Court: Election Rules Apply to Indians

LOS ANGELES -- In a case seen as an important test of Indian sovereignty, a judge ruled yesterday that a Southern California tribe is subject to the same state campaign finance laws that apply to other political contributors.

Superior Court Judge Loren McMaster said exempting the tribe from the laws' reporting requirements would subvert California's electoral system.

The ruling came in a lawsuit by the state Fair Political Practices Commission against the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, one of California's wealthiest and most influential Indian tribes.

The panel alleged that the Agua Caliente band was late in disclosing more than $8 million in donations to candidates and causes between 1998 and 2002. The FPPC sued the tribe and demanded that it pay fines equal to the amount improperly reported.

The Agua Caliente band, which operates two casinos in and around Palm Springs, argued that, because it has tribal sovereignty, it was not bound by the state's campaign finance rules.

Patient Suspected in Fatal Conn. Fire

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Investigators believe a nursing home blaze that killed 10 people was started by a patient who set her sheets on fire, the Hartford Courant reported.

The 23-year-old patient suffers from multiple sclerosis and had a history of abusing drugs, including crack, the paper reported, citing unidentified law enforcement sources.

Police Chief Bruce Marquis would not comment on the report but said the woman was interviewed Wednesday night in the presence of doctors and was cooperating. No charges have been filed against her.

Police said they will try to determine if the woman's "mental capacity" was a factor in the early-morning blaze Wednesday at the Greenwood Health Center. Fourteen people remained hospitalized, five in critical condition.

* RALEIGH, N.C. -- Jesica Santillan, the teenager who died after a botched transplant, will be buried in the United States because her illegal immigrant parents fear they will barred from returning to this country if they hold a funeral in their native Mexico, a family spokeswoman said.

* SAN FRANCISCO -- The California Highway Patrol settled a lawsuit over racial profiling by agreeing to ban some car searches and to require officers to specify a reason for each traffic stop beyond just a hunch about wrongdoing.

* CHARLOTTE -- Cousins Mohamad Atef Darwiche and Ali Hussein Darwiche were sentenced to more than three years in prison for their roles in a cigarette-smuggling ring that sent its profits to the militant Lebanese group Hezbollah. U.S. District Judge Graham Mullen also sentenced Samuel Chahrour, a Dearborn, Mich., man who bought large quantities of the cigarettes, to two years in prison.

* MIAMI BEACH, Fla. -- Gov. Jeb Bush's plane was struck by lightning that put a hole in a wing during a flight Thursday from Tallahassee to Orlando, an aide said. No one was injured and the plane landed safely at its destination. Bush took another plane to Miami Beach.

-- From News Services