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POLICE

Man charged with murder

A 21-year-old man is facing a murder charge after Portland police say he walked into the downtown police station Sunday afternoon and told officers where a body could be found.

Police said James C. Fitzhugh led them to The Yards at Union Station apartments in the 900 block of Northwest Naito Parkway, where they discovered the body of Alicia Casey, 19. She was Fitzhugh's fiancee.

An autopsy determined that the cause of death was asphyxiation.

The couple's 3-month-old child is now in protective custody.

The homicide is the city's fifth this year.

COURTS

Defendants change pleas

Two defendants in a highly publicized local eco-terrorism case are changing their pleas to guilty. Portland State University students Jeremy Rosenbloom and Angela Cesario are scheduled to plead guilty to arson charges March 6 in U.S. District Court. A third defendant, PSU student Jacob Sherman, pleaded guilty in December. The fourth defendant, Tre Arrow, also known as Michael Scarpitti, is still at large.

The four are charged with setting fire to trucks owned by Ross Island Sand & Gravel and the Ray Schoppert Logging Co. The federal government believes they committed the arsons on behalf of the Earth Liberation Front. According to the FBI, the loosely knit underground group has caused $43 million worth of damage through economic sabotage since 1997.

Lewis wants separate trial

October Martinique Lewis, the only female member of the alleged Portland Six terrorist cell, wants to be tried separately and sooner than the other defendants.

John Ransom, Lewis' attorney, filed a federal court motion Jan. 23 saying that she will be ready to go to trial on conspiracy charges soon, while the remaining five defendants have waived their rights to speedy trials.

Ransom's motion also says that if Lewis is tried with the other defendants, the jury will see potentially damaging evidence that cannot be introduced if she is tried separately.

The U.S. attorney's office has until Feb. 18 to respond to the motion. Lewis and five other current or former Portlanders have been indicted on federal charges of conspiring to wage war against America.

Benefits lawsuit dismissed

Multnomah County Circuit Judge Henry Kantor has dismissed a lawsuit that would have stopped the state from eliminating the Medically Needy program that paid for medical care and prescription drugs for about 8,000 low-income elderly, disabled and/or mentally ill Oregonians.

Department of Human Services officials ended the $843,000 program as part of $140 million in cuts they were ordered to make by the Legislature to balance a budget shortfall caused by lower than anticipated tax revenues.

Legal Aid Services of Oregon attorney Karen Berkowitz, one of several attorneys who filed the suit, said they would next ask for an injunction to stop the state from making the cuts.

'Time is pressing for our clients,' she said. 'They are doing without their medications.'

A number of other lawsuits have been filed, and more are expected, said Steven Goldberg, an attorney with the Portland law firm of Goldberg, Mechanic, Stuart & Gibson, which joined in the Medically Needy lawsuit.

One lawsuit challenges the state's plans to cut from the Oregon Health Plan benefits that would pay for mental health and drug-and-alcohol treatment services and medical equipment. Another challenges the state's elimination of the 'general assistance' program that served 2,700 low-income clients.

Ashley Pond's mom sues

Ashley Pond's mother plans to sue the Oregon Department of Human Services for not preventing her daughter's death.

Lori Pond says her daughter still would be alive if the department had promptly responded to tips that Ashley was being molested by Ward Weaver, who has been charged with her death, in the months before she was killed. State officials, including former Gov. John Kitzhaber, have said the department did not handle the tips properly.

Weaver has been charged with killing 12-year-old Ashley and her classmate, 13-year-old Miranda Gaddis. Both disappeared from their Oregon City apartment complex near Weaver's home early last year. Their bodies were discovered buried on the property last August. Weaver has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to go to trial later this year.

State records show that Lori Pond allowed Ashley to live in Weaver's house for months before she vanished.

Bush protest suit amended

The federal civil rights lawsuit about the treatment of protesters when President Bush was in town in August has been amended specifically to name nearly two dozen Portland and Beaverton police commanders, sergeants and officers.

Five Portland lawyers have filed the suit on behalf of seven adults and three children who attended the Aug. 22 downtown protests against Bush's policies.

The suit contends that city and police officials violated the protesters' rights by using excessive force to disperse them, including pepper spray and rubber bullets. It asks for monetary damages and a federal court order directing the city of Portland to establish a citizen police review board with full subpoena and investigatory power.

Attorney Alan Graf says that many of the sergeants and officers named in the suit were identified by reviewing videotapes of the demonstration and post-action reports provided by the city.

The Portland city attorney's office declined to say how it would respond.

PUBLIC ART

Lin sculpture fate unclear

It could takes months to learn if Maya Lin's 'Playground' sculpture is coming to town, after all.

The now-defunct Pearl Arts Foundation had hoped to place the large undulating piece in an addition to the North Park Blocks that is being designed at Northwest 11th Avenue and Northrup Street. Supporters now hope it will be placed in a two-block park to be created adjacent to Northwest Naito Parkway.

But, according to Portland Parks & Recreation Director Zari Santner, at least two public panels must approve the new site. One is the public arts advisory committee of the Regional Arts & Culture Council. The other is the steering committee that will oversee the development of the next park.

'If everybody agrees it should go there, we could take a resolution to council to guarantee the placement, but that can't happen overnight,' Santner said.

Ñ Tribune staff