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Convictions tossed for ex-cops

Sat., July 1, 2006

A federal judge tossed out racketeering convictions for two former police detectives accused of moonlighting as mob hit men, saying Friday he still believed they were guilty but the five-year statute of limitations had passed.

Louis Eppolito and Steven Caracappa were found guilty nearly three months ago of participating in eight murders while on the payroll of a brutal mob underboss.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein said he agreed with a jury that Eppolito and Caracappa were guilty of murder, kidnapping and other crimes, but the law compelled him to set aside the verdict on the most serious charge. Weinstein granted the pair a new trial on drug charges and Eppolito a new trial on money laundering charges.

Less than a month ago, Weinstein had told the pair they would receive life in prison.


Navy gets OK to use sonar

The Defense Department granted the Navy a national security exemption Friday to use sonar during maritime exercises off both coasts for the next six months, letting the service sidestep a lawsuit that sought to protect whales near Hawaii from the noise.

Environmental groups sued the federal government on Wednesday to prevent the Navy from using sonar during maritime exercises off Hawaii, saying the sound could harm whales and other marine mammals. One portion of their lawsuit is still pending.

The exercise began this week, but the sonar portion of it will not begin until after Tuesday, the Navy has said.

The six-month exemption would allow the exercise to continue without a permit from U.S. regulators. And it will exempt the Navy from any requirements of the Marine Mammal Protection Act for that time.

In response, the Natural Resources Defense Council, which filed the lawsuit, said the Navy has more than enough room in the oceans to train without injuring marine life.


Heart defect found in Disney death

A 12-year-old boy who died after riding a Walt Disney World roller coaster had a congenital heart defect, an autopsy found Friday, and an inspection of the ride found no mechanical problems.

The autopsy of Michael Russell, the son of an Iraq war veteran, was done one day after he stopped breathing while riding Disney-MGM’s Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. The cause of death was left pending until more tests are conducted, ruled Dr. Sara H. Irrgang, an Orange County associate medical examiner.

Disney World reopened the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster on Friday after theme park inspectors found no mechanical problems. A state inspector monitored the examination.

The boy was limp when the ride ended. His father, Byron Russell, immediately attempted CPR but the boy died at a hospital.


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