Prosecutors recommend no more jail time for ex-congressman

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — Federal prosecutors are recommending that a former Louisiana congressman serve no more jail time now that many of the convictions against him have been overturned.

William Jefferson, 70, a Democrat who represented parts of New Orleans, has served more than five years of a 13-year sentence after being convicted on bribery charges. His case garnered headlines in 2005 after he was caught hiding $90,000 cash in his freezer following a government sting.

He was released from prison last month. A judge ruled that seven counts of conviction against him should be tossed out because of a recent Supreme Court ruling making it more difficult to convict public officials on bribery charges, and that he was entitled to a new sentencing hearing on the remaining three conviction counts.

Jefferson’s new sentencing hearing is scheduled for Friday.

In a court document made public Thursday, prosecutors indicate that they and defense attorneys will jointly recommend a sentence of time served. The recommendation also leaves in place a $189,000 fine, which amounts to what has already been collected on a $470,000 judgment that was entered back when Jefferson was convicted in 2009.

Under the agreement, the most serious of the three remaining counts, a racketeering charge, would be dismissed. Prosecutors would also agree not to seek retrial on the seven counts the judge has already tossed out.

The two lesser counts, conspiracy charges, would remain in place and Jefferson would agree not to seek to have them tossed out.

The judge, though, will not be bound by the recommendation at Friday’s hearing. Theoretically he could reimpose the 13-year sentence he initially handed down.

If the judge imposes additional jail time, Jefferson will have the right to back out of the agreement and could seek to have the remaining counts overturned.

Jefferson was convicted of accepting more than $400,000 in bribes and seeking millions more in exchange for brokering business deals in Africa. The 2005 raid of his Washington home that turned up cash stuffed in frozen food boxes made him fodder for late-night comedians.

Last month, U.S. Senior Judge T.S. Ellis III ruled that a new sentencing hearing is necessary because the Supreme Court has subsequently changed what constitutes “an official act” for which a public official can be convicted of bribery. He ordered that Jefferson be freed from custody while awaiting resentencing.

Jefferson’s lawyer, Robert Trout, moved last year to have Jefferson’s convictions overturned after the Supreme Court unanimously tossed out the convictions against former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. That case redefined what constitutes an official act under the federal bribery laws. The high court ruled in the McDonnell case that acts like setting up meetings or talking to other officials are insufficient to constitute acceptance of a bribe in exchange for an official act.

Judge Ellis has said the cases were very different.

“The Supreme Court described Governor McDonnell’s actions as ‘tawdry’ and ‘distasteful,’” Ellis wrote. “Jefferson’s actions went well beyond being ‘tawdry’ and ‘distasteful’; they were plainly venal and reflected corrupt intent.”

The post Prosecutors recommend no more jail time for ex-congressman appeared first on WTOP.

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Virginia judge removed for witness tampering in wife’s trial

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A Virginia judge has been removed from his position after he acknowledged contacting two witnesses in his wife’s federal corruption case.

The Supreme Court of Virginia ruled this week that Judge Kurt Pomrenke violated the Virginia Canons of Justice. Pomrenke was removed from the 28th District juvenile and domestic relations bench.

In a written statement, the judge’s lawyer said Pomrenke is disappointed, but respects the court’s decision.

Pomrenke was sentenced to two months in jail Thursday and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine after he was found guilty earlier this year on a contempt of court charge in connection with his wife’s case.

Stacey Pomrenke, a former chief financial officer of Bristol Virginia Utilities, is currently serving a three-year prison term on conspiracy and wire fraud charges.

The post Virginia judge removed for witness tampering in wife’s trial appeared first on WTOP.

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Northam pledges bipartisanship in first legislative session

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov.-elect Ralph Northam is promising to “unite” both parties in the General Assembly and push a bipartisan agenda in next year’s legislative session.

Northam told reporters Thursday at an event sponsored by the Virginia Press Association that his top legislative priorities areas next year include economic development, education and healthcare.

The incoming Democratic governor-elect said he’s optimistic about chances to pass Medicaid expansion in Virginia, which state Republicans have steadfastly rejected in past years and say they still oppose.

Northam will work with a dramatically reshaped legislature when he takes office. A Democratic tidal wave wiped out a Republican near-supermajority in the House, with final control of the lower chamber still undecided because of ongoing recounts.

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Campaign in Virginia schools promotes safe holiday driving

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SALEM, Va. (AP) — A new campaign is about to get underway in Virginia schools to promote safe driving by teens during the holiday season.

“Steer Into The New Year, Drive Responsibly” is an effort to reduce teen fatalities during what has become a high-risk period for young drivers. Last year in Virginia, drivers aged 15 to 20 were involved in 16 fatal crashes during December, a sharp increase over December 2015, when six teen driver-involved fatal crashes occurred.

The new campaign will focus on peer-to-peer influence. Students at participating high schools will be asked to sign an online safe driving pledge and share the pledge with classmates, friends and loved ones they want to keep safe during the holidays.

The campaign is sponsored by Youth of Virginia Speak Out and Virginia State Police.

