- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 2, 2006

MARYLAND

GREENBELT

MS-13 member pleads guilty to racketeering

A member of the Hispanic street gang MS-13 pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court to racketeering charges, one of 19 members charged last summer in a crackdown on the gang.

Franklin Mejia Molina, 22, of Silver Spring, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise. He could be given a life term in prison when he is sentenced Dec. 4.

Molina, also know as “Dragon,” is the third MS-13 member indicted in August 2005 to plead guilty. Federal authorities used racketeering laws, usually reserved for organized crime, to prosecute the gang.

Prosecutors said Molina committed crimes that include trying to kill two youths with bottles and knives along with other MS-13 members in June 2005. He also plotted with MS-13 members to kill a police officer.

JESSUP

State reinforces security at prisons

State officials announced more than $5 million in security enhancements yesterday in hopes of making Maryland’s violence-troubled prisons safer.

The money, which corrections officials said Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. approved this week, includes $2.1 million for surveillance cameras. They will be installed at the Maryland House of Correction, Patuxent Institution and the Baltimore Central Booking and Intake Center.

Another $2.1 million has been set aside to buy security supplies and equipment for correctional officers. They include radios, batteries, radio repeaters, walk-through scanners, stab-proof vests, protective masks and X-ray conveyers.

“We have to get this division a safe place to work, and we have to restore the pride in being a member of this division,” said Acting Commissioner of Correction John Rowley, who replaced Frank C. Sizer Jr. last week after his abruptly announced retirement.

Two correctional officers have been killed this year.

Cpl. David McGuinn, 42, was stabbed to death July 25 at the Maryland House of Correction in Jessup. Two inmates have been charged after jamming the locks of their cells, authorities said.

BALTIMORE

Man pleads guilty to taking hostage

A man who took a civilian employee hostage at a Baltimore police station has pleaded guilty to assaulting a police officer, false imprisonment and escape.

Rodney Bethea was arrested April 13 for possession of marijuana and taken to the Northeast District.

After he was interviewed by detectives, Bethea attempted to hang himself with a string in the interview room, police said.

Bethea then took out a halogen light bulb from an overhead light. When Officer Paul Southard walked into the dark room, Bethea jumped off a table and hit Officer Southard over the head with the bulb, causing many lacerations.

Police said Bethea then ran into an office, locked the door and armed himself with scissors and a letter opener. He held a woman against her will, causing a standoff with police for more than two hours.

QUEEN ANNE

Low-risk bird flu strain found in ducks

Mallard ducks in Maryland have tested positive for bird flu, apparently a common, less pathogenic strain that poses no risk to humans, the U.S. Agriculture and Interior departments said yesterday.

The H5N1 avian-influenza virus was found in fecal samples from “resident wild” mallards in Queen Anne’s County.

Five to 10 more days will be needed for definitive tests to confirm whether low-pathogenic H5N1 bird flu was found in the U.S. for the second time this year.

On Aug. 14, the virus was found in two mute swans in Michigan. Scientists said low pathogenic avian influenza commonly occurs in wild fowl.

The Maryland mallards did not appear sick so the samples, collected on Aug. 2 as part of a research project, were not given high priority when sent to U.S. Department of Agriculture labs for testing.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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