<![CDATA[NBC4 Washington - First Read]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcwashington.com/blogs/first-read-dmv http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/WASH+NBC4+BLUE.png NBC4 Washington http://www.nbcwashington.com en-us Fri, 31 Jul 2015 01:23:59 -0400 Fri, 31 Jul 2015 01:23:59 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Social Media's Role in Decision 2016]]> Tue, 28 Jul 2015 19:10:45 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/PollingPlaceGeneric_1026.jpg NBC Nightly News' Lester Holt stops by News4 to discuss the roles social media and branding play in the next presidential election.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: Hot Times…All Over!]]> Wed, 22 Jul 2015 12:57:16 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/119517605.jpg

Summer’s stifling heat and humidity comes every year.

And, judging from the almost-hysterical media reports that accompany the heat, it seems like a surprise every year.

But even recent transplants to the Washington region know the temperature game. Heat and humidity occurs through much of the summer, bitter cold during the winter and mostly pleasant temperatures in spring and fall.

That’s Washington weather. Short-term trends can vary, and long-term climate change is upon the whole world, not just us.

Just this past February, the weather folks were reporting record-breaking cold temperatures. We all shivered and couldn’t wait for summer.

Well, it’s here.

Maybe the climate change is causing more extreme extremes, kind of like our national politics.

■ Trump temps rising. The Trump saga continues on the national stage. It’s now moved on to the presidential candidate’s mocking of Sen. John McCain as not really being a war hero because he was captured by the enemy. Rather than apologizing, Donald Trump insists that McCain should apologize for calling Trump’s supporters “crazies.”

The national GOP establishment is wincing at this intra-party feuding. Democrats are hoping Trump keeps it up and remains a candidate at least through the first national TV debate in early August.

The Democrats believe Trump has the ability to severely weaken GOP support among veterans and others who revere McCain’s personal sacrifice as a prisoner of war.

And Trump still is getting heat from his comment that suggested many Mexican immigrants are criminals and rapists.

Last week on WTOP radio, before the McCain episode, Mayor Muriel Bowser was asked about Trump.

“I just thought Donald’s comments, though I’m not surprised, were just idiotic,” she said in an “Ask the Mayor” segment on the station. “They don’t make sense. They don’t even stand to reason. I am hopeful he will walk back those remarks.”

Well, that certainly hasn’t happened. And it looks like Trump is sticking to his statement.
Bowser rebuffed calls for Trump to yield control of the hotel his company is building at the Old Post Office at 12th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. She noted that it’s a project on federal land with federal control of licensing. And besides, she said, the hotel is a vital part of the redevelopment of a dead zone in the area.

“It is important that that hotel is successful,” she said. It’s “a big part of the revitalization of that part of Pennsylvania Avenue once we have [the future of] the FBI building settled. We know that will be a huge development.”

Some hoteliers privately say the Trump hotel already was pricing itself out of the potential market here, with rooms costing as much as $700 and up. In addition to restaurants that have bailed on the project because of Trump’s immigration remarks, it may be hard to find politically sensitive groups or organizations willing to spend that much money only to get grief from activists. You can certainly expect that there will be no District government-sponsored events there until the clouds of discrimination are removed.

This country has a long history of fighting over immigration, and barring all sorts of peoples. Here’s a history and timeline of interest: tinyurl.com/immigrants-history.

■ The heat is on, No. 1. Street prostitution has long been illegal in the District, and anti-prostitution laws allow police to seize the vehicles of suspected “johns” that support the trade.

But apparently the police aren’t being tough enough.

Ward 2 D.C. Council member Jack Evans has decided to fight what he says is a rising incidence of street prostitution.

Last week Evans introduced a bill that would require — not just allow — police to seize suspects’ vehicles. He good-naturedly refers to it as the “honey, I lost the car” legislation, a consequence that embarrassed “johns” might find tougher to explain than any court appearance.

But as any police officer will tell you, prostitution is not a victimless crime and is not funny. There are serious health issues involved. Prostitutes often are cajoled or forced into prostitution. Street prostitution can prompt other criminals to prey on victims who are unlikely to call police.

Several of the city’s traditional prostitution walks have been erased by new developments and traffic restrictions that make cruising by johns more difficult. But no law is going to eliminate street prostitution. It’s not called the oldest profession for nothing.

■ The heat is on, No. 2. Is it coincidence? D.C. police on Monday announced that their “human trafficking” unit had arrested 30 people on prostitution charges, most in the downtown area.

All arrestees were males who were charged with soliciting prostitutes. There was no word in the news release on how many vehicles, if any, were impounded.


Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.
 



Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Md. State Employees Plan Rallies to Protest Staff Cuts]]> Wed, 22 Jul 2015 05:45:55 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Maryland+Flag+shutterstock_131273360.jpg

State employees are expected to rally across Maryland Wednesday to protest staff layoffs.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees says it will ask Maryland Governor Larry Hogan to stop staff cuts to public services.

According to organizers, the Division of Corrections announced plans to lay off more than 60 human resource workers to save $3 million. The Board of Public Works delayed that decisiion until next month.

The rallies will be held in the following locations:

  • Baltimore – 5:30 p.m.
    Corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Baker Street and Pennsylvania Avenue and North Avenue 
  • Hagerstown – 5:15 p.m.
    Town Square – Corner of South Potomac Street and West Washington Street
  • Landover Hills - 6 p.m. 
    Ascension Lutheran Church and School
    7515 Buchanan Street 
  • Salisbury – 5:15PM
    Riverwalk Park
    300 South Salisbury Boulevard



Photo Credit: e X p o s e/Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Md. County Holds Public Hearing on English-Only Law ]]> Tue, 21 Jul 2015 08:53:51 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/meeting+generic+business.jpg

The elected leaders of Frederick County are listening to what citizens have to say about a disputed ordinance requiring that county business be conducted in English.

A bill to repeal the ordinance gets a public hearing Tuesday night in Frederick.

