The lawsuit against 64 people who spoke in opposition to Nova Armory, the Lyon Park gun store, helped provide the impetus for a state bill to protect protesters from similar court action.
House Bill 1941, introduced by southwest Virginia Del. Terry Kilgore (R-1) and co-patroned by local Del. Mark Levine (D-45), provides immunity from a lawsuit to anyone who speaks out on a matter of public concern, unless they knowingly make false statements. Defendants in so-called “strategic lawsuits against public participation” could be awarded reasonable attorney fees and costs under the bill.
It passed unanimously in both the House of Delegates and the state Senate, and awaits the signature of Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D).
Levine said the desire to protest goes beyond party politics, and the new bill protects the First Amendment rights of those across the political spectrum.
“This is not a partisan issue,” he wrote in a message to supporters. “Liberals will want to protest gun stores, just like conservatives will want to protest affordable health care. But people should have a right to state their opinions and protest without fearing a lawsuit.”
Levine had initially proposed a bill of his own related to the subject, House Bill 2446, with sanctions against plaintiffs who “bring an action to deter someone from exercising his constitutional rights.” That bill was tabled in the House Committee for Courts and Justice. Levine then signed onto HB1941 as chief co-patron.
Nova Armory sued opponents who spoke out against its opening, including Arlington County’s seven state representatives, who signed a letter to landlord Katya Varley on General Assembly letterhead expressing their objections.
Nova Armory alleged in its lawsuit that the owner and landlord were harassed, and that death threats were mailed to Lauren Pratte, the store’s 16-year-old “owner-in-training.”
In a press release last March threatening such action, Pratte said ownership were concerned about the infringement on their civil rights by their state representatives.
“We’ve given up on fact-checking all their false statements,” Pratte said at the time. “Instead we’ve told our lawyers to concentrate on any actions in which we are deprived of our civil liberties by these so-called public servants — they’ll regret any abuse of their authority.”
But one day before the lawsuit was due to be heard in Arlington County Circuit Court, the Washington Post reported the store filed a notice to drop the suit.
“I am delighted — though not surprised — to learn that Nova Armory nonsuited its lawsuit today,” Del. Rip Sullivan (D-48), another defendant, said in a statement to the Post. “From the very beginning it was clear that this lawsuit had no basis in law or fact.”
At the monthly meeting of the Arlington County Democratic Committee earlier this month, Levine said the bill has a broader mission beyond this one lawsuit. Instead, he said, it protects anyone who wishes to exercise their First Amendment rights.
“If you want to go out and protest, you are free to go out and protest,” he said. “They can’t sue you.”
The sale of Pershing Manor fell through, prompting the owners of the controversial mansion to put it back on the auction block.
The property at 3120 N. Pershing Drive, which has been criticized by neighbors for its ostentatiousness, initially sold at auction for $2.2 million in December, ARLnow.com was told. The deed, however, was never transferred.
The opening bid for the 13,700 square foot home — which sits on 0.42 acres in Lyon Park and which was most recently assessed by Arlington County for $4 million — is only $750,000.
The auction website describes this as a “second chance” sale. “Buyer did not perform,” the site says.
Auction previews are scheduled from 1-3 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 26 and Sunday, March 5.
Hat tip to Eli Tucker
A Woodbridge man arrested for the sexual assault of a woman in Lyon Park was today sentenced to 58 years in prison for that and two other crimes.
Justin Wingate Poe, 35, was nabbed last May on suspicions that he broke into a home on the 700 block of N. Edgewood Street and sexually assaulted a sleeping woman.
The sexual assault was linked to two attempted abductions in Arlington that occurred in 2007. A renewed investigation into those cold cases was what led to Wingate Poe’s arrest, according to the Arlington County Police Department.
“Upon receiving the link between the 2007 and 2016 cases, Arlington County Police Department detectives began an intensive investigation including the review of cold case files, crime scene evidence and laboratory results,” ACPD said in a release. “The review resulted in additional information that led detectives to identify Justin Wingate Poe as a suspect. Wingate Poe was arrested and charged in June 2016.”
