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Owner to pay claim for looted painting

Compiled from wire reports The Spokesman-Review

Chicago A Chicago art collector has agreed to pay $6.5 million to settle a claim that a Picasso oil painting she bought in 1975 was looted by the Nazis.

Marilynn Alsdorf, who acquired Picasso’s “Femme en blanc” (“Woman in White”) from New York art dealer Stephen Hahn for $357,000, will pay the sum to Californian Thomas Bennigson, whose grandmother owned the painting before it was confiscated during the Holocaust.

Though Alsdorf has fought Bennigson’s claim since 2002, when he sued for $10 million in California state court, she agreed to settle after attorneys for both parties met June 13 in Los Angeles before Magistrate Judge Margaret Nagle of U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

Alsdorf is “maintaining that the painting had been purchased in good faith with proper legal title,” according to a statement released by the Chicago law firm representing her, FagelHaber LLC, but she “agreed to the settlement citing her advanced age and the need to resolve financial claims so her commitments to family and charitable organizations may be completed.” Alsdorf is 80.

Bennigson’s attorney disputes Alsdorf’s contention that she owned the painting legally.

“I think it’s very clear that she didn’t get good title, and that’s why we had a lawsuit,” said E. Randol Schoenberg of the Los Angeles firm Burris & Schoenberg LLP. “It was clear that Mrs. Alsdorf had no (legal) defense, that this painting had been stolen during the Nazi era.”

Runaway bride does lawn time

Lawrenceville, Ga. Instead of cutting out of town, runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks is cutting lawns.

Wearing an orange community service vest and a baseball cap with the slogan “Life is good,” Wilbanks did part of her court-ordered community service Tuesday for lying to police after she ran off days before her wedding.

“I’m doing well. … I’m getting there,” a sweating Wilbanks told a throng of reporters and photographers after her mower died out in the tall, wet grass. “I need to get back to work. I don’t want to get into trouble.”

In all, Wilbanks was ordered to do 120 hours of service, and she has already completed 24 by scrubbing toilets in probation offices, picking up trash and washing public vehicles.

“She’s a hard worker. She didn’t take advantage of anything. She did more work than most people,” said 17-year-old Michael Powell, who has cleaned bathrooms and offices with Wilbanks while working off his own sentence of 80 hours of community service for an offense he declined to disclose.

When he first met Wilbanks, Powell was one of the few who had no idea who she was.

“I said ‘Whoa, what’s a girl like you having to do 120 hours of community service?’ She said, ‘I told a lie.’ “

Wilbanks, 32, disappeared four days before her scheduled wedding in April with 600 invited guests. Hundreds of police officers and volunteers – including members of the wedding party – searched for her for three days.

Inmate escapes after wife shoots guard

Kingston, Tenn. An inmate considered to be “extremely violent” escaped Tuesday after his wife gunned down and killed a guard who was escorting the shackled prisoner outside a courthouse, authorities said.

The bloody escape set off an extensive search for George and Jennifer Hyatte. Helicopters circled over this eastern Tennessee town and schools – open for student registration – were locked down.

The Ford Explorer in which the couple fled was later found abandoned with blood on the driver’s side, and officers think the wife may have been wounded during the attack, Police Chief Jim Washam said. Authorities believe the pair later switched from the SUV to a van.

George Hyatte, serving a 35-year sentence on robbery and assault convictions, “is extremely violent, and he has no care or concern on what he does to anyone,” said Sheriff’s Department spokesman Jeff Knight.

Jennifer Hyatte is a nurse who had been fired from her job at a prison in Tiptonville because of her relationship with George Hyatte, Corrections Department spokeswoman Amanda Sluss said.

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