Mob Suspect Absent From Trial

May Be a Permanent No-Show

Reputed mobster Lawrence Ricci has gone missing during his own waterfront corruption trial, leading his lawyer to speculate that perhaps the Mafia has permanently -- not to mention terminally -- recalled his client.

"I do not consider my client's absence to be a voluntary one," defense attorney Martin Schmukler told a federal court judge in Brooklyn last week.

Ricci, 60, lists his occupation as dairy salesman. Federal prosecutors say he makes more money as a capo in the Genovese crime family.

Ricci was standing trial along with two high-ranking union officials, accused of conspiring to install a mob puppet as president of the International Longshoremen's Association, which dominates New York's waterfront. An FBI spokesman said agents are looking for Ricci but don't "have him in our sights yet."

The trial has been marked by a parade of Mafia turncoats. As a defense attorney told the jury: "You're in for a rare treat. You're about to see some of the most despicable human beings you'll ever encounter in your life."

George Barone, an 81-year-old former mob hit man, was one of these turncoats. Asked in court how many hits he has carried out, Barone shrugged. "I don't keep a scorecard, you know," he said.

-- Michael Powell

Model Modern School

Lacks a Road to Success

State and local officials in Arizona cooperated nicely on the construction of a $6.8 million high school for Tombstone, Ariz., and four other nearby towns. But with the state-of-the-art building ready for a ribbon-cutting, it still sits empty. There is no safe road to get there.

The school is on a low desert at the end of a 1,000-foot stretch of dirt road. Because of the rugged terrain, paving the road is a $350,000 job.

The local school district agreed to fork out $100,000, but that's all they say they can afford. The state agency that funded school construction says local roads are not its problem. And officials at the city of Tombstone, which owns the road, say they have "budget issues" of their own.

The new school features an indoor basketball court, a computer-assisted drafting lab and high-speed Internet, among other modern touches. Tombstone School District Superintendent Ronald Hennings said he is hopeful the state will cough up more money for the road soon, so students can start next semester in their new building.

"Our kids, be they poor, be they rural, be they unimportant in terms of political power, they're deserving of the best school the 21st century has to offer," Hennings said. "If it comes down to an endurance contest [with the state], we're going to win."

-- Sonya Geis

Deer's School Daze Proves

To Be a Fatal Encounter

It wasn't the nature lesson the teachers had in mind.

A deer crashed through a window into Kennedy Elementary School in Mankato, Minn., one morning before classes began and wandered into the library. Students were herded into other classrooms and the gym, away from the confused buck and his trail of blood.

Authorities hoped to tranquilize the deer and remove him without the kids knowing, but the animal died from being cut by window glass. The school was shut for the day.

"We tried not to create a panic, but a lot of them saw it on TV, so they knew what happened to the deer. We did activities to talk about and help them process it," said principal Greg Stoffel.

"Over the weekend, staff and community volunteers cleaned up everything, tore up and replaced the carpets, disinfected everything."

The school in Mankato, 80 miles south of Minneapolis, is in a residential area. The deer, however, was oblivious.

"This little guy," Stoffel said, "was really disoriented."

-- Peter Slevin

Film Mix-Up Startles Viewers

Expecting a Mormon Boy-Band

"Sons of Provo" does not sound like the title of a feature film about a gay Italian porno actor. That's because it isn't. It's the title of a PG-rated comedy about a Mormon boy-band called Everclean.

So some Utah movie fans were probably surprised to find that the "Sons of Provo" DVD they thought they had purchased contained a film called "Adored: Diary of a Gay Porn Star" instead.

Kurt Hale, who owns HaleStorm Entertainment, the Orem, Utah, firm that distributed "Sons of Provo," traced the mix-up to a Los Angeles company hired to replicate the movie and put it on DVDs.

That same company handled another account, Wolfe Video, a gay and lesbian film distributor in San Jose, Calif. Someone, somehow, swapped the master files.

The mistake affected only a small number of discs, but 50,000 copies of the PG-rated comedy had already been distributed when the error was discovered. HaleStorm asked retailers to pull remaining copies from their shelves.

The company is seeking $50,000 from the replication company to cover the costs of advertising a film that was no longer available for purchase.

-- Sonya Geis