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McAuliffe announces 25 new jobs in Spotsylvania

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said the state beat out North Carolina in landing 25 new jobs.

McAuliffe’s office said Wednesday that idX Corporation, a retail supplier, plans to spend $2.68 million to expand its operations in Spotsylvania County.

McAuliffe approved a $75,000 grant from the Commonwealth Opportunity Fund for the company, which is also eligible for other state aid.

idX makes millwork, fixtures and other items. It announced in February that it would create 150 jobs with a $7.2 million investment in Virginia.

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December Entertainment Guide 2017

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WTOP’s Jason Fraley previews December entertainment

Jason Fraley


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December Entertainment Guide

Nov. 30: National Christmas Tree Lighting
Dec. 1: “It’s a Wonderful Walk” in Downtown Frederick
Dec. 1: “The Disaster Artist” hits movie theaters
Dec. 1: Samantha Bee at Kennedy Center
Dec. 1: Bon Iver at The Anthem
Dec. 1-3: “Mean Girls” at National Theatre
Dec. 1-7: “Titanic” returns to theaters for 20th anniversary
Dec. 1-20: “Twelfth Night” at Shakespeare Theatre
Dec. 1-24: “The Pajama Game” at Arena Stage
Dec. 1-24: “Nina Simone: Four Women” at Arena Stage
Dec. 1-24: “The Book of Will” at Round House Theatre
Dec. 1-24: Washington Ballet’s “Nutcracker” at Warner Theatre
Dec. 1-31: “A Christmas Carol” at Ford’s Theatre
Dec. 1-31: “Nothing to Lose (But Our Chains)” at Woolly Mammoth Theatre
Dec. 1-Jan. 7: “Curve of Departure” at Studio Theatre
Dec. 1-Jan. 14: “Crazy for You” at Signature Theatre
Dec. 2: Holiday Boat Parade & Fireworks at The Wharf
Dec. 2: Wolf Trap Holiday Sing-A-Long
Dec. 2-3: Smithsonian Holiday Festival
Dec. 3: Seether at The Fillmore
Dec. 3: Blood, Sweat & Tears at The Birchmere
Dec. 3: 40th annual Kennedy Center Honors
Dec. 4: Dave Koz 20th anny Christmas tour at Strathmore
Dec. 5: The National at The Anthem
Dec. 5-16: “Holiday Follies” at Signature Theatre
Dec. 5-31: “Twist Your Dickens” at Kennedy Center
Dec. 6: Simple Plan at The Fillmore
Dec. 6-Jan. 11: “The Revolutionists” at Everyman Theater
Dec. 6-9: Liv Ullmann’s “Private Confessions” at Kennedy Center
Dec. 6-9: Cirque Dreams Holidaze at MGM National Harbor
Dec. 7: Aaron Neville at The Birchmere
Dec. 8: “Darkest Hour” hits movie theaters
Dec. 8: “Wonder Wheel” hits movie theaters
Dec. 8: “The Shape of Water” hits movie theaters
Dec. 8: Darlene Love Christmas at Howard Theatre
Dec. 8-9: “Holiday Pops” with Megan Hilty at Kennedy Center
Dec. 9: Fantasia at The Anthem
Dec. 9: Gary Numan at 9:30 Club
Dec. 9-17: “The Holiday Show” at Lincoln Theatre
Dec. 10: Emmylou Harris at Hamilton Live
Dec. 10: Andrea Bocelli at Capitol One Arena
Dec. 10-22: Washington Chorus’ “Candlelight Christmas” at Kennedy Center
Dec. 12-13: “The Hip-Hop Nutcracker” at Strathmore
Dec. 12-Jan. 7: “An American in Paris” at Kennedy Center
Dec. 13: Kip Moore at Lincoln Theatre
Dec. 14: Trans-Siberian Orchestra at Capitol One Arena
Dec. 14-31: “An Irish Carol” at Keegan Theatre
Dec. 15: “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” hits movie theaters
Dec. 15: “Call Me By Your Name” hits movie theaters
Dec. 16: Amy Grant & Michael W. Smith at Eagle Bank Arena
Dec. 16: O.A.R. at The Anthem
Dec. 16: Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes at The Birchmere
Dec. 17: Pentatonix at The Anthem
Dec. 17: Motown & More Holiday Show at Bethesda Blues & Jazz
Dec. 20: “Jumanji” hits movie theaters
Dec. 20: “The Greatest Showman” hits movie theaters
Dec. 20: Bruno Mars at MGM National Harbor
Dec. 20-Jan. 7: “Les Miserables” at National Theatre
Dec. 21: “A John Waters Christmas” at The Birchmere
Dec. 22: “The Post” hits select movie theaters
Dec. 22: “Downsizing” hits movie theaters
Dec. 25: “Molly’s Game” hits movie theaters
Dec. 28: The Roots at The Fillmore
Dec. 29: Rakim at Howard Theatre
Dec. 30-31: Spoon at 9:30 Club
Dec. 31: Thievery Corporation at The Anthem
Dec. 31: New Year’s Eve party at Kennedy Center

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Transurban: Waiving 495 Express Lanes tolls would not have helped traffic much on Wednesday

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WASHINGTON — The morning drive was a doozy for many on Wednesday, when an accident shut down the Inner Loop of the Beltway at the American Legion Bridge and the ripple effect spread to roads near and far.

