State briefs 07/25/03

Friday, July 25, 2003

Cape man pleads guilty to cocaine, firearm charges

A Cape Girardeau man pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to charges of possession cocaine base with an intent to distribute and unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Earl L. Harris, 26, appeared before U.S. District Judge Henry E. Autrey. He agreed to forfeit to the United States $5,857.

On Jan. 24, Cape Girardeau police served a search warrant at Harris' residence at 531 N. Fountain. A safe was located containing a fully loaded .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol, $5,150 and three plastic bags containing 32.5 grams of cocaine base, or crack. Officers found a key to the safe in Harris' pocket and a small quantity of crack on his person.

Harris was previously convicted of cocaine possesion with intent to distribute, sale of a controlled substance and unlawful use of a weapon.

With the new conviction, he now faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for possession of the firearm and up to 40 years in prison and a $2 million fine for the cocaine base. Sentencing was set for Oct. 8.

Officer's son sentenced in fatal 2002 crash

CLAYTON, Mo. -- The son of a St. Louis County police officer was sentenced to five years in prison today for a drunk-driving accident that killed two of his friends.

Brandon Ostendorf, 20, pleaded guilty in May to two counts of involuntary manslaughter. He was behind the wheel of a car that crashed into a guardrail while street racing in July 2002, killing Jonathan Hearst and Kevin Houska, both 19. Prosecutors said Ostendorf was legally drunk.

St. Louis County police Lt. William Ostendorf was working the late shift when police received the call about the accident. When he responded, he found his son the only survivor of the crash.

Missouri to share in national settlement

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Missouri's Medicaid program will receive $588,830 as part of a national settlement against a medical products manufacturer, Attorney General Jay Nixon said Thursday.

Nixon said the $414-million national settlement is with Illinois-based Abbott Laboratories, which allegedly defrauded the state and federal Medicaid program through the marketing of pumps used to feed patients through the intestines.

Abbott will pay about $365 million in damages and penalties to the federal government and an additional $50 million will be divided among Medicaid programs in 50 states, including Missouri.

Missouri negotiators were part of the legal team that reached the settlement, Nixon said.

St. Louis to offer free wireless Internet network

ST. LOUIS -- The city of St. Louis is setting up what could be the nation's largest, free, wireless Internet network in hopes of drawing techno-savvy businesses, tourists and residents to the downtown business district.

The city has teamed up with a local company, O2Connect, to offer the service in a 42-square-block area.

On Wednesday, a city crew mounted and activated the first of six antennae that will transmit an invisible, high-frequency radio signal that can be used to get online. The rest should be in place by month's end.

Civic boosters envision video-gamers playing in the parks, local and visiting business people checking e-mail in the streets, and Web surfers lounging at sidewalk cafes.

-- From staff, wire reports

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