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Marine Sentenced for Obstruction Of Justice in Gondola Accident LOS ANGELES TIMES -- WASHINGTON

Capt. Richard Ashby was sentenced Monday to six months in a military prison and ordered out of the Marine Corps for obstructing justice and conspiring to hide and help destroy a videotape made during the flight last year in which the jet he piloted cut a ski gondola cable in Italy, killing 20 people.

Ashby, 32, of Mission Viejo, Calif., immediately asked a supervising general to reverse the sentence, or at least delay the punishment, because the jet’s co-pilot -- who actually destroyed the tape -- was only discharged from the service.

Ashby was acquitted in March of 20 counts of manslaughter in the cable car tragedy, which continues to strain relations between the United States and some European countries. But he was convicted last week of taking the video out of the cockpit of his EA-6B Prowler jet and giving it to his co-pilot, Capt. Joseph P. Schweitzer, who then tossed the tape on top of a bonfire.

The six-month sentence for Ashby, who was tops in his flight squad and had just been promoted to flying more prestigious fighter jets when the accident occurred on a training mission, calls for him to be dishonorably discharged upon completing his prison term. He is not to receive any military pay while serving his time.

Ashby’s sentence was delivered by a jury of seven Marine Corps officers. The jurors deliberated for about two hours Monday after hearing closing arguments from attorneys on what would be the appropriate penalty for Ashby.

Amy Fisher Leaves New York Prison NEWSDAY -- Leaving behind the lurid teenhood that riveted a tabloid nation, Amy Fisher walked out of an upstate New York prison Monday straight into the media that catapulted her from suburban high-school senior to made-for-TV temptress.

Head down, big black sunglasses hiding her eyes, Fisher, now 24, stepped from the guardhouse at Albion Correctional Facility about 9:20 a.m. Instantly, she was surrounded by about 15 reporters, photographers and cameramen, some of whom had been waiting since sunrise to record the first sighting of the celebrity ex-convict.

Fisher, dressed in a white pullover and ankle-length black skirt, never uttered a word as she was hustled away by her lawyer, mother and publicist into a rented Ford Expedition. A family acquaintance who accompanied the entourage to the airport in Rochester and on the chartered plane to Long Island took pictures of the mother-and-daughter reunion that were distributed to an international photo agency.

Fisher’s publicist, Patricia O’Connor, said the controlled distribution of pictures was meant to allow the family privacy and provide the media with images from the long-awaited meeting.

Microsoft Announces Plan to Buy Five Percent Share of Nextel THE WASHINGTON POST -- WASHINGTON

Microsoft Corp. made another surprise foray into the world of communications and the Internet on Monday, announcing plans to buy a 5 percent stake in wireless phone company Nextel Communications Inc. of suburban Reston, Va. Under the deal, customers who use their Nextel phones to access the Web will first be taken to a Microsoft site.

That will give Microsoft a starting position in the race for ownership of the smallest screens of all: the little displays on the newest-model portable phones, which can show Internet data sent over the air.

The announcement complements one last week that Microsoft would invest $5 billion in AT&T Corp. That deal would put Microsoft’s Windows CE software into millions of cable TV set-top boxes to provide all-in-one video, telephone and Internet access.

This deal and others are part of a flurry of alliances, mergers and investments that companies hope will position themselves to offer a full range of electronic services to Americans in their homes and on the road through hand-held wireless devices.

Microsoft hopes that through the Nextel deal, its Web site will become a “portal” for large numbers of the phone company’s customers. Nextel currently has more than 3 million, though how many would use Internet-capable phones is unclear.

Christian Groups Launch New Ad Campaign Touting Gay Conversion THE WASHINGTON POST -- WASHINGTON

Over the weekend, a coalition of Christian groups launched a television ad campaign in the Washington area to convince gay people they can change their sexual orientation “through the power of Jesus Christ.” It is the debut of what the coalition says will be a nationwide TV campaign.

The first ad -- titled “Mom,” scheduled to coincide with Mother’s Day weekend -- ran in the Washington market on the local UPN network affiliate after the major network stations declined to run it. The ad features a woman in an easy chair discussing the fallout from her son’s flirtation with drugs and homosexuality. “My son Michael found out the truth that he could walk away from homosexuality, but he found out too late,” she says. “He has AIDS.”

An upcoming ad in the series, titled “Family,” will feature happy-looking couples who were “freed from the homosexual lifestyle,” got married and are now raising children together. Both ads close with the words: “It’s not about hate. It’s about hope.”

Gay rights advocates disagree.

“They are trying to put forward a kinder, gentler kind of prejudice but it won’t work,” said Cathy Renna of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. “It’s just a more subtle form of homophobia.”

The ads were the brainchild of Janet Folger at the Center for Reclaiming America in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.