On WTOP’s “Ask The Governor,” a listener asked Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe why tolls on the 495 Express Lanes were not suspended to get traffic moving.

McAuliffe called it a “valid point” and said he would have the transportation secretary check it out.

“I will go back and ask Secretary Aubrey Layne to talk to Transurban,” McAuliffe said.

Mike McGurk, with Transurban, the company that operates the toll lanes, says they’re in constant contact with Virginia transportation leaders. But he says in Wednesday’s scenario, waiving tolls was not the way to go.

“Suspending the rules on the Express Lanes would not have made a real difference in the regular lanes.  All it would have done is eliminated the faster option that tens of thousands of commuters took advantage of (Wednesday) morning on the Express Lanes,” he said.

He says it’s not just about people who pay tolls in the Express Lanes.

“We also have those carpoolers and those transit riders that are sometimes choosing that mode of transportation to take advantage of that trip on the Express Lanes. They, too, rely on the faster-moving corridor in the Express Lanes.”

McGurk says Transurban can waive tolls during overnight snowstorms, when lanes are being treated.

“That snow and ice melt is actually more effective the more vehicles that are traveling over it. So what we actually decide to do ourselves is to lift that toll rate to get some of that overnight traffic moving on the Express Lanes,” said McGurk.

The 495 Express Lanes agreement between the Virginia Department of Transportation and Transurban says tolls can be suspended if traffic is diverted into the toll lanes during a declared emergency, or if there is a serious incident involving injuries or deaths in the general purpose lanes or on another state highway.

But VDOT and Transurban need to “consult” with each other to make it happen.

An excerpt from the agreement:

In the event the HOT Lanes are designated for immediate use as the alternate route for the diversion of traffic from another State Highway, or from the GP Lanes, temporarily closed to all lanes in one or both directions due to a declared emergency issued pursuant to applicable Law by the Department or any other Governmental Authority or a significant incident involving one or more casualties requiring hospitalization or treatment by a medical professional or one or more fatalities on the affected State Highway or GP Lanes from which such traffic is diverted, the Department shall have the right to divert such traffic onto the HOT Lanes and to order immediate suspension of tolling on the HOT Lanes in the direction(s) of diversion. The Department and the Concessionaire shall consult with each other on such diversion of traffic and any suspension of tolling. The Department shall have no liability to the Concessionaire for the loss of Toll Revenues or the increase in costs and expenses attributable to the period that such order is in effect.

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Charges dropped against mom who sent recorder to school

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NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — Prosecutors say charges have been dropped against Virginia woman who sent her daughter to school with a recording device after the 9-year-old said she was being bullied.

Sarah Sims told WAVY-TV in Portsmouth that she repeatedly reached out to administrators after her daughter complained about being bullied, but got no response. She put a digital recorder in her daughter’s backpack in September to get proof. School officials found it and moved the girl to another classroom.

Norfolk police charged Sims with illegally intercepting oral communications, a felony; and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a misdemeanor.

The Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office said Wednesday a judge granted its motion to dismiss charges.

Norfolk Public Schools said in a statement Wednesday that a thorough investigation is done for accusations of bullying.

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Democrats file for recounts in 2 tight Va. House races

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WASHINGTON — Two Democrats still hoping to join Virginia’s House of Delegates and end a long-standing GOP majority filed for recounts Wednesday.

The candidates in the 40th District in Fairfax and Prince William counties and the 94th District in Newport News are entitled to the recounts under Virginia law due to the tight margins. In the 40th District, the margin is 106 votes, and in the 94th District the margin is 10 votes.

A third race in Stafford County and Fredericksburg where the margin is 82 votes was only certified by the State Board of Elections this week after delays due to concerns over incorrect ballots cast there. Democrat Joshua Cole has 10 days to request a recount in that race. In a news release, Virginia Democrats said they are still assessing their legal options in that race.

If none of the recounts or other election challenges change any results, Republicans would control the House of Delegates 51-49.

The recounts are governed by a three-judge panel, which sets the rules and the timelines.

Establishing the requirements, physically recounting the ballots cast and certifying the final tally can take about two weeks.

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Norfolk police investigate shooting that left 1 dead

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NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — Police in Norfolk are investigating a shooting that left one man dead.

A statement from the Norfolk Police Department says a medical call alerted authorities to a stretch of Kitchener Avenue where a man had been shot in the early hours of Wednesday.

The police say the dead man’s name will be released once relatives have been contacted. They have not released his age or any other specifics.

The medical examiner’s office will determine the exact cause of death. Detectives say the case is an active homicide investigation.

No information on a suspect was immediately released.

Norfolk police are asking anyone with information about the shooting to contact a crime tip hotline.

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