Roanoke County Police Releases April 2011

April 26, 2011

Around 2:30 p.m. at a store on 8th Street and Moorman Road, Roanoke Police responded to an assault crime. Twenty-one year-old Damian Maurice Watkins was allegedly approached by several black males, who seemed to have mistaken him for someone else. When he told them that he was not the person they were looking for, they followed him to his car, and blocked him in with two other vehicles. Watkins fled from the scene, in which he was captured and physically assaulted by the other men. They stole a number of his personal belongings, along with his money, and drove his car to a near by street. The vehicle was recovered unoccupied when located. Watkins’ injuries were reported non life threatening, and he was released from Carilion Hospital. Police ask that any information related to this crime should be reported to the Roanoke Police Department at (540)853-5959 or Crime Line at (540)344-8500.

http://www.roanokeva.gov/deptapps/NewsRel.nsf/AllCatWeb/5274B047368FB7CD8525787E00561935?OpenDocument

April 18, 2011

Officers responded to reports of vandalism that took place on April 17. Over twenty-three vehicles were found spray painted with white paint. So far, no arrests have been made, but police ask that information relating to this or additional crimes be reported to the Roanoke Police Department at 853-5959 or Crime Line at 344-8500 for a monetary reward.

The following locations should be monitored for criminal activity: the 3600 and 3700 blocks of Sunrise Avenue, 2700 block of Cedarhurst Avenue, 3600 and 3700 blocks of Round Hill Avenue, 3800 block of Shady Lawn Avenue, 2800 block of Oakland Boulevard, 2600 and 2700 blocks of Broad Street, 2900 block of Clarendon Avenue, and 3900 block of Richland Avenue.

http://www.roanokeva.gov/deptapps/NewsRel.nsf/AllCatWeb/50D92090F20F590B852578760067062C?OpenDocument

April 14, 2011

Officers responded at 10:18 p.m. to an attempted robbery incident, in which the victim was shot. Alan Wiley Wright, 49, was hospitalized at Carilion Memorial Hospital. He said that he had parked his car near the intersection of 2nd Street and Mountain Ave. to walk to a convenience store at the intersection of 2nd Street and Elm Ave. As he was walking back to his car, he was approached by two suspects, one with a gun. They demanded money from him, and when he attempted to flee he was shot. He said he was able to get into his car, drive home, and then go to the closes hospital. The suspects were described as two black males. Reward money may be offered to anyone who may have information. Contact the Roanoke Police Department at 853-5959 or Crime Line at 344-8500.

http://www.roanokeva.gov/deptapps/NewsRel.nsf/AllCatWeb/9DC6694249B141A58525787300659B12?OpenDocument

April 11, 2011

Roanoke Police responded to a robbery encounter at the 1500 block of Gilmer Avenue. A woman claimed that she had been assaulted and robbed on a walk. She described the suspect as a black, 20 year-old male wearing an orange shirt and gray shorts. He has not yet been located. Police ask that local residences remain on the look out and report additional information regarding this or other crimes to the Roanoke Police Department at 853-5959 or Crime Line at 344-8500. Reward money may be offered to those who are able to provide a lead.

http://www.roanokeva.gov/deptapps/NewsRel.nsf/AllCatWeb/E9D40686BBDB279F852578700045AC1E?OpenDocument

April 7, 2011

Roanoke Police confirmed that an e-mail marketing firm, Epsilon, has compromised millions of consumers’ personal information. The story made national news when it first started problems in Texas. Customers of major retailers and service providers such as Kroger, Walgreens, Home Shopping Network, US Bank, and JP Morgan Chase were receiving e-mails that contained viruses connected to ‘spoofed websites,’ where financial information or identity theft was obtained. This incident enticed Roanoke Police to investigate the branch that serves Western Virginia. They identified the same scam. Police say the breach is not interested in credit card information, rather, e-mail addresses. The department warns e-mail users to exercise caution online, deny e-mails that ask for personal information, and contact the company directly if there is any concern for information.

http://www.epsilon.com

http://www.roanokeva.gov/WebMgmt/ywbase61b.nsf/vwContentByKey/N255BT4D262CFIREN

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Radford Drug Bust

Police Officer E. B. Martin reported probable cause for a search warrant at 1315 Lawrence Street in Radford, Va. The home, described as a two-story, brick residence with a crown shingle roof and a concrete porch, was suspected to house possession of marijuana, records confirming the possession of illegal drugs, owe sheets, photographs, packing material, computer or other electronic media relating to the possession of marijuana, as well as other illegal drugs. The warrant also commanded to seize property for evidence, and to produce the Radford Circuit Court an inventory of all property, persons and objects seized. 

The search warrant went into effect on Feb. 15, 2011, in which 16 counts of items were extracted. Information was processed into the circuit court on Feb. 16, 2011.

Seventeen plastic bags with plant material were located throughout the house, as well as 22 smoking devices, two digital scales, two grinders and one gritter, one glass jar with plant material, and $864 in cash.

No additional information was released.

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Judge James P. Jones Opinions April Review

April 19, 2011

James Renwick Manship, Sr. (Plaintiff) v. Paul H. Thomson, ET AL. (Defendant)

Judge James P. Jones dismissed James Renwick Manship, Sr.’s proposed demand that Jeffrey Franklin Washington receive a new jury trial.

