December 2009 Archives

Tennis Coach Charged with Criminal Sexual Conduct

A Twin Cities tennis coach was charged Friday with criminal sexual conduct after an underage girl taking lessons from him complained that he slapped her buttocks and spoke to her inappropriately, the Star Tribune reported.

Roberto DeFreitas, 47, was charged with criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree, a felony, in Hennepin County District Court.

Charges said that the 14-year-old girl's father notified a Minneapolis police officer about DeFreitas' inappropriate behavior.

The girl said she was taking tennis lessons at Fred Wells Tennis and Education Center in Minneapolis where DeFreitas led many lessons.

Last month she was invited into DeFreitas' office where he began speaking inappropriately and showed her a picture of himself bare chested. The girl said that DeFreitas also slapped her buttocks and commented on her breasts.

DeFreitas admitted to slapping her buttocks during an interview with police on Dec. 10. He also admitted to telling the girl not to tell anyone about their conversation.

Police said the investigation is ongoing. DeFreitas is being held in the Hennepin County Jail.

St. Paul Woman Accused of Smuggling Elephant Parts from Laos

A St. Paul woman was indicted for allegedly smuggling parts of an Asian elephant and dead birds into the country two years ago, the Pioneer Press reported.

Filed Tuesday, the indictment charged Seng Her, 56, with one count of smuggling goods into the U.S.

According to the Star Tribune, Her was stopped by U.S. Customs officials at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in November 2007 after visiting Laos.

According to the indictment, Her smuggled in parts of an Asian elephant, an endangered species, as well as several dead birds including yellow-vented flowerpeckers, tailorbirds, prinias and passerines.

The Pioneer Press reported that birds are banned from entering the U.S. from Laos because the country is a source of avian flu.

The market for raw endangered wildlife is caused by traditional Asian medicinal and cultural needs, the Star Tribune said.

Tiger Woods Takes Break from Golf

Tiger Woods, the top-ranked golfer in the world, announced on his Web site Friday that he would be taking an "indefinite break" from professional golf to focus on his family, the New York Times reported.

The announcement came after he crashed his SUV outside of his Florida home on Nov. 27, which led to a wave of reports of marital infidelities with multiple women.

In the announcement, Woods admitted to his infidelity, and said that he was aware of the pain and disappointment he had caused his family and his fans, the Wall Street Journal reported.

According to the New York Times, Woods' break from golf will deeply affect the sport of golf, as well his relations with sponsors and businesses, who pay him hundreds of millions of dollars a year to endorse their products and build their brands.

However, many of Woods' major sponsors, like Nike and EA, support Woods' decision and intend to continue business relationships, the Wall Street Journal reported.


Sanford's Wife Files for Divorce

South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford filed for divorce Friday from husband Gov. Mark Sanford, after he confessed to an affair with an Argentine woman more than five months ago, the New York Times reported.

Sanford had attempted at reconciliation, but filed for divorce two days after state lawmakers decided against impeaching Gov. Mark Sanford. She cited adultery as the grounds for the divorce.

Sanford said that she discovered his infidelity when she found a letter he had written to his mistress. Unlike other political wives had done, she did not stand by her husband when he publicly admitted to the affair, the Wall Street Journal reported.

In August, Sanford moved out of the governor's mansion, taking the couple's four sons to the family's beach house on Sullivan's Island.

According to the New York Times, Gov. Mark Sanford has faced a series of ethics violation charges, calls for resignation and efforts at impeachment.

Al Qaeda Leader Killed by Drone

A U.S. drone strike fired near a Pakistani tribal area near the Afghan border killed a senior al Qaeda officer this week, U.S. and Pakistani officials said Friday.

U.S. officials said it was likely that Saleh al-Somali was killed in the strike Tuesday. Somali was on the Central Intelligence Agency's list of the top 20 al Qaeda targets, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Pakistani officials said the drone strike also killed Abu Yahya al-Libi, another top al Qaeda leader, but American officials disputed the claim, the New York Times reported.

Though little is known about Somali, it was likely that he was involved in attacks against the U.S. and Europe, the New York Times reported.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Somali maintained relationships with al Qaeda's East African affiliates, such as al Shabaab, a Somalian terrorist group.