The measure was enacted in 2012 by an all-Republican county board. The current County Council is composed of four Republicans and three Democrats.

Democratic members Jessica Fitzwater and M.C. Keegan-Ayer say the ordinance sends a message of intolerance to recent immigrants and businesses with international employees.

Republican member Billy Shreve says it's a fiscal issue. He says the county saves money on translators and interpreters by having English as its official language.

Republican Council President Bud Otis says the ordinance sends a message that Frederick is not a welcoming county.
 

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<![CDATA[Montgomery Co. Council to Vote on Predatory Towing Bill]]> Tue, 21 Jul 2015 08:53:08 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000011241757_1200x675_488403523876.jpg Predatory towing could be coming to an end in Montgomery County. A bill designed to change the rules is up for a vote Tuesday. News4's Meagan Fitzgerald has more on what the proposed bill. ]]> <![CDATA[Southwest Waterfront Development Hits Milestone]]> Fri, 17 Jul 2015 09:54:25 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/TheWharf.jpg

The mile-long development on D.C.'s Southwest waterfront celebrated a milestone on Thursday and announced its first office tenant. 

The 24-acre, $2 billion project The Wharf has "bottomed out" with excavation, meaning new construction can begin. The American Psychiatric Association will be the development's first office tenant. 

Located along the Washington Channel, within walking distance of the National Mall, the "mixed-use waterfront community" spreads out along more than 50 acres of water and will include 15 different, uniquely designed buildings.

"Nobody is going to tell Georgetown, please, but this is going to be the crown jewel of our waterfront in the District of Columbia," Ward 6 D.C. Council Member Charles Allen said. 

30,000 truckloads of dirt were hauled out Thursday, marking the end of the foundation construction phase and the beginning of the building phase. As construction continues, a steel wall is in place to hold back 200 million gallons of water. 

This project is one of the country's largest redevelopments, according to P.N. Hoffman CEO Monty Hoffman. It includes building new restaurants, shops, condominiums, hotels, entertainment venues, marinas and waterfront parks. There will also be public access to the water, piers and harbors. It will accommodate 1,400 waterfront residences. 

The APA, the world’s largest psychiatric organization, will occupy an office space at 800 Maine Ave., according to their 10-year lease. The group is expected to take occupancy between Nov.1, 2017 and Jan. 1, 2018.

"We are delighted to welcome the American Psychiatric Association and their 200 employees back to their home, in D.C.," D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said. "The APA’s move is another sign that our infrastructure, our economy and our talent are attracting world-class organizations into the District."

Previously headquartered in D.C., the APA is currently located in Arlington, Va.

Hoffman-Madison Waterfront began construction in early 2014.

The Maine Avenue Fish Market, which dates back to 1805, will be expanded into a larger market, and The Washington Marina and the Gangplank Marina will also be expanded.

The project is split into two phases, with Phase 1 expected to open in 2017.



Photo Credit: The Wharf]]>
<![CDATA[Federal Workers Confront Officials about OPM Data Breach]]> Fri, 17 Jul 2015 09:52:13 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/071615+OPM.jpg

Government workers worried about the compromise of their personal information had the chance to grill federal officials Thursday about what happened and what employees should do to protect their data.

"How safe are we if everyone in the world knows we've got this protection for 18 months and that's it?" one woman asked.

Hundreds of current and former federal workers attended a workshop Thursday night in Germantown, Md. looking for answers after two hacks of Office of Personnel Management files that hit millions of current, former and prospective employees.

Maryland Congressman John Delaney, who sponsored the event, echoed the concerns of many of his constituents.

"We clearly underestimated this. We clearly under-invested in this. We clearly didn't do a good job coordinating," he said.

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh told the crowd that he was a victim of identity theft himself. Someone tried to buy a home using his information.

"It can happen to anybody," he said.

For many, it was the first chance to actually ask questions about the OPM data breach, and to talk with the people responsible for fixing it.

The Federal Communications Commission is working on an identity theft app. For information on how to protect yourself, read our guide on what to do next and visit IdentityTheft.gov.

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<![CDATA[D.C. Store Closed for Selling Synthetic Drugs]]> Thu, 16 Jul 2015 13:30:50 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20150716+Synthetic.jpg

Editor's Note: This story has been corrected.

A store in D.C.'s Bloomingdale neighborhood has been closed for a year for selling synthetic drugs.

Aida's Electronics on Florida Avenue was the site of multiple synthetic drug seizures, D.C.'s Attorney General said in a statement.

That same statement said an employee at the store was shot, which police believe may have been related to a drug sale. 

The owner of the store, William Early, is a retired D.C. police officer, according to the attorney general. Attorneys for the office have been pursuing litigation against Early since November 2014.

Attorney General Karl Racine got a court to order an injunction against the store, which prevents Early -- or anyone else -- from operating Aida's for a year, prevents Early from opening another store in a different location, cancels his business license for a year and orders him to pay $1,200 to the District's Drug, Firearm or Prostitution-Related Nuisance Abatement Fund.

The Attorney General's office had tried to get Early to stop selling synthetics, entering into a deal with him in which he agreed to close the store for six months and stop selling synthetics. But Early reopened the store under a new name less than one month later, violating the agreement, the Attorney General said.

Last week, Mayor Muriel Bowser signed a tough new law allowing police to temporarily close or fine businesses for selling synthetic drugs.

However, this store was closed under previous legislation.

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<![CDATA[NoMa Residents Demand End to Crime Wave]]> Thu, 16 Jul 2015 09:52:25 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/071515+NoMa+crime+meeting.jpg

After multiple violent crimes in recent weeks, residents of Northwest D.C.'s NoMa neighborhood are pleading with police for help.

Following three murders in two weeks, frustrated residents told police officials and Ward 6 Councilman Charles Allen at a community meeting Wednesday night that they want a reduction in violent crime and prostitution.

