More New Orleans crime cases halted

NEW ORLEANS - A Louisiana state judge suspended dozens of criminal cases yesterday over concerns that poor defendants cannot get adequate representation from the city's struggling indigent-defenders office.

Judge Arthur Hunter Jr. halted prosecutions of 98 defendants and ordered the release of 20 who had been held in jail. Last month, he suspended prosecution for 42 others.

He told dozens of defendants in his court that until they get lawyers, they won't be prosecuted. Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan said he would ask an appeals court to block the release of prisoners.

For months, Hunter has battled what he sees as the office's inability to adequately represent the city's hundreds of poor defendants since Hurricane Katrina wrecked the criminal justice system. - AP

Device blast kills man in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS - A device left in a casino parking garage exploded yesterday, killing a man who tried to pick it up off the top of his car, authorities said.

The device exploded shortly after 4 a.m. on the second floor of a garage behind the Luxor hotel-casino, said Officer Bill Cassell, a police spokesman. He declined to describe the device, but said initial reports that it was inside a backpack were wrong.

The blast was not a terrorist act, but rather an apparent murder of a man who worked at a business inside the hotel, he said. "We believe the victim of this event was the intended target," Cassell said.

No threat had been made against the Luxor, Cassell said. Gordon Absher, a spokesman for MGM Mirage Inc., which owns the Luxor, said the victim was not an employee. - AP

GOP accuses Pelosi in provision of bill

WASHINGTON - Republicans are accusing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) of including a provision in a water-redevelopment bill that could benefit property her husband owns in San Francisco.

Aides to Pelosi denied any connection, noting that the waterfront improvements were requested by the Port of San Francisco and that the four rental properties in question are at least a mile away.

Republicans offered no evidence of benefit to Paul Pelosi's real estate holdings. "I don't have any facts to say anything untoward has been done here," said Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the Republican Study Committee. "She should explain to the American people what the earmark is all about."

Pelosi's project was part of the $15 billion Water Resources Development Act. It passed the House, 394-25, on April 19.- AP

Elsewhere:

President Bush nominated former U.S. Mint Director Henrietta Holsman Fore to head the U.S. Agency for International Development to replace Randall Tobias, who resigned after being linked to a call-girl scandal.

The annual mail-carrier food drive will be held Saturday. Letter carriers across the country will collect nonperishable foods such as canned goods left by customers along their routes. The food is donated to local charities.