- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 5, 2009


Mentor convicted of abusing teen

A convicted killer who was placed in a D.C. school as a mentor was convicted Friday of sexually abusing a student.

Barry Harrison of Oxon Hill worked for the nonprofit anti-violence group called Peaceoholics and was assigned to mentor students at Springarn High School. Prosecutors say the 50-year-old convict fondled a 15-year-old girl and forced her to touch his genitals in a basement stairwell.

Harrison was convicted of three counts of second-degree child sexual abuse and one count of enticing a minor. Because of his previous convictions, he faces up to 30 years in prison on each of the counts.

He was convicted of second-degree murder in the 1980s. Peaceoholics officials have said they didn’t know about the conviction.

Man charged in Craigslist assaults

A Maryland man was charged Friday with sexually assaulting women he met through Craigslist.

Edgar D. Romero, 23, of Bladensburg, was arraigned Friday on sexual-abuse, kidnapping and numerous other charges. A grand jury returned a 40-count indictment against Mr. Romero on Tuesday.

According to prosecutors, Mr. Romero and an unknown accomplice contacted women through Craigslist ads for erotic services. They said Mr. Romero and the accomplice would meet women in a Washington hotel, display a knife or gun, bind the women with duct tape and steal from them.

Prosecutors said Mr. Romero sexually assaulted two victims and helped his accomplice sexually assault another victim.

Officials outline swine flu plans

D.C. officials on Friday said the city is preparing its response to a potential rise in swine flu cases as the fall flu season approaches.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and D.C. Department of Health Director Dr. Pierre Vigilance said the city is working with hospitals, schools and others to serve as vaccine distribution sites. They said that when the vaccine becomes available in mid-October, high-priority groups, such as pregnant women and people between ages 6 months and 24 years, will be the first to receive it.

Among other steps, the Health Department will use computer software to track cases, immunizations and resources relating to the virus.

The city also will air radio and TV ads to educate residents on swine flu issues.



Court considers driver responsibility

Maryland’s highest court is considering a case that could decide to what extent a driver is responsible for a fatal crash.

The case involves a truck driver who spilled more than 1 1/2 tons of gravel on a Harford County road, then continued on his route. The gravel later contributed to a crash that killed a 7-year-old boy.

At issue is what it means to operate a vehicle. The court must decide whether the word “operate” refers to what a driver does behind the wheel or whether it includes other actions.

A lower court overturned truck driver Kevin DiGennaro’s manslaughter conviction and seven-year prison sentence last year after concluding that “operation of a vehicle” does not encompass the actions in question.

Lawyers for the state argued Thursday that the law should be interpreted more broadly.


County OKs monument near Commandments

The Allegany County Commissioners have approved a private group’s request to place a monument to the U.S. Constitution near a Ten Commandments statue on the courthouse lawn in Cumberland.

The unanimous vote Thursday came nearly five years after the county removed the Ten Commandments from the prominent public location — and then restored them a week later after conservative citizens complained.

Now the liberal Citizens for a Secular Government have gotten the go-ahead to place a Constitution monument nearby — as long as the group covers the estimated $2,400 cost.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that displays of the Ten Commandments on government property are not inherently unconstitutional.


Contractor sentenced for hiring illegals

The owner of an Annapolis painting business was sentenced Friday to six months in a halfway house for hiring illegal aliens and money laundering.

Robert Bontempo’s sentence was part of three years’ probation.

Bontempo, 47, pleaded guilty in April to hiring as many as 24 workers who weren’t U.S. citizens or weren’t authorized to work in the U.S.

Federal prosecutors said he paid the workers in cash from 2003 to 2005 when he started paying them by check. Prosecutors also say he didn’t require the workers to provide documentation of their work status or citizenship status.



Judge moves trial for inmate’s brother

A judge on Friday agreed to move a trial for a man accused of helping his brother plan a jail escape that led to two slayings and a manhunt that shut down Virginia Tech.

Montgomery County Circuit Judge Ray Grubbs approved a defense motion to move the trial for Michael Morva.

Judge Grubbs said Mr. Morva is too closely linked to his brother, William Morva, who is on death row for capital murder convictions in the deaths of a sheriff’s deputy and a hospital security guard.

Michael Morva is charged with conspiring to help his brother escape on Aug. 20, 2006. William Morva escaped from custody at a hospital, where he had been taken for treatment.

A date and place for the trial have not been decided.


Wastewater projects to share funding

Six wastewater projects in Southwest Virginia will share $13.9 million in federal stimulus funding.

Gov. Tim Kaine said Friday the funding became available after bids for other projects were lower than expected.

The additional projects receiving funding are in Tazewell County, Wise County, Norton, Lexington, Richlands and Pulaski.

Mr. Kaine said the projects were approved by the State Water Control Board in April on a contingency list in the event bids for the other projects managed to come in below estimates.


Agency says hotel won’t affect park

The National Park Service says a proposed 15-story military hotel at Fort Lee won’t affect the nearby Petersburg National Battlefield Park.

The Park Service flew a helicopter 180 feet above ground level Thursday to determine whether the hotel would be seen from the battlefield. Park rangers located at five sites couldn’t see the helicopter.

Park Superintendent Bob Kirby said the Park Service is confident that the hotel won’t affect the park’s “cultural landscape.”

Civil War Preservation Trust spokesman Jim Campi said the organization hasn’t yet taken an official position on the $118 million project. But Mr. Campi said any development near a battlefield endangers its historic value.

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