Kevin Sutherland, 24, was murdered on board a Metro train near the NoMa station on July 4. Thomas Harris, 52, was fatally injured the next day on New York Avenue NE. And a third murder at 3rd and Perry streets NE remains unsolved.

D.C. Police District Commander Willam Fitzgerald said that unlike the murders, a burglary and shooting inside the upscale The Flats apartment building last Sunday does not appear to be a random crime.

"Some activities they were involved in appear to be the cause of this," he said, refusing to elaborate.

Neighbors said they have been seeing an unwelcome surge in street prostitution. Police theorized that new development at Mt. Vernon Square has pushed prostitutes into NoMa.

"It would be nice if there could be more concerted effort so children -- elementary school kids -- don't have to step over or be picking up dirty condoms and latex gloves in front of their schools," one local said. "It's totally unacceptable. It's known at the highest levels of city government, the highest levels of the police department, and yet it continues."

Police promised additional patrols of the area.

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<![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: Public Corruption There and Here]]> Wed, 15 Jul 2015 05:59:50 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/454631202.jpg

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell lost big time in court last week.

(And in a bit we’ll get to the public corruption investigation pending against former Mayor Vincent Gray.)

In an 89-page decision, a federal appeals court in Richmond eviscerated McDonnell’s contention that his public corruption trial was fatally flawed. 

McDonnell, who faces two years in prison for his conviction, has indicated he will appeal to the full appeals court for reconsideration. The former governor again strongly professed his innocence.

But Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist Jeff E. Schapiro wrote this past weekend that the fact that none of three judges on the appeals panel dissented “is a warning to the defense that asking the entire appeals court — that’s 15 judges — to review the case could be an exercise in futility. Ditto with the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Schapiro, who has covered Virginia state politics for 35 years, wrote that the court decision last week “is an ominous obstacle” for any further legal relief.

Although the McDonnell case is in Virginia, the Notebook suggests it is another sign and warning that federal prosecutors and courts pretty much everywhere take public corruption seriously.

The McDonnell case essentially was this: He and his family accepted about $177,000 in gifts and favors from businessman Johnnie Williams in return for the governor’s support of Williams’ struggling medical product Anatabloc. McDonnell unsuccessfully argued that he did nothing more than any governor does in promoting state business. He also tried to pin a lot of the favor-accepting on his wife Maureen.

In just one small anecdote from the case, but an embarrassing one, Maureen had snapped a sporty picture of her husband as the wind whipped his normally perfectly coifed hair as he drove Williams’ borrowed Ferrari across the state.

When the couple arrived home, Maureen emailed the picture to Williams to show him what a fun time the couple was having. Within three hours of Maureen’s email, the court records show, the sporty governor himself directed a state health official to meet the next day at the governor’s mansion with Maureen to discuss Anatabloc in a meeting with Williams.

The entirety of the case — far more than this one joy ride — did show “compelling evidence of corrupt intent.”

Will McDonnell really pursue his appeal options, or cut his losses and reluctantly begin his two-year sentence? We’ll know in a matter of days.

It is interesting to recall that the jury in the original trial found McDonnell guilty of 11 of 14 counts of corruption. U.S. District Judge James Spencer then sentenced McDonnell to two years in prison on each of the 11 counts, or 22 years in prison. To McDonnell’s great relief, the judge said each sentence could be served “concurrently,” meaning two years total in prison instead of 22. That essentially has been the only good news in all of this for McDonnell, who once was considered a potential vice presidential candidate.

So, what does this mean if anything for former Mayor Gray?

Maybe not much more than to acknowledge again that public corruption is a major focus of prosecutors.

There are similarities in the cases, although Gray has yet to be charged with any crime.
McDonnell from the beginning has declared his innocence. When he was indicted in January 2014, he said, “I repeat again, emphatically, that I did nothing illegal for Mr. Williams.”

Gray has said it was “lies, lies” that he knew of the 2010 shadow campaign underwritten by financier Jeffrey Thompson. And Gray turned down potential negotiations with prosecutors to plead guilty to a felony or even potentially a misdemeanor. Thompson pleaded guilty in March 2014 to the scheme that pumped more than $650,000 in unreported cash into Gray’s winning campaign. The fact that Thompson pleaded guilty a month before the April 1 primary — sinking Gray’s re-election bid — still sticks in the throats of his supporters, some lawyers monitoring the case and even some who wanted Gray defeated.

The five-year investigation continues.

Just as prosecutors did in the McDonnell case to link the governor with businessman Williams, prosecutors here are piecing together a timeline of every action, email, phone call, meeting and government decision that links Gray, Thompson and his businesses, as well as friends, associates or employees of both men.

There has been huge criticism of former prosecutor Ronald Machen for walking away from the job this past April without taking action on Gray. If the prosecutors truly believed there is no case they can bring against Gray, it would have been a perfect time in April or June for acting U.S. Attorney Vincent Cohen to conclude the case with the guilty pleas of six others already in hand. Cohen didn’t do that.

One lawyer this week repeated a popular view that prosecutors “must” indict Gray for something because they are too far out on a limb to say, “Oops, never mind.”

So we wait.


Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Bowser Talks Metro Safety, Donald Trump]]> Tue, 14 Jul 2015 21:53:56 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Mayor+Bowser+on+WTOP+with+Tom+Sherwood+%281%29.jpg

News4’s Tom Sherwood sat down with Mayor Muriel Bowser on WTOP radio Tuesday to discuss upcoming and debated issues. They covered death with dignity, Metro crime and Donald Trump, among other things. Here are the highlights:

METRO SAFETY

Bowser said Metro needs to appoint a bold new general manager quickly in order to crack down on safety issues that have plagued the system over the past several months. She said crime has spiked recently, but the Metro system is typically safe.

"We want to send the message loud and clear that any harm, anyone intending to do harm to Metro staff, to Metro passengers is going to be dealt with immediately and with a strong response," Bowser said.

