- The Washington Times - Friday, October 24, 2008



Environmentalists protest surveillance

A Maryland environmental advocacy group has joined civil liberties advocates in calling for legislation to address state police surveillance activities.

The action comes after members of the group received letters informing them they were wrongly classified as terrorists.

Mike Tidwell, founder and executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and Joshua Tulkin, a former deputy director at the group, say they were among 53 activists who were wrongly entered into a police database.

The names of antiwar and anti-death penalty advocates also were wrongly entered into the state police’s Case Explorer criminal intelligence database.

Activists joined the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland at a news conference Thursday denouncing the surveillance. They want lawmakers to ensure it doesn’t happen again.


Immigration group to build new center

Maryland’s largest immigrant advocacy group says it will break ground on a new multicultural center and headquarters building.

CASA de Maryland will start construction Monday on the 84-year-old McCormick-Goodhart Mansion in Langley Park. The facility will provide services to the nearby community, house CASA’s statewide departments and serve as an incubator for small nonprofits that advocate for immigrants.

CASA began a $33 million fundraising campaign last year and has reached 87 percent of its goal, officials said.

The group’s director of development, Jennifer Freedman, said $13.8 million will go to renovations and the remainder to run programs for the next three years.


Drivers’ graffiti raps speed cameras

Some motorists are spray-painting graffiti on Montgomery County roads to express their frustration with cameras that catch speeding drivers.

Someone recently painted the word “SCAM” in large letters in front of a River Road speed camera in an obvious protest against the cameras, police said.

And in least two other instances, the words “GREEDY SCAM” and “GOV. SCAM” have been scrawled in large letters on other roads near the cameras.

Authorities take the vandalism very seriously, Montgomery County Police Lt. Paul Starks said.

The county has used speed cameras since May 2007. If a motorist is traveling more than 10 miles per hour above the speed limit, a picture of their license plate is taken and a $40 fine is sent in the mail.


State voter rolls rise to 3.4 million

The Maryland State Board of Elections has released voter registration numbers that will be used to determine voter turnout in Maryland on Election Day.

There are about 3.4 million registered voters in Maryland. That’s up from more than 3 million in 2004, nearly a 10 percent increase.

There are 1.9 million voters who are registered Democrats, compared with about 926,000 registered Republicans - a 2-to-1 margin for the Democrats.



Bribe charges denied by county sheriff

A sheriff pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal conspiracy and money-laundering charges stemming from accusations that he took bribes in exchange for promising not to interfere with a cockfighting ring.

Acting U.S. Attorney Julia Dudley announced 22 charges against Page County Sheriff Daniel Presgraves. In addition to the accusations that he took bribes from operators of the Little Boxwood cockfighting pit, the indictment accuses Sheriff Presgraves of trying to coerce witnesses and sexually assaulting and harassing a dozen female employees.

The sheriff pleaded not guilty at a court appearance that afternoon and was released on $50,000 bond. U.S. Magistrate B. Waugh Crigler ordered him not to act as sheriff while the case is pending. If convicted on all charges, he faces up to 304 years behind bars.


Guard consolidation opposed by county

Officials in Nottoway County are trying to mobilize opposition to the proposed consolidation of Virginia’s Army and Air National Guard.

The consolidation from Blackstone to suburban Richmond would mean the loss of some of the guard operation and employees now housed at Fort Pickett, county leaders say.

The plan announced last week is scheduled to be completed by 2014. The Guard said it will continue to use Fort Pickett and make improvements to the facility. More than 600 of the nearly 900 employees who work at Fort Pickett are scheduled to remain.

County officials are asking local residents, legislators and elected officials in other counties to oppose the plan, saying the base helps the economically struggling region.


Pet python suspect in death of owner

A Virginia Beach woman was strangled by her pet python, police think.

Amanda Ruth Black’s husband came home around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday and found her lying in a bedroom. The snake’s cage was open.

Mrs. Black, 25, was pronounced dead at the scene. A preliminary medical examiner’s report indicates she died of asphyxiation.

She was trying to give the 13-foot tiger python medicine when the incident happened, police said.

Animal control officers found the snake in the bedroom and are holding it at their office.

The case remains under investigation.


Police groups eye lawsuit over exams

Two police groups in Chesapeake are threatening the city with legal action if the results of recent tests for promotions in the force are voided.

The Fraternal Order of Police and the Coalition of Police warned the city Wednesday not to delay or invalidate the results of the test.

The test results would send 30 white men to the ranks of sergeant or lieutenant. None of the women or blacks who took the tests scored high enough to earn promotion.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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