U.S. Briefs

March 12, 1996
Web posted at: 11:45 a.m. EST

Former interior secretary sentenced to probation


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former Interior Secretary James Watt was sentenced to five years of probation on Tuesday in connection with a 1980s influence-peddling scandal at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth also ordered Watt, one of the most controversial figures in the Reagan Administration, to perform 500 hours of community service and pay a $5,000 fine.

Watt pleaded guilty in January to a misdemeanor count of withholding documents from a federal grand jury investigating alleged corruption at HUD. The plea agreement wiped out 18 felony charges against him. He faced up to six months in jail on the misdemeanor charge.

Before the plea bargain, Watt had been charged with felony counts of perjury and making false statements to cover up his work as a consultant seeking federal aid from HUD after he left government in 1983.

Climber critically burned by fall into power lines

cliber burned

THOUSAND OAKS, California (CNN) -- A California teen-ager is listed in extremely critical condition, with third-degree burns -- or worse-- over 80 percent of his body, after a jolt by 200,000 volts of electricity.

Michael Halsell, 17, was on a 100-foot-high transmission tower crossbeam, practicing mountain climbing with friends, when he or his equipment came into contact with power lines Monday.

A spokesman for Southern California Edison said Halsell, his rope, or other climbing gear touched an electrical conductor as he rappelled from the high-voltage tower, in the Conejo Grade area, about 35 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

His friends saw Halsell standing on the beam, his clothing on fire. It was about two hours before he was rescued. A friend ran a mile for help and firefighters had to wait for the power to be turned off before they could climb the tower.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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