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News Briefs II

Diplomat Loses Immunity, Charged in Fatal Traffic Accident

Los Angeles Times

In a court appearance made possible by a rare waiver of diplomatic immunity, an embassy official of the Republic of Georgia was charged with involuntary manslaughter and four counts of aggravated assault Thursday for his role in the traffic accident death of a Washington area teenager last month.

Gueorgui Makharadze, the second-ranking diplomat here for Georgia, expressed "deepest sorrow" for causing a multi-car pileup at a busy intersection in which 16-year-old Joviane Waltrick lost her life and four other people were injured.

The case of Makharadze, 35, became an instant talk-show topic in early January when public outrage grew with the realization he enjoyed diplomatic immunity from criminal charges in the United States, as do U.S. diplomats who serve overseas.

But Eduard Shevardnadze, the former Soviet foreign minister who became Georgia's president after the breakup of the Soviet Union, announced recently he would waive Makharadze's immunity so the diplomat could be charged and stand trial here.

The accident in which young Waltrick died seemed particularly egregious. Makharadze's speeding car, which police estimated was traveling 80 miles an hour, slammed into a smaller vehicle at a busy Washington intersection. The second auto was knocked into the air and crashed onto a third car in which the girl was a passenger.

A hospital test later showed Makharadze's blood alcohol level was 0.185, which is above the 0.10 level at which a driver is considered intoxicated.

Ex-Postmaster of House Post Office Sentenced to 4 Months In Prison

The Washington Post

Robert V. Rota, the former postmaster of the House Post Office, was sentenced Thursday to four months in prison for supplying former Reps. Dan Rostenkowski, D-Ill., and Joseph Kolter, D-Pa., with cash in exchange for stamps.

Rota, 61, wept throughout the hearing where U.S. District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson refused to put him on probation. He reached out and held onto a podium as she imposed the prison term, a $2,000 fine and ordered him to pay $5,000 in restitution to Congress.

In deciding to send Rota to prison despite his cooperation with authorities, Johnson accepted prosecutor Thomas J. Motley's view that Rota had to be punished for lying to investigators in 1980 when the allegations about congressmen getting cash for stamps first surfaced, as well as coercing others to lie.

There is a chance that Rota could serve his time in a half-way house because Johnson, at the request of Rota's attorney, Charles Leeper, said she would not object if the Bureau of Prisons put him in one. But she refused to make it part of her sentencing order.

Leeper said Motley had a point when he argued that Rota should have cooperated sooner. But he said Motley, seeing it from a "tough trial lawyer's" point of view, could not possibly understand "what it's like to be under the thumb of someone as powerful as Mr. Rostenkowski."