The Obama administration recently approved the expansion of C.I.A. operations inside Pakistan, which includes increasing drone aircraft flying in the country. The plan has yet to be approved by Pakistan's government, the New York Times reported.

E. coli Victim Sues Cargill for $100 million

A woman from Cold Spring, Minn., who nearly died of a food borne illness after eating a Cargill hamburger in 2007, filed a $100 million lawsuit against Cargill this morning, the Star Tribune reported.

Stephanie Smith, 22, a former dance teacher, can no longer walk, suffers from brain damage, cannot have children and may lose her kidneys due to an infection caused by E. coli 0157:H7. 

The New York Times discussed her case in October in which it revealed the operations of the modern meatpacking industry by tracing the hamburger meat served at Smith's family barbecue in 2007. The meat was traced to four different plants from two countries.

Cargill has paid nearly $2 million of Smith's medical bills so far and has advanced funds to Smith's family for any additional costs or financial assistance.

The Pioneer Press reported that Cargill does not take responsibility for Smith's case, but blames her condition on its suppliers.

Smith's case is one of the most vivid and horrifying cases of food borne illness outbreaks. Her story has helped bring reform to the food safety system.

Granddaughter of Famous Wrestler Charged with Sex Crime

A former weight room supervisor and teacher at Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul faces two counts of third-degree criminal-sexual conduct for allegedly engaging in sexual activities with an underage student in 2008, the Star Tribune reported.

Gail E. Gagne, 25, granddaughter of famed wrestler Verne Gagne and the daughter of former professional wrestler Greg Gagne, allegedly engaged in sexual activities with a 16-year-old male student who worked for her in the weight room she supervised.

The Pioneer Press reported that the student and Gagne performed sexual acts at her father's Bloomington home. They also spent the night and had sex in a hotel near the Mall of America.

Charges were filed in Hennepin County District Court, each of which is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. A warrant for her arrest was issued on Tuesday, the Star Tribune reported.

Gagne's lawyer, Earl Gray, said she will plead not guilty.

The Pioneer Press reported that Gagne was hired by Cretin-Derhman Hall in November 2007 as an assistant basketball coach. She later became the weight-room supervisor in summer 2008 and was hired as a full-time teacher the following September.

The Star Tribune reported that police began investigating the case in May 2009.

St. Paul police do not have Gagne in custody. They believe she now resides in the Chicago area.

NIH Approves New Stem Cell Lines to Research

The National Institutes of Health said Wednesday that it approved 13 human embryonic stem cell lines for use by federally financed researchers, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The approval followed President Barack Obama's decision to lift restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, which President George W. Bush had implemented.

Embryonic stem cells show potential for treating various diseases, because they can develop into many types of tissue. However, actual use of the stem cells has yet to be approved.

Rockefeller University in New York City developed two of the stem cell lines while the Children's Hospital in Boston developed the other 11. The NIH is reviewing 96 lines, some of which may be approved by Friday.

The New York Times reported that opponents of embryonic stem cell research said that researchers should focus on adult cells, which could be reprogrammed to the embryonic state.

Though adult cells induced into the embryonic stage are very similar to actual embryonic stem cells, they are not identical and are riskier to use. The adult cell may turn on its defenses when being forced into the embryonic stage and will be useless to researchers.

Gay Marriage Bill Defeated by New York State Senate

The New York Times reported Wednesday that New York's State Senate voted down a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage, an issue gay rights activists compared to civil rights, family and history.

The Democrats did not have enough votes to pass the bill without support from Republicans; however, no Republican senator voted for the measure. The bill was defeated by a margin of 38 to 24.

If the bill had passed, New York would have become the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage. If it fails, it would mean that New York would become the latest state where critical progress towards gay rights had been made and then destroyed.

The State Assembly had already approved the bill twice before. However, New York's legislative code required the Assembly to pass the bill once more before it could be signed into law.

According to ChicagoPride.com, a similar bill is to receive votes in the District of Columbia and is expected to be approved before Christmas.

In New Jersey, gay activists seek to influence Governor-elect Chris Christie to approve a same-sex marriage bill.

Chances of success are fragile, however, because Christie supports a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, while Governor Jon Corzine, who lost to Christie during the election, pledged to sign a gay marriage bill into law.

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This page is an archive of entries from December 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

November 2009 is the previous archive.

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