- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 19, 2006


Capitol tunnel workers file complaint

Workers who maintain the tunnels beneath the Capitol say they are working in hazardous conditions.

The workers spend more than seven hours a day in the tunnels, where they said they are exposed to high levels of asbestos, falling concrete and temperatures of up to 160 degrees.

Their complaint against the Architect of the Capitol said the office has neglected the conditions and then harassed and intimidated the crew after they complained publicly.

Three of the 10 workers have seen specialists for asbestos-related illnesses. The others want to see a doctor, too, but they want Congress to pay for their tests and treatment.

The architect’s office had no comment about the harassment issue but said it has tried to protect the workers’ safety. The tunnel crew says no improvements were made.



Bank robber sentenced to 16 years

A Forestville man was sentenced yesterday in a string of bank robberies, federal prosecutors said.

Donnell Duane Berry, 30, was sentenced to more than 16 years in prison. He received an enhanced sentence because he is a career offender.

He was ordered to pay restitution of almost $47,000.

Berry robbed 13 banks over four months last year in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, netting more than $47,000. Prosecutors said the most Berry received during a robbery was about $8,800. The least was a little more than $400.


Man gets 30 years for choking ex-wife

A Howard County judge sentenced a man to 30 years in prison for choking his ex-wife so badly that she remains in a vegetative state 15 months later.

During the sentencing Tuesday, Ghafour Asemani, 38, apologized and tearfully took responsibility for what he had done. The 30-year sentence is the maximum for attempted murder.

Samira Salmassi, 39, divorced her husband in 2001, but they shared an apartment. Court documents say that on July 9, 2005, they got into an argument over phone calls that he taped of Mrs. Salmassi talking with other men.

Asemani admitted getting angry, striking her with the tape recorder and putting his hands around her mouth, nose and neck. Afterward, he said, he took their children to a relative’s house in Virginia before surrendering to Howard County police.


Woman charged in failed robbery

A woman has been arrested on charges of threatening a jewelry store clerk with a butcher knife, Anne Arundel County police said.

Amanda M. Green, 21, of the 1400 block of Isted Road, is charged with robbery and assault.

Police said Miss Green entered the Gem Boutique at 7700 Ritchie Road about 3 p.m. Tuesday and pulled out an 8-inch knife, demanding that the female employee open the register.

The employee hit the holdup alarm and told Miss Green that police were on the way, police said.

When Miss Green tried to flee, she found the door locked and tried to break the glass. When she could not, she went behind the counter and began to assault the employee, police said. A passer-by was able to enter the store and hold Miss Green until police arrived.


Hostages taken at carryout

A police officer on routine patrol surprised two suspected robbers at a Haitian carryout last night, setting off a hostage situation that lasted almost five hours, Prince George’s County police said.

The incident started at Caribbean Delight in the 7800 block of Riggs Road at about 6 p.m., said Cpl. Debbi Carlson, a police spokeswoman.

One gunman, who was wearing body armor, was taken into custody immediately, but the other remained inside late last night.

The hostages, including two children, were released shortly before 11 p.m.

There were no known injuries, Cpl. Carlson said.



Charges certified for escapee’s brother

The brother of a man who escaped from police custody and led authorities on a manhunt that left two dead detailed the escape plan to an investigator, and police intercepted a telephone conversation in which the two talk about “Plan B,” prosecutors said Tuesday.

Michael Morva, 26, is charged with conspiring to help his brother escape. The charges were certified to a grand jury Tuesday after a preliminary hearing.

William Morva, 24, is charged with killing a hospital security guard and a Montgomery County deputy after escaping in August. The dramatic two-day manhunt shut down Virginia Tech’s campus on the first day of classes.

Prosecutors said Michael told an investigator that his brother planned to fake an injury to get to the hospital, then escape to a trail that links Christiansburg to Blacksburg. He also said his brother planned to use deodorant spray to throw off tracking dogs.

About an hour before William escaped Aug. 20, Michael bought deodorant spray from the Christiansburg Wal-Mart, prosecutors said.

William was taken to a hospital complaining of sprains from a fall. While there, police said, he overpowered a deputy and escaped. He is accused of killing hospital security guard Derrick McFarland as he fled and Cpl. Eric E. Sutphin, who was closing in on him on a hiking trail the next morning.

Michael was arrested about five hours after his brother’s escape. He also was charged with possession of marijuana.

The Morva brothers were jailed from Dec. 31 to Jan. 15 in connection with a string of attempted robberies. Michael was released on bail, but William remained behind bars.

Prosecutors played a short audio recording made by jail authorities from an imprisoned William to his brother in which a voice a deputy identified as Michael says, “Plan B is fine,” and a voice identified as William replies, “No, Plan B is not fine.” Michael then says, “It’s better than nothing.”


Search suspended for missing boater

The Coast Guard yesterday suspended its search for a man who disappeared earlier this week.

Mark Wayne Kellum, 44, of Hayes, was discovered missing from the fishing vessel Lady Annie on Tuesday morning about 40 miles off the coast of Chincoteague.

Officials said Mr. Kellum did not have a life vest.


Troubled limo company gets contract extended

The Department of Homeland Security has extended the contract for a limousine company caught up in a congressional bribery scandal.

A department spokesman said Homeland Security has told Shirlington Limousine it will continue its contract for driving employees around the Washington area.

The company is part of a federal investigation into whether a defense contractor provided prostitutes and limos to Randy “Duke” Cunningham, a California Republican who resigned from Congress in disgrace last year.

Shirlington’s president has appeared before a grand jury in San Diego as part of the investigation.

A congressional subcommittee held a hearing over the summer on how Shirlington got two Homeland Security contracts despite the company’s history of poor service.


VRE perplexed by low ridership

The chief executive officer of Virginia Railway Express said he is trying to determine why ridership is down on the Fredericksburg line.

Dale Zehner told Stafford County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that although the rail line’s on-time performance is better, the number of passengers is down. Mr. Zehner said he thinks the retirements by some riders, flextime for employees and telecommuting have contributed.

Officials hope new rail cars will bring back some riders. Eleven cars will be added between next month and February. Fifty more cars will arrive toward the end of 2008.

Mr. Zehner said he does not support a fare increase now. An increase this past summer angered many riders and might have played a role in the downturn in ridership, he said.


Woman convicted in dog attack

A woman was convicted yesterday of letting her two dogs attack a friend whose scalp was partially bitten off.

Tammy Sajdak, 34, had been charged with aggravated malicious wounding but pleaded guilty at her trial in Hampton Circuit Court to a lesser charge of malicious wounding in the May 21 attack of Tracie Wesson, 39.

The women had been arguing at a friend’s house when Sajdak left and returned with another woman, a pit bull and a German shepherd. The two women rush-ed to Miss Wesson and began hitting her while the dogs were biting her, prosecutors said.

Miss Wesson was hospitalized for a week while her scalp was reattached. She faces several more surgeries.

Sajdak faces up to 20 years in prison when sentenced Jan. 8.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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