A former ABC News producer whose Columbia Pike apartment was raided by the FBI last year has been sentenced.
James Gordon Meek, 53, pleaded guilty in July to transportation and possession of child sexual abuse material. Today he was sentenced to six years in prison, just above the minimum five year sentence for the charges.
The FBI raided Meek’s apartment on Columbia Pike in April 2022, as photos first published by ARLnow — taken by local resident John Antonelli — showed. Speculation about the raid swirled in the ensuing months, in part due to Meek’s job as a prominent producer for ABC News and his former role in counter-terrorism for the House Committee on Homeland Security.
More on the sentencing, below, from a U.S. Dept. of Justice press release.
An Arlington man was sentenced today to 72 months in prison for transportation and possession of child sexual abuse material.
According to court documents, while visiting South Carolina in February 2020, James Gordon Meek, 53, used an online messaging platform on his iPhone to send and receive images and videos depicting minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, and to discuss his sexual interest in children. Some of the images and videos depicted prepubescent minors and minors under the age of 12, including an infant being raped. Meek brought the iPhone containing the child sexual abuse material back with him when he returned to Virginia. Additionally, Meek possessed multiple electronic devices containing images and videos of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Wayne A. Jacobs, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office Criminal Division, made the announcement after sentencing by Senior U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Zoe Bedell and Trial Attorney Whitney Kramer for the Department of Justice’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section prosecuted the case.
This case was investigated by the FBI Washington Field Office’s Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force. The task force is composed of FBI agents, along with other federal agents and detectives from northern Virginia and the District of Columbia. The task force is charged with investigating and bringing federal charges against individuals engaged in the exploitation of children and those engaged in human trafficking. Valuable assistance was provided by the Arlington County Police Department.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by U.S. Attorney’s Offices and the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.
(Updated at 4 p.m.) Metrorail service was suspended on the Blue and Yellow lines today after a train derailed.
Metro says no injuries were reported among the 50 people on the derailed train, adding that they have since been transferred via shuttle bus to another train.
The derailment happened around 10:45 a.m., south of the National Airport station, and involved the lead car of the train, according to scanner traffic. Arlington medics were dispatched to the scene but there were no reports of injuries.
Since the derailment, trains have been operating in two segments — Franconia/Huntington to Potomac Yard and Largo/Mt. Vernon Square to National Airport, according to Metro.
Shortly after 12:30 p.m., the transit agency said it was inspecting the track ahead of resuming service on a single track. As of 1:30 p.m., Blue and Yellow line trains were running every 24 minutes and single-tracking past the derailment.
A partial derailment near Rosslyn in October 2021 was found to have been caused by a wheel defect in newer, 7000-series trains. Earlier this year Metro unveiled a multi-year plan to change out wheelsets on hundreds of 7000-series trains.
Metro’s general manager said in a press conference this afternoon that it was a 7000-series train that derailed, but the agency believes a brake assembly came off of an older 3000-series train and caused the derailment.
Update: Due to a derailed train, service remains suspended between Potomac Yard and National Airport. There are no injuries. Shuttle buses are operating between the two stations to connect to additional service. #wmata
— Metro Forward (@wmata) September 29, 2023
— Metro Forward (@wmata) September 29, 2023
Single tracking from Potomac Yard to Pentagon City continues as we repair and inspect the tracks. #wmata
— Metro Forward (@wmata) September 29, 2023
Flickr pool photo by Bekah Richards
Last year’s soaring car tax values resulted in more people behind on their vehicle taxes, according to Arlington’s Treasurer.
Despite the uptick, Arlington County ended the 2023 fiscal year with historically few people behind on their taxes, Treasurer Carla de la Pava told the Arlington County Board on Tuesday.
The county closed out the fiscal year on June with the lowest delinquency rate in its history: under 0.16%.
Car assessments are determined by the office of Commissioner of Revenue Ingrid Morroy, weighing several factors including oil prices and supply-chain issues.
Bucking a century-long “depreciation pattern,” vehicle values — especially for SUVs, trucks and hybrid and used vehicles — rose last year due to widespread pandemic-era car shortages, Susan Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Office of the Commissioner of Revenue, tells ARLnow.
