Rainy, Then Windy Today — Updated at 8 a.m. — From the National Weather Service: “Rain will end later this morning into this afternoon from northwest to southeast. However, gusty winds will develop and river flooding is expected along portions of the Potomac River and nearby tributaries.” [Twitter]
Freddie’s Expanding to Delaware Shore — “Freddie’s Beach Bar, the gay bar that has been operating in the Crystal City section of Arlington, Va., since 2001, is planning to open a new version of itself in Rehoboth Beach in time for Memorial Day weekend, according to owner Freddie Lutz. Lutz said that similar to the Freddie’s in Arlington, the Rehoboth version will operate as a restaurant and bar with entertainment that is expected to include karaoke, drag bingo, and possibly drag shows.” [Washington Blade]
AG Candidate Wants to Intervene in Local Cases — “A candidate for state attorney general says that, if elected, he’ll press for the authority to step in when local prosecutors will not act on specific cases. ‘George Soros-backed commonwealth’s attorneys are not doing their jobs,’ Del. Jason Miyares (R-Virginia Beach) said in remarks to the Arlington County Republican Committee.” [InsideNova]
Local Restaurants Make New Washingtonian List — A half dozen Arlington restaurants are among a new list of “61 Neighborhood Restaurants That Make the DC Area a Better Place to Eat — and Live.” Among them: The Green Pig, Lebanese Taverna, Los Tios Grill, Medium Rare, Nam-Viet, and Pupatella. [Washingtonian]
Church Providing Food to Those in Need — “The Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington hosted its first Mobile Market Feb. 25 in conjunction with the Capital Area Food Bank to serve those dealing with food insecurity. This drive-thru food distribution provided nonperishables as well as fresh produce including fruits and vegetables. The monthly market originally was scheduled to begin Feb. 18 but was delayed due to inclement weather.” [Arlington Catholic Herald]
Bouncers Recognized for Spotting Fake IDs — “Tonight the Arlington Restaurant Initiative, Washington Regional Alcohol Program and Responsibility.org recognized staff from Don Tito and Whitlow’s on Wilson for their excellence in detecting false identifications and preventing underage drinking. We commend the recipients for their dedication to safe service and responsible alcohol consumption.” [Facebook]
Crystal City Company Planning IPO — “Leonardo SpA is moving forward with an initial public offering for its Arlington-based defense electronic systems subsidiary. The Italian defense and space contractor filed its plans Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The unit will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker ‘DRS.'” [Washington Business Journal]
The Arlington man accused of throwing dogs over an apartment balcony to their death would potentially not serve additional jail time under a proposed plea agreement.
The agreement, dated December 7, is signed by the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, but not by the defendant or by his court-appointed attorney Adam Krischer.
ARLnow reached out to Krischer about the status of the agreement, who responded via email that he has no comment. We obtained a copy of the document upon request from the Arlington County Circuit Court, after receiving an anonymous tip about the potential plea agreement.
On January 5, according to documents provided, 27-year-old Zachary changed his “not guilty” plea to “guilty” — while asserting his innocence, in what is known as an Alford plea — for the charge of animal cruelty.
(ARLnow has decided to withhold the defendant’s last name from this article, despite it being publicly reported in previous articles, due to the mental health-related matters discussed in the plea agreement.)
The judge approved the plea and set the sentencing for February 12. The judge also required the defendant to undergo a substance abuse screening prior to sentencing.
Animal cruelty is a felony offense that carries a 1-5 year prison sentence and a fine of up to $2,500. The proposed plea agreement, however, calls for defer disposition for two years, meaning the plea to the felony charge could be withdrawn and dismissed if the defendant adheres to certain conditions.
According to the agreement, those conditions include completing substance abuse evaluation and treatment, undergoing mental health evaluation and counseling, remaining medication compliant, and completing 100 hours of community service.
The defendant also has to remain drug and alcohol free, refrain from owning any animals, and not to have any unsupervised contact with animals beyond those owned by family members.
Additionally, he has to pay restitution of about $1,800, including payments to the owner of one of the dogs that was killed and $567.29 to the Animal Welfare League of Arlington.
