Friday, March 13, 2009
A division of BP officially became a felon Thursday when a federal judge accepted a long-pending plea bargain to resolve a criminal investigation into the deadly 2005 explosion at the company’s Texas City refinery.
U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal ordered BP to pay the agreed-upon $50 million fine by Monday and comply with blast-related settlements with regulators while on probation for three years.
The explosion on March 23, 2005, killed 15 workers and hurt many more.
Rosenthal’s ruling came nearly a year and a half after the plea deal was unveiled in late October 2007. In February 2008, Texas City plant manager Keith Casey pleaded guilty on the company’s behalf to a felony violation of the Clean Air Act.
But Rosenthal held off on approving or rejecting the deal as blast victims repeatedly implored her to toss it out.
Victims say the fine is too small, that BP has failed to abide by blast-related settlements with regulators and that prosecutors bypassed a 2004 federal victim rights law requiring prosecutors to confer with victims before drafting the accord.
Rosenthal heard arguments and testimony on all those points. A 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel sided with victims regarding the 2004 law but stopped short of ordering Rosenthal to reject the plea deal, leaving the final decision in her hands.
“I don’t think there’s any question as to the extent of opportunity that has been extended and used” by everyone who wanted to be heard, Rosenthal said Thursday.
After “a great deal of thought and consideration,” she said, “the plea should be accepted.”
READ the full story HERE.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Area cities and school districts will be holding elections May 9. Potential candidates had until Monday at 5 p.m. to file the proper paperwork to get themselves on the ballot.
Following is a list of who filed by the deadline. Incumbents are listed with an (i).
• Eileen Cross, 54, co-coordinator, office and disability services
• Charles Buckelew, 65, retired
• Gene Lyng, 81, retired
• Jim Landriault, 47, sales manager (i)
At-large Position 1
• Charles Batty III, 30, funeral director (i)
• Ramiro Mondragon, 45, electrician
• Armando Cespedes III, 35, Realtor
• Permit city to establish economic development programs including grants and loans that are not inconsistent with authority granted to the city by state law.
• Require petitions for recall of an elected official to state a reason for the recall and to require the presenter of the petition to sign at the bottom of each page.
• Allow city council to re-appropriate budgeted revenues and expenses during emergencies resulting from natural or manmade disasters.
• Require an independent board of ethics and compliance and an ethics ordinance that is not required to duplicate and restate state law.
• Pete Vincent, 70, retired from NASA (i)
• Earl Humbird, 49, chemical plant operator (i)
• Mark Patterson, 51, banking investor
• Tiffany Wennerstrom, 39, retired teacher
Three at-large seats
• Don Jordan, 53, safety professional (i)
• Joe Milstead, 70, retired (i)
• Craig Bailey, 40, police officer (i)
• David J. H. Smith, 48, real estate broker (i)
• Michael E. Barker, 57, self-employed/sales (i)
• Jim Hill, 66, self-employed (i)
• A measure to no longer require the city manager to reside within the city limits of Friendswood.
• First proposition is for $3.1 million and would pay for improvements to city parks.
• Second proposition is for $6.5 million, of which $6 million would be spent for a new library at a yet-to-be-determined location. The remaining $500,000 would be used for turning the city’s existing library at 416 S. Friendswood Drive into a community center.
Three at-large seats
• James Nash, 42, trade development (i)
• Adam Flores 38, accountant (i)
• Terrell Franzen, 68, retired
• Delores Martin, 74, (i)
• Gary Garnett, 62, self employed (i)
• Buddy Williams, 75, retired (i)
• Scott Sherman, 33, attorney
• Ben Carranza, 36, regulatory manager
• Tammy Dexter, 38, substitute teacher
• Manuel Gonzales, 36, attorney
• Felicia Kyle, 39, attorney (i)
• Richard Oliver, 56, disabled
• Terence C. Norman, 43, attorney
• Virgil Gant, 61, financial adviser
• Ethan Crowell, 31, teacher
• Andrew Solomon, 43, law professor
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
BOSTON — A former executive of Biopure Corp. pleaded guilty today to an obstruction of justice charge for pretending he had terminal cancer and admitted he had impersonated his own doctor to dodge a federal lawsuit filed by securities regulators.