“Covid-19 had the largest impact when vehicle production and supply lines collapsed,” she said. “New cars were in tight supply and the laws of supply and demand were in full effect. Production of less-new cars available at elevated prices from dealers had a cascade effect on the used car market driving up prices.”
In response, the County Board in 2022 adopted a one-year-only reduced assessment rate at 88% of the clean trade-in value of vehicles. Despite this, the Treasurer’s Office, which collects the vehicle taxes, “still saw the highest tax delinquencies not just since the pandemic but the highest since the fallout of the Great Recession in 2008,” de la Pava said.
Taxes levied on vehicles make up the lion’s share of delinquencies, or 77% of the total delinquencies at the end of this fiscal year. Vehicle tax delinquencies went up 33% despite a far smaller increase in delinquent accounts, 3.4%. Almost half of these delinquencies involved vehicles worth at least $20,000.
Most delinquent accounts were opened the year prior and are concentrated in densely populated, highly transient areas, de la Pava said, which she attributes to new or short-term residents unaccustomed to a vehicle tax. Her office also hears from residents surprised their taxes went up after buying a new car.
The treasurer credited the 2022 reduced rate and delinquency prevention efforts for avoiding a surfeit of delinquent vehicle owners.
Compared to vehicle taxes, real estate taxes make up most of 88% of taxes levied and only 6% of delinquent taxes.
Delinquencies for the business tangible tax — for furniture and equipment inside businesses — were half a million dollars higher last fiscal year, compared to the year prior, though still lower than pandemic years, she said.
De la Pava credited the county’s online payments system for helping to keep a lid on delinquencies.
“People ask me all the time: ‘How is it that we have such a low tax delinquency rate?'” she said. “Delinquency prevention is a big part of that. The Customer Assessment and Payment Portal, otherwise known… as CAPP, is one of the most important tools we have to prevent delinquency.”
Automated withdrawals via CAPP made up $51 million of the taxes Arlington collected, she noted.
Free Pantry Being Removed — “After more than three years, a food pantry in Arlington County is closing and food-insecure families who take advantage of it say they only received a three-day notice. Now, volunteers are hoping to save the community resource… The food pantry is located outside the Arlington Central Library in Ballston and was started by the Eagle Scouts during the pandemic.” [WJLA]
Ovechkin-Owned Home for Rent — “Alex Ovechkin’s relatively modest Arlington home — at least compared to the mansion he lives in now — is back on the market for lease. The five-bedroom, four-and-a-half bath home at 4906 16th St. N served as Ovechkin’s abode during his first years with the Washington Capitals. It is listed for rent by Ali Nasir of TTR Sotheby’s International Realty for $9,000 a month. The 5,000-square-foot residence, which sits on a half-acre lot, was last rented to Erik Gustafson, who played for the Caps during the ’22-’23 season.” [Washington Business Journal]
Pickleball Fight Continues — “If Arlington County Board members thought their two-month summer break would bring a respite from battles over pickleball courts, they were quickly disabused of the notion. A representative of the Columbia Heights Civic Association on Sept. 23 rapped efforts by the Department of Parks and Recreation at Walter Reed Community Center, saying the number of planned courts must come down and noise-mitigation efforts must improve.” [Gazette Leader]
Shots Fired Near the Serrano Apts — “5500 block of Columbia Pike. At approximately 6:47 p.m. on September 27, police were dispatched to the report of shots heard. Responding officers recovered evidence confirming shots had been fired in the area. No injuries or property damage were reported. There are no suspect(s) descriptions. The investigation is ongoing.” [ACPD]
County Joins Insulin Suit — “Members of the Arlington County Board on Sept. 26 authorized the hiring of outside legal counsel to join lawsuits by local and state governments nationally against alleged price-fixing by insulin suppliers.” [Gazette Leader]
Motorcade This Morning — Updated at 10 a.m. — The president and vice president will be coming to Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall this morning to attend a farewell tribute ceremony for Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Rabies Exposure in F.C. — “On Saturday, September 23, 2023, an injured raccoon was euthanized by the City of Falls Church Police after being struck by two vehicles near the 500 block of S. Washington St. A witness stated that prior to officers arriving, both he and an unidentified driver came in direct contact with the injured raccoon while removing it from the roadway. On Tuesday, September 26, 2023, the Fairfax County Health Department reported that the raccoon had tested clinically positive for rabies.” [City of Falls Church]
It’s Friday — Patchy drizzle and a 30% chance of showers until 2pm, with mostly cloudy skies and a high of 69°F accompanied by a north wind at 9 mph. For Friday night, expect mostly cloudy conditions with a low of 60°F and an 8 mph north wind. [Weather.gov]
(Updated at 12:55 p.m.) It’s likely a hoax but a threatening phone call prompted another large police response at Yorktown High School today.