Manship believed that the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act was violated during the first trial of Washington, an inmate at the Greenville Correctional Facility in Jarratt, Virginia for the murder of Mr. Carlos Marshall.

Manship is part of the “God County Foundation,” serving as “Chaplain” of the “Amos 5:15 Project- an organization to “remodel your courts into true halls of justice”. He claims he is an authorized advocate for Washingotn and that he is the next friend of the daughter of Carlos Marshall. Manship also believes that the law enforcement and the Virginia court system wrongly convicted Washington for the death of Carlos Marshall. This is the second time he has attempted to file a suit against the Virginia court system, in which his first case was dismissed because of a lack of supporting evidence.

Manship is attempting to defend Washington because he believes he was wrongly convicted. He wants to assist Marshall’s daughter who wishes to bring her father’s true murderer to justice.

Any person has the right to present his own claims in court, but one may not litigate on another person’s behalf except for a few extreme exceptions. Manship claims that he is legally allowed to file this claim because of the Virginia’s Uniform Power of Attorney Act, or “next friend” theory. However, a power of attorney does not give him the power to act as an attorney, and he cannot act as an attorney unless he is defending himself. To bring suit under the “next friend” theory to defend the daughter of the murder victim, that “next friend” needs to be proven unable to litigate her own case because of the situation of mental incapacity, or another disability. For instance, most of these cases are for parents defending their minor children.

Manship followed the law in applying his paperwork, but failed to state a claim on which relief may be granted. There was no reason why the daughter of the murder victim, Carlos Marshall, could not litigate her own case. His claim was dismissed for little evidence against the Virginia court system, and he did not qualify as authority on her behalf.

http://www.vawd.uscourts.gov/OPINIONS/JONES/5-11CV00030.PDF 

April 19, 2011

Ronnie L. Edwards (Plaintiff) v. Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security(Defendant)

Ronnie L. Edwards was allowed reconsideration to his case involving the Commissioner of Social Security denying him Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and Social Security Income (SSI) Benefits. His claims were well-received.

Edwards presented the following evidence to support his argument:

In September 2006, he filed for Social Security benefits relating to his arthritic degenerating discs, heart problems, carpal tunnel, and numbness in his right leg. Edwards received a video hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), in which his request was denied. 

His troubles began after suffering from a workplace injury to his back on Dec. 17, 2001. He was referred to a physical and medicative treatment center, but his pain persisted into 2002. Edwards was introduced to Orthopedist Brenda McKinney, who became his main care physician for chiropractic adjustments, physical therapy, and medication treatment. On a number of occassions, McKinney cleared Edwards from work.

In 2004, Edwards’ condition worsened. He was directed to Orthopedist C.S. Whitman. Whitman diagnosed Edwards with chronic back pain with degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine caused by possible facet pain generators. He recommended that Edwards limit his work to three shifts a week, with a day off inbetween each shift. Because he was not able to fulfill a full-time work schedule, however, Edwards was fired. 

He began treatment for depression in 2005, in which he complained of pain and anxiety symptoms that persisted into 2007. This caused him to seek treatment from both Elizabeth Hubbard and Louis Perrot. Hubbard prescribed him a panic disorder medication. Louis Perrot, on the other hand, reviewed Edwards’ medical records and found no severe mental impairment. He also noted that Edwards was not restricted to his daily living and social functioning, with the exception of mild difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistance, or pace. Despite Perrot’s findings, Physician Donald Williams reported that Edwards continued to have pain that significantly impacted his ability to work in 2007.

Finally, in 2008, Whitman performed a functional capacity evaluation on Edwards, only to discover permanent limitations to his lower back of sitting for a maximum of thirty minutes. He was also only able to lift a maximum of twenty-five pounds, carry a maximum of twenty pounds, and was not able to repetitively bend, stop, or lift.

After reviewing Edwards’ medical history, the ALJ found that Edwards suffered from the following severe impairments: lumbar strain with degenerative disc disease and degenerative joint disease, neuropathy of lower extremities, and headaches. Edwards was found to perform a limited range of work in occupations that existed in significant numbers in the economy. His claims of depression and anxiety were found to have caused only minimal limitations to his ability to perform basic mental work activities.  On another note, the ALJ observed that he was close to the old age category in March 2008. Therefore, benefits were granted to him after March 1, 2008, but his claims were denied for the period of August 17, 2004 to March 1, 2008. Ultimately, the ALJ found that he was not disabled under the Act.

In response, Edwards challenged the ALJ’s ruling for benefits during that period. He argued that the decision was not supported by significant evidence. Specifically, he reasoned that the ALJ did not properly consider the additional effects of his impairments, and that the ALJ correlated little attention to his main treatment sources. Edwards also asserted that his severe mental impairment was supported by evidence.

Judge James P. Jones studied his claims. He recognized that the Commissioner determines benefits based on five consecutive evaluations: (1) the client has worked during the period of disabillity (2) has a severe impairment (3) has a condition that equals the severity of a listed impairment in Act (4) could return to past relevant work, and (5) if not, whether he could perform other work present in the national economy. Should any of the evaluations show that Edwards is not disabled, the inquiry will be dismissed.

Judge Jones found that the ALJ relied on evidence that was not sufficient enough to support the decision. One such example is using his “fairly normal” daily activites as a reference to his overall health. His activities of daily living do not implicate his ability to work under certain conditions. 