If Zachary does all of that, the proposed plea agreement states, the Commonwealth and the defendant will jointly ask the court to withdraw the guilty plea and provide an order of dismissal. If the defendant doesn’t adhere to the above conditions, he could be sent to prison.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Taft was elected in 2019 to be Arlington’s top prosecutor on a platform of reform and restorative justice. In an interview with Arlington Magazine last March, Dehghani-Taft said that the concept of restorative justice is about healing and taking responsibility.
“It asks the person who did the harm to search for change and transforms them into someone who doesn’t do it again,” she said. “It focuses on rehabilitation rather than punishment.”
It’s a concept that also has gained popularity in other local jurisdictions.
When asked for comment about the plea agreement, Dehghani-Taft responded via email that rules “constrains me from making public statements about pending cases… Because the court has not yet accepted any plea, it could be seen as prejudicial for me to say something now.”
In a follow-up email, she stated that “I think the terms in the document the court has published are self-explanatory.”
A statement of facts about the case entered in court describes the April 27, 2020 incident in more detail.
Police responded to a call about two dogs being thrown off a fifth floor balcony of the Meridian apartment building at 1401 N. Taft Street in Courthouse. One belonged to the defendant and the other to his roommate. Both dogs were brought to veterinary facilities and later died from their injuries.
Zachary was detained without incident, but told the officers that he was diagnosed with anxiety and had not been taking his medication. He also said that he had recently smoked marijuana.
The reason for his actions, he told police, was that he wanted to repair his relationship with his roommate and felt the only way to do that was to kill the dogs.
Police spoke to the roommate and Zachary’s boyfriend, who both described the defendant as not acting like his normal self over the prior several days and possibly having a severe mental health crisis at the time.
Photo via Google Maps
Prosecutor Calls for End to Va. Death Penalty — “Top prosecutors from across Northern Virginia are calling on state lawmakers to take up several criminal justice reform measures at the upcoming General Assembly session.. An end to cash bail, the death penalty, mandatory minimum sentencing and the state’s ‘three strikes’ rule for felony offenses are among the reforms the coalition wants to see lawmakers address during the next General Assembly session, which begins Jan. 13.” [InsideNova]
Pouring One Out for Siné — “Another casualty of the pandemic, we are bummed to report, is the beloved Sine Irish Pub on Pentagon Row, where defense journalists and many of their sources have gathered for countless milestones over the years… We agree the watering hole’s central place in national security cannot be overstated. ‘There wouldn’t be a Space Force without the Pentagon’s Unofficial Officer’s Club, Sine Irish Pub!’ tweeted space policy consultant Ryan Faith.” [Politico]
New Home Near Yorktown HS Impresses — “Take a look at the jewel-toned hues in this pretty Arlington home. This couple built a colorful dream home that recognizes their rural roots but gives it a modern edge.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]
Murals Make Crystal City More Colorful — “Messages of positivity and inclusiveness in the form of fun and colorful artwork. You can see it with your own eyes on 18th and 20th Street S. in National Landing.” [Twitter]
Rosslyn Physical Therapy Office Bought — “OrthoVirginia is pleased to announce the acquisition of Optimal Physical Therapy in Arlington, VA. This merger allows more continuity of care for patients as well as improves access to physical therapy services.” [Press Release]
Beyer Unloads on Trump — From Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), in response to President Trump questioning the Georgia Senate election results: “Donald Trump is a pathetic, disgraceful liar and the day we are rid of him will be a great day for the United States of America.” [Twitter]
Amazon Eyes Retail Spot in Bailey’s Xroads — “Amazon.com Inc. appears to be taking a portion of a shuttered Safeway supermarket in Baileys Crossroads for another of its full-size grocery stores, at least the fifth in Greater Washington for the e-commerce and cloud computing giant.” [Washington Business Journal]
(Updated at noon) The Arlington County Circuit Court rejected a plea bargain that would place a Maryland man on two years of probation for allegedly bringing 50 pounds of marijuana and 400 cartridges of hashish oil into the county.
