Jury narrowly spares life of man who killed 7 in robbery 14 years ago

CHICAGO - A jury narrowly recommended a life prison sentence over the death penalty yesterday for a man convicted of killing seven people at a suburban Chicago restaurant 14 years ago during a robbery.

Juan Luna and his relatives cried as the decision was read. Prosecutors say Luna, then 18, and his high school friend James Degorski shot and stabbed the victims during the robbery that netted less than $2,000.

Killed were the restaurant owners and five employees. Their bodies were found in a walk-in cooler and freezer.

Degorski has pleaded not guilty to the murders and will be tried separately.

The closing arguments in the penalty phase included testimony from family members describing Luna as a devoted father and brother. He is married and has a young boy.

But two former friends testified Luna killed cats, once electrocuting one with a car battery and another time throwing a kitten on a leash from a car at 55 mph.

YouTube skeptical of Pentagon's

reasons for blocking Web sites

SAN FRANCISCO - YouTube's co-founders are challenging the Pentagon's assertion that soldiers overseas were sapping too much bandwidth by watching online videos, the military's principal rationale for blocking popular Web sites from Defense Department computers.

"They said it might be a bandwidth issue, but they created the Internet, so I don't know what the problem is," Chad Hurley, chief executive, said with a hearty laugh during an AP interview yesterday.

Hurley and otherYouTube officials emphasized that the company is trying to work with the Pentagon in hopes the military will reverse course or at least partially repeal the ban.

The Pentagon said this week it was cutting off service members' access to YouTube, MySpace and 11 other Web sites, some of which are used by soldiers on the front lines of Iraq and Afghanistan to post videos and journals for friends and family back home.

Grate expectations: Sometimes, they swallow up pedestrians

NEW YORK - Walking on the city's sidewalks can involve pitfalls - literally.

A woman who suddenly fell through a Manhattan sidewalk grate and plunged at least 10 feet through the heavy steel mesh lid of a utility company's transformer vault yesterday is among hundreds of urban pedestrians at risk each year of being injured in such mishaps.

The woman in her 20s suffered only minor injuries, but the incident brought up a piece of urban life encountered daily on just about any street in the city. As people walk over the many grates covering the sidewalks, it's hard to not occasionally think the worst.

For several minutes until she was pulled out by two firefighters who were lowered into the hole, the woman was just inches away from possible electrocution, fire officials said.

Soldier, 3 others face charges over guns used in mall rampage

SALT LAKE CITY - Four people, including a U.S. Army soldier, were indicted yesterday in connection with a teenage Bosnian immigrant's February shooting rampage that left five people dead at a shopping mall.

The indictments charge three people in the illegal sale of a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun to a juvenile, and a gun dealer for selling a 12-gauge shotgun with a pistol grip. Both of the weapons were used in the rampage, authorities said.

Sulejman Talovic, 18, killed five people and left four others with bullet wounds at Trolley Square on Feb. 12. He was killed by police who rushed to the Salt Lake City mall to stop the massacre.

Mackenzie Glade Hunter, 19, and Brenden Taylor Brown, 20, both of West Jordan, Utah, are accused of arranging the sale of the handgun last summer in Rock Springs, Wyo. Both pleaded not guilty.

A third defendant, Matthew Hautala of Wyoming, was described as a witness to the handgun deal and was indicted for denying knowledge of the sale to federal investigators. The U.S. Army private is assigned to Fort Jackson in South Carolina, spokesman Jim Hinnant said.

The fourth man, Westley Wayne Hill, was charged with selling a shotgun with pistol grip to Talovic and failing to keep a record of the transaction. Investigators have been unable to determine Talovic's motive for the mall shooting.

The bare truth in Brattleboro is that people sometimes are naked

BRATTLEBORO, Vermont - Spring has arrived in this southeastern Vermont town known for its live-and-let-live culture. The trees are less bare, and some local residents are more so.

Resident Theresa Toney said she was dining at a downtown restaurant when she spotted this spring's first naked person. She looked out the window "and saw a man in his 60s walking up and down Main Street totally nude," she told the Brattleboro Reformer newspaper. "This is indecent exposure where it doesn't belong."

Vermont has no state law, and Brattleboro no ordinance, against public nudity, although police charged a man Wednesday with lewd and lascivious conduct.

Someone videotaped Adhi Palar "performing acts of lewdness involving his genitals and some clothing" while he danced nude on a downtown street, police Capt. Gene Wrinn said, without elaborating. "He was getting some looks, and we got some complaints."

Palar, 20, of Brattleboro, could receive up to five years in jail if convicted.

Last year, Toney became one of the town's most vocal critics of allowing people to bare it all in public after a group of young people caused a stir by stripping naked in a downtown parking lot.

Some are worried about the town's image. "How do you want to be viewed as Brattleboro?" asked the Rev. Kevin Horion. "We want to welcome families with small children."

Nudists could pop up anywhere, he said. "I am concerned we don't know where they are going to strike." *

- Daily News wire services