A man who got drunk, sped down the wrong way of a one-way street in Clarendon and caused a crash that seriously injured a pedestrian earlier this year has pleaded guilty to a felony charge.
Pentagon City resident Benjamin Andruss, 37, pleaed guilty yesterday to felony DUI maiming. He is scheduled to be sentenced in February.
The crash happened between 8:30 and 9:00 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 12. Prosecutors say Andruss had just left First Down Sports Bar in Ballston, where he had consumed 4-5 beers and three glasses of whiskey while watching afternoon football games. A friend encouraged him to take a cab, but Andruss insisted on driving.
Andruss drove from the Ballston Common Mall parking garage to Clarendon, revving the engine of his Mercedes-Benz at stop lights and “speeding the whole way,” prosecutors said. At the intersection of Wilson, Clarendon and Washington Blvds, he again revved his engine at the stop light, then accelerated straight through the intersection when the light turned green.
Andruss sped the wrong way down Wilson Blvd, past Spider Kelly’s and other bars. His Mercedes ran up on the sidewalk, striking the side of the Clarendon War Memorial. In his path was a pedestrian, a man around 30 years old who works for the U.S. Department of Energy.
The pedestrian tried to dive out of the way, but Andruss struck a parked car, which then struck the pedestrian. The man regained consciousness in the middle of the street.
From a statement of facts entered by prosecutors as part of the plea:
He was taken by ambulance to GW Hospital, where he was treated for numerous injuries to his head and left elbow. Both required serious treatment. His head required more than a dozen staples. His broken elbow required surgery, the insertion of a metal plate, and screws to ensure regained functionality. The elbow now has a permanent visible scar. And [the victim], despite weeks of physical therapy, has yet to regain – and may never regain – a full range of motion.
After the crash, the Defendant exited the vehicle and appeared to try to walk away. He was prevented from doing so by onlookers. The Defendant was described as unsteady on his feet, with slurred speech and bloodshot/glassy eyes. He repeatedly “fell” into an officer’s arms as they spoke. The Defendant admitted to drinking and refused to perform all field sobriety tests. He was placed under arrest at 9:20pm.
“Mr. Andruss made a series of poor decisions that evening,” Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Josh Katcher told ARLnow.com. “He drank too much, he didn’t take a cab, he drove recklessly from Ballston to Clarendon, and then he drove the wrong way, down the wrong street, at the wrong time.”
“Try to imagine this from the victim’s perspective: he’s minding his own business, walking down a sidewalk, when he hears an engine revving, sees a set of headlights speeding towards him, and has no more than a second to try to dive out of the way,” Katcher continued. “Next thing he knows he is on his back in the middle of the street with people looking down at him telling him not to move. This is the type of mayhem that happens when people drink and drive. There is no defense, no reason, and no excuse for this type of behavior.”
Andruss is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 6, 2015. He’s expected to receive a sentence of 1-5 years in prison.
This is not the only legal trouble Andruss is facing. Three days after the crash he was fired, and a week after that he was sued by his former employer, accused of making hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of improper purchases on his company credit card and withdraws from the company checking account, all while deliberately concealing evidence of his actions.
Michael Gardner, the Falls Church resident whose 2012 sexual battery conviction was overturned by the Virginia Supreme Court earlier this year, has been indicted in another molestation case.
Gardner was arrested and charged with two counts of aggravated sexual battery of a child after an Arlington Circuit Court grand jury returned two indictments on Monday. He’s being held without bond at the Arlington County jail.
The indictment charges Gardner with the molestation of a female family member who was under 13 years of age at the time. The two alleged offenses took place in 2009.
“The allegations came to light only after Gardner was released from prison after his conviction was overturned by the Virginia Supreme Court,” Falls Church authorities said in a press release this morning. “The victim in the most recent case related the incident to an individual who, by law, is a mandated reporter of child abuse allegations.”
Gardner’s next court appearance is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 6. He is also facing a new trial in the previous molestation case. That trial is scheduled to begin on Feb. 2, 2015.
Gardner was originally convicted in May 2012 of molesting two girls during a sleepover birthday party for his daughter in 2011. Gardner is a former chairman of the Falls Church City Democratic Committee and his wife, Robin Gardner, was formerly mayor of Falls Church.
