- The Washington Times - Friday, May 25, 2007



Testimony on gang life allowed, court rules

A detective’s expert testimony about the culture of vengeance among feuding large gangs operating in Maryland did not prejudice the jury in a homicide case, Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals ruled.

The decision involved a 2004 murder in Prince George’s County that police said was motivated by a long-standing rivalry between members of the Mara Salvatrucha gang, or MS-13, and the 18th Street gang.

Police said both gangs have tens of thousands of members, largely Latino, in the United States and Central America.

Mario Ayala was convicted in 2004 of killing Ashley Antonio Urias, 38, who was beaten to death by a group of men wielding baseball bats and a golf club at the Washington National Cemetery in Suitland. Ayala and his companions belonged to MS-13, police said. Mr. Urias belonged to 18th Street.

Although Ayala said he acted in self-defense, prosecutors presented evidence that he had been beaten by another member of the 18th Street gang and was seeking revenge.

That charge was bolstered by testimony from Price George’s County police Detective Michael Porter, who talked about the value gang members place on sticking up for each other.

“Reputation and respect is everything,” Detective Porter testified.

“As a member of MS-13 against an 18th Street member, he could not just sit by and do nothing. For him not to become involved in itself would be a violation where he didn’t back up his homeboys, where he didn’t step up and represent MS-13 … he would have been disciplined, beaten.”

Ayala was sentenced to life in prison. His attorneys argued on appeal that the testimony attempted to get into the accused man’s state of mind, a perspective the appeals court rejected.


Newspaper editor charged with assault

The editor of the Baltimore Examiner was arrested and charged with threatening his next-door neighbors, including a 3-year-old girl, with a shotgun, police said.

According to court documents, Frank J. Keegan, 58, was charged with three counts of second-degree assault and two gun violations. He posted $75,000 bail and was released yesterday afternoon.

The charging documents say Mr. Keegan and his neighbor, David Ayers, had been arguing about cigarette smoke that Mr. Ayers says seeps through the walls from Mr. Keegan’s adjacent row house and causes respiratory problems for Mr. Ayers’ young daughter.

Mr. Ayers pounded on Mr. Keegan’s door Wednesday night after calling an ambulance because his daughter had trouble breathing. According to the court documents, Mr. Keegan yelled a profanity and was seen through a window pointing a shotgun at Mr. Ayers, his wife and his daughter.

Police arrested Mr. Keegan after recovering a shotgun and handgun.


Man gets life term in crossfire killing

A Hagerstown man was sentenced yesterday to life plus 50 years in prison for the fatal shooting of a woman caught in an exchange of gunfire last summer.

Demetrius P. McDaniels, 28, was sentenced in Washington County Circuit Court for the first-degree felony murder of Trisiviah Rodriguez, 20, and the attempted first-degree murder of Russell Walker. Mr. Walker was the intended target, prosecutors said.

Miss Rodriguez was shot in the back July 31 outside a downtown apartment building. Raheen Edwin, a McDaniels associate who cooperated with prosecutors, testified during the February trial that he and McDaniels fired several shots at Mr. Walker and another man after robbing them.

The robbery victims had been talking with Miss Rodriguez and Courtney Smith, 15, when the robbery began, Miss Smith testified. She said she and Miss Rodriguez ran for cover when the guns were drawn, but Miss Rodriguez did not make it into the apartment building.



Shark bites aquarium worker

A shark bit an aquarium employee on the left shin yesterday as the animal was getting a routine checkup.

Beth Firchau, leader of the shark physicals team, was treated at the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center and taken to a hospital for follow-up care.

The bite tore away some tissue but did not reach the bone, said Joan Barns, an aquarium spokeswoman. She is expected to recover fully, Miss Barns said.

“After the initial shock of it, she was talking and very animated and joking with the EMS staff as she was leaving,” Miss Barns said.

Miss Firchau and several other team members were in a part of the shark tank that the public can’t see, so no visitors witnessed the attack.

The 10-year-old, 94-pound blacktip reef shark named Tidbit was healthy and had undergone physicals before without problems, so it wasn’t clear what caused her to bite, spokeswoman Linda Candler said.

