Judge approves $120M church abuse settlement
A judge granted preliminary approval Tuesday to the nation's largest settlement in the church abuse scandal, authorizing a $120 million agreement between the Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington and hundreds of victims of child-molesting priests and other employees.
The decision by Judge John W. Potter makes immediately available $40 million from diocese assets. The victims and the diocese are suing two insurance companies for the remaining $80 million.
Potter's ruling allows the church and the plaintiff's lawyers to begin advertising the settlement and sets a Nov. 10 deadline for claims to be filed.
The class-action suit was filed in 2003. It accuses the church of a 50-year cover-up of sexual abuse by priests and other employees.
Victims would receive awards ranging from $5,000 to $450,000, based on the severity of abuse. Those in the highest category would be eligible to apply to a special fund for extraordinary claims.
A final hearing over the settlement is scheduled for Jan. 9, when Potter can either approve or reject the payout to victims who made verified claims.
Suspicious fire damages abortion clinic
A suspicious fire damaged an abortion clinic where protesters have staged weekly demonstrations for more than a decade, and federal agents launched an investigation, authorities said Tuesday.
No one was in the building during the fire late Monday at the Presidential Women's Clinic and no injuries were reported, but the facility sustained moderate smoke, fire and water damage, West Palm Beach fire department spokesman Phil Kaplan said.
It appeared that lighter fluid or some other accelerant was used to start the blaze, Kaplan said.
Two months ago, authorities investigated an attempted arson at the same facility.
The fire forced the Presidential Women's Clinic to close on Tuesday. Officials did not say when it would reopen.
The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives joined local authorities in the investigation.
Extremist seeks mom's forgiveness
Anti-abortion extremist Eric Rudolph, who has admitted four bombings, seeks his mother's forgiveness in a series of letters she shared with USA Today, but he scoffs at people who peddle salvation to him "like peanuts at a ballgame."
Rudolph also describes feeling like a zoo specimen for tourists who peer into his cellblock, but expresses no remorse for his actions.
"Despite my many flaws, I still hope that you can find it in your loving selfless heart to forgive me," he said in one note to his 77-year-old mother, Pat Rudolph, in Sarasota, Fla.
"And even though I cannot apologize for being who I am and expressing myself in the way that I did, it troubles me greatly that you had to experience any hardships because of my deeds," he adds.
An interview with Pat Rudolph and portions of the letters from her son appeared in Tuesday's editions of the paper.
He is in jail in Birmingham, Ala., awaiting sentencing on July 18 for the 1998 bombing of an abortion clinic. He will be sentenced later in Atlanta for the 1996 Olympic bombing that killed one and for bombings of a clinic and a gay bar.
Prosecutor: Teen wanted to retaliate for teasing
A teen charged with killing two high school students was angry about being teased about his acne and told investigators he had targeted one victim "to hurt him like he hurt me," a prosecutor argued Tuesday.
In opening statements at the teen's murder trial, Assistant Atty. Gen. William Klumpp Jr. said John J. McLaughlin, then 15, took one of his father's guns to school on Sept. 24, 2003, intending to kill his alleged tormenter.
Defense attorney Dan Eller questioned whether Bartell's death was a "premeditated and intentional homicide."
Klumpp said McLaughlin told the investigator he'd had disputes with Bartell and was angry about kids teasing him about his acne when he decided to act, according to the transcript of the interview.
McLaughlin was charged as an adult with one count of first-degree murder, three counts of second-degree murder, assault and possessing a weapon on school property.