- The Washington Times - Friday, September 5, 2008



State says slots suit should be thrown out

A lawsuit against ballot wording for a constitutional amendment on slot machine gambling should be thrown out because the language properly reflects legislation approved by the General Assembly, the Maryland Attorney General’s Office argued Thursday.

Slots opponents say the wording by the Maryland Secretary of State’s Office only tells voters that slot machine revenue will go toward education. They say it omits significant amounts set aside for slots operators and other entities, including horse racing purses.

But attorneys for the state point out in court documents filed Thursday that the entire slots proposal consists of two bills approved by lawmakers last year - one bill putting the matter to a constitutional amendment and another with the details on how slots would be implemented, if voters approve them in November.

The secretary of state’s ballot wording properly sums up the constitutional amendment in the first bill, the state argued.

Details in the second measure are spelled out in a summary made by the state’s nonpartisan Department of Legislative Services. That summary will be provided to voters by a sample ballot mailed at least one week before the election.

“Both documents provide voters a clear and understandable view of the proposed video lottery amendment; together, they provide voters a comprehensive understanding of the General Assembly’s proposal,” the Maryland Attorney General’s Office argued.

A hearing tentatively has been scheduled on the lawsuit for Wednesday in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.


Police investigate suspicious death

Montgomery County investigators are trying to determine whether the death Thursday morning of a woman in Bethesda is linked to recent attacks in the area.

Police say the body of Mary Havenstein, 63, was found bound inside her home. It was discovered by a relative who arrived to take Miss Havenstein to a doctor’s appointment.

Police said the home appeared to have been burglarized.

Investigators are working to determine whether the case is related to five other home invasion burglaries in the area since last September. Four occurred in Montgomery County and one in the District. In those cases, the elderly victims were tied up in their homes, but were not critically injured.


Woman sent to jail for hoarding cats

A Frederick woman has been ordered to serve 80 days in jail for violating her probation in an animal hoarding case.

Linda Young, 52, was convicted of animal cruelty last year after 45 cats were seized from her home. Twenty-four of the cats had to be euthanized.

Miss Young was barred from having animals for two years, but animal-control officers found another cat in her bedroom in April. She also failed to pay more than $1,600 in court-ordered restitution for the veterinary care needed for the cats.


Man frees hostages; standoff continues

An armed man who released three people he was holding hostage in the Overlea area eventually surrendered Thursday night, Baltimore County police said.

Cpl. Ben Yohe said a tactical police unit coaxed the man out voluntarily about 6:30 p.m.

The standoff started about 4 a.m. after an unidentified 38-year-old man broke into a home on Walnut Avenue looking for his girlfriend, a police spokesman said.

He took the hostages after failing to find his girlfriend.

Police began negotiating with the man, who had been seen at the door with a long gun. He released Bruce Smith, 62, who owns and lives in the house, about 9:30 a.m. Roughly two hours later, he released Danille Erhardt, 31, who lives in the house, and Kenneth Collins, 26, who was visiting Miss Erhardt.


Resort killer pulls retrial request

A former Navy SEAL who with his wife killed a pair of Ocean City tourists in 2002 was in Montgomery County Circuit Court on Thursday to ask for a new trial. However, the attorney for Benjamin Sifrit withdrew the request, saying there was no good reason to ask for a retrial. Sifrit has said his defense team failed to represent him adequately.

Sifrit was handcuffed and shackled and said nothing during the short hearing.

When asked whether Sifrit now feels remorse, attorney Michael Lawlor said his client still thinks he was at most an accessory after the fact.

Sifrit and his wife, Erika, of Hollidaysburg, Pa., were convicted in separate trials in 2003. Prosecutors said Martha Crutchley and Joshua Ford of Fairfax were lured to a condo where they were shot. Their dismembered bodies were found days later in a Delaware landfill. Sifrit’s case was moved from Worcester County to Montgomery County because of extensive pre-trial publicity.


PG police probe infant’s gun death

Prince George’s County Police Department officers continued Thursday to look for who killed an 8-month-old in a shooting in Suitland that also wounded the baby’s 22-year-old father.

The shooting occurred about 8:50 p.m. Wednesday in a parking lot at an apartment building in the 2600 block of Shadyside Avenue, police said.

When officers arrived, they found the baby boy and his father with gunshot wounds. The infant, who was in a car seat inside a car and was identified as Anthony Maurice Savoy III, died at the scene. The father was taken to a hospital in critical condition. Police were looking for a dark, four-door Chevrolet Impala that fled the scene and trying to determine a motive.



Man convicted in Hokie statue theft

A man who took a fiberglass statue depicting Virginia Tech’s Hokie Bird received a 30-day suspended sentence after being convicted of misdemeanor larceny.

Michael Scott Russell originally was charged with grand larceny and destruction of property but the destruction charge was later dropped. Montgomery County Circuit Judge Ray Grubbs on Wednesday reduced the felony larceny charge to the misdemeanor and found Mr. Russell guilty.

Mr. Russell, 22, and a co-defendant, Matthew Alan Hanson, were accused of taking the statue from its spot in front of Moog Components Group in Blacksburg in 2006. The men were Virginia Tech students.

Judge Grubbs decided in May to keep Mr. Hanson’s case under advisement for a year. The statue was among 70 placed around Blacksburg in a fundraising project. Each statue was valued at $7,500.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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