Tuesday, May 22, 2001

Kentucky Digest

Judge OKs increase in lawmaker pensions

The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — A law passed last year to significantly raise legislative pensions is constitutional, contrary to the attorney general's opinion, a Franklin Circuit Court judge has ruled.

        A one-paragraph amendment, slipped into a bill in the final, hectic days of the 2000 General Assembly, raised by 64 percent the base on which legislative pensions are calculated.

        Attorney General Ben Chandler argued that the legislation was too vague to be constitutional, but Judge William L. Graham disagreed.

        “If those who are affected by the statute can reasonably understand what the statute requires of them, the statute passes constitutional muster,” Judge Graham said in ruling on a lawsuit by trustees of the Kentucky Judicial Form Retirement System, the agency that administers pensions for the court system and legislature.

        “Although the language may be unintelligible to a person of ordinary understanding, it is reasonably understood by persons with expertise in the area of pension law,” Judge Graham wrote.

        The ruling was entered Friday but not widely known until Monday.

        Mr. Chandler was away at a meeting and not available for comment, according to his office. His spokesman, Corey Bellamy, did not immediately offer comment.

        The amendment was the obscure handiwork of state Sen. Albert Robinson, R-London, who made no secret of his intention to try to get pensions boosted.

Father is charged in death by shaking
The Associated Press

               CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — An 11-week-old baby has died of being shaken to death and his father charged with first-degree murder, Clarksville police said.

        Chris M. Knight, 21, a soldier with the 63rd Chemical Battalion at Fort Campbell, Ky., is being held without bond in the Montgomery County Jail. His initial court appearance is set for 10 a.m. Monday.

        Mr. Knight initially was charged with aggravated child abuse after his son, Dillon, was sent to Vanderbilt Hospital and doctors there told police the baby suffered fractured ribs and injuries consistent with being “severely shaken.”

        The infant died Saturday afternoon, and Clarksville police upgraded the charges to murder.

        The baby was taken to Blanchfield Army Community Hospital on the base Friday after he stopped breathing and then was transferred to Vanderbilt.

        Police said Mr. Knight has admitted he became upset with his son and shook him.

Soldier's mother loses battle with Army
The Associated Press

               WASHINGTON — The Army has rejected an appeal from a Kansas City, Mo., woman who sought to make the military pay for the beating death of her son at Fort Campbell.

        Patricia Kutteles filed the $1.8 million wrongful death claim a year ago, contending an anti-homosexual atmosphere in the Army and a failure of leadership led to the July 1999 murder of Pfc. Barry Winchell, 21.

        The Army rejected that claim, and Ms. Kutteles appealed to the secretary of the Army.

        Over the weekend, she received a letter from Matt Reres, the Army's deputy general counsel, informing her the Army stood by its decision.

        “It was just devastating,” Ms. Kutteles said during a telephone interview Monday.

        The appeal was Ms. Kutteles' last chance to seek redress under the Military Claims Act, said Charles Butler, Ms. Kutteles' attorney. The act lays down an administrative procedure that allows service members or civilians to seek reimbursement from the military for injury, death or loss of property.

        Mr. Reres said the Federal Tort Claims Act, a separate administrative procedure for seeking compensation as well as in civilian courts, was closed to Ms. Kutteles because of a Supreme Court ruling limiting claims against the military.

        “It looks like we have run out of legal options,” Mr. Butler said.

        “By turning down the claim they're showing that his life was not worth anything to them, that they condone his death,” Ms. Kutteles said.

        Ms. Kutteles said fellow soldiers believed Mr. Winchell was gay and harassed him for months before he was beaten to death with a baseball bat as he slept in his cot on the base, which sprawls the Kentucky-Tennessee line. The Army knew about the harassment but did nothing to stop it, Ms. Kutteles alleged.

        Pvt. Calvin Glover of Sulphur, Okla., was sentenced to life in prison for murdering Mr. Winchell. Another soldier, Spc. Justin Fisher, of Lincoln, Neb., was given a 12 1/2-year sentence for lying to investigators.

Longtime mayor of Paintsville dies
The Associated Press

               PAINTSVILLE — John B. “J.B.” Wells Jr., a former mayor of Paintsville and commissioner of rural roads under former Gov. Albert B. “Happy” Chandler, died Sunday in Lexington. He was 86.

        Mr. Wells also was chief executive officer of Big Sandy Hardware Co., his family's business.

        Mr. Wells was elected mayor in 1939 and re-elected six times. He resigned in 1955, the year Mr. Chandler won the governorship for the second time.

        As rural roads commissioner, Mr. Wells was instrumental in winning legislative approval of a $100 million bond issue to finance Kentucky's share of interstate highway construction funding.

UK develops process to transmit surgery
The Associated Press

               LEXINGTON — New technology pioneered by researchers at the University of Kentucky's Center for Minimally Invasive Surgery will allow doctors and students to view live procedures from remote locations via a hand-held computer.

        The process allows physicians to transmit live streaming video images and audio of a complex surgery or informational lectures to a tiny 2-inch-by-2-inch monitor through a wireless Internet network, said Dr. Adrian Park, the center's director.

        The first wireless transmission to the hand-held computer, which is about the size of a typical Palm Pilot and can be purchased in many high-end electronic stores, was a laparoscopic hernia repair broadcast from a UK Medical Center operating room on May 8.

        “To our knowledge, this is the first time a live surgery has been transmitted to a hand-held device,” Dr. Park said during a news conference Monday. “Although this technology is in its infancy, the ramifications are fairly significant.

        “As the technology expands, surgeons will be able to access other surgeons for consultation whether they are out doing rounds, sitting in an airport lounge waiting to catch a plane or anywhere else on the planet.”


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Local Digest
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- Kentucky Digest
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