Lawyer warns of more horse insurance scamsThe...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Lawyer warns of more horse insurance scams

The lawyer for a former horse-barn manager who reached a plea agreement on charges of smashing a thoroughbred's leg in an insurance scam, says the case may be the "tip of the iceberg."

Tommy Burns pleaded no contest Friday to insurance fraud and animal cruelty in the crowbar attack on a show horse last year.

Circuit Judge Robert P. Cates set sentencing for April 21. The agreement recommends an 18-month prison term.

Burns, 30, told investigators he was hired by the horse's owner to kill the animal for insurance purposes.

With the criminal case resolved, defense attorney William DeCarlis said he expects some movement by federal officials in a wider investigation but didn't know specifics.

"I think there are going to be some federal indictments coming out in the near future, out of Chicago," he said. "This case is big. There are some big people involved."

The FBI and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, both involved in the arrest of Burns and co-defendant Harlow Arlie, would not discuss whether they are investigating a ring.

Tennis

Court battles in the legal arena aren't over for Martina Navratilova, who is suing her former lawyer for his advice on a palimony pact.

The malpractice suit against Jerry Loftin of Fort Worth, Texas, is still pending even through Navratilova and her former lover settled their 10-month case Friday. Terms of the settlement with former beauty queen Judy Nelson were not disclosed.

Nelson, who lived with Navratilova from 1984 until their breakup last year, contended the nine-time Wimbledon champion broke a "non-marital cohabitation agreement."

Loftin became Nelson's lawyer in the suit seeking half Navratilova's earnings during the seven years the women lived together. Navratilova blamed Loftin for not looking out for her interests. Loftin declined to comment.

Hockey

Brett Hull, the NHL's leader in goals, missed the St. Louis Blues' game against the New York Rangers last night due to back spasms.

Hull, who has 67 goals and 39 assists for 106 points in 70 games, left Thursday night's game against Detroit midway through the first period and did not return. Prior to Saturday night, he had played in all 70 games for the Blues.

St. Louis also was without regular goaltender Curtis Joseph, who injured his ankle on Thursday night. Both players are listed as day-to-day.

The Blues recalled goaltender Guy Hebert from Peoria of the International Hockey League on Saturday to back up Pat Jablonski.

Skiing

Daniel Mahrer of Switzerland capped a brilliant two weeks of racing yesterday by capturing the final men's World Cup downhill ski race this season.

Mahrer, with two victories and a second-place finish in the three downhills held this month, fought his way through tight turns on the bottom half of the course and beat teammate William Besse by .33 of a second.

Mahrer, 30, was timed in 1 minute, 41.91 seconds -- the fastest time ever recorded on this course. Besse, 24, finished in 1:42.24. Olympic gold medalist Patrick Ortlieb of Austria was third in 1:42.28.

American AJ Kitt was eighth in 1:43.15. Kitt was able to hang onto third place in the final downhill standings, becoming only the third American male skier to finish that high.

* Austria's Petra Kronberger, a double gold medalist in the Olympics, won a World Cup downhill race on the same hill where she captured her first two tour victories more than two years ago.

Kronberger flashed over the 2,782-meter course at Panorama, XTC British Columbia, in 1:39.36. France's Carole Merle was second in 1:39.56, and World Cup downhill points leader Katja Seizinger of Germany was third in 1:39.76.

While Kronberger smiled and accepted congratulations, Olympic downhill gold-medal winner Kerrin Lee-Gartner of Canada had to deal with the disappointment of finishing 12th in front of a hometown crowd.

"I was going for the all-or-nothing approach. Unfortunately, I made a mistake coming on to the flats. I got pushed really low and almost missed a gate," said Lee-Gartner.

Her time was 1:40.59.

* Olympic champion Fabrice Guy of France led from start to finish in the cross country portion of the World Cup Nordic combined at Vang, Norway, and beat runner-up Fred Borre Lundberg by 2:43.7.

Guy, who already had clinched the World Cup overall title, won the opening ski jumping event at Holmenkollen Friday and started the 15-kilometer freestyle 1.55 minutes ahead of Lundberg.

Guy, who had the fifth-fastest ski time of 41:00.7, topped the final standings with 170 points. Klaus Sulzenbacher of Austria, who didn't compete in this meet, had 128 points to finish second. Lundberg was third with 123.

Guy, 23, won six out of 10 World Cup events this winter and failed to score points only twice.

* Bjorn Dahlie, a triple Olympic champion, clinched the overall World Cup cross country ski title despite an eighth-place finish in the 50-kilometer at the Holmenkollen Festival.

Elena Valbe of Russia won the women's overall title for the third time in four years by taking the 15-kilometer freestyle.

Dahlie, 24, who also won a silver medal in last month's Winter Olympics, had to finish at least 10th in the classic-style race to beat fellow Norwegian Vegard Ulvang for the title.

"Of course, the Olympic gold medals were the highlight of the season, but it means a lot for me to win the World Cup for the first time," Dahlie said.

Ulvang, who matched Dahlie's Olympic medal haul, won the race in 2:13.28. He was second in the overall standings with 198 points, just two behind Dahlie.

Speed skating

Olympic champion Bonnie Blair clinched the 500-meter speed skating World Cup title by finishing second in the last race of the season at Inzell, Germany.

Blair was beaten by China's Qiaobo Ye, but picked up enough points to win the overall title with 122 points.

Ye edged Blair by 0.01 of a second yesterday, winning in 40.55 seconds. The American skater won Friday's race, beating Ye.

College swimming

Senior Stacia Johnson became the first member of the Navy women's swimming and diving team to qualify for the NCAA Division I championships when she won the 3-meter diving event in a qualifying meet at Princeton University. Johnson led a field of 32 in totaling 432.45 points, and will compete in 1-meter, 3-meter and 10-meter platform events at the championships, in Austin, Texas, March 19-21.

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