- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Rebate encourages trees in District

Officials at the D.C. Department of the Environment say D.C. residents will receive a $50 rebate for planting trees on their property.

The department is working with Casey Trees, a tree-planting group, to encourage participation in “environmental beautification.” Department director George Hawkins said trees will “give the entire neighborhood more beauty and better air quality.”

Participants are required to pledge to care for the tree for at least two years. Rebates will be given to residents who plant tree species that aren’t invasive or attract pests. Planters also will receive a free watering bag to allow proper tree care.

Ex-tax manager faces sentencing in March

A former D.C. tax office manager convicted of embezzling nearly $50 million from the city’s treasury will be sentenced in March.

Harriette Walters pleaded guilty last month to wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and tax evasion. She faces up to 18 years in prison and an order to pay restitution.

Walters admitted to stealing more than $48 million by issuing the refunds to friends and relatives and then sharing the proceeds with them. Nine other people have pleaded guilty in the tax scam.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan scheduled her sentencing for March 25.



Teen pleads guilty to killing family

Nicholas Browning, 16, of Cockeysville, pleaded guilty to four counts of first-degree murder in the February slayings of John W. Browning, 45; Tamara, 44; Gregory, 14; and Benjamin, 11.

Browning wept in court as prosecutors described the crime. A sheriff’s deputy brought him a box of tissues, and Browning wiped his eyes and blew his nose.

In exchange for the plea, prosecutors will not seek a sentence of life without parole. Instead, they will seek a maximum of two consecutive and two concurrent life sentences, meaning Browning eventually could be released on parole. Under state law, he would serve at least 23 years behind bars.

Browning was a week shy of his 16th birthday at the time of the slayings, too young under state law to face the death penalty. But his motive remains a mystery.

Other than noting that Browning had been arguing with his father, police and prosecutors have said little about what led to the slayings. A psychiatrist testified at an earlier hearing that Browning was physically and verbally abused by his parents and thought he could do nothing to please them. State psychiatrists found Browning had no diagnosable mental illnesses.


Man pleads guilty in fatal stabbing

Baltimore prosecutors say a man has pleaded guilty to fatally stabbing a teenage girl in the neck several times and slashing her throat.

Calvin Puryear, 21, was sentenced to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty on Monday. He was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Christine Richardson, 15, at her home in July 2007.

Christine’s mother came home from work about 2 a.m. and found her daughter’s body and the back door unlocked. Police later arrested Puryear and Lloyd Chase, 17. Puryear said he held the girl while Chase stabbed her.

Chase denied being in the house and said he called 911 after going by the house to see what was happening. Chase pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact to murder and will be sentenced next month.


Activists, attorneys allowed to see files

Under pressure from civil rights advocates, the Maryland State Police decided Monday to allow activists wrongly classified as terrorists in a police database to bring an attorney with them to view the files or have a copy sent to them.

Police initially planned to allow only the 53 individuals wrongly entered into the state police’s Case Explorer criminal intelligence database to view their files. No copies of files were going to be allowed. Authorities cited legal concerns about allowing people other than those named to view the files.

But police decided to change the policy after protests by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, which contended that police lacked grounds to decide whether a person brought legal representation with him or her. The ACLU also said some of the activists live out of state and should be able to get a copy of the file.

“It has become apparent that for some individuals, traveling to state police headquarters is difficult and, in some cases, a hardship,” Col. Terrence Sheridan, the state police superintendent, said in a statement.

State police sent letters Monday to the 53 activists, who already had been notified that they could review their file before it is purged from the system.


Armored car heist suspect pleads guilty

One of four men indicted in a plot to steal $588,000 from an armored car in Wheaton has pleaded guilty.

Edward Mayo, 32, of Temple Hills, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank larceny Monday. Federal prosecutors say he and Bennie Pelham, 35, of Oxon Hill; Damon Pritchett, 32, of Annapolis and Gary Lane Junior, 26, of Oxon Hill conspired to rob the armored car.

According to the indictment, Mr. Pelham worked as an automated teller machine technician for a company that delivered cash. In July, when Mr. Pelham parked his armored van at the Wheaton shopping Center, Mr. Lane entered the van and took the money.

Prosecutors say Mr. Pritchett buried two bags containing large sums of the money in a wooded area in Temple Hills.

Mayo will be sentenced on Jan. 9.


Suspect found guilty in shore slashing

A judge has convicted a man in the death of a neighbor on the Eastern Shore who was stabbed or slashed more than 50 times.

Worcester County Circuit Judge Theodore Eschenburg found Roberto Murillo guilty of first-degree murder in a bench trial.

Cecilia Parker, 56, of West Ocean City suffered 21 stab wounds when Murillo attacked her in April. A prosecutor said in court that Murillo’s DNA was at the scene, as well as under the victim’s fingernails.

Murillo has not been sentenced. The judge told Murillo, an illegal immigrant from Honduras, that if he ever received parole, he would be deported.



Bay advocates see threat from warming

Scientists say efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay should be revised to consider harm that is likely from climate change.

The scientists spoke Monday as the Chesapeake Bay Program in Annapolis released a report on possible effects of climate change on the Bay.

Penn State professor Raymond Najjar said coastal flooding could increase and that wetlands could be submerged. He said warmer water could result in greater growth of harmful algae and a loss of underwater grasses.

On the positive side, he said, blue crabs may thrive in warmer water.

Mr. Najjar said the severity of the problem depends on how much carbon-dioxide emissions are reduced, but some impact is likely from greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere.


Longtime zoo rhino killed by other male

An investigation is under way into the death of a 36-year-old, 2-ton white rhino after he was charged by another adult white rhino, officials at the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk said.

A spokeswoman said the investigation is looking into why the two male rhinos were left in the same enclosure. Typically, they are separated.

The investigation will look into why that practice was not followed.

Rufus came to the Virginia Zoo in 1974, making him the longest resident of the zoo.

Rufus died Monday.


Motown-loving parrot wins bird dance-off

Kashmir Csaky started singing “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” as she danced in front of a large blue parrot standing on his perch.

Gucci, a hyacinth macaw, studied her for a moment and then began to dance, swaying in time with her music. He’d pause as the song tapered off, then continue his rhythmic bopping.

Gucci’s dancing skills won him fourth place on BirdChannel.com’s World’s First Bird Dance-Off.

He competed against videos featuring Congo African Greys, blue-fronted Amazons, and others, receiving 591 votes in the competition.

Gucci is 16 years old. He was born and raised in Lynchburg. His parents, London and Paris, still live there as well.

Csaky says Gucci began to dance when he was still just a baby.

Gucci’s brother, Chanel, dances but doesn’t have the moves that Gucci does. Another of her birds, Indigo, is a larger bird and Csaky said he dances like a big guy complete with stomping.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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