The suspect is accused of arriving on a flight to Reagan National Airport in November 2018 with a checked bag stuffed with drugs. He was arrested by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority at baggage claim.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti and the attorney representing the alleged drug carrier agreed that the defendant would plead guilty to two felony charges and be placed on probation, wrote the presiding judge. After completing the probation and 200 hours of community service, he would be able to withdraw the pleas to the felony charges and instead plead guilty to two misdemeanor charges while having a $100 fine imposed but then suspended.
Judge Daniel Fiore, II, in a memorandum of opinion that was obtained by ARLnow, said the punishment would not deter the defendant, or anyone else, from carrying large amounts of drugs into Virginia for distribution.
“Virginia jurisprudence has long and consistently recognized deterrence as means for a court to determine an appropriate sentence, no matter the criminal statute violated,” Fiore wrote. “Deterrence disincentives unlawful behavior both for the individual and for society.”
Excerpts of Fiore’s opinion were published in late September in Virginia Lawyers Weekly. A call to judge’s chambers was not returned. Dehghani-Tafti told ARLnow that she could not comment on the case at this point.
This rejected bargain is part of a larger theater taking place across the nation, as some prosecutors are changing their approach to drug crimes and judges are fighting back. The tug-of-war reached Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, who signed a law last month that would require judges to dismiss charges when both the prosecution and defense agree to a bargain or deal.
Fiore wrote that he rejected the bargain in part because the prosecution and defense had understated how much marijuana and hashish the defendant had. The amounts, once disclosed, merited prison sentences between five and 40 years and fines of up to $500,000, Fiore wrote.
Focusing on the quantity of drugs strikes Public Defender Brad Haywood as a bit naive, considering the defendant was likely a low-level “drug mule” put in a high-risk situation by higher-level drug traffickers. He might not have known the quantity of drugs he was carrying, as mules often do not, Haywood said in an email, adding that mules are often thought of as victims of drug trafficking.
“They are under duress; fearful for their safety, desperate for money, or desperate to feed their own addictions,” he said. “They are easy to manipulate precisely because they are suffering. They can even be pressured into doing something as irrational as traveling on a plane with tons of narcotics.”
Given the risk involved, mules are often caught, Haywood said. Instead of harshly prosecuting mules, however, the government frequently offers them leniency so they can help apprehend the supplier.
Arlington’s top prosecutor is seeking more community feedback.
Residents of Arlington and Falls Church are being invited to apply to join the Community Advisory Board for the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney.
The board, consisting of seven to 10 members, will meet quarterly to provide input on criminal justice reform and public safety and serve as a liaison between the Commonwealth’s Attorney office and the public.
Board members will also provide their perspectives on how new policies could impact people with drug addictions and who experience homelessness or poverty and will be charged with informing the community of the office’s goals and objectives.
“The idea is to have a diverse representative board so that I can hear what’s going on in specific neighborhoods, what people are concerned about, what are the community’s ideas for what they’d like to see done,” said Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington County and the City of Falls Church.
She said she designed the board to give advice and “drill down into the issues.”
These include making the justice system more restorative rather than punitive, she said. Her office is working with the Restorative Arlington initiative to reduce punitive measures taken in schools, such as suspensions and expulsions, and the legal system, such as seeking cash bail.
Examples of restorative justice for those who commit crimes include diverting young people and people with substance-abuse or mental-health struggles from jails to government services and treatment programs, she said. For victims of crimes, she said the office has changed how it assigns prosecutors to cases so that when cases are delayed, they are no longer passed from prosecutor to prosecutor.
The board-office relationship is a two-way street, Dehghani-Tafti said. The office also has to be able to explain its actions and reasons in an environment that is not “heated and adversarial,” she said.
Dehghani-Tafti began talking about a board in January 2019 when she launched her campaign for the office, but the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent closures delayed the opening of the application from this spring to the fall.
With courts at lower capacity due to COVID-19, the office has also kept busy working with the rest of the criminal justice system to reduce the inmate population and make the county jail safer, she said.
Dehghani-Tafti said she hopes the community board’s first meeting takes place in December, although she may extend the timeline if the first round of applicants is not representative enough of the communities she serves.
“It’s a lot like hiring: You can’t just list a job posting and not push it out to people,” she said. “It takes some work.”