Someone called 911 shortly before noon, claiming to be in a bathroom at the school and planning a shooting, according to a police dispatch. The call taker could then hear gunshots and screaming in the background, possibly from a recording.
Officers arriving on scene reported no suspicious activity outside nor inside the school, which was quickly placed on “secure the school” mode as a precaution, per scanner traffic.
A large police presence remained on scene investigating.
In an email to school staff just after noon, Yorktown Principal Dr. Kevin Clark said that the call was not placed inside the school and that normal activities could resume inside the school.
In February 2022, an anonymous threat that turned out to be a hoax prompted a lockdown and evacuation of Yorktown. An Arlington man, meanwhile, was arrested last night after allegedly threatening a shooting outside of Washington-Liberty High School during a band practice.
UPDATE: No evidence of a crime was located. Secure the building status has been lifted. Out of an abundance of caution, a visible police presence will remain around the school.
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) September 28, 2023
(Updated at 12:30 p.m.) More than 5,000 Dominion customers were in the dark this morning due to a large power outage.
Around 10:45 a.m. firefighters were dispatched to the power substation at the intersection of S. Fern Street and 18th Street S. for a report of a transformer explosion and fire.
Shortly before 11 a.m. firefighters on scene reported that they had put a small fire out and were awaiting the arrival of Dominion representatives.
The incident knocked out power to much of the Pentagon City and Crystal City area, prompting numerous calls for stuck elevators and tripped alarms.
As of publication the Dominion website was reporting 5,146 customers without power in Arlington. The power was fully restored, according to Dominion, by 12:30 p.m.
Crystal City Outage Info:
A failed piece of equipment has caused 5,178 customer outages this morning.
Our crews are on the scene making repairs.
We expect to have power restored within the hour.
Thank you for your patience.
— Peggy Fox (@PeggyDomEnergy) September 28, 2023
This is the second month in a row for a large power outage in this area. An underground cable failure along 15th Street S. knocked out power to more than 10,000 Dominion customers on Aug. 22.
Crime Up Last Month — “Arlington County police handled 1,450 criminal incidents in August, according to new figures, up from 1,392 a year ago and from 1,196 in 2021.” [Gazette Leader]
Group Home Ribbon Cutting — “Arlington County’s Department of Human Services invites members of the media to a grand opening and ribbon cutting for the South Irving Street Group Home, a new home for people with developmental disabilities. This new home was designed and is constructed to provide permanent residence for up to six individuals with developmental and physical disabilities across their lifespans.” [Arlington County]
Health Dept. Addresses Board — “While two of the five top county officials (County Board member Libby Garvey and County Manager Mark Schwartz) were masked up, and while board members continue to maintain some distance from each other on the board dais, the tone of the discussion on Sept. 23 seemed to represent an acceptance that it’s time to live with respiratory diseases that tend to peak when weather gets colder.” [Gazette Leader]
Local Woman Carjacked in D.C. — From Alan Henney: “Here’s an update on the poor woman from Arlington who was carjacked in BROAD DAYLIGHT of her Rav-4 and robbed of her iPhone at gunpoint yesterday at 14th St and Swann St NW DC. Her Rav-4 was found abandoned and crashed hours later.” [Twitter]
It’s Thursday — A chance of showers later in the day, primarily after 2 pm, with mostly cloudy skies and temperatures reaching a high of around 68°F. There is a 30% chance of precipitation, accompanied by a northeast wind of approximately 10 mph. On Thursday night, the chance of showers increases to 50%, with a low temperature of around 60°F and an east wind circulating at about 9 mph. [Weather.gov]
(Updated at 11 a.m.) An alleged shooting threat briefly sent students practicing on a school field indoors tonight.