Howard Richman of Pearland, a former vice president at Biopure, admitted he had instructed his lawyers to tell a judge he was gravely ill with colon cancer. He also admitted to posing as his doctor in a phone call with his lawyer so that she would tell the judge that his cancer had spread and that he was undergoing chemotherapy.
Richman, 57, declined to comment to reporters after changing his plea to guilty in U.S. District Court. But during the hearing, he admitted to committing the acts prosecutors alleged — that he had lied from October 2006 through July 2007 when he repeatedly caused his lawyers to say he had cancer.
Richman faces up to 10 years in prison at sentencing, scheduled for June 10.
Assistant U.S. Attorney James Dowden told Judge Mark Wolf that if the case had gone to trial, prosecutors would have presented evidence that Richman had fabricated the story about having cancer in an attempt to wriggle out of a lawsuit filed in 2005 by the Securities and Exchange Commission and to avoid paying a large civil fine.
The SEC complaint accused Biopure, Richman and three other executives of misleading investors over the prospects of winning approval for a synthetic blood product called Hemopure.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration had rejected clinical trials because of safety concerns about Hemopure, a blood substitute made from cow hemoglobin.
READ THE FULL STORY AT TEH CHRON!
HOUSTON, Texas – Police have released the name of the man arrested Monday night after a manhunt in Pearland. He is 21-year-old Nicholas-Michael Edwin Jean.
Police have charged Jean with attempted murder, burglary of habitation, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery and theft of a firearm. All of these charges are related to an attempted carjacking incident that happened on Monday.
Police found Jean hiding in a shed late Monday night.
After they arrested him, they discovered that he may possibly have been involved in the kidnapping of Susana de Jesus that happened in February.
Jean told police where to look for de Jesus' body, according to 11 News sources. Hours later, a woman's badly decomposed body was found near Reliant Park.
"Early Tuesday morning, the Brazoria County Sheriff’s Department notified the family of Susana de Jesus that they may have located her body," Precinct 6 Constable Danny Perez said in a written statement.
The body was discovered early Tuesday inside an abandoned semi-trailer parked in the 9000 block of Knight Road near West Bellfort.
It is still not confirmed if the body is indeed de Jesus.
The medical examiner is using dental records to identify the body and says that the victim could be identified as early as Wednesday morning.
Sources tell 11 News that Jean admitted he was the mysterious man in two surveillance photos released in connection with the de Jesus case. Those photos were taken at an ATM machine and a Whataburger.
Jean reportedly told investigators that he's not the one who killed de Jesus. He claims that four other men were involved.
Read the full story HERE.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
*'Nothing is safe anymore."
Police reported a gunman in the neighborhood near Magnolia Elementary School after a failed carjacking attempt. Parents were instructed to keep their children at home. Those Magnolia students who were already off to school before police were made aware of the gunman are at Junior High West.
Pearland police secured the perimeter around the school and surrounding area and began searching for the suspect on foot and by helicopter.
Students of nearby Dawson High School and Junior High South are under a shelter in place. Nobody will be allowed to enter or leave the building until the shelter in place is lifted. Parents may not pick up their children until that point, either.
Stephen Terry is a father who moved to Pearland nine years ago to raise his family in a safe community away from crime. But moments after the bus picked up his daughter and other children at the bus stop, he learned of the news of the gunman on foot. Immediately, he went to Magnolia Elementary to pick up his daughter and had to tell her "'There's a bad guy with a gun at the school, and we've got to go'."
Terry said his daughter was worried about missing a day of school, "but I don't care about one day of school," he said. "I moved out here to get away from this crap, and I'm back in it. Yes, there are great schools and a great police department, but people keep moving in here and bringing their crimes with them."
Read the full story HERE.