Oh say did you see the singing defendant in federal court?
Mario D. Simuel, a 41-year-old Baltimore man, was sentenced last week to nearly 20 years in prison for leading a gang that prosecutors say robbed at least seven banks.
But U.S. District Chief Judge Benson E. Legg and the rest of Courtroom 7A got a surprise when Simuel treated the court to a full rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner."
"He had a very rich baritone voice," says Vickie LeDuc of the U.S. attorney's office. "He was quite good."
David Henninger, Simuel's defense attorney, thinks that Legg was so moved by the national anthem performance - and Simuel's detailed explanation about how he memorized the words during a previous stint in prison - that the judge reduced the sentence by five years.
Added Henninger: "I'm now going to require all of my clients to take singing lessons."
- Matthew Dolan
The voice of experience
Joining us now on the line: Ed in Tampa.
Baltimore police officials had just announced that they would again offer to buy guns from city residents, spending $100,000 on a buyback program. So on Wednesday afternoon, the city's old police commissioner, Edward T. Norris, took to the airwaves to weigh in on the issue from the Sunshine State, where he's on house arrest.
With his new talk radio gig on 105.7 FM, Norris is trying to shake off his federal corruption conviction last year for using a city police account to finance extramarital affairs, meals and shopping trips.
Baltimore's gun-buying effort, Norris said, was a publicity stunt that has been attempted across the country but that has never significantly reduced gun-related crime anywhere. Too often, city police departments receive "World War II rifles" from widows, he said.
Trying to stem the tide of the city's violence by buying back guns, he concluded, was like giving "a face lift to a cancer patient."
- Matthew Dolan
Maybe wash those old guns
The officials who oversee Baltimore's reservoirs are making an unusual plea to city and suburban residents on the public water system: Now is the time to use lots of water.
In the spring of 2002, with the Mid-Atlantic region in the midst of a drought, the reservoirs were at barely 50 percent of capacity, and public officials were talking about water conservation and limiting such activities as washing cars and watering lawns. But the abundant rain over the past year has brought the reservoirs to full capacity, according to the Baltimore Department of Public Works.
"As we approach the peak-usage time of summer we are fortunate that plentiful rainfall has kept our reservoirs at 100% of capacity," public works spokesman Kurt Kocher wrote in an e-mail last week. "Water should never be wasted and taken for granted. Now, while water is abundant, is the time to do those tasks which require heavy water usage, e.g. filling pools and powerwashing."
- Howard Libit
Then we're glad, I guess
Employee performance reviews and mosquitoes became entwined topics at the Carroll County commissioners' Cabinet meeting last week. Commissioner Dean L. Minnich said, "As both victim and predator in this review process, I have always hated them. I prefer constant dialogue about work."
Frank Johnson, the county's legislative liaison, recalled an unannounced review he conducted. "It ended with an office revolt. But, as I pointed out then, you can find excuses for everything. Even God made mosquitoes."
Minnich replied, "Are you questioning the value of mosquitoes? There is dialogue for you. Without them, our Health Department director would not have a job."
- Mary Gail Hare
Well, Nixon didn't think so
Mayor Martin O'Malley, who heads a fairly leak-free administration, praised the efforts of Deep Throat to help expose the Watergate scandal. As people debate the question of whether W. Mark Felt was a hero or a traitor for being Deep Throat, O'Malley wasted no time equivocating about the former No. 2 at the FBI under President Richard M. Nixon.
"I think Deep Throat was a hero," O'Malley said in response to a reporter's question at his weekly news conference Wednesday. "It was a very scary time in our country's history, and fortunately our freedom of expression, and a free press and the ability of patriotic people like Deep Throat and the others who spoke to the press about these matters exposed it.
"Let's ask the governor what he thinks of Deep Throat," O'Malley added.
Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. couldn't be reached for comment, but Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan - like O'Malley, a probable candidate for governor in 2006 - had a similar take: "[Deep Throat's] a great American patriot."
- Doug Donovan