S.F. Jury Convicts Six MS-13 Gang Members

SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 30 (UPI) — A jury convicted six MS-13 gang members Tuesday of racketeering and conspiracy in a spate of San Francisco violence, including at least three murders in 2008.

The verdict came after a five-month trial of the members of MS-13, or La Mara Salvatrucha, who prosecutors said waged war with rival gang members in the city’s Mission District.

“Today’s verdicts should send a strong message to anyone who thinks gang membership gives them the power to intimidate, threaten, steal or kill,” U.S. Attorney Haag said in a news release. “Acts of senseless violence will not be tolerated.”

Among other charges, Erick Lopez, 23, was convicted of the fatal shootings of Ernad Joldic and Phillip Ng in March 2008. Guillermo Herrera and Jonathon Cruz-Ramirez, both 22, were convicted of the July 2008 racketeering murder of Armando Estrada.

Marvin Carcamo, 31, and Angel Noel Guevara, 30 — who led the gang in 2007 until their arrests late that year — were linked to the May 2, 2007, murder of David Pollock in San Francisco, and the murder weapon was found at Carcamo’s home, prosecutors said.

Lopez, Herrera and Cruz-Ramirez each face a mandatory minimum of life in prison.

Moris Flores, 22, who was leader of MS-13 after the arrests of Carcamo and Guevara, was involved in Lopez’s hunt for rival gang murders, which led to the murder of Ng and Joldic, prosecutors said.

A seventh defendant was acquitted.

9/11 Conspirator Said Living In Pakistan

WEITERSTADT, Germany, Aug. 30 (UPI) — Said Bahaji, a Moroccan-German Sept. 11, 2001, al-Qaida conspirator who has eluded capture, is living in Pakistan, an imprisoned eyewitness said.

Bahaji has spent the past 10 years in hiding, often living off the land in the mountains of the Waziristan region of Pakistan. He fought against American forces in Afghanistan, the German weekly Der Spiegel reported.

Known by investigators as the “terror logistician,” Bahaji, who now goes by the name Abu Zuhair, shared an apartment in Germany with al-Qaida co-conspirators, helping organize the attacks as the group’s bookkeeper.

The witness, German-Syrian Rami Makanesi, is serving a four-year, nine-month prison sentence in Weiterstadt, Germany, for being an al-Qaida member, Der Spiegel said. He told investigators Bahaji showed up with his wife and children in Pakistan looking for the home of some men from Germany.

Makanesi said Bahaji works on propaganda films for al-Sahab, al-Qaida’s media production company.

Eye Saved In Pruning Shears Accident

TUSCON, Ariz., Aug. 30 (UPI) — Surgeons at University Medical Center in Tucson said they successfully removed pruning shears from the eye socket of an 86-year-old man.

Leroy Luetscher of Green Valley, Ariz., dropped a pair of pruning shears on the ground and when he bent to pick them up, lost his balance and fell face-first onto the tool July 30. The handle penetrated through his eye socket and lodged down into his neck, a release from the hospital stated.

“You wouldn’t believe your eyes,” Dr. Julie Wynne, assistant professor in the University of Arizona Department of Surgery. said. “Half of the pruning shears was sticking out and the other half was in his head.”

After removing the shears from Luetscher’s head, surgeons rebuilt his orbital floor, restoring his eyesight.

He suffers from slight double vision and some swelling in his eyelids.

“I am so grateful to the doctors and staff at UMC,” Luetscher said.

Rating Agency Identifies Safest Airlines

GENEVA, Switzerland, Aug. 30 (UPI) — A Swiss agency rating airline safety has released its list of the top 10 airlines based on criteria contributing directly or indirectly to general safety.

The independent Air Transport Rating Agency said in a release Tuesday it bases its ratings on a number of factors including passenger and employee data, number of aircraft operated, average age of aircraft flown, total mileage flown, maintenance capability and the number of accidents in the last 10 years.

The 2011 list, compiled from 2009 data, includes — in alphabetical, not rating order — Air France-KLM; AMR Corp. (American Airlines, American Eagles); British Airways; Continental Airlines; Delta Airlines; Japan Airlines; Lufthansa; Southwest Airlines; United Airlines; and US Airways.

ATRA is independent from airlines, manufacturers, regulatory authorities, trade unions and not-for-profit organizations, its release said.

Gang Member Photos Used To Stop Gun Bill

ORLANDO, Fla., Aug. 30 (UPI) — Recently released documents show a Florida law enforcement official accessed secret files on gun permit holders in an effort to lobby against gun legislation.

Orange County Sheriff’s Capt. Mike Fewless handed out the photos of eight motorcycle gang members with concealed-weapons permits, in an effort to dissuade lawmakers from passing a bill that would allow guns to be carried openly, the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel reported.

“I actually stopped by everyone of you guy’s office this morning and dropped off … photographs of some biker outlaw gang guys that have concealed firearm permits. Those are the ones we’re worried about carrying,” Fewless told the state Senate Judiciary Committee in April, with the idea that the men, if carrying unconcealed weapons, would scare tourists.

