Transparency News 7/31/13


Wednesday, July 31, 2013
State and Local Stories


Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell on Tuesday pledged to return all of the gifts he has received from a prominent donor, his latest response to a controversy that has plagued him for months. “It’s my intention to return everything that I have received from this particular donor because of concerns that have been raised by members of the public, and to do everything I can to restore trust with the people of Virginia,” he said. “Those gifts that I have in my possession I am working with my counsel to be able to return.”

Former U.S. Sen. Harry F. Byrd Jr., whose historic decision to become an independent in 1970 would decide political power in Virginia for more than two decades, died Tuesday at his home in his native Winchester. He was 98.

No cameras will be allowed in the courtroom next week as prosecutors lay out some of the evidence they have against an Arlington County sheriff’s deputy charged with killing a young man after an early-morning dispute in Alexandria, a judge ruled Tuesday. After a brief hearing in Alexandria General District Court, Judge Becky Moore rejected several media outlets’ request to videotape next Tuesday’s preliminary hearing for Craig Patterson, who is charged with murder in the May shooting death of 22-year-old Julian Dawkins, a popular driver for “PBS NewsHour.” Moore ruled that allowing cameras or other recording devices in the courtroom might taint possible jurors’ perceptions of the case before the trial and have a negative effect on the witnesses called to testify.
Washington Post

Representatives of the Hagerstown Suns and the city of Fredericksburg will meet Tuesday to discuss a potential deal to bring the Washington Nationals Class A affiliate to Fredericksburg. Tuesday’s meeting, which has been scheduled since this past Thursday, almost got called off at the last minute. Councilman Fred Howe, who was appointed along with Vice Mayor Brad Ellis to a negotiating team to broker a new deal, sent an email saying the cancellation was due to concerns raised by City Attorney Kathleen Dooley that a closed meeting with the team could violate the Freedom of Information Act. Suns majority owner Bruce Quinn and other parties working with Quinn had already made plans to travel to Fredericksburg on Tuesday, according to Howe’s email. They will still meet with the city manager privately Tuesday to discuss the possible stadium deal. Howe said he will also attend Tuesday’s meeting, which he referred to as an “informal conversation only.” It’s unclear if any other member of City Council will attend Tuesday’s meeting, whose time and location have not been publicly disclosed.
Free Lance-Star

Because of the high level of media publicity, a judge has granted a change of venue for the former Community Services Board administrator accused of paying a suspended worker for 12 years. The criminal case against Brenda Wise will not be heard in Norfolk but could be heard by a jury in Richmond or Alexandria if it proceeds to trial. Circuit Judge Everett A. Martin Jr. on Tuesday granted the request, made by Wise's attorney, and said he will decide which jurisdiction could best accommodate a trial.

The James City County Board of Supervisors talked last week in closed session about how people talk to them in open session. The discussion was among the topics that Supervisor Jim Kennedy later said should not have been broached in closed session during the county administrator's performance evaluation. Kennedy said the supervisors also strayed in discussing backyard chicken-keeping.
Virginia Gazette

A publication for prisoner rights claims its magazine isn't being allowed into the city's jail and is filing a lawsuit. Since April 2012, at least 67 magazines and informational brochures have been censored by the Virginia Beach Correctional Center, according to the complaint, which Prison Legal News has mailed to U.S. District Court. The publication provided a copy to The Pilot. The lawsuit is against Sheriff Ken Stolle and 10 of his staff members. It maintains that the Virginia Beach Correctional Center blocked some of the magazine because of advertisements that contained "sexually explicit material," although the ads do not feature nudity or depictions of sexual acts.

National Stories

More than a month after a crash that killed an 85-year-old woman, police in Wausau, Wisc., still are unable to release the name of the driver who caused the wreck, leaving the public largely in the dark. Under a new policy enacted by the Wausau Police Department in April, police refuse to release the names of people involved in crashes. The only way the public — and, in some cases, even family members of the victim — will learn the name of the SUV driver is if charges are filed against him. The change in policy stems from a lawsuit in which a federal court ruled that police violated a man’s privacy when they wrote information obtained through the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles on a parking ticket left on the man’s vehicle. In Wisconsin, some municipal and insurance company attorneys have used that ruling to make personal information available only through the court system if charges are filed against one or more drivers involved in an incident, Wausau Police Capt. Bryan Hilts said.
Wausau Daily Herald

U.S. spy agencies plan to declassify documents about the National Security Agency surveillance programs revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden, and also material related to a secret intelligence court, a U.S. intelligence official said.

