- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 28, 2007


U.S. foreign aid coordinator resigns

The head of the Bush administration’s foreign aid programs abruptly resigned yesterday after his name surfaced in an investigation into a high-priced D.C. prostitution ring.

Two persons in a position to know the circumstances of his departure told the Associated Press that Randall Tobias’ name surfaced in connection with the investigation involving Deborah J. Palfrey, who is accused of running an illegal escort service in the District.

It was Mr. Tobias’ own decision to resign, according to one of the persons, who said the issue came up only in the past day or so. The two persons spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is still under way.

U.S. officials would not confirm the information. A message left on Mr. Tobias’ voice mail seeking comment was not returned.

The State Department said that Mr. Tobias informed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that he “must step down” and that he is returning to private life for personal reasons.

Gun charges against Webb aide dropped

Authorities dropped charges yesterday against an aide to Virginia Sen. Jim Webb who carried a loaded gun into the U.S. Capitol complex.

“After reviewing and analyzing all of the evidence in the case, we do not believe the essential elements of the crime of carrying a pistol without a license can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt,” U.S. Attorney Jeff Taylor, top prosecutor in the District of Columbia, said.

Webb senior aide Phillip Thompson, 45, was arrested on March 26 after Capitol Police spotted the loaded pistol and two other loaded magazines in a briefcase being scanned by an X-ray machine at the entrance of the Russell Senate Office Building.

Mr. Thompson told the officer at the building’s entrance that the weapon belonged to Mr. Webb. The senator said later he did not give Mr. Thompson the gun but refused to say whether it was his. Mr. Webb told reporters that Mr. Thompson had carried the gun into the building “completely inadvertently.”

D.C. law prohibits carrying a handgun or concealed weapon without a license.

Howard University president to retire

Howard University President H. Patrick Swygert said yesterday he will retire at the end of June 2008.

In a letter to the university community, Mr. Swygert, 64, outlined goals for his final year in office and pointed to his accomplishments since taking the helm of the historically black institution in 1995.

Mr. Swygert, who earned his undergraduate and law degrees from Howard, said the school has produced Fulbright and Rhodes scholars, recruited acclaimed faculty and upgraded the school’s research facilities. He also noted that the school’s latest fundraising program passed its goal of $250 million roughly 10 months ahead of projections.

But some faculty members are critical of the way he has run the university. Theodore Bremner, chairman of the faculty Senate, accused Mr. Swygert of allowing the school’s financial problems to affect academic budgets.

He wrote to the board of trustees in March and called for Mr. Swygert’s firing, saying it was time to end “an intolerable condition of incompetence and dysfunction at the highest level.”



104 from Va. Guard ordered to active duty

The Virginia Army National Guard says 104 soldiers of the engineering company based at West Point have been called to active duty.

The members of the 237th Engineer Company will enter active federal service at their home armory on July 19 for a brief time, then travel to their mobilization station at Fort McCoy, Wis.

The soldiers are being ordered to active federal service for 13 months.

About 1,200 more soldiers are set to mobilize in the next two months and 665 are already in active federal duty.


Man charged in ethnic threats

An Arlington man was charged with issuing threats after sending an e-mail to his sister warning that he had a plan to shoot Arab women and Hispanics.

Charles Gerbino was arrested Thursday and charged in U.S. District Court with issuing threats across state lines. The crime is punishable by up to five years in prison.

A magistrate ordered Mr. Gerbino to remain in jail pending a detention hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

Police investigated after learning of an e-mail Mr. Gerbino sent to his sister in Florida.

His sister told police that Mr. Gerbino frequently has issued angry rants, but said his language has become more violent in recent years. According to a court affidavit, she told police “it is just a matter of time before he acts out.”

The public defender’s office appointed to represent Mr. Gerbino declined to comment.



Police release name of slain clerk

Howard County police have released the name of the woman who was fatally shot earlier this week while working at a 7-Eleven store in Columbia.

Alevtina Zhilina, 40, was a Russian living as a legal resident in the U.S., police said. Her family in Russia was informed of her death late yesterday.

Miss Zhilina was living on Green Dory Lane and was working as a clerk at the store in the 5700 block of Columbia Road.

She was shot shortly after 3 a.m. Thursday and died at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

Police said a man outside the store called 911 after hearing the gunshot and seeing a masked man run from the store toward Route 108.

Police are investigating whether the shooting was part of a robbery attempt.

The company that owns 7-Eleven is offering a $25,000 reward for information about the shooting. Howard County police are offering an additional $5,000.


Camden Yards to get surveillance cameras

Six new surveillance cameras will be installed to help keep an eye on activity around the perimeter of Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Jim Slusser, the head of security and public safety with the Maryland Stadium Authority, said money from the Department of Homeland Security will pay for the new cameras.

The authority gave preliminary approval to the cameras this week. Installation should begin soon.


Man pleads guilty of having child porn

A Joppa man accused of molesting one of his wife’s piano students pleaded guilty yesterday to possession of child pornography, federal prosecutors said.

David Barry Mentzer, 51, entered the plea in U.S. District Court in Baltimore as part of a plea agreement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baltimore said.

Mentzer, who has two previous convictions for sexual offenses against children, according to prosecutors, will be sentenced June 8.

The charges stem from material seized from Mentzer’s home in March 2006. Acting on accusations of molestation involving the 12-year-old piano student, police seized several computers containing pictures of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, prosecutors said.

Because of his previous convictions, Mentzer faces between 10 and 20 years in prison.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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