The incident happened around 7 p.m. outside of Washington-Liberty High School. A police dispatch said the man was “yelling that there was going to be a shooting at the stadium.” He was being held down by several people until officers arrived, the dispatch said.
Numerous students were on the field at the time and were reportedly rushed inside the building.
“An individual threatened the field hockey players at a practice during a marching band rehearsal,” a tipster said. “I am a W-L student and I can confirm that the students were quickly brought in.”
An email sent to band families around 7:30 p.m., shared with ARLnow, said the man was arrested.
This evening there was an incident at the stadium entrance with a individual claiming to have a weapon. The police were called and the students were immediately sent inside. The suspect was arrested and taken into custody, and we have resumed rehearsal at this point now that the all clear from APD has been given. We will end at 9:00 as scheduled.
If you have any questions please feel free to reach out.
Arlington County police said in a subsequent crime report on Thursday that they arrested a 35-year-old Arlington resident. He is currently being held in jail on several threat-related charges.
“The adult male suspect entered the stadium and allegedly made threats of harm to other individuals.,” the crime report said. “The male suspect was detained by bystanders and taken into custody by responding officers. No weapon was seen or located.”
The suspect “was arrested and charged with Disorderly Conduct and Threats on School Grounds (x2).,” the crime report continues. “He was held on no bond.”
Arlington has seen the greatest growth in people living alone of 342 U.S. cities.
Arlington is No. 1 on the list and neighboring Alexandria is No. 2, at a 3.54x and 2.98x increase of people living alone, respectively. In Arlington, about 42% of households only had one resident as of 2021.
“The rate of single people who live alone is rising dramatically in some U.S. cities,” a SmartAsset spokesman wrote. “Our findings show Arlington and Alexandria ranked among the top five cities where households changed the most.”
More from SmartAsset’s findings:
On average, the rate of single people living alone jumped to 28%. Five years prior, that figure was 24%. In Arlington, VA, which had the most drastic increase, the proportion of people living alone jumped from 11% to 41%.
Single people make up nearly half of households in these cities. The largest single populations across men and women are Washington, D.C. (48.23%); St. Louis, MO (47.49%); Alexandria, VA (46.52%); Richmond, VA (46.23%); Cincinnati, OH (46.20%); and Cleveland, OH (46.20%).
In the D.C. area, more than 25% of households are single women. Single-woman households are most prominent in Richmond, VA (28.00%); Washington, D.C. (26.74%); and Alexandria, VA (26.23%). These areas also saw the largest increases in the proportion of single women living alone over five years, with greater than 15% of households added to this cohort. Other areas with large bachelorette populations include St. Louis, MO (25.70%); New Orleans, LA (25.70%) and Cincinnati, OH (24.63%).
It’s perhaps worth pointing out that the end year of the study period, 2021, was in the midst of the pandemic — which might have prompted some to exit roommate situations.