The aquarium keeps sharks and other ocean dwellers in its 300,000-gallon Norfolk Canyon, which replicates a natural underwater canyon 60 miles off Virginia’s coast.

It was the first time someone has been bitten since the aquarium acquired sharks in 1996.

Tidbit had been lightly sedated for safer handling. When she was slow to come out of sedation, Miss Firchau moved her through the water to pass oxygen over her gills to help her wake up.

“She released the shark. It began to swim on its own, then it just [went] back to her,” Miss Candler said.


New Wall of Honor includes 137 names

State officials yesterday unveiled Virginia’s new Wall of Honor with 137 names and photos of Virginians killed since the U.S. military involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

It was an emotional day tied to the opening of the state’s first formal memorial for Virginians lost in a conflict still being waged and with no foreseeable end.

The dedication ceremony took place nearby on the State Capitol’s South Portico.

The ceremony included a flyover by two F-18 jets from Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach that thundered across the Richmond skyline.

A seven-man honor guard from Langley Air Force Base in Hampton fired a 21-gun salute. Each of the names was read aloud.


Ex-ACLU officer held on child-porn charge

A former president of the Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is expected to plead guilty to criminal charges stemming from his arrest in February on child-pornography possession charges, according to court records.

A judge in U.S. District Court in Alexandria on Wednesday scheduled a June 1 plea agreement hearing for Charles Rust-Tierney, 51, of Arlington. It was not clear what charges would be included in the plea agreement.

A grand jury indicted Mr. Rust-Tierney this month on one count each of receipt and possession of child pornography. A conviction at trial on both counts could result in a prison sentence of 11 to 14 years, according to federal sentencing guidelines.

Mr. Rust-Tierney, who also coached Little League baseball in Arlington, has been in jail since his arrest.

Among the items found on Mr. Rust-Tierney’s computer was a six-minute video that prosecutors described as “a compilation of some of the worst child torture and rape scenes” that police have seen in their various investigations of child exploitation, all set to music by the rock band Nine Inch Nails.

Mr. Rust-Tierney was president of the ACLU’s Virginia chapter from 2002 through 2005.


Officer kills suspect who pulled a gun

A Fairfax County police officer fatally shot a suspect in a drug investigation, police said.

Police say officers were serving search warrants Wednesday in an ongoing drug investigation at the Fairview Motel in the 6400 block of Richmond Highway when a car entered the parking lot, carrying a man wanted by detectives in the back seat.

Police said the man failed to comply with verbal commands and pulled a gun. Randall Leroy Rollins, 28, was shot several times by one officer and died at the scene.

The officer, whose name hasn’t been released, is on administrative leave.


‘Laptop flasher’ strikes again

Fairfax County police are looking for a “laptop flasher.”

A man approached a 14-year-old girl Wednesday morning as she was waiting for a bus, police said. He spoke with the girl, showed her pornographic material on a laptop computer, exposed himself and then ran away.

Police said there have been about 20 similar cases across Northern Virginia in the past year and they think this one may be related.


Juvenile arrests drop with alternative effort

Arrests of juveniles in the District for serious crimes have dropped 15 percent since 2005 — a decrease officials attribute largely to a new program that doesn’t just lock away the city’s wayward youths.

“It really gives the kids a sense that there is something else out there to do,” said Judge Anita Josey-Herring, presiding judge of the D.C. Family Court and chairman of the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative.

“These programs are a great option for kids who would not otherwise be released pre-trial.”

From 2002 to 2004, juvenile arrests for violent crimes including murder and assault increased by 23 percent in the District, officials said.

But after the city began implementing JDAI in July 2005, arrests for such offenses fell by 15 percent and the number of youths detained on an average daily basis fell by 33 percent.

The number of juveniles arrested in the District decreased from 2,952 in 2004 to 2,928 in 2005, according to statistics from D.C. police and the city’s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services.

The initiative has brought together courts, the police department and social service agencies with the goal of detaining some youths but diverting others to different forms of supervision.

For example, instead of holding a juvenile offender until trial begins, some youths are electronically monitored or sent to community-based reporting centers for evening programs. Others are ordered to meet face-to-face monitors up to three times a day.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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