Capital Gazette wins special Pulitzer Prize citation for coverage of newsroom shooting that killed five




Court rejects attempt to void council election

Maryland's highest court rejected yesterday a failed City Council candidate's attempt to void the election last year of Baltimore City Councilwoman Paula Johnson Branch.

The majority of the Court of Appeals ruled that Green Party candidate Glenn L. Ross could have properly challenged the legitimacy of Branch's candidacy if he had done so before the Nov. 2 election, not after Branch won. His challenge, the court's opinion states, "was ripe prior to Election Day."

Ross argued that Branch should not have been allowed to run because she had not filed campaign finance reports. Ross garnered 1,188 votes to Branch's 7,780.

At the time of the Nov. 2 election, Branch had failed to file reports due as far back as August 2003 and owed $1,250 in late fees, according to state records. The Democrat filed the reports and paid the fees by Dec. 2.

Maryland election law prohibits a person from running for or assuming public office if he or she has "failed to file a campaign finance report that is due from, or on behalf of, that individual."

"I'm relieved," Branch said yesterday. She blamed her campaign treasurer for the late filings.

- Doug Donovan


3 plead guilty to stabbing witness in 2004 assault case

Three people pleaded guilty yesterday in Baltimore Circuit Court for their roles in stabbing a witness to prevent him from testifying in another case.

Takosha Marsh, 18, and Toni Eberhardt, 17, both of the 800 block of Bradhurst Road, and Timothy Sutton, 19, of the 1000 block of Cameron Road, pleaded guilty to attempted second-degree murder and obstruction of justice.

They are accused of stabbing Daniel Ngorongo in April last year at his residence in the 5500 block of York Road. Ngorongo was attacked to keep him from testifying in an assault case pending against Marsh's boyfriend, prosecutors said.

Circuit Judge Joseph McCurdy sentenced Marsh to four years in prison and five years of probation. McCurdy sentenced Eberhardt and Sutton to three years in prison and five years of probation.

-- Julie Bykowicz


Council to continue hearing on proposed convention hotel

The City Council will continue a public hearing Monday on the proposed convention center hotel, for people who didn't get a chance to testify Wednesday at a hearing that stretched more than eight hours.

The hearing is set for 10 a.m. at City Hall. Afterward, the council will hold a work session to discuss the hotel.

City development and tourism officials are proposing that $305 million in city revenue bonds be used to build a hotel next to the convention center. The city would develop and own the facility.

Council President Sheila Dixon's office announced yesterday that the hearing would resume to gather comments from city staffers and members of the public who didn't get to speak Wednesday.

Dozens of people signed up to speak at Wednesday's hearing, which began at 1 p.m. and continued well into the night. But many left before the floor was opened for public comments.

-- Jill Rosen


Section of Pratt Street to close for museum opening

Baltimore transportation officials will close Pratt Street to through traffic from President Street to Albemarle Street this weekend for the opening of the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture.

During the closing -- from 7 p.m. tonight to 2 a.m. Monday -- Pratt Street traffic will be directed south on President Street, east on Fleet Street, north on Central Avenue, then back onto Pratt Street.

The curb lane of northbound President Street from Fawn Street to Lombard Street also will be closed to traffic over the weekend, officials said.


Local, federal officials to discuss hate crimes

In the wake of several suspected hate crimes in Anne Arundel County, community leaders and law enforcement officials have been invited to meet with U.S. Justice Department officials next week to discuss ways to respond.

About 20 people are expected to attend, said Carl O. Snowden, a leader in the black community and an aide to County Executive Janet S. Owens.

A Justice Department official will talk about what constitutes a hate crime, what responses are appropriate and related concerns during the Tuesday afternoon meeting. Local officials also will look into holding town hall-style meetings.

In recent weeks, residents in several areas of the county have awakened to see white supremacist literature on their lawns. A black Ferndale woman found a wooden cross on her sidewalk with several racial epithets on it. In Hanover, a man was charged with writing a racial epithet on a woman's car.

"We are looking forward to a candid discussion," said Kristin Riggin, spokeswoman for the county state's attorney's office, where the meeting will be held.