"While we had a pretty extraordinary, heinous crime committed on our Metro, it is extraordinary. We have a generally very safe system," Bowser said.

"The big thing is that you have to have someone coming in there with bold vision," Bowser said of the search for new Metro leadership.

DEATH WITH DIGNITY

Bowser struggled to answer questions regarding a hotly debated topic, legally sanctioned suicides.The measure, now in front of the D.C. Council, would allow a terminally ill person to end his or her own life under certain circumstances. Bowser said she hopes Council will take its time with the forthcoming decision.

"There is the Mayor Muriel Bowser thoughts and there is Muriel Bowser the person," Bowser said.

"Personally, I’m uncomfortable with it, but also personally, I think to myself if I was in that situation, what would I like to be at my disposal?" Bowser said.

DONALD TRUMP

Bowser called Trump’s inflammatory statements on immigration "idiotic." But she said the hotel he’s building in D.C. is vital to the economy. She doesn’t care who owns the property, but she would like for the project to move forward. Bowser said she would like for Trump to apologize, though.


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<![CDATA[ Dirt Bike Riders Could Face More Jail Time in D.C.]]> Tue, 14 Jul 2015 21:18:49 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/071415+dirt+bike+rider.jpg

People caught driving dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles in the District would face increased jail time and fines under legislation proposed Tuesday.

Police are not allowed to chase people zipping through city streets and sidewalks on dirt bikes and ATVs, sometimes in large groups, but D.C. Councilman Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) wants police to have more power to confront them.

Legislation introduced by McDuffie on Tuesday would slam riders with as much as six months in jail and a $1,000 fine after they're caught riding on city streets for a third time.

"We don't want them riding in packs, intimidating pedestrians and intimidating other drivers," McDuffie said. "We think that enhancing the penalties in this way really suggests to these folks who are riding these bikes that if you do so in the District of Columbia, the consequences are going to be severe."

Currently, those caught riding ATVs or dirt bikes in D.C. face the possibility of 30 days in jail, a fine as high as $250 fine or both. The penalty is the same no matter how many times a rider is found in violation.

The bill would require all dirt bike and ATV owners to register their bikes with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

"We want all law-abiding dirt bike owners to be able to hitch their bikes to a vehicle, take it out somewhere where they've got plenty of space to ride," McDuffie said. "But we don't want them riding on our streets."

Under McDuffie's proposal, the penalty for a first-time offense would remain the same. The penalty for a second offense would rise to 90 days in jail, a fine as high as $500 or both, plus a six-month suspension of the driver's permit.

The proposed restrictions follow the May 27 shooting death of Charnice Milton, a 27-year-old local news reporter. She was gunned down by someone in a pack of 14 dirt bike and ATV riders whose target is believed to be someone in another pack of riders.

The legislation will likely be discussed at a public hearing in the fall, when D.C. Council is back in session.

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<![CDATA[New Penalties for Selling Synthetic Drugs in D.C.]]> Fri, 10 Jul 2015 20:43:57 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20150709+Synthetic+Drug+OD2.jpg

D.C. now has new ways to crack down on businesses that sell synthetic drugs.

Now, police will have the authority to shut down for 96 hours any business caught selling the potent hallucinogens, which are often branded as K2, Scooby Snax, Bizarro or Spice. They're sold on the street, but also in some corner stores, liquor stores and gas stations.

Also, any business caught selling the drugs will be fined $10,000 for the first offense -- and can lose its business license if caught a second time.

The new punishments were part of emergency legislation signed by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser Friday. The law follows two high-profile crimes in one week in which police believe the suspects may have been using synthetic drugs.

In the first, a young man who had been in college just a year ago stabbed a passenger on a Metro train 30 to 40 times. In the second, a woman abandoned a baby in a stroller alongside a busy D.C. street.

These drugs can cause severely altered mental state, anxiety, paranoia, irregular heartbeat, seizures and death.

"We have to get our heads together and figure out a way that we can make this an enforceable statute, before this drug ravages our communities," said D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier, the evening before the bill was signed.

"I truly feel like if we don't get a handle on the synthetic cannabinoids now, we are in danger of going back 20 years," Lanier said. "And we don't want that."

Earlier this month, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Kevin Donahue attributed a recent spike in crime in D.C. in part to the use of synthetic drugs. "We know that when we arrest people for violent crimes, almost 40 percent have synthetic drugs in their system," he said.

The suspect who police say stabbed a former Congressional intern aboard a Metro train July 4 may have been high on synthetic drugs, police sources told the Washington Post. The suspect punched his victim repeatedly, stabbed him 30 to 40 times and threw a cell phone at him.

That same suspect, 18-year-old Jasper Spires, had been arrested days before the stabbing when he grabbed a man's neck in Friendship Heights and demanded money.

Tuesday, a woman was arrested when she left a baby in a stroller unattended on E Street northwest. Police found a hollowed-out cigar on her, and they believe she left the baby alone so she could smoke K2. 

LaTonya Cooper, 24, was charged with child cruelty.

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<![CDATA[Appeals Court Upholds McDonnell's Convictions]]> Sat, 11 Jul 2015 09:23:36 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Bob-McDonnell.jpg

A federal appeals panel upheld former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's public corruption convictions Friday, rejecting his claim that he only extended routine political courtesies to a wealthy businessman who showered him and his family with expensive gifts and five-figure loans.

McDonnell, once widely considered a possible running mate to former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, said he was disappointed and continued to insist that he acted in good faith.

"During my nearly 40 years of public service, I have never violated my oath of office nor disregarded the law,'' McDonnell, who also served as a state legislator and attorney general, said in a written statement. "I remain highly confident in the justice system and the grace of our God that full vindication will come in time.''

McDonnell's lawyers said they are examining their legal options, which include asking the full appeals court to reconsider the three-judge panel's unanimous decision or appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"The fight for justice for our client is far from over,'' the attorneys said in a written statement.

