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Archive for Friday, June 17, 2005

Briefly - Nation

June 17, 2005

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Pennsylvania

Lawmaker to stand trial on harassment charges

A state lawmaker was ordered Thursday to stand trial on charges that he made up a story about receiving a suspicious white powder in the mail, then directed his staff to investigate adversaries on state time.

A judge ordered six-term state Rep. Jeffrey E. Habay to stand trial on 21 counts, including criminal mischief, harassment and witness retaliation. The charges cover a period from January to August 2004.

Defense attorney John Elash said his client was innocent and accused others of trying to settle personal and political vendettas.

Prosecutors accused Habay of making up a story that he had received suspicious powder in the mail from constituent George P. Radich, one of five people who had accused Habay of campaign account violations and who had sought civil contempt sanctions against the lawmaker.

Former and current staffers testified Thursday that Habay and his staff accumulated a packet of information about two of the constituents and their family members and placed copies of the material on the windshields of cars at a community festival.

Washington, D.C.

Boyle nomination sent to full Senate

The GOP-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday sent North Carolina judge Terrence Boyle's nomination to the U.S. Appeals Court for confirmation on a party-line vote, leaving Boyle vulnerable to a possible Democratic filibuster.

Boyle, a U.S. District Court judge who wants a seat on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., advances to the full Senate for confirmation on the 10-8 partisan vote in committee.

Democrats have said that a party-line vote in committee leaves judicial nominees open to a filibuster, although they have not said whether they plan to block Boyle, a former aide to retired GOP Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina

Some senators and liberal groups have consistently opposed Boyle, arguing that he has been reversed by higher courts too many times and that he has ruled unfairly on civil rights, women's rights and employee's rights.

"I can't vote to approve this promotion to an even more powerful position," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. "It really appears that he's not a very good District court judge."

Boyle has been trying to win an Appeals Court seat since 1991, when he was nominated by the first President Bush.

California

Jackson judge to unseal court documents

The judge who placed a tight lid of secrecy on evidence in Michael Jackson's molestation trial said Thursday he intends to release virtually every sealed document and also ordered that authorities return the pop star's passport.

Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville said he had accomplished his goal of providing a fair trial to both sides. He was still considering whether to release videos that were shown during the trial, and he allowed time for attorneys to object to unsealing specific documents.

Jackson, 46, on Monday won complete acquittal on a 10-count indictment that alleged he molested a 13-year-old cancer survivor in 2003, plied the boy with wine and conspired to hold him and his family captive to get them to make a video rebutting a damaging television documentary.

Material that had been sealed in the case included search warrants, sections of motions that were blacked out, questions asked by the jury during deliberations and transcripts of hearings in the judge's chambers.

Melville said the material was so voluminous it probably cannot be released for about a month.

California

Moderate quake shakes southern California

A moderate earthquake shook most of Southern California Thursday, startling people and knocking items off shelves and desks, but there were no immediate reports of significant damage or injuries.

The early afternoon quake had a magnitude of 4.9 and was centered near Yucaipa in San Bernardino County, east of Los Angeles, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. About 25 aftershocks followed in a little over an hour, the strongest estimated at magnitude 3.5.

Residents reported shaking from Los Angeles to San Diego and in counties to the east. Rock slides were reported on Highway 38 in the San Bernardino Mountains.

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