Nation briefs 12/13/02

Friday, December 13, 2002

Judge bars TV cameras in trial of sniper suspect

MANASSAS, Va. -- A judge Thursday barred television cameras from next year's trial of sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad, saying such media coverage could compromise his right to a fair trial.

Prince William County Circuit Judge LeRoy F. Millette Jr. also said trial would begin Oct. 14, and he set aside eight weeks for what is expected to be a closely watched case.

The Radio-Television News Directors Association said it was considering an appeal.

Muhammad, 41, is charged with capital murder in the death of Dean Harold Meyers of Gaithersburg, Md., who was shot Oct. 9 while fueling his car at a gas station in Prince William County.

Meyers was one of 13 people hit -- 10 fatally -- by sniper fire during a three-week shooting spree in suburban Washington, D.C. Muhammad and 17-year-old John Lee Malvo are suspected in all 13, as well as eight other shootings across the country.

Justice: Label of Hatfill not meant to cast suspicion

WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department defended its use of the term "person of interest" to describe Dr. Steven Hatfill in the anthrax investigation, contending the designation never was intended to cast suspicion upon him. Meantime, FBI agents searched for evidence Thursday in at least one pond outside Hatfill's former hometown.

In a letter to Sen. Charles Grassley, Assistant Attorney General Daniel J. Bryant said the "person of interest" term originated with unnamed FBI sources as speculation swirled that Hatfill might be a suspect.

The phrase, Bryant said, was intended to "deflect media scrutiny from Dr. Hatfill and explain that he was just one of many scientists" being questioned by the FBI.

Release of the letter came as FBI agents began a search Thursday on wooded public land near Frederick, Md., several miles from Hatfill's old apartment. Officials confirmed the search was tied to the anthrax investigation.

Hatfill has denied involvement in the anthrax attacks last year, which killed five people.

Dockworkers caucus endorses contract plan

SAN FRANCISCO -- A delegation of leaders from the West Coast dockworkers' union overwhelmingly endorsed a proposed contract Thursday that would end the labor dispute that shuttered ports this fall.

The landmark six-year deal, reached with shipping companies last month only after federal intervention, must still be approved by the rank and file of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

That appeared more likely with Thursday's word that representatives of Pacific ports from San Diego to Seattle voted "overwhelmingly" to recommend that the union's 10,500 members ratify the deal.

Going into the caucus, some union members had expressed strong reservations. Though the deal includes handsome benefits and raises that will earn the average longshoreman close to $100,000 per year, critics worried language opening the docks to a new wave of computer technology did not protect union jobs.-- From wire reports

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: