- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 8, 2007



Father pleads guilty to gun charges

The father of a teenager who killed two Fairfax County police officers during a shooting spree last year pleaded guilty yesterday to two federal gun-law violations as part of a plea bargain.

Brian H. Kennedy, 50, of Centreville, pleaded guilty to making false statements in connection with the purchase of an AK-47 assault rifle and unlawful possession of firearms by a marijuana user.

In court papers, Kennedy admitted that he regularly used marijuana and shared it with his son Michael and his son’s friends. He also admitted that he lied when he said on gun-purchase forms that he was not a drug user.

In May 2006, Michael Kennedy fatally shot two police officers in an attack on the Sully District police station. Detective Vicki Armel died at the scene. Officer Michael Garbarino died from his injuries nine days later.

Michael Kennedy used his father’s guns in the shootings, according to the indictment.

As part of a plea bargain, prosecutors dropped six other charges and agreed to seek a sentence in line with federal guidelines, which roughly call for a prison term of three to four years. Otherwise, he would face up to 20 years when he is sentenced Oct. 26.

Kennedy did not speak during the hearing and declined to comment afterward.


Loudoun asks Kaine for drought aid

Loudoun County supervisors have asked Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine for emergency drought aid.

Officials said lost summer crops and grazing grass could cost farmers in the county at least $20 million this year.

The next step is for Mr. Kaine to ask the U.S. Department of Agriculture to declare the county a drought disaster area. That would make it eligible for disaster aid such as low-cost loans to farmers.


High school student dies in Nicaragua

A 17-year-old class president and soccer player died suddenly while on a humanitarian trip to Nicaragua, his family said.

Douglas Robert Wardle suffered a brain hemorrhage Thursday and died in Managua, his family told the Daily Progress of Charlottesville.

Douglas would have been a senior at St. Anne’s-Belfield School. He and his soccer teammates hoped to make a run at the state championship this year, but the highlight of his summer was the trip where he and 19 classmates built houses for the poor, said his father, Bill Wardle.

Douglas was on his second trip to Nicaragua with an organization called Bridges to Community. His mother, Nancy, accompanied him last year; his father went along this year.

The teen was in a tent with a friend when he collapsed. He was rushed to a hospital, but nothing could be done, his father said.


Thousands sign up for campus alerts

More than 6,400 people have signed up for the University of Virginia’s new emergency- notification system, and the school said yesterday that organizers hope to have 10,000 registered by the end of September.

The system will send text messages, limited to 125 characters, to those who register. The messages also will be displayed on a dozen computer screens throughout campus, which were planned for installation before the April 16 shootings at Virginia Tech.

The 13 preapproved messages deal with anticipated emergency situations, including severe weather, gunmen, bomb threats, chemical spills and major electrical outages, the school said.

The university yesterday also announced the creation of an office of emergency preparedness to oversee the school’s policies for natural, epidemic and terrorist emergencies.

Marjorie L. Sidebottom, who has served as director of emergency preparedness for the university’s health system since 1993, will oversee the office, which has been in the planning stages since last fall, the school said.


Deck truss bridge worries officials

Local officials voiced concerns about a 2-mile bridge that links the Northern Neck to the Middle Peninsula one day before the deadly bridge collapse in Minneapolis.

The two-lane Robert O. Norris Bridge over the Rappahannock River is among a dozen deck truss bridges in Virginia that share design similarities with the Minnesota bridge that collapsed into the Mississippi River on Aug. 1.

The Virginia Department of Transportation began a federally requested review Monday of the Norris span and the 11 others.

On the eve of the Minneapolis bridge collapse, Northern Neck officials met with state Transportation Commissioner David S. Ekern in Kilmarnock to express doubts that the Norris Bridge could serve their region much longer.

“We’ve all been assured it’s in good shape,” said Delegate Robert J. Wittman, Westmoreland Republican, who arranged the meeting with Mr. Ekern. “But, we all know the bridge is not going to last forever.”

The district’s VDOT bridge engineer, Gary Shelor, estimates that a new, four-lane bridge would cost about $150 million. In 1957, the Norris Bridge was completed for less than $15 million.

The steel span carries state Route 3 in a soaring arc 110 feet above the tidal Rappahannock River.


Pile of oily rags causes school fire

A two-alarm fire at Maury High School early yesterday was caused by a pile of oily rags that spontaneously combusted, Norfolk fire investigators said.

More than 100 football players and coaches were spending the night in the school as part of a football camp, but no one was hurt.

Fire Battalion Chief Bruce Evans said investigators determined that the blaze was caused by oily rags and combustible cleaning agents, which were being used to refinish the gymnasium floor.

Chief Evans said the rags burst into flames and caused $10,000 worth of damage to the floor, bleachers, walls and ceiling.

The 96 players and six coaches were sleeping in the school’s cafeteria when the fire alarms sounded from the gym at the other end of the school at about 3:15 a.m. Chief Evans said the coaches evacuated the players.

Firefighters got the fire under control by about 3:45 a.m.


Town, police sued for use of stun gun

A man injured in a Taser incident in 2005 has filed a $4.5 million federal lawsuit against Colonial Beach and two of the town’s police officers.

