(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.
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]
(Updated at 5:40 p.m.) Arlington residents will select a new County Board member on July 7, following the resignation of the late Erik Gutshall.
Earlier this afternoon, Arlington Circuit Court Chief Judge William T. Newman, Jr. set Tuesday, July 7 as the special election date for Gutshall’s successor, who serve out the rest of his term through the end of 2021.
State law “provides that the special election shall be held not less than sixty days and not more than eighty days after the occurrence of the vacancy,” Newman noted in his decision. It cannot be held “within the fifty-five days prior to a general or primary election.” The statewide Virginia non-presidential primary this year is scheduled for June 23.
Late Friday afternoon, in an emergency meeting, Arlington’s Electoral Board set a candidate filing deadline of Friday, May 8.
Candidate Filing deadline is Fri, May 8th, 5pm for the July 7, 2020 Special Election for County Board. We are working w @vaELECT to get a candidate bulletin ready. If you want more info email us: [email protected] We're here to help!
— Arlington Elections (@ArlingtonVotes) April 24, 2020
Following the selection of the filing deadline, the Arlington County Democratic Committee announced that it would be holding a closed caucus among its Steering Committee and County Committee members, unless Gov. Ralph Northam and the state legislature act to push the special election date back.
More from an email sent by the local party to members:
Arlington Democrats believe a vote-by-mail nomination caucus open to all Democratic registered voters in Arlington would best serve the interests of democracy and Arlington voters in this unprecedented time of public health crisis. But, in order to meet the aggressive timeline set by the laws of Virginia, it is impossible to facilitate a vote-by-mail nomination process. This leaves the Arlington Democrats with no option but to select the Democratic nominee through a closed virtual caucus, which involves a vote by the members of its Steering Committee and County Committee that will conclude by May 7.
Arlington Democrats is prepared to transform this virtual nomination process — which is detailed in the Arlington Democrats’ new special election webpage — into a vote-by-mail process open to all Democratic registered voters in Arlington if the nomination period is extended to encompass a two-month period. Arlington Democrats is actively exploring options to achieve this extension, including through consultation with multiple legal counsel.
Arlington Democrats also is asking Governor Northam and the General Assembly to move the special election date so that political parties have the ability to hold an open nomination process, while respecting necessary social distancing measures. Please help us to fight for the voting rights of Arlington voters by signing this petition — act today!
Reminder: Tap Water Change Today — “The District of Columbia, Arlington County and northeastern Fairfax County will clean out their tap water network starting Monday — a safe, annual process. Service continues uninterrupted during the process, which runs from March 30 through May 4. During that time, drinking water in the may taste slightly different. But the purification process remains unchanged and the water is essentially unchanged.” [ARLnow]
Jail Takes Extra Precautions — “We have created a unit that is strictly for all new individuals that are committed to the jail. These individuals are ‘quarantined’ from the rest of the population for an initial 14 days and checked daily by our Medical Staff. With the Detention Center population being low, we were able to move inmates around, creating the safest environment for those individuals that have been remanded to our custody and for new individuals entering the facility.” [Arlington County]
Human Services from a Distance — “Arlington’s Department of Human Services (DHS) is taking steps to provide services that don’t require in-person visits in an effort to contribute to the community slowdown of the spread of COVID-19.” [Arlington County]
Post Editorial Assails Arlington Judges — “Parisa Dehghani-Tafti last fall ran for commonwealth’s attorney on a promise of criminal justice reform, and voters in Arlington County and Falls Church chose her — and that platform — over the longtime, tough-on-crime incumbent. Now her efforts to deliver on her promise of progressive justice have run into opposition from judges who have taken highly unusual — and some say inappropriate — steps to undermine her discretion as the jurisdiction’s top elected prosecutor.” [Washington Post]
Shirlington Circle Closure in Place — “The northern section of the Shirlington Circle bridge over the general purpose and express lanes on I-395 will close from 10 p.m., Sunday, March 29 until midnight, Wednesday night, April 1… Travelers driving north on the I-395 general purpose lanes will not be able to access Shirlington from Exit 6.” [Press Release]
New Cap Gets Arlington Orientation — “When trying to adjust to life in a new city, it can be nice to have a familiar face around to help you. That’s exactly what Brenden Dillon had after he was traded to the Capitals in Joel Ward… Dillon and Ward were teammates in San Jose for three seasons from 2015 to 2018. Dillon credited Ward for helping him get acclimated to Arlington, Va. and the Washington area.” [NBC Sports Washington]
Tree Advocates Worry About Fate of Big Oak — “In the latest in Arlington’s tree wars, homeowners at 5920 N. 35th St. joined with passionate volunteers from the Arlington Tree Action Group to sound alarms over the threat to a towering water oak outside their home of 28 years, which might soon be a tear-down… The owners believe it is Arlington’s tallest outside the national cemetery.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Daniel T. Lopez was ceremonially sworn in last Friday (May 17) as a General District Court judge, becoming the first Latino to serve as a judge in Arlington County.
