- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 14, 2006



House approves limit of eminent domain

The House of Delegates unanimously approved legislation that would limit the government’s authority to seize private property for public use.

Delegate Terrie L. Suit, Virginia Beach Republican, introduced the bill in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last year allowing a Connecticut city to take property and turn it over to private developers.

As introduced, Mrs. Suit’s bill would have prohibited using the power of eminent domain in that way for the primary purpose of enhancing tax revenue.

The House amended the bill Monday to make it more restrictive. The revised measure would allow land to be condemned only for public uses.

The bill now goes to the Senate, which has its own eminent domain bill.


Conviction untainted by wiretap, U.S. says

Prosecutors said yesterday that they have no reason to think their conviction of a Falls Church man who joined al Qaeda and plotted to assassinate President Bush was tainted by the government’s post-September 11 eavesdropping program.

Attorneys for Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, 24, asked a federal judge last week to delay their client’s sentencing hearing Friday to allow an investigation of whether Abu Ali was a subject of the National Security Agency’s warrantless eavesdropping.

Yesterday, prosecutors opposed any delay, saying Abu Ali’s attorneys have no evidence to suggest their client was wronged.

Yesterday’s filing is the first substantive response by prosecutors to accusations made in several cases by defendants who suspect their clients were subject to the surveillance program, secretly initiated shortly after the September 11 attacks.

Abu Ali’s attorneys said they suspect their client was targeted because he was under surveillance during the time the NSA program was in effect and because the eavesdropping reportedly focused on al Qaeda.

Abu Ali faces a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison when sentenced. Prosecutors are asking the judge to impose a life sentence.


Soldier charged with abusing girl

A member of the Army’s Old Guard was arrested on charges of attacking a girl.

Fairfax County police are holding Pfc. Kai Higdon, 21, who is assigned to the 3rd Infantry Regiment at Fort Myer.

Investigators said Pfc. Higdon on three occasions in December and January committed sexual battery on a 9-year-old girl at her home in Annandale, where he was allowed in as a family friend.

A spokeswoman for the Military District of Washington said Pfc. Higdon serves as a member of the company responsible for funeral honors at Arlington National Cemetery. Officials did not know how long he had been with the unit or in the military.


Custodian charged with touching student

Police have charged a grade-school custodian with inappropriately touching a student.

Investigators said the 10-year-old boy was walking in a hallway at Oakton Elementary School on Friday when the incident happened.

He told his teacher, and police were called.

Three days later, police arrested the custodian, identified as Tito Paniagua, 39, of Centreville. He is charged with aggravated sexual battery.

Mr. Paniagua told WJLA-TV (Channel 7) last night that he accidentally ran into the boy and touched him on the head as he apologized.

“I wouldn’t know how to hurt a child because I’ve got my own children, and I wouldn’t want something like that to happen to them,” Mr. Paniagua said, speaking through an interpreter. He has been placed on administrative leave without pay.

Students at the school were sent home yesterday with notes explaining what had happened.


Students released in stabbing case

A judge in Spotsylvania County has released four James Monroe High School students charged in the fatal stabbing of a Courtland High School junior.

The teenagers’ release from juvenile detention Monday was expected after a prosecutor reduced charges against them and a fifth James Monroe student, who was released Friday.

All five students are to adhere to electronic monitoring and other conditions, pending a hearing scheduled for late April.

Each student is charged with malicious bodily injury and participating in a criminal street gang.

Spotsylvania prosecutors said there is no connection between the five students and Marvin Parker, 17, who is accused of stabbing Baron Braswell II at a hotel dance party in Spotsylvania last month.

Mr. Parker is charged with first-degree murder in Mr. Braswell’s death. He also is charged with participating in a criminal street gang.


Police: Drunken driver hits officer’s car

A Fairfax County police officer was recovering yesterday after his squad car was hit by a drunken driver, authorities said.

The accident happened late Monday while the unidentified officer was driving a marked car northbound on Gosnell Road.

Investigators said he saw another car heading straight at him, but it was too late to get out of the way.

