Marine in Cable Car Accident Freed

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Camp Lejeune, NC Oct. 12 (AP)--A Marine pilot whose jet clipped a ski gondola cable in Italy, killing 20 people, has been released from a military prison after serving a shortened sentence on a lesser charge, his attorney said.

Capt. Richard Ashby, 32, of Mission Viejo, Calif., was convicted of obstruction of justice in May. He was sentenced to six months in prison and ordered dismissed from the Marine Corps.

Ashby was released last week and has remained in Jacksonville, the home of Camp Lejeune, where he was based, lawyer Frank Spinner said Monday. Ashby was released early for good behavior, Spinner said.

Ashby has not yet been dismissed from the military, Spinner said. The dismissal order still must be approved by the Marine officers managing the cable car case, Spinner said.

Ashby was acquitted in March of 20 counts of involuntary manslaughter for the deaths of the passengers aboard the gondola on Feb. 3, 1998.

Ashby testified he took a personal videotape out of his North Carolina-based EA-6B Prowler after making an emergency landing at the NATO air base at Aviano, Italy. He testified the navigator, Capt. Joseph Schweitzer, asked for help swapping tapes after the landing.

Schweitzer was sentenced to dismissal from the Marine Corps after he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice.

Copyright © 1999 The Associated Press