Christie Whitman on Wednesday went to the site of a deadly college fire to sign a law requiring automatic sprinklers in all dormitories.

Three Seton Hall University freshmen were killed and 58 students injured in a blaze at a dormitory Jan. 19. Experts said automatic sprinklers could have extinguished the fire quickly.

"By making sure that something like this can never happen again, we honor the memory of those who died and the suffering of those who were injured," Whitman said.

Every school must have sprinklers installed within four years. Schools can apply for no-interest or low-interest loans.

The law applies to private and public schools as well as fraternity and sorority houses.

Seton Hall plans to have sprinklers available by fall. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.


Muddled marriage ends up in court

Joseph Pileggi of Akron thought he knew the woman he was marrying.

But the woman he wed three years ago apparently wasn't 83-year-old Ducile Palermo. It was her 61-year-old daughter, Carli Buchanan.

Pileggi, 69, says he was shocked when he came across the marriage license that had Buchanan signed as the bride and Palermo as a witness. He says he thought he married Palermo, with whom he'd lived since 1992.

"He truly is in a state of disbelief," said Russell Pry, Pileggi's attorney. "This is something he can't understand, particularly at this stage of his life. He still has a hard time believing what happened. He wants this over with yesterday."

But the daughter claims Pileggi knew he was marrying her and that they consummated the wedding the same day.

The matter is now in court.


Muslims urge Burger King boycott

A coalition of American Muslims renewed its call for a worldwide boycott against Burger King on Wednesday, nearly a year after first objecting to the fast-food chain's opening of a restaurant in a Jewish West Bank settlement.

The coalition ended its initial boycott threats last August after Burger King ordered its Israeli franchisee to remove the company's name from the restaurant. But as recently as this week, the outlet in the Maaleh Adumim mall still displayed the company logo and staff, wearing Burger King uniforms, still sold the company's trademarked products such as the Whopper.

"We urge people of conscience to reject Burger King, its products and its regrettable embracement of an occupation the international community has declared illegal," said Khalid Turaani, executive director of American Muslims for Jerusalem, one of more than a dozen Muslim advocacy and religious groups calling for a boycott.

New York

Schizophrenic murderer committed

A former Yale law professor whose battle against schizophrenia had been widely celebrated as a success story, was committed to a mental institution Wednesday, two years after he killed his pregnant fiancee. State Supreme Court Justice Daniel Angiolillo ruled that Michael Laudor, 37, "has a dangerous mental disorder" and should be sent to a secure treatment center for the next six months.

Three psychiatrists determined Laudor killed Costello because he thought she was "a nonhuman impostor" conspiring to hospitalize him for torture, experimentation and death. Prosecutors conceded that with the doctors' statements, no jury would convict Laudor of murder.


Wrong-way crash kills 5 motorists

A car going the wrong way on a four-lane highway in the Mojave desert collided head-on with another vehicle early Wednesday, exploding in flames and killing five people.

There were no skid marks that might suggest either driver tried to swerve or stop, California Highway Patrol officer Bobbi Record said.

"Both vehicles immediately caught fire. It's difficult to identify what kind of cars they were and the bodies aren't identifiable," she said.


First date ends with shooting

An Englewood man demonstrating the dangers of guns for a woman on their first date accidentally shot himself in the leg.

"It was not some careless, idiotic, Fourth-of-July stupid thing that happened," Kim Barnes, 39, said.

Barnes and Susan MacDonald, 38, were drinking wine and eating barbecue Monday when the subject of accidental shootings came up. MacDonald, a hospital technician, was telling her date about the gunshot victims she sees at work.

Barnes, a former Air Force fighter pilot who has been handling guns since he was a boy, decided to make a point about accidental shootings. He brought out his 9 mm pistol and showed MacDonald how a bullet can be in the chamber even after a clip is detached. Barnes then tried to expel the bullet from the gun, but the mechanism did not work and the hammer went into firing position. He tried to engage a safety mechanism but the gun fired.

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