He awknowledged that Edwards had approached all avenues of therapy, pain management, and regular follow-up appointments with his treatings sources for recovery. Edwards had also fully complied with given recommendations of his providers. Not to mention, Edwards had a loyal work history and attempted to continue working despite his disability. Dr. Whitman and McKinney deserved more credibility for their assessments of Edwards’ conditions than what the ALJ granted.

It was not necessary to review his mental impairment claims, as evidence provided by Edwards already demonstrated that he had a disability by physical impairments during the time period denoted. Judge Jones settled that the DIB and SSI benefits were indeed appropriate, and the Commissioner’s request for Summary Judgment was denied.

Judge Jones will be entering a final judgment to calculate payments of benefits entitled to Edwards.

http://www.vawd.uscourts.gov/OPINIONS/JONES/1-10CV00032.PDF

April 18. 2011

James M. Stanley (Plaintiff) v. Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security (Defendant)

Judge James P. Jones of the Western District of Virginia supported the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security to deny James M. Stanley Social Security benefits.

In the case, Stanley applied for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental Security Income due to high blood pressure, depression, obesity, hypertension, and dyslexia in May 2006. Coupled with limited education, he claimed that this negatively impacted his impairments. He has received special education up to the seventh grade, but is unable to read or write. On a similar note, he worked on an automobile assembly line in the past, but has not since returned to work.

This is the second time Stanley has applied for benefits since July 2004, in which his claims were denied by the Commissioner of Social Security, and finally, by an Administratice Law Judge (ALJ). The Social Security Appeals Council also denied his request for a reconsideration.

As of a result, Stanley took his case to Judge Jones. He presented the following evidence to support his claims: 

From September 2004 through February 2007, James A. Bell treated Stanley for physical and mental impairments. Dr. Bell noted that his conditions would make it impossible for him to work. He prescribed him medications for his hypertension, gastrointestinal reflux disease, and depression.

At the same time, Stanley received outpatient mental health care from Robert S. Spangler at the Scott County Mental Health Center. Spangler tested Stanley’s IQ in 2005, in which he was placed at a verbal IQ level of 74, a performance IQ score of 85, a full scale IQ score of 77, and he tested positive for borderline retardation. In a medical assessment, he was also found to be seriously disadvantaged in work-related environments.

In 2007, Dr. Spangler diagnosed Stanley with major depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, low borderline intelligence, functional illiteracy, marginal education and math skills and personality disorder. He also found that Stanley was not able to handle work-related stress well, and that he was unable to manage benefits to the best of his interests. Dr. James M. Turnball confirmed Spangler’s findings in his own assessments of Stanley.

Psychologist E. Hugh Tenison, on the other hand, reviewed Stanley’s records in 2007. He found that Stanley only had mild restrictions to daily life, and concluded that Stanley could meet the basic mental demands of work despite his limitations.

The ALJ asserted that Stanley had severe impairments of hypertension, obesity, depressive disorder, and borderline intellectual functioning, but none of these conditions met a listed impairment under the Act. A similar case to Stanley’s also held that someone of his limited abilities could perform as an assembler, sorter, laundry worker, non-farm animal care, street vendor, attendant, or dishwasher. There are over 83,000 jobs in this market available to Stanley. Thus, the ALJ found that Stanley was able to perform work and was not entitled to such claims for Social Security benefits.

Stanley believed that the ALJ did not reference significant evidence, as his impairments are equal to mental retardation under the Act. He also argued that the ALJ flawed in its assessment of his daily functioning. In his appeal, he focused on his mental condition.

Judge James P. Jones determined that in order for Stanley’s claims to qualify for relief, it was necessary for him to show that he is unable to do work, or engage in any other kind of profitable work experience in the economy. A diagnosis alone would not be proof sufficient enough to meet the requirements of a medical condition under the Act.

There are strict qualifications under the Security Act for benefits, in which the applicant must pass all steps in a five-point evaluation, he must demonstrate a full scale IQ of 60 through 70, and a physical or mental impairment imposing additional limitations.

Much of the ALJ’s final decision relied on Stanley’s IQ scores, as Stanley never fell below 70. Another important factor for dissmissing Stanley’s request was that his claims of disabilities were not supported by documentation. The ALJ also presented evidence that Stanley’s limitations were not restrictive compared to prior assessments results. This was supported by B. Wayne Lanthorn’s studies on Stanley. Stanley may, indeed, suffer from physical and mental impairments, but he is able to perform moderate work.

On that note, the findings do not meet the criteria for a disability. Stanley’s case was immediately suspended upon further consideration because it did not meet one of the five points of criteria the Commissioner looks at when deciding who’s applicable.

Judge Jones determined that the Commissioner’s decision to deny Stanley of disabilities should be upheld.

http://www.vawd.uscourts.gov/OPINIONS/JONES/2-09CV00069.PDF

April 18, 2011

Jeannie M. Marshall (Plaintiff) v. Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security (Defendant) 

The Commissioner of Social Security denied Jeannie M. Marshall’s motion for Social Security benefits. Marshall challenged his decision and was denied additionally by a magistrate judge on the basis of factual evidence. Judge James P. Jones favored the judgment.  

At 31 years old, Marshall was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression. She is still able to work and function in the national and local economy, and has not objected to this evidence, either.

Records show that Marshall is not suffering from mental retardation. She is able to take care of her mentally disabled husband and her needs at home. She also received her driver’s license, completed up to the 8th grade in school, and tested to have a full-scale IQ of 79.

