- The Washington Times - Monday, January 15, 2007



Juvenile Services chief was frequent traveler

In his four years as head of Maryland’s troubled juvenile-services agency, Kenneth C. Montague has traveled out of state at least 29 times — leading critics to suggest that he should be spending more time trying to reform the agency and its programs.

Mr. Montague’s trips to Miami Beach, Phoenix, San Francisco, Las Vegas, New Orleans and San Diego, among others, are described in records released by the state in response to a Public Information Act request by the Baltimore Sun.

Mr. Montague told the Sun that he learned valuable information on his trips — many of them to conferences held at posh venues — and that he sees no need to defend them.

During Mr. Montague’s tenure as Juvenile Services secretary, federal investigators and an independent state monitor have outlined serious problems — including severe overcrowding and unacceptably high levels of violence.

The U.S. Justice Department found that the agency was violating the constitutional rights of youths held at the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center because conditions were so dangerous. The state monitor noted that another facility was so crowded that boys had to sleep on cots in the bathroom.

Many of Mr. Montague’s trips were funded by private organizations. Critics say the cost isn’t as troubling as the questions about Mr. Montague’s judgment.

State Sen. James E. DeGrange Sr., Anne Arundel Democrat, said Mr. Montague’s trips do not appear to have resulted in significant improvements to the agency or its treatment of juvenile offenders.

Mr. Montague, however, said that was precisely what the trips help achieve.

For example, he said, a trip to Chicago led to the development of evening reporting centers in Baltimore and in Prince George’s County, which resulted in some youths being kept out of juvenile detention facilities they didn’t need to be in.

“You have to go out and find out what’s out there,” Mr. Montague said. “You’re not going to find it here in the state of Maryland.”


Woman charged with embezzlement

A West Virginia woman has been charged with embezzling more than $452,000 from a social services group where she had worked.

Kelley Boyd Macher of Inwood, W.Va., faces trial next month in Washington County on three counts of felony theft scheme and embezzlement.

Court records show the embezzlement from the nonprofit Potomac Case Management Services occurred from July 2000 to August 2006.

The theft charges carry a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison upon conviction, and the embezzlement count carries a five-year maximum term.


Prosecutors move to seize severance

Federal prosecutors pursuing public corruption charges against former state Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell are trying to seize the $400,000 buyout he received when he stepped down as head of the state’s largest insurance fund for injured workers.

U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein argues in papers filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore that Mr. Bromwell’s severance package from the Injured Workers Insurance Fund should be targeted for forfeiture.

Mr. Bromwell and his wife, Mary Pat, were indicted in October 2005 on racketeering conspiracy charges. Prosecutors said the Baltimore County Democrat cashed in on his ability to steer multimillion-dollar projects by accepting bribes from David Stoffregen, president of the construction company Poole and Kent.

Last year, federal prosecutors moved to seize thousands of dollars’ worth of assets from the Bromwells and Mr. Stoffregen.

The move crippled Mr. Stoffregen’s ability to pay for his own attorney, and he was forced to seek a federal public defender. He pleaded guilty in November to racketeering conspiracy, mail fraud and filing a false tax return — one of six guilty pleas in cases related to the investigation of the Bromwells.

The conspiracy case includes a forfeiture action against the Bromwells that has already frozen most of their assets.

Attorneys for the Bromwells have appealed that action, arguing that it hurt their clients’ ability to defend themselves. Their appeal is still pending.


High court restores man’s death sentence

Maryland’s highest court has restored the death sentence for a man convicted in the slayings of an elderly Rosedale couple, reversing a lower court ruling that Lawrence Borchardt had ineffective counsel at a capital sentencing hearing in 2000.

An Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judge granted Borchardt a new sentencing hearing in 2005.

But a divided Court of Appeals ruled Friday that the actions taken by Borchardt’s defense attorney amounted to a conscious trial strategy rather than errors or ineffective representation.

“Simply because counsel’s strategy did not succeed, and Borchardt was sentenced to death, it does not follow that defense counsel were ineffective,” Judge Irma S. Raker wrote in the majority opinion.

Chief Judge Robert M. Bell issued a dissenting opinion in the case, which was partially joined by two other judges.

The ruling came three weeks after the judges unanimously halted executions in the state, ruling that Maryland’s execution protocol had never been submitted for public review as required by law.

Borchardt, 55, was convicted of stabbing Joseph and Bernice Ohler in their Rosedale home on Thanksgiving Day 1998. The couple had twice given money to Borchardt, a heroin addict who claimed that his wife needed cancer treatments. When the Ohlers told him they didn’t have any more money to give, he killed them.


Child, 5, drowns in base housing

A 5-year-old drowned in family housing on the Army post, base officials said yesterday.

A spokeswoman said emergency personnel went to the home about 2 p.m. yesterday. The child was pronounced dead at Howard County General Hospital at 2:12 p.m.

No other details were released.


Manhunt finds suspect in woman’s slaying

After a manhunt that lasted more than 24 hours, police arrested a suspect in the shooting death of a Worcester County woman whose body was found Thursday at a home in West Ocean City.

Gregory W. Stokes, 30, of Middle River, was taken into custody without incident early Saturday at a home in southeast Baltimore, Maryland State Police said.

Mr. Stokes has been charged in a warrant with first-degree murder in the death of Pamela Balk of Pittsville. Officers from several agencies searched for him in several locations in Baltimore County before they caught up with him at a home in the city, state police said.

Neighbors told the Salisbury Daily Times that the home where Miss Balk’s body was found belonged to her mother. Mr. Stokes is thought to have driven away in a vehicle belonging to Miss Balk, which was recovered Thursday night.


State wants answers on PG voting machines

The state elections chief is asking Prince George’s County election officials to explain why they failed to provide enough voting machines at two-thirds of the county’s precincts.

Elections Administrator Linda H. Lamone sent a letter to the county’s Board of Elections last month. The letter was made public Friday. It says the county provided too few voting machines at 133 of its 206 precincts.

State law requires one machine for every 200 registered voters. Long lines were common on Election Day at many polls in Prince George’s, and some voters waited until midnight.

For example, the voting station at the University of Maryland was supposed to have a dozen machines but was provided with four.



UVa. tops rankings on lung transplants

A new report suggests that those receiving a lung transplant at the University of Virginia Medical Center have a better chance of surviving the operation than at any other hospital in the nation.

The rankings by the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients found that the hospital had the nation’s highest survivability rate. The registry tracks organ donation, availability and transplant survivability.

The hospital performed 52 transplants from 2003 to June 30, 2005. During that period, the survival rate was 98.08 percent.

Dr. David R. Jones, director of UVa.’s lung-transplant program, said the hospital has become the lung-transplant leader because his team modified its protocols based on its research into toxicity, helping patients survive the procedure.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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