Gardner’s attorney could not be immediately reached for comment.
Photo courtesy Arlington County Sheriff’s Office
The driver who killed an Alexandria man in a drunk driving accident in Rosslyn on Jan. 24 pleaded guilty to DUI aggravated involuntary manslaughter today.
Aman Singh Lail, 24, was traveling eastbound on Lee Highway when his Jeep Wrangler slammed into the car of 24-year-old Saqlain Chowdhury at 2:09 a.m. Chowdhury was transported to George Washington University Hospital, where he died.
Lail pleaded guilty in Arlington Circuit Court this morning, and will face sentencing from Judge Louise DiMatteo on Nov. 14.
Lail, a Baltimore resident, had almost three dozen traffic violations on his record in Loudoun, Fairfax and Arlington counties since 2008, including a driving while intoxicated arrest in Arlington in 2009 and a DWI conviction in Fairfax County in 2012, according to prosecutors. Lail faces between one and 20 years in prison.
“On Jan. 24, 2014, Aman Lail decided to endanger the National Capital Region by driving drunk,” Deputy Police Chief Daniel Murray said in a press release. “This decision cost Saqlain Chowdhury his life. The aggressive investigation and prosecution by the Arlington County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office and the Arlington County Police Department’s Critical Accident Team has resulted in today’s plea. While there is nothing that will bring Mr. Chowdhury back to his family, at least Aman Lail will not present a danger to the community as long as he remains behind bars.”
The case was prosecuted by Deputy Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jay Burkholder.
“The Commonwealth Attorney’s Office is pleased that the defendant entered guilty pleas today, but there are no good outcomes here,” Burkholder said. “Our thoughts continue to be with the victim’s family and friends as they struggle with this tragedy.”
Photo courtesy Arlington County Sheriff’s Office
(Updated at 10:45 a.m.) If a federal appeals court ruling goes unchallenged, Arlington County Clerk of the Circuit Court Paul Ferguson says his office is prepared to “start issuing marriage licenses to same sex applicants immediately.”
On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond upheld a lower court’s decision that Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. State Sen. Adam Ebbin who represents part of Arlington and was the first openly gay member of the Virginia General Assembly, applauded the court’s decision.
“This victory for liberty is in keeping with Jefferson’s admonition that ‘laws and institutions must go hand and hand with the progress of the human mind,’” Ebbin said in a statement. “As the birthplace of America’s civil liberties, it is especially fitting that Virginia provides full equality to all of her citizens.”
The ruling will not take effect for 21 days, according to news reports, and could be put on hold indefinitely if those seeking to uphold the marriage ban are granted a stay while appealing to the full appellate court or the U.S. Supreme Court.
Ferguson, who participates in an annual pro-gay marriage demonstration in Arlington, said he believes the appeals process will continue to drag out.
“From what I have heard, it is likely that a stay will be asked for and granted by the Fourth Circuit consistent with the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in the Utah case,” Ferguson told ARLnow.com Monday afternoon. “If the stay is granted, it is likely we will need to wait until the Supreme Court rules.”
Ferguson said he expects to receive guidance from Virginia’s Democratic attorney general, Mark Herring, “in the near future.”
Should a stay not be granted, however, Ferguson said “the Arlington Circuit Court Clerk’s office will issue marriage licenses to same sex applicants as soon as we are certain they would be valid.”
“It is possible that the court could rule rejecting the stay sooner,” he said. Asked about the possibility of a crush of gay and lesbian couples seeking marriage licenses, Ferguson said his office “will do our best to accommodate applicants in a timely manner.”
Dump Truck Driver Found Guilty in Woman’s Death — The driver of a dump truck that struck and killed a 39-year-old mother of three in February has been found guilty of “failing to pay full time and attention.” Marvin Valladares, 33, was sentenced to 10 days in jail with four suspended. [WTOP, WJLA]
Pentagon Centre Redevelopment Plans Change – A plan to redevelop the Pentagon Centre shopping center is being changed. Owner Kimco Realty Corp. now wants to build two residential buildings on the site before building two office buildings and a hotel. Pentagon Centre is currently home to Best Buy, Costco and other big box retailers. If the plan is approved, it and other Pentagon City development projects could result in “a deluge of roughly 4,000 new residential units in a decade.” [Washington Business Journal]
Lane Closures Planned for Parade — A number of lanes will be closed in the area of Four Mile Run on Saturday for the Corso de Santa Cruz Parade. [Arlington County]
James Watson, 32, was found guilty this week of beating up his roommate after the roommate drew a penis on his face while he slept. An Arlington County Circuit Court judge sentenced Watson to a $1,250 fine and restitution on the misdemeanor charge, but no additional jail time.