Nonetheless, Marshall is only able to perform simple work, so a magistrate judge remanded the case for furthur consideration.

In return, Marshall was awarded simple work guidelines, in which she would receive minimal contact with the public, coworkers and supervisors at work in observation of her conditions. Supplemental benefits were not awarded.

http://www.vawd.uscourts.gov/OPINIONS/JONES/2-10CV00019.PDF

April 18, 2011

United States (Plaintiff) v. Jose Santiago (Defendant)

Judge James P. Jones denied inmate Jose Santiago’s motion to clear his sentence on the basis of claims of court error and ineffective assistance.

On February 22, 2007, a grand jury charged Yayah Talib, James Dawson, Catherine Marie Flading, and Jose Santiago with the possession and intent to distribute heroin in a prison. Talib, Dawson and Santiago were inmates at the United States Penitentiary in Lee County, in which Flading smuggled heroin into the prison for them to distribute.

Flading and Dawson immediately pleaded guilty. Talib, however, trialed with a standby cousel, or an attorney, who was appointed to assist as needed. Because Santiago felt as though this would put him at a disadvantage because his case would most likely be associated with Talib’s, he motioned to separate his hearing. His inquiry was denied, and he was found guilty on two counts of crime charges, possession and distribution. Santiago was imprisoned for 262 months after pleading not guilty.

In response to his sentence, he requested that the decision be reconsidered by the United States Court of Appeals. He believed that he was entitled to relief on grounds that (1) counsel did not remove his case after it was presumed that he would be correlated with Talib’s case, (2) counsel neglected to acquire a forensic voice expert to testify that the voice heard on the recorded telephone conversations was not his, (3) the court faltered in using only one witness to compare and confirm that the voice on the tape was Santiago’s, (4) counsel did not challenge the integrity of the converted audio tapes to digital recordings, and (5) finally, the court failed to separate Santiago’s case from Talib’s case.

Judge Jones investigated the request for an appeal, and found that Satiago lacked supporting evidence. In order for him to have acquired relief, he needed cause for assumed correlation with Talib’s case, as well as proof that a mistake in counsel action would have been reason for a different outcome. If Santiago demonstrated that counsel’s actions violated the his constitutional right to effective assistance, his case would be continued.

Nonetheless, Judge Jones found that claims three and five were barred from review for absense of cause of prejudice. Santiago did not present any specific evidence that Talib’s trial increased the likelihood of his conviction, nor did he demonstrate that he was, indeed, innocent. He also failed to show that separating hearings would have resulted in any different outcome.

At Lee County’s Penetritiary, all telephone conversations are recorded, in which recordings of Dawson, Talib and Santiago were all connected to Flading. They indicated secret langauge codings, in which business was conducted.

Bryant Kilgore, a prison investigator testified against the phone calls. He confirmed that Santiago’s voice was the one on the tapes, and that a prisoner was also connected to Santiago’s telephone access codes.

In one such tape, Satiago ordered a woman named Iris Rivera to hide drugs inside a stuffed animal in coded language. When the stuffed animal was retrieved inside a package sent to Sonya Iris Melendez in New York, it contained a stuffed elephant with heroin secreted in its tail.

Santiago contested against these tapes, arguing that a “spectrograph” should have been used to compare the coice on the tapes with his own. He did not, however, demonstrate that the test would have resulted in a different outcome. He also argued that the recordings of the telephone conversations had been altered when they were transferred from to a CD for digital recording. He said that he heard his own voice at the trial, but could not recall ever saying those things. Kilgore testified that he merely transferred the digital recordings from the prison’s equipment to a CD for use at trial. Again, this goes back to ineffective counsel assistance, in which Santiago alleges that if he had known before trial that the tapes would be admitted against him, he would have asked for a voice analysis.

Another piece of significant evidence that Santiago was not innocent was Dawson sent nearly identical items in a package to Santiago’s to Iris.

In conclusion, Judge Jones denied Santiago’s motion for a separate trial. 

http://www.vawd.uscourts.gov/OPINIONS/JONES/2-07CR00003.PDF

April 14, 2011

Patsy Edmonds Smith (Plaintiff) v. City of Galax (Defendant)

Judge James P. Jones ordered that Patsy Edmonds Smith’s requests for motion against the City of Galax be both granted and denied. His conclusion was reasoned upon the following arguments:

After nearly 19 years of employment, Smith was asked to leave her job as a dispatcher from the Galax, Virginia Police Department on April 7, 2008. She believed that her termination as an employer was based on her gender and age. 

In defense, the Police Department countered her claims under the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure. This would leave out the details of the case for later, in which the actual law would be accentuated over Smith’s allegations. The motion was granted. Smith, however, was allowed to re-file a complaint against the City of Galax on the basis that she could present factual evidence.

She did just so.  

After tens years of valuable employment at the Galax Police Department, Smith endured a challenging divorce with her ex-husband. The changes in her personal life crippled her work ethic, in which the department reported that she would smoke outside the office building, she was not readily available to pick up extra shifts, and failed to follow vacation and sick leave procedures. Smith argued that this triggered the disapproval by her fellow employees, including Chief Rick Clark, who treated her “differently”.  

In 2002, Smith was suspended from work for 15 days and was ordered to seek psychological counceling after her ex-husband asked police that Smith not enter their former home without his presence. No filings were documented.  