U.S. Attorney Dana Boente said he was pleased with the decision but did not elaborate.

A jury in September found McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, guilty of doing favors for former Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for more than $165,000 in gifts and loans.

U.S. District Judge James Spencer sentenced Bob McDonnell, who was convicted of 11 counts, to two years in prison. He sentenced Maureen McDonnell to one year and one day on eight counts. Both are free on bond while they pursue appeals.

The Richmond-based appeals court has not yet scheduled oral arguments in the former first lady's case. Her attorneys declined to comment on Friday's ruling. 

Williams was seeking state university-backed research of his company's signature product, the tobacco-derived anti-inflammatory Anatabloc, while McDonnell was governor. The McDonnells attended promotional events and hosted an event at the Executive Mansion to officially launch the product, and the former governor arranged meetings for Williams with administration officials.

Meanwhile, the businessman bought a $6,500 Rolex watch for the governor and about $20,000 in designer clothing and accessories for the first lady. He also gave $15,000 for a daughter's wedding, paid for golf outings and vacations and loaned the couple $120,000, mostly to cover expenses for the family's two money-losing Virginia Beach vacation rental properties.

The appeals court disagreed with McDonnell's contention that the favors he did for Williams were too insignificant to amount to an ``official act'' under federal bribery law.

"With each of these acts, Appellant exploited the power of his office in furtherance of an ongoing effort to influence the work of state university researchers,'' Judge Stephanie Thacker wrote in the 89-page opinion.

The court noted that the government's evidence "demonstrated a close relationship'' between the favors and gifts. It cited several instances in which a gift or loan from Williams was promptly followed by some official action on his behalf - evidence of an illegal "quid pro quo,'' the Latin term that means providing one thing for another.

"The temporal relationship between the 'quids' and the 'quos' - the gifts, payments, loans, and favors and the official acts _ constitute compelling evidence of corrupt intent,'' Thacker wrote in the opinion, which was joined by Judges Diana Gribbon Motz and Robert King.

McDonnell claimed that he was convicted based on an overly broad definition of what constitutes an "official act'' by an elected official. McDonnell said in court papers that the government's theory of the case, as well as Spencer's jury instruction on the issue, could subject virtually every officeholder - from the White House to city hall - to prosecution just for helping constituents gain access to their government.

But the appeals court agreed with prosecutors who said the jury instruction was essentially the same one given in the trial of former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson of Louisiana, whose bribery convictions were upheld by the 4th Circuit.

Jeff Bellin, a professor at the College of William and Mary Law School and a former federal prosecutor, said the appeals court's decision didn't do much to clarify the law.

"It's still unresolved, we still have a very vague statue,'' Bellin said.  "If I'm a politician, I'd be very frustrated not knowing what that line is.''

Chuck James, a Richmond attorney and former federal prosecutor, said the decision will likely "embolden'' prosecutors eyeing other politicians around the country.

"There are a lot of practices that were accepted - viewed as perfectly acceptable and commonplace - in local state and federal offices that are now off limits thanks to this prosecution,'' James said.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Crackdown on Synthetic Drugs 'Ravaging' Neighborhoods]]> Fri, 10 Jul 2015 06:55:32 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20150709+Synthetic+Drug+OD2.jpg

In one week in D.C., police say, a woman abandoned a baby in a stroller alongside a busy D.C. street -- and a young man who had been in college just a year ago stabbed a passenger on a Metro train 30 to 40 times.

The two crimes were tied together by the drug police believe the suspects may have been using: synthetic marijuana.

The potent hallucinogen is sold on the street and at liquor stores and gas stations, often branded as K2, Scooby Snax, Bizarro or Spice. These drugs can cause severely altered mental state, anxiety, paranoia, irregular heartbeat, seizures and death.

Now, new legislation will create tougher penalties for businesses caught selling synthetic drugs in Washington.

Mayor Muriel Bowser will sign into law the "Sale of Synthetic Drugs Emergency Amendment Act of 2015" Friday at noon. The legislation will allow D.C. government, police and the District's Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs to take stronger action against businesses caught selling synthetic drugs, which are illegal in D.C.

D.C. Police will welcome any new tools to deal with the surge of synthetics. "We have to get our heads together and figure out a way that we can make this an enforceable statute, before this drug ravages our communities," said D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier. 

"I truly feel like if we don't get a handle on the synthetic cannabinoids now, we are in danger of going back 20 years," Lanier said. "And we don't want that."

Under the new legislation, police will have the authority to shut down for 96 hours any business caught selling synthetic drugs.

Any business caught selling the drugs will be fined $10,000 for the first offense and can lose its business license if they're caught a second time.

Earlier this month, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Kevin Donahue attributed a recent spike in crime in D.C. in part to the use of synthetic drugs. "We know that when we arrest people for violent crimes, almost 40 percent have synthetic drugs in their system," he said.

The suspect who police say stabbed a former Congressional intern aboard a Metro train July 4 may have been high on synthetic drugs, police sources told the Washington Post. The suspect punched his victim repeatedly, stabbed him 30 to 40 times and threw a cell phone at him.

That same suspect, 18-year-old Jasper Spires, had been arrested days before the stabbing when he grabbed a man's neck in Friendship Heights and demanded money.

Tuesday, woman was arrested when she left a baby in a stroller unattended on E Street northwest. Police found a hollowed-out cigar on her, and they believe she left the baby alone so she could smoke K2. 

LaTonya Cooper, 24, was charged with child cruelty.

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<![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: No Time to Wait or Waste...]]> Wed, 08 Jul 2015 13:39:32 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/AP_358561774693_Navy.jpg

First was the report last week of a possible shooting at the Navy Yard. Then, on Monday, sirens wailed at Walter Reed in Bethesda. Was there an active shooter? It turns out, no, in both instances.

