Charges Against Pilot

In Bombing Dismissed

NEW ORLEANS -- The Air Force has decided not to court-martial a U.S. fighter pilot who mistakenly dropped a 500-pound, laser-guided bomb that killed four Canadians in Afghanistan in 2002.

Maj. Harry Schmidt, 37, will face nonjudicial punishment, and four dereliction-of-duty charges against him will be dismissed in court, the Air Force said Thursday. He could face punishment including 30 days' confinement or loss of one month's pay, about $5,600, Air Force spokeswoman Col. Alvina Mitchell said.

Schmidt originally was charged with manslaughter and aggravated assault and faced up to 64 years in prison. Military officials recommended against a court-martial on those charges last June, saying Schmidt could face nonjudicial punishment instead.

Schmidt turned down the offer, saying he wanted to clear his name in a court-martial instead. He was ordered to be tried on the lesser charge of dereliction of duty.

But the agreement announced Thursday meant the dereliction charges will be pursued in a nonjudicial forum, beginning July 1.

* SEATTLE -- The Food and Drug Administration identified the substance that killed three dairy cows this month as a chromium compound, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that it was chromium 6, the compound investigated by activist Erin Brockovich. It was not known how the compound -- a tacky, reddish-brown substance -- got on the cattle. Chromium 6 is used by pharmaceutical and chemical companies to make new materials and by industrial operations to clean aluminum and glass.

* CASTRO VALLEY, Calif. -- A 21-year-old motorist chased a car carrying her ex-boyfriend and a teenage woman onto a highway and repeatedly rammed their vehicle, causing a wreck that killed the teenager, police said. Laura Medina was arrested on suspicion of murder and booked into Santa Rita Jail.

* KINGSTON, N.Y. -- A conservative legal group, the Liberty Counsel, sued to invalidate about 180 gay marriages performed in New Paltz, N.Y., and to stop village officials from conducting same-sex weddings. Judge Michael Kavanagh signed a temporary order blocking more weddings and set a July 19 court date.

* BIRMINGHAM -- U.S. District Judge Lynwood Smith delayed Eric Rudolph's death penalty trial in the fatal bombing of an abortion clinic from Aug. 2 until next year, agreeing with defense lawyers that they needed more time to prepare. He set the jury-selection process to begin March 23 .

-- From News Services