More from the ACPD press release:
Justin Wingate Poe, 35, of Woodbridge, VA was sentenced on Friday, February 10, 2017 in the Arlington County Circuit Court to fifty-eight years in prison for his role in multiple attacks in Arlington County. Judge DiMatteo imposed a sentence of fifty years for the charge of rape and twenty years, with all but fifteen years suspended, for the charge of burglary related to a 2016 sexual assault. These sentences will run concurrently. Additionally, Wingate Poe was charged with two counts of attempted abduction for incidents occurring in 2007. On each charge, Wingate Poe was sentenced to five years with one year suspended.
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.
At approximately 4:56 a.m. on May 15, 2016 a female victim awoke in her residence in the 700 block of N. Edgewood Street to an unknown male sexually assaulting her. Following the attack, the male suspect fled the scene and the victim was able to contact 911. DNA evidence recovered from this assault was submitted to the state lab for analysis. The DNA results linked this case with an unsolved 2007 attempted abduction.
At approximately 2:27 a.m. on May 28, 2007 a female victim was walking in the 1100 block of N. Vernon Street when an unknown male suspect confronted her from behind and attempted to cover her face with a plastic bag. The victim screamed and the suspect fled the area on foot. An additional attack occurred on June 7, 2007 at approximately 1:20 a.m. when a female victim inside her residence in the 2600 block of Lee Highway heard a knock on her door. When she opened the door, an unknown male subject attempted to place a plastic bag over the victim’s head. The victim screamed and the suspect fled the scene on foot.
Upon receiving the link between the 2007 and 2016 cases, Arlington County Police Department detectives began an intensive investigation including the review of cold case files, crime scene evidence and laboratory results. The review resulted in additional information that led detectives to identify Justin Wingate Poe as a suspect. Wingate Poe was arrested and charged in June 2016.
Following today’s sentencing, Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney Theophani K. Stamos said, “Judge DiMatteo sent a powerful message today that our community will be protected from sexual predators. While nothing can restore the victims’ sense of safety and security, our community is safer today because of the significant sentences imposed by the court.”
Arlington County Deputy Chief Daniel J. Murray, Commander of the Criminal Investigations Division said, “The residents of Arlington County are significantly safer now that a predator has been removed from our streets. These horrible offenses and attacks on our community will be relentlessly pursued by our detectives.”
A controversial mansion in Lyon Park has sold at auction.
Pershing Manor, at 3120 N. Pershing Drive, sold for $2.2 million, Prime Auction Solutions auctioneer Anne Nouri tells ARLnow.com. No other details about the transaction were immediately available.
The home was most recently assessed at $4 million by Arlington County.
The mansion is controversial with neighbors for reasons that may have made it attractive to some buyers: at 13,700 square feet it is large and ostentatious — especially by Lyon Park standards — with a circular driveway, indoor heated pool, stone waterfall and other luxury features.
Lyon Park Mansion Auction Is Tonight — The huge “Pershing Manor” mansion at 3120 N. Pershing Drive is scheduled to hit the auction block at 5 p.m. tonight. The opening bid is $750,000, though the property is assessed at $4 million. [ARLnow, ARLnow]
McHenry Talks About Towing Spat — ESPN sportscaster Britt McHenry is opening up about the time she berated an Advanced Towing employee in Arlington — and was caught on camera doing so, in a video that would go viral around the world. McHenry says she regrets what she said during the 2015 incident. The fallout has hurt her both professionally and personally, she says. [Marie Claire]
Garvey’s Swearing In Ceremony — Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey will be sworn in for her second full term today. The ceremony will take place in the County Board room (2100 Clarendon Blvd) at 5 p.m. It will feature remarks from Garvey and a poem from Arlington County Poet Laureate Katherine E. Young. [Arlington County]
Developers Want Gondola, Boathouse — At a Bisnow event in Pentagon City last week, local developers said they’re generally supportive of the proposed Rosslyn-Georgetown gondola, though they’d also be interested in a Rosslyn boathouse to connect with a local water taxi system. Rosslyn, they noted, has fewer opportunities to develop its waterfront than jurisdictions like Alexandria, Prince George’s County and D.C. [Bisnow]
Volunteers Needed for Wreath Laying — The group Wreaths Across America is seeking volunteers to help lay wreaths on gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. The holiday tradition will take place this coming Saturday morning. [Wreaths Across America]
Photo courtesy Peter Golkin
Two men armed with guns tried to rob a jewelry store in Lyon Park last night, according to police, but wound up empty-handed and in jail.
