Pilot Admits Guilt

In Fatal Ferry Crash

NEW YORK -- A Staten Island ferry pilot pleaded guilty Wednesday to manslaughter in the crash that killed 11 commuters last October, acknowledging that he passed out at the boat's controls after arriving at work with medication in his system. A director of the ferry operation also was charged with manslaughter.

"I was not in proper physical condition to safely operate the Staten Island ferry," Richard Smith said at his Brooklyn federal court hearing, entering his plea under an agreement reached with prosecutors. "I lost consciousness and was not in control of the ferry when it crashed."

The ferry, the Andrew J. Barberi, crashed as it was docking on a run from Manhattan and tore a 250-foot-long gash in its hull.

A federal indictment returned Wednesday also charged Patrick Ryan, director of ferry operations, with 11 counts of manslaughter, obstruction of justice and lying to the Coast Guard after the crash. Ryan was cited for his alleged failure to provide the captains and assistant captains with the proper procedures for operating the ferries, and for subsequently claiming he had done so.

Ferry captain Michael Gansas was charged with making a false statement to the Coast Guard, while the same indictment charged port captain John Mauldin with obstruction of justice for allegedly lying to the National Transportation Safety Board.

Abortion-Rights Backers

Denied Communion

ATLANTA -- Three southern Catholic bishops ruled Wednesday that politicians who support abortion rights should be denied Holy Communion at churches under their jurisdiction.

Atlanta Archbishop John F. Donoghue, along with Charleston, S.C., Bishop Robert J. Baker and Charlotte Bishop Peter J. Jugis, issued a statement saying that "pro-abortion legislation is gravely sinful" and that public officials who support abortion have "a manifest lack of proper disposition" for the sacrament.

Last month, American bishops could not agree whether all politicians who favor abortion rights should be denied Communion. But they issued a statement saying those lawmakers are "cooperating in evil" and must examine whether they should receive the sacrament. Communion affirms a Catholic's bond with God, and barring participation is a harsh punishment in the church.

The ruling affects more than 100 churches around Atlanta alone.

* JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A judge pretended to resign on live television Wednesday to end a standoff in which a gunman held a lawyer hostage and threatened to set off a bomb in a high-rise, authorities said.

Duval County Judge Sharon Tanner, who authorities said had handled a case involving the gunman, gave the bogus resignation on camera as local stations were covering the hostage incident live. Her resignation was among the gunman's demands.

The lawyer, Christopher Hazelip, was freed unharmed, and the gunman, identified as John M. Knight, 45, surrendered shortly after the judge's televised resignation, said John Bowen, chief of homeland security for the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

-- From News Services