Judge Halts Charlotte Busing

CHARLOTTE--A federal judge has ordered an end to busing and other means of achieving racial balance in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, the school system that pioneered urban busing in the United States after a landmark Supreme Court ruling 30 years ago.

Seven white parents had sued North Carolina's largest school system after a half-white, half-Hispanic student was barred from a magnet program that used race as a factor in admissions. The 1997 lawsuit challenged all of the school district's classroom-assignment policies, including busing.

In his ruling yesterday, U.S. District Judge Robert Potter said the school system, which is 40 percent black, remedied past segregation "quite some time ago."

Other cities also have been freed from court-ordered desegregation plans in recent years, including Cleveland, Denver and Norfolk. The Charlotte case was different, however, because while other districts sought to end court-ordered busing, Charlotte did not.

The school board has not decided whether to appeal.

Hit Man Gets Plea Deal

BOSTON--A mob hit man who says he killed 20 people has cut a deal with prosecutors that would allow him to get out of prison in as little as eight years, according to documents released Thursday.

John Martorano, 58, agreed to plead guilty to 12 of the slayings. U.S. Attorney Donald K. Stern said all of the killings probably would have gone unsolved without the deal, which requires Martorano to testify against former cronies James J. "Whitey" Bulger and Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi, who were themselves federal informers allegedly given free rein by the FBI to commit crimes short of murder.

Bulger, who is on the run, Flemmi and Martorano are defendants in a federal racketeering case that includes reputed New England mob boss Francis "Cadillac Frank" Salemme.


* BRYAN, Tex.--A jury with no blacks was seated for the murder trial of a second white man charged in the dragging death of a black man. Twelve whites and two Hispanics will be the jurors and alternates who will hear the case against Lawrence Russell Brewer, 32, one of three white men arrested in the slaying of 49-year-old James Byrd Jr., who was chained to a pickup truck and dragged to pieces in Jasper last year. If convicted, Brewer could get the death penalty.

* LOS ANGELES--A jury found football Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown guilty of vandalizing his wife's car by smashing its windows, but the panel acquitted him of threatening to kill her.

* MIAMI--Floyd strengthened into a hurricane with 80 mph winds and forecasters said it could grow into a major hurricane in three days. The hurricane, 415 miles east-northeast of Puerto Rico, was expected to pass just north of the Leeward Islands, and if it turns to the west could reach the United States in five or six days.

* GLENOLDEN, Pa.--A convicted rapist accused of strangling a woman and sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl last week had tried to turn himself in six days earlier but was turned away because of a technical error, police said. Gerald Bennett, 30, said he wanted to surrender Aug. 26 because he had violated parole, but an officer was unable to confirm a warrant and told Bennett to go home. Six days later, on Sept. 1, Bennett was arrested in the killing of Roxanne Carol Leidy and the rape of the girl.

* ERIE, Pa.--Andrew Wurst, 15, pleaded guilty to fatally shooting science teacher John Gillette, 48, at a middle school graduation dance in April 1998. Wurst's plea Thursday to a third-degree murder charge spares the teenager the mandatory life sentence a first-degree murder conviction would have carried.