Mechanic in ValuJet Trial Is Cleared of Some Charges

MIAMI--A jet mechanic was cleared yesterday of eight hazardous materials charges in the criminal trial stemming from the crash of ValuJet Flight 592.

Prosecutors failed to prove mechanic Eugene Florence recklessly caused the shipping of oxygen generators that federal investigators blamed for fueling a cargo fire that downed the DC-9 in May 1996, U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King ruled.

Florence still faces one count of conspiracy and two counts of lying on repair records in his trial along with his former employer, ValuJet's repair contractor SabreTech, and a former vice president of maintenance.

Florence removed generators from ValuJet planes and signed a work card stating he had placed required shipping caps on the used generators when he did not. SabreTech shipping department employees packaged and delivered the generators to the flight.

King reserved a ruling on a different repair-record charge against the vice president, Daniel Gonzalez, but all other charges in the 24-count indictment stand.

If convicted, Florence faces up to 15 years on the reduced charges. He had earlier faced up to 55 years. Gonzalez faces up to 55 years in prison and $2.7 million in fines if convicted.

SabreTech could face up to $6 million in fines plus restitution to victims' families. The Phoenix-based subsidiary of St. Louis-based Sabreliner Corp. was driven out of business after the crash and faces a separate state trial on murder and manslaughter charges.

After Suit, Pittsburgh Offers Police Jobs to 9 White Men

PITTSBURGH--City officials have agreed to hire nine white men who filed a discrimination lawsuit after they were passed over for jobs as police officers in 1992.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal court jury's verdict in June 1998 to award back pay and damages to the men, who said they were victims of reverse discrimination.

On Monday, the city agreed to a consent order by offering jobs to the men if they pass physical and psychological exams. The city also will owe them a total of $900,000 in back pay and related charges.

Taxi Driver in Fatal Crash Had a Suspended License

LOS ANGELES--The taxi driver who died along with his five passengers when the vehicle was crushed by a train had his driving license suspended for drunken driving and did not have a permit to operate a cab, authorities said.

It could be two months before toxicology tests show whether Romaldo Gonzalez, 43, was driving drunk when the fatal accident happened, the Los Angeles County coroner's office said Monday.

Gonzalez and the others were killed when the taxi he was driving crossed in front of a Los Angeles-to-Long Beach commuter train late Saturday in an attempt to beat it across the tracks, authorities said.

It was unclear how Gonzalez was able to get a cab.