-- Andrea F. Siegel


Police probe into death of businessman ends

Detectives have closed their investigation into the death of Robert Lee Clay, a prominent Baltimore businessman and advocate for minority businesses whose death has been ruled a suicide by the state medical examiner's office, city police said yesterday.

Clay's daughter, Sharon Clay, found her 58-year-old father dead of a gunshot wound in his Reservoir Hill office May 16. Clay's family and friends have expressed doubts that Clay committed suicide and have criticized the police investigation.

Police would not release any details explaining why investigators thought Clay's gunshot wound was self-inflicted.

"I can confirm the investigation is complete, but we have orders that no other information be released," said police spokesman Detective Donny Moses.

The state medical examiner's office made its ruling Wednesday and said yesterday afternoon that no one was available to speak on the matter.

Del. Jill P. Carter, a longtime friend of Clay, said the police investigation was "egregious" and lacked aggressiveness.

"It's all suspicious," she said. "People are outraged not only by his death but by the feeling that the city and police were not responsive."

- William Wan

BALTIMORE Man gets three life terms for attempted murder

A Baltimore County man who prosecutors said tried to kill his ex-girlfriend and her two daughters at their Pentland Drive home in Northeast Baltimore in August was sentenced yesterday to three terms of life in prison.

Raymond Thomas Taylor, 21, of Hillendale pleaded guilty in April to three counts of attempted first-degree murder for the Aug. 23 shootings of Tammie Johnson, 36, Cierra Johnson, 14, and Shatera Brooks, 16. Each was shot multiple times in the head and body with a .22-caliber handgun, prosecutors said.

Taylor was arrested in New York City days after the shooting, police said. The victims survived but have had multiple surgeries, prosecutors said.


One man found dead in car; two die from earlier injuries

A man was found fatally shot last night inside a car in West Baltimore, and two others have died from injuries suffered earlier in the week in unrelated attacks on city streets, police reported.

In the latest slaying, officers responding to a report of an auto accident found a man seated behind the steering wheel of a car in the 4600 block of Coleherne Road - dead, with a bullet wound to the abdomen, police said.

The man's identity was withheld pending notification of family members. The death was the 127th homicide in the city so far this year, compared with 130 the same time last year, police said.

A 911 call reporting an accident there was received about 9:50 p.m., said Detective Donny Moses, a police spokesman. The man's body was taken to the state medical examiner's office for an autopsy.

Earlier yesterday, an 18-year-old man who was shot Wednesday night in West Baltimore died at Maryland Shock Trauma Center, police said.

The victim was identified as Brian Sampson of the 1100 block of W. Saratoga St. Police said he was shot several times with a handgun about 10:50 p.m. as he walked in the 1100 block of W. Lexington St.

Officer Troy Harris, a police spokesman, said investigators did not know of a motive for the killing.

The other victim was a man who was assaulted Tuesday evening in Southwest Baltimore during an argument over the price of a cigarette.

Milton Johnson, 34, of the 6600 block of Ridgeborne Drive in Rosedale was standing with his uncle and sister in the 2000 block of W. Pratt St. when a man asked the uncle to sell him a cigarette for 30 cents, said homicide Detective Jack McGrath. When the uncle demanded 35 cents, an argument broke out and the man, for no apparent reason, struck Johnson in the face, causing him to fall and strike his head on the pavement. The man fled.

Johnson refused medical treatment and walked to another sister's nearby home. After his condition worsened, McGrath said, a relative drove him to Bon Secours Hospital.

Johnson was transferred to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he died about 7 p.m. Wednesday. His death was ruled a homicide by beating, McGrath said.

No arrest had been made in any of the slayings. Anyone with information was asked to call homicide detectives at 410-396-3100.

- Richard Irwin and Justin Fenton


Light-rail work completed; Timonium Road won't close

Because construction work at the Timonium Road light-rail crossing has been completed early, the road will not be closed over the weekend as had been planned, according to Maryland Transit Administration officials.

The section of Timonium Road between Aylesbury Road and Green Spring Drive has been closed on weekends this month for work on the grade crossing as part of the project to build a second track on the northern part of the light rail line.

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