Police say Jorgito Cruz, 37, of Alexandria and Alexander Ruiz, 21, of Puerto Rico tried to rob Sacramento Jewelers on the 2700 block of Washington Blvd just before 5:45 pm.
“Two masked suspects brandishing firearms entered a jewelry store and attempted to restrain one of the employees,” according to an Arlington County Police Department press release. “A struggle ensued between the employee and the suspects, causing the suspects to flee the area by vehicle.”
Police got a quick break in the case when someone noticed a suspicious vehicle stopped along I-395 shortly after the robbery “and provided critical information” that ultimately led investigators to the suspects, who were arrested in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County just before midnight.
Both Cruz and Ruiz are being held in the Arlington County jail without bond.
From an ACPD press release:
The Arlington County Police Department has arrested and charged two suspects for their role in an armed robbery. Jorgito Cruz, 37, of Alexandria VA and Alexander Serpa Ruiz, 21, of Puerto Rico were arrested and charged with attempted armed robbery, abduction, conspiracy to commit armed robbery and use or display of a firearm during the commission of a robbery. Both suspects are being held in the Arlington County Detention Facility on no bond.
At approximately 5:44 p.m. on December 7, officers were dispatched to the report of an armed robbery in the 2700 block of Washington Boulevard. The investigation revealed that two masked suspects brandishing firearms entered a jewelry store and attempted to restrain one of the employees. A struggle ensued between the employee and the suspects, causing the suspects to flee the area by vehicle.
During the course of the investigation, a witness driving on I-395 noticed a suspicious vehicle and provided critical information to the Emergency Communication Center. Utilizing the information provided by the witness, evidence located at the scene and information obtained during witness interviews, detectives developed suspect descriptions. Officers from the Arlington County Police Department’s Tactical Unit and the Fairfax County Police Department took the two suspects into custody in the Alexandria portion of Fairfax County.
Anyone with information related to this investigation is asked to contact Detective G. Seibert of the Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit at 703-228-4199 or [email protected] Information may also be provided anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).
In October its owner was asking for permission to use it as a bed and breakfast.
Now, in December, it’s up for auction.
The controversial “Pershing Manor” mansion at 3120 N. Pershing Drive is being sold to the highest bidder on Tuesday, Dec. 13. We’re told that the bidding is starting at $750,000, with an undisclosed reserve.
The auction firm released a video tour of the massive home (above).
Per the auction website, the 13,700 square foot brick mansion, built on 0.42 acres in Lyon Park in 2005, features:
- Gated Circular Driveway and 2 Car Garage
- 4 Bedroom Suites and 2 Additional Guest Suites
- 7 Total Full Baths and 2 Powder Rooms
- Indoor Heated Pool & Stone Waterfall
- Dual Grand Staircase with Intricate Cast Iron Railing & Banisters
- Chef Inspired Granite Gourmet Kitchen
- Theater Room with Multi-Level Stadium Seating
- Embassy Sized Walk Out Lower Level with Wet Bar, Dance Floor and Full Kitchen
The County Board agenda item to consider allowing the home to be used as a bed and breakfast was deferred to December, to give the owner more time to discuss the proposal with skeptical Lyon Park neighbors.
Photo via Prime Auction Solutions. Hat tip to “John Fontain.”
The incident was reported around 2:20 p.m. at Nova Armory (2300 N. Pershing Drive).
The man left before police arrived. He was later found but was referred to county social services and not charged with a crime.
This was at least the second time police were called to the store this fall. In September police investigated a potential burglary at Nova Armory; no guns were taken during the break-in.
From an Arlington County Police Department crime report:
At approximately 2:19 PM on November 16, police were dispatched to the 2300 block of N. Pershing Drive for the report of a male subject who entered the business yelling obscenities. The man had exited the business prior to police arrival but responding officers were able to identify and locate the man. After investigation, officers determined that no crime had occurred. The subject has a history of mental health issues and had been referred to county government services.
Billowing black smoke coming from a home’s chimney and roof prompted an Arlington County Fire Department response this morning.