Those who do not join the board may also have another avenue for input. Dehghani-Tafti said she plans to host regular town hall meetings as COVID-19 conditions improve and regulations on gatherings loosen.
No Citations for Mass Gatherings in Arlington — “Gov. Ralph Northam is limiting social gatherings to 50% of event space capacity, or 250 people, whichever number is smaller. A spokesperson for Arlington County says ‘there have been no reports of social gatherings of this size’ in the locality. Arlington County’s police department has not issued any citations for mass gatherings, and has not levied any fines for people who flout rules regarding mask-wearing.” [DCist]
Prosecutor Explains Fight With Judges — “Taking the court to court to preserve the discretion of this office is the only way I know to protect the will of the voters who elected me. This is how we weave the quilt of criminal justice reform: each locality using its voice to demand change and put its values into elected offices. Town by town, county by county, we must fight to shape the communities in which we want to live.” [Washington Post]
Wardian, District Taco Donate to School — “Ultramarathoner Mike Wardian, who recently ran a 62-mile run to all 12 DMV-area District Taco locations, asked District Taco to donate the proceeds of the run to Barrett students and families in need. District Taco employees made and delivered 200 burritos to over 100 Barrett families.” [Press Release]
Parking Blocked Off For Clarendon Bar Lines — A number of nightlife hotspots in Clarendon have been working with the county’s Arlington Restaurant Initiative to better space out patrons waiting in line. This past weekend, the county blocked off portions of lanes and some parking spots around bars to allow more physical distancing around the lines. [Twitter, Twitter]
Thousands Left Behind at DCA Security Lines — “A new… Transportation Security Administration report gives the amount of coins and bills left behind at security checkpoints at airports around the country, including Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport. The amount unclaimed at checkpoints at National in the last fiscal year was $13,207.46.” [Washington Post]
Armed Robbery Near Courthouse — “The victim was sitting inside his parked vehicle when the suspect vehicle, which was occupied four times, pulled alongside him. Suspect One approached the victim, displayed a firearm and commanded the victim to exit his vehicle, lay on the ground and empty his pockets. Suspect Two then stole the victim’s personal belongings. Suspect One entered the victim’s vehicle and rummaged through items. The suspects fled the scene after an unrelated vehicle drove by the incident.” [Arlington County]
Prosecutor Files Petition Against Judges — “A northern Virginia prosecutor who says her county’s judges are infringing on her discretion to dismiss charges and enter plea bargains is asking the state Supreme Court to intervene on her behalf. Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti filed a petition Friday asking the court for a relief from a policy imposed by the county’s four Circuit Court judges.” [Associated Press]
New BBQ Pop-Up Coming to Pentagon City — “In their spare time [chefs Kevin Tien and Scott Chung] dreamed up Wild Tiger BBQ, which launches Thursday, August 20 next to Bun’d Up at Pentagon Row in Arlington. The pop-up will run Thursday through Saturday for the first few weeks.” [Washingtonian]
‘Bumper Crop of Mosquitos’ — “With the floods of summer come the pests of summer — bloodsucking mosquitoes. It takes several days to a couple of weeks for mosquitoes to hatch, molt and fly out of floodwater, but the swarms eventually arrive, in greater numbers than before the flood. After the recent flooding from thunderstorms and Tropical Storm Isaias in the Washington region, a bumper crop of mosquitoes has emerged.” [Washington Post]
Retired Colonel Helps With COVID Response — “When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early March, retired U.S. Air Force Colonel David Ashley quickly found his planned spring and summer mountain climbing trips canceled. He spent about a week doing projects around his Arlington home, but after 27 years in the military, he realized he need something else, something with more purpose.” [Arlington County]
Cab Exec’s Offensive Post Makes Headlines — “An elected town council member in Strasburg, Va., who also is chairman of the 6th Congressional District’s Republican Committee admitted this week that he posted, then removed, a sexually offensive meme targeted at Sen. Kamala D. Harris… [John] Massoud, who is vice president of Arlington’s Blue Top taxi service and was an unsuccessful candidate against ex-Del. Bob Brink for a House of Delegates seat from Arlington in 1997 and 1999, moved to the Shenandoah Valley about 10 years ago.” [Washington Post]
