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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "neal augenstein"

Caps get early-morning champion’s welcome at Dulles Airport (Video)

DULLES, Va. — At the end of a historic night for the Washington Capitals, several dozen superfans were favored with a glimpse of the Prince of Wales Trophy at Dulles International Airport.

Shortly before 3 a.m. Thursday, approximately four hours after the final horn at Amalie Arena where the Caps won the Eastern Conference Championship for the first time in 20 years, the team’s chartered Delta flight arrived at Dulles Airport.

First off the plane was captain Alex Ovechkin, holding the championship trophy in his right hand, rolling his luggage with his left.

As fans — many sporting Ovechkin replica jerseys with number 8 — rang cowbells and exhorted the team to “go for the Cup,” Ovi hoisted the trophy and smiled.

As players walked to their cars, some stopped to shake hands and pose for pictures with thrilled fans.

Fan Andy Altman and his family watched the game on their big TV screen at home.

“We decided, once we knew the game was done, that we’d come out and meet them again, like we did after the Pittsburgh win,” he said, holding one end of a homemade “Stanley Cup!!!” sign.

Within five minutes, as team personnel and Airports Authority Police officers provided security, the players were on their way home to get some sleep.

They’ll be back at the airport soon enough when they fly out for Monday’s Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in Las Vegas.

The post Caps get early-morning champion’s welcome at Dulles Airport (Video) appeared first on WTOP.

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White House sinkhole? Pffft. How National Mall would handle major flooding

WASHINGTON — While social media users post “drain the swamp” jokes about the small sink hole on the north lawn of the White House, most in D.C. aren’t aware of the process in place — and manpower required — to protect the National Mall from 100-year flooding.

Visitors to the Mall in the past four years have likely driven past the stone walls of the Potomac Park levee, unaware of its purpose and what steps would need to be taken before it could protect the nation’s monuments as well as low-lying D.C. neighborhoods from coastal storm surge and river flooding from the Tidal Basin and the Potomac River.

Drivers on 17th Street NW drive through a 140-foot gap in stone walls in place on the grounds of the Washington Monument and the World War II Memorial.

Many visitors assume the stone walls are part of the monuments they flank — instead, they’re part of the 12-foot-high earthen berm that runs along the northern edge of the mall.

Earlier levees outlived their effectiveness.

The original system was Congressionally authorized to provide risk reduction for a flood event up to 700,000 cubic feet per second on the Potomac River from river and storm surge flooding. The project was completed in 1939 and relied on sandbags and earthen fill to form a temporary closure across 17th Street, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In January 2007, the Corps determined the closure structure was unreliable and gave the system an unacceptable rating. That led FEMA to “de-accredit” the levee, which prompted much of D.C. to pay into the National Flood Insurance Program.

The current levee and closure system “reduces risk to human safety and critical infrastructure downtown,” according the Army Corps.

If 100-year-flooding were expected, the National Park Service would have to truck in and install aluminum panels to bridge the gap and protect low-lying areas from devastating floods.

“The equipment is stored at Brentwood (maintenance facility), on trucks, and is ready to go,” said Mike Litterst, chief of communications of the National Mall, for the National Park Service.

After the half-hour trip to downtown D.C., the aluminum panels would be connected to steel poles and inserted in permanent grooves built into the steel walls.

“Once the trucks get to Constitution Avenue, it takes about four hours to get the walls up,” Litterst said.

Since the levee is only a few years old, conditions have never warranted its use during an actual storm.

“Deployment isn’t going to come as result of heavy rain, or a tornado,” Litterst said. “Those are quick-moving.”

The threat from Potomac flooding is slower to develop, more predictable and easier to track Litterst said.

“We have gauges in several places up river that are monitored by the Park Service and Army Corps. If it were to reach a certain level, we’d start the process,” of assembling the levee he said.

“I checked on Friday, after the recent rains, and we were nowhere near the mark we’d have to reach.”

Flooding along the Potomac generally runs down river, from west to east, and takes several days to reach flood points near the National Mall.

