Marine’s court martial will go on, judge rules

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — A military judge at Camp Pendleton on Friday rejected a defense request to throw out charges against the last Marine charged in the death of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha in 2005.

Lt. Col. David Jones, the judge, had ruled Tuesday that there was a possibility that what the military calls undue command influence was present when two generals decided to bring charges against Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich.

But Friday, Jones ruled that he saw no indication of actual influence on Gen. James Mattis or retired Lt. Samuel Helland. Both, he said, conducted an “unbiased assessment” of the case before sending charges. Mattis sent charges to a preliminary hearing, and Helland sent charges to a court martial after that hearing.

In making his Tuesday ruling, Jones said the prosecution had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that no undue influence existed. In his Friday ruling turning down the defense request, the judge ruled that prosecutors had “overwhelmingly” met that burden.

Wuterich’s court martial is set for September on a variety of charges, including manslaughter, aggravated assault, dereliction of duty, reckless endangerment and obstruction of justice. He remains on active duty.

Frail, gaunt Hopper cements place in Hollywood

LOS ANGELES  — Dennis Hopper is a permanent part of Hollywood.

Bandaged and looking frail, the 73-year-old actor and filmmaker was honored Friday with a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

Hopper, who is suffering from prostate cancer, appeared gaunt and was helped to the stage by a friend. The actor explained that his bandages were the result of a fall Thursday outside his home.

Surrounded by his family, Hopper thanked Hollywood for being “my home and my schooling.”
Jack Nicholson, Viggo Mortensen, David Lynch and Dwight Yoakam were among the luminaries on hand to honor their friend and colleague.

Hundreds of camera-toting spectators lined Hollywood Boulevard for the 30-minute ceremony. Hopper’s star is in front of the Egyptian Theatre.

Tenor singing a happy tune

LOS ANGELES — Placido Domingo says he is still recovering following surgery to remove a cancerous polyp from his colon, but he has returned to work and resumed singing in private – and plans to be back on stage in a couple weeks.

The 69-year-old Spanish tenor became ill on tour in Tokyo, had surgery early this month at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York and has been recuperating in Acapulco, Mexico.

He returned to Los Angeles on Thursday and a few hours later was back at work as director of the Los Angeles Opera Company.
Domingo told reporters during a break he planned to begin rehearsals for “Simon Boccanegra” at Italy’s La Scala in two weeks.

Because the malignancy was localized, Domingo was able to undergo minimally invasive surgery to remove the polyp.

Banjo gigs gave him pluck

LOS ANGELES — Steve Martin says playing the banjo helped prepare him for his Oscar-hosting gig.

The 64-year-old actor-writer-musician says performing live with the Steep Canyon Rangers made him feel comfortable on the Kodak Theatre stage at the Oscars.

Martin says he wasn’t sure why he wasn’t nervous before co-hosting the March 7 Oscars with Alec Baldwin, but a friend suggested maybe it was because he’d been in front of audiences around the country with his banjo.