Route 50 Trail Funding Sought — “County Board members on Sept. 23 included a request for up to $4 million to build the trail, which would run on the south side of Arlington Boulevard from South George Mason Drive (at the National Foreign Affairs Training Center) east to South Glebe Road (where the local Goodwill store is located).” [Gazette Leader]
Arlington Makes Fall Travel List — “Explore the awe-inspiring show put on by Mother Nature every fall in Arlington. The county is chock full of fantastic places to see the changing colors, including the walking trails at the Long Branch Nature Center, Mount Vernon Trail, and at the Potomac Overlook Regional Park.” [Travel + Leisure]
County Seeks Firehouse Memorabilia — “The Arlington County government is on the hunt for memorabilia and artifacts to be put on display once the new Fire Station #8 opens… ‘We would love to display your photographs, awards, artifacts, mementos and more,’ noted the Fire Station #8 History and Legacy Committee, which is working with the county library system’s Center for Local History on the effort.” [Gazette Leader]
Expungement Clinic This Weekend — “The Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington County and the City of Falls Church and the Clerk of the Circuit Court are hosting their second annual Expungement Clinic on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The expungement clinic will provide everything attendees need to request arrests that did not result in convictions be removed, or expunged, from their record.” [Patch]
Amazon Facing Antitrust Suit — “The Federal Trade Commission and 17 state attorneys general filed a sweeping antitrust lawsuit against Amazon Tuesday seeking to bar the company from allegedly abusing its powers to raise prices for shoppers and levy high fees against businesses that sell on its platform.” [Washington Post]
It’s Wednesday — A partly sunny fall day with a high temperature near 65 degrees and a gentle northeast wind at approximately 8 mph. As night falls on Wednesday, expect mostly cloudy skies with the temperature dropping to around 54 degrees. [Weather.gov]
A Wakefield High School freshman named Jorge Chavarria Rodíguez died Thursday evening, according to several sources.
The 16-year-old attended Barcroft Elementary School and Kenmore Middle School and had just started his 9th-grade year at Wakefield, per an email from Wakefield Principal Peter Balas to the school community.
“Jorge was a beloved member of the Wakefield, Kenmore, and Barcroft families, and impacted the lives of many of our students and staff members,” Balas said in the email, which Arlington Public Schools provided to ARLnow. “He was excited and happy to join the Wakefield family, with staff recalling his genuine smile.”
This marks the second death of a Wakefield student this calendar year. APS confirmed on Monday, a school holiday, that Jorge was not on school grounds at the time of his passing.
Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage said police found a deceased teen last Thursday at an apartment building in the 5100 block of Columbia Pike. Officers were dispatched just before 8:30 p.m. on Thursday for the report of an unresponsive person on the ground.
First responders reported that the person was dead upon their arrival on scene, according to scanner traffic.
Now, ACPD is conducting a death investigation and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will determine cause and manner of death. She noted a preliminary investigation “has not revealed an ongoing threat to the community related to this incident.”
In a GoFundMe page created by Jorge’s mother, Luz, she writes in Spanish that she is living through the worst pain a mother can experience. She says her biggest wish is to give him the final goodbye he deserves as a beloved son.
An English-language description below describes Jorge as “a happy and playful child, a good student and an excellent son.”
“My heart is broken knowing that his dreams will not come true and that his life was short,” she says. “I thank you in advance for your expressions of affection and collaboration. I wouldn’t wish this pain on anyone. May my little Jorge rest in peace.”
Over the weekend, a tribute to her son, made of flowers and saint candles, started growing around a tree across the street from the Columbia Pike Plaza shopping center. The GoFundMe, meanwhile, has circulated on social media and received some 265 donations, totaling more than $13,000 of the $25,000 goal, as of publication.
When a community loses a child , we come together to support the best we can. Jorge Rodriguez Descanso en Paz. Please consider donating to help his family with funeral expenses. @KeyPta @EscuelaKeyAPS @HBWProgram @YorktownHS @APSKenmore
— #TiredTeacher (@pondfamily) September 24, 2023
The Arlington County Board briefly discussed the 16-year-old’s passing on Saturday.
Reading from texts he received, Board member Takis Karantonis said it was possibly an overdose, amid attempts by Chair Christian Dorsey to interject.
“Whatever the circumstances, it’s a tragic thing, and I’m really devastated and heartbroken about this,” Karantonis said.
Dorsey cut the the discussion short, saying that “resources are going to be made available to the students next week [and] details are not known at this time.”
In a statement, community activist Janeth Valenzuela said adults and responsible citizens need to act quickly or risk losing more children to death and addictions.
“We want to make changes, now,” she said. “Not tomorrow, today. Let us not allow this death to be one more of others, let us use this pain that burns our soul to gain momentum and defend our children and the children of our community with our claws.”