- The Washington Times - Friday, March 28, 2008



Kaine signs bill killing driver fees

The daunting fees on abusive Virginia drivers are officially a thing of the past. Gov. Tim Kaine signed legislation repealing the law yesterday.

The repeal, passed as emergency legislation by the General Assembly earlier this month, took effect immediately upon the governor’s signature.

Legislators in both parties clamored to end the fees that usually top $1,000 after Virginia residents last summer angrily protested an exemption from the fees for nonresidents.

The version introduced by Sen. R. Edward Houck, Spotsylvania Democrat, was the first bill filed this year — Senate Bill 1.

Mr. Kaine called for its repeal in January after reports that the fees came nowhere close to generating their expected $65 million a year for highway maintenance and highway deaths continued to mount.

“After six months of implementation, it was clear that the fees did not improve the safety of Virginia highways,” Mr. Kaine said.

The “civil remedial fees” was one of three prominent fixtures in the 2007 transportation funding law that have since been voided.

“This was simply the wrong way to go about funding transportation. And today is the day we correct all that,” Mr. Houck said.


More troopers on I-64 after cars fired on

More troopers were to be stationed along a portion of Interstate 64 last night if police hadn’t caught two suspects who shot at vehicles early yesterday.

State police superintendent Col. W. Steven Flaherty said authorities didn’t have a motive for the shootings that wounded two people and prompted the closure of a 20-mile stretch of I-64 between Charlottesville and Waynesboro for about six hours just after midnight.

There were no signs of an increased police presence during the daylight hours and state police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said motorists would not notice beefed-up patrols after dark.

“You may not see the troopers, but they’re there,” she said.

Col. Flaherty said two cars, a van, a tractor-trailer and an unspecified vehicle traveling westbound were struck by bullets. An unoccupied parked Virginia Department of Transportation truck also was hit.

The two injured motorists were treated at hospitals and released.

Col. Flaherty said he disagreed with reports calling the shootings a sniper incident. He said it “appears to be random firing.”


VCU student shot while waking in park

A Virginia Commonwealth University student from the Shenandoah Valley was robbed and fatally shot early yesterday in a city park.

Police and VCU officials said police responded to reports of a shooting at 1 a.m. and found Tyler Binsted, 19, of Mount Jackson.

Authorities said Mr. Binsted, a sophomore sculpture major at VCU, and a female friend were walking in Byrd Park and were robbed of their car keys by two teenagers. Mr. Binsted was shot in the back as he and his friend walked away.

The assailants fled in Mr. Binsted’s car, a navy blue Honda Accord.


Wilderness fire burns 1,300 acres

Rugged terrain has hampered efforts to battle a fire that has consumed at least 1,300 acres in the St. Mary’s Wilderness area of the George Washington National Forest.

U.S. Forest Service spokesman Chris Rose said yesterday that the Augusta County blaze was about 15 percent contained. He said the fire was burning about 250 acres when it was reported Tuesday.

The cause of the blaze was under investigation.

Mr. Rose said firefighters protected homes near the blaze’s western end. A section of the Blue Ridge Parkway was closed.



Cell-phone ban dies again in the House

Drivers will be able to use hand-held cell phones for another year in Maryland.

A House committee yesterday voted down a ban that narrowly passed the Senate last week.

The bill would have ticketed drivers $50 for talking on a hand-held cell phone or text messaging while driving. The fine could have been waived if the driver bought a handsfree device.

The House has rejected cell-phone driving bans for years, but supporters hoped this would be the year Maryland joined the District and New York state with a ban.

Supporters said they will try again next year.


Academy employee pleads guilty to theft

A Naval Academy food service employee pleaded guilty yesterday to stealing steaks, ribs, condiments and a flat-screen television, federal prosecutors said.

Gerard Hyman, 34, of Glen Burnie, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to theft of government property and a weapons charge. He faces up to 10 years at sentencing June 13.

Prosecutors say academy police officers recovered $3,500 worth of food from Hyman’s 2000 Mercedes-Benz. He had been observed retrieving the food from a trash bin. Prosecutors said the food was fresh and should not have been thrown away.

The 46-inch television belonging to the academy and a .22-caliber rifle were found in a shed in which Hyman lived. He was prohibited from possessing a weapon because of a felony conviction.


3 indicted for fraud on inmate tax returns

Three Maryland residents were indicted on charges of filing fraudulent tax returns on behalf of state prison inmates and stealing about $365,000, federal prosecutors said.

Federal prosecutors said yesterday Giacumo Marzano, 66, of Baltimore, Karen Woodard, 42, of Suitland and Melanie Taylor, 34, of La Plata, are charged with fraud and identity theft in cases dating back to 2004.

Prosecutors said the defendants filed false income tax returns and kept the refunds for more than 100 inmates. The inmates filled out the forms so the three could file the returns.


Driver sentenced for earlier infraction

A man charged with driving his car into a crowd watching an illegal street race last month was ordered yesterday to perform community service for an unrelated traffic infraction.

A Charles County judge set 32 hours of community service for Darren Bullock as punishment for a May 27 citation for driving with a suspended license.

Mr. Bullock, 20, was behind the wheel of a white Crown Victoria that plowed into the crowd gathered on Route 210 in the early morning of Feb. 16 in Accokeek to watch two cars race. Eight people were killed.

No charges have been filed in the latter case, but Prince George’s County police and prosecutors are still investigating.


Man lands in atrium of court house

The lobby at D.C. Superior Court was closed yesterday after someone apparently jumped from an upper level to the atrium floor, court spokeswoman Leah Gurowitz said.

D.C. police and rescue crews were called about 3:30 p.m. and began CPR. The man was taken to a hospital. His condition was not immediately known.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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