- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Accountant sentenced in teachers union case

An outside accountant hired by the Washington Teachers’ Union was sentenced yesterday to 270 days of home detention for her role in the embezzlement of millions of dollars in teacher dues.

Robin Klein had pleaded guilty to making false statements to federal officials. She admitted helping to cover up personal expenses by union officials by including the expenses in legitimate-sounding accounts, such as “Employee Benefits,” “Pension,” “Membership Services” and “Travel and Entertainment,” prosecutors said.

Miss Klein also received four years of probation and 500 hours of community service in sentencing before U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Leon.

Miss Klein was a minor figure in the scandal that saw former union President Barbara A. Bullock, Treasurer James O. Baxter II and office manager Gwendolyn M. Hemphill receive lengthy prison sentences.

The union officials embezzled as much as $5 million over eight years.



Case against Senate’s president dismissed

An assault charge against Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. was dropped yesterday after prosecutors found no evidence that he punched a developer at a Prince George’s County Council meeting last month.

Judge Thurman H. Rhodes dismissed the charge after Baltimore prosecutors, who were handling the case, said they could not find any evidence that Mr. Miller had punched developer Leo Bruso.

Prosecutor Gerard B. Volatile said that he interviewed more than a dozen witnesses and that no one corroborated Mr. Bruso’s claim.

Mr. Miller and Mr. Bruso were at the council meeting Sept. 20 to testify on a piece of proposed legislation. After he finished, Mr. Miller was leaving the room when he encountered Mr. Bruso standing along the wall.

Mr. Bruso said Mr. Miller grabbed his arm with one hand and punched him with the other. Later that day, he filed a complaint with a court commissioner.

Mr. Miller’s attorney, William Brennan, said his client simply had been shaking hands on his way out of the meeting.

“There’s no such thing in Maryland as assault by a handshake,” Mr. Brennan said.


Pilot detained in airspace violation

A pilot from Anne Arundel County who flew into the restricted airspace near the District said he was having radio problems and did not realize his error.

Francis Holthaus, 74, was flying his small plane Monday afternoon from Baltimore to Martinsburg, W.Va., when he strayed into the restricted zone. He said he landed in Frederick to fix the radio. That is when he learned about the violation.

Mr. Holthaus was detained until he could speak to the Secret Service.

He said it was the first time he had been detained for entering a restricted zone. But a pilot with a similar name is listed in Federal Aviation Administration records for an airspace violation in 2003 on the Eastern Shore with the same plane. And the same plane was used by another pilot accused of violating D.C. airspace in 2004.

The plane is owned by Skyhighs Flying Club in Arnold.


4 pharmacy workers charged in scheme

Four employees at a Baltimore pharmacy were arrested yesterday on charges of attempting to distribute 8 million doses of hydrocodone, a habit-forming painkiller.

The four persons made $20 million from January 2005 to October 2006, according to charging documents. U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said prosecutors also are seeking the forfeiture of Newcare Phar-macy, also known as Newcare Home Health Services.

Each faces a maximum of 20 years in federal prison on a money laundering conspiracy charge and five years on a drug conspiracy charge.


Man dies in crash with airborne deer

A car headed north on Route 97 struck a deer with enough force that it flew into oncoming traffic and hit a nearby van, killing the driver, the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office said.

Michelle Lee Becker, 36, of Sykesville, was driving toward Route 32 about 7 a.m. when her car hit a deer and flung it onto southbound traffic.

The deer smashed into the windshield of a van and crushed the roof, killing the driver, Michael Anthony Croker, 37, of Westminster.

Miss Becker was not injured.


Animals stolen from school

Two boys have been charged with breaking into an elementary school yesterday and stealing several small animals, the Charles County Sheriff’s Office said.

The boys, ages 12 and 13, shattered two windows at Arthur Middleton Elementary School at about 6:30 a.m. They took a guinea pig, turtle, hamster and several other items from a kindergarten classroom.

Officers recovered the animals, except for the guinea pig, which had been attacked and killed by a dog.

Each of the boys was charged with second-degree burglary, destruction of property and theft under $500.


Thousands of goldfish found dying in pond

Frederick County Animal Control officers have rescued about 2,000 goldfish from a nearly empty sediment pond.

Residents first reported seeing the goldfish dying in the pond along Ridgeville Boulevard on Sunday.

The pond was being converted into a storm-water-management pond, but it is not clear why it was drained, town officials said.

Animal control officers said the pond was not meant to hold fish. Goldfish are prolific breeders, and just a few can quickly become thousands.

Eaton’s Fish Hatchery in Thurmont offered to care for the surviving fish.



ACLU reminds police of canvassing rights

The American Civil Liberties Union sent letters yesterday to the state’s 185 police departments, reminding police chiefs that door-to-door political canvassing is protected by the First Amendment.

The mailing was prompted by a recent confrontation between a Warrenton police officer and campaign volunteers opposed to next month’s referendum on same-sex “marriage.”

The police cited the town’s anti-solicitation ordinance.

The ACLU said such ordin-ances can prohibit people from seeking donations but cannot forbid political canvassing.

Police Chief Connie Novak said she has not spoken with the officer about the incident.

“The average person doesn’t know the difference in the law, and a lot of times they don’t want people knocking on their door talking about politics,” she said. “If it’s a matter of clarifying to my officers, I will certainly do that.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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