Finally, in March 2008, Smith asserted that she was granted vacation time to care for her sick sister. When she returned to work, she was surprised to receive a termination letter written by Chief Clark. The only explanation that he could provide was the incident in 2002 involving her ex-husband. 

Smith was immediately replaced by a younger female dispatcher from outside the department. She felt convinced that her termination was motivated by Chief Clark’s desire to hire this younger woman. But because Smith’s replacement was female as well, and her position at the office was not subjected for another six years after her divorce, her claims for sex discrimination were dismissed. 

Smith failed to reference any direct evidence, but instead showed that the employer’s actions were motivated by discriminatory intent through indirect circumstantial evidence. 

Smith mentioned that a former officer’s wife told her that Chief Clark questioned her husband’s retirement plans, and than fired him shortly after he heard that he had no plans. Chief Clark told him he would be terminated if he did not file for retirement. This proved an intent of discrimination by Chief Clark.  

In this manner, Smith’s claim for sex discrimination was denied, however, her claim for age discrimination was continued.

http://www.vawd.uscourts.gov/OPINIONS/JONES/1-10CV00064MOTDISMISS.PDF

April 11, 2011
 
United States of America (Plaintiff) v. Francis David Sherman (Defendant)

After failing to comply with the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), Francis David Sherman’s motion to dismiss charges by the United States of America was denied.

Sherman was convicted as a sex offender in the states of Illinois and Missouri after committing rape and sexual assault in 1981 and 1998. He was required to register as a sex offender under Virginia and Federal Law when he moved to Virginia in 2008.

Every 90 days, Sherman followed through with the Virginia Code, in which he updated information and provided his address from initial registration. His next reporting date was due April 8, 2009.

In March of 2009, however, Sherman left Virginia. He stole an automobile and credit card with his girlfriend from her mother. They reappeared in Casper, Whyoming, and then hitchhiked into Canada. He was arrested in Carberry, Manitoba in September of 2010.

Sherman composed three arguments against his convictions: (1) he believed that he was not obligated to notify Virginia authorities of his intention to relocate to Canada, because SORNA does not practice jurisdiction over United States citizens in foreign countries. (2) He contended that relocating was not a criminal offense, and that he was only reponsibile for notifying authorities in his new residency. (3) Sherman claimed that SORNA was unconstitutional.

Withal, the court found that it is a criminal offense to neglect to register as a sex offender, in which the consequences could run as high as up to ten years in prison. The offender also must register and inform authorities if certain information is changed, such as an address.

Sherman also lived in Wyoming for an extended period of time, where he was temporarily employed. Regardless of his foreign jurisdiction argument, this information indicated that he was not following correct procedures. 

In disputing the constitutionality of SORNA, Sherman claimed that the Attorney General’s ability to apply guidelines and regulations on offenders convicted before the enactment date was unconstitutional, because it created new penalties not known at the time the sex offender committed his offenses. Even so, such authority has been found acceptable, as long as Congress does not intervene on SORNA rules. 

Sherman also found SORNA’s registration requirements to be punitive in effect. In a previous Supreme Court case, however, the court decided that the expectations were nonpunitive for safety reasons on preventing future sex crimes.

For these reasons, Sherman’s arguments failed.

 
March 28, 2011

Buchanan County, Etc. (Plaintiff) v. Equitable Production Company, et al. (Defendants)

After considerable review, Judge James P. Jones of the Western District of Virginia denied Buchanan County’s request to move their case against Equitable Production Company (EPC) to the state court. He reasoned that legal judgment involving state tax law is a fair gesture in federal courts.

In the initial case, Buchanan County claimed that EPC, an electric power company, made false calculations in taxes charged to the county. The county filed against EPC for a review, as well as compensation from taxes owed from previous years. EPC removed the case to the circuit court.

Buchanan County argued that a circuit court hearing was “improper,” and responded by motioning to advance the case to state court in conformity to the Tax Injunction Act.

Under the Tax Injunction Act, the power of a federal court to hear and try a case is surrendered to the state court. This would allow for the desired relief sought by the county.

Nonetheless, Buchanan County did not account for the act’s rejection to hear action sought by taxpayers to stop procedures. The county also failed to reference similar cases in which the trial was removed to the state court. In fact, the same argument was dismissed in other cases.

One example is a case in Jefferson County, in which the court held that the Tax Injunction Act does not bar jurisdiction in federal courts. The only exceptional circumstance to this case, as with all similar cases, would be when a difficult question or matter is raised. In this way, federal review would not be an appropriate approach.  

In Buchanan County versus EPC, a hearing in the circuit court is deemed acceptable and not necessary to be tried in a state court.

http://www.vawd.uscourts.gov/getopinion.asp

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Beth Macy: Life and Death in Time of Cholera

Speaker Beth Macy came to R.U. today to share her experience reporting in Haiti. What she had discovered became a shocking depiction of reality.

Macy stayed in Cap Haitien, Haiti for one week. It was a much smaller, less populated area in Haiti than where she was originially supposed to port in, St. Louis de Nord. Over the course of her journey, she was accompanied by a fixer, or someone who showed her around the country, and a medical team with two missions in mind: surgery on a young man who would be sent to the U.S., and a baby with sickle cell infection.