“If a nor’easter were coming, we’d have forecasts before it comes in,” Litterst said. “If the flooding comes to Harpers Ferry (West Virginia) we’d have about 36 hours before it reached us.”

Still, since a man-made intervention is required to head off floodwaters, the Army Corps mandates annual testing of the levee.

“With new people coming in, you want them to get periodic ‘hands-on’ the equipment,” Litterst said.

The most recent testing took place in fall 2017.

The post White House sinkhole? Pffft. How National Mall would handle major flooding appeared first on WTOP.

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VDOT tests the new ‘mini’ roundabout in Annandale

WASHINGTON — Jayhawk Street and Ravensworth Road meet just off Little River Turnpike in Annandale, Virginia. It used to be just like any other typical busy intersection in Northern Virginia.

But not anymore.

The junction is being used to stage a local example of a Virginia Department of Transportation pilot program for a “modular mini roundabout.”

Construction crews started work on the roundabout on May 17, and it will take about three weeks to complete the installation of the materials, which include recycled plastic bottles.

Right now, orange barrels and markings on the street are the only evidence of the project. But crews will work 12 hour shifts, six days a week, to complete the new traffic control system. Drivers are asked to take care driving through the area, nor the normal road speeds will be reduced while construction is going on.

Once in place, VDOT and the Federal Highway Administration will study the new roundabout to see if it does what it promises, and that is to provide “safety and traffic benefits to Annandale residents and drivers,” said Helen Cuervo, the state’s Northern District engineer.

If programs like this one in Annandale probe to be successful, the highway administration could put similar roundabouts in locations where “safety and congestion improvements are needed quickly,” said Dr. Wei Zhang, an intersection safety research engineer with the FHWA.

VDOT said each day, about 13,000 vehicles use Ravensworth Road, with another 2,600 per day crossing on Jayhawk Street. VDOT chose the intersection because of the traffic throughput, its closeness to a major artery, the width of the well as existing roadway and the chance to manage a bike lane and pedestrian crossings.

Tom Folse, a traffic engineer with VDOT, called it “an ideal location for the pilot.”

A mini roundabout has a smaller footprint, but works the same way as others in the region. VDOT reminds drivers to yield to traffic already in the circle nor they approach.

If successful, the mini roundabout should provide a “safer driving, biking and walking experience for Ravensworth Road users,” said Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross. Learn more about the project on VDOT’s website.

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WTOP’s Neal Augenstein contributed to this report.

The post VDOT tests the new ‘mini’ roundabout in Annandale appeared first on WTOP.

https://wtop.com/fairfax-county/2018/05/vdot-tests-new-mini-roundabout-annandale/

Va. girls, 10 and 11, charged with alleged threats against schoolmate

WASHINGTON —Two girls, who are 10 and 11, have been charged as juveniles in connection with threats made against another girl, Prince William County police said.

Police in the Northern Virginia county said the two girls communicated by text to conspire to kill the victim, who is 11-years-old.

The 10-year-old and 11-year-old used cryptic language and encouraged each other to delete the text messages after the threats were read.

On April 25, police responded to the girls’ school after a concerned parent alerted school staff.

In a statement, police said after extensive consultation with the Commonwealth Attorney, the girls were charged with conspiracy to commit a felony.

The threats were not carried out and no one was harmed, police said.

Details of the alleged threats were not disclosed nor was the name of the school the girls attended.

The post Va. girls, 10 and 11, charged with alleged threats against schoolmate appeared first on WTOP.

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Laurel police sergeant acquitted in cruiser assault, misconduct trial

Westlake Legal Group laurel-police-sergeant-acquitted-in-cruiser-assault-misconduct-trial Laurel police sergeant acquitted in cruiser assault, misconduct trial Prince George's County, MD News neal augenstein Maryland News Local News laurel police John Erzen jeff harding jason sarver angela alsobrooks
Westlake Legal Group laurel-police-sergeant-acquitted-in-cruiser-assault-misconduct-trial Laurel police sergeant acquitted in cruiser assault, misconduct trial Prince George's County, MD News neal augenstein Maryland News Local News laurel police John Erzen jeff harding jason sarver angela alsobrooks

WASHINGTON — A Laurel police sergeant indicted for assault and misconduct in office after prosecutors said he hit a dirt bike rider with his marked cruiser and pulled his handgun has been acquitted by a Prince George’s County judge.

