News Briefs

May 29, 1996
Web posted at: 11:15 p.m. EDT

Florida to expand deportation of criminal illegal immigrants


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. Justice Department and the state of Florida announced Wednesday that they have teamed up to expand a first-of-its-kind program to deport illegal immigrants convicted of crimes in Florida.

The pilot program, now two years old, will be expanded to include all illegal immigrants in the Florida prison system who were convicted of non-violent crimes. More than 300 people were deported under the pilot program, which targeted illegal immigrants with less than two years remaining on their sentences for non-violent convictions. Most were convicted drug felons.

Officials estimate the pilot program has already saved the state $15 million. Florida unsuccessfully sued the U.S. government in the past for the costs of medical treatment, housing, education and incarceration for illegal immigrants, which state officials say total more than $1 billion annually.

Appeals court overturns 'Hollywood Madam' conviction


LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- California's Second District Court of Appeals Wednesday reversed the conviction of so-called "Hollywood Madam" Heidi Fleiss on pandering charges, and ordered a new trial, according to her lawyer's office and a spokeswoman for the appeals court.

The appeals panel, which met last Thursday, found that jurors engaged in misconduct when they swapped votes to avoid a deadlock in the trial, in which Fleiss was found guilty of providing clients with prostitutes.

Fleiss was sentenced to three years in prison on the pandering charges. The reversal does not affect her federal conviction on money laundering charges, which her lawyers have appealed. Fleiss remains free pending her sentencing in that case, which is scheduled for September.

ValuJet excavation delayed until Friday


MIAMI (CNN) -- The start of the ValuJet dredging operation was delayed for another day Wednesday to allow workers time to enlarge a walk-around platform at the top of a sifter. The modification request was made by the Dade County Medical Examiner's office to enable better monitoring for human remains.

On Friday, a clamshell-shaped scoop on the backhoe will begin lifting up sections of muck and dumping them into the sifter, which will help sort out any human remains and plane wreckage.

Meanwhile, salvage divers continued work with a smaller crane Wednesday, recovering six airboat-loads of parts. ValuJet Flight 592 crashed in the Florida Everglades May 11, killing all 110 people on board.

Sailors arrested on drug smuggling charges

sailors arrested

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Navy officials in Naples, Italy, announced on May 16 -- the day Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Boorda committed suicide -- that 14 U.S. sailors had been arrested on suspicion of smuggling heroin and cocaine.

Eight others, including a lieutenant commander, have been arrested over the past year in the ongoing investigation. Four of the sailors are serving time; the other four are awaiting trial.

At the time of the May 16 arrests, a statement from the Navy's Fleet Air Mediterranean characterized the raid as "the most complex counter-drug operation carried out in Europe by the Navy's Criminal Investigative Service."

Navy officials say Nigerian drug dealers recruited U.S. sailors -- most of whom hold junior ranks -- and paid them thousands of dollars to carry drugs from Turkey to Italy. The smuggling operation was halted after Navy investigators planted an undercover agent.

Seven enlisted women were among the suspects.

Missing girl found after two days


YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, California (CNN) -- A 14-year-old girl missing for two days in Yosemite National Park was found alive with only minor scrapes.

Ashleigh Wiggins, a high school freshman in nearby Fresno, was found by searchers combing an isolated area of the park Tuesday afternoon. She disappeared while on a family backpacking trip Sunday.

"I kept praying and I saw those guys," Ashleigh said. "They asked, 'Are you Ashleigh?' I was really happy."

Searchers find missing climber

McKinley climber

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (CNN) -- A mountain climber was found dead on Alaska's Mount McKinley after suffering a fall, the National Park Service said.

Two volunteer searchers, helping with park ranger patrols, found the body late Tuesday at the peak's 15,000-foot (4,550-meter) level.

The identity of the climber was not confirmed.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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