U.S. attorney waits to charge gunman

WASHINGTON

Federal authorities weighed what charges to file against an accountant who fired and brandished a handgun outside the White House, as life returned to normal yesterday at the executive mansion.

Tourist lines reappeared a day after the episode as the man authorities apprehended, Robert W. Pickett of Evansville, Ind., remained in good condition in a hospital. A uniformed Secret Service officer had shot him in the right knee at midday Wednesday outside a White House fence.

Federal authorities did not file charges yesterday. Justice Department officials were considering whether to charge Pickett with violating the District of Columbia”s gun law, which carries a maximum five-year sentence, or a federal count of assaulting a federal officer, with a maximum 10-year sentence.

Channing Phillips, spokesman for the U.S. attorney”s office, said there was no urgency to charge Pickett while he was still recuperating.

Meanwhile, it was revealed that Pickett had bought the gun after passing an instant background check in his home state of Indiana, despite a history of mental illness.

Law enforcement officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, also said that a suicide note was found in Pickett”s vehicle, found at a commuter rail station in Fairfax County, Va., outside Washington.

Former official would have stopped pardon

WASHINGTON

The Justice Department”s former No. 2 official testified yesterday he would have tried to stop President Clinton”s controversial pardon of millionaire Marc Rich if he had known the full details of the fugitive financier”s case.

“Knowing everything that I know now, I would not have recommended to the president that he grant the pardon,” former Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder told the House Government Reform Committee.

Holder, however, acknowledged he did not pay much attention to Rich”s case in the flood of pardon requests that came to the Justice Department in Clinton”s last days. In addition, notes about Rich”s case were misdelivered and there was a misunderstanding between the White House and the Justice Department about the pardon”s chances for success.

“The whole thing ended up falling through the cracks,” said the committee”s ranking Democrat, California Rep. Henry Waxman.

Committee Republicans saw more sinister dealings.

“It”s like Keystone Cops, but I don”t think it is,” said Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.). “I think the president knew exactly what he was doing.”

Lawyers: Olympic scandal hurt no one

SALT LAKE CITY

Defense lawyers for the two men accused of securing the 2002 Winter Games through bribery argued yesterday that the charges should be tossed out of federal court because there”s no victim, hence no crime.

Tom Welch, who was president of the Salt Lake bid committee, and Dave Johnson, his vice president, are accused of paying $1 million in cash, scholarships and gifts to influence International Olympic Committee members who voted in 1995 to award Salt Lake the Games. “The IOC, how have they been victimized?” asked Johnson lawyer Max Wheeler.

Magistrate Ronald Boyce, presiding at the hearing, said IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch could view the payments as a threat to his organization”s integrity.

The Salt Lake City Games begin exactly one year from yesterday.

China mulls murder charges for reporters

BEIJING

Chinese police may seek homicide charges against CNN journalists and other foreign reporters who they allege knew in advance that five members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual group were going to set themselves on fire in Tiananmen Square last month, according to two state-run newspapers.

The article in the Yangcheng Evening News and the Southern Daily said police will consider charging the reporters with “abetting and assisting other people in committing suicide” if they can prove they were involved in planning the Jan. 23 incident, which left one woman dead and four more people hospitalized in critical condition, including a 12-year-old girl. It is the latest salvo in the government”s escalating campaign to discredit Falun Gong as a dangerous cult supported by “Western anti-China forces” and win support for its 18-month effort to crush it.

Porsche announces plans to make SUV

CHICAGO

A sleek new sport utility vehicle will be added to the crowded U.S. market next year: the Cayenne, made by Porsche AG.

“Critics say we”re late to the game,” said Frederick Schwab, chief of the German company”s North American operations. “The first word in SUV is sport, and Porsche is all about sports cars.”

More than half of the 25,000 Cayennes expected to be made next year probably will be for U.S. showrooms, Schwab said during the media preview of the Chicago Auto Show, which opens today.

Also yesterday, Ford”s Mercury unit unveiled the five-passenger Marauder, an incarnation of a muscle car that made its name in the 1960s, and Mazda showed off a vehicle resembling a combination station wagon-SUV called the Premacy.

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