“I’m very proud to represent my community,” Lopez told ARLnow.
Michael F. Devine, a circuit court judge for the 19th Circuit in Fairfax County, administered the investiture ceremony.
Lopez and his family were joined by members of the Arlington County Bar Association, as well as Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49th) and Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th), who helped shepherd his nomination through the General Assembly.
“I was honored to be on hand with Delegate Hope to present the Commission at the Investiture of Daniel Lopez as a Judge of the General District Court for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit,” said Del. Lopez, who shares a last name with but is not related to the new judge. “Judge Lopez is immensely qualified and a truly wonderful person. If his work over the years as a substitute judge is any indication, he will be an exceptional judge for our community for years to come.”
A 22-year Arlington resident, Judge Lopez had previously served as a substitute judge in the Circuit Court and the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts. He said he was delighted to become a full-time judge.
“It’s something that I’ve been looking forward to for years,” he said.
Lopez was also pleased to be the first Latino to serve as a judge in Arlington. Judges should reflect the community they serve in, he said, and having a Latino on the bench in such a diverse county was a sign of great progress.
Friday’s investiture ceremony was not Lopez’s official swearing in. That will take place 3o days prior to July 1, when he signs the oath of office and begins his six-year term on the General District Court bench. Lopez will succeed Judge Richard McCue, who is retiring.
“My job is to uphold the Constitution and to be fair and impartial, and make sure everyone is welcomed and respected in the courtroom,” he said.
David Black, who was convicted in November of murdering his estranged wife in her home near Pentagon City, will serve two consecutive life sentences in prison.
The sentence, which was recommended by the jury, was confirmed by an Arlington Circuit Court judge Wednesday afternoon.
Black lived just blocks away from his wife, Bonnie Delgado Black, in the Arlington Ridge neighborhood. Prosecutors say he broke into her home on April 17, 2015 and stabbed her to death.
The murder scene was discovered after neighbors found Black’s two young children wandering around outside the home that morning.
More from an Arlington County Police Department press release:
David Black, 45, of Arlington, VA was sentenced on Wednesday, February 8, 2017 in the Arlington County Circuit Court to two consecutive life terms in prison for the 2015 murder of Bonnie Black.
Theophani K. Stamos, Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney and M. Jay Farr, Arlington County’s Chief of Police made the announcement following the court appearance.
On April 17, 2015, officers were dispatched to the 1100 block of 18th Street S. after two concerned citizens located the Black children alone outside their residence and called police for assistance. Arriving officers located Bonnie Black deceased from an apparent stabbing inside the residence. Detectives began an intensive investigation revealing that Bonnie Black was the victim of domestic violence.
David Black, the estranged husband of Bonnie Black, was taken into custody in October 2015 pursuant to an indictment issued by a special investigative grand jury. The indictment and subsequent bench warrant charged him with one count of first degree murder and one count of burglary while armed with the intent to commit a felony. On November 8, 2016, a jury returned a unanimous verdict finding David Black guilty on both counts.
Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney Theophani K. Stamos said, “The imposition of two life sentences for the murder of Bonnie Black speaks volumes about our community’s views when it comes to domestic violence. We’re grateful to Judge Newman and the jury for their hard work, deep consideration and attention throughout a very difficult trial.”
Arlington County Deputy Chief Daniel J. Murray, Commander of the Criminal Investigations Division said, “This horrific murder personalized the investigation for the entire Criminal Investigations Section, many of whom had children themselves. They worked relentlessly for the cause of justice. The complex investigation, prosecution and ultimate conviction were possible because of a strong partnership between the Homicide/Robbery Unit and the Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office. Unfortunately nothing can bring Bonnie Black back to her loving family colleagues and friends but it is our fervent hope that we have been able to provide them with some closure.”
The victim was testifying at the trial of an alleged trespasser when he started “gasping for air,” his friend George told ARLnow.com. George, who declined to give his last name or his friend’s name, alerted Judge Thomas J. Kelley Jr., who cleared out the courtroom and came down from the bench to render aid.
When it became apparent that the victim was having a heart attack, Kelley laid him on the floor and started performing chest compressions, George said. Sheriff’s deputies Edwin Hill and Phyllis Henderson assisted Kelley and performed mouth-to-mouth, according to Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Maj. Susie Doyel.
“It was a flash, [Kelley] was down off that bench in a hurry,” George said. “When I got to the hospital, the EMTs stabilized him and said whoever performed CPR on him probably saved his life.”
