News and Analysis


The Washington Post

Sunday, March 16, 2014 7:46 p.m.

Snow headed for the District again

Snow is expected to dust the city Monday, and two counties in Virginia announced their public schools will be closed.

A dog stands in Dupont Circle during a snowball fight earlier this year. Hatchet File Photo

A dog stands in Dupont Circle during a snowball fight earlier this year. Hatchet File Photo

Between 2 and 4 inches of snow could accumulate in the D.C. area by Monday morning, the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang predicted, but even less could pile up downtown or near the Potomac River.

Snow that falls in the early evening will likely melt because of above-freezing temperatures, but it could start to stick between 8 p.m. and midnight.

Public schools in Fairfax and Loudoun counties will be closed Monday.

GW has canceled classed three times because of snow this academic year.

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D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray gives his State of the District speech last year. Federal prosecutors are now alleging he knew about the shadow campaign. Hatchet File Photo.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray gives his State of the District speech last year. Federal prosecutors are now alleging he knew about the shadow campaign. Hatchet File Photo.

Federal prosecutors said Monday that Mayor Vincent Gray had asked for the help of D.C. businessman Jeffrey Thompson before he illegally funnelled more than a half-million dollars into Gray’s 2010 mayoral campaign, The Washington Post reported.

Thompson pled guilty to two conspiracy counts Monday, including the financing of a $668,800 shadow campaign for Gray’s first mayoral bid between May and September 2010 – a figure that was higher than previously reported. Prosecutors said that Gray had met with Thompson several times and helped keep Thompson’s identity a secret by calling him “Uncle Earl.”

Gray said Monday that he used the nickname to keep Thompson’s identity a secret from former mayor Adrian Fenty, who also received money. Gray has repeatedly denied knowledge of the fund, though he publicly apologized for the 2010 campaign after launching his reelection bid in January.

He dismissed prosecutor’s charges when talking to a Washington Post reporter Monday.

“It’s shocking to me. Lies. These are lies,” Gray said, adding that Thompson implicated him to lessen the time he’d have to spend in prison.

“The only thing I can tell people is what has been and continues to be the truth for me, and you know what that is. I don’t need to repeat that for the 933rd time,” Gray said.

Thompson could have faced 18 months in prison but as a result of the plea, he will face at most six months in prison and a three-year supervised release.

Thompson’s court appearance, as well as the documents, unveil a tangled web of funding to federal and local political campaigns, which totalled more than $2 million. The cash also went toward Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid and Council member Vincent Orange’s 2011 At-Large Council campaign.

Thompson gave money to at least 13 federal candidates – including D.C.’s delegate to Congress Eleanor Holmes Norton – between 2006 and 2010, according to the documents.

U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen described the court appearance as a “major turning point” though he said there were “varying degrees of knowledge” about the funds among the candidates who received funding from Thompson. Machen declined to comment if Gray had cooperated with the investigation.

“What you learned about today was only the tip of the iceberg,” Machen said, adding there was no timeline to release more information about Gray before April’s Democratic mayoral primary.

Thompson said at the hearing that Orange – who is also running for mayor – did not know about the fund.

In a release, Gray’s campaign manager Chuck Thies cautioned about the “innuendo” of the charges.

“The Jeffrey Thompson charging document should be read carefully. Common misconceptions espoused by our opponents and echoed in the media are not substantiated in the Jeffrey Thompson charging documents. Read carefully,” Thies said.

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Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014 9:10 p.m.

Alumnus, representative of Guam, dies at 85

Photo used under the Wikimedia Commons license

Photo used under the Wikimedia Commons license.

Vicente Blaz, an alumnus who served as the first non-white general in the Marine Corps and represented Guam in Congress, died Jan. 8 in Fairfax, Va. He was 85.

Blaz earned a master’s degree in public administration at GW in 1963, the Washington Post reported, while he was serving in the Marines. He died from acute respiratory failure.

Blaz was born in Guam three decades after the island became a U.S. territory. Japanese forces invaded Guam during World War II and captured Blaz, then 13, and held him in a prison camp for three years.

He eventually traveled to the U.S., graduating from the University of Notre Dame before entering the Marines. Blaz served in the Korean War and received the Bronze Star Medal for his service in the Vietnam War.

After retiring from the military in 1980, he returned to Guam, the Post reported. Four years later, he was elected to represent Guam as a non-voting member of Congress. Blaz, a Republican, was the only former general in Congress at the time and went on to serve four terms.

He had a home in Fairfax, Va. and is survived by two sons, two brothers, a sister and five grandchildren.

His wife, Ann Evers Blaz, died seven months ago. They had been married for 58 years.

This post was updated on Jan. 25 at 11:32 p.m. to reflect the following:

Correction appended
In the headline, The Hatchet incorrectly reported that Blaz died at 58. As stated in the story, he was 85.

