- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 8, 2006


New Douglass Bridge will cost $250 million

Engineers have come up with four concepts for a new South Capitol Street Bridge.

The bridge handles 60,000 vehicles a day.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton said the bridge will cost about $250 million. Under the current proposal, the federal government would cover 80 percent of the cost, with the rest left to the District. Mrs. Norton, a Democrat, said she is trying to get support for increasing the federal share.

The new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge will be moveable, but the design may be different from the existing bridge. A new stationary span would have to be 145 feet high, or similar to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, so ship traffic could still reach the Washington Navy Yard.

Officials hope to open a new bridge by 2011.

Car crash causes gas leak at home

A car jumped the curb near a Southeast home yesterday and severed a natural-gas line.

Fire department spokesman Alan Etter said the accident caused a gas leak in the 500 block of Oakwood Street. Washington Gas crews were working to clean up the gas.

Mr. Etter said the driver of the car might have suffered a medical episode, which may have caused him to lose control of the car about 9:30 a.m. The driver was taken to the hospital for observation.

There was no structural damage to the single-story home.

Barry due in court today for sentencing

D.C. Council member Marion Barry returns to court today for a second attempt at sentencing in a tax case.

The former mayor, a Democrat who represents Ward 8, pleaded guilty in October to willful failure to file federal and city tax returns for 2000. Under the plea, he acknowledged not filing from 1999 — the year his fourth and final term as mayor ended — through 2004. During that period, court records indicate he earned at least $534,000 for consulting at brokerage firms where he offered municipal bond investment advice.

Compounding his problems, documents from the U.S. attorney show Mr. Barry tested positive for cocaine and marijuana use during a November drug test, a routine procedure in such cases. In 1990, during his third term as mayor, an FBI sting caught Mr. Barry on video smoking crack in a hotel room. He served a six-month prison sentence.

Mr. Barry, who turned 70 on Monday, was to be sentenced Feb. 8, but that had to be postponed when he failed to file documents showing he had paid the back taxes. Potential sentences range from probation to as much as 18 months in prison and a maximum fine of $100,000.



Hybrid cars can use carpool lanes for now

The state Senate has voted unanimously to extend permission for drivers of hybrid vehicles to use carpool lanes.

The legislation permits hybrid and other clean-fuel vehicle drivers to use carpool lanes until July 1, 2007. But only those drivers who purchase cars and get clean-fuel vehicle license plates before this July 1 will be allowed to use the carpool lanes on Interstates 95 and 395 because of congestion concerns.

The measure has been approved by a veto-proof margin in the House of Delegates.


Smoking blamed in fire that killed couple

Careless smoking is to blame for a fire last evening that killed an elderly couple, fire investigators said.

Someone improperly disposed of smoking material in the family room of the home in the 6500 block of Renwood Lane, Fairfax County fire officials said. Firefighters found a woman dead inside the home and a man who was found inside later died at a hospital.

The names and ages of the victims were not released.


Pit bull escapes yard, bites two persons

A pit bull that escaped from a fenced yard bit two persons before police fatally shot it, authorities said yesterday.

The dog reportedly was being watched by relatives of the owner when it got out. It first bit a woman and then attacked a man who tried to help her. Neither had to be hospitalized.

Police said they saw the dog roaming around.

“They just sort of stood there and watched the dog, and they made a plan of what to do next when the dog began to rush at an officer to attack him, and the officer had to shoot the dog,” said Officer Courtney Young, a spokeswoman for the Fairfax County Police Department.

“It’s a very sad thing. Unfortunately, it had to be done,” Officer Young said.


Washington and Lee names new president

Kenneth P. Ruscio, an alumnus and former politics professor at Washington and Lee University, will serve as the university’s 26th president, the school announced yesterday.

Mr. Ruscio, the dean of the Jepson School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond, takes office July 1.

“The university has a venerable past but also enormous opportunity and promise for what lies ahead,” said Mr. Ruscio, who earned a bachelor’s degree in politics from Washington and Lee and a master’s and doctorate from Syracuse University.

Mr. Ruscio, 52, replaces Harlan Beckley, who has been acting president since Tom Bursch left in September to become provost of Notre Dame.


Student pleads guilty in school bomb plot

One of four students accused of plotting to blow up two high schools pleaded guilty yesterday, Albemarle County prosecutors said.

The trial for four boys charged in the bomb plot got under way in a closed court yesterday morning.

One of the four — a 16-year-old student at Western Albemarle High School — pleaded guilty to conspiring to blow up a school and commit murder. The felonies could land the student in a juvenile prison until he is 21 years old.

A 15-year-old from Albemarle High and two 13-year-olds from Jack Jouett Middle School face felony charges. All three will be tried together.

Albemarle Juvenile and Domestic Relations Judge Susan Whitlock ordered the trial closed to the public to protect the confidentiality of two 13-year-olds. State law provides such protection to children younger than 14 even if they are charged with a felony.


