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The nation in brief

by Compiled by Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports | February 18, 2021 at 3:54 a.m.

Ex-Epstein girlfriend claims guard abuse

NEW YORK -- Jeffrey Epstein's former girlfriend claimed through her lawyer that a guard physically abused her at a federal lockup in Brooklyn, and then she was punished for complaining about it.

Attorney Bobbi Sternheim wrote in a letter to a Manhattan federal judge Tuesday that the abuse occurred recently at the Metropolitan Detention Center as Ghislaine Maxwell was undergoing a pat down search in her isolation cell.

Maxwell, 59, is awaiting a July trial on charges that she recruited three teenage girls for Epstein to sexually abuse in the 1990s and committed perjury during 2016 depositions in a civil case. She has pleaded innocent.

Sternheim said the British socialite asked that a camera be used to capture what was occurring, but a guard "replied 'no.'"

"When Ms. Maxwell recoiled in pain and when she said she would report the mistreatment, she was threatened with disciplinary action," Sternheim said.

Days later, Maxwell was retaliated against for reporting the abuse when a guard ordered her into a shower to clean, sanitize, and scrub the walls with a broom, the lawyer said. She added that Maxwell was denied a request that the encounter with the guard in the tight space be recorded.

Informant to gangster to leave prison

BOSTON -- A former FBI agent convicted of second-degree murder for leaking information to Boston gangster James "Whitey" Bulger that led to the shooting death of a gambling executive will be released from prison on medical grounds, officials ruled Wednesday.

The Florida Commission on Offender Review voted 2-1 in favor of releasing 80-year-old John Connolly, who has cancer and is believed to have less than a year to live.

Connolly, who was Bulger's FBI handler, was sentenced to 40 years behind bars after being convicted in 2008 in the killing of World Jai Alai President John Callahan in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in 1982. Connolly tipped off Bulger and another gangster, Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi, that Callahan was about to implicate the gang in a killing, authorities said.

Connolly was also found guilty in 2002 of tipping off Bulger, Flemmi and former New England mob boss Francis "Cadillac Fran" Salemme in late 1994 that they were about to be indicted. Connolly's tip allowed Bulger to flee and spend the next 16 years on the lam. Connolly served 10 years in prison in that case.

Connolly's case damaged the FBI's reputation and prompted changes, like stricter guidelines for handling criminal informants. Connolly and Bulger's relationship helped inspire the 2006 Martin Scorsese film, "The Departed."

In a statement, Callahan's son said he is not opposed to Connolly's release, given his prognosis. Callahan's wife, Mary, also did not object.

Segregation-case judge's statue to move

AUGUSTA, Maine -- A Maine county commission has voted to move a statue of Melville Fuller, who was an Augusta native and the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court when the court decided Plessy v. Ferguson, the case that legalized racial segregation in 1896.

The Kennebec County board of commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to move the statue, which sits in front of the county courthouse in Maine's capital. The statue, installed in 2013, was a gift from a cousin of Fuller's.

Fuller was the chief justice of the nation's highest court when it decided the Plessy v. Ferguson case. That decision established the "separate but equal" doctrine that permitted racial segregation and allowed the passage of Jim Crow laws. It was overturned in 1954 by the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision that struck down racial segregation in public schools.

Commissioners will appoint a committee to decide where to move the statue.

Pipeline open to sites with tainted wells

JULIETTE, Ga. -- A middle Georgia county has turned on a pipeline providing water to some residents who said their wells have been poisoned by coal ash from a nearby power plant.

Monroe County commissioners gathered Tuesday for the connection of the first phase of a $16.3 million project that will serve up to 850 homes in Juliette and surrounding areas.

Altamaha Riverkeeper has previously tested wells around Juliette and found chemicals that it says indicate contamination by toxic heavy metals from the coal ash pond at Georgia Power Co.'s Plant Scherer. Some Juliette residents have been relying on water that the county was trucking to a fire station.

Representatives of Georgia Power say the company's 57 monitoring wells find no violations of federal drinking water standards. The unit of Atlanta-based Southern Co. has been buying out residents in some areas near the plant.

Dozens of Juliette residents sued Georgia Power last year, claiming groundwater pollution has resulted in people suffering from health problems including cancer and cardiovascular and immune disorders.

Georgia Power has denied any wrongdoing.

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