James Keller, 45, says he suffered “great personal injury” when police Sgt. Ryan Hood shot him with the electronic stun gun. The lawsuit states that Sgt. Hood and police Chief Courtlandt Turner acted together to deprive Mr. Keller of his constitutional right.

After a four-day trial in May, a federal judge acquitted Sgt. Hood and Chief Turner of all 15 criminal counts arising from Sgt. Hood’s use of the Taser on Mr. Keller in September and on another man the previous month.

Mr. Keller is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, plus court costs and attorney fees.

Sgt. Hood, Chief Turner and the town have not filed responses to the lawsuit.



Elections board weighs campaign donor posting

The Maryland State Board of Elections has removed the home addresses of campaign contributors from its online campaign-finance database but will reconsider the move.

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County, took over maintenance of the elections board’s Web site last year, and it began allowing users to download donors’ complete addresses free of charge.

Since then, board staffers have asked UMBC to remove the information, said Ross Goldstein, the board’s deputy administrator.

Patuxent Publishing Co. newspapers, a division of the Baltimore Sun Co., first reported the change. Patuxent has asked the elections board to reconsider, and Mr. Goldstein said the board would do so at an Aug. 23 meeting.

The addresses of donors are available at the board’s Annapolis office, but in the past, the board has charged $20 to $100 for electronic or mailed requests. Mr. Goldstein said such requests were made mostly by reporters and political consultants.

The board first began posting campaign-finance information online in 2000.


Prison ordered to cut water use

State environmental officials have ordered a prison to draw less water from an Eastern Shore aquifer where hundreds of residents have had wells go dry.

The Eastern Correctional Institution in Princess Anne, the state’s largest prison, has been drawing nearly 10 times more water than permitted from the Manokin aquifer on the Lower Eastern Shore.

Though the Maryland Department of the Environment said it is not clear whether the prison has caused more than 120 private wells to go dry in Somerset and Wicomico counties, the department ordered the prison yesterday to cut its usage within a month from 230,000 gallons a day to its permitted 25,000 gallons a day.

Also yesterday, the governor’s office announced that residents affected by dry wells would be eligible for grants or loans from the state to help dig new ones.

The assistance will be determined by income level, which some residents call unfair.


Official seeks to ban electronic billboards

Anne Arundel County Council member Jamie Benoit wants to ban electronic billboards along county roads.

He thinks that the moving words and pictures on the high-tech signs are distracting for drivers and contribute to traffic accidents.

The Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce said the county has seven or eight of the signs.

Chamber President Bob Burdon said the chamber has not taken a position, but he thinks a height restriction would reduce distractions.

Similar signs are prohibited in Howard County.

The Federal Highway Administration plans to commission a study to find out whether the billboards contribute to accidents.


Rules updated on exotic pets

Baltimore health officials have finalized the regulations for city residents who want to own exotic animals.

The regulations will take effect Oct. 6.

Under the new rules, one person can have only 125 pigeons, and pigeon owners must have a clean and odor-free coop or loft for the birds.

Residents will have to get a permit to own a Vietnamese potbellied pig, and they need to keep the animals at less than 150 pounds.

City residents are prohibited from having bears, bats, ostriches, squirrels, cattle, monkeys, mongooses and kangaroos as pets.

Other prohibited animals include emus, roosters, ostriches, turkeys, geese, spiders and scorpions.

Certain kinds of snakes, centipedes and alligators and crocodiles also are banned.


Frederick sheriff opens field office

The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office has a higher profile in Urbana.

Sheriff Charles A. Jenkins formally opened a new field office at the Villages of Urbana community center Monday.

Deputies will be able to use the office at any hour of the day or night, but Sheriff Jenkins said people in custody will not be brought there. He envisions it as a place where deputies can conduct interviews when they aren’t conducting their regular car or bike patrols.

Renovations to the office cost $10,000.


Woman sentenced in Williamsport arson

A 19-year-old woman has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for torching a historic Williamsport home after she and her family were evicted for not making promised repairs to the publicly owned building.

Lauren A. France of Clear Spring offered no explanation or apology Monday at her sentencing hearing in Washington County Circuit Court.

“I don’t really know what to say,” France told Judge Frederick C. Wright.

A jury convicted her in May of arson and malicious destruction of property after witnesses testified that she poured gasoline and threw a burning paper towel onto the porch Aug. 30.

The fire caused at least $150,000 worth of damage to the house, which is owned by the town of Williamsport and dates to the 1750s. It once belonged to town founder Otho Williams.

France’s family had been evicted 11 months earlier after her mother failed to make promised repairs in return for living there rent-free.


Metro set to handle large Beckham crowd

Metro said it’s ready to handle the extra crowds when David Beckham and the Los Angeles Galaxy play D.C. United tomorrow.

The game is a sellout, with 45,000 fans expected at RFK Stadium.

Metro will begin rush-hour service at 3 p.m.

After the game, shuttle buses will give fans free rides to Union Station, where they can connect to Red Line trains.

Metro also will run extra trains out of the Stadium-Armory station if necessary.

From wire dispatches and staff reports



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