Her main focus, however, became the concern of Cholera in Haiti. Cholera is a bacterial spreading disease through contaminated food and drinking water. Already, the disease had taken 724 lives nationwide, and it is expected to take over 600,000 more by the time the epidemic ends. 

Macy struggled to put into words exactly what she had seen, but she remembered to use her five senses: touch, smell, sight, hear, and taste. Through this method, she expressed a physical connection, rather than cognitive, to make sense of the things she had the hardest time explaining. 

Macy also took advantage of utilizing multiple tools, such as a notebook, an audio device, a camera, and a flip cam. She posted on the Internet regularly to update friends and family at home. 

One of the most destinctive qualities Macy noted while she was in Haiti, was the overall acceptance that whatever happens is expected.

“It’s Haiti,” was the saying that most people used when something wasn’t right.

Macy felt as though this attitude was odd. It was almost as if saying, “I give up.”

At the end of her trip, she felt a dutiful responsibility to get the word out about Haiti. The Roanoke Times honored her with the first two pages, where she infamously outlined her journey into a story: “Life and death in time of cholera.”

Her account has earned her significant responses, in which she is contiually respected for to this day.

For more information:

Beth Macy’s article can be found at http://www.roanoke.com/multimedia/haiti_cholera 

Blog http://intrepidpapergirl.com/

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Chap Petersen Session Review

The 2011Virginia Regular Session came to a close Sunday, Feb. 27. For 30 days, House and Senate Representatives met to discuss and refresh Virginia law, represent citizens in public policy, elect judges, certify budgets, impose taxes, and approve appointments by the Governor. Senator John Chap Petersen was one such member who took part in the session.

Peterson was born and raised as a leader in his hometown community of Fairfax, Virginia. He applied himself into politics early and served two terms on council after graduating from Williams College in 1990 and University of Law School in 1994.

In 2007, Petersen knocked on over 18,000 doors to win over the 34th Senate district, in which he earned a seat in both the Virginia House and Virginia Senate. He was also assigned permanent standing committees on Transportation, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Privileges and Elections, and General Laws, as well as the Senate’s representative on a state commission on Energy and Environment.

Some of Petersen’s most successful bills included SB 450, which forbid domestic abusers from inheriting the property from spouses that they killed and SB 510, which guaranteed Virginia college students the right to a fairly priced student loan.

Currently, Petersen is a member of the board of directors at the Fairfax County good news jail ministry. He participates in the Fairfax Noonday Optimist Club, the Northern Virginia Rugby Football Club, the Truro Episcopal Church, and he is a board member of the Virginia Economic Bridge.

Petersen felt a great responsibility for supporting the community he grew up in this session. His top three goals were to stay in touch with his constituents, listen to both sides before every contested vote, and exercise every day.

“I love being in the state legislature,” he said. “Representing my own community is a great honor, and I never take it for granted.”

The session commenced on Jan. 12, 2011.

Petersen stood behind over 120 bills, with his top three bills being SB 832 (green buildings), SB 843 (above ground storage tank regulation), and SB 837 (foreclosure fraud), which was a package bill between SB 836 and SB 838.

SB 832 unanimously passed through General Laws Committee on Jan. 26. The bill required the Department of General Services to use LEED-related standards in designing and constructing new state buildings. If the bill became law, it would be the first time in Virginia history that energy efficient building standards were written into the State Code. Unfortunately, SB 832 made it through Senate, but it was never taken up for a vote in the House Appropriations Committee. This was the fourth time Petersen has presented this bill and it died in the House.

On Jan. 31, SB 843 passed in both the Senate and House unanimously. The bill cracked down on regulating above ground storage tanks by doing the following with HB 2103: gave local governments input on “consent orders” governing spills, assigned penalties from spills towards local recovery efforts, and renewed tanks standards. SB 843 asked tank farm owners to update all pre-1992 structures to conform to current design requirements, including demand the use of “double-bottoms” to prevent leaks.

Petersen’s most valuable bill this session was his foreclosure bill SB 837.

“The current law is not balanced,” he said. “Moreover, it gives no benefit to Virginia taxpayers or homeowners, who deserve an honest and objective system. There is also a potential revenue issue.”

This bill was a “dual” bill with SB 836 and SB 838 that did three things: it required a 30-day notice to foreclose on a defaulted party, with the notice having to contain information identifying the loan owner, the loan servicer and the amount outstanding. Two, forbid the use of false documents in possessing a foreclosure, with specific charges against those creditors who rely on those documents. And three, creditors are expected to register purchases of mortgages with the Clerk of Circuit Court. Of the two of the three bills that passed in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee, SB 837 and SB 838, only SB 837 survived. SB 838 failed on cross-over day and is dead for the year.

Petersen experienced a rollercoaster of these frustrations and reliefs over the course of the session.

Some of his biggest disappointments filtered from a number his bills being “left” in the House after they passed the Senate. SB 848, for example, was specially requested by the City of Fairfax and its firefighters. The bill would have permitted the city to voluntarily enroll personnel in a friendlier pension plan than the year before, while keeping existing personnel in the Virginia Retirement System.  The bill failed unaffected in the House. Petersen was bothered that not only did the City representatives speak for the bill, but no one spoke against it, the director of VRS had no problem with it, and it had no cost to the state. No reason was given for defeat.

Similarly, the Senate voted 24-16 to pass SB 831, a restriction on the ability of the Attorney General to issue “civil investigative demands” against universities and professors based upon their research. It was also defeated in the House untouched.  

