- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 23, 2006


Number of people with HIV unknown

Officials admitted yesterday that they don’t know how many people are HIV-positive in the city. They also are concerned that many who carry the disease don’t know it.

Calling it time to “make sure that HIV testing becomes routine in our medical settings,” Marsha Martin, director of the D.C. HIV/AIDS Administration, said she wants HIV information in health classes for all students. She also urged discussions about HIV and AIDS in homes, churches and businesses.

Although city officials admit having no solid information on actual infections, federal estimates indicate that as many as 5 percent of the city’s 573,000 residents are infected with the virus that causes AIDS.

“Not having good data on how people are infected really hampers our ability to fight this epidemic,” said Roberta Geidner-Antoniotti, interim executive director of the Whitman-Walker Clinic, one of the region’s major service providers.

Dr. Gregg A. Pane, the city’s health director, has signed a data collection contract with George Washington University Medical Center. Voluntary testing is now offered at the D.C. Jail and in the city’s substance abuse and tuberculosis clinics.

“This is public health enemy No. 1, and we’re going after it,” Dr. Pane said.

Voter records include Social Security numbers

Social Security numbers of city voters — including the mayor — were visible on copies of voter history records obtained from the elections board, a report said yesterday.

WTOP Radio said it asked the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics for several voter histories over two months. The station reported that in many cases, the voter’s Social Security number was included. In some cases, workers tried to cover the numbers with a black marker, but they remained readable when held to a light. Other times, the numbers were rendered impossible to read. In one case, there was no attempt to hide the number.

Records with visible Social Security numbers include those of D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams and some members of the D.C. Council.

“It has never been the policy of the board to give out Social Security numbers,” elections board spokesman Bill O’Field said. He said the board was working to ensure the numbers no longer would be accessible.

Under a 1974 federal rule, government agencies are prohibited from publicly disclosing information such as Social Security numbers. The 2002 Help America Vote Act advised states not to use such numbers to identify voters, but the District still does.



Towel on lamp sparked fire that killed toddler

A towel left atop a bedroom lamp ignited the apartment fire that killed a toddler, investigators said yesterday.

Nineteen-month-old Jeovanny Rodriguez died in the burning home Tuesday afternoon. Prince George’s County fire department authorities said the apartment’s smoke detector was destroyed in the blaze, so they are not sure whether it sounded. Department officials labeled the cause of the fire accidental.

The toddler’s mother and older brother made it out of the burning third-floor apartment but suffered smoke inhalation. Two neighbors sustained minor injuries. Damage was estimated at $30,000.

County firefighters returned to the area yesterday, testing smoke detectors and giving out the devices to those in need.


Death penalty sought in officer’s killing

Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty for an inmate accused of killing a prison guard at a hospital in January, according to court papers filed yesterday.

Brandon T. Morris, 20, is accused of shooting Roxbury Correctional Institution Officer Jeffery A. Wroten in the face Jan. 26 at Washington County Hospital in Hagerstown.

Washington County State’s Attorney Charles P. Strong Jr. filed documents yesterday in court that gave notice of his intent to seek the death penalty, the Baltimore Sun reported on its Web site. The papers said the death penalty applies because Morris “committed the murder in furtherance of an escape” and because of other aggravating circumstances.

Morris was serving an eight-year sentence at Roxbury in Hagerstown for assault, robbery and handgun convictions in Baltimore.

He has pleaded not guilty to the 36 counts he faces in Officer Wroten’s death, including first-degree murder. His trial is scheduled to begin July 31.


Embezzler’s release hinges on repayment

A Washington County Circuit judge ruled that a woman serving a three-year prison sentence for embezzling more than $200,000 from her former employer must continue serving that term unless she makes significant restitution.

Circuit Judge Kennedy Boone III said that if Krista Sue Hudson sells her Williamsport home or takes out a home equity loan to pay a significant portion of the nearly $170,000 owed to Robinwood Orthopaedic Specialists, he might consider reducing her sentence.