The police car was hit head-on by a Nissan Altima, which was going south in the northbound lane and didn’t have its headlights operating.

The officer did not suffer life-threatening injuries. Police said he is 30 and an eight-year veteran of the force.

The driver of the Nissan was identified as Indermohan Singh, 53, of Gaithersburg. He was arrested on charges of driving while intoxicated and not having a valid registration.


Firefighters pulled from swimming pool

Two firefighters were recovering from hypothermia yesterday after they fell into a swimming pool while fighting a fire at a house in the 9500 block of Burning Branch Road.

Fairfax County fire department Lt. Raul Castillo said one firefighter fell into the icy water, and another firefighter fell in while trying to assist the first.

They were rescued quickly and taken to a nearby fire station to warm up.

Fire crews were on the scene of the two-alarm fire about 1:45 a.m. It took 60 firefighters more than a half-hour to bring the fire under control.

The blaze destroyed most of the home. Damage is estimated at $150,000.

Fire Capt. Glenn Bydeme said the firefighters didn’t see the backyard pool because it was covered with snow.



Cab fares officially higher

The gasoline surcharge on taxi rides became a permanent fare increase under a measure approved yesterday by the Montgomery County Council.

Since September, cabdrivers have been collecting an extra $1.50 per trip to help cover rising fuel costs. With that now part of the regular fare, it will continue to cost $4 to get into a taxi. Metered rates cover distance charges.

Montgomery officials expect the extra money will encourage more people to drive cabs and lead to more taxis on the road, creating better service.

The last fare increase was in October 2003.


Armed robber leaves in hearse

A funeral-home employee who used a gun to rob a convenience store and escaped in a white hearse is facing armed robbery and drug possession charges in Somerset County, police said.

Police said they went to the funeral home with a warrant after Anthony Ward Jr. was identified as the suspect.

Police said they found crack cocaine in his pants pocket.


Truck driver dies after plunge into river

The driver of a stolen delivery truck was killed yesterday after leading police on a chase through three states before plunging down a steep hill and into the Susquehanna River, police said.

Kevin L. Biggs, 38, of Atlantic City, N.J., was pronounced dead at the scene.

Maryland State Police spokesman Sgt. Thornnie Rouse said the chase began about 4 a.m. when a dairy delivery driver came out of a Starbucks coffee shop in Cherry Hill, N.J., and saw someone speeding off with his truck.

New Jersey police started the chase. A Pennsauken officer standing outside his cruiser narrowly escaped injury when the driver of the truck tried to run him over before continuing onto Interstate 295.

The driver stopped and paid the toll at the Delaware Memorial Bridge, then smashed through a police roadblock, injuring one officer and ramming a cruiser.

Delaware troopers pursued the truck as it headed south on Interstate 95, although it stayed within the speed limit.

Maryland troopers, assisted by a state police helicopter, joined the pursuit. The truck took an exit ramp onto state Route 222, avoiding a roadblock a few yards away.

Coming down a hill through the center of Port Deposit, the driver failed to negotiate a turn, crossed railroad tracks and a broad promenade and plunged nose-first into the river.


Bus, SUV crash; injuries called minor

Six persons suffered minor injuries in an accident involving a Metrobus and a sport utility vehicle yesterday morning at Georgia Avenue and Quincy Street Northwest.

Metro spokesman Steve Taubenkibel said five of the approximately 50 passengers on the bus suffered minor injuries, mostly back and neck problems. The bus driver wasn’t hurt.

Mr. Taubenkibel said the Route 70 bus was heading south on Georgia Avenue when the sport utility vehicle, going north, turned left into the path of the bus. The SUV hit the corner of the bus and the bike rack on front.

The SUV driver, who was alone, also was hurt, but the injuries were not thought to be life-threatening.


Food on stove caused fatal fire

Food left cooking unattended on the stove started a fatal fire Monday in a Northwest home, fire investigators said yesterday.

Investigators said piles of items helped spread the fire inside the home in the 5100 block of Fulton Street Northwest.

Firefighters initially couldn’t determine whether the victim was a man or a woman. They now know it was a woman. Her name will not be released until next of kin are notified.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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