The chimney fire was first reported shortly after 9:30 a.m., at a home at the intersection of N. Fillmore Street and 2nd Street N.
At least two people were inside the house at the time, a fire department spokeswoman confirmed. Both escaped from the smoky structure unharmed.
Firefighters used chainsaws to get access to the chimney and extinguish the fire before it could spread. Some water damage from the firefighting effort was reported in the home.
Two blocks of N. Fillmore Street were closed as a result of fire apparatus on the scene.
The owner of a huge mansion in Lyon Park is asking for the county’s permission to use it as a bed and breakfast.
Yogi Dumera, the restaurateur behind Delhi Dhaba and Arlington Rooftop Bar and Grill in Courthouse, recently filed a bed and breakfast use permit application for his 13,700 square foot house at 3120 N. Pershing Drive.
The item is on the Arlington County Board’s agenda for this Saturday, but county staff is recommending it be deferred to December to give Dumera time to discuss the proposal with the Lyon Park community.
The palatial house was controversial when it was built a decade ago, attracting opposition from neighbors, who said its massive size — compared to other homes in the community — was “absurd.” Neighbors at the time also worried about the house being used for commercial purposes.
From a 2005 Washington Post article:
“Its scale is absurd,” said neighbor Alan Tober, who, along with others, worries that the house will be used for commercial purposes — namely weddings.
But property owner Yogi Dumera said he has no such plans. He is only taking advantage of his large lot, he said.
Dumera has been trying to sell the house for the past two years, records show, dropping the asking price well under the property’s $4 million assessed value. With no buyers to be found, the home is now off the market.
The next step for Dumera will be presenting his bed and breakfast plans to a Nov. 9 meeting of the Lyon Park Civic Association.
Said a tipster: “I bet the civic association meeting where he consults with the neighborhood will be popcorn-worthy.”
Screen shot (above) via Zillow
(Updated at 10:40 a.m.) There was a break-in this morning at Nova Armory, the recently-opened gun store in Lyon Park, but no guns were taken, according to police.
Officers were dispatched to the scene just after 5 a.m. for an activated burglar alarm.
“Arriving officers located a broken door to the business and secured the scene,” according to an Arlington County Police Department crime report. “The suspects had fled prior to police arrival.”
Some items were stolen during the burglary, police said.
“Empty firearm cases were taken but there were no weapons inside,” said ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage.
Police remained on scene to investigate.
A photo of the store’s back entrance shows doors and windows smashed in. The entrance is currently being repaired, we’re told.
POLICE ACTIVITY: PD responded to burglary alarm at gun store in 2300 block of N. Pershing Drive. No weapons taken. Police remain on scene.
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) September 19, 2016
The assault was reported around 3:30 p.m., on the 2600 block of Arlington Blvd. Initial reports suggest that a man reached up the teen’s skirt and touched her inappropriately, before fleeing on foot.
The suspect was described as a Hispanic male in his late 40s, who was wearing work pants, work boots, a white hat and a white t-shirt at the time of the attack. Police are currently searching for the suspect.
Photo via Google Maps
(Updated at 4 p.m.) A Woodbridge man has been arrested in connection with the sexual assault of a Lyon Park woman last month.
The sexual assault was linked via evidence to two attempted abductions in Arlington in 2007, according to Arlington County Police. A renewed investigation into those cold cases led to the arrest of 34-year-old Justin Poe.
Poe has not yet been charged in the May sexual assault.
“We are awaiting additional evidence and additional charges are expected related to the 2016 case,” said ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage.
From an ACPD press release:
The Arlington County Police Department has arrested and charged a 34 year-old suspect with two counts of attempted abduction for his role in attacks stemming from 2007. Justin Wingate Poe, 34, of Woodbridge, VA is currently being held without bond in the Arlington County Detention Facility. Additional charges are expected.
At approximately 4:56 a.m. on May 15, 2016 a female victim awoke in her residence in the 700 block of N. Edgewood Street to an unknown male sexually assaulting her. Following the attack, the male suspect fled the scene and the victim was able to contact 911. DNA evidence recovered from this assault was submitted to the state laboratory for analysis. The DNA results linked this case with an unsolved 2007 attempted abduction in the 1100 block of N. Vermont Street.