Judge Boone sentenced Hudson in November to serve three years in prison for felony theft, a charge to which she pleaded guilty in September.

Hudson’s attorney says that in order for her to pay back more money, she needs to be released. She has not been able to persuade her husband to sell their house or get an equity loan.


Construction worker killed on I-695

A construction worker died after being struck by a box truck on Interstate 695 near the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, state police said.

The man died at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore yesterday afternoon.

Police said the private contractor was installing guardrails in the center median when he was struck about 1:30 p.m.

Police said the driver of the box truck apparently had fallen asleep at the wheel.



Mayor won’t sign Confederate edict

The mayor has refused to sign a proclamation honoring the city’s Confederate ties, saying the issue is too divisive for the community.

Members of Tom Smith Camp — one of the largest Sons of Confederate Veterans chapters in the state — ask city leaders every year to honor their heritage by proclaiming April “Confederate History and Heritage Month.” About 1,500 Confederate soldiers returned to Suffolk after the Civil War.

Mayor Bobby Ralph signed the proclamation last year after making changes that noted “these brave soldiers of southeastern Virginia of all races and religions.”

But he nixed the idea this week.

“The city was promoting its Civil War Weekend last year, and I thought it was the right thing to do,” Mr. Ralph said. “But the level of anxiety has increased substantially over the last year. I’ve never gotten as many phone calls as I’ve gotten in the last 10 days.”

Keith Morris, adjutant of the Tom Smith Camp, said members were surprised by the decision.

“Mr. Ralph said he was trying to be a mayor of all the people,” he said. “The difference is last year was not an election year. This year, he’s up for re-election.”


Car stuck under semi dragged for 5 miles

A woman was critically injured when the car she was riding in slammed into the back of a tractor-trailer, got trapped underneath and was dragged for several miles, state police said yesterday.

The collision occurred on southbound Interstate 81 near the Weyers Cave exit at about 7:45 p.m. Tuesday.

The truck driver didn’t know the car — a Hyundai Elantra — had gotten wedged underneath, state police Sgt. David Cooper said. The truck driver continued for at least five miles and stopped only after being alerted by Cpl. David Lotts of the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office, Sgt. Cooper said.

Once the truck stopped, the driver of the car fled, but turned himself in later in the day. Mathew S. Payne, 26, of Stuarts Draft, was charged with reckless driving, felony hit-and-run and driving on a revoked license.

His passenger, Amanda Dudley, was listed in critical condition yesterday at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville. Information about her age and address was not available.

Mr. Payne was treated at Augusta Medical Center and released.

No charges were filed against the driver of the truck, owned by N&S; Trucking of Waynesboro.


Serial flasher at malls sought

A serial flasher and peeping Tom may be preying on women in shopping centers.

County police think one man could be responsible for a series of crimes in the past year. The most recent incidents occurred Sunday.

In the first case, investigators say a woman using the restroom at Hecht’s in the Fair Oaks Mall realized the person in the next stall was a man. The woman confronted him in the store, but he ran to the parking lot and drove off in a red pickup truck.

About an hour later, police said, a woman in a cosmetics store near Springfield Mall saw a man in a red pickup exposing himself.

Police said similar incidents have occurred since April at Fair Oaks Mall, the nearby Fair Lakes shopping center and the Greenbriar Shopping Center.

Anyone with information should call Crime Solvers at 866/411-TIPS.


Crashes abound on snow-slicked roads

State police said four persons were injured in a series of crashes yesterday morning on icy ramps from Route 288 to Interstate 64 just west of Richmond.

Sgt. Kevin Barrick said 42 vehicles were involved in 22 crashes. None of the injuries was life-threatening.

Henrico County authorities and state police were called in to help Goochland County police because of the huge number of cars involved.

Police reported several accidents in the area after up to an inch of snow fell Tuesday night and yesterday morning. Bridges and overpasses were especially slick.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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