Originally created 01/23/04

Odds and Ends



LOS ANGELES -- Carson's cookie case crumbled.

Councilwoman Julie Ruiz Raber was sued by an opponent for alleged electioneering after she delivered cookies to nearly every poll worker in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson on election day last March.

But Superior Court Judge Alexander Williams III ruled Tuesday that the gesture - delivery of snickerdoodles to 24 of 30 polling places - didn't constitute electioneering. The decision allows Ruiz Raber to keep her council post.

"I was fighting for democracy," Ruiz Raber said, calling it a sour grapes "frivolous lawsuit."

Vera Robles DeWitt, a former councilwoman, filed the suit in April after losing the election by 181 votes. Her attorney, Fredrick Woocher, said the cookie deliveries were an attempt to influence voting.

But Ruis Raber's lawyer, Douglas Otto, said electioneering also involves intent and written rules.

"My one-word definition of electioneering is campaigning. That did not take place here," the judge said.

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SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The golden retriever that made headlines after her newly adoptive family refused to give her back has been reunited with her original owner.

The 2-year-old dog named Bella has been returned to Niki Karanastasis, Humane Society Silicon Valley President Christine Benninger said Wednesday.

Karanastasis had said she was crushed she could not retrieve the dog, which she described as being like one of her children.

Humane Society officials said they could not force the dog's return because the new owners had legally adopted her. If animals are unclaimed for five days, they become humane society property - and Bella became property of the new owners when they took her home.

Karanastasis said she went to the kennel three times looking for Bella after the dog ran away earlier this month, but could not find her.

She hired a lawyer, but that turned out to be more bark than bite. Bella's new owners eventually agreed to give back the pooch, which they got as a birthday present for a 10-year-old girl.

"If I didn't get this dog back," Karanastasis said Wednesday, Bella at her side, "I would have lost my mind or had a nervous breakdown."

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RED CLOUD, Neb. -- Mark Rogers has been training for a shot at making the U.S. Olympic marksmanship team - in his living room.

Rogers fires about 200 shots a day from his custom air pistol inside his house. It fires small pellets propelled by a burst of air, so it won't leave any holes in his walls.

The Red Cloud music teacher is in Colorado Springs, Colo., this week at the Olympic Training Center, hoping to become on of the top 10 air pistol shooters who will advance in May to the final Olympic qualifying meet in Georgia.

The top four in that final round will make the U.S. national team, but only the top two will carry the USA colors to the Olympics this summer in Athens, Greece.

"It is the type of sport ... anyone can excel in," Rogers said. "You don't have to be the world's greatest athlete, strongest man or anything like that."

Rogers said he occasionally watches video of the 1996 and 2000 Olympic games for inspiration, imagining what it would be like to stand on the winner's podium and hear America's national anthem being played.

"You can't help but think, 'Gosh, that would be terrific if that was me up there in 2004,"' he said.

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Even police detectives have to be careful what they ask for - and how they look when they're asking for it.

An appeals court says a gay man was a victim of entrapment because didn't know an undercover detective was looking for drugs when the officer asked him if he wanted to "party."

Julio Blanco, 37, who described himself as a lonely gay man, said that he understood "party" to mean having a good time or being sexually involved.

The Fourth District Court of Appeal on Wednesday upheld Broward Circuit Judge Susan Lebow's decision that Blanco thought the officer might have been looking for a sexual relationship.

According to court records, Fort Lauderdale police Detective Mike Nahum, working with a Drug Enforcement Administration team, followed up with several requests for cocaine.

Blanco refused three times and even tried to leave, but was ultimately convinced to stay. Eventually he went to the restroom and bought some methamphetamine for the officer.

"The whole situation seemed very clear to me," Lebow said during a 2002 hearing. "I mean, the detective walked in dressed in a T-shirt and jeans, and for the record he was a very attractive man and ..."

The defense attorney interrupted and asked the judge to make an official finding that Nahum was attractive, which she did.

"For the record, I would submit he was about 6 feet, 2 inches. He was in good shape, you know, a fit individual, young detective, looked to be maybe 30," Blanco's attorney, Kevin J. Kulik, said.

Nahum testified that he had done nothing to make himself appear attractive to Blanco and said he understood "party" to mean drugs.

The appeals court agreed that Blanco had been entrapped by "non-verbal communication" used by the undercover officer.