Ex-sniper accused of contract killing plot

A former U.S. solder nicknamed Rambo pleaded not guilty Saturday to charges he plotted with phony Colombian drug traffickers to kill a federal agent for $800,000.

Joseph Hunter, stocky and wearing a wrinkled gray prison jumpsuit, was held after the brief appearance in federal court in Manhattan. His lawyer declined to comment.

An indictment unsealed Friday described the 48-year-old Hunter as a contract killer and leader of a trio of former soldiers who were trained snipers.

Hunter, a resident of Thailand, was flown Friday evening to New York after he was expelled from Thailand, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.

Hunter was charged with conspiracy, attempting to import cocaine and plotting to kill a law enforcement agent.When asked by U.S. Magistrate Judge Frank Haas about his plea, Hunter responded: “Not guilty, sir.”

According to the indictment, Hunter served in the U.S. Army from 1983 to 2004 before becoming a contract killer, arranging several slayings outside the United States. No details were given.

— Associated Press

Two wealthy families in battle over will

A bitter fight between two of the New York area’s wealthiest families is playing out in the modest trappings of a county courthouse in Hacksensack, N.J., more used to seeing drug offenders and alimony cheats.

On one side is James Cohen, son of the founder of Hudson News, the newsstand operator in airports and train stations nationwide. On the other is Cohen’s niece, Samantha Perelman, 23, daughter of billionaire Revlon chief Ronald Perelman.

Samantha Perelman claims her uncle squeezed her out of her grandfather Robert Cohen’s will as he suffered from a Parkinson’s-like disease before dying last year.

The case appears to turn on whether Perelman’s attorneys can demonstrate to a state Superior Court judge that James Cohen used undue influence to get his father to change his will several times to reduce Perelman’s share.

Cohen’s attorneys called Perelman’s lawsuit “brazen beyond belief” and the product of “pure gall.”

— Associated Press

NTSB: Bad workmanship led to Southwest accident: A National Transportation Safety Board report released Friday blames shoddy workmanship for a tear in the roof of a Southwest Airlines flight in 2011. The Boeing 737-300 was en route from Phoenix to Sacramento when a 5-foot-long gash opened in the fuselage. The findings say that when the jet was assembled 15 years ago, two panels appear to have been misaligned and rivet holes were drilled incorrectly.

La. pastor killed in front of congregation: A pastor was fatally shot as he preached to a crowd of about 60 during a revival service Friday night, and a suspect has been arrested, officials said. The shooting occurred at the Tabernacle of Praise Worship Center in Lake Charles. Deputies have no information on a motive or on whether Pastor Ronald J. Harris Sr. and suspect Woodrow Karey knew each other.

Storm victims may have to leave New York hotels: About 300 people made homeless by Hurricane Sandy could be forced to leave the New York City hotels where they’ve been staying after a judge lifted an injunction Friday that preserved the program. The displaced residents, who began sleeping in city-funded hotel rooms after last year’s storm, must find new housing by next Friday.

— From news services