- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 19, 2003

The Republican Party of Virginia is invoking last October’s sniper attacks in a direct-mail campaign targeting the capital punishment views of a Democrat running for a vacant House of Delegates seat.

A mailing sent Thursday to several thousand voters in the 100th District, chiefly on the Eastern Shore, showed a photo of sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo and claimed that Democrat Lynwood Lewis opposes the death penalty for the teenager.

The brochure bases its claims on one sentence deep within an Oct. 13 story in the Virginian-Pilot newspaper on Mr. Lewis’ race against Republican Thomas Dix Jr. for the vacant seat of Delegate Robert S. Bloxom, Accomack Republican, who chose not to seek another term.

The sentence reads: “Dix said juveniles should be eligible for the death penalty, but Lewis disagrees.”

That yielded the two-page flier that included a photo of Mr. Malvo in shackles and a jail jumpsuit being escorted by police officers, and clips from news articles about the young man’s role in the sniper attacks. A boldface caption reads, “Liberal Lynwood Lewis doesn’t believe accused sniper Lee Boyd Malvo should face the death penalty …” and text on the opposite page says Mr. Lewis “told the Virginian-Pilot … that he opposes allowing the death penalty for anyone under the age of 18, including sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo.”

The newspaper story makes no reference either to Mr. Malvo or the sniper slayings.

“I am shocked that they are politicizing a national tragedy like that sniper attack. It’s sickening because it dishonors victims that they’re using it for a political purpose. It’s extremism like I have not seen in all my years,” Mr. Lewis said.

He said his position on capital punishment was included in a questionnaire the newspaper sent to legislative candidates. He said that in his response, he wrote that he supported capital punishment, “However, I have grave concerns about Virginia law allowing juveniles to be sentenced to death. I believe we need to establish a dialogue with our citizens regarding our views on juveniles and the appropriateness of sentencing them to death.”

Mr. Malvo was 17 at the time he and John Allen Muhammad were arrested and charged a year ago. Now 18, Mr. Malvo is scheduled for trial Nov. 10 in Chesapeake, Va. Opening arguments in the trial of Mr. Muhammad, 42, are scheduled for today in Virginia Beach.

Prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty in both cases.

mOn the road again

The Ehrlich administration said its transportation plan is equitable across the state, despite criticism from Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley that a Montgomery County project is getting too much money.

Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan told the Board of Public Works on Wednesday that the Intercounty Connector would not take money from projects Mr. O’Malley wants.

“There was nothing earmarked for any purpose,” Mr. Flanagan told state Treasurer Nancy B. Op , who serves on the Board of Public Works with the governor and comptroller. “We are not taking anything away from any particular project or jurisdiction.”

Mr. O’Malley, who last month said he supports the ICC but not at the expense of his city, wants state money for a regional rail system and for a maglev train that would connect Baltimore and Washington.

The ICC, which has been in the planning stages for 40 years, will cost $1.7 billion — paid for with state, federal and toll revenue. Work on the road is to start in 2006.

mHeaded to prison

A federal judge Friday sentenced former Richmond City Council member Sa’ad El-Amin to 37 months in prison for his conviction on tax-fraud conspiracy.

U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson followed the plea agreement El-Amin made with federal prosecutors on July 1. He had faced trial for tax evasion and fraud under a 19-count indictment but pleaded guilty to one count — conspiracy to defraud the United States.

Judge Hudson recommended that El-Amin serve his sentence at the federal prison at Petersburg, Va. El-Amin, who has been free on bond since being charged, was ordered to report for incarceration Dec. 2.

mThe firing line

A Baltimore County Council member has filed suit against Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., claiming he was wrongly fired from a state job for political reasons, the second such suit against the first-term Republican governor.

Vincent Gardina, a Democrat who has served on the council since 1990, had worked as a contract engineer for the Maryland Environmental Service for five years. Mr. Ehrlich fired him from the $56,000-a-year position, said Mr. Gardina’s attorney, Daniel M. Clements.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Baltimore Circuit Court. Mr. Clements also represents former Department of the Environment employee Robin D. Grove, who has filed a similar suit.

The attorney argues that state and federal constitutions, along with U.S. Supreme Court precedents, prevent low- and mid-level workers from being fired because of party affiliation.

Mr. Gardina has held several jobs throughout his career, including county police officer and computer programmer. He recently earned a master’s degree in environmental engineering and science from Johns Hopkins University and was well regarded in his field, his attorney said.

mSorry, Sis

Baltimore City Council President Sheila Dixon says she will fire her sister as council assistant to comply with a local ethics law.

At least eight council members had until Saturday to provide U.S. Attorney Thomas M. DiBiagio’s office with material related to their hiring practices and acceptance of gifts and loans.

Many council members are calling the probe a political “witch hunt” fueled by articles in the Baltimore Sun.

The Sun reported in July that 10 of the council’s 19 members have hired relatives and that all have accepted free Arrow Parking garage passes.

By firing her sister, Janice, Mrs. Dixon will have complied with Board of Ethics opinions that said hiring siblings and accepting the parking cards violated the ethics law.

Robert Redding contributed to this column, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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