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October 16, 2009 - Image 3

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9 The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Friday, October 16, 2009 - 3A

* The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Friday, October 16, 2009 - 3A

NEWS BRIEFS
HUDSONVILLE, Mich.
Woman embezzles
parents' savings
Authorities have charged a
west Michigan woman with
embezzling at least $100,000
from her parents' life savings of
$275,000.
Eloise Russo is accused of tak-
ing the money to pay for gam-
bling losses, a $10,000 gift and
a $16,000 new car for her sister.
The 53-year-old woman is free on
bond following her arraignment
Wednesday - two days after her
father, Thomas Sherwin of Hud-
sonville, died at age 90.
Russo was appointed guardian
to her father and her 83-year-old
mother, Ada, in April 2007. Otta-
wa County Probate Judge Mark
Feyen removed her from the post
in July 2008 after allegations of
fraud emerged.
" Russo's lawyer, Kelly Lambert,
tells The Grand Rapids Press his
client only borrowed the money
and always intended to return it.
NEW YORK
Man posing as
lawyer scams
immigrants
A convicted bigamist posing
as a veteran immigration lawyer
scammed thousands of dollars
from Guyanese immigrants and
gave them advice so bad they
now face deportation, prosecu-
tors said Thursday.
Wilmer Rivera Melendez
promised green cards but pur-
sued avenues that would never
yield them, changed his phone
number to evade his "clients"
when they started asking ques-
tions and even startled some
by proposing they marry him
in order to get legal residency,
prosecutors said.
Melendez, 60, denied the alle-
gations, which add to a series of
far-flung and colorful brushes
with the law. Records show he
was imprisoned for bigamy in
Georgia; prosecutors said he also
was convicted in an office bur-
glary in the U.S. Virgin Islands
and broke out of an Ohio jail
through a ceiling hole in 1971.
MEXICO CITY
Overweight
" police officers
put on diet
The NYPD have their dough-
nuts. Mexico City police offi-
cers have their tacos. Too many,
apparently. The Mexican capital
is puttingits 1,300 heaviestpolice
officers on adiettoncerned about
expanding waistlines in the force.
Mexico City Public Safety official
Noral Prias said 70 percent of the
capital's 70,000-member force is
overweight.
However, the diet program
will start with 1,300 officers with
the most serious weight-related
health problems.
She said the officers will be
given blood and cholesterol tests

to determine a personalized diet
plan for each.
"We can't tell them, 'Don't eat
sandwiches and tacos,"' Frias
said. "What we can tell them is if
you eatonesandwich today, if you
eat three tacos today, then bal-
ance it with some vegetables."
FORT COLLINS, Colo.
Boy believed to
have floated away
in balloon found
safe at home
A 6-year-old boy was found
hiding in a cardboard box in his
family's garage Thursday after be-
ing feared aboard ahomemade he-
lium balloon that hurtled 50 miles
through the sky on live television.
The discoverymarked a bizarre
endto asagathatstartedwhen the
giant silvery balloon floated away
from the family's yard Thursday
morning, sparking a frantic res-
cue operation that involved mili-
tary helicopters and briefly halted
some departures from Denver In-
ternational Airport.
Then, more than two hours
after the balloon gently touched
down in a field with no sign of the
boy, Sheriff Jim Alderden turned
to reporters duringa news confer-
ence, gave a thumbs up and said
6-year-old Falcon Heene was "at
0 the house."
"Apparently he's been there the
whole time," he said.
- Compiled from
Daily wire reports

NY State Sen.
acquitted of
felony assault

President Barack Obama greets the crowd after par ticipating in a town hall meeting yesterday at the Universit y of New Orleans in
New Orleans. Obama is hearing directly from area people about Gulf Coast rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Katrina.
Obama defends G
Coast recovery plans

Surveillance tapes
show state senator
assaulting girlfriend
NEW YORK (AP) - A freshman
state senator was acquitted yes-
terday of smashing a glass into his
girlfriend's face, but was convict-
ed of a lesser charge for dragging
her bleeding from his apartment
in a violent scene caught on vid-
eotape.
State Sen. Hiram Monserrate,
a Queens Democrat, would have
lost his Senate seat if convicted
of second-degree felony assault.
He faces up to a year in prison at
his sentencing Dec. 4 on a mis-
demeanor count of third-degree
reckless assault for injuring Karla
Giraldo while pullingher through
a lobby as she resisted, crying and
latching on to banisters.
While a misdemeanor convic-
tion doesn't automatically force
Monserrate to vacate his Senate
seat, it opens the door for col-
leagues to consider passing a res-
olution to either censure or expel
him. That would require a 32-vote
majority following a committee
investigation. Republicans hold
30 seats and would need just two
Democrats to join them to remove
Monserrate, whose term runs
through 2010.
Monserrate, 42, said he tripped
while holding the glass, and
rushed her to a hospital. Giraldo
also said it was an accident. The
wound above her left eye required
between 20 and 40 stitches.
"A terrible accident occurred
to my girlfriend, Karla Giraldo, a
person that I love, and I have to
live with that forever. There were
nowinnershere," Monserrate said
outside court after the verdict.
The outcome of the case rested
mainly with Giraldo's testimony.
She said on the witness stand
that her language barrier (Giral-

