Cuban Hostage-Taker Held on Charges

NEW ORLEANS--A Cuban inmate who was part of a group that held hostages at a jail last week is being held on state kidnapping charges. If convicted, he could be imprisoned for life.

The aggravated kidnapping charges filed against Roberto Villar angered his mother, who was credited by the FBI with helping to peacefully end the six-day hostage standoff Saturday at the St. Martin Parish jail.

Hostage negotiators "assured me that if I convinced them to hand themselves over peacefully everyone would go to Cuba, including my son. No one said anything about charges," Mercedes Villar said yesterday in a telephone interview from Miami.

Louisiana officials said they wanted to charge all eight inmates involved in the takeover with kidnapping, but six other Cubans were sent back to their native country by the federal government on Monday.

* ALTAMONT, Kan.--Five 17-year-old boys were charged with murder conspiracy stemming from an alleged plot to shoot administrators, teachers and a student at Labette County High School. At least 39 weapons, including handguns, shotguns and rifles, were seized from the boys' homes after they allegedly tried to recruit other classmates for the attack at a party yesterday, officials said. They were arrested after two students informed a teacher.

* LITTLETON, Colo.--Brooks Brown, the Columbine High School student who once was under suspicion in the April 20 attack at the school, has been exonerated by the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department. Brown, who was warned by Columbine gunman Eric Harris to leave the school shortly before the massacre, had nothing to do with the shootings, Undersheriff John Dunaway said Monday.

* TRENTON, N.J.--Under pressure from the Justice Department, New Jersey agreed yesterday to the appointment of an outside monitor to make sure the state police end racial profiling and other discriminatory practices.

* MIAMI--The 6-year-old Cuban boy at the center of a custody dispute might stay with relatives in Miami at least another month because an Immigration and Naturalization Service hearing on the future of Elian Gonzalez scheduled for today was postponed until Jan. 21, according to Spencer Eig, who represents the boy's Miami relatives. The child's father wants Elian, who was rescued after his mother and others drowned while trying to reach Florida, returned to Cuba. Yesterday, 24 more illegal Cuban immigrants reached Florida in what authorities said were two separate smuggling incidents.

* KEOKUK, Iowa--Three children and three firefighters were killed in a blaze in a duplex apartment. Melissa Cooper rescued her son, Jacob McFarland, and both were hospitalized in fair condition, authorities said.

* LOS ANGELES--U.S. District Judge Edward Rafeedie, who on Monday refused to release a former Disney executive despite an appeals court's decision to strike down part of the child pornography possession law under which Patrick Naughton had been convicted, yesterday ordered Naughton freed on $100,000 bail.

* CANON CITY, Colo.--A tour bus returning from a ski trip in the Rockies skidded off an icy highway and rolled down an embankment, killing three people and injuring dozens of others, including eight critically. The bus was carrying 57 people home to Houston from a church-affiliated trip, police said.

* KEYSTONE HEIGHTS, Fla.--Two women hijacked a helicopter at gunpoint and ordered the pilot to fly to a maximum security prison for a breakout but dropped their plan after flying to within sight of the prison, authorities said. Josie Clark, 53, and Wendy Calderon, 32, could face federal and state kidnapping charges in the plot to help someone escape from the Union Correctional Institution, which holds most of the state's death row inmates among its 1,703 prisoners.