Florida Man Cleared in

Child-Pornography Case

MIAMI -- Simply using computer equipment to view child pornography is not a federal crime, a federal appeals panel ruled Friday in reversing the conviction of a Florida man.

Federal prosecutors stretched the link to interstate commerce by prosecuting James Maxwell for possession of child pornography without offering any evidence that he obtained the photos from out of state, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled.

The ruling adds to a split among appellate courts on the minimum requirements for federal child-pornography convictions.

Writing for a three-judge panel, former Chief Judge Gerald Tjoflat said he had "no intention of breaking new ground." But he concluded: "It strains reason to conceive of how Maxwell's activity of possession was in any sense 'commerce.' "

Tjoflat noted there were no allegations that Maxwell viewed the pornography or produced, purchased, distributed or traded it across state lines in violation of federal law.

* SEATTLE -- Three laptop computers containing campaign plans were stolen from the Bush-Cheney state headquarters, Republican officials said Friday. Between 2 a.m. and 8 a.m., after the last campaign worker had gone home from the Bellevue, Wash., office, someone threw a rock through the office window of Jon Seaton, executive director for President Bush's state campaign, said Chris Vance, state GOP chairman. He said the computers contained much of the Bush-Cheney campaign strategy for the state.

* TUCSON -- The number of illegal immigrants who died while trying to cross the border from Mexico declined over the past year, according to preliminary Border Patrol figures. The total number of migrant deaths along the entire U.S.-Mexican border dropped to 325 for the fiscal year that ended Thursday, from 340 in the previous fiscal year. Mario Villarreal, a Washington-based spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, which includes the Border Patrol, attributed the decline to cooler, wetter weather in Texas and a repatriation program that flew 14,000 migrants to Mexico's interior.

* SALT LAKE CITY -- Two men pleaded guilty to arsons at a lumber yard and a university farm building on behalf of ecoterrorist groups. Justus A. Ireland, 23, admitted starting a June fire at a lumber yard that caused $1.5 million in damage. Joshua Stephen Demmitt, 18, said he started a blaze in July at an animal husbandry building at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, causing $30,000 in damage.

* SAN FRANCISCO -- A baby female great white shark spent her 18th day swimming in a giant tank at California's Monterey Bay Aquarium after setting a record for longevity in captivity. The 52-inch, 62-pound shark has been eating salmon fillets, mackerel and sardines, and sharing her aquarium with other sharks, tuna, barracudas, stingrays and sea turtles, officials said.

* ALAMOGORDO, N.M. -- A 14-year-old boy accused of killing his family on newsman Sam Donaldson's ranch will be tried in children's court, a judge ruled. The teenager could still be subject to adult penalties if convicted, District Attorney Scot Key said.

-- From News Services