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Sunday, April 24, 2005; Page A07

Law Firm in Vioxx Case Backed Judge in Race

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- The judge handling the first wrongful death trial over the pain reliever Vioxx received $60,000 in campaign contributions last year from political action committees funded by the law firm that filed the lawsuit.

An Associated Press review of campaign finance reports found that six PACs funded by the Beasley Allen law firm contributed $35,000 directly to Circuit Judge John Rochester's unsuccessful campaign for the Alabama Supreme Court in 2004. Five other PACs funded by the law firm gave $25,000 to the Republican's campaign, routing it through another PAC.

The Beasley Allen firm represents Cheryl Rogers, who filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Merck & Co. on behalf of her husband, contending that Vioxx led to his death. Merck says that the pills Rogers's husband is alleged to have taken did not leave the company until six months after his death.

Oral Swabsticks Recalled Over Molds

Kingswood Laboratories Inc. of Indianapolis recalled its Moi-Stir Oral Swabsticks, some of which have been found to contain molds that could cause respiratory infections.

The oral swabs are used to moisten the mouths of hospital and dental patients. They are packaged as three sticks in a white foil pouch, with "Moi-Stir" on the front of the pouch, in green lettering. The recall includes Moi-Stir Swabsticks with lot numbers A2, 1193, 1209, 1233, 1260, and 1725.

Consumers who have the recalled Moi-Stir Swabsticks should return them to where they were purchased, the company said Friday. People with questions may call Kingswood at 1-800-968-7772.

BOSTON -- A judge sentenced four men to mandatory life sentences Friday for the 2001 gang-related stabbing and beating death of a homeless woman who panhandled in Harvard Square. Ismael Vasquez, 27, his brother Luis, 23, Harold Parker, 31, and Scott Davenport, 31, were convicted Thursday in the death of Io Nachtwey, 21, a once-promising languages student from Hawaii who dropped out of community college and ended up homeless in Boston.

NEW YORK -- The top-ranking city official charged in the deadly Staten Island ferry crash in 2003 pleaded guilty to negligent manslaughter. Patrick Ryan admitted in court Friday that he chose not to implement or enforce a rule requiring ferries to be operated by two pilots when at sea. The vessel crashed Oct. 15, 2003, after a lone skipper in the pilot house, Richard Smith, passed out. Eleven passengers were killed and dozens of people were maimed when the ferry slammed into a maintenance pier.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- A 5-year-old girl was handcuffed by police after she tore papers off a bulletin board and punched an assistant principal in kindergarten class, according to a video released by a lawyer for the child's mother. Police spokesman Bill Proffitt said an investigation will be completed and made public in about two weeks.

CAMPBELL, Wis. -- A 15-hour standoff with a man who allegedly shot his neighbor ended Saturday after authorities coaxed Philip Schuth out of his house and discovered a body, believed to be that of his mother, in the freezer. Police said Schuth, 52, told them about the body during the standoff, which began after he allegedly shot a neighbor who had confronted him over accusations that he had struck the neighbor's 8-year-old son and had stolen the boy's bicycle.

LOS ANGELES -- A judge sentenced former Roman Catholic priest Fernando Lopez, 40, to more than six years in prison for molesting three boys over a three-year period beginning shortly after his transfer to Los Angeles from Rome in 2001. In a separate case in Northern California, the Diocese of Santa Rosa agreed to pay more than $3.3 million to a woman who said she was sexually abused by a priest more than 20 years ago, the woman's attorney said.

-- From News Services

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