Montana  Attorney General Tim Fox said Monday he is denying a request from the Associated Press to turn over information about the state’s more than 30-thousand concealed carry permit holders. The information includes names, addresses and driver’s license numbers for those with the concealed weapons permits. The AP made the request in mid-March, after the legislature passed a bill making the information confidential but before it was signed by Governor Steve Bullock. The bill passed by the 2013 Legislature to make concealed carry information private does not go into effect until October. Attorney General Tim Fox believes it doesn’t matter.
Montana Public Radio

Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army soldier charged with providing troves of government documents to WikiLeaks was found not guilty Tuesday of aiding the enemy, the top charge in his 21-count indictment that could have carried a life sentence, however, he was convicted of several lesser charges that can carry a 128-year prison sentence.
Fox News
By early next week, hundreds of pages of previously sealed or redacted transcripts and pleadings in the Chandra Levy murder case are expected to become public. The first round of documents was sent out by the U.S. attorney's office last night, and more are expected to come out over the next week.
Blog of LegalTimes

A federal appeals court on Tuesday said that government authorities could extract historical location data directly from telecommunications carriers without a search warrant. The closely watched case, in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, is the first ruling that squarely addresses the constitutionality of warrantless searches of historical location data stored by cellphone service providers. Ruling 2 to 1, the court said a warrantless search was “not per se unconstitutional” because location data was “clearly a business record” and therefore not protected by the Fourth Amendment.
New York Times

The Department of Justice is backing a bipartisan effort to turn parts of the department's report on news media policies into federal shield law provisions, Attorney General Eric Holder announced yesterday in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman. At a markup session scheduled for Thursday, a group of senators from both parties will try to amend the Free Flow of Information Act, S. 987, to create judicially enforceable requirements modeled after some of the internal guidelines Holder recommended in the July 12 report.
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Federal air marshal Jose Lacson argued he didn't disclose sensitive security information online because, well, he'd made up the stuff. None of the details, he said, were true. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit didn't buy the argument yesterday, upholding the Transportation Security Administration's determination that Lacson had, indeed, revealed sensitive information about staffing and attrition rates.
Blog of LegalTimes


Loudoun Times-Mirror: There were raised voices, accusations, exasperation and exhaustion from the Board of Supervisors last week resulting in the censure of Sterling Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio. It was brought on by a published report from a special grand jury looking into the activities of the Sterling supervisor and his use of publically-paid [sic] staff aides for campaign purposes. The report would seem to be the conclusion of this unfortunate period in county history.  Despite the supervisors’ hand-wringing over admonishing a member of their own political party, the end result still amounts to a hand slap.  It’s an unprecedented move, but one with little impact in the long run. And it leaves us with an image of Br’er Rabbit asking to please not be thrown into the briar patch. In the folktales, Br’er Rabbit knows that the briar patch is the one place he’s safe.

Times-Dispatch: “Little Harry” lived a big life. Harry F. Byrd Jr.’s antecedents in Virginia dated to the colony’s earliest days. He descended from William Byrd of Westover Plantation and the founder of Richmond. His father, Harry F. Byrd Sr., served as governor and U.S. senator and gave his name to the Byrd Organization, which for many decades dominated Virginia politics. The family was associated with newspapers and apple orchards. Ink ran in Byrd’s blood; his cheeks glowed russet and red.

Los Angeles Times: In acquitting Army Pfc. Bradley Manning of aiding the enemy, a military judge has displayed an admirable sense of proportion that was lacking in the prosecution's case against the young soldier who provided a trove of classified documents to the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks. The government's assertion that Manning was assisting Al Qaeda simply because he knew that terrorists might read the leaked documents on the Internet was a dangerously expansive legal theory, and if the judge had accepted it, Manning could have faced life in prison.