$1 million returned after bribery scheme

Federal officials returned more than $1 million to Buchanan County on Monday from money forfeited in a scheme in which contractors bribed officials with cash and even hunting dogs to win flood-cleanup contracts.

The money was part of that surrendered by 16 persons caught in the federal probe dubbed “Operation Big Coon Dog.”

The bribery scheme followed the May 2002 floods in Buchan-an County that caused nearly $30 million damage to remote coal communities. Prosecutors said some county officials accepted $545,000 in cash bribes and gifts from contract-ors and rewarded them with $7.6 million in contracts to clean up the flood-ravaged county.

Two county supervisors, a former supervisor, two county officials, a federal contract worker and 10 area businessmen and contractors either were convicted or pleaded guilty.

“During a time when the people of Buchanan County needed assistance the most, they were victimized by the very people sworn to help them,” U.S. Attorney John Brownlee said as he presented the money to the county. “It is gratifying to be able to present the people of Buchanan County with the assistance that is rightfully theirs.”


Student drug tests will be voluntary

School Board officials approved a volunteer drug-testing program for Williams-burg and James City County students in grades six through 12, abandoning a random testing plan that could have been the broadest in Virginia.

That plan would have tested high school students involved in sports and other extracurricular activities, as well as students who get permits to park their cars on campus.

Instead, the board Tuesday night unanimously approved member Mary Ann Maimone’s amendment, enabling parents to sign up their children for testing.

“Someone bravely said tonight: This policy is not perfect, but please pass it,” Miss Maimone said after an hour of debate.

It settled an issue that has splintered the community.

Jamestown High School senior athlete Marcellus Stepney joined many students sporting white “yes” stickers at the Tuesday meeting.

“Drugs are becoming a big issue at our school. Even the parents that are superinvolved are clueless,” he told the board.

Still others sported yellow “no” buttons, argued that students should be assumed innocent until proven guilty of drug use — not vice versa.


Construction starts on Route 50 bridge

The makeover has begun on the Route 50 bridge, and motorists can expect some delays as work on the 62-year-old span progresses.

The Virginia Department of Transportation said the eastbound travel lanes on Route 50 will be reduced to give crews space to build temporary travel lanes in the median.

Traffic will be shifted to those lanes in the coming weeks while demolition of a 24-foot segment of the nearly 100-foot bridge is under way.

The speed limit in the construction zone will be lowered to 35 mph. The work is expected to be completed by July 2007.


Falwell won’t allow visit of gay rights group

A nationwide bus tour to promote homosexual rights at conservative Christian colleges may get off to a rocky start tomorrow when it visits Liberty University, which has announced that the activist group is not welcome on its Lynchburg campus.

Haven Herrin, co-director of Soulforce’s Equality Ride, said the 35 group members intend to go to Liberty’s campus anyway to promote an end to discrimination against homosexual, bisexual and transgender students.

The Rev. Jerry Falwell, the university’s chancellor, characterized the visit as a fundraising ploy and said he would not permit his school to be used for a press demonstration.

Members of Soulforce, which is based in Lynchburg, were greeted with cookies when they met with Liberty students on campus last spring to discuss the treatment of homosexuals.

For Mr. Falwell, once was enough.

University spokesmen would not say whether the activists would be arrested if they went onto the private college’s property for a rally.

“I’m actually very excited that this is our first stop,” Miss Herrin, 24, of Dallas, said in a telephone interview. “We have to go to these places and start this dialogue.”



79 kilos of cocaine found in car on I-95

A North Carolina man was arrested on Interstate 95 in Cecil County with about 79 kilograms of cocaine in his vehicle, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday.

According to an affidavit, Ramon Pena, 26, of Durham, N.C., was pulled over by a state trooper Monday on northbound I-95 for following a vehicle too closely.

The trooper noticed a large suitcase on the back seat and that Mr. Pena’s hands were shaking uncontrollably. A search of the vehicle revealed 79 large, compressed bricks of cocaine, each weighing roughly 1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds. Police also recovered more than $21,000 in cash.

Mr. Pena was charged Tuesday with possession with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years and a $4 million fine.


Missing boy’s stepdad sentenced for assault

A man whose 2-year-old stepson disappeared in California in 2002 pleaded guilty yesterday to an unrelated assault charge and was sentenced to five years in prison.

Tieray D. Jones, 27, of Frederick, pleaded guilty to first-degree assault in Frederick County Circuit Court. In return for his guilty plea, prosecutors dropped charges of attempted second-degree murder and two handgun violations.

The charges stemmed from gunfire in Frederick on Oct. 7, 2004. The target of the shooting wasn’t hurt.

Jones was questioned, but not charged, in the unsolved 2002 disappearance of Jahi Turner, the 2-year-old son of his wife, Tameka. Jones told police the boy disappeared from Balboa Park in San Diego when Jones went to buy a soda.

Last month, Frederick County prosecutors dropped a second-degree murder charge against Jones, citing the disappearance or changed statements of nearly a dozen prosecution witnesses.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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