Man who helped thwart attack becomes citizen

ATLANTA — Kwame James waited nearly 10 years to be sworn in as a U.S. citizen, a long time compared with the time he spent helping subdue would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid on a trans-Atlantic flight.

For James, now 32, the ceremony ended years of immigration limbo that began after he helped thwart the terror attack aboard a Paris-to-Miami flight in December 2001.

The 6-foot-8 basketball player was napping when a flight attendant roused him. Ten rows back, Reid was scuffling with passengers and the crew after he tried to ignite explosives hidden in his shoes. James helped tie up Reid with belts and headset wires, and took turns holding Reid by his ponytail with another passenger until the plane could land in Boston.

Nearly 10 years later, James would rather talk about how happy he is to be a new citizen and his passion for music.

“I became a citizen of one of the best countries in the world and I am very happy,” he said Friday, a day after he was sworn in as a citizen in Atlanta. “All the things that people come here for, that’s what I’m here for, the opportunity. You can come from nothing and become something here, just through hard work.”

James, who was born in Canada and raised in Trinidad, played professional basketball in France. He had been traveling to the U.S. to meet his then-girlfriend and take her to his family’s home in Trinidad for the holidays. He returned to France after the trip but asked his basketball coach for some time off when the reality of the flight’s close call set in.

“I didn’t understand the magnitude of what happened at first,” he said.

Munchkin coroner dies at 94

Meinhardt Raabe, who played the Munchkin coroner in “The Wizard of Oz” and proclaimed in the movie that the Wicked Witch of the East was “really most sincerely dead,” has died. He was 94.

His caregiver, Cindy Bosnyak, said Raabe died Friday morning at a hospital in Orange Park, Fla. He was one of the few surviving Munchkins from the 1939 film.

Bosnyak said he complained of a sore throat at his retirement community before collapsing and going into cardiac arrest. He was taken to Orange Park Medical Center, where he later died, she said.

“He had a headful of hair at 94 and he … remembered everything everyday,” she said. “To me he was a walking history book, very alert.”

Raabe was one of the 124 Munchkins in the film classic and one of only nine who had speaking parts. He was 22 years old and a show business veteran, earning money for college as a “midget” performer, as they were called then, when the movie was shot in 1938.

Raabe portrayed the diminutive Munchkin official who solemnly pronounces the witch dead after Dorothy’s farmhouse lands on her: “As coroner I must aver, I thoroughly examined her, and she’s not only merely dead, she’s really most sincerely dead.”

His costume included a huge hat with a rolled brim, and dyed yak hair was used for his handlebar mustache and long beard.

Promoter: Law doesn’t apply

A celebrity boxing promoter has been charged with fixing fights and not having a license when he staged a bout between “The Partridge Family” television star Danny Bonaduce and a comedian from the Howard Stern show.

Damon Feldman, who operates the Celebrity Boxing Federation, was charged in Harrisburg, Pa., with six counts of staging competitions without holding a promoter’s license from the State Athletic Commission and six counts of rigging fights at those events during a 16-month period that ended in December, state Attorney General Tom Corbett said.

Feldman didn’t dispute the allegations but contended he’s the victim of a state boxing law that’s tailored for professional boxing — something he says his events definitely aren’t. He acknowledged results of some bouts were predetermined but said they’re akin to pro wrestling, not professional boxing.

“It’s entertainment,” Feldman said in a telephone interview Friday. “I don’t fix fights. Fixing fights in pro boxing is illegal. I classify myself as 100 percent entertainment.”

Feldman, a Delaware County resident, was arraigned Wednesday and is free on $50,000 unsecured bail, but he’s barred from staging any events in Pennsylvania as a condition of his release.