Analysis of Rents Near Metro Stations — “The most expensive rents ($2,200 and up) are found in areas of Arlington and Washington, DC. Rent near the Ballston-MU station is in the mid-range among DC Metro stops. But while the median price increased near Court House, it decreased near Ballston-MU, according to the analysis. The median rent for a one-bedroom unit near Ballston-MU is $1,975, a 1.3 percent decrease from 2019.” [Patch]
Clement Rips Dems for Redistricting Stance — “An independent candidate for Arlington County Board has criticized the Arlington County Democratic Committee for its opposition to a nonpartisan-redistricting constitutional amendment on the state ballot in November. Audrey Clement, who is challenging incumbent Democrat Libby Garvey for County Board, said the Democrats’ vote seems disingenuous for a party that claims to be about good government.” [InsideNova]
Arlington Makes Top Travel Destination List — “For all the talk of a move to small, less densely populated destinations, Hotwire also ranked much bigger cities. Its ‘midsize must see’ picks were St. Louis; Tampa, Florida; Atlanta; Arlington, Virginia; Tucson, Arizona; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Virginia Beach, Virginia; Pittsburgh; Miami; and Cincinnati.” [CNBC]
The owner of the Arlington Smoke Shop in Green Valley says charges have been dropped against the alleged burglar shot by a store employee.
Jowan Zuber said this week on a GoFundMe page for the employee, Hamzeh Abushariah, that the “mastermind of the burglary” was “allowed to walk free” by prosecutors — while Abushariah remains under house arrest, facing serious charges in connection to the March 29 shooting.
Two other alleged burglars are still facing charges, after police say they broke into the store at 2428 Shirlington Road early in the morning and attempted to steal items. Abushariah was sleeping in a backroom of the store at the time, but woke up and grabbed the store’s gun. Zuber says the person who was shot is being “protected” by prosecutors.
“I can’t believe they’re protecting the criminal,” he said last night on Tucker Carlson Tonight, his second appearance on top-rated the Fox News opinion show. “I’m sure if the criminal broke into their house they would be doing 10 years in jail right now.”
Prosecutors, meanwhile, declined to confirm that charges were dropped against the suspect, who — like the other two — are juveniles.
“Based on the ethical rules which govern lawyers and prosecutors, we are very limited in what we can say about cases — and even more limited in what we can say about juvenile cases,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti said Monday, in response to an ARLnow inquiry. “The only question I can answer is that the case of the adult (shooter) is still pending.”
ARLnow previously reported that the third suspect had not been charged and was still “in a medical facility” almost one month after the shooting. Zuber told the Daily Caller that he appeared in court in a wheelchair.
Despite the juvenile’s injuries, Zuber said last night that it was not fair for Abushariah to be facing charges and the alleged organizer of the crime to be free, suggesting without additional evidence that there might be a political motivation.
“This is so sad and so shocking, the justice system is not working in Arlington,” he said. “The prosecutor’s office is very upset that I came on your show and spoke the truth and now they’re looking at the whole thing a different way.”
Following a preliminary hearing on July 30, Abushariah’s case is now heading to Arlington Circuit Court. Zuber wants police to release the full surveillance video of the shooting, which he claims shows the now-free suspect “lunging” at Abushariah before the shooting. Prosecutors say the boy was shot “point blank” in the back.
“I hope that Arlington County will share the video exactly,” Zuber said.
Zuber noted that Abushariah is under house arrest and cannot work or take his kids to the park, but still has to pay more than $1,000 per month in child support and fees for his court-mandated GPS monitor. The GoFundMe for Abushariah has raised more than $10,000 since last night’s “Tucker” show, and now stands at $13,349 of a $100,000 goal.
Zuber said the handling of the burglary case sends a bad message to young people.
“Hey you can go rob and steal and the prosecutor will stand next to you and defend you,” he said. “This is sad for justice, this is injustice.”
