Charges dropped against man accused of vandalizing statue
Racially tinged charges that a Crownsville man vandalized the statue of the late black physician and political leader Aris T. Allen were dropped yesterday after prosecution witnesses failed to appear for the District Court trial in Annapolis.
John Mathias Exner Jr., 37, had been charged with destruction of property and two counts of racial and/or religious harassment. A reward fund reached $8,000 before Exner was arrested Aug. 22.
Five witnesses were ready to rebut the allegations against Exner. His lawyer, Peter S. O'Neill, and county Assistant State's Attorney Michael Cogan said prosecutors dropped the case because it hinged on two witnesses who did not show up.
Cogan said Annapolis police continued to look into the case after Exner's arrest and provided prosecutors with information that "caused us to have concerns." He would not elaborate.
On July 4, Annapolis police found the head of the statue on Chinquapin Round Road shrouded in a white pillowcase with eyeholes and a painted red smiley face, Confederate battle flags taped to the hands and a racial slur scrawled on paper.
Communications chief latest Owens aide to quit
County Executive Janet S. Owens has lost another high-ranking aide. This time it's her director of communications, Judy Pedersen, who has resigned after 14 months on the job.
Pedersen, who had an annual salary of $61,200 and joined the administration in November 1999, coordinated special events for Owens. One was the dedication in May of the Anne Arundel County Court House after a $63 million renovation and expansion.
Pedersen had no comment on her departure. Nor did Owens, who does not plan "at this time" to fill the position, according to county spokesman John A. Morris.
Several high-ranking county officials have stepped down in recent months, including the county's personnel director and public information officer.
Firebomb suspected in Annapolis blaze
A firebomb was suspected as the cause of a blaze that damaged the roof of an Annapolis auto repair garage yesterday morning, the city Fire Department reported.
Annapolis and Naval Academy firefighters were dispatched at 7:26 a.m. to the vicinity of West Street and Jefferson Place to investigate a report of a dwelling fire. Instead, they found a fire on the roof of William's Auto Repair.
Firefighters used ladders to reach the roof and quickly extinguished the flames, which caused an estimated $5,000 in damage. The leased garage is behind a building in the 200 block of West St. that houses an auto detailing shop.
Capt. Leonard Clark, a Fire Department spokesman, said that a firebomb appeared to be the cause but that the investigation was continuing. Anyone with information about the fire was asked to call the Annapolis department at 410-263-7975.
Midshipman is awarded British scholarship
Naval Academy Midshipman 1st Class Timothy Strabbing has been awarded a Marshall Scholarship by the British government in recognition of "academic excellence with an unparalleled performance in athletics and leadership," the academy announced.
Strabbing, a political science major from Hudsonville, Mich., was brigade commander during the fall semester and during the summer was regimental commander responsible for training newly arrived plebes in the Class of 2004.
The Naval Academy's 11th Marshall Scholar, Strabbing is one of 40 students across the nation receiving the award this year. It was established by Britain in 1953 as a gesture of thanks to the United States for assisting the British after World War II under the Marshall Plan.
The scholarship, worth about $50,000, will enable Strabbing to study for two years at the British university of his choice after his graduation from the academy in May.
Christmas in April seeking volunteers
The county's Christmas in April organization, which organizes work days on which the homes of the needy and disabled are repaired, is seeking volunteer coordinators for projects this spring.
Since 1991, repairs have been made at more than 200 homes around Anne Arundel County by thousands of volunteers, many of them enlisting for a day through group efforts by county businesses.
To sign up or for more information on the program's volunteer activities, call Lynn Manwaring at 410-263-0405.