A reporter on the scene along Rockville Pike asked Montgomery Police Capt. Paul Starks if police were worried that officers were being overtaxed responding to alarms that may turn out to be false.

"We've always asked people to call police if they see anything suspicious," Starks responded. "Let law enforcement arrive and make that assessment."

Starks read off a list of a dozen police agencies that were involved on Monday. And he gave a shout-out to fire and emergency medical teams, too.

"It's a joint venture," he said. "Of course we're assisting our many local and federal partners here on the scene. But there's also fire and rescue on the scene. It's not just a law enforcement action."

Starks noted that "if sometime during the evacuation people get injured, get overcome with stress, fire and rescue needs to be here."

At the Navy Yard, the M Street lanes also were chock-full of local and federal law enforcement officers of all sorts. There was no chance of a repeat of September 2013, when questions arose about police response after a gunman shot and killed 12 people before being killed himself.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier dismissed questions suggesting the Navy Yard caller last week had acted irresponsibly, calling on evidence too flimsy. She agreed with Capt. Starks and said police know to respond in a coordinated fashion.

As Mayor Muriel Bowser stood beside her, Lanier told a bank of 25 cameras, "It appears that all of the things that we tried to correct and make go better from the last incident went very, very well [this time]."

As the Notebook has pointed out in previous columns about security, there is one response that all public safety and elected officials want to avoid. And that is the accusatory tone of being called before some member of Congress or state legislature or council where political leaders peer over a microphone and start asking, "Why didn't you do ..." questions.

■ Clueless drivers. The Notebook has a hint for some of you folks who drive into a chaotic scene and seem surprised when an officer turns you around. It happened on Monday as Maryland State Patrol officers blocked Rockville Pike at Cedar Lane just north of Walter Reed.

We were stunned at the numbers of drivers who tried to go through the roadblock as if it weren't meant for them.

Here's the hint. If you see a bunch of flashing lights and the lanes are blocked by police cars, maybe you should change course. The police officers would appreciate it.

■ Cool police. Any reader of the Notebook knows we have long criticized police who needlessly interfere with reporters and news media cameras trying to capture news of a scene. But we're happy to say Montgomery County Police were firm and clear and helpful as they managed the media throngs on Monday. One officer even apologized for asking us to move our vehicle. The officers did their jobs and the media was able to do its job.

■ Back to normal stuff. During a break in the action Monday in Maryland, someone asked about recent reports that the Washington Redskins would be blocked from returning to the District unless the team changed its name. The Washington Post reported that President Barack Obama's Interior Department, which handles the city's lease with the RFK site, opposes the team name.

That report set off a ton of other media, but here's all you need to know about the future of the team:

Owner Dan Snyder has said he would "never, never" change the team name. But his organization has begun looking around the region -- including the District -- for a new team stadium. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe openly is wooing the team for Loudoun County. And the governor says the state won't worry about the team name.

Every D.C. mayor since Tony Williams has favored bringing the team back to the District, with a new stadium on the footprint of old RFK. The D.C. Council passed a resolution calling on the team to change its name, but despite the strong feelings of everyone involved, that is not -- not -- a deal breaker.

The city has 22 years more on its lease of the RFK lands for athletic activities. The Obama administration only has about 18 months left in office. It has far more important things on its agenda than to open up formal discussions about the team returning to the District. So everyone take a deep breath. Whether you think the team should or shouldn't return to RFK -- and how the name ought to fit into all that -- the decisions are a long way off.

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[D.C. Council to Hold Dying With Dignity Act Hearing Friday]]> Tue, 07 Jul 2015 19:19:32 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/AP586960621249.jpg

The D.C. Council is beginning debate on a bill that would allow people within six months of death to self-administer a prescription that would end their life. 

D.C. Councilwoman Mary Cheh introduced her “Death with Dignity Act of 2015” in January. It would allow patients who are terminally ill and have certification from two physicians to obtain prescription drugs in order to end their lives.

Friday, Council holds its first hearing on the bill.

Compassion and Choices, a Denver, Colorado-based charity, supports death with dignity decisions and will testify at the hearing.

"My father died of prostate cancer in 2011 and he died a horrible death, in a lot of pain," Brandi Alexander, who has worked for Compassion and Choices for 11 years, said. "We need this because people are suffering.  There comes a point when medicine cannot help everyone."

However others, such as Samantha Crane, an autism activist, fight alongside the NO DC Suicide coalition. That group also will testify Friday.

"If we know that many people can live for several years after a terminal diagnosis, how many more people could have lived for several years but weren't given the chance?" Crane said. "The disability community is strongly against this legislation as a whole."

The proposal has safeguards to avoid ill or elderly people from being coerced into death, according to Cheh. 

"You can cancel at any time. The essence of this is a choice for people in that situation," Cheh said. 

The question of whether a terminally ill person should be allowed -- or helped -- to die has been a legal, moral and religious controversy for years.

It was personified again last year, when 29-year-old California resident Brittany Maynard, who was suffering from an inoperable brain tumor, released a video saying she wanted medical assistance in dying.

Maynard died on Nov. 1 after moving to Oregon, one of five states that currently authorizes the right to die. She died of a lethal dose of prescription drugs.

"I'm not killing myself. Cancer is killing me. I am choosing to go in a way that is less suffering and less pain," Maynard told NBC News during a phone interview on Oct. 9.

After Maynard’s death, the California Senate, her home state, passed a right-to-die bill, according to NBC 7 San Diego. However, the bill is struggling to pass in the Assembly due to pressures from religious groups, WTOP reported.

In most states, the only method to communicate any medial wishes is to write an advance directive, and detail your desired medical treatment in advance of any medical emergency, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

However, the directive is only effective when the patient is too ill or hurt to express their personal wishes -- and you cannot request the right to die directly. You can only request that doctors honor your wishes regarding treatment such as dialysis, breathing machines, resuscitation if your breathing or heart beat stops, tube feeding, or organ and tissue donation.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: Static Over Our Housing Boom…]]> Wed, 01 Jul 2015 05:48:40 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/223*120/realestate1112.jpg

The District of Columbia is changing — as the cliche goes — right before our eyes.