Sgt. Jason Sarver was found not guilty of second-degree assault and misconduct in office, Tuesday, after a two-day trial in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. At the end of testimony and evidence, Prince George’s County Circuit Court Judge Leo Green had dismissed a second misconduct in office count.

Sarver had initially been indicted on Oct. 31, 2017 on 11 counts related to the attempted traffic stop of the rider, who had been driving the dirt bike in Laurel. Before the trial, eight of the counts were dismissed.

“The judge said he was legally justified in doing what he did,” said defense attorney Jeff Harding.

In explaining his verdict, Green said he didn’t feel prosecutors proved that Sarver intentionally hit the rider during the pursuit, based on body camera and cruiser footage.

“He was ecstatic that his actions had been vindicated in a court of law” Harding said, describing Sarver’s reaction to the verdict. “He complied completely with police procedures.”

Harding had argued Sarver’s cruisers did not actually strike the motorcycle.

During the trial, a defense expert witness, Gary Lewis, a retired Montgomery County detective, gave the opinion there was never any contact between the dirt bike and the officer’s cruiser.

“While we respect the decision of the court, we disagree with the outcome,” said John Erzen, spokesman for State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks. “We believe the evidence in this case showed that Officer Sarver intentionally struck the victim during the pursuit and that his actions were criminal in nature.”

After an internal investigation, Laurel Police contacted the state’s attorney’s office, which led to the indictment.

Harding said Sarver has been on leave without pay.

“He hasn’t decided what he intends to do, moving forward,” Harding said, when asked whether Sarver would want to rejoin the force that determined he had acted unlawfully.


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Md. man arrested in Mexico for murder was indicted in police officer’s death

Westlake Legal Group md-man-arrested-in-mexico-for-murder-was-indicted-in-police-officers-death Md. man arrested in Mexico for murder was indicted in police officer’s death Ruel Dempster neal augenstein Montgomery County, MD News Montgomery County State's Attorney montgomery county police Maryland News luke hoffman Local News alice mino dennis
Westlake Legal Group md-man-arrested-in-mexico-for-murder-was-indicted-in-police-officers-death Md. man arrested in Mexico for murder was indicted in police officer’s death Ruel Dempster neal augenstein Montgomery County, MD News Montgomery County State's Attorney montgomery county police Maryland News luke hoffman Local News alice mino dennis

Ruel Dempster was arrested in Mexico for the murder of his wife, on the strength of a Montgomery County warrant. (File, WTOP/Kate Ryan)

WASHINGTON — The Silver Spring man who police tracked down to Mexico for the April murder of his wife was on probation when she was killed had earlier been indicted in a chase that led to the death of a Montgomery County police officer.

On Sunday, Montgomery County Police announced Ruel Francis Dempster II, 30, was arrested by Mexico’s federal police agency close to the U.S.-Mexico border for the murder of his 34-year-old wife Alice Mino Dennis.

On April 18, Dennis was found dead on the kitchen floor of their apartment in the 3600 block of Bel Pre Road.

Police believe she was killed during a domestic dispute.

Police and Montgomery County prosecutors said the extradition process is underway to bring Dempster back to Maryland to stand trial for first-degree murder in the death of Dennis.

Federal and Maryland court records show Dempster had a long criminal record and was on federal probation for a 2015 gun conviction at the time he allegedly killed his wife.

In 2007 Dempster was arrested and indicted for manslaughter in the 2007 death of rookie Montgomery County police officer Luke Hoffman, although prosecutors eventually decided to drop the charge.

Dempster had been found guilty of several misdemeanors, including failure to stop after an accident, driving without a license and marijuana possession, but jurors were unable to reach a verdict on the manslaughter charge.

