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Trial will start over in alleged vigilante killing

By Times Wires
Published August 16, 2003

BARTOW - Circuit Judge Susan Roberts declared a mistrial Friday in the case of a man accused of the vigilante-style killing of a neighbor he mistakenly thought tried to abduct his 10-year-old son.

The decision followed a day of testimony Thursday, during which Assistant State Attorney John Aguero asked a crime scene technician whether James Alton Price, 49, told her after the Sept. 16, 2000 shooting that he shot Kenneth Lee Stephenson, 31, in self-defense.

The "No" answer prompted Price's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Austin Maslanik, to ask for a mistrial, which Roberts granted after a brief hearing Friday.

"What the state did was, they planted a seed in the jurors' minds that Mr. Price didn't tell the police he acted in self-defense when he was first arrested," Maslanik said after the hearing.

Price will be back before a jury quickly. His new first-degree murder trial is set to begin Monday.

Prosecutors say Price pursued and shot Stephenson because he was driving a red car, a day after Price's son told him a man in a red car tried to abduct him at a school bus stop.

Questioning of the boy and his friends brought out that another man driving a red car had accosted them at the bus stop - not in a kidnapping attempt, but to threaten to report them to their parents for taunting him while he was stopped behind their school bus.

Rilya's former caregiver gets probation for fraud

MIAMI - A former caretaker for missing Rilya Wilson was sentenced to two years' probation Friday, accepting a plea bargain to avoid trial on state welfare fraud charges.

Pamela Graham had been scheduled for trial this month on six counts of public assistance fraud and one grand theft charge. She was accused of accepting payments for Rilya's care after the girl disappeared.

Circuit Judge Manny Crespo ordered Graham to pay $12,564.04 in restitution on the public assistance fraud counts and $756 for the grand theft charge, and to complete 100 hours of community service. She may receive early release from probation once she pays the money back.

Rilya was 4 when, Graham and her roommate, Geralyn Graham, claim, a state worker took the girl away in early 2001 - something officials deny. Rilya has never been found and no charges have been filed in her disappearance.

Man accused of stealing equipment from hospitals

WEST PALM BEACH - A man accused of stealing life-sustaining emergency medical equipment from hospitals has surrendered to Palm Beach County sheriff's officials.

Rene Lopez, 37, of Miramar, was charged in the thefts of heart monitors valued at more than $90,000 from Wellington Regional Medical Center in June. A detective said Lopez also is likely to be charged with stealing $400,000 in equipment from West Boca Medical Center in January.

Investigators have linked the thefts of more than $1-million in medical equipment to Lopez, who they say often pulled off the crimes dressed as a construction worker. They say he stole from about a dozen South Florida hospitals.

Investigators believe Lopez, along with one or more accomplices, sold the equipment to medical facilities in poor countries for a fraction of its value.

German citizen charged in threat on president

FORT LAUDERDALE - A German man used a computer at the Broward County Library to e-mail a death threat to President Bush, according to a grand jury indictment Friday.

A U.S. Attorney's Office release said the indictment charges that Volker Czechanowsky, 33, sent a message over the Internet saying, "I will kill the president by 5/30/03; catch me if you can; long live Saddam."

Czechanowsky, a lawful permanent U.S. resident, faces as much as 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine if convicted.

No information on where he was being held was available.

[Last modified August 16, 2003, 01:47:29]

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