National briefs 5/24

Friday, May 24, 2002

Pair convicted in bank heist extortion case

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Two men who forced a bank manager to rob her own bank while they held her family hostage were convicted Thursday of armed bank robbery by extortion.

Carlton V. Smith and Thomas A. Nichols had previously been convicted for their role in two similar bank heists in eastern Tennessee.

In Thursday's case, the two men and a third, who prosecutors say masterminded the scheme he called "the love connection," targeted Carolyn Pierce, a bank manager in Clarksville. Pierce endured an 18-hour siege of her home by the three men before she retrieved $851,000 from the bank.

Her husband had been tied up and threatened with death, and their child was at home at the time, as were Pierce's parents.

The third man hanged himself in jail. Some evidence was collected by hostages. Pierce's father, Leonard Beaudoin surreptitiously hid his captors' cigarette butts, which yielded DNA evidence against Daigle and Smith.

Judge may open Cheney energy panel's working

WASHINGTON -- A judge on Thursday rebuffed a Bush administration effort to kill lawsuits aimed at revealing the inner workings of Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said he will allow the private groups Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club to take the first step in delving into the operations of the task force.

Sullivan said he may require that any material from the Cheney panel be turned over to him instead of to the private groups until he decides whether there is a legal basis for the case to proceed.

Army's future uniform has sci-fi equipment

WASHINGTON -- Within six years, the Army plans to outfit soldiers with a new battle uniform incorporating stronger and lighter armor, a climate-control system, medical sensors and a computer display on the helmet visor.

The look is as much sci-fi as GI Joe -- the helmet, for example, brings to mind a cross between "Robocop" and the 'Star Wars" storm troopers.

Lady Bird Johnson goes home from hospital

AUSTIN, Texas -- Lady Bird Johnson was released from an Austin hospital Thursday, three weeks after suffering a mild stroke.

Theformer first lady, 89, has made "a remarkable recovery," said her daughter, Luci Baines Johnson. President Johnson died in 1973.

FDA seizes candy deemed choking hazard

WASHINGTON -- Federal health officials, frustrated after months of trying to rid stores of a type of imported candy that caused six children to choke to death, have seized $500,000 worth of the sweets from a California warehouse.

The distributor, New Choice Foods, denies its brands of the once popular Asian-made jelly candies are risky and said Thursday it plans a court challenge of the Food and Drug Administration's seizure.

-- From wire reports

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