Civil Rights Activists Probed

ATLANTA--Investigators are looking into whether civil rights activists, Coretta Scott King among them, tampered with the jury in the trial of a former state senator accused of cheating the state out of expense money.

The theft case against Ralph D. Abernathy III, the son of a renowned civil rights leader, ended in a mistrial.

However, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has been asked by the trial judge to look into an encounter between jurors and a group of civil rights leaders that included King, GBI spokesman John Bankhead said yesterday.

King, New York activist Al Sharpton, state Rep. Tyrone Brooks and others intercepted the jurors as they were going to lunch, according to law enforcement personnel. Abernathy's mother, Juanita, who also was with the group, said the meeting was an accident.

The trial, in which Abernathy was accused of cheating the state out of about $13,000 in Senate expense money, ended two days later with a hung jury.

Jury foreman Les Hankinson has said the encounter with King's group had little bearing on the outcome of the case. He and other jurors blamed the mistrial on a juror who they said would not participate in deliberations.

King's spokesman did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Attorney General Thurbert Baker has said he intends to retry the case, but Brooks charged Baker has a "political vendetta" against Abernathy, whose late father was a lieutenant of Martin Luther King Jr. Baker called that statement "both irresponsible and ridiculous."

Wildfires Rage On Along California Coast

MONTEREY, Calif.--Wildfires that have scorched nearly 30,000 acres continued to burn out of control near California's rugged Big Sur coast.

The U.S. Forest Service said more than 3,500 firefighters were battling lightning-sparked blazes that have been burning since Sept. 8 in Los Padres National Forest, about 150 miles south of San Francisco.

Dry conditions and steep terrain have made it difficult to fight the wildfires and the blazes are still only 20 percent contained, said Kathy Good, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service.

"They are still burning out of control," she said in a telephone interview.

The spreading fires also caused officials to order the evacuation of about 20 monks living at the New Camaldoli Hermitage and some 20 private homes in the area.

Officials have also recommended a voluntary evacuation of the tiny resort community of Tassajara Hot Springs and of several ranches that also are in the path of the fire.

Two rare California condor chicks have been moved to the coast from a rearing facility in the fire-threatened Ventana Wilderness area. They are part of a program to reintroduce the giant birds to their natural habitat.

The blazes do not threaten the 49 adult California condors already in the wild because wildfires are a feature of their natural habitat, officials said.