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Conn. Democrat pleads guilty in corruption case

By wire services
Published September 21, 2005

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - In the latest in a string of corruption cases in Connecticut, a former Democratic state senator pleaded guilty Tuesday to felony charges of receiving a bribe, mail fraud and tax evasion.

Sen. Ernest Newton II acknowledged in federal court that he accepted a $5,000 bribe in exchange for helping the director of a job training agency secure a $100,000 grant.

As part of a plea agreement, Newton also admitted filing false tax returns and diverting $40,000 in campaign contributions for personal use over five years.

Newton, 49, will remain free until his sentencing Dec. 19. Newton faces a maximum of 35 years in prison, but prosecutors have said they will ask for less time because he accepted responsibility.

Newton announced his resignation last week and submitted it Monday. Gov. M. Jodi Rell has scheduled a special election for Nov. 14 to fill Newton's Senate seat. Newton was elected to the Senate in 2003 after serving in the House for 14 years.

Other recent federal corruption probes led to prison sentences for Connecticut officials including former Gov. John G. Rowland and former Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim.

Judge changes mind in prison abuse trial

FORT HOOD, Texas - A military judge reversed himself Tuesday and decided to let prosecutors use a statement Army Pfc. Lynndie England gave to investigators implicating herself in the abuse of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

England's court-martial on seven counts of conspiracy and prisoner abuse will begin Wednesday with jury selection and opening statements. The 22-year-old reservist from rural West Virginia, who is shown in a number of graphic photos taken by Abu Ghraib guards in 2003, faces as much as 11 years in a military prison if convicted.

England broke with the pattern of her co-defendants on Tuesday by opting for an all-officer jury. Two of the others were convicted by juries made up of officers and enlisted personnel, and the other six made plea deals. Most were members of the Maryland-based 372nd Military Police Company.

The judge presiding over England's case, Col. James Pohl, had ruled in July that neither of two statements England made in January 2004, when she implicated herself in the abuse, would be admissible. He said he believed she did not fully understand the consequences when she waived her rights against self-incrimination before speaking to the investigators.

On Tuesday, however, the judge said he now thinks England knew what she was doing when she signed a waiver before making the second statement.

Ky. official accused of harassing witness

FRANKFORT, Ky. - Kentucky's acting transportation secretary was indicted Tuesday for seeking to punish an employee who testified before a grand jury investigating alleged political hirings.

The indictment said Bill Nighbert also told Missy McCray, a personnel officer in the Transportation Cabinet, "that if it were 20 years ago I probably would have come back there and socked you in the mouth."

The indictment, returned by a grand jury looking into hiring practices within Gov. Ernie Fletcher's administration, likely sets up a legal challenge to pardons Fletcher issued last month.

Fletcher pardoned Nighbert and eight others who had previously been indicted by the grand jury for violating personnel laws.

NTSB urges cell phone ban for teenage drivers

WASHINGTON - New drivers have enough things to worry about without adding cell phones and other wireless devices to the mix, federal safety regulators say. They want all states to make it illegal for teenagers and other novice drivers to jabber on phones.

The National Transportation Safety Board voted to add to its annual list of "Most Wanted Safety Recommendations to States," a ban on novice drivers using any wireless communication devices.

"Learning how to drive while distracted is definitely a recipe for disaster," said the safety board's acting chairman, Mark Rosenker.

The NTSB only has the power to make recommendations, but its staff and board members personally lobby - often with success - for changes the board considers most important.

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