During trial, the jury was told that Watson and his two roommates were out drinking in Clarendon on a Friday night last March. When they returned to their Lyon Village home, Watson fell asleep on the couch with his shoes on, prompting the victim decided to prank him by drawing a penis on his face with a black dry erase marker, according to Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Ben Inman, who prosecuted the case.
Watson awoke and “felt a tingling on his face,” leading him to use a mirror function on his phone. Upon seeing the cartoonish genitalia, Inman said, Watson went upstairs and began repeatedly punching the victim in the face. The victim testified that we awoke to Watson punching him, while Watson argued that a heated verbal argument preceded a physical fight between the two men. The third roommate corroborated the victim’s story, said Inman.
As a result of the assault, the victim suffered a broken nose, an eye that was swollen shut and other facial injuries, according to police and prosecutors.
The victim testified that pranks were a part of life in the home, and that it was a “house rule” that one would be drawn on should they pass out with their shoes on. Watson argued that he was aware of no such rule.
The victim also told the jury that he had tested the marker on his arm before using it, and that the black mark had come right off. Watson said he tried but could not remove the penis drawing from his face.
In recommending no jail time, the jury might have felt sorry for Watson and the negative attention, media and otherwise, he received as a result of the genitalia on his face.
“He was an object of ridicule in jail that weekend because he still had the penis drawn on his face,” Inman told ARLnow.com. Watson made bail early the following week.
Watson is scheduled to be back in Circuit Court in July as a result of the conviction. He was previously tried on felony charges of assaulting a law enforcement officer in 2012, but the imposition of sentence was suspended on the condition of good behavior. That suspension could be revoked, leading to possible jail time or other punishment.
A 22-year-old Alexandria man received a net seven year prison sentence today after being found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the Christmas Eve 2012 death of a pedestrian in Ballston.
Farhan Khan was sentenced today in Arlington Circuit Court for the death of Shabnam Motahhar-Tehrani, 32, who was killed in the accident at the corner of N. Glebe Road and Randolph Street. Khan was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with three years suspended. Additionally, his driver’s license will be revoked and he will be on probation for 10 years after his release, according to Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jay Burkholder.
Witnesses said Khan was driving between 50-60 mph when he ran a red light and struck another vehicle. The collision caused his vehicle to spin out and hit Tehrani, who was standing on the sidewalk of Glebe Road. Khan had been cited eight times for previous moving violations, including for speeding the day before the fatal accident, Burkholder said.
“The defendant’s driving behavior was extraordinarily dangerous, particularly because of his excessive speed, the rainy road conditions, and the flagrant manner in which he ran the red light,” Burkholder told ARLnow.com. “Considering his extensive history of speeding, including an offense the day before this accident, and the fact that his gross negligence directly caused the death of Ms. Motahhar-Tehrani, we believed that a significant sentence was appropriate. We are grateful to the Court for its consideration of the evidence.”
The maximum sentence for involuntary manslaughter is 10 years in prison. Video of the accident was captured by a camera on a Metrobus that was stopped at the intersection, and it was introduced as evidence against Khan, Burkholder said.
Photo courtesy Arlington County Police Department
(Updated at 3:40 p.m.) The Alexandria woman whose infant died after being locked in a hot car for six hours on a sweltering July day pleaded guilty today to felony child neglect.
Zoraida Magal Conde Hernandez, 32, submitted an Alford plea, meaning she accepts the verdict without technically admitting guilt in the case. Hernandez and Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos agreed to two years and six months of probation, and, barring a violation, a dismissal of charges after that.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Molly Newton said Hernandez, after dropping two other children off at their summer activities in Alexandria, forgot that her 8-month-old son was strapped in his car seat when she drove to her job at the Catholic Diocese of Arlington and locked her car in the parking lot.
