- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 16, 2006



Court upholds decision to bar reporters

A federal appeals court ruled yesterday that Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. acted within the law when he barred state employees from speaking to two writers from the state’s biggest newspaper.

The Baltimore Sun had argued that the governor violated the writers’ First Amendment rights by denying them information available to others and retaliated against them for reporting that was unfavorable to Mr. Ehrlich’s administration.

But a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals, based in Richmond, ruled that the governor’s order had a minimal effect on the reporters’ abilities to do their jobs and that it did not have a chilling effect on the Sun’s exercise of its First Amendment rights.

Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, said he respected the ruling.

“These decisions confirm important constitutional principles that are recognized and respected by this administration,” he said.

The court said that the governor and other state officials are free to choose the reporters to whom they disclose information and that political reporter David Nitkin and former columnist Michael Olesker were able to continue reporting on state government despite the governor’s ban.

“While Nitkin and Olesker might now be disfavored, they are no more disfavored than the many reporters without access to the governor,” the judges wrote.

Mr. Olesker resigned in January after an internal audit at the paper found several instances of plagiarism.


Four teens arrested in carjacking

Montgomery County police have arrested four teenagers from the District in last month’s carjacking of a woman in Bethesda.

The carjacking took place Jan. 23 at the Lakeview House apartments on Westlake Drive, just across the street from Westfield Shoppingtown Montgomery. Police said the teens asked the 79-year-old victim for directions, then grabbed her keys and wallet and knocked her to the ground.

Her car was found that evening in Northeast.

Police said Chelsea Megan Moore, 16, Jessica McCoy, 16, and Eddie Malloy, 18, are charged as adults with carjacking, conspiracy and other crimes. A 15-year-old girl has been charged as a juvenile.

The Moore youth is in custody in Montgomery County, and the other three are awaiting extradition.


Man held in tampering with infant formula

A man has been charged with replacing powdered infant formula with flour and salt before returning the container to a store, where it was repurchased and sickened a child, prosecutors said yesterday.

Bobby Wayne Rhoades, 27, of North East, was arrested Tuesday and charged with tampering with consumer products. He faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.

A Rising Sun couple gave the formula to their child. After the child became ill, the parents discovered a hole covered by tape, prosecutors said. The label had fallen off the package.

Feeding too much salt to an infant can be deadly.

A review of security videotapes in the Wal-Mart in North East where the formula was purchased led police to Mr. Rhoades, prosecutors said.


Father, son sentenced for heroin trafficking

A Pakistani man was sentenced to life and his son was sentenced to 30 years in prison yesterday in U.S. District Court on charges related to their family’s international heroin trafficking organization.

Judge Alexander Williams Jr. sentenced Muzaffar Khan Afridi, 59, and his son, Alamdar Khan Afridi, 29, after a four-week trial in December that detailed the pair’s involvement in the ring. The judge said the case was “probably the most serious drug case I’ve ever seen.”

According to evidence presented in their case, the Afridis distributed hundreds of kilograms of heroin to the United States, Canada, Europe and Africa and, at times, used a courier to deliver the drugs to a restaurant in Beltsville.

In February 2004, a Thai court extradited the Afridis to the United States. Several co-conspirators have been sentenced after pleading guilty.


2nd man charged in fatal shooting

A second man has been charged in the only homicide in Carroll County in 2005.

Anthony Jones, 23, of Westminster, was charged this week with first-degree murder, attempted murder, assault, carjacking and as an accessory. He posted bail Monday and was released.

His brother Shawn Jones, 27, was charged last month.

Donnie Bowman, 43, of Westminster, was killed, and Lamont Dew of Baltimore was wounded in the Dec. 7 shooting outside the Little Jay’s convenience store.


Coach fined for giving alcohol to players

The former volunteer coach of the Clear Spring High School girls soccer team has been fined $1,500 for giving players alcohol.

Bryan Burton, 39, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Washington County District Court to three counts of furnishing alcohol to minors, a civil violation with a maximum penalty of $1,000. He could have been fined up to $3,000 for the three offenses.

Mr. Burton was cited after a Sept. 16 party at his Clear Spring home. He was dismissed as coach, and 14 players were suspended.


Number of deer killed up slightly

Hunters reported killing 94,052 deer during Maryland’s 2005-06 season, slightly more than that 93,868 taken a year earlier, the Department of Natural Resources said yesterday.

The total included a 5.2 percent decline in the number of antlered, or male, deer killed, and a 3.4 percent increase in antlerless deer, which are mostly female, the DNR said.