do's native language is Spanish)
prevented her from communicat-
ing properly with the staff at Long
Island Jewish-North Shore Medi-
cal Center.
But she also dodged the pros-
ecution's questions, sometimes
answering only when the judge
ordered her to and often contra-
dicted previous statements she
made. Assistant district attorney
Scott Kessler said during closing
arguments that she wasn't cred-
ible, and she lied on the witness
stand to protect her abusive boy-
friend.
But Judge William Erlbaum,
ruling in a non-jury trial, said
Giraldo's testimony carried more
weight than that of the medical
personnel, and it had to be taken at
face value.
"There are two people who
have actual knowledge about what
happened in that apartment," Erl-
baum said. "Can one know she's
not being forgiving or that she's
not being compassionate? One
can't know that."
Prosecutors said Monserrate-
a Marine and ex-cop - smashed
Giraldo's face during an argument
at his apartment Dec. 19 sparked
by another man's card he found in
her purse.
Surveillance tape shows Mon-
serrate take the card to the trash
chute outside his apartment, wave
it at Giraldo, and toss it down.
They spent the next two hours
fighting, according to testimony
from a downstairs neighbor who
said she banged on the ceiling with
a broom to get them to quiet down.
She heard a woman crying and a
thump.
Grainy surveillance footage
later showed Giraldo making a
beeline for the neighbor's door,
as Monserrate grabbed her and
dragged her downstairs.
District attorney Richard A.
Brown, speaking after the verdict,
said the conviction justified the

Obama fires back
at critics on his first
trip to the Gulf Coast
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Insist-
inghe's "justgettingstarted," Pres-
ident Barack Obama defended his
administration yesterday against
complaints from some residents of
the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast
thatfederalhelp inrecoveringfrom
the 2005 disasters hasn't improved
much since he took office.
"We've got a long way to go but
we've made progress," Obama told
a town hall at the University of
New Orleans. "We're working as
hard as we can and as quickly as
we can."
As a candidate, Obama criticized
former President George W. Bush's
response to Katrina, when the gov-
ernment showed up late and unpre-
pared and the Federal Emergency
Management Agency became the
object of widespread scorn.
Thestorm killedsomet1,600peo-
ple in Louisiana and Mississippi -
and damage has been estimated at
roughly $40 billion. The damage is
still starkly visible in New Orleans
- in blighted neighborhoods of

creaky houses, boarded-up busi-
nesses, structure after structure
awaiting demolition and critical
recovery work not yet started.
Obama wanted to use his first
visit as president to the Gulf Coast
to listen to residents' concerns
about the recovery effort. And
although most questions were on
unrelated subjects, one man gave
him an earful.
"I expected as much from the
Bush administration, but why are
we still being nickeled and dimed
in our recovery?" asked Gabriel
Bordenave, 29, of New Orleans.
"I wish I could write a blank
check," Obama replied, promot-
ing Bordenave to shout back,
"Why not?"
Obama claimed progress since
he entered the White House in
January. He cited reconstruction
projects that have moved forward
after having been stalled by dis-
agreements over whether the state
or federal government would foot
the bill. FEMA is working "around
the clock to clear up red tape and to
eliminate bureaucracy on backlogs
that go back years," he said.
According to FEMA, 76 of the
120 Louisiana reconstruction proj-
ects that were stuck at the begin-

ning of his presidency have been
resolved, sending more than $1.4
billion in additional federal aid to
Louisiana.
"I know since a lot of these
problems have been going on since
Katrina, people understandably*
feel impatient," Obayna told the
crowd of, several hundred who
won tickets in an Internet lottery
to attend. "On the other hand, a lot
of these things are not going to be
fixed tomorrow."
Obama said officials from his
administration have made 35 trips
to the Gulf Coast since March -
and "notjust to make appearances,
but to listen and to learn and help
you move forward."
In his opening remarks, Obama
acknowledged residents' frustra-
tion about the pace of recovery.
As evidence, he cited firefighters
working from a trailer at a newly
reopened school in the Lower
Ninth ward that he visited earlier
Thursday.
"It's clear how far we have to go
before we can call this recovery a
success," Obama said, noting sew-
ers and roads that still need repair,
houses and hospitals that are still
vacant and schools and neighbor-
hoods still waiting to thrive.

