Ex-Port Director Of Miami Acquitted
MIAMI -- A seaport corruption trial in Miami ended abruptly yesterday when a federal judge ordered the acquittal of the former port director and two others accused of stealing $1.6 million of public money.
U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks ruled that the money in question did not belong to Miami-Dade County, which runs the Port of Miami. Therefore, the judge said, the defendants could not be guilty of misusing county funds.
The decision brought to a swift end one of several high-profile corruption cases in Miami. These include a vote fraud scandal that overturned a mayoral election and the jailing of a city commissioner on mortgage fraud charges.
The ruling cleared former seaport director Carmen Lunetta, California investment banker Calvin Grigsby and stevedore company owner Noel Harrington, a court official said.
The three were charged with misusing seaport money to make campaign contributions, including $120,000 to the Democratic National Committee. They were also accused of using the funds for personal expenses.
A 10-count indictment charged they made the payments through Fiscal Operations, a company set up by Grigsby to run the seaport's cargo cranes.
Grigsby's lawyers said the money belonged to Fiscal Operations, not to the county. They said Fiscal Operations' contracts with the county entitled it to keep all gross revenue from the crane operations, while paying the county a franchise fee.
Federal prosecutors rested their case June 2 after five weeks of testimony. Middlebrooks ordered the acquittal after defense attorneys sought dismissal, arguing prosecutors had failed to prove the money belonged to the county.
Extradition Delayed For Ukrainian VIP
SAN FRANCISCO -- A judge has postponed for two weeks a hearing on whether to extradite the former prime minister of Ukraine, accused of laundering million of dollars allegedly stolen from his country's government.
Pavlo Lazarenko is scheduled to appear in federal court June 21 to fight the effort to return him to Switzerland to face the charges.
Lazarenko, 46, has denied the allegations, claiming they are part of a vendetta by his political enemies, including current President Leonid Kuchma.
While Lazarenko is fighting to remain in the United States, he is also running for Ukraine's presidency.
Even before the charges, rumors of political corruption were provoked by his unusual wealth. Although he identifies himself as an economist and earned a salary of less than $3,000 a year, Lazarenko is reputedly one of Ukraine's richest citizens.
He left Ukraine late last year, only days before a Ukrainian indictment charged him with expropriating millions of dollars in public funds.
N.H. Is Last State With King Day
CONCORD, N.H. -- Gov. Jeanne Shaheen signed a bill creating Martin Luther King Jr. Civil Rights Day, making New Hampshire the last state in the country to honor the slain civil rights leader with a holiday.
The bill ends years of attempts to put King's name on the holiday, which had been celebrated as Civil Rights Day under a legislative compromise passed in 1991. King's son, Martin Luther King III, represented the King family at the signing.