National briefs 7/24/03

Sam Waksal begins serving prison term

MINERSVILLE, Pa. -- Sam Waksal, the drug-company executive caught in the insider-trading scandal that threatens Martha Stewart, reported to a federal minimum-security prison Wednesday to begin serving a sentence of more than seven years.

Waksal becomes the first CEO to do time in the recent wave of corporate scandals.

"I deeply regret the mistakes I've made that have brought me here today, and I'm ready to pay for those mistakes," the scientist-founder of ImClone Systems Inc. said after arriving in a Range Rover at the Schuylkill Federal Correctional Institution in eastern Pennsylvania.

He pleaded guilty last fall to securities fraud for tipping his daughter to dump ImClone stock because the government was about to announce bad news about the company's cancer drug, Erbitux. A federal judge also fined him $4.3 million.

Many prisoners work 7 1/2 hours each day, five days a week, scrubbing floors, and cutting grass for pay ranging from 16 cents to 40 cents per hour.

Decorated Vietnam vet admits forging award

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- A decorated Vietnam veteran admitted Wednesday that he illegally obtained his highest honor by buying a Distinguished Service Cross on the Internet

Bruce Cotta, 56, agreed to perform 100 hours of community service and contribute $5,000 to the Army Emergency Relief Fund to avoid prosecution, U.S. Attorney Margaret Curran said.

In a statement, Cotta said: "While I admit that my actions were inexcusable, I hope that they will not cast a shadow on the heroic actions of other Vietnam veterans whose young lives were forever changed by this gruesome and controversial war."

Cotta told the FBI he bought the medal after the Army twice rejected his application for a Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military award. He said he then forged papers that would go along with a Distinguished Service Cross and sent them to Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I.

In addition to a Silver Star, two Purple Hearts and the Soldier's Medal, Cotta holds a Bronze Star with a "V" for valor for his actions when his unit came under attack in 1968. His platoon leader said Cotta, a medic, threw back an enemy grenade and ignored wounds of his own to treat other soldiers.

Lightning kills giraffe at Disney's Animal Kingdom

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Lightning struck and killed a giraffe at Disney's Animal Kingdom as the animal roamed among tourists, company officials said Wednesday.

The accident occurred Monday as a severe lightning storm moved over the Kilimanjaro Safari attraction, Disney spokeswoman Diane Ledder said.

"To the best of my knowledge, it was a quick death," she said.

It was unclear if any tourists saw the lightning strike.

Betsy the giraffe, who was 6 years old, was the first animal to die from a lightning strike at the theme park, Ledder said. "It's very unfortunate and unusual ... but it has happened in the past" at other U.S. parks, she said.

-- From wire reports