- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 20, 2008


FBI agent charged with drug dealing

A decorated federal immigrations officer has been arrested on drug distribution charges, government officials said.

The officials told the Associated Press that Special Agent Kevin Merkel is accused in a secret indictment of possession and intent to distribute crystal methamphetamine. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because charges had not been unsealed. It was not clear whether Mr. Merkel has been cooperating with authorities since his arrest.

Mr. Merkel is a veteran officer who won the Attorney General’s Award for Excellence in Law Enforcement - one of the field’s highest honors.

He was arrested by the FBI on Oct. 29 in the Washington area. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) declined to comment Wednesday, as did an FBI spokesman. ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility and the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general were part of the probe.

A Department of Justice Web site details a July 2000 ceremony in which Mr. Merkel was one of five officials honored with the attorney general’s award for launching a “breakthrough” undercover operation into an illegal immigrant smuggling ring.

In recent years, Mr. Merkel has worked on a major homeland security initiative called Secure Communities, coordinating with local law enforcement agencies to deport illegal aliens in police custody.

Man pleads guilty to extorting doctor

A man accused of helping his girlfriend extort $180,000 from a doctor has pleaded guilty in an extortion plot, federal prosecutors said.

Adriane Osuagwu, formerly of Pittsburgh, Calif., entered his plea Wednesday in U.S. District Court. Sentencing is set for Jan. 30.

Prosecutors said Osuagwu and his nurse girlfriend, Queen Nwoye, threatened to reveal her past affair with neurosurgeon Ikemba Iweala. They said Osuagwu and Nwoye demanded payments to keep the relationship a secret. The doctor paid the money but alerted authorities.

Dr. Iweala was married to Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a high-ranking World Bank official and a former government minister of Nigeria.

Nwoye was convicted last year of extortion and sentenced in June to 20 months in prison.

D.C. man charged in infant’s death

Authorities charged a D.C. man in the beating death of an infant.

Jonathan Austin, 33, who lived with the boy and his mother, was charged Wednesday with second-degree murder, police said.

Ronjai Butler, 8 months, was unconscious when he arrived Sunday with his mother at Howard University Hospital, police said. He was pronounced dead a short time later.

The medical examiner’s office ruled the case a homicide and said the boy’s death was caused by blunt-force trauma, Officer Quintin Peterson said. Mr. Austin’s relationship to the boy is not clear, he said.

Teens stabbed at high school

Three teenagers were stabbed at Anacostia Senior High School in Southeast, authorities said.

A group had been in a fight at the school Wednesday afternoon, when officers found three boys with stab wounds and another boy who had an asthma attack, Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Officer Josue Aldiva said. All were taken to a hospital.

Officer Aldiva said that one of the boys had been arrested and that other charges were pending.

Firefighters responded to a small fire set in a hallway at the school about the same time, D.C. fire department spokesman Alan Etter said.



Police files show broad surveillance

Surveillance of death-penalty foes and other activists by the Maryland State Police was broader and went on longer than previously disclosed, according to files that were turned over by police to dozens of activists who were improperly labeled as terrorists.

The files revealed that those labeled as terrorists included environmentalists, peace activists, animal rights activists and some people who have never participated in protests in Maryland.

Police allowed 53 people whom the agency acknowledged it wrongly classified as terrorists to view its files on them. However, the files it turned over were heavily redacted, and the activists and their attorneys said Wednesday that state police still have not been totally forthcoming.

The agency spied on war and death penalty foes during a 14-month period in 2005 and 2006, police have said. However, some of the files were created as late as January 2007, and some detail surveillance of groups that protested other issues.

Greg Shipley, a state police spokesman, said Wednesday that ongoing surveillance only occurred during the 14-month period and that the other files were created in response to specific incidents that sparked concern among investigators. Surveillance of the groups and individuals was halted once it was determined they did not pose a threat to public safety, Mr. Shipley said.

An independent report by former Maryland Attorney General Stephen Sachs found that state police violated federal regulations and encroached on the First Amendment rights of residents by spying on the groups. He also found that police did not have reasonable suspicion to conduct the surveillance.



Foster enters race for attorney general

Arlington lawyer Dave Foster has entered the Republican Party’s three-way race for the 2009 attorney general nomination.

Mr. Foster, elected to the school board in heavily Democratic Arlington, is running against state Sen. Ken Cuccinelli and former federal prosecutor John Brownlee for the Republican nomination.

The Republicans will pick their nominee at a state party convention in May in Richmond.

Mr. Foster said he is running partly because he is a pragmatist, not an ideologue, who can do something that has eluded his party for years - win in Northern Virginia.

In announcing his candidacy, he proposed giving the state attorney general powers to crack down on election fraud and abuse and theft of state funds.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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