- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 2, 2007


Height restriction caps more than buildings

A combination of limited land, global warming and rising development costs are helping fuel the debate over height restrictions for buildings in the District.

Analysts think that within 20 years, there may be no open parcels available for development in much of the city’s central corridor. That has some developers talking about revising the city’s 130-foot height limit for most buildings.

The Height Act has placed limits on building heights in the city since 1910. But Brookings Institution researcher Christopher Leinberger says it is driving up real-estate prices and limiting potential tax revenues.

Changing the city’s development regulations would require action by the D.C. Council. Any approved changes would also be subject to congressional review.



Coach gets 9 years for child-porn plea

A former Charlottesville-area youth soccer coach was sentenced to nine years in prison for possessing child pornography and using the Internet to lure a minor for sex.

The sentence in federal court Tuesday was part of a plea deal that Raja Charles Jabbour, 40, reached with federal prosecutors.

Prosecutors said he admitted to seeking out videos and photos of children in sexual acts. He also was accused of driving from New Jersey to Ohio in 2004 to meet with a woman and her two daughters, but prosecutors did not have evidence that he had contact with the children.

Jabbour most recently coached the girls’ varsity soccer team at Albemarle High School.

In addition to the prison sentence, Judge Norman Moon ordered Jabbour to undergo mental health treatment, register as a sex offender and face a deportation hearing after his release.


College to install siren warning system

The University of Mary Washington plans to test a campuswide siren system next week.

Acting President Richard Hurley said the test will start at 11 a.m. Monday near the Fredericksburg school’s main entrance. He said that eventually, sirens and a loudspeaker system will be posted at three spots on campus.

The warning system was proposed after a gunman killed 32 persons and himself at Virginia Tech.

Mr. Hurley also said the school plans to have a text-messaging system in place by the fall. He said that was in the works even before the shootings.


Ex-gays support group sues public schools

A support group for people who renounce their homosexuality is suing Arlington County for refusing to distribute its fliers.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in federal court by Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays.

PFOX officials accuse Arlington Public Schools of infringing on their First Amendment rights by refusing to allow distribution of their materials.

The Fairfax County-based group says other community outreach groups are allowed to distribute material through the school system. Fliers submitted by PFOX for consideration spell out the organization’s goals.

Steven Aden, an attorney with the Center for Law and Religious Freedom, said the school system gives Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, a homosexual rights organization, “open entree into the school system.”


Court upholds removal of teacher’s postings

York County school officials did not violate a teacher’s First Amendment rights when they removed Christian-themed postings from his classroom, a federal appeals court ruled yesterday.

The unanimous decision by a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concerned materials removed from William Lee’s Spanish classroom at Tabb High School at the start of the 2004-2005 school year. Those materials included a flier publicizing the National Day of Prayer and a depiction of George Washington praying at Valley Forge.

Mr. Lee said his classroom bulletin boards were a limited public forum open for teachers’ private expression and speech, but the court agreed with school officials who argued they had discretion to remove the items.

Judge Robert King wrote because materials were in a classroom and not a public space, the items “are not protected by the First Amendment.”



AmeriDebt founder sent to prison

The founder of a credit- counseling firm accused of cheating debtors out of millions of dollars was sent to prison yesterday for failing to turn over assets to a fund set up to repay the debtors.

U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte said Andris Pukke will be held until he produces the assets — estimated at $30 million — that are part of a 2006 settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over the practices of his defunct company AmeriDebt.

Judge Messitte found Pukke in contempt of court in March for using friends and family to hide his money in an Internet gambling company, a Belize housing project and a Latvian bank account. The judge gave Pukke time to come up with the money and yesterday said Pukke had not produced enough.

“This is no longer a game,” Judge Messitte said before Pukke was led off in handcuffs. “This is serious business when you have a court order.”

Pukke pleaded for more time. He said that he had no direct control over the assets, and that he will be put in the difficult position of waiting for third parties to decide whether to turn over the funds.

“Am I going to sit there for the rest of my life?” he asked.

AmeriDebt, which Pukke founded in 1996 in Germantown, promised to help debtors by reducing their monthly payments and providing credit counseling. But the FTC sued the company and Pukke in 2003, saying it charged $172 million in hidden fees, money that funded a lavish lifestyle for Pukke.

Also jailed yesterday was Pukke’s childhood friend, Peter Baker, who was a principal in the Belize project.

Pukke and Baker will be held until they can hand over all of substantial amounts of the hidden assets, Judge Messitte said. He predicted that spending time in jail would speed up their progress.


Traffic stop yields $1 million in pot

A routine traffic stop yesterday led to the discovery of nearly $1 million dollars in marijuana in the bed of a pickup truck, Maryland Transportation Authority Police said.

Officers stopped a rented 2007 Dodge Dakota driven by Marsenna Louise Jenkins, 37, of Stone Mountain, Ga., for speeding about 9:45 a.m. on northbound Interstate 95. During a probable-cause search, officers found 180 pounds of marijuana stashed in a refrigerator and kitchen cabinet in the truck bed, police said.

Miss Jenkins and her passenger, Shelvin White, 42, of Atlanta, were charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, importing marijuana into the state and other drug charges. Miss Jenkins also was charged with speeding and driving in violation of a rental agreement.

Miss Jenkins and Mr. White were being held at the Baltimore County Detention Center on $1 million bail.

Police said the drugs, considered high quality, were purchased in Atlanta and destined for New York City.


‘Urban explorer’ gets six months’ probation

A Howard County judge sentenced a Columbia man to six months’ probation and ordered him to stay away from the Web site that he said inspired him to break in to a Columbia warehouse.

Michael Arndt, 25, thought the warehouse was empty, but it was being used as the soundstage for the HBO series “The Wire.” Mr. Arndt was caught by a security guard and was sentenced for possessing burglary tools.

His attorney said it was Mr. Arndt’s first outing in a hobby called urban exploring — sneaking inside abandoned buildings for a look around. Mr. Arndt read about it online.


Sex shops may get new restrictions

Ocean City’s Planning and Zoning Commission is recommending that the Town Council adopt a zoning amendment setting restrictions on where and how sexually oriented stores can do business.

If approved, the limitations would prohibit the businesses within 600 feet of a church, school, park, amusement park, the beach and the Boardwalk. They are also required to be at least 150 feet from any dwelling.

The recommendations follow the opening this year of a store selling racy videos, lingerie and sex toys.


Couple stole, sold instruments, police say

A Frederick couple was arrested and charged in the theft of more than $108,000 worth of musical instruments from a business where one of them worked.

State police said the couple sold the guitars, piccolos and flutes on EBay.

Police said the thefts spanned most of last year while Shaun Brockington, 28, was working at Music and Arts Center on Buckeystown Pike. He and his wife, Evelyn Brockington, 29, are charged with 18 counts of felony theft, one count of conspiracy and one count of theft scheme.

Police uncovered the thefts while investigating the theft of 23 IPods from a locked office at the business. No one has been charged in the IPod thefts.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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