The numbers reflected regulatory changes aimed at stabilizing the state’s white-tailed deer population at 1997-98 levels, the DNR said. The current deer population in many parts of the state is near or below those levels, the agency said.


Heroin found near unconscious teacher

A high school English teacher is on paid leave and facing a heroin possession charge.

Kristen Wright, 26, was found unconscious in her Westminster home last month. She has taught at Francis Scott Key High School for five years.

Police say heroin was found on a dining-room table. She has been ordered to appear in court March 17.


Man charged in 2005’s last killing

An arrest has been made in the shooting death of the teenage grandson of a former D.C. official — the last person killed in the city last year.

Police say a D.C. man surrendered Tuesday to face first-degree murder charges in the killing of Jon Allen Jr., 15, the grandson of former D.C. Council member Sandy Allen from Ward 8.

Steven Robinson, 25, was arrested after he turned himself in at D.C. Superior Court.

Two other suspects — Damon Thomas, 17, and Robert Kelsey, 18 — were arrested on second-degree murder charges within days of the attack.

Police said Mr. Robinson was the gunman who sprayed bullets in the 3400 block of 13th Place Southeast on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve. Jon was not likely Mr. Robinson’s target, police said.

Arson hits home for second time

Fire investigators said an overnight blaze that forced a woman to jump from her second-floor window was set deliberately.

D.C. fire department spokesman Alan Etter said it was the second time in five days that a fire has been set deliberately at the row house in the 1200 block of E Street Northeast.

The woman broke her collarbone when she jumped from her window. A neighbor tried to break her fall. Mr. Etter said her injuries do not appear to be life-threatening.

Firefighters were called to the scene at about 2 a.m.

No arrests have been made, but Mr. Etter said arson investigators are questioning some people.

Brewer’s mansion gets reprieve

A grass-roots campaign to save a city landmark got a one-month reprieve yesterday.

Friends of the Castle, a group trying to raise money for the Brewmaster’s Castle, said a bank extended yesterday’s deadline for paying mortgage interest until March 15.

The group has raised about $70,000 of the $250,000 it needs to pay off interest from a loan taken out in 2003 to keep the mansion from being converted to a private club.

Built between 1892 and 1894 just off Dupont Circle in Northwest, the 31-room mansion was home to Christian Heurich, a German immigrant who ran a popular brewery.

Heurich’s widow donated the house in 1955 to what is now the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.

In 1969, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. It is now open for guided tours.

Resident questioned after apartment fire

Investigators were questioning a 45-year-old woman after a fire yesterday inside her Southwest apartment building where firefighters have been called numerous times.

“It was definitely set,” fire department spokesman Alan Etter said of the blaze in a second-floor unit at the Capital Park Plaza Apartments. It spread smoke throughout much of the building, damaging 49 apartments.

Firefighters rescued several people, Mr. Etter said, adding that many residents are handicapped. Seven persons were treated at the scene, but one — a 38-year-old man — had to be hospitalized with smoke inhalation. No firefighters were hurt.

A person was arrested after a series of fires in 2004 and 2005 hit the apartments, Mr. Etter said.


Metro crime down, but robberies rise

Robberies were up on the Metro system in 2005, even though other crimes were down, officials said yesterday.

Metro Transit Police said 328 robberies were reported last year either to transit or local police, reflecting an increase of about 10 percent from 2004.

But overall, serious crime fell about 8 percent last year. The drop includes a 13 percent reduction in parking lot crimes, although 714 such crimes were reported, and 16 percent fewer cars were stolen out of Metro station lots and garages.

Transit Police credit their dedicated auto-theft unit and the need to have a SmarTrip card to get out of the lots, which they think acts as a deterrent.

Metro also said there was a nearly 14 percent decline in less serious crimes such as eating and drinking on the subways and fare evasion.

Melting shouldn’t result in flooding

Area officials do not anticipate the warm spell that is expected to continue through tomorrow will melt the recent snow fast enough to cause flooding or other problems.

However, Doug McCobb of Alexandria’s Transportation and Environment Services Department and others said they have an emergency plan in place just in case. He said that sandbags are ready and that a station was set up in West Virginia to monitor streams in West Virginia that could overflow into the Potomac River, then flood the Old Town neighborhood.

Some areas received as much as 20 inches of snow late Saturday and early Sunday.

Power company officials said electricity has been restored to the roughly 250,000 customers who lost power over the weekend when the heavy snow toppled power lines.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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