At approximately 2:27 a.m. on May 28, 2007 a female victim was walking in the 1100 block of N. Vermont Street when an unknown male suspect confronted her from behind and attempted to cover her face with a plastic bag. The victim screamed and the suspect fled the area on foot. The plastic bag was processed for evidence and a latent fingerprint was recovered.
An additional attack occurred on June 7, 2007 at approximately 1:20 a.m. when a female victim inside her residence in the 2600 block of Lee Highway heard a knock on her door. When she opened the door, an unknown male subject standing against the wall just outside the door attempted to place a plastic bag over the victim’s head. The victim screamed and the suspect fled the scene on foot. The victim was able to provide a detailed description of the suspect to police and a composite sketch was released to the public.
Upon receiving the link between the 2007 and 2016 cases, Arlington County Police Department detectives began an intensive investigation including the review of cold case files, crime scene evidence and laboratory results. The review led to additional information that led detectives to identify Justin Wingate Poe as a possible suspect. Forensic evidence and thorough investigative efforts linked the suspect to the incidents in the 1100 block of N. Vermont Street and the 2600 block of Lee Highway.
Officers from the Arlington County Police Department’s Tactical Unit and the Prince William County Police Department took Poe into custody at his residence in Woodbridge, VA in the evening hours of June 17, 2016. Poe has been charged with two counts of attempted abduction. Additional charges are expected. The apprehension of Poe was the direct result of outstanding police work and the leveraging of resources from our regional law enforcement partners.
The investigation into Poe is ongoing. Anyone who has information regarding these incidents or concerning Poe is asked to call Detective Sloan at 703.228.4198 or [email protected] To report information anonymously, contact the Arlington County Crime Solvers at 866.411.TIPS (8477).
The incident happened just after 2 a.m., early Saturday morning, at Long Branch Elementary School on N. Fillmore Street in Lyon Park.
According to police, an officer patrolling the area noticed the men creeping around the school with flashlights and then going inside via an “unsecured” door. By the time the suspects left the school, with Apple iPad tablets in hand, more officers had arrived and they were taken into custody, said ACPD.
The men, both Arlington residents in their early 20s, were charged with burglary and grand larceny. From the ACPD crime report:
BURGLARY, 160521007, unit block of N. Fillmore Street. At approximately 2:10 a.m. on May 21, an officer working in the area observed suspicious persons. He observed the individuals shining flashlights towards the school and enter through an unsecured door. Officers confronted the individuals upon their exit from the school. The suspects fled but were ultimately apprehended and determined to be in possession of Apple Ipads. Dvonte Medious-Jackson, 21, of Arlington VA, was charged with burglary and grand larceny. James Minor, 22, of Arlington VA, was charged with burglary and grand larceny.
The incident happened around 5 a.m. Sunday morning. Police say a woman “awoke to an unknown male sexually assaulting her.” After the attack, he fled the scene.
Police are looking for a man in a tan four-door sedan, who was last seen wearing a black hooded shell jacket with a hood.
From an ACPD press release:
The Arlington County Police Department’s Special Victim’s Unit is asking for the public’s assistance in identifying and locating a suspect involved in the sexual assault of a female victim which occurred at a residence in the 700 block of N. Edgewood Street in the early morning hours of May 15, 2016.
At approximately 4:56 a.m. a female victim awoke to an unknown male sexually assaulting her. Following the attack, the male suspect fled the scene. The victim was then able to call 911. The victim advised that earlier in the evening, at approximately 2:30 a.m., upon returning to the residence she observed an unknown adult male walking away from the rear of the home. That individual left the area in a tan colored four door sedan. He was described as wearing a black hooded shell jacket with the hood up. The male suspect involved in this incident was described as wearing similar clothing.
Detectives from the Special Victim’s Unit are actively investigating this incident. Responding officers attempted a canine track in the area with negative results and officers canvased the area speaking with possible witnesses. Officers will continue conducting extra checks in the area.
If anyone has information on the identity of this individual or details surrounding this incident, please contact Detective G. Sloan of the Arlington County Police Department’s Special Victim’s Unit at 703.228.4198 or at [email protected] To report information anonymously, contact the Arlington County Crime Solvers at 866.411.TIPS (8477).