George and the heart attack victim are childhood friends and Arlington natives, and the victim’s house was allegedly broken into recently, which is why they were in court.
Between the time Kelley began administering CPR and paramedics arrived, George said the victim began breathing and regained his pulse — but then his heart stopped again, prompting the hero judge and deputies to begin CPR again.
“The judge had control of everything. He didn’t blink,” George said. Later Thursday afternoon, after ensuring his friend was in stable condition, George went back to the court house to thank Kelley. “He was telling me he had [performed CPR] years back and he was glad he still had the skill set.”
Photo courtesy Maj. Susie Doyel
Resolution Honors Arlington’s First Female Judge — The Virginia House of Delegates has passed a resolution honoring Eleanor Spence Dobson, Arlington’s first female judge. Dobson served in the General District Court from 1982 to 1997. She passed away on September 18, 2013. The resolution honoring Dobson was sponsored by Del. Patrick Hope (D). Another Hope-sponsored resolution, honoring the late Arlington civic activist Robert Atkins, is scheduled to come to the House floor on Friday. [Sun Gazette]
Chick-fil-A ‘Date Knight’ Returns — Missed your chance to go on a medieval-themed fast food date with your mom last year? Good news: Chick-fil-A is once again holding its Mother-Son Date Knight at Ballston Common Mall (4238 Wilson Blvd). The food court eatery is one of the participating Chick-fil-A locations nationwide that are hosting the whimsical event. As of last night there were still a dozen reservations available for the event, which is being held the evening of Monday, Feb. 10. The Crystal City Chick-fil-A location has already sold out of its Date Knight reservations. [Chick-fil-A]
Starr Hill Brewing Tasting Tonight — Virginia brewery Starr Hill will be holding a complimentary tasting tonight. The event is scheduled from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Copperwood Tavern (4021 Campbell Ave). Reservations are required. [Shirlington Village Blog Spot]
Ceresi was hired by the late Abe Pollin — former owner of the Washington Wizards — to be curator of the MCI National Sports Museum, according to the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).
The National Sports Gallery closed in 2001, but afterwards, Ceresi decided to continue his career away from law with collectibles and sports artifacts. He was recently named curator of The National Pastime Museum, an online baseball museum.
Ceresi grew up in Alexandria and moved to Arlington in 1975 after graduating from University of Richmond law school. According to SABR’s obituary, he went into general practice before being appointed a Family Court judge in 1987.
From SABR’s obituary:
Ceresi’s contagious enthusiasm and his passion for historical artifacts led him down a fulfilling new career path.
Over the next two decades, until his death of pancreatic cancer at age 64 on January 14, 2014, Frank Ceresi became a respected expert in sports memorabilia and appraisals, consulting and acquiring artifacts for museums and auction houses, and authoring many articles on baseball history. He also acquired for himself many “national treasures” — as he liked to call them — including a Shoeless Joe Jackson “Black Betsy” bat, Mickey Mantle’s first home run baseball, and a vast collection of scorecards dating back to the 19th century.
When the National Sports Gallery closed in 2001, he and longtime partner Carol McMains established FC Associates, a business specializing in museum consulting, appraisals, and legal services. He also co-authored and contributed to several books, including Baseball Americana: Treasures at the Library of Congress; Baseball in Washington, D.C.; The Washington Nationals and Their Grand Tour of 1867; When Baseball Went to War; and Deadball Stars of the National League, where he and McMains wrote the SABR biography of catcher and World War I veteran Hank Gowdy.
Photo via SABR
APS Announces Make-up Day Plan — Arlington Public Schools has lost three days this school year due to inclement weather, including the day lost as a result of the controversial decision to close this past Monday for what turned out to be mostly drizzle. APS has announced its make-up plan, though most schools will not actually have to make up any days due to additional hours built into the school calendar this year. Those impacted by the make-up plan are elementary schools with early release and the Stratford Program, which will see three abbreviated days turned into full days as part of the make-up plan. [Arlington Public Schools]
County to Explore More Options for Reeves Farmhouse — Arlington County is issuing a ‘request for information’ for the historic Reevesland farmhouse. The county is now seeking ideas from individuals and groups who want to use the farmhouse and its grounds but don’t have the nearly $1 million necessary for repairs to the property. That’s a win for one group of residents who have been pushing for the property to be used as a learning center. “We’re open to the idea of shared investment,” said County Manager Barbara Donnellan. [Sun Gazette]
Arlington Judge to Retire — Arlington County General District Court judge Karen A. Henenberg is retiring. Henenberg and her husband plan to spend more time with their sons: Kenneth, a rock band guitarist, and Benjamin, a professional golfer. [Falls Church News-Press]
Flickr pool photo by Ddimick