Changes at Prosecutor’s Office — Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti has announced a reorganization of her office to implement a “vertical prosecution” model. The new structure “requires that one prosecutor be assigned to each case from start to finish; it permits the assigned attorney to work early and closely with law enforcement, victims, witnesses, and defense attorneys.” The office has also recently stopped its courtroom involvement with certain types of minor traffic offenses. [Press Release, Twitter]
Man Pleads Guilty to Arlington Carjacking — “A Washington, D.C. man pleaded guilty today to his role in an armed robbery and carjacking that led to a high-speed police chase and resulted in injuries to two police officers. According to court documents, Jovan Doir Johnson, 30, together with another individual, obtained a stolen vehicle at gunpoint in Arlington and then used it to rob a 7-Eleven in Lorton.” [Dept. of Justice]
Board Approves CIP, Bond Referenda — “The Arlington County Board today voted unanimously to adopt a scaled-down $277.5 million one-year Capital Improvement Plan that focuses on continuing or completing projects already underway and beginning a 10-year program to improve the County’s stormwater infrastructure and flood resiliency… In a related action, the Board unanimously approved bond referenda totaling $144.454 million to be put before the voters on the November ballot.” [Arlington County, Washington Post]
Board to Hold Closed COVID Meeting — “Notice is hereby given that the County Board of Arlington Co., VA, on Thursday, July 23, 2020 at 5:30pm, or as soon thereafter as matters may be heard, in accordance with and for the purposes authorized by law will meet to discuss matters related to the County’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.” [Arlington County]
Pandemic May Cause Hunger Crisis — “Up to a quarter of a million people in the Washington area could be thrown into hunger because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to a report by the Capital Area Food Bank, even as the amount of donated food and the number of distribution sites plummet precipitously.” [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Vincent
More Coronavirus-Related Dispatches — ARLnow is starting to hear the Arlington County Fire Department responding to more suspected COVID-19 cases. Medics were just dispatched to assist a 44-year-old woman with severe trouble breathing and other symptoms consistent with the disease.
May Could Be Worse Than April — “It could still be weeks before the worst of the coronavirus crisis hits Virginia. State officials are preparing for a surge in the number of people who test positive between late April and late May, Gov. Ralph Northam said Wednesday that analysis of the latest models shows. Northam told residents he was planning for the worst and hoping for the best.” [NBC 4]
Prosecutors Have Video Evidence in Store Shooting — “The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office showed the judge security video from the Shirlington Road business, which prosecutors said captures Abushariah shooting one of the burglars ‘point-blank in the back…’ The prosecutor called the case a ‘callous disregard for human life’ because Abushariah had other options, such as hiding in the backroom and calling the police. Or running to safety out the back door.” [WJLA]
Arlington Resident’s YOLO Money Diary — “We then took some mushrooms around 12 PM and went on a long, trippy, and fun-filled walk through Rosslyn. We stopped at Northside Social for some pastries and a Bitburger beer while on our walk–more illegal public drinking, but we kind of just don’t care anymore.” [Washingtonian]
Two Green Pig Employees Test Positive — “We regret to inform you that two of our employees have tested positive for COVID-19. Both… had been working with customers assisting with order-pickups. Neither were working in the kitchen or with food prep.” [Instagram]
Bakeshop Now Mailing Some Items — Bakeshop in Clarendon is now taking orders of cookies, cream pies, bars and bread slices online. Orders are shipped on Mondays to ensure freshness. [Bakeshop]
Marymount Prof is 3D Printing Face Shields — “Marymount University professor Dr. Eric Bubar is getting in on the action, with hopes of utilizing his unique skills to make a difference. A longtime provider of 3D printed upper-limb assistive devices, he is now shifting his focus to creating 3D printed, reusable face shields for use at hospitals in Washington, D.C., New York and beyond.” [Press Release]
APS to Distribute Week of Meals to Families in Need — “On Fri, April 3, APS will provide a week’s worth of meals to families who come to one of the five grab-and-go meal distribution sites to ensure students have food during spring break. There will be no APS meal service provided April 6-10… Meal services will resume on Mon, April 13, with an expanded list of sites to include Key and Hoffman-Boston elementary schools. Additionally, the USDA has provided a waiver to the rule that children must be present to receive meals.” [Arlington Public Schools]