National roundup: News briefs from around the nation

March 18, 2014
ILLINOIS
GOP picks executiveto run for governor

Wealthy former private-equity executive Bruce Rauner won the Republican nomination for governor of Illinois on Tuesday, setting the stage for a general election showdown against Gov. Pat Quinn (D), viewed by many observers as the most vulnerable Democratic governor running for reelection this year.

Rauner, a first-time candidate, defeated three other Republican officeholders and overcame coordinated efforts from labor and other Democrats designed to weaken him. With 95 percent of precincts reporting, the Associated Press called the race for Rauner, who led state Sen. Kirk Dillard (R) 40 percent to 37 percent, a closer margin than many had anticipated.

Quinn easily won renomination against only a token Democratic opponent Tuesday. Former White House chief of staff Bill Daley dropped his short-lived challenge to the governor last September.

— Sean Sullivan

NATIONAL SECURITY
Rebel pleads guilty to holding U.S. hostages

A former commander of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) pleaded guilty Tuesday to holding three Americans hostage after their plane crashed in Colombia.

Alexander Beltran Herrera faces up to 60 years in prison for his role in holding the American defense contractors, who were detained for more than five years before their dramatic rescue by the Colombian military in 2008.

Members of the FARC kidnapped five people involved in an anti-drug surveillance mission after their plane made an emergency landing in 2003. Two of them were executed at the crash site. Three — Marc D. Gonsalves, Thomas R. Howes and Keith Stansell — were held hostage.

Beltran Herrera, 37, was extradited from Colombia in 2012. His trial was scheduled to begin Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Washington. As part of the plea deal, prosecutors have agreed to ask U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth to sentence him to no more than 27 years. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 25.

— Ann E. Marimow

Manager admits role in bilking of Navy

A manager of a Singapore-based company accused of bilking the U.S. Navy of millions of dollars pleaded guilty Tuesday in the case.

Alex Wisidagama entered a guilty plea in federal court in San Diego to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States with respect to claims.

The former general manager of global government contracts for Glenn Defense Marine Asia, or GDMA, admitted to knowing the company that serviced ships in the Pacific submitted fictitious claims that resulted in losses to the U.S. Navy exceeding $20 million.

Wisidagama is the cousin of Leonard Glenn Francis, the chief executive of GDMA, who is known in military circles as “Fat Leonard.” The two were arrested last year in San Diego during a sting operation by military investigators who say Francis offered pricey vacations and services of prostitutes to naval officers in exchange for information and advice so that GDMA could overbill the Navy. Francis has pleaded not guilty to the charges and remains in custody in San Diego.

— Associated Press

Judge rejects accused Sept. 11 figure’s input

Jurors deciding the fate of a son-in-law of Osama bin Laden will not hear testimony from the accused mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, a U.S. judge ruled Tuesday.

Judge Lewis Kaplan rejected as “entirely baseless” a motion by defense attorneys to admit the testimony in the trial of Suleiman Abu Ghaith, 48, a former al-
Qaeda spokesman who is one of the highest-profile people to face terrorism-related charges in a civilian court in the United States.

Mohammed, who is being held at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had said in response to written questions from the defense that Abu Ghaith “was not a military man and had nothing to do with” al-Qaeda military operations.

— Reuters

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