- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 22, 2008



Professor again refuses to testify

A former university professor has refused for a third time to testify to a grand jury investigating Muslim charities and businesses in Northern Virginia.

Former University of South Florida professor Sami al-Arian’s refusal to testify during grand jury proceedings Thursday at U.S. District Court in Alexandria sets the stage for prosecutors to bring contempt of court charges against him for a third time.

Mr. al-Arian is in the 19th day of a hunger strike — his third in recent years — to protest his treatment.

Prosecutors say Mr. al-Arian was a leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. But his 2005 trial ended in an acquittal on some counts and a hung jury on others. He eventually pleaded guilty to lesser charges.

Since then, prosecutors have sought his testimony for a related investigation. But Mr. al-Arian has refused despite a grant of immunity.

He has twice been held on civil contempt of court charges that have extended his prison term by nearly a year.


Swedish man arrested in sting

Arlington County police have arrested a man accused of traveling from Sweden to Virginia to have sex with a teenage girl.

Investigators said Jesper Lundberg, 41, of Jarfalla, Sweden, met an undercover Arlington police detective online and arranged to pay to have sex with the detective’s fictitious 14-year-old daughter.

Investigators said Mr. Lundberg made airline and hotel reservations this week, then traveled 16 hours to Virginia from his home in Sweden.

Mr. Lundberg was arrested at his hotel Thursday without incident. He is being held at the Alexandria Adult Detention Center.


Home invader demanded drugs

Caroline County authorities said a Corbin man armed with a sawed-off shotgun burst into the home of a paraplegic neighbor, demanding painkillers.

Police said Joshua Thomas Smith, 20, was charged in the home invasion that happened early Wednesday.

Counts against him include armed robbery, breaking and entering, and gun charges.

Robert Newcomb said the robber left, then returned and held him at gunpoint as he went through his prescriptions, looking for painkillers.

Authorities said Mr. Smith is being held without bond in the Pamunkey Regional Jail.



Quiet cars worry blind community

Concerns from blind people that super-quiet hybrid vehicles pose a safety danger to pedestrians who can’t see has gotten the attention of Maryland lawmakers.

The Senate voted yesterday to give preliminary approval to a bill calling for study of hybrid vehicles, which run very quietly.

Blind people say hybrids pose a hazard to those who rely on their ears to determine whether it’s safe to cross the street or walk through a parking lot.

The bill, which requires another vote before heading to the House, would direct state transportation officials to study the problem.


Man gets 30 years for ‘accidental’ death

A Washington County judge has sentenced a New York City man to 30 years in prison for a fatal shooting at a Hagerstown bar.

Stephen Urquhart, 27, was sentenced Thursday for his February guilty plea to second-degree murder and gun charges.

Urquhart was charged in the shooting death in May of Christopher Ayala, 23, of Greencastle, Pa. The victim was shot during a fight inside Zipper’s bar.

Urquhart’s attorneys argued Urquhart and Mr. Ayala were friends, and that the shooting happened accidentally.

Urquhart was captured in August in New York City.


Zoning accord puts turbines in motion

A pending zoning amendment could allow wind power turbines to be built in Carroll County.

County Attorney Kimberly Millender said a public hearing on the amendment should be scheduled within the next month. Residents will be able get information about the proposal at a public workshop to be held about a week before the hearing.

The amendment would require setbacks of at least the height of the tower plus an additional 20 feet from property lines, overhead utilities and roads. The Public Service Commission would have to approve any wind energy systems.

Department of General Services director Ralph Green says the amendment was drafted after citizens and businesses asked for information about having the wind systems in the county.


Teacher’s conviction upheld by court

Maryland’s highest court has refused to grant a new trial for a former Centreville middle school teacher convicted of one count of sexual abuse of a female student.

Christopher Tribbitt, 28, was convicted in a non-jury trial in Queen Anne’s County Circuit Court in November 2006. He was given a 25-year suspended sentence and ordered to serve 18 months in prison.

Tribbitt was accused of abusing the girl while she was an eighth-grade student at the middle school and while she was in ninth grade at Queen Anne’s County High School, where Tribbitt was a volleyball coach.

Maryland’s Court of Appeals issued an opinion last week upholding the conviction.


Apology offered for racial remark

An attorney for the Carroll County school board says board member Jeff Morse offered to resign after a school system worker complained that Mr. Morse used a racial slur during a visit to a construction site.

Attorney Edmund O’Meally said school officials instructed Mr. Morse to apologize rather than resign. Superintendent Charles Ecker says the board concluded Mr. Morse was sincerely apologetic and no other action was taken.

Mr. O’Meally said Morse met last week with those who heard the remark and apologized.

The complaint involved a comment Mr. Morse made about rock that was creating problems for construction workers. Mr. Morse acknowledged the remark was highly inappropriate.

Mr. Morse was appointed to the board last year by Gov. Martin O’Malley and is running for a full term.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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