“Now, I can’t say what motivates all lawmakers. The ones I know are people of good faith. And I would never presume to think that voting a certain way is evidence of any morality. It’s not. But there are basic rules of fairness which I feel are being frustrated this session,” Petersen said on a post in his blog OxRoadSouth.

Still, a number of his bills that passed in the Senate were able to slip by in the House. These bills included SB 844 in the Senate Finance, which allowed local governments to expose information on their expenses to the general public, and SB 846, a bill that equalized the legal status between local governments and water authorities in order to collect outstanding accounts. SB 1054 passed a Rules Subcommittee unanimously. This bill continued the State Civics Education Commission. Another bill, SB 841, passed in both Senate and House, which “extended charitable immunity to the officers and directors of nonprofits like community pools after they dissolve.”(f.y.i. this bill applied to my neighborhood in Kings Park West); minor successes for a major cause.

Feb. 8 marked cross-over day this session. This meant that the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee had to dispose of all legislation by the end of the day, and hundreds of bills were voted on as they got to the “final read.”

Proposed constitutional amendments that passed were required to go through both Subcommittee and full Committee. Most proposals did not make it. Nonetheless, the Committee did pass JHR 693, which amends the Virginia Constitution to add a section limiting the use of eminent domain. If it clears, it will go to the voting public in 2012. 

The Senate voted 37-3 to pass the Senate budget, and on Feb. 27, the conference committee report unanimously passed through the House.

On Wed. April 6, the reconvened session will convene to consider any Governor’s amendments or vetoes to legislation passed by the General Assembly. Petersen will also be attending.

When asked what he stood for as a Democratic Senator, Petersen responded that he was responsible for upholding and defending constitutional rights, fighting the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few, keeping government open and accountable, and protecting children, the elderly and the disabled.

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Making Spirits Bright: One SGA President at a Time

Next year's SGA President Lee Hicks speaks in front of a small panel of officers.

When next year’s SGA president, sophomore Lee Hicks, answered questions from a student audience and the SGA executive board in the annual presidential debate, he expressed his plans for leadership in the year ahead and confronted Radford University’s biggest challenge: spirit.

“I have three main points,” Hicks said. “One, is to increase school spirit, two, is to increase a better sense of community both on and off campus, and three, is to improve the communication between faculty and students.”

Hicks felt as though his most important initiative would be to bring back the spirit in Radford. And it was no surprise that participation was his topic of concern, because few students chose to show up for the event. He used this point as an example to sell his solution: a football team.

“I feel that getting a football team would increase school spirit, which was initiative number one, and then also create a better since of community, which was initiative number two. I can’t really think of any other way that I can try and have one program and one thing that I would be able to have a two and one bundle,” he said. 

(Left) Legislative Vice President Justin Blakenship, (Center) SGA President Lee Hicks, and (Right) School Spirit Director Daniel Testerman pose for a picture.

Creating a football team, Hicks believes, would help curve the image that the school has had for so long.

“As opposed to being the ‘party’ school, we’ll be the football school,” he said.

In 2008, Radford kicked off its first club football team. The organization gained significant support and served as a possible preview as to what could become of Radford if the team is redefined into a collegiate team. The problem, however, would be winning over those who may oppose the idea.

“Administration doesn’t exactly like the idea of having a football team,” Hicks said. 

Some faculty agree that the motion could be financially exhausting, not to mention somewhat unnecessary at this point in time.

“I don’t know that spirit revolves around having football,” said Radford’s Athletic Director Robert Lineburg. “Football, those six Saturdays in the fall, can certainly add a lot to campus life, and I don’t think that anyone who’s been on a campus won’t acknowledge that it’s a pretty cool thing. The problem with starting football is just it’s so expensive.”

Lineburg estimates that starting up a real football team could top as much as $20 million, and that’s just the foundation. Money would have to come from a combination of things, including student fees, which would fund for scholarships, infrastructures, field houses, weight rooms, a stadium and all other football extremities.

“You would almost need an anchor donor right away to say, ‘I’ll fund this with $10 million to get it off the ground,’” Lineburg said.

In recent years, however, schools who have added a football team in Virginia were able to beat the financial odds. For example, Old Dominion University successfully implemented a football team into their athletics in 2009. The money they spent in the beginning came back through ticket sales, concessions, parking tickets, and sponsorships.

Lineburg acknowledged ODU’s achievement, but he also believed that it was in part drawn by the university’s regional advantage out in Tidewater. Radford may be more of a challenge because of its location.

“I can’t emphasize enough that in this economy it’s just difficult,” he said.

He has not completely dismissed the idea, but he does ask that those who support Radford football look at both sides of the story.

“Is football something that would never be explored at Radford? No. I think we are always looking for ways to better our school, but until we can fund it accordingly, it’s going to be tough,” Lineburg said.

Despite administration’s uncertainty, Hicks saw potential in the future of Radford. He felt the project was possible and should be going into practice now. After all, why wait till tomorrow when you could always start today?

It’s no secret that many students stand beside Hicks’ plan, either. Some seniors, in particular, have felt an absence of school pride since their first semesters.

“I’ve seen a fluctuation in spirit since I’ve been here,” said Senior Alexander Filicko.

He has trouble imagining Radford as an ordinary school.

“We can’t relate to other schools other than basketball,” he said.