Look in most any direction to see massive redevelopment.

Look and listen a little closer.

Among the clanging cacophony you’ll also hear the cries of the poor and lower middle class. They are losing their homes and the hopes of ever finding other ones in the nation’s capital.

“Weekly we lose some,” at-large D.C. Council member Anita Bonds told us over the weekend. “We have about 40 [subsidized] properties that are losing their affordability” around the city, she said, amounting to a housing crisis struggling to be heard. “If we are serious about housing affordability, and we should be, then some our resources must go toward saving these units,” she said.

Last week, dozens of low-income tenants gathered near the convention center at 401 K St., a sprawling relic of about 300 subsidized apartments. Chinese immigrants make up about 60 percent of the renters, according to Washington Post reporter Perry Stein. They are trying to save their apartment homes in the fast-changing neighborhood.

The property has been the focus of tenant and landlord legal battles since 2014 when Bush Cos. announced plans to end federal subsidies and redevelop the property into luxury rentals and condos at profitable market rates.

Under the District’s landlord-tenant laws, the tenants have what’s called the first right of refusal to band together and buy the property. But Bush set the asking price at $250 million. A court ruled that too high, but the matter remains in litigation and the tenants’ future in doubt even if the price is lowered.

Council member Bonds, who has focused on low-income housing, said the remaining tenants still will get individual rent subsidies if they’re forced to move, but finding suitable housing will be tough.

The federal subsidy runs out at Museum Square in October as the owners move to exit the federal housing Section 8 program and tear down the structure.

“We have nowhere to go,” said Vera Watson, who has lived in the building for 33 years. She told The Post, “Even if we get a voucher to move somewhere else, the voucher will not help us in D.C.”

Another activist tenant, Jenny Tang, told The Post, “I want my children to be part of this community.”

Tang, 44, is a native of China. She has lived at Museum Square for five years with her two daughters.

Sam Jewler, a community organizer with Jews United for Justice, told us, “Development doesn’t have to mean displacement.”

He said the developer is determined “to push the long-term community out and bring higher-paying residents into Museum Square. We need our elected officials to show some real leadership and find a solution that maintains this vital part of the cultural and social fabric of D.C.”

Jewler said the city “has the resources and power to do it.”

Bonds told us the city since 2008 has had a law on the books that would allow the government itself to step in and buy this type of housing to preserve its affordability. But seven years after the law was passed, she said, the rules and regulations required to implement the law have never been written.

■ Not so fast. There were many cheers — and even jeers — over the U.S. Supreme Court ruling approving same-sex marriage as a constitutional right. There has been a common thread among much of the reaction: The ruling came amazingly fast. The end game did come quickly as many courts over the past few years threw out bans on same-sex marriage.

But if you ask any gay person, gay activist or any person of goodwill, the fight was not fast.
Here in the District, the city was the sixth jurisdiction in the nation to legalize marriage equality. It passed the D.C. Council 11-2 and became legal in March 2010 after the required congressional review period ended.

The law in 2009 was proposed by then-at-large Council member David Catania, the first openly gay member of the council.

But kind of lost in the celebration was that marriage equality in the District was first proposed back in 1975 — nearly 35 years earlier. Arrington Dixon, still active in city issues today, was a member of the earliest elected D.C. Council. In proposing reforms and no-fault divorces, Dixon had included a provision to allow same-sex marriages.

As he told the Notebook this week, he was shouted down by city clergy and others. Philip Pannell, then an activist as he is today, testified on behalf of the Dixon law during a 1975 hearing on the bill.

But Dixon’s proposal went nowhere.

“At its heart, a city is its people,” Gay and Lesbian Activist Alliance leader Rick Rosendall said in 2010 when marriage quality finally had passed in the District. The alliance was honoring activists for its 39th anniversary. “The people of Washington, by consistently electing a strongly pro-gay legislature, have given our nation its first majority-black jurisdiction to enact civil marriage equality,” he said then.

■ A final word. There was sad news of the death this week of Ron Linton. He was the feisty chairman of the D.C. Taxicab Commission from 2011 until this past January. Appointed by Mayor Vincent Gray, he helped lead (drag?) the taxi industry into the 21st century with credit card machines and a uniform color scheme that now lets local and out-of-town visitors all know what a cab looks like here.

Ron Linton was a good man with a hearty laugh and a big love for our city.


Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.



Photo Credit: Getty]]>
<![CDATA[Mayor Bowser Kicks Off Summer Jobs Program]]> Mon, 29 Jun 2015 20:56:37 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20150629+Jobs.jpg

More than 15,000 young people started their first summer jobs in D.C. Monday as part of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s first summer jobs program.

The program is named after late Mayor Marion Barry, who started the summer jobs program in 1979.

Bowser offered advice to the young professionals at Enlightened, Inc., a consulting and IT company in D.C. She recounted her first job and explained the importance of the program in preparing the city’s youth for entry level jobs.

Summer jobs teach “how to get up on time, how to show up at work, how to dress appropriately. How to, you know, finish a task,” Bowser said.

Enlightened, Inc. CEO Antwayne Ford was a summer jobs student in 1980.

“I'm glad to see kids that are here because once we open the door, these kids are great. They just need opportunity,” Ford said.

Participants in the summer jobs program range in age from 14 to 24. They will be paid $5 to $9 per hour in the six-week program.

Participant Jacobi Glover is headed to Morehouse College in the fall. But he didn’t want to sit around all summer waiting for classes to start.

“That won’t prepare me for my future because I don't plan to hang out with my life. I plan to do meaningful stuff,” Glover said.

