- The Washington Times - Friday, January 4, 2008



False credentials don’t alter verdict

A Baltimore County judge said a police firearms expert’s false testimony about his credentials was immaterial to his analysis of bullet fragments that helped convict a former Baltimore police sergeant in a 1993 murder.

The ruling by Circuit Judge Kathleen G. Cox was the first to consider a defense challenge to a conviction based on the falsified credentials of ballistics specialist Joseph Kopera. Judge Cox ruled, however, that Mr. Kopera’s credentials were meaningless to his job and his lies were not a basis for a new trial for former Sgt. James Kulbicki.

Kulbicki was convicted in the fatal shooting of Gina Nueslein, 22, whose body was found at Gunpowder Falls State Park.

Mr. Kopera killed himself in March after being confronted by Kulbicki’s attorneys about his falsified credentials.


Judge triples time for MS-13 member

A federal judge has more than tripled the sentence of a man convicted on gun charges because the man was a leader in the MS-13 street gang.

U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus sentenced Mario Efrain Arias, 20, of Adelphi, to 55 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. Arias was convicted of having a gun with the serial number scratched off.

Sentencing guidelines called for 10 to 16 months in prison. But Judge Titus called that “woefully inadequate” in this case. He said more time was needed to reflect the seriousness of the charge for a gang leader.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Maryland said it has charged 46 members of MS-13 — or Mara Salvatrucha — with various federal offenses.


Sri Lankan sentenced for gun smuggling

A Sri Lankan man who admitted trying to smuggle weapons to a terrorist organization in his native country was sentenced yesterday to four years and nine months in prison.

Thirunavukarasu Varatharasa, 37, conspired with three other men to export machine guns, surface-to-air missiles and other military hardware to the Tamil Tigers.

They contacted an undercover business in Maryland and sent an itemized wish list of weapons they wanted to acquire for the Tamil Tigers, the group that has been fighting since 1976 for a separate state on the Indian Ocean island of Sri Lanka. The State Department designated it as a terrorist organization in 1997.

Varatharasa pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization and attempted exportation of arms and munitions.

He was ordered to serve three years of supervised release after his prison term, and he will be deported to Sri Lanka after serving his sentence.


Plane slides off airport runway

A small plane crashed late yesterday afternoon at Bay Bridge Airport on Kent Island, but no injuries were reported.

Maryland State Police spokesman Greg Shipley said the plane went off a runway at the airport and sustained minor damage.

There is no immediate word on what type of plane it was or how many were onboard.



Total traffic toll remains incomplete

State police know that the number Virginia traffic fatalities in 2007 passed the 1,000 mark, but it could take several months to determine how far above that number the final toll goes.

State police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said as of yesterday afternoon, the preliminary total stood at 1,014, with several more reports from local law-enforcement agencies pending. The last time Virginia’s traffic death toll passed 1,000 was 1990.

More than 10,000 people have died in traffic crashes on Virginia highways since the beginning of 1997, state police said.


Students return after extermination

An elementary school resumed classes yesterday, four months after school officials closed it because of a rat infestation.

Fairview Elementary students and teachers began the school year in trailers on the campus of another area school while exterminators got rid of the rats and cleaning crews scrubbed the building.

Kindergarten teachers took their new charges on tours of the building yesterday, pausing to let students look at the larger, more comfortable classrooms.

The Roanoke school superintendent decided in August to close Fairview after exterminators said the rat problem was widespread.

Principal Julie Bush said t she put in the first request to get rid of the rodents in 2005.


Auto shop manager wins $1 million raffle

A Berryville woman who manages an auto repair shop is the first $1 million winner in the Virginia Lottery’s New Year’s Eve raffle.

Lottery officials showed up yesterday at a Goodyear dealership in Sterling to present a check to Susan Hogan, the shop manager.

Ms. Hogan’s ticket was one of four worth $1 million. The others were purchased in Hampton, Stephens City and Newport News.

The lottery made 440,000 tickets available, and they sold out on the afternoon of the drawing.


Boy, 11, charged in break-in, battery

Police arrested an 11-year-old Fairfax County boy. They say he walked into an unlocked house and touched a sleeping woman inappropriately.

The woman told police that she awoke about 6 a.m. Monday and found the boy in her room.

Police said the boy touched the woman and then fled when she saw him. He apparently entered the house through an unlocked sliding door.

Someone saw the boy re-entering his home nearby, and police questioned him. He was charged as a juvenile with burglary with the intent to commit a misdemeanor and misdemeanor sexual battery.

Police say the boy was released to his guardian.


Man rescues driver from frigid pond

Two men were treated for hypothermia after one rescued the other from a pond Wednesday night.

Fairfax County police said a driver lost control of a minivan and splashed into a retaining pond on Walney Road at Route 28.

A second driver, who witnessed the plunge, rushed to help. The rescuer used a stick to pull the first man out of the freezing water.


More charges due over seized explosives

A former Navy SEAL faces additional charges after police seized more than 200 types of military-grade explosives from his home.

Investigators said Elbert Tillman Jr., 34, had enough illegal explosives to do damage as far as a one-third of a mile radius from his home.

Authorities seized Claymore anti-personnel mines, detonators, C-4 plastic explosives and tracer ammunition Saturday. They also seized 18 rifles, numerous handguns, two computers and 28 metal military boxes of assorted ammunition.

He is charged with four felony counts of manufacturing and possessing explosive devices.

Authorities are awaiting input from federal authorities before lodging additional charges. Investigations also continue to determine whether any of the items were stolen government property.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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