The Price of Coingate in Ohio
A top Republican donor, Thomas Noe, who invested $50 million of an Ohio workers' fund in rare coins and then stole millions, was convicted by a Toledo area jury on 29 of 40 felony counts last week. The scandal, dubbed "Coingate," dogged Ohio Republican officials for over a year and helped bring an end to more than a decade of GOP control of state government. Democrats this month picked up a U.S. Senate seat, the governorship, and three of four other statewide offices. The scandal "created a poisonous atmosphere for Republicans," says Herb Asher, professor emeritus of political science at Ohio State University.
Sentencing is scheduled for this week. One of Noe's corruption convictions carries a 10-year minimum prison term. He has already been sentenced to more than two years in federal prison for illegally channeling campaign contributions to President Bush.
A Troubling Sense of DÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ©jÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ Vu
For the Los Angeles Police Department, trouble, it seems, is never more than a video away. It was a video after all, that ignited the firestorm over Rodney King in 1991 that eventually cascaded into riots. Last week the specter of the bad old days returned, as LAPD Chief William Bratton struggled to deal with the fallout from not one but two videos that raised questions about whether his officers had used excessive force.
In the first incident, a video of which popped up on the Internet site YouTube, an officer appears to punch a suspect repeatedly in the face following an August foot chase in Hollywood. The second videotaped incident, which occurred in February 2005 but just came to light, seems to show an officer using pepper spray against a handcuffed suspect who'd already been placed in a patrol car in Venice Beach.
Bratton said the videos needed context-the Hollywood suspect had allegedly swung at a cop, and police said that the Venice suspect had spit at officers-and he noted that initial inquiries had cleared the cops in both cases. But the LAPD and the FBI have now launched new probes into the Hollywood incident, and the LAPD is still examining what happened in Venice. Bratton said he is also considering a review of the department's policy on when and how pepper spray can be used.
Controversial Deal in a Tragic Fire
Calling the incident "a prank that got out of hand," two former college roommates at Seton Hall University confessed to starting a dorm fire in 2000 that killed three students and injured many others. Joseph LePore and Sean Ryan, both 26, made the admissions in a Newark, N.J., court last week as part of a plea deal that could leave them with sentences of up to five years. Prosecutors say the blaze started when the pair lit a banner on fire in a lounge after celebrating a win by the school's basketball team. New Jersey later became the first state to mandate sprinklers in college dorms. Alvaro Llanos, a Seton Hall sophomore who was burned in the fire, said the plea deal amounted to "a slap on the wrist." Prosecutor Paula Dow defended the deal because the state's case was largely based on circumstantial evidence.