Soldiers testify by video on Kuwait grenade attack

Thursday, June 19, 2003

FORT KNOX, Ky. -- Soldiers began testifying by a video link Wednesday from Iraq in a military hearing to determine whether a soldier will be court-martialed over a fatal grenade attack in Kuwait.

Sgt. Hasan K. Akbar, a 32-year-old Muslim, is accused of killing two officers and wounding 14 in the March 23 attack on a group of tents. Akbar's attorneys have not spoken publicly about the case.

The first witness, Capt. Dexter Mclendon, said he was awakened by a large noise that he thought was an accidental discharge of a weapon. He then heard two more explosions, the third of which was inside his tent. He fell to the ground inside the tent, then cut the tent to escape, Mclendon said.

Mclendon said he had problems sleeping for about a month after the incident, and things that would remind him of a grenade, such as a camera flash, would startle him.

As many as 23 people were expected to testify Wednesday via videoconference.

Coke admits rigging test of drink at Burger King

ATLANTA -- Coca-Cola Co. admitted that employees rigged a marketing test of Frozen Coke at Burger King, as a former manager alleged last month in a whistleblower lawsuit.

An internal Coke document filed as part of the suit said an outside consultant was hired to spend up to $10,000 to boost demand for Frozen Coke and other frozen drinks during the test three years ago in Richmond, Va.

Steven Heyer, Coke's president and chief operating officer, apologized in a letter late Tuesday to Burger King CEO Brad Blum.

"These actions were wrong and inconsistent with the values of the Coca-Cola Co.," Heyer wrote. "Our relationships with Burger King and all of our customers are of the utmost importance to us and should be firmly grounded in only the highest-integrity actions."

Governor pardons four in election laws case

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Gov. Paul Patton on Wednesday pardoned his chief of staff and three others charged with breaking election laws during Patton's 1995 campaign.

The men were pardoned two days after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear their appeal of a state Supreme Court ruling that reinstated their 1998 indictments.

Attorney General Ben Chandler, who like the governor is a Democrat, alleged the four colluded to help Patton's campaign get around spending limits by having the Teamsters pick up some expenses, including the salary of one of the men.

"These men have been punished enough," Patton said. "I have great confidence in the judicial system of Kentucky, but it's not perfect."

Sheriff's dog hangs up leash on law, order

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. -- One member of the Hall County sheriff's department compiled quite a pedigree before hanging up the leash.

Police dog Ringo helped his handler seize 17 pounds of methamphetamine and more than $93,000 in drug money. He helped find 16 criminals, police said.

The 12-year-old Belgian Malnois was deployed more than 500 times to assist 82 law enforcement agents from 10 different agencies, Sheriff Jerry Watson said.

Ringo retired Tuesday after serving the department for eight and a half years, which roughly translates to 60 human years.

--From wire reports

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