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The man charged with attacking a part-time professor near Dupont Circle last month was released from jail Monday and assigned to a halfway house until his trial.

James Brown of Southeast D.C. was arrested for assaulting Jason Chambers, a fencing instructor in the department of exercise science, the weekend before Halloween. Chambers was found unconscious on a sidewalk and unable to provide details of the attack.

A D.C. Superior Court judge ordered Brown, 38, to wear a GPS-equipped ankle bracelet and remain in the halfway house at all times, except for court appearances, the Washington Post reported.

Chambers is no longer in a coma, but doctors were forced to cut out part of his skull where Brown allegedly stomped on it. The Assistant U.S. Attorney on the case said Chambers “will never be the same.”

Brown allegedly attacked him near Connecticut Avenue at about 4:20 a.m., according to a police report.

The Metropolitan Police Department had originally assigned homicide detectives to the case because of the seriousness of Chambers’ injuries.

Police told the Post that Brown and co-workers were moving Washington Post newspapers from one delivery truck to another at the time of the attack. Brown punched Chambers after he felt threatened, checked Chambers’ pulse and “got back into his truck and began delivering his newspapers, leaving the victim on the sidewalk,” the Post reported.

Charles Canty, who is representing Brown, said the court had not yet set a trial date.

“We understand that professor Chambers is very popular. We understand that. But there was an unfortunate series of events. My client is innocent of anything involving Jason Chambers,” Canty said.

- Colleen Murphy contributed to this report

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Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., who has served as the District’s representative in Congress since 1991, has celebrated multiple moves by the federal government to grant the city budget autonomy. Hatchet File Photo

A Senate committee signed off on a bill Thursday freeing up the District’s tax dollars without congressional approval – the latest legal success that could allow for greater budget autonomy.

While the measure clashes with a spending bill in the House of Representatives, it comes days after Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. introduced a separate bill Tuesday to amend the D.C. Home Rule Act and allow the city to spend funds without congressional approval.

D.C. has historically aligned its fiscal year with the federal government’s on Oct. 1, but most states begin July 1 to allow for school budget use.

“The District has now moved closer to budget autonomy than ever in its history,” Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., said of the Senate bill in a statement Friday. She is the District’s lone, nonvoting representative in Congress.

The city’s budget autonomy referendum, which was approved in April, will also go into effect next year after Congress allowed the legislative review period to expire this week.

Congress could pass a law nullifying the referendum retrospectively, but the Post reported President Barack Obama and the Democrat-lead Senate are unlikely to support such action.

The House bill, which a committee advanced last week, also cuts federal funding for D.C. by 6 percent. The other chamber’s proposal slightly increased funding, which makes up about 2 percent of the District’s budget and mostly pays for its court system.

The Senate committee measure would also end a restriction on D.C. from spending taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions for low-income women, but the House bill leaves the ban intact.

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This site could be home to GW and MIT lab facilities. Rendering courtesy of Walter Reed Local Redevelopment Authority.

After spending more than half a billion dollars on construction in Foggy Bottom, GW could now be a major player in development projects across the city.

Two real estate firms have included GW medical and biological science facilities in their pitches to rebuild a more than 60-acre site in Northwest D.C.

Those companies are among three developers vying for the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center property, which sits between Georgia Avenue and 16th Street. The teams presented their ideas Thursday, and Mayor Vincent Gray will have a final say on who develops the site, the Washington Post reported.

One proposal, called “The Parks at Walter Reed,” would include GW and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology lab facilities as well as Hyatt hotel and conference center and an arts center. Also called the Hines-Urban Atlantic proposal, it would take about 10 years to complete.

The second was pitched by Roadside Development, and includes a partnership between GW and Howard University. It would also include retail, housing and a hotel.

Associate Vice President of Operations Administration John Ralls said he could not immediately provide information about the plans.

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D.C. Council member Tommy Wells introduced legislation Wednesday that would decriminalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana. Photo courtesy of the official Tommy Wells for Mayor 2014 page on Facebook.

A D.C. Council member introduced a bill Wednesday that would decriminalize possession of an ounce or less of marijuana.

Individuals caught with small amounts of marijuana would pay a $100 fine under the bill drafted by council member Tommy Wells, the Washington Post reported. Under the current law, possession of up to an ounce of marijuana  is a misdemeanor punishable up to a $1,000 fine and six months in prison.

A majority of council members – including Foggy Bottom’s representative and mayoral candidate Jack Evans and GW law professor Mary Cheh – have voiced support for the bill. Wells, chairman of the council’s public safety and judiciary committee, said he expects a formal vote before Christmas.

Wells claims the legislation, which wouldn’t slap violators with a criminal record, would allow more city residents to land jobs.

