Fri., Nov. 15, 2002
Richard Danziger and Christopher Ochoa, who each spent 12 years in prison for a crime they did not commit -- the 1988 rape/murder of Nancy DePriest at a North Austin Pizza Hut -- filed separate federal lawsuits Nov. 6, which together seek nearly $200 million in damages. The suits name as defendants the city of Austin, several current and former APD officers, and two former APD chiefs. Danziger, who was attacked by another inmate while in jail and suffered permanent brain damage, is also suing the Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice. The two were convicted and sentenced to life after Ochoa gave a highly detailed but utterly false (and, the suits claim, coerced) confession to former APD Det. Hector Polanco. The real killer, Achim Josef Marino, tried to take responsibility for the crime for four years before investigators re-opened the case in 2000. Subsequent DNA and ballistics testing exonerated Danziger and Ochoa in 2001; Marino was convicted and sentenced to life in prison this fall. -- Jordan Smith
Less than two months after the resignation of CEO Mark Hazelwood, the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce has already found his replacement -- Michael Rollins, who held the same job in Nashville for 12 years. (He deserves some of the credit, or scorn, for the relocation to Nashville of the former Houston Oilers.) Though Nashville is comparable in size to Austin, the chamber there is much larger, overseeing Music City's convention and tourist bureau and an inner-city redevelopment corporation, and Rollins is a big star in the chamber trade. Austin chamber leaders were just in Nashville for a fact-finding mission and were mighty impressed with Rollins' work, but they had been prepared for months of headhunting to replace Hazelwood. Rollins will start work Dec. 16. -- M.C.M.
Catellus Development's interest in Austin real estate doesn't stop at the old Mueller fence. The San Francisco firm, which is negotiating with the city to be the master developer of Austin's shuttered airport, is also crafting a development deal for the old Lockheed Missile and Space campus in Southeast Austin. Unlike the Mueller site, the 600-acre Lockheed tract -- vacant since 1996 and owned by a San Francisco real estate trust -- is already zoned for a variety of commercial uses; Catellus envisions a master-planned Class A office park. -- M.C.M.
A group of UT students -- or "consumers of university services," in UT President Larry Faulkner's official parlance -- have created a new Web site, www.utwatch.org, to monitor the Forty Acres' corporate connections. After reading news of UT's relationship with the U.S. military and the latest headlines about the Burnt Orange Behemoth, visitors can play "Spin the Merry-Go-Round of Money," which features portraits of the UT System's nine regents (including Tony Sanchez) around a black circle (presumably a roundtable) dotted with the familiar logos of Conoco, General Electric, Monsanto, and other corporations that have invested in the scandal-ridden $14 billion UTIMCO fund. -- Lauri Apple
The Texas Historical Commission unveiled a historical marker last week at East Austin's Blackshear Elementary, open since 1891. Today (Thursday), markers are also being unveiled downtown at the Littlefield and Scarbrough Buildings, Austin's first "skyscrapers," on opposite corners of Sixth & Congress. Also on the history tip, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison dedicated a monument at the Texas State Cemetery to the sons of the Fayette Co. hamlet of Praha, which lost nine men -- out of a total population of 100 -- in one year of World War II. The Praha monument is the first at the State Cemetery to WWII veterans. -- M.C.M.
Speaking of Sen. Hutchison, she also took time last week to help Capital Metro break ground on its new Northwest park-and-ride at U.S. 183 and RR 620. Lest she be totally alone as a Republican who actually supports public transit, state Rep. Mike Krusee of Round Rock also attended. -- M.C.M.
Local sustainable building guru Gail Vittori, co-director of the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems, recently won the 2002 Presidential Award for Leadership in Federal Energy Management. With 500,000 buildings nationwide, the U.S. government is the world's No. 1 energy consumer; Vittori, who coordinates the public building program of CMPBS (aka "Max's Pot"), was the sustainable-design consultant for recent renovations at the Pentagon, the world's largest public building. -- L.A.
Seven years after 92-year-old José Cantú was murdered while sleeping in his East Austin home, Austin police have charged a suspect in the slaying. With the help of the Texas DPS crime lab, APD's cold case detectives matched the fingerprint of José L. Aguirre -- already in the Travis Co. Jail on an unrelated charge -- to a print on the knife used in the 1995 stabbing. Aguirre, awaiting trial on charges of drug possession and driving with a suspended license, now faces capital murder charges in Cantú's death. -- J.S.
The UT Police Dept. welcomed its newest -- and first four-legged -- officer Nov. 7. Robby, a two-year-old Belgian Malinois, is UTPD's first police dog and is specially trained in explosive detection and patrol. "This campus has several venues for very large events, and officer Robby will play a big role in security for those public gatherings," said UTPD Chief Jeff Van Slyke. -- J.S.
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