The Bigger Picture
By biconews On 22 Feb, 2000 At 05:00 AM | Categorized As Archives | With 0 Comments

By Ariel Hansen

Officers testify in Diallo shooting reduced charges recommended

On Monday, Feb. 14, New York City police officer Sean Carroll tearfully recounted his version of last year’s shooting of Amadou Diallo in the Bronx. Diallo, a Guinean immigrant, died after being hit by 19 of 41 bullets shot by four white police officers who apparently believed he was about to brandish a weapon, though he was actually unarmed and reaching for either a pager or his wallet.

Carroll’s testimony is the centerpiece for the defense of the officers, which is focused on humanizing the men through their own words in order to persuade the jury that the decision to shoot was justified. The prosecution has countered this defense by offering witnesses who claim that the bullets were fired in two distinct and separate bursts, and one woman who testified to hearing voices outside her window discussing how to spin the shooting.

The trial, which was moved to Albany to escape heavy pre-trial publicity, is expected to move to closing arguments next week, following the withdrawal of a defense witness on sight perception and the decision of the lead prosecutor to offer no rebuttal to defense witnesses.

The jury will be instructed to also consider lesser charges than the second-degree murder the four officers were originally charged with, following a joint request to this effect by both defense and prosecuting attorneys. These charges could include first-degree manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide, which carry sentences from probation to life in prison.

In a related story, former NYC police officer Justin Volpe testified last Thursday in the trial of three other officers accused of participating in the torture of Abner Louima. Volpe, who has been sentenced to 30 years in prison, said Officer Charles Schwarz was not involved in the torture, while officer Thomas Wiese stood by and watched. Schwarz has already been convicted of participating and is appealing a life sentence, while Volpe’s testimony is the first claiming Wiese was observing throughout the attack.

Miami immigration officer accused of spying for Cuba

Mariano Faget, a high-ranking U.S. immigration officer, was charged in federal court on Friday with spying for the Cuban government, after being caught in an elaborate sting operation involving what he thought was classified information.

The Miami office of the Immigration and Naturalization Services fed Faget information about a Cuban intelligence agent’s plan to defect to the United States, which Faget promptly passed on to an unidentified Cuban-born New York businessman.

Faget, who was in a position to inform the Cuban government about possible defectors, and subject them to retaliation, was scheduled to retire in March after 34 years with the INS. He will face at least 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines if convicted.

This arrest is likely to create additional problems in the relationship between Cuba and the United States, already tense because of the custody battle over 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez. Faget was not involved in the Gonzalez case.

Two Columbine students killed in sandwich shop shooting

Less than a year after the shootings at Columbine High School, two sophomores were found dead in the Subway sandwich shop where one of them worked. Another employee of the shop discovered the bodies after driving by and noticing lights on almost three hours after closing time.

Investigators have no motive for the shootings, though they have ruled out murder-suicide, and do not think that robbery was involved.

Coming so soon after the death of fourteen other students, and within half a mile of both the school and the church where memorial services were held for those students, these murders have recharged trauma that the community has not yet fully dealt with.

Students and other community members have left balloons, flowers and chalked messages to the two sophomores, Nicholas Kunselman and his girlfriend Stephanie Hart, outside of the crime tape.

Cartoonist Charles Schulz, ‘Peanuts’ creator, dies

Charles Schulz, creator of the popular comic strip “Peanuts,” died on Feb. 12, just hours before his last cartoon was sent to the printing presses. At 77, Schulz had been drawing “Peanuts” for nearly half a century, reaching readers in 75 countries, 2,600 newspapers, and 21 languages everyday. His last daily strip ran on Jan. 3, and the last Sunday strip carried a signed farewell in which he thanked editors and fans and said “Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Lucy … how can I ever forget them … .”

Schulz died of colon cancer, which was diagnosed after abdominal surgery last November. He was adamant that no one else ever draw the comic strip, and his estate will maintain that wish.

Having once said that he lived to draw “Peanuts,” the fact that Schulz died just as his last strip was being published was “as if he had written it that way,” said Lynn Johnston, a friend of Schulz and creator of “For Better or for Worse.” (NYT, 2/14/00, A1)

Investigators link worn screw to Alaska Air crash

National Transportation Safety Board experts are becoming increasingly convinced that a worn jackscrew in the tail of an Alaska Airlines jet that crashed last month caused the plane to go down, killing all 88 people on board. The jackscrew controls the horizontal stabilizer, which in turn controls the up and down pitch of the airplane, and there are questions about whether the part was maintained properly.

At last maintenance in 1997, the screw on the MD-80 had the maximum allowable play and was initially scheduled for replacement. After five additional tests, however, the screw was found to be within tolerances and the plane was placed back in service.

Investigators into the crash have determined that the damage to the screw, found in the Pacific Ocean where the plane went down, occurred before the plane crashed, and not as a result of it.

In the week following the crash, the Federal Aviation Administration ordered all airlines to conduct visual safety checks on their MD-80s, which uncovered many problems with the jackscrew, from metallic grit in the grease to metal shavings from the nut. The FAA has also ordered airlines to conduct tests to measure play in the screw, to be completed within a month. In addition, the regulations governing the time between safety checks has been shortened from eight months to three. The crash raises the question of whether airlines are being too lax about complying with regulations or whether the regulations themselves are not strict enough.

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