D.C. outranks the 50 states in per-capita marijuana arrests, according to an American Civil Liberties Union report last month. It also showed that black individuals were eight times more likes than white people to face arrest for possession.

But Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier said in a release Wednesday that the report’s arguments are “flawed.”

“This is a significant issue that merits robust discussion on a broad spectrum of issues, including concerns about the risk to children with increased access, the health impact of increasingly potent plants, and conflict with federal laws,” Lanier wrote.

The Council could also vote on a bill that would legalize, tax and regulate marijuana, which has been pushed by Council member David Grosso, according to the Post. But Mayor Vincent Gray has said he worries decriminalization or legalization laws could lead to friction with Congress.

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Adam Kokesh, a former graduate student, was arrested for having drugs while also in possession of a gun Tuesday evening. He has been arrested several times. Photo used under the Creative Commons License

Police arrested a former GW student Tuesday for possession of hallucinogenic mushrooms and a gun, about a week after he wielded a shotgun in Freedom Plaza as part of a political stunt.

U.S. Park Police searched Adam Kokesh’s house in Herndon, Va. and took him into custody, the Washington Post reported. Kokesh, a former Graduate School of Political Management student, was then held overnight in Fairfax, Va.

The famed anti-government activist had posted a video of himself in downtown D.C. on July 4, in which he appears to be loading a shotgun.

The Park Police is responsible for patrolling the plaza, but a lieutenant told the Post she did not know if the video was the reason for the search of Kokesh’s house about 25 miles west of D.C.

Kokesh had planned an armed rally on the National Mall on July 4 to combat the District’s ban on openly carrying firearms. But he called off the march in late May, urging Second Amendment advocates to instead take their grievances to state capitols.

Possession of a firearm that is not registered in the District carries a penalty of up to a year in prison.

Police cars and two helicopters, according to a release posted on Kokesh’s Web site, “barricaded” his street and officers used a battering ram to knock in the front door. The release claimed police then searched Kokesh’s house for five hours.

He refused to let officers take his fingerprints or speak to court officials Wednesday.

The court has scheduled to arraign Kokesh on Thursday and set a preliminary hearing for Oct. 2.

Possession of hallucinogenic mushrooms, a narcotic, is a felony in Virginia and punishable up to 10 years in prison. If the court convicts Kokesh of possession of the drugs while also having a gun, he could face an additional two years in prison.

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A Howard University student was shot and killed Thursday just off the college’s campus in an attempted robbery.

Two men with handguns allegedly assaulted Omar Sykes and another student at Georgia Avenue and Fairmont Street at about 11:30 p.m., the Washington Post reported. Sykes, 22, was a rising senior and business marketing major.

Police told NBC Washington that an argument may have broken out between the alleged attackers and the students before one of the men pulled out a gun and shot Sykes. The incident occurred about a 15 minute-drive from GW’s campus.

Sykes was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital, and the other student is now recovering from a nonlethal head injury after he was struck with a handgun.

Officers have not confirmed if the students were robbed or provided a description of the suspects. Police told the Post they were trying to gather surveillance videos from around the area of the attempted robbery.

The shooting follows an uptick in violent crimes, including armed robberies, thefts and assaults, on and around Howard University’s campus in Northwest D.C., the Post reported. But Howard University Police Chief Leroy James has said crime has dropped overall.

Sykes’ coed service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega, organized a vigil Friday on Howard University’s campus. A graphic and web designer, Sykes developed the Web site for the Noble Black Society, an organization founded at the college.

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Photo courtesy of the official Facebook page for Reta Jo Lewis

A former U.S. State Department aide jumped into the D.C. mayoral race Tuesday, joining three D.C. Council members with years more experience in local politics.

Reta Jo Lewis, who worked under former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton until May, will contend with Council members Jack Evans, Muriel Bowser and Tommy Wells in the Democratic primary April 1.

Current mayor and GW alumnus Vincent Gray has not yet confirmed his candidacy.

A 59-year-old Georgia native, Lewis moved to D.C. in 1978 and served briefly as chief of staff to the Department of Public Works, the Washington Post reported. She was a special assistant to President Bill Clinton before she worked as Hillary Clinton’s special representative for global intergovernmental affairs.

Lewis, an attorney who now lives in the NoMa neighborhood, served as director of outreach for President Barack Obama’s 2008 transition.

A campaign spokeswoman told the Post that Lewis, whose announcement online was meant for “friends and former colleagues,” will launch a listening tour around the District followed by a campaign kick-off at the end of the summer.

Lewis declined to describe her campaign platform to the Associated Press, but said she is certain she can attract enough contributions to win. She has contributed almost $3,000 to city campaigns, including those of former Mayor Adrian Fenty and former Council member Michael Brown.

The winner of the city’s Democratic primary has also won the mayor’s seat every year.

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