The photos came from the secret files of the Orange sheriff’s Intelligence Squad, which investigates motorcycle gangs, the newspaper said.

The identity of permit-holders is supposed to be confidential under Florida state law. The State Attorney’s Office cleared Fewless of any wrongdoing in May.

Attorney Jerry Theophilopoulos represents the eight motorcyclists and says it’s clear that something improper occurred, stating, “the only way to police the police when they break the law is to file a lawsuit.”

Cuban Forces Crack Down On Protests

PALMA SORIANO, Cuba, Aug. 30 (UPI) — Cuban opposition activists say State Security agents used tear gas in a raid against dissidents and beat dissident women in Santiago province.

“The riot squad came into the house like it was a commando movie, because that’s never been seen in Cuba,” said Yulie Valverde, whose husband was detained with 26 other dissidents during the raid Sunday on a home in the town of Palma Soriano, The Miami Herald reported.

Sunday’s raid was the latest in response to a series of unusually strong protests that have prompted violent police crackdowns by the communist government in Cuba. The latest reports come from dissidents and their relatives, the Herald said, since foreign journalists in Havana have reported nothing and the Cuban government has refused comment.

As 27 men gathered in a house in Palma Soriano to prepare to protest police abuses, security forces sprayed tear gas in the door and windows and arrested them, taking them away in a bus, witnesses said.

Jose Daniel Ferrer, a dissident who said he watched part of the raid from a distance so he could report on the event, said a fire truck was deployed during the raid, apparently to use water hoses for crowd control if needed.

Sex Show Dad Admits Child Pornography

CARLISLE, England, Aug. 30 (UPI) — A man in northern England who spied on his teenage son for a BBC television show has admitted possession of child pornography on his computer.

Richard Watson of Workington in Cumbria was sentenced to three years’ probation and ordered to register as a sex offender and attend a treatment program, the News & Star of Carlisle reported. He appeared Friday in Carlisle Crown Court.

Watson, 49, and his wife were featured on a BBC3 show, “Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents,” The Sun said. They used hidden cameras to record their 18-year-old son getting a lap dance at a club on the Spanish island of Ibiza.

Police in Cumbria seized Watson’s computer after getting a tip about his activities. He originally said he had looked at child pornography because he was curious about what it was about but Kim Whittlestone, the barrister who represented him in court, said he now accepts that he received some “sexual gratification” from looking at the images.

Shots Fired At Texas Congressman’s Office

HOUSTON, Aug. 30 (UPI) — Police were investigating an incident in which two shots were fired at U.S. Rep. Gene Green’s office in Houston, a spokesman for the Texas Democrat said.

The spokesman said no one was injured and Green was not in the office when shots were fired at the office windows, KRIV-TV, Houston, reported Tuesday.

The Harris County Sheriff’s Department said the shots could have come from a BB gun or pellet gun.

It was unclear whether Green was a target of the shots, KRIV reported. The station said workers in the building who heard the gunfire initially thought it was a car backfiring, and then discovered a broken window.

Police received a call about the shots just after 11 a.m., but the caller did not say gunshots, KRIV said.

The sheriff’s department and the Houston Police Department were investigating.

A television facility and an employment office are also located in the building.

Rights Groups: Sudan Bombing Civilians

KHARTOUM, Sudan, Aug. 30 (UPI) — The Sudanese government has killed at least 26 people in a terror campaign, including bombing, against civilians in the Nuba mountains, rights groups said.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said Tuesday their investigators spent a week in the area. They said investigators witnessed Sudanese Armed Forces planes circling over civilian areas dropping bombs, forcing people to shelter in caves.

At least 26 civilians were killed and 45 wounded in 13 airstrikes, the groups said.

The government has blocked international aid organizations from reaching the area, they groups said.

“The Sudanese government is literally getting away with murder and trying to keep the outside world from finding out” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Advisor. “The international community, and particularly the UN Security Council, must stop looking the other way and act to address the situation.”

Aid groups say at least 150,000 people have been driven out of their homes. Five thousand have crossed the border to a refugee camp in South Sudan.

Napping Man Charged With Murder

CLIFTON HEIGHTS, Pa., Aug. 30 (UPI) — Police said Tuesday a man accused of murder took a nap in his allege victim’s apartment after strangling the man in Clifton Heights, Pa.

Quy Pham had gone home with the alleged victim, Thomas Hoban, after they met at a bar Saturday night. Pham says the two started fighting when Hoban threatened to kill him, and claimed he acted in self defense, the Philadelphia Daily News reported.

Clifton Heights Police Chief Walter Senkow said Pham — who was intoxicated at the time — shoved his fingers up Hoban’s nose during the fight, covering himself in blood.

Police said Pham called 911 three times but told dispatchers he didn’t know his location — and then took a nap on the floor of Hoban’s apartment.

Police said Pham told officers when they arrived at the scene, “I killed him, I had to protect myself.”