Newton said it was only when she picked up her 3-year-old daughter on July 5 at 3:30 p.m. did she notice the baby was purple and not breathing. Hernandez then drove to Inova Alexandria Hospital, where the baby was pronounced dead from hyperthermia with an internal temperature of 108 degrees.
“It has been a very difficult case for everyone involved,” Newton told the judge. “We’ve always believed the case has been a crime. The reaction from the community has not been such.”
Newton said that sympathy for the mother in similar cases has led to acquittals despite the evidence. Stamos said after the plea hearing that, in some jurisdictions, Hernandez’s crime wouldn’t bring charges. It’s unusual, Stamos said, for a felony case to “be adjudicated without a finding of guilt.”
“Clearly there are strong views on either side of this,” Stamos said. “It was difficult for the arresting officer, the medical examiner and the physicians involved.”
Stamos said an incident of a child dying in a hot car hadn’t happened in Arlington in 28 years. If Hernandez had been found guilty by a jury, she could have been incarcerated for anywhere from one day to five years. Newton said that, because Hernandez was incarcerated for two weeks before and after her bond hearing, the Commonwealth’s Attorney felt further incarceration wasn’t necessary.
“We want her to be accountable,” Newton said. “By entering this plea, she is. She has done everything we have wanted her to do.”
Hernandez’s other four children are still with Child Protective Services in Alexandria, and her case is making its way through that city’s administrative and court system, Newton said. Hernandez didn’t noticeably react during the proceeding, which took a little less than a half hour, even when Newton read the prosecution’s account of July 5′s event.
Photo via ACPD
Malvar died in a skateboarding accident in June. Police say the 18-year-old was hanging on to the driver’s side window frame of his friend’s pickup truck when he lost his balance and fell, hitting his head on the pavement. Malvar succumbed to his injuries a few hours later. Students held a candlelight vigil in his memory.
The driver was later charged with reckless driving and pleaded guilty earlier this fall. At a juvenile court sentencing yesterday afternoon, a judge sentenced the teen to serve a weekend in juvenile detention. He was also placed on probation; ordered to perform 100 hours of community service and attend a victim awareness program; and had his drivers license revoked for 6 months and a $500 fine imposed.
Four men who robbed a Navy Federal credit union in Ballston last December have been sentenced to 60 years in prison.
The men, ages 21 to 24, were convicted in June of three armed robberies in Northern Virginia during the 2012 holiday season. The third robbery, of the Navy Federal, the last of their crime spree.
They robbed the credit union (875 N. Randolph Street) on Saturday, Dec. 22 in a heavily-armed heist reminiscent of a Hollywood movie. No one was hurt and, because police were able to track the money, the men were arrested within an hour of the robbery.
The men were convicted and sentenced in federal court. From the U.S. Attorney’s Office:
Keith Willie Reed, 24, of Washington, D.C.; Tobias Richard Dyer, 21, of Upper Marlboro, Md.; Anthony Cannon, 24, of Washington, D.C.; and Stanley Winston, 23, of Washington, D.C., were each sentenced today to 60 years in prison, followed by 5 years of supervised release, for conspiracy, robbery affecting interstate commerce, armed robbery of a credit union, use of a firearm during crimes of violence, and being felons in possession of firearms. They were also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $76,915.15.
Dana J. Boente, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Valerie Parlave, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, made the announcement after sentencing by United States District Judge Claude M. Hilton
Reed, Dyer, Winston, and Cannon were found guilty after a jury trial on June 21, 2013. According to court records and evidence adduced at trial, the defendants committed three armed robberies in Northern Virginia during the December 2012 holiday season. Specifically, on December 7, they robbed VVM, Inc., located in Fairfax County, Virginia. Two days later, they robbed the Shoppers Food Warehouse on Jefferson Davis Highway in Alexandria, Virginia. Then, on December 22, they robbed the Navy Federal Credit Union on Randolph Street in Arlington, Virginia. The total loss amount from these three armed robberies was over $75,000. In each robbery, three of the defendants entered masked while the fourth waited in a stolen getaway car. All four were arrested within an hour of the Navy Federal Credit Union robbery when law enforcement was able to track the money.
This case was jointly investigated by FBI’s Washington Field Office and Baltimore Field Office, and the Metropolitan, Fairfax County, Arlington County, and Alexandria Police Departments. Assistant United States Attorneys Patricia T. Giles and Rebeca H. Bellows are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.