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<![CDATA[Hogan Undergoes First Round of Chemotherapy]]> Mon, 29 Jun 2015 09:48:01 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/2015-06-25_1710.jpg

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan underwent his first round of chemotherapy in the treatment of B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

On his Facebook page, Hogan said he was feeling healthy and strong after his first 24 hours of chemo. He praised his medical team and thanked them for “taking great care of me.”

 

I'm happy to report that things could not be going any better. I just made it through the first 24 hours of chemo. I am...

Posted by Larry Hogan on Sunday, June 28, 2015

Hogan announced his illness at a press conference on June 22. At the time, he said tumors had spread through his abdomen and were pressing against his spinal column.

Hogan said he was diagnosed after finding a lump under his chin while shaving.

"They found 12 more of these things in my neck," he said.

He said he had "20 or 30" more tumors in his core and groin area, adding he has been having many tests and procedures and that his team of doctors is treating his case aggressively. The governor said his doctors have told him he has a good chance of beating the disease.

Hogan said he was “humbled, heartened and uplifted by the outpouring of the tens of thousands of prayers and well wishes from around the state” after the announcement of his diagnosis.

He said he plans to work as much as he is able, describing himself as a workaholic. He said Lieutenant Gov. Boyd Rutherford will step up "even more," as will his cabinet.

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<![CDATA[Understanding the Supreme Court's ACA Ruling]]> Thu, 25 Jun 2015 18:52:50 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000010955250_1200x675_471241283668.jpg NBC News Political Editor Carrie Dann speaks with Eun Yang about the importance of the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act for the second time.]]> <![CDATA[Va. Leaders React to Same-Sex Marriage Ruling]]> Fri, 26 Jun 2015 19:19:48 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000010974865_1200x675_472096323881.jpg Virginia lawmakers had mixed reactions to Friday's Supreme Court ruling to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states, explaining what it means for residents of the Commonwealth.]]> <![CDATA[Big-Name Governors May Face Difficulties in GOP Race]]> Wed, 24 Jun 2015 15:35:24 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000010939497_1200x675_470591555670.jpg NBC News Senior Political Editor Mark Murray says Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie may have trouble finding their footing in the race for the GOP nomination.]]> <![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: 'Oh, Say Can You See…’]]> Wed, 24 Jun 2015 05:55:19 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/South-Carolina-Confederate-Battle-Flag-23-June-2015.jpg

What do you see when you see the Confederate battle flag?

The lines pretty clearly are drawn between hate and heroism.

Hate has been winning.

That flag has been waved by white racists for decades in defiance of federal power and in the name of “states’ rights.” It’s been used to assail black and white civil rights proponents with fear, and it festoons far more vehicles than just a few pickup trucks here and there.

Against this high tide of intolerance, there are those who hold a more benign view of the flag, arguing that it has been co-opted, stolen or disfigured from its true meaning.

“There is no flag for the million Confederate soldiers other than this battle flag,” said Joe Whitney, an earnest and 30-year student of all that is the U.S. Civil War.

On Monday, we stood in Fairfax County on the sliver of land that commemorates the Battle of Ox Hill, a battle that followed Manassas and played a role in the Confederates giving up a plan to attack the U.S. Capitol.

The Union troops “put up a fight here and it dissuaded Robert E. Lee from trying to take D.C.,” Whitney said. When he sees the Confederate battle flag, he sees a flag that honors American soldiers even though they were on the losing side.

Those soldiers, some in their early teens, “fought bravely, left their homes and families to go and fight and die for what they believed in,” he said. And that is how Whitney and thousands of others see the Confederate battle flag: “To us, it’s not about a cause; it’s about honoring American soldiers.”

Whitney has spent more than 30 years re-enacting Civil War battles. He plays in Civil War-era bands. He’s been a technical adviser to films like “Glory,” “Gettysburg” and “Gods and Generals.”

He’s made battle flags and he’s slept next to campfires more times than he can probably remember.

As we walked on hallowed ground where maybe the bones of soldiers from both sides lay buried, we asked if it bothered him that white supremacists have corrupted the flag he cherishes.

“Well, yeah, anybody can take any symbol,” said Whitney. “A symbol is a tool and a tool can be used for good or bad. They’re trying to make it something bad.”

Before Republican leaders of South Carolina announced that they now thought the Confederate flag should no longer fly at the state capitol, Whitney said it should have been lowered like the U.S. flag to honor the slain victims at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.

The undercurrents and hate that prompted those horrific shootings obviously are more than the persistence of one flag. Maybe the place for that flag is a museum, not flying in disgrace or disputed honor. It’s part of American history. Let’s learn from that history.

■ Confederate symbols in our area. NBC4 pointed out this week that the Mississippi state flag is among those flying in Columbus Circle at Union Station. It uses the Confederate design. The Arkansas flag and other banners incorporate parts of the Confederate flag.

But the biggest Confederate flag can be seen along I-95 in Stafford County, Va.

The flag, measuring 30 feet by 20 feet, flies from a flagpole 90 feet tall. It’s on private property but is seen clearly from the interstate. Its supporters, a small group call Virginia Flaggers, told The Washington Post that the flag is not racist but honors Confederate soldiers.

■ “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The History Channel has posted some little-known history of the national anthem. During the Civil War, “The Star-Spangled Banner” was an anthem for Union troops. It was not until 1916 when President Woodrow Wilson signed an executive order designating it as the official anthem for military ceremonies.

And it was not until 1931 that Congress passed a law officially designating it as the national anthem of the country.

■ The Frederick Douglass Bible. The Bible owned by Frederick Douglass is on display at the National Historic Site in Anacostia. It’ll be there until July 5. The Bible recently was used for the swearing in of Loretta Lynch as the nation’s first African-American female attorney general.

Washington’s own historic church, the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, gave Douglass the Bible in 1889. It’s an Oxford University Press edition that has both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

According to the National Park Service which maintains the Douglass home called Cedar Hill, Douglass’ life has been “the source of inspiration and hope for millions.”

The address is 1411 W St. SE.


Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>