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News Briefs

Bombing Suspect To Be Tried on Airline Plot Charges First

Los Angeles Times

A federal judge on Monday told Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, the alleged mastermind of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, that he was considering trying him first on charges of plotting to blow up U.S. airliners in the Far East - which could result in the death penalty if Yousef is convicted.

A trial on the airliner plot would be far shorter than the trade center case, which resulted in a jury conviction of four defendants last year. Judge Kevin Duffy sentenced the terrorists to 240 years each in prison for their attack on the trade center, which caused six deaths and more than 1,000 injuries.

Eleven days ago, prosecutors broadened their indictment of Yousef beyond the trade center to include plotting to destroy airliners and charging him with exploding a bomb aboard a Philippine Airlines plane bound for Tokyo last December that killed a Japanese passenger.

Prosecutors said it would take three weeks until evidence in the plane plot could be turned over to defense attorneys.

If convicted in the airliner plot, Yousef faces a maximum sentence of life in prison or the death penalty. Murad faces a maximum sentence of 45 years in prison.

California Court Upholds Law Curbing Rights of the Homeless

Los Angeles Times

The California Supreme Court on Monday upheld a sweeping homeless ordinance, ruling that cities may prosecute people for using a sleeping bag or blanket on public property.

On a 6-to-1 vote, the court held that the 1992 law in the Orange County city of Santa Ana, one of the toughest laws of its kind in the United States, does not violate the constitutional rights of the homeless. The ruling overturns a lower court decision that found the law posed cruel and unusual punishment.

The decision, the first on a homeless ordinance by any state supreme court, gives cities across California a strong boost in their efforts to control people who live on the streets. Advocates for the poor predicted that more cities will now pass similar laws to eject the homeless.

The Santa Ana law makes it a crime punishable by up to six months in jail to use a sleeping bag or blanket or to store personal effects on public sidewalks, streets, parking lots and government malls.

The U.S. Justice Department sided with homeless advocates in the case, filing a friend-of-the-court brief against the ordinance. One of the advocates' lawyers said they may ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the ruling.