Judge's ruling causes uproar
In the messy world of domestic violence cases, often complicated by a willingness to forgive, this one had a promising twist for prosecutors: Though the woman refused to testify against her boyfriend, a police officer said she had witnessed the attack at a Laurel gas station .
But Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Paul Harris, in a decision that has victim's-rights advocates crying foul, acquitted the man charged with second-degree assault after he was accused of striking his girlfriend three times in the face. The judge said that without the woman's testimony, he could not be sure that she hadn't consented to the attack.
"The state is stepping into the shoes of the victim when she obviously doesn't care," Harris told the prosecutor, according to a recording of the Oct. 3 hearing. "It's that Big Brother mentality of the state. But I have to decide the case based on what I have, and I think a crucial element is missing."
And in a comment that has riled victims' advocates and prosecutors, Harris added, "You have very rare cases; sadomasochists sometimes like to get beat up."
A section, Friday
Bush 'optimistic' about Mideast talks
The Bush administration has pressured Israeli and Palestinian leaders to lay the groundwork for an Annapolis peace conference, with the president saying he is "optimistic" that talks brokered by the United States could lead to the creation of a Palestinian state.
"This is going to be a serious and substantive meeting," Bush said Wednesday in his first news conference since the disclosure that officials hope to hold a meeting at the Naval Academy in late November to revive the Mideast peace process.
The president made his comments as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appeared to lower expectations for such a meeting. Rice said an Annapolis conference would be a "stop in the process" toward peace.
Officials in Annapolis were left with little information about a meeting that could disrupt traffic and other routines in the historic seaport and Maryland state capital.
A spokesman for the Naval Academy declined to comment, but a source familiar with the matter said school officials had begun to notify local authorities to make preparations for a conference in the last week of November.
A section, Thursday
Rape defendant ruled not competent
Prosecutors say he is guilty of a horrific crime that could send him to prison for life: raping a 62-year-old woman on the floor of a coin-operated laundry, then stealing $6 from her purse.
But Tuesday, Anne Arundel County Judge Paul A. Hackner found Christopher Parr, 27, of Baltimore not competent to stand trial on charges of first-degree rape or of assaulting jail employees.
Parr, who poses "a danger to himself or others," according to a recent court-ordered psychiatric report, is being held at the maximum-security Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center in Jessup.
"On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd put this guy at 15," said Roland Walker, the Baltimore attorney representing Parr. "He's very, very disturbed. I'd be surprised if he recovered to the point that he could have a trial.
Metro section, Wednesday
State has no funds for infrastructure
No state funding is available to build road, bus and parking projects around Fort Meade to support the influx of thousands of new workers, the state's transportation secretary told Anne Arundel County officials and lawmakers last week.
As the state pushes ahead with widening a 1 1/2 -mile stretch of Baltimore-Washington Parkway near BWI Marshall Airport and replacing a bridge near National Business Park at the Anne Arundel/Howard County line, there is little money in the six-year capital budget to do anything else but preserve infrastructure in Anne Arundel or statewide.
"Our backs are against the wall," Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari said after his formal remarks Monday afternoon on the draft Consolidated Transportation Program. "The real concern is that many of these worthy projects can't be funded."
Anne Arundel section, Wednesday
3 on council seek broader water fee
A bipartisan coalition on the Anne Arundel County Council is trying to overhaul the county executive's proposal for a storm-water restoration fund by requiring most residents and businesses to share the financial burden.
Council Chairman Ronald C. Dillon Jr., a Republican, and Democrats Josh Cohen and Jamie Benoit on Monday night proposed a charge of $25 on homeowners of developed property and $100 on owners of improved commercial and industrial land.
County Executive John R. Leopold's SMART fund would levy a fee on most future development. The council trio said that everyone contributed to the problem of clogged and polluted local waterways, so everyone should contribute to the solution.
"We have been 30-plus years trying to save the bay,"said Dillon, a Pasadena resident. "We haven't gotten very far. It's time to be radical."
Leopold said Tuesday that based on an initial assessment by county and state officials, the trio's proposal would raise $4.5 million annually, nearly a million less than the $5.4 million his bill is projected to raise through fees based on the creation of impervious surfaces such as driveways, sidewalks and home additions.
Anne Arundel section, Wednesday