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Northern Illinois
University police
chief criticized for
gruff demeanor
CHICAGO (AP) - Atough-talk-
ing police chief hailed as a hero
for leading his men into a North-
ern Illinois University classroom
last year after a gunman opened
fire is now seen by some as a vil-
lain, of sorts, and is in danger of
losing his $199,000-a-year job.
The persona that won Donald
Grady laurels from survivors of
the Valentine's Day shooting that
left five students and the gun-
man dead is a now liability, say
a growing number of critics who
accuse Grady of being combative
and uncooperative.
Criticism of NIU's 6-foot-5 top
cop came to a head recently after
an editor of the campus newspa-
per accused Grady of threatening
and shouting at him during an
interview that became a three-
hour tirade.
"It's time to put an end to this
mess. It's time for a change,"
the Northern Star student paper
wrote in a blistering editorial
calling for Grady's removal. It
accused him of an "empirical
reign" and of employing intimi-
dation to get his way.
School officials put the
56-year-old Grady on paid leave
for 30 days starting last week
while a panel reviews the alle-
gations by editor in chief Justin
Weaver. A finding by next month
could result in Grady's dismissal,
NIU spokeswoman Kathy Buett-
ner said.
Grady responded to an e-mail
yesterday saying he couldn't dis-
cuss the matter.
But NIU police Sgt. Ramon
Holland defended his boss in a let-

ter in Wednesday's Northern Star,
praising Grady for pushingofficers
to improve their skills and to meet
the highest ethical standards.
The newspaper's main concern
was Grady's strained relations
with other area agencies, said
Weaver. The 22-year-old from
Beloit, Wis., said that threatened
to undermine overall campus
security.
"Because of that, combined
with the hostile work atmosphere
that a lot of people in the univer-
sity say he creates, we believe
we'd be better served with some-
one more willing to work with
other agencies," he said.
DeKalb County Sheriff Roger
Scott is among the officials who
have publicly backed the paper's
call for Grady's ouster or resig-
nation.
"NIU has isolated itself under
his leadership," Scott said.
The sheriff hastened to praise
Grady's immediate response to
the attack on Feb. 14, 2008.
As 911 calls came in about gun-
shots, Grady, a former sprint star,
bolted from his office and ran
the 400 yards between his office
and Cole Hall against waves of
screaming students fleeing the
complex.
Grady and several officers
rushed into the classroom. The
shooter, 27-year-old former NIU
student Steven Kazmierczak,
already was dead of a self-inflict-
ed gunshot. But survivors praised
Grady for displaying bravery
when he couldn't have known
that, and for quickly administer-
ing aid and comforting injured
students.
Grady also won kudos for bol-
stering campus security earlier
and for drawing up plans for crisis
scenarios - including a shooting
on the 25,000-student campus. For
weeks after the tragedy, students
applauded Grady when he walked

by, some even hugging him.
But his critics say that however
good Grady may be in a crisis, he's
less well-suited for the day-to-day
grind of a campus police chief.
Controversy has dogged
Grady, who also is from Beloit,
Wis., during his career. After
becoming Wisconsin's first black
police chief in the mostly white
town of Bloomer in 1989, he cre-
ated a stir by issuing nearly 300
tickets, including to himself, for
violations of a snow-shoveling
ordinance.
When he became Santa Fe,
N.M., chief in 1994, he ordered
officers to stop accepting free
cups of coffee on the job and
banned bolo ties.
Police responded with a 103-
to-5 no-confidence vote in their
boss. After digging in his heels for
two years, Grady resigned, saying
his reforms had encountered too
much resistance.
And at NIU, well before the
shooting, staff of the student
newspaper had already com-
plained that he often withheld
standard crime reports, requir-
ing the paper to file Freedom of
Information Act requests.
He has failed so far to release an
official report on the Valentine's
Day shooting. Asked earlier this
year why he hadn't done so, Grady
said he would rather not hear the
gunman's name again, that he
didn't want to give Kazmierczak
the notoriety he sought.
He also said there's no dispute
about what he deemed the most
important facts.
"You want to know who the
suspect is? You know that. He's
dead," said Grady, his stern,
booming voice rising. "You want
to know how many guns he had?
You know that. You want to know
how many victims there were?
You know that. What else do you
need to know?"

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