Flickr photo by Joe Gratz
Arlington Tests ‘Drug Court’ — Arlington is testing out a “drug court,” a program that allows non-violent felons with drug addictions to have their offenses expunged if they successfully break their addiction and stay away from crime. The program is closely overseen by a circuit court judge. [Sun Gazette]
W-L Sets Ambitious AP-IB Goal — Washington-Lee High School has set an “exceptionally ambitious” goal of every graduating senior next spring having taken at least one Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate class. [Washington Post]
Arlington Cyclist Struck in Vienna — An Arlington bicyclist on the W&OD Trail was struck by a car in Vienna on Friday evening. The man did not appear to be seriously injured. [FABB Blog]
Yorktown Ranked #17 in Preseason — Yorktown High School’s football team is 17th in the Washington Post’s Top 20 preseason rankings. The team was undefeated in last year’s regular season, but was defeated in the regional championship. Meanwhile, Yorktown senior running back M.J. Stewart is the only Arlington player to make the 2013 All-Met preseason team.
Second Pike Farmers Market to Launch — The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization is planning a second farmers market, to be held on the grounds of the new Arlington Mill Community Center. The center is located at the corner of Columbia Pike and S. Dinwidde Street, in the Columbia Heights West neighborhood. Organizers believe there are enough residents on the Pike to support two farmers markets. [Patch]
Clerk Prefers Online Juror Submissions — Clerk of the Circuit Court Paul Ferguson wants those who receive jury duty questionnaires next month to fill the form out online. Ferguson says opting for the electronic form is safe and convenient and saves time. [Sun Gazette]
Moran: Inequalities Remain — The country commemorated the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and the 93rd anniversary of the enactment of the 19th Amendment this week, but Rep. Jim Moran cautions that the country has taken “troubling steps backward” in recent years. “Inequalities remain, and misguided efforts that will take us backwards continue,” he writes in his weekly editorial. [Falls Church News-Press]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
Questionnaires will be mailed out to about 10,000 randomly-selected residents in early September and must be completed and returned within 10 days. The responses will be used to qualify residents to serve as jurors on civil and criminal trials in Arlington Circuit Court next year.
“Recipients are selected from registered voter rolls provided by the State Board of Elections,” Arlington County said in a press release. “Jury Commissioners appointed by the Court review the questionnaires to determine eligibility for service according to criteria established by the General Assembly.”
Those who fail to return the questionnaire within 10 days could be summoned to the court to complete it in person.
There are 14 conditions that might exempt an individual from jury duty, including being a convicted felon, a full-time teacher, a primary caregiver to a child or a sworn public safety officer. The court will also consider deferral or an excuse from service if being a juror presents an severe hardship for an individual.
In Arlington, most trials last 1 or 2 days, though the normal term of juror service is 4 days — Monday through Thursday. Jurors receive $30 per day in compensation for their service.
Flickr photo by Joe Gratz
A grand jury returned the indictment this afternoon, a month after prosecutors dropped a sexual battery charge against Krusinski, who’s accused of grabbing the breasts and buttocks of a woman in Crystal City.
Prosecutors said changing the venue, from General District Court to Circuit Court, and changing the charge, from sexual battery to assault and battery, were largely procedural moves unrelated to the facts of the case. Krusinski’s arrest in May helped to spark a national conversation about sexual assault in the military.
A trial date is expected to be set on Thursday in Arlington Circuit Court.
Arlington Sheriff’s Deputy Indicted — A grand jury has indicted Arlington County Sheriff’s deputy Craig Patterson in the shooting death of 22-year-old Julian Dawkins. Patterson is charged with murder and a firearms charge. A trial date has yet to be set. [WJLA]
Near Record Humidity Mid-Summer — The mid-summer period from June 30 through July 23 was the second most humid in recorded history. The dew point averaged a steamy 71.2 degrees fahrenheit during that time. [Capital Weather Gang]
Shirlington Bar Crawl Set for Saturday — A bar crawl to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society will take place in Shirlington on Saturday afternoon and evening. There will be food and drink specials at each of the four restaurants/bars on the crawl. [Shirlington Village Blog Spot]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann