- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 31, 2007



Burned building to be demolished

What remains of a Mount Airy building ruined in a Labor Day fire is scheduled to be demolished today.

Meanwhile, the Town Planning Commission has approved site plans for the building’s reconstruction. The new three-story Watkins building will rise one story higher than it stood before the blaze. Planners say it will be the tallest building on Main Street.

Commercial space and offices will be added to the six apartments and retail space that were in the building before the fire.

Construction could begin in January.

Heat from a brick oven in a pizzeria started the fire, causing an estimated $4 million in damage.


Council reaffirms ‘sanctuary city’ title

Takoma Park wants to steer away from the examples set by nearby counties that are cracking down on illegal aliens.

The Town Council voted unanimously to reaffirm the town’s status as a “sanctuary city” that does not allow police to enforce federal immigration laws.

Two weeks earlier, the council denied the police chief’s request for more flexibility in executing immigration warrants if police encounter deported felons.

Takoma Park has long been known as an independent and liberal jurisdiction, allowing residents who are not U.S. citizens to vote in municipal elections and declaring itself a nuclear-free zone.


Transgender minister can stay with church

The United Methodist Church’s highest judicial body has ruled that a transgender pastor can keep his congregation in Charles Village.

The Rev. Drew Phoenix, formerly the Rev. Ann Gordon, was reassigned in April to St. John’s United Methodist Church, but local clergy appealed the move.

The Judicial Council issued a ruling yesterday saying that “a clergyperson’s good standing cannot be terminated without administrative or judicial action having occurred and all fair process being accorded.”

The Methodists’ Book of Discipline prohibits non-celibate homosexuals from serving as clergy but makes no comment about transgender people. Neither does the council’s decision address “whether gender change is a chargeable offense or violates minimum standards” of United Methodism.

The Judicial Council “ruled that the Baltimore-Washington Conference is operating within the laws of the church,” Bishop John R. Schol said. “I’m pleased that the conference continues to abide by the discipline.”

Mr. Phoenix said he was delighted.

“To me, it’s a historic day in the life of our denomination, and I think the Judicial Council decision is a very important first step in opening the doors of our churches to the transgender community,” he told the Baltimore Sun.



Inert practice bomb falls from plane

A 10-pound, inert practice bomb fell from an F/A-18C Hornet fighter jet and hit a wall outside a warehouse in this resort city as the aircraft was approaching Oceana Naval Air Station yesterday, the Navy said. No one was hurt.

The bomb scraped the concrete wall, causing “extremely minimal damage,” Navy spokesman Mike Maus said.

The aircraft was returning to Oceana after a training mission at the Navy’s bombing range in Dare County, N.C., when the bomb fell at about 12:15 p.m. as the jet was landing, Mr. Maus said. He did not know the jet’s altitude at the time.

The aircraft was not damaged and landed safely, he said.

A Navy board will investigate what caused the bomb to fall and whether the pilot should face any disciplinary action, Mr. Maus said.

The Navy did not release the pilot’s name.

The bomb was a BDU-48, which carries an explosive charge that emits smoke upon impact. Air crews practice air-to-ground bombing using such “bomb dumb units” as a low-cost alternative to live ordnance, he said.


Doctor on probation for unapproved Botox

A federal judge yesterday sentenced a Reston doctor for using an experimental drug on patients.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Rawles Jones Jr. sentenced David E. Berman, 50, to a year’s probation with the condition that Berman serve five days in jail and six months of home confinement.

Berman also was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine and full restitution of $8,810.

According to court documents, Berman treated patients in 2004 with an unapproved botulinum toxin type A drug distributed by Toxin Research International (TRI). Berman treated his patients with the drug as if it were Botox Cosmetic, which is the only form of botulinum toxin type A approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treatment of facial wrinkles.

Court documents say Berman purchased and used the unapproved TRI drug on patients even though the label included the warning “for research purposes only/not for human use.”

The documents say Berman did not disclose to his patients that he was treating them with the unapproved TRI drug and did not disclose the warning on the label to them.

According to court documents, Berman purchased the TRI drug in January and February 2004 and used it on patients in his Sterling, Va., office in January, February and March 2004.

Two Fairfax students indicted in beating

A grand jury in Trenton, N.J., yesterday indicted a Princeton University student and a friend on aggravated assault charges in the beating of another student in June.

Both Nicholas Hermandorfer, 22, a Princeton senior from Clifton, and Adam M. Fassnacht, 22, a recent University of Virginia graduate from Burke, previously turned down a plea deal offered by the Mercer County prosecutor’s office.

They now face prison sentences of three to five years if convicted of the charges, which also include retaliation against a witness, said Casey DeBlasio, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office.

The retaliation charges, Miss DeBlasio said, were filed because the beating victim, Robert Anderson, had turned in Mr. Hermandorfer to university authorities after an earlier altercation.

Princeton Borough police have said the university suspended Mr. Hermandorfer for the previous fight but never forwarded the matter to law enforcement.

Mr. Anderson’s beating, which took place in the early morning of June 1, was severe enough that it broke bones in his face.

Authorities said Mr. Hermandorfer and Mr. Fassnacht confronted Mr. Anderson while he was talking with a young woman in a campus courtyard. They said Mr. Fassnacht assaulted Mr. Anderson and Mr. Hermandorfer joined in.

Murray Gendzel, Mr. Hermandorfer’s attorney, has said there are witnesses who maintain that his client was not involved in the beating and that Mr. Hermandorfer passed a polygraph test.

Mr. Fassnacht’s attorney, Robert E. Lytle, declined to comment.


Prison officer pleads to bribery, sex charge

A correctional officer at a federal prison in Petersburg has admitted to taking bribes from inmates and engaging in oral sex with an inmate, federal authorities said.

Alfreda Best pleaded guilty to bribery of a public official and carnal knowledge with an inmate, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

Prosecutors said Best accepted money from inmates for things such as cell phones, cigarettes, drugs and alcohol.

Sentencing is set for Feb. 7. Best faces up to 15 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release on the bribery charges. She faces up to five years in prison and a $2,500 fine for the carnal knowledge charge.


Toddler pulled from pool dies

A 1-year-old girl who was pulled last week from a swimming pool at a home day care center has died.

The girl died at 1:39 a.m. yesterday, Virginia Beach police spokeswoman Rene Ball said.

The youngster got into the backyard pool last Wednesday, and the woman who ran the day care saw her in the pool and pulled her from the water.

The day care operator and a police sergeant revived the toddler by administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and the girl was taken to a hospital.

Police did not release the names of the girl or the day care operator.


Marshal convicted of beating prisoner

A federal marshal assigned to D.C. Superior Court was convicted on charges of beating a handcuffed prisoner and conspiring with another marshal to cover up the attack.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Stephen Cook, 32, was found guilty of depriving the prisoner of his rights, making false statements and tampering with witnesses.

Prosecutors said Cook dragged a prisoner out of a police van and onto the ground before hitting him on the head repeatedly in August 2005. The man was due in court on a traffic offense.

Prosecutors also said that Cook and another deputy agreed to submit false reports to conceal what happened and that Cook also urged grand jury witnesses to lie.

From wire dispatches and staff reports



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