Senior Ray Chambers also saw football as a step forward.

“I feel like if our sports were a little better, the school spirit would be a little better. Football would be an awesome addition,” said Chambers.

SGA President for 2011-12 Lee Hicks and current President Randi-Lyn Randall.

Last year’s SGA President Senior Randi-Lyn Randall felt confident that Hicks and his new executive team would be successful in their journey to find spirit, even if it meant not having a football team.

“What’s cool is that they’re not seniors, so they’re going to be able to run again and then again. It’s going to provide a foundation that they can build on and not so much turn-over year after year,” Randall said.

“He’ll be here the whole the summer, which is really exciting. He’ll have more of a direction of who to go to, what to talk to them about, and be able to build that relationship sooner than I was,” said Randall. “And that’s going to be huge next year just because they’ll have that relationship with administration before the school year starts.”

Hicks has promised to work with faculty to give the students of Radford University a chance to be heard.

“If the administration says no, but the students still want it, I will fight tooth and nail to get it. Even if it means I have to walk into Richmond myself,” said Hicks.

He has already laid out his approach for his plan during his presidency, in which he would immediately start working this summer when his term begins.

“Like any investment, you’re going to make your money back and then some,” Hicks said.

But he wasn’t just talking about money. He was talking about the time, loyalty and leadership he would be helping to implement into Radford University.

 

Resources:

http://sga.asp.radford.edu/constitution.htm

Executive Board 2011-12

Randi-Lyn Randall- Student Body President 2010-11

Lee Hicks- SGA President 2011-12

Emily Redd- Executive Vice President

Legislative Vice President- Justin Blankenship

Jolyn Paoleth in the running against Nicole Munsey- Vice President of Student Finance

Will hall, Nanly White, Stacy Hayden- At Large

Fionna Surette- Sophomore Senator

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True Life: I’m going to Iraq

Jacob Edwards in standard uniform.

Last month, sophomore Jacob Edwards was an ordinary student at Radford University. Today, he is a soldier.

“I knew that my unit was deploying,” Edwards said. “I’ve known that since about a year ago, but I didn’t know when.”

He received word of his deployment at home three weeks ago. Edwards would be serving time in Iraq in less than a month.

Originally, his plans were to enroll in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corporation (ROTC) at Radford University. The ROTC program would have not only trained him to become an officer in the US Army, but it would have excused him from mandatory deployment in college.

Even so, Edwards had a different agenda in mind. He wanted a taste of the real college experience without having to endure the intense ROTC training program. If taking part in this opportunity meant having to risk deployment due to his prior enlistment into the Army, he was willing to take his chances.

Edwards resumed his first two years of college without the burden of ROTC. He focused on his major in political science, and stepped out of his shell to expand his social identity. As a result, Edwards became a brother in Theta Chi Fraternity.

“I met [Edwards] on the house tours when I decided to rush, and we ended up being pledge brothers. I thought he was hilarious,” said sophomore Neil Sargent.

Junior and Theta Chi brother Jake McConville is Edwards’ big brother in the fraternity. “I knew we were going to be good friends because he could talk to anyone. He is so easy-going.”

Edwards found a “home away from home” in the fraternity. He felt strongly that his place would remain secure among the brothers, despite his future departure. 

Jacob Edwards (left) with Theta Chi brother Jake McConville (right).

“He told me about it [deployment] this past fall semester,” McConville said. “He knew that deployment was a possibility, but never took action not to go. I think he kind of wanted to go.”

Like McConville, many of the brothers suspected he was leaving, but they didn’t know for sure. Finding out was a bittersweet reality.

“I found out about his deployment the same morning Jake had found out,” said Theta Chi brother Ryan Willet. “Instead of flat out asking him, I called him to go to the gym. We talked about it for about an hour. I was a little worried, of course, but I knew it was something that he wanted to do.”

Sargent had similar feelings. “At first, I was excited for him because that’s what he wanted to do. Then I thought about it, and I was worried about my pledge brother going. But he wanted to go, and if he’s happy, I’m happy.”

Edwards took time to weigh out the benefits of deployment.

“It will be a unique experience,” Edwards said. “I get to leave the country and learn the culture. I’ll be OK. I’ll make good money, and I’ll get more money to help pay for school.”

He will still have the Internet, his Xbox and a satellite phone to make calls periodically. Edwards will also be accompanied by two friends from home.

“When I come back I’ll have a year left on my contract, and then I’ll be out of the Army,” he said. “I won’t be deployed again.”

Edwards will return home in a year, in which he plans to go back to school and finish his degree. He hopes to one day get into graduate school, and then work his way into Congress. So far, Edwards does not regret any decision he has made.

“Yea, I’m going to be sad, but it’s something that I volunteered for,” Edwards said. “The real fight will be missing everyone.”

Radford University not only offered him an education, but it trained him to find the strength in himself to be a better friend and a better leader. He may be out of the country for some time, but the support system he made continues to encourage his success.

“Good luck and keep in touch, Jake. I know you’ll be OK,” said Sargent.

“Any experience with Jake would usually turn into some kind of adventure. Jake’s a great guy. He’s doing something not many people have the courage to do. Got to be proud of him for it,” Willet said.

“My dad is 46 years old, and his best friend in the world is his Big from college, even still today. I just want you [Edwards] to know that brothers last forever,” said McConville. “It’s an honor wearing that flag. Come home soon, Jake.”

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