In December 2007, Montgomery County prosecutors decided to not retry Dempster.

According to a 2015 District Court plea agreement, Dempster, a native and citizen of Liberia, had been ordered removed from the country in 2008.

He pleaded guilty to being an alien in possession of a firearm.

On July 8, 2015 he was sentenced to three years in prison, minus time served, and three years supervised probation.

Elizabeth Morse, public information officer with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland confirmed Dempster was on supervised release at the time of the murder of Alice Mino Dennis.


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Knock, knock: What to expect from door-to-door sales, solicitations

CHANTILLY, Va. — An unexpected knock on the door or ring of the doorbell can be unsettling.

Sometimes the person on the other side of the door is a friendly neighbor but often it’s somebody who wants your money.

“While many door-to-door salespersons are honest, the chance does exist that you may be taken advantage of if you are not cautious and informed,” said Kraig Troxell, spokesman with the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office in a news release.

In an age when an increasing number of transactions are accomplished online, having an uninvited visitor on your doorstep can seem like an invasion of privacy.

Homeowners can say “we’re not interested,” without opening the door and solicitors are expected to leave when asked by the property owner.

Yet, in most cases, door-to-door sales people and solicitors have the right to be on your front stoop.

All local jurisdictions require solicitors to register with the county and get an ID card identifying them and their employer.

Those soliciting funds to be used solely for nonprofit, charitable, religious or community services purposes are not required to be registered in Loudoun County.

“Solicitors must conduct themselves in a lawful and orderly manner and must identify themselves and their purpose for being on the property,” Troxell said.

Solicitation hours in Loudon County are weekdays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Soliciting is not permitted on Sundays or state or national holidays.

The post Knock, knock: What to expect from door-to-door sales, solicitations appeared first on WTOP.

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U. Md. murder, hate crime defendant wants ‘particularly offensive’ evidence excluded

Westlake Legal Group u-md-murder-hate-crime-defendant-wants-particularly-offensive-evidence-excluded U. Md. murder, hate crime defendant wants ‘particularly offensive’ evidence excluded william brennan university of maryland Sean Urbanski richard collins Prince George's County, MD News neal augenstein Maryland News Local News john mckenna John Erzen facebook bowie state university angela alsobrooks alt-reich: nation
Westlake Legal Group u-md-murder-hate-crime-defendant-wants-particularly-offensive-evidence-excluded U. Md. murder, hate crime defendant wants ‘particularly offensive’ evidence excluded william brennan university of maryland Sean Urbanski richard collins Prince George's County, MD News neal augenstein Maryland News Local News john mckenna John Erzen facebook bowie state university angela alsobrooks alt-reich: nation

Lawyers for Sean Urbanski are asking a judge to exclude evidence they call “particularly offensive” in his murder and hate crime trial, for the death of Lt. Richard Collins III. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

BOWIE, Md. — Lawyers for the man charged with murder and a hate crime in the stabbing of a black student visiting University of Maryland want a judge to bar evidence linking him to the Alt-Reich: Nation Facebook page.

Sean Urbanski, 23, is charged with the May 20, 2017, murder of Richard Collins III, Bowie State University student who had recently been commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army and was set to graduate days later.

Urbanski’s lawyers William Brennan and John McKenna have told the judge in a motion that they expect Prince George’s County prosecutors to introduce “certain cartoon images and a group message survey extracted from his cellular phone,” as well as discussions on his now deleted Alt-Reich: Nation Facebook page.

“Those images, survey and Facebook page are particularly offensive, extremely prejudicial, highly inflammatory, irrelevant and not otherwise admissible,” wrote Brennan and McKenna.

According to charging documents, Collins was visiting friends on the University of Maryland College Park campus. At about 3 a.m. he and two friends were waiting for an Uber at a bus stop when Urbanski stabbed Collins, in what police described as an unprovoked attack.

Shortly after his arrest, University of Maryland Police said Urbanski was a member of the racist Facebook group.

When Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks added a state hate crime charge, she said prosecutors were convinced Collins was murdered because he was black, but didn’t elaborate.

Urbanski’s attorneys disagree. “There is absolutely no temporal nexus between the proffered evidence and the killing of Mr. Richard Collins,” the defense lawyers wrote in the motion.

Brennan and McKenna argue the value in court of the cartoon, survey and Facebook discussion “is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, and misleading the jury. …

“There is genuine risk that the emotions of the jury concerning the cartoon images on the cellphone, the text message survey and the Facebook posting will be excited to irrational behavior concerning the alleged murder of Mr. Collins. The proffered evidence is more shocking than the underlying crime.”

Alsobrooks spokesman John Erzen declined to comment on the motion, saying, “We will prosecute this case in court; we will make our arguments at the motions hearing.” It is unclear whether the motion will be discussed in a previously scheduled motions hearing, set for Thursday.

Brennan did not respond to requests for comment about the motion. Shortly after Urbanski’s arrest, Brennan told a judge “alcohol and substance abuse may have played a significant role in all of this.”

Prince George’s County prosecutors have said they intend to seek a life sentence with no chance of parole for Urbanski’s murder charge. The state charge of hate crime resulting in death carries a sentence of 20 years.

However, federal hate crimes involving murder could make a defendant eligible for the death penalty. The FBI’s Baltimore office has been investigating the incident, but has not said whether there is sufficient evidence to file a federal hate charge.

Brennan and McKenna asked the court to try the murder and state hate charges separately if the prosecution to introduce the cartoon, text survey and Facebook discussion.


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U.Va. alters policy for outside groups speaking on campus

WASHINGTON — Almost a year after white nationalists held a tiki torch march on the grounds of University of Virginia, U.Va. is now requiring people unaffiliated with the school who want to speak on campus to reserve space in advance.

In addition, the new policy limits the protests to nine areas on campus where groups of up to 50 people can gather for a maximum of two hours.

“The University of Virginia is committed to the constitutional principle of free speech and to the safety and security of every member of this community,” university president Teresa Sullivan said in a statement.

On the evening of August 11, 2017, white nationalists carrying burning tiki torches, and chanting racial slurs, and “you will not replace us,” marched through campus.

The following day, thousands gathered in downtown Charlottesville for the “Unite the Right” rally.

The rally was organized by two U.Va. alumni, Richard Spencer and Jason Kessler.

The new policy specifies alumni must use the new advanced reservation system.

Groups speaking publicly or distributing literature are also “prohibited from carrying weapons, including guns, knives, or instruments for cutting, stabbing, or bludgeoning.”

The post U.Va. alters policy for outside groups speaking on campus appeared first on WTOP.

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Ethics probe looks into DC lawmaker’s ties to company doing business with city

WASHINGTON — Ethics officials in the District are investigating Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans’ dealings with a digital sign company that would have benefited from legislation Evans proposed, reports The Washington Post.

Citing unnamed sources, the Post said the D.C. Board of Ethics and Government Accountability is investigating two $25,000 checks Evans received — but never deposited — several months before he pushed a bill that would have helped the sign company in a dispute with D.C. regulators.

Evans told the Post he negotiated the payment in August 2016 as a retainer for legal fees he planned to offer the sign company, in its dealings outside the District.

However, after receiving the checks, he returned the checks, without depositing them.

“There was nothing improper about it,” he told the Post.

“From my perspective, I like to be very clean, for lack of a better way of discussing it, because the perception always becomes more important than reality. So I just didn’t even want to have a perception of a conflict of interest.”

In mid-July 2016, the company, Digi Media was in a dispute, and eventual lawsuit with the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs over LED signs on buildings.

In December 2016, according to the Post, Evans asked Council Chairman Phil Mendelson to place emergency legislation on the agenda for the council’s next meeting that would have legalized the type of signs Digi Media wanted to install.

Evans said no one from the ethics board or any other agency had contacted him about the investigation.

The post Ethics probe looks into DC lawmaker’s ties to company doing business with city appeared first on WTOP.

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