N.Y. Police Chief Criticizes

Judge Over Robbery Arrest

NEW YORK -- The head of the New York City Police Department publicly rebuked a judge for helping a man wanted in a violent robbery to elude arrest in her courtroom.

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly called on the Office of Court Administration to punish Judge Laura Blackburne. Police unions said she should resign.

"This is outrageous conduct by any measure and beyond the pale for a sitting jurist," Kelly said in a statement Thursday.

Office of Court Administration spokesman David Bookstaver would not comment. The courts were closed on Friday, and telephone calls to the judge's home went unanswered.

The incident began Thursday while Derek Sterling was appearing before the judge in a hearing on drug charges. A police detective arrived and notified the court that he planned to arrest Sterling in the robbery case once the drug hearing was over.

While the detective waited in the hallway, Blackburne indicated she was upset because he had arrived without an arrest warrant. She also alleged that he tried to set a trap by saying he was there only to question Sterling.

"I'm not trying to keep you from being arrested," the judge told Sterling, according to a court transcript. "I'm trying to keep you from being arrested today in my courtroom based on obvious misrepresentations on the part of the detective."

She ordered Sterling to return to a halfway house for recovering drug addicts and directed a court officer to escort him out a rear door. Sterling was arrested about 12 hours later.

* FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -- A 16-year-old girl pleaded guilty to killing her stepfather and will testify against her mother, who is accused of plotting the slaying. Elizabeth Shannon said she shot Army Maj. David Shannon, 40, twice as he slept on July 23, 2002. She will be sentenced to a minimum of 25 years in prison if she cooperates in the prosecution of her mother, Joan Shannon, 37, according to a plea agreement.

* MUSKOGEE, Okla. -- The Muskogee Public School District revised its dress code to settle a lawsuit filed on behalf of a sixth-grader who wanted to wear her Muslim head scarf to class. Nashala Hearn, now 12, was suspended twice last year for wearing the hijab. School officials said her clothing violated a dress code banning hats, bandannas and other head coverings. .

* NUTRIOSO, Ariz. -- Reduced wind helped firefighters subdue a 7,300-acre wildfire in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, diminishing the threat to houses in Nutrioso, fire officials said.

* AUSTIN -- Dozens of adult-video stores in Texas will be closed now that a porn mogul and his son have pleaded guilty to skirting millions of dollars in taxes, federal officials said. John K. Coil, 62 -- accused of evading as much as $5 million in corporate and income taxes -- admitted in a plea deal that he and his son mailed fraudulent tax returns and transported obscene materials. His son, John A. Coil, 23, admitted making false statements on a tax return.

-- From News Services