- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 7, 2006


Adams Morgan fire ruled an arson

A fire Sunday night in Adams Morgan that left three persons injured was caused by arson, police and fire investigators said.

Fire crews responded to the fire in 1800 block of Vernon Street Northwest at about 11 p.m.

A 45-year-old woman was hospitalized with fractures from jumping out of the building. Authorities said two other persons also were injured.

The fire caused minimal damage to the structure, but the six families who live in the building had to find somewhere else to stay because the power was out.

D.C. fire department spokes-man Alan Etter said accelerant was used to start the fire.

Fire officials are asking anyone with information to call the arson tip line at 866/91-ARSON (912-7766).

Five robbed at church service

Five persons were robbed at gunpoint while worshipping at a church in Northeast, police said.

Authorities said two men entered a chapel at the Union Wesley Zion Church, in the 1800 block of Michigan Avenue Northeast, while services were being held about 8 a.m. Sunday.

Police said purses, wallets, cash, credit cards and a cell phone were taken from three women and two men.

Woman sentenced for unlicensed business

A Maryland woman was sentenced yesterday for operating an unlicensed money-transmitting business that moved more than $15 million overseas from 2001 to 2004.

Aissatou Pita Barry, 39, of Silver Spring, was sentenced to 40 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina, who also ordered that Barry forfeit $273,627.

She pleaded guilty in September 2005 to operating an unlicensed money-transmitting business.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said the case represents the first conviction in the District under a new federal statute.

Court records show Barry admitted that she incorporated Guinex International Inc. in the District on Aug. 16, 1999. Since its inception, Guinex conducted transactions on behalf of nearly 5,000 customers.

Barry and other Guinex employees did not ask customers for information about the source of the money they were transmitting, ICE spokes-woman Kadia H. Koroma said.

Court records show Barry admitted failing to obtain a license to operate a money transmission business in the District and failing to register her business with the secretary of the treasury, as required by federal law.



Judge denies delay for mailing ballots

An Anne Arundel County judge yesterday denied a request by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups to extend the deadline for voters to postmark absentee ballots.

The ACLU filed a last-minute lawsuit, saying some voters did not receive their ballots in time to meet yesterday’s cutoff.

The suit sought to allow voters to mail in their ballots on Election Day. It named the Maryland Board of Elections and Linda H. Lamone, the state elections administrator.

The lawsuit came after the board decided not to extend voting despite a record number of absentee ballot requests.

The ACLU had not decided whether to appeal the decision.


Police shootout leaves one dead

Prince George’s County officers were involved in a shootout that left one man dead after a home robbery early yesterday morning, police said.

Officers arrived at the home in the 8400 block of 48th Avenue in the town’s Berwyn section at about 1:30 a.m. They saw two masked men come out from the back of the house, and one of them pointed a gun at officers, police said. Three officers fired at the two men, killing one and wounding the other.

The wounded man was tracked down by police dogs in a nearby wooded area, where he was arrested and taken to a hospital for treatment of a single gunshot wound.

Police said they confiscated a revolver used by the dead man, whose name was withheld pending notification of family.

Police investigated reports that a third gunman had escaped, authorities said.

The officers involved in the shootout were placed on routine administrative leave.


Church evacuated after bomb threat

A church was evacuated after someone called in a bomb threat during worship services, the Charles County Sheriff’s Office said.

A person telephoned Zion Baptist Church on Sunday and made the threat. The pastor decided to evacuate the congregation, police said. Police arrived at 10:09 a.m.

Police checked the building with explosives-sniffing dogs but did not find a bomb.

Investigators think the call was made from a pay phone at a nearby store.

The church was the target of a hate crime in September, but that incident has not been connected to the bomb threat, police said.


Dentist pleads guilty to selling drugs

A Seabrook dentist confessed yesterday to distributing drugs including Oxycodone and cocaine.

Derek Curtis, 63, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court, federal prosecutors said.

Curtis gave prescriptions for drugs to people not receiving dental treatment at his Forestville office, U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said. In all, Curtis wrote prescriptions for more than 26,000 pills from 1997 to 2004.

He also sold 16 grams of cocaine to a confidential source for $300.

He will be sentenced in February.


25,000 children given flu vaccine

After a month of giving free flu vaccinations to children, state health officials said 25,000 children 5 to 11 have received the vaccine so far.

Two months remain in the program that, and more than 90 clinics plan to participate.

A previous program reduced school absenteeism among students and staff, enabling children to spend more time in the classroom during flu season, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said.

Parental consent is required.


Teen indicted in rapes at high school

The Frederick County grand jury has indicted a Tuscarora High School student in sex assaults of four students.

Michael T. Smith, 17, is charged as an adult and faces 18 criminal counts — including rape, assault and false imprisonment. He is being held on $1 million bail.

The assaults date back to January; the most recent attack occurred last month, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said they are puzzled that three of the four girls did not come forward immediately, but they said it is not uncommon for the victims of sex offenses to stay silent.



Death row inmate claims trial misconduct

Attorneys for a man scheduled to be executed Thursday said his life should be spared because a prosecutor withheld information about a key witness.

John Yancey Schmitt, 33, is set to die by injection at Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt for the fatal shooting of security guard Earl Dunning, 39, during a 1999 bank robbery in Chesterfield County.

In their petition to the U.S. Supreme Court and in a clemency petition to the governor, Schmitt’s attorneys said prosecutor Warren Von Schuch withheld information that a witness was offered immunity for cooperating with authorities.

In the clemency petition, they also said the shooting of Mr. Dunning was accidental.

Mr. Von Schuch, Chesterfield County deputy commonwealth’s attorney, said there was no prosecutorial misconduct and described the killing as clearly premeditated.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the sentence in July but criticized the prosecution for failing to disclose the information.


Tech workers hit limits on child-porn defense

Three technology specialists testified yesterday that a new federal law’s restrictions on access to evidence in child-pornography cases would discourage them from working for defendants in such cases.

Attorneys for David L. Knellinger of Richmond — who is charged with receiving, possessing and attempting to distribute child porn — are challenging a provision that requires that “contraband” in such cases remain in government possession. Courts are required to deny defense requests to copy the evidence, provided the government makes the material “reasonably available” to the defendant, it just cannot be taken off government property.

In the case of Mr. Knellinger, the key evidence is his computer hard drive and 32 sexually explicit “movies” ranging from 15 seconds to about eight minutes long, according to federal prosecutors.

Two technology specialists testified that the restriction would impede communication and that it would be too expensive to move their equipment to a government-controlled facility.

Attorney H. Lewis Sirkin of Cincinnati testified that it would be difficult to find people willing to work for defendants under the new restrictions.

At the end of the daylong hearing, U.S. District Judge Robert E. Payne asked for additional written briefs on a motion to strike down as unconstitutional a provision of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which President Bush signed in July.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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