Damaged containers of fumigants sealed off
DUNDALK -- A temporary airtight enclosure has been erected at the Dundalk Marine Terminal in preparation for the removal of hazardous chemicals taken in January from the freighter Santa Clara I after it lost 441 barrels of poisonous arsenic trioxide at sea in a violent storm.
The material is concentrated liquid magnesium phosphide, an ingredient of fumigants used to control pests in warehouses and railcars. Four 55-gallon drums of the material appeared to be damaged when the ship reached port after the storm. They have been kept under 24-hour security, sealed in large plastic containers on an isolated parking lot.
"It's a very volatile material," said John Goheen, spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment. "We don't anticipate any problems as long as it is handled in an environment that is airtight and has very low humidity."
The temporary structure was erected as part of a detailed safety plan reviewed by federal and state officials, who are overseeing the repackaging of the chemical in required 1-gallon containers and its shipment to a disposal facility in Arkansas.
Mr. Goheen said the work site is visible to the public, and "we wanted to allay people's concerns should they see people in moonsuits" -- the breathing apparatus and hazardous-waste-disposal suits.
Barber scares off bandits after holdup
BALTIMORE -- A barber scared off three armed robbers yesterday when he fired five shots during a holdup at his shop, possibly hitting one of the men, police said.
Two of the robbers stood lookout outside Chance's Friendly Barber Shop in the 1100 block of N. Bond St., and the third forced the owner, James Chance, into a back room at 12:45 p.m.
Mr. Chance gave $170 to the man. When the robber became distracted, the barber, who was carrying a five-shot revolver, fired all five rounds.
The robber was apparently hit by one of the bullets but was still able to flee with the other two men. Police recovered four slugs from the back room.
The three men were still being sought last night.
Potomac man admits cutting down 20 trees
BALTIMORE -- James Grafton Gore pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court yesterday to cutting more than 20 mature, government-owned trees near his Potomac home in 1988.
Authorities had charged in criminal and civil complaints that the trees were cut down to give the Gore family a better view of the Potomac River and to improve their satellite TV reception.
Mr. Gore pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of destruction of trees on lands reserved for public use. He could receive one year in jail and $100,000 in fines when he is sentenced by District Judge Judge Frederic N. Smalkin on Sept. 16.
Mr. Gore's guilty plea came three months after his family settled a $1 million civil suit filed by the U.S. attorney's civil division against him and his sisters, Mary Benton Gore and Louise Gore, a one-time Republican candidate for governor.
All live in the 11300 block of River Road in Potomac, next to the 15-foot-wide, 2,600-foot-long easement along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park where the trees were cut.
The civil settlement, reached in March, requires the family to reforest the land by planting new trees. Mr. Gore was the only one charged with criminal violations.
Vandals topple 75 headstones
BALTIMORE -- Vandals knocked about 75 headstones off their foundations at Hebrew-Friendship Cemetery, the second time since September that someone has vandalized the grave sites.
Cemetery officials said many of the stones toppled in the latest incident were old and date back to the 1800s. Some broke when they hit the ground.
Police said they do not know if the vandalism is related to a similar incident Sept. 22, when more than 200 stones were pushed over.
The 13-acre cemetery is located in the 3600 block of E. Baltimore St. No signs of anti-Semitism were found, and police and cemetery officials said the vandalism was probably done by children.
The stones were toppled sometime between 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Monday. It will cost about $4,000 to repair the damage, police said.
Recycling official's suit is dismissed
FREDERICK -- A $1.5 million defamation lawsuit was thrown out of court yesterday after a Frederick County Circuit Court judge agreed with the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland that the suit was filed to intimidate opponents of a proposed recycling facility in Point of Rocks.
Kieron F. Quinn, the lawyer who argued the case for the ACLU, said he believed it was the first time a suit had been dismissed in Maryland as a so-called SLAPP, or "strategic lawsuit against public participation."
The suit stemmed from a letter written by opponents of the Freestate Recycling Corp. recycling plant. An official of the firm sued, claiming that the letter defamed him. Opponents of the plant were subpoenaed to give depositions about their role in Halt Imported Trash, a citizens group.
Mr. Quinn successfully argued before Judge Mary Ann Stepler that the suit had been "filed in retaliation for the exercise of their First Amendment rights."
Ralph Gordon, a lawyer for Freestate Recycling, said no decision had been made on whether to appeal the ruling.
"The law is very clear," he said. "You don't have the right to libel people, even though you have the right to petition."
Randallstown man charged in slaying
BALTIMORE -- A Randallstown man has been charged with murder in the fatal shooting last month of a 37-year-old man who was shot five times as he sat in a pickup truck in the 100 block of N. Central Ave.
Olando Demon Duggins, 19, of the 5400 block of Old Court Road was charged Monday evening with first-degree murder in the death of Alexander Jean Morrison, 37, of Dundalk, police said.
Mr. Morrison was found dead shortly after midnight May 28 by a passer-by who saw him lying in the pickup, police said.
No drugs or weapons were found in the truck and no signs of robbery were found.
Authorities arrest 4 on stolen speedboat
BALTIMORE -- Four people were arrested yesterday after a six-mile, high-speed boat chase on Curtis Bay and the Patapsco River, where a Coast Guard patrol boat teamed up with a city police marine unit to corner the suspects.
The speedboat, named "Heaven Bound," had been reported stolen Saturday from the Stoney Creek Boatyard in Anne Arundel County.
Coast Guard officials were alerted, and a patrol boat spotted the speedboat in Curtis Bay around 1 p.m. yesterday. The patrol boat pursued but the smaller boat proved too fast, traveling at speeds greater than 28 knots, Coast Guard officials said.
The Coast Guard radioed the city police marine unit for help. The police speedboat joined the chase and finally cornered the stolen boat on the Middle Branch of the river, near the Hanover Street bridge, officials said.
Arrested were John Thomas Swatski, 33, of Essex; Robert G. Byrd, 36, of Middle River; April Ann Lay, 33, of Glen Burnie; and Michael Joseph Butler, 34, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Each was charged with felony theft and unauthorized use of a boat. The stolen boat had minor damage.