- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 4, 2004

Rep. Frank R. Wolf tomorrowwill discuss a recent trip he took to Darfur, the war-torn region of western Sudan.

Mr. Wolf, Virginia Republican, traveled with U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, to the region last week to assess the humanitarian crisis.

Mr. Wolf’s staff said a press conference is planned for tomorrow, and the two lawmakers will report on their findings and offer suggestions for helping the Sudanese.

During the trip, Mr. Wolf and Mr. Brownback toured villages and visited camps for internally displaced people.

Both Mr. Wolf and Mr. Brownback have made previous trips to Sudan.

• Guns and ballots

Maryland gun owners must wield more political clout, says state Sen. Alex X. Mooney, co-chairman of a newly formed group that aims to register them to vote.

The Second Amendment Coalition, named for the constitutional provision guaranteeing Americans’ right to keep and bear arms, went to work late last month at a Frederick gun show. Mr. Mooney, Frederick Republican, and co-chairman Robert Culver of Burtonsville said they will visit other gun shows in Maryland this summer to distribute voter-registration forms and pro-voting bumper stickers.

Neither had statistics on the number of Maryland gun owners who aren’t registered voters.

Mr. Mooney said Second Amendment proponents “tend to be people who don’t want the government to intervene in their lives as far as taking away their guns, and generally tend to be people that don’t turn to government” for services.

“Perhaps in return they don’t feel the need to get involved in the government process as much,” he said.

In a press release announcing the drive, Mr. Mooney said gun owners “need to become a major political force” in Maryland. “The 2AM Coalition will make gun owners aware that every day, liberal politicians are working in Annapolis and in Washington to take away their constitutional right to own a gun.”

Mr. Mooney has opposed gun-control measures such as Maryland’s requirement that all handguns sold in the state be equipped with integrated trigger locks, and a proposed state ban on assault-style weapons, which failed by one vote in a Senate committee this year.

Leah Barrett, executive director of the gun-control group Ceasefire Maryland Inc., said the Second Amendment Coalition is merely a Republican publicity ploy. She said that during the debate about banning semiautomatic rifles, which Mr. Mooney calls “sport-utility guns,” gun-rights advocates packed the hearing room.

“These guys have a lot of — I guess you could term it passion — on their side, so I don’t see that that’s the problem in Maryland,” she said. “The ones who feel passionately that everyone should have an assault weapon, I don’t think that these guys are the ones who are lackadaisical about voting.”

• Prison time

Former Richmond City Council member Gwen C. Hedgepeth was sentenced Friday to 44 months in federal prison for taking $2,500 in bribes for her votes on two council appointments.

U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson scolded Hedgepeth for selling her vote and breaching the public’s trust.

“There is no question you have tarnished the reputation of this city,” Judge Hudson told her.

Minutes earlier, Hedgepeth apologized as she cried uncontrollably before the judge. She then launched into a rambling speech about him, the prosecutors, the criminal charges and her family.

“I don’t understand all of this,” she said, her voice rising and falling. “I don’t know why this has happened. It doesn’t make sense to me.”

Hedgepeth must report to prison Aug. 2. Until then, she must remain in the care of her psychiatrist or psychologist. It was revealed during the hearing that she is taking medication for depression.

On April 2, a jury found Hedgepeth guilty of three bribery charges and one charge of lying to the FBI. She resigned from the council three days later.

During the trial, prosecutors presented secretly recorded video footage of Hedgepeth taking money from Robert O. Davis Jr., a developer and landlord who had been convicted of fraud and arson in 1981.

Mr. Davis, who was working as a witness for the FBI, gave her $500 in January 2003 to vote for a council member he and others wanted to be mayor. He gave her $2,000 more last July to support a candidate for appointment to the vacant 6th District council seat.

• Education leaders

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has appointed four persons, including one-time Baltimore mayoral candidate David F. Tufaro, to the state Board of Education.

College of Southern Maryland professor Lelia T. Allen, retired business executive J. Henry Butta and civic activist Beverly A. Cooper also were selected.

Brian A. Williamson was selected as the student member of the board.

Mr. Tufaro, a real estate developer in Baltimore, ran unsuccessfully for mayor as a Republican in 1999.

“Each newly appointed member brings a wealth of experience and a thirst for knowledge to the Maryland State Board of Education,” said Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican.

The 12-member board is the policy-making body for public schools through the 12th grade, as well as for public libraries and vocational rehabilitation services.

Mr. Butta, Miss Cooper and Mr. Tufaro will each serve a four-year term. Miss Allen fills a vacancy on the board and will serve until July 1, 2006.

• The next chapter

Forty years after President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Michael S. Steele said Friday the law and the crusaders for equal rights who made it possible paved the way for him to become Maryland’s first black lieutenant governor.

“Without the ‘64 act, I do not stand in the shadow of this giant,” Mr. Steele, a Republican, said in a reference to the statue of Thurgood Marshall in Annapolis that served as a backdrop for a ceremony commemorating the 40th anniversary of the law that outlawed discrimination in hiring and banned segregation in any facility offering services to the public.

Justice Marshall was the first black member of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mr. Steele, one of the featured speakers, said passage of the law “opened a new chapter for the United State of America, a chapter we are still writing today.”

“Our work on July 2, 2004, is not yet done,” he said.

The ceremony, sponsored by Mr. Steele and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., was held in Lawyer’s Mall